I've gotten to talk to Brent a few times this week. On Saturday night he called to tell me, "happy anniversary!" (Pretty sad that I didn't even realize it was our anniversary until that call, but that's a whole other post.) Each time I talk to him, I learn a bit more about what life is like at Kandahar.
Brent's brigade (Fort Lewis’ 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division), is the first Stryker Brigade in Afghanistan. They were originally assigned to Iraq, but as the need for troops there fell and the need for troops in Afghanistan rose, they were re-assigned. A Stryker is a kind of vehicle. It's kind of like a tank, but with wheels instead of tracks. Some have big guns, some don't. Apparently, there are different types of Strykers.
Here are a few examples:
Brent is the brigade's only dentist, which means that he is responsible for about 4,000 soldiers. At Kandahar, there is one Navy dentist, a Canadian dentist and I think a British dentist. He works from 8 to 5, Monday through Saturday. The tent that he works in is connected to two other identical ones, one housing the medics and one for physical therapy. Together, they are the brigade's "aid station."
Because his brigade is the newest to arrive at Kanadhar, they are living in tents and using "port-o-johns." There are about 15 bunkbeds lined up in each tent. (Luckily he's on the bottom because Brent has a history of falling out of the top bunk.) The showers are ice cold. Brent says that he has to warm the water in his hands and then splash himself. They should be moving into "chews" soon, which are rooms made from those containers that they ship things in. I don't know what they're called, but if you've ever been to Long Beach you'll know what I'm talking about. He says that they'll have a window and air conditioning, so they'll definitely be more comfortable. Once he moves in there, he'll have just one roommate, a really nice physical therapist. They'll still be using the port-o-johns, though. And there's no plan for heated water. I asked him why there aren't buildings for them to use, and Brent explained that since they're the latest to arrive they'll have to build everything themselves.
If you know Brent, you know how much he likes camping. I practically had to force him to take Mercedes on the ward father-daughter campout when she was four, and even then they slept in the car! So I'm impressed that he doesn't complain. He mentions often that the food is really good, so it seems that he's focusing on the positive. By the end of the day, he is covered in dirt. Because he has so much down-time, he has been able to entertain himself by studying things like drugs, and pathology; preparing himself for his oral-surgery residency.
Here's a website with news about his brigade: