Monday, August 6, 2007

Just for the record, this is a bad idea.

This was our catchphrase up at the FPB. Whenever someone was about to do something stupid that could get someone hurt or destroy something we needed, I would just throw out there that it was in fact "a bad idea."

It began when we had to take down our old roof. It consisted of a metal tent frame sitting on top of the HESCO walls with a tangled tent hanging all over it. We began to cut all of the ties holding the tent to the frame. But the ties in the middle posed a problem. There was nothing to stand on, no ladder, and it was a good fifteen feet above the ground. Sgt. Manning took it upon himself to spiderman his way out to the middle of the rickety frame. He was hanging upside down with a knife in one hand reaching to cut the last tie to the heavy tent canvas.

"You know that's a really bad idea right?"

Sgt. Manning and I went to the shooting range to check the zero on our rifles before our mission that evening. The shooting range on the fob a few crappy cardboard targets and a firing point seperated by a rocky valley. So if you want to see where you hit you had to hike down and up a valley and then back.

"We don't have time for that," said Sgt. Manning, "Here I'll go down there first and set up a target, then I'll stand off to the side while you shoot then I'll tell you where you hit. Then we'll switch."

I stared at him blankly for a second.

"What?" he asked.

"You know what I'm going to say right?"

"Yeah I know it's a bad idea," he replied, "just don't shoot me."

One night when we were hanging out the flies were unbearable. They gather on the wires near the ceiling to the point that the white wire appears black because it is completely covered. Sgt. Manning was reaching the end of his patience with the flies.

"Hold on," he said "I have an idea."

He left the tent and returned shortly with a can of spray paint.

"What are you going to do with that?" our third medic, Mac asked.

"I'm going to kill these flies, because they are driving me insane." replied Sgt. Manning as he grabbed a lighter.

"So let me get this straight," I chimed in, "you are going to use a spray paint blow torch on our electrical wiring, attached to our dry wooden roof, to kill flies."

"Yep." answered Sgt. Manning.

"That's a bad idea dude." said Mac laughing.

A burst of flame shot out of the paint can. A moment later we heard the bodies of a dozen flies hit the ground. Sgt. Manning went on a rampage after that torching flies until the smell of burning paint hung thick in the air. Every so often now we have a fly holocaust.

When Sgt. Manning was putting up the lights in the tent he cut and stripped the wires and just stuck them into the socket on the end of the electrical cord. He then wrapped the ghetto wiring with medical tape because we didn't have electrical tape. Electrical tape was invented because it doesn't start on fire when wrapped around live wires. I can't say the same for medical tape.

"Just for the record, so that when this place is burning down, you will know that I said this was a bad idea."

We would constantly pick up our small propane stove while it was lit. The way it is built puts the flames dangerously close to the face and chest. Rather than turn it off and relight it, we would just carry it wherever. Whenever I was holding it in front of my face I couldn't help but think,

"Man this is a bad idea. Why am I too lazy to turn this off?"

We built our new roof with some of the cheapest thinnest plywood I have ever seen. Everything in Afghanistan is such low quality in construction. After we built the roof we wanted to put sandbags on tarps on it to waterproof it. Well there is a crew of local Afghanis who work on the FPB every day taking out the trash and doing various projects for us. Sgt. Manning recruited them to sandbag our roof. Inside the BAS I could hear the plywood cracking as they walked around placing sandbags above me. Directly above my bed I could see a crack in the wood that got bigger every time someone stepped on it. I was half expecting to see a leg punch through at any moment, creating a hole in the roof and a patient to treat at the same time. I hollered,


Speaking of the roof during the first rainstorm we had to figure out how to patch all the leaks in our roof. We also discovered that The Hescos were channeling a small river into BAS. Sgt. Manning took it upon himself to climb on the roof and dig out a path on the top of the HESCO wall so the water would run away from the BAS rather than into it. Standing on the roof with a shovel during a lightning storm may sound like a bad idea in and of itself, but he was reaching through three coils of razor-wire to dig. And yes, he did cut himself. I had to yell to be heard over the rain.


Somehow, Sgt. Manning wasn't seriously hurt during the 2 weeks.