"All I wanted was a mission, and for my sins
they gave me one"
||The arrow points to a couple of Taliban prisoners.
All you can really see is their helmets, blindfold and hoods. The
soldiers are securing them to the floor of the plane. Our dogs
were in their travel cages with all sorts of stuff stacked on top They
were in between the row of seats on either side of the plane. It
was a pretty tight fit as you can see. Also, technically, the dogs
are not suppose to be anywhere close to prisoners. This is a knee jerk
reaction after the Abu Ghraib fiasco. Technically this flight
with its passengers didn't really happen, wink wink, nod, nod.
Yes they did. The day started at 04:30 with a rocket attack alarm. By now these
were not a big deal. Chow at 05:00 and then time to walk the dog, clean kennels
and feed him. This was routine everyday so nothing had changed in Kandahar.
Training started at 07:00 and we normally ended in an hour or two so we could
get the training done before the heat became too much for the dogs. There was
much discussion within the rumor mill as to when we would be leaving Kandahar
for our duty locations. Word came after training from the head trainer that no
dogs would be traveling due to a kennel cough quarantine.
My dog, as well as all the k-9s that had traveled with me to Afghanistan, were
fine. None was sick and in fact we had taken measures to protect them. I had
spoken to the folks in charge and explained this fact to them. Plus the fact
that our dogs had been separated from all the other dogs here to keep them
healthy. We as well as our dogs were housed miles away from the others. I knew
that the US Vet had cleared our dogs so I was puzzled at the info we were not
moving. I later found out why.
After training, I and four other handlers were requested to report to the
administration office. There we were informed to get packed and ready to move.
We were leaving in two hours. Turns out the “No dogs are moving” was to calm
the handlers that had been stuck here in Kandahar for a while. Their dogs were
quarantined, not ours.
Packing consisted of stuffing everything we owned into two bags. This of course
meant the remaining handlers inherited all sorts of stuff we couldn't carry.
Food, drinks, magazines, plastic three drawer chests, extra pillows, and all
those things that made living in a tent on a cot a little better were all
At 14:00 (2pm) the truck arrived and we loaded our bags, kennels, dogs, and
ourselves for the ride to the flight line. There we waited for boarding. We
were returned our passports and issued our admin files to take with us on the
flight. At about 19:30 (730pm) we got on a bus to move to the aircraft. Once
we stopped at the plane we were all a little surprised. This was not a big
cargo flight at all. In fact it was small. I mean real small compared to the
giant cargo planes you normally think of. The aircraft was a C27J Spartan. The
name Spartan fit quite well. We loaded the kennels, bags, and all of the
handlers. I sat at the forward most position so I could see the cockpit and out
the windscreen. It was really interesting. The crew was friendly and extremely
efficient. Seating was actually comfortable. Considering we sat with our backs
against the side of the plane facing the middle, our feet propped up on the
cargo and sat strapped onto basically web hammocks. Compared to the commercial
flight, I prefer this. Looking out the open cargo door in the rear as we moved
down the runway you could feel the power this little workhorse of a plane had.
As we gained speed for flight the cargo door closed and locked.
In an instant the nose pointed up and we jumped into the air. The big engines
roared and you could feel the power this thing had as you strained to keep from
leaning into each other from the g force pushing you rearward straining against
the restraints we wore. Within a short time everything leveled out. The dogs
which had been barking constantly settled and we all relaxed for the flight to
wherever we were going. We had not been told our destination.
After about an hour you could hear a change in the engines and we descended
sharply into the night landing smoothly somewhere. The engines did not shut
down and we were told we were taking on cargo. In fact the cargo was Taliban
prisoners and their heavily armed guards. Within a few minutes they arrived,
flex cuffed, wearing anti spit hoods and shackled. They were placed on the floor of
the aircraft and for all intents and purposes, strapped down like cargo. They
were not going anywhere. Plastic barf bags were supplied to the guards for the
prisoners. I was told by the crew that the prisoners had a tendency to get
sick. Stress and normally the first time ever flying would get to them. My
feelings? Oh Well!
The dogs went nuts when they got on. Not
sure why, probably they could smell the adrenalin the prisoners had to be
putting out. The crew, also armed I might add, made a final check and we once
again leapt into the air. This time there were a series of fairly sharp turns
and some pretty steep climbs. I have no idea if it was terrain induced or
something else, just that we were doing some pretty heavy maneuvers.
Some time later, OPSEC requires me to leave times out, we landed. When the
cargo door opened the prisoners and guards departed and we were met by Airforce
personnel to help us unload and move to a waiting area. I asked a sergeant, "
Hey. where are we?" He said, “Welcome to Bagram Air Field."
We met up with our contact and were shuttled to the K-9 area where we would be
staying. I moved into a building, threw my bags down and found out the basic
info all soldiers and civilians in a war zone need to know. Where is the
latrine, where is the dining facility, and where do I go when (not if) the siren
blows. Once acquiring the needed info, I pretty much collapsed into the top
bunk in a wood barracks building. It was now 03:30 and one hour short of
24 since we had started. Yes it had been a very long day.
BTW This is not my final destination but only another way-point in a journey
that will take me to the front line of this conflict, that is, if there is such
a thing as a front line.