Steven Chandler is a member of the 122d Air National Guard unit in the Vehicle Maintenance Flight and has served since 1976. He volunteered for a 6-month deployment and just arrived in Afghanistan earlier this month. He and his wife and children live near Ossian. Steve is a Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop #300.
I hope my note finds each of you in good spirits. It’s Wednesday (17 Nov) morning and a brisk walk through the camp this morning with temps in the high 20’s. The days here have been in the low 50s and my anxiety has calmed now that my boots are on the ground. I’ve been at my duty location just over 2 weeks and settled in as well as one can in this environment. This is a joint operation like most locations in Afghanistan. I share my sleeping quarters with about 12 other guys from the Navy, Army, Marines, and even an officer from the Italian forces. It is truly amazing to witness the international involvement within this country work together to defeat the insurgency threat. Protecting the Afghan people is the mission and they deserve and need our support. The camp is near the capitol city of Kabul which has roughly 5 million people. We are just over 6000 foot elevation and surrounded by mountains. Although I love the state of Indiana, I enjoy the view here, the rugged landscape, and respect their culture and strong traditions. The air quality is very poor here due to the pollution and local Afghans burning of wood and plastics for heat/cooking.
I have gotten used to carrying the weapons everywhere even though it’s not part of my daily job back home. The combat skills training at Fort McCoy has instilled the confidence and I’m packing a 9mm Beretta and GUU-5P (M-16) which is the military version of the AR-15, so when opening day of deer hunting back home hit the calendar I warned everyone that I had an itchy finger. Not much wildlife around here to shoot except a few pigeons and maybe a few stray cats, but since I’m well fed that won’t happen (ha, ha). I was blessed to get a nice doe with my bow during the 2 weeks I was home after training.
My duty position is over the Vehicle Maintenance for the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police equipment. We are also mentoring them so that we can transition the operation over to them in the near future. I’ve made a few trips to the Afghan maintenance shops which are currently managed by civilian contractors and mostly local Afghans performing the repairs. Driving in the local area requires you to be very defensive and constantly alert, the streets are congested with donkey carts, bicycles, and taxi cabs. The Ministry of Education has closed all schools for 3 weeks due to H1N1 flu, so many children are in the streets as well.
There is a lot of poverty here as I’m sure you are aware. A short trip through town really opens your eyes to how great and wonderful America is. I have a translator in my area who lives locally, he has shared with me what the country was like when the Taliban was in power and how much better his family’s life is due the international efforts. The unit I’m assigned to have a community outreach program that delivers food and blankets to the displaced and needy families. The folks back home should be proud of the “volunteers” that go out into the local villages to perform “corporal works of mercy”. Well, I’ve rambled enough for now so I’ll close. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers on my behalf, I’ll stay in touch as time allows.
Steven R. Chandler, CMSgt
CJ4 Maintenance NCOIC
Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – George Orwell