Monday, August 14, 2006


It’s sometimes hard not to adopt a prisoner’s mentality over here. The base itself, although protecting us, is a type of prison, surrounded by walls with barbed wire and guard towers. We are almost completely isolated from the world “out there” - the world of mothers caring for their children, of shopping at a fruit market, of people mostly just trying to live their lives. For the most part, it’s a closed environment - despite all of the talk about interacting and winning hearts and minds, I’d bet that a majority of the folks here never leave the FOB for their entire tour.

Like most prisons, life here is arranged around certain fairly fixed routines. I get up at the same time, dress in the same order, go to breakfast at the same time, and eat the same thing for nearly every day. I look at the same pictures of my family, clean my weapon, count my rounds, and check on the guys – only the specific details vary. And, also like prison, life here can be somewhat dangerous, although I don’t suppose there’s much chance of my being emasculated by some guy named Bruno (thank God - but the mortars have been particularly active lately).

And with the prisoner’s mentality comes the fixation with time and numbers. You see it all the time, in references to “how long are you here for?” or “only 134 groundhog days left.” I find myself compelled to keep a calendar, counting down the days until parole… er, leave. Every day I check to see how many days I’ve been in country. Counting, even counting for itself, becomes an obsession – it’s nine hundred and thirty-four, thirty-inch steps from my hootch to the palace; it’s one hundred and twenty-three steps from the beginning of the stairway to the third floor; it’s sixty-six steps to the bathroom. I’ve even tried counting my steps while running up the hill, but I am always distracted and lose count. Anything to make the time go even a little bit faster - anything to make me forget how much I miss my home and my family.

I used to think that I owed a lot to the Air Force. Now I think we’re even.


Blogger Pixie said...


August 15, 2006 3:34 AM  

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