Monday December 9, 2013
FLASHBACK: White Out Conditions Complicate Journey in Afghanistan`s High Country (VIDEO)Tim King, in Afghanistan, for Salem-News.com
DISPATCHES FROM AFGHANISTAN
(KABUL, Afghanistan) - It has been a cold winter for Oregon Guard troops in Afghanistan and as Tim King tells us in this next report, travel through the country's mountains on Christmas day nearly ground to a standstill.
Our group of nine U.S. and Afghan Army trucks was on day two providing security for officers who were visiting a number of remote mountain forward operating bases.
The road we were setting out on looked like a big sheet of ice.
"It remains to be seen what it is going to be like today, it could be pretty rough," says Seward Mientsma JR., Lt. Cmndr., U.S. Navy.
The convoy hadn't been on the road for 15-minutes before the first truck spun out into a ditch.
Our Humvee pulled the Afghan National Army truck back onto the road as weather conditions worsened.
In a winter convoy, nobody's colder than the upper turret gunner.
Capt. Matt Cain, the gunner in our Humvee, said, "You dress like you're going ice fishing and you deal with it."
As visibility continued to dissipate before our eyes, the Humvee's computer called the Blue Force Tracker started to malfunction.
With no navigational aid, driving became even more treacherous. We passed another convoy that was at a dead stop. One soldier commented, "It's kind of slow going, but at least you know where the road is."
But in very little time, knowing where the road was became less clear. Increasing snow and less visibility meant it was time to stop and put on tire chains. When it comes time to chain up a Humvee, you know it’s serious.
The chains gave the tires traction but soon we ran into another problem.
"These guys are in a heck of a bind right now, it's a cold winter day in Afghanistan, we're trying to get from one forward outpost to another,” I explain. “First the ANA vehicles became stuck, then the Humvee became stuck, and while this is happening, the road in front of us is just disappearing."
"Now we're in almost near whiteout conditions,” says Lt. Cmdr Mientsna JR., “So, now we're trying to decide if we should go ahead and proceed, or turn around and go back go Ghazni."
Then suddenly in the far distance, we saw a caravan of cars being led by local men on foot, walking toward us.
The Afghan men suggested we turn around, for the road ahead was impossible to see. What they didn't know was that their passing by meant a new set of tire tracks for us to follow, an unusual gift on this stormy Christmas day.
And that afternoon, after many hours, we reached our high mountain destination of the base called Sharona. Lt. Col. John Shroeder said, "We got here safe, that was the good part about it. Long trip, but what are you going to do? It's Afghanistan and nothing happens quick in Afghanistan."
With a sigh of relief, Sgt. Maj. Richard James said of the journey, "Finally, that was the longest trip we ever took from here to there- but, a Christmas we'll remember!"
Watch the Streaming Video News Report below, direct from Kabul, Afghanistan by Tim King: Video
In Afghanistan, Tim King, reporting for Salem-News.com
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Tim King was embedded in Kabul, Afghanistan with the 41st Combat Brigade of the Oregon National Guard when this report was filed.
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