Author of the best-selling Forgotten Sacrifice, Mike Walling gives an exclusive insight into his once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
SITREP 03 FEB
Depart Boston at 1347 (1:47 PM) on 29 JAN and arrived in Dubai at 1630 30 JAN after a 3 hour layover in D.C and a 13 hour from D.C. to Dubai. Not a bad trip, just long.
Among the passengers from D.C to Dubai it was fairly easy to identify the contractors retuning to the Middle East by their military boots, cargo pants and/or military style backpacks. There were a lot of them on the plane.
I stayed overnight at the Dubai Airport Holiday Inn. This is not your typical Holiday Inn; it’s more like a 4 Star hotel. Very well decorated, great restaurant and one of the best lounges I’ve ever been in.
The flight from Dubai on FlyDubai Airlines was about 3 hours and not too bad. The mountains below looked like jagged pieces of coal – sharp ridges and steep valleys often covered in deep snow. Getting from Kabul Airport to Abbey Gate, International Joint Command (IJC) Headquarters and on to the base was an adventure all in itself, something I may detail later.
From IJC to RC North, Camp Marmal was about an hour trip in a C-130.
I arrived in RC North at 1930 local time on 31 January (Afghanistan Time Zone is 9.5 hours earlier than Eastern Standard Time). It’s located just south of Mazar-e Sharif. RC North is under the command of the Bundseswehr (German Army). It’s a great camp and very well run.
I was met by Captain (CAPT) Johannes Schmid, Bundeswehr (DEU [German Army]). He was my Media Escort several times during my stay and did a terrific job of showing me around Camp Marmal. At times I felt that Johannes was more of a friend and Aide-de-Camp than simply an escort.
My quarters in the INGOTEL are for 3 people and have a set of bunk beds and a single bed as well as 3 stand-alone closets, 3 chairs and a table. Surprisingly, the mattress is terrific, very unlike other European mattresses I’ve had in the past. The dining facility (D-PAK) is also terrific. Interestingly, there is a row of sinks to wash up in as you enter. The food is very good, but you’re out of luck if you’re into “Lean cuisine”.
LTJG Amy Forsythe, US Navy, has been my savior. Her flexibility, hard work, and professionalism has turned what looked like a disaster into an incredible experience. She is absolutely tops.
Over the past 3 days Amy arranged briefings on the RC North situation and missions by:
- Brigadier General (BG) Bullard, Jr., USMC, RC North, Deputy Commander;
- Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) von Löwenstern, Bundeswehr, Chief Public Affairs Officer, RC North
- Major (MAJ) Salyer, Civil Affairs [CERF];
- Keith Mines, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Senior Civilian Representative and Principal Officer, Mazar e-Sharif;
- LTC Ruiz, Commanding Officer (CO)Task Force (TF)Ready, 5-158th General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB);
- LTC Kelly, Special Operations Forces Command CO, TF Balkh, in charge of US training of Afghan Local Police (ALP);
- MAJ Wulff, RC North Engineer TAC/ Task Force Comet/ 573rd CMT;
- Sergeant First Class, Saunders, Task Force Comet/ 573rd CMT; and
- First Sergeant Latham, Task Force Comet/ 573rd CMT.
Sadly I will leaving RC North for the International Joint Command (IJC) Monday morning an undetermined amount of time. Hopefully I will be able to circle back, this is an incredible area to be in.
That’s it for now. I’ll try to post the next SITREP as soon as I can.