Welcome To Bagram

By
Monday, September 08, 2008 at 6:00 am

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – For those, like myself, who’ve never before been to Afghanistan, the sprawling Bagram Air Field is known for two things: transit and torture.

Naturally I saw no evidence of torture during my brief in-processing, after which I went on to Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost Province, near the Pakistan border. I did see a lot of transit, however.

Bagram is enormous. A public-affairs officer told me that it houses 12,000 U.S. and allied troops, along with another 6,000 or so contractors. In contrast to the surrounding areas under Afghan government control, Bagram is clean, well-paved, bustling and attentive to its residents’ needs. There’s a small mall called a PX, familiar to any denizen of U.S. military bases, where crummy Afghan or Afghan-esque trinkets are available for purchase, right next to a Dairy Queen, a Burger King, a Pizza Hut and a Green Beans coffee shops.

If you’ll permit me a digression, the only places I’ve ever seen Green Beans cafes have been military bases in Kuwait, Baghdad, Tikrit, Mosul, and now Bagram. If they exist in civilian life I’ve never seen them. Neither had the public-affairs officer. There’s also an Orange Julius smoothie stand — which I haven’t seen since the Kings Plaza Mall in Brooklyn shuttered its franchise when I was eight years old. Odd that I should find one halfway around the world, 20 years later.

Indeed, it’s alarmingly easy to walk Bagram’s Disney Drive – named for an Army Specialist killed in action – and forget this is Afghanistan. It takes a glance over to the silhouette of the jagged mountains cradling the base to remember where you are.

The traveling press is lodged in an air-conditioned bunk called Hotel California, where the placards detailing the hotel rules have references to Eagles lyrics. (“There is no alcohol on base. ‘No pink champagne on ice.’”) The bunk beds have wood frames and spring-coiled mattresses — a significant upgrade from the cots at Baghdad’s Forward Operating Base Liberty or Mosul’s Forward Operating Base Marez.

Around the base is evidence of an actual coalition. That’s not just because battle uniforms contain the ISAF patch indicating the NATO command here. It’s because there are actual foreign troops. Much of the chatter I heard on the way to the chow hall was in Polish, and I ate dinner next to a Polish helicopter pilot. A wrong turn as I tried to get back to Hotel California bumped me into a detachment of hungry Egyptian soldiers.

In Baghdad last year, most of the foreigners I encountered worked for contractors like KBR, and at Mosul Airport I met a bunch of surly Albanian troops. And they were leaving.

Follow Spencer Ackerman on Twitter


Comments

19 Comments

zach
Comment posted April 6, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

No alcahol, really? I am about to deploy here for a year and I was unaware of that. I s there alcahol near by?


zach
Comment posted April 7, 2009 @ 12:55 am

No alcahol, really? I am about to deploy here for a year and I was unaware of that. I s there alcahol near by?


Tommy
Comment posted June 18, 2010 @ 5:14 am

Zach I am leaving for Bagram July 1. Im told if you are caught with alcohol on the base the penalties are stiff. If you are a civilian they will ship you out faster then you arrived. If you ar military the punishment is far worse. Afstan is drier than you think!


Afghanistan Bagram Report
Pingback posted August 9, 2010 @ 7:18 am

[...] Friday morning, and you see a flight line packed with planes. When I was last here two years ago, helicopters crowded the runways and fixed-wing aircraft were –- well, if not rare, still a notable sight. Today you’ve got [...]


The Survivalist Forum » Blog Archive » U.S. Supersizes Afghan Mega-Base as Withdrawal Date Looms
Pingback posted August 10, 2010 @ 5:24 am

[...] Friday morning, and you see a flight line packed with planes. When I was last here two years ago, helicopters crowded the runways and fixed-wing aircraft were — well, if not rare, still a notable sight. Today you’ve [...]


U.S. Supersizes Afghan Mega-Base as Withdrawal Date Looms : The Muslim Observer
Pingback posted August 10, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

[...] Friday morning, and you see a flight line packed with planes. When I was last here two years ago, helicopters crowded the runways and fixed-wing aircraft were –- well, if not rare, still a notable sight. Today you’ve got [...]


BUILDING UP TO GET BROKEN DOWN THROUGH MORE BLOODBATHS « Hiram's 1555 Blog
Pingback posted August 11, 2010 @ 3:32 am

[...] Friday morning, and you see a flight line packed with planes. When I was last here two years ago, helicopters crowded the runways and fixed-wing aircraft were –- well, if not rare, still a notable sight. Today you’ve got [...]


Leaving Afghanistan In 2011? - 25 Popular Blogs - Popular Bloggers.com
Pingback posted August 11, 2010 @ 7:37 am

[...] Friday morning, and you see a flight line packed with planes. When I was last here two years ago, helicopters crowded the runways and fixed-wing aircraft were –- well, if not rare, still a notable sight. Today you’ve got [...]


America’s Crumbling Infrastructure and Morality « God and Whose Army? The Blog
Pingback posted August 13, 2010 @ 10:00 pm

[...] Friday morning, and you see a flight line packed with planes. When I was last here two years ago, helicopters crowded the runways and fixed-wing aircraft were –- well, if not rare, still a notable sight. Today you’ve got [...]


U.S. Supersizes Afghan Mega-Base as Withdrawal Date Looms Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/08/u-s-afghan-mega-base/#ixzz0wkQqeMoc : Political Theatrics
Pingback posted August 16, 2010 @ 7:30 am

[...] Friday morning, and you see a flight line packed with planes. When I was last here two years ago, helicopters crowded the runways and fixed-wing aircraft were –- well, if not rare, still a notable sight. Today you’ve got [...]


Barnwood Frames
Comment posted November 25, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

I enjoy reading about this kind of thing. This is completely new to me, but once I get my head around the many new terms, I find its illuminating things I’ve previously half-thought.


Backyard Water Features
Trackback posted August 23, 2011 @ 5:30 am

backyard water features…

[...]while the sites we link to below are completely unrelated to ours, we think they are worth a read, so have a look[...]…


rugs
Trackback posted August 23, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

Rugs…

[...]here are some links to sites that we link to because we think they are worth visiting[...]…


trivet hot plate
Trackback posted August 25, 2011 @ 12:38 am

copper tape word…

[...]while the sites we link to below are completely unrelated to ours, we think they are worth a read, so have a look[...]…


Jimmy Choo Heels
Trackback posted August 29, 2011 @ 11:07 am

Cheapest Kasper Suits…

[...]what follows are a few links to places which we connect to seeing that we believe they will be worthy of visiting[...]…


Scholarships for Hispanics
Trackback posted August 31, 2011 @ 9:15 am

Clubpenguin…

[...]following are a few listings to online sites that we link to seeing as we think these are worth browsing[...]…


Ryan Reynolds Workout Plan
Trackback posted September 2, 2011 @ 10:41 am

Taylor Lautner Workout…

[...Also you might wanna' check out this blog I found here...]…


Stop sweating and start living review
Trackback posted September 6, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

Improve your Physique…

[...]we would like to help promote some of the more high end blogs on our list here[...]…


Miss America
Trackback posted September 7, 2011 @ 2:50 am

Icann…

[...]listed below are some listings to web sites that we link to because we feel they will be worthwhile visiting[...]…


RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.