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 with. 


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


Jon Harris