In a war zone, travel with care, trepidation
Editor’s note: Editor Steve Ranson of the Lahontan Valley News, a sister paper of the Appeal, is spending several weeks reporting on the accomplishments of U.S. Navy aviators and Nevada Army National Guardsmen in Afghanistan. After a week, he has finally arrived at Kandahar Air Field. Here is Ranson’s latest dispatch:
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN – Arrival at Kandahar … and 16 hours to get here.
Spending the night in Kabul was a gut-wrenching experience. The process to be in a fairly safe haven for the night couldn’t have been accomplished without the help of a gentleman I met, a contractor from Oklahoma working in Afghanistan.
Needless to say, I need not sleep well during the night, wondering if I had made the correct decision.
Our ride to the airport early Thursday morning occurred before sunrise. The 20-minute trip to the airport took us through several neighborhoods that have seen the effects of almost 25 years of war. For those who complain about body scanners at the airport, you should experience entering Kabul International Airport.
About a mile from the main terminal, our driver had to stop at the first checkpoint. The American contractor and I had to exit the vehicle, walk through a security checkpoint and be frisked. The car was also checked. We returned to the car and proceeded another half-mile. Another security checkpoint, and frisking. Guards had us take our luggage and place it through a scanner. We were than able to proceed to a holding terminal about 300 yards from the main terminal. At the airport, there are no screens to tell passengers of impending flights. People must go with the flow and must act with instinct. After a half-hour we left for the main terminal and jumped on a bus for the short 5-minute ride. Once there, another scan of the luggage and a pat-down. Finally, we were able check in our luggage and proceed to the main gate and … you guessed it … another frisking and an X-ray scan of carry-on luggage.
The flight to Kandahar was scheduled for 7:30 a.m, but the minutes ticked by. Finally, at 9 a.m. a bus arrived at the terminal and took the waiting passengers to a Kam Air jet for the flight. Takeoff and 60 minutes later, I arrived at Kandahar, picked up my luggage and was escorted to an American checkpoint near the main terminal for entrance into the Kandahar Air Field, or KAF, a compound consisting of many coalition partners and thousands of military personnel and contractors.
The day has been spent going through orientation and receiving instruction of what to do when a rocket attack occurs, which I understand has been almost nightly.
More later …