Dispatch from Downrange
By Jon Harris
||This is the Irish Pub inside the Hotel Metropolitan in Dubai,
United Arab Emirates. I met a couple of my South African
handler friends there when I arrived. A Bud Lite was twelve
bucks. If you asked for a heartier drink, the prices started at
twenty and went up from there. By the way the girls were
all either from China or of Russian origin and were most likely
part of the human sex trade that so many are tricked or
forced into. They were all vying for the few expats that showed
up. I overheard some negotiations during the night and noticed
the services were very pricy. When asked, the lady of the
evening very openly said, "This is Dubai, everything is
expensive." Our company booked this hotel for a reason.
Contractors looking for their last night on the town didn't have
to leave the hotel. Food, drink and entertainment (at a price)
was all available right there. This kept the contractors from
wandering off into some place they shouldn't be or running into
the police and causing problems the company didn't want to deal
To say it is hot would be an understatement. When
I left Harwood to go on this mission it was 100 plus almost every day
but here, the heat is oppressive. 120 plus in the shade with zero
breeze is the norm. It is just plain hot.
||Yes that is really 120 degrees. Notice the thermometer is
IN the shade.
When arriving in Afghanistan, one of the first
things you notice is the dust. It is like nothing we have at home.
Three inches of talcum powder is the best way I can describe it. It
gets everywhere and into everything. Dust and more dust.
Let me back up a bit first. The trip here was an
adventure in itself. First I went to Ft. Benning for mandatory
deployment training and briefings. Then it was on the Afghanistan by
way of London and then to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. I arrived
in Dubai around eleven thirty at night and was met by porters and
minders to get me to the correct hotel. The service was outstanding and
they carried my over 150 pounds of gear. Next I arrived at the hotel in
Dubai. It was a beautiful hotel all arranged by the contracting
entity. This is where I found out this was going to be a real
adventure. I was greeted at the door by a couple of South African guys
I had been in training with at San Antonio the month before. They were
in the pub drinking twelve dollar Bud Lites and basically having a last
fling as there would be no alcohol of any type after tonight. I checked
in and went to my room on the fourth floor. As the porter opened the
door to my room for me, I was approached by a young (mid-twenties)
Chinese girl . Now mind you I have not even stepped into the room yet.
“Where do I go? She asked. Then she answered her
own question “I Know, I go with you.”
What? Are you kidding me? I thought. I pointed
to my wedding ring and said “Why don’t you try down the hall.”
“Ring don’t matter”, she said.
“It does to me, no thanks.” I told her.
She headed down the hall and I went straight to
sleep, alone. Seventeen hours of flying was exhausting and I wanted
nothing but to go to sleep.
The next morning I went down to meet the shuttle to
the airport again to make the trip to Kandahar in Afghanistan. This was
a completely different type of flight. We, I and the South Africans I
had run into the night before, loaded on a smallish commuter type jet.
This was no luxury flight I could not understand the pilot on the
intercom and I probably really didn’t want to. The flight took a very
indirect route and stopped at a base in route somewhere. We were on the
ground a short time and the plane never shut down. As soon as a few
passengers got on and the crew argued over the count until satisfied
that they had everyone they were supposed to, we rolled down the runway
and were in the air again. This time we would stop at our destination,
Kandahar, Afghanistan. Once on the ground there we were led into a
hanger and met by military officials to start our in-country briefings
and to meet our escorts. Seems you can’t go anywhere without an escort
unless you have certain identification and credentials, which I do.
Security is very tight here as it should be.
I was assigned a space in a tent and settled in for
the night. Pretty comfortable and quiet except for the shelling that
started about midnight and lasted about thirty minutes. The shelling
started up again about four am. It actually was pretty cool as all but
one round was outgoing. Something got hammered that night.
Well I’ll write more as I can