Thursday, June 20, 2013
Greetings from Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost Province, Afghanistan.
I’m two military air transports away from the Maine Army National Guard’s Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 172 Infantry at Combat Outpost Dand wa Patan. As usual with military travel, it’s taking longer to get there than I’d hoped – my best guess at this point is I’ll arrive by Friday.
Getting this far has already had its challenges, not to mention helpful coincidences.
Upon arriving at Kabul International Airport early Sunday morning, I discovered my fully-stuffed backpack was nowhere to be found among the checked luggage.
Worse yet, the clerk behind the counter at Safi Airways, which I flew on the second leg of my journey here, appeared as baffled as I was about where the backpack was and when it might get to Kabul.
My major concern: Among the items in the pack, which had been checked from Boston through Frankfurt, Germany, to Kabul by Lufthansa Airlines, were my all-important helmet and body armor. Without them, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) folks at Kabul would not permit me to continue on with my journey to Bravo Company’s remote outpost on the Pakistan border.
Enter Jan Morrison of Yarmouth, who had read my earlier blog posting about Safi Airways and e-mailed me to say a good friend of hers, Capt. Courtney Brye of Ohio, happens to be Safi Airways’ senior pilot on Boeing 737s.
It felt like a long-shot, but I asked my wife to contact Morrison, who in turn put her in touch with Capt. Brye's wife, Elaine, who in turn contacted Capt. Brye, who immediately got on the case Sunday morning.
“I have called Kabul with the information. I also e-mailed and talked directly with the head ground services manager for Safi Airways,” Brye soon reported in an e-mail to all concerned. “He is on the case and will get back to me when he solves the problem. When I talked to him last, he was on the line with Lufthansa.”
Early Monday morning, after a private taxi ride back to the airport that included eight security checkpoints and at least six pat-down searches, skeptical Afghan guards permitted me to go back into the baggage area just as that day’s Safi flight arrived from Frankfurt.
I could actually feel my heart pounding as I waited for the baggage conveyor to start. And I almost shouted for joy when, second out of the chute, came my long-lost backpack.
To Jan Morrison, Elaine and Capt. Courtney Brye and, last but not least, my ever-efficient and unflappable wife, Andrea, my heartfelt thanks.
I wouldn't be here (literally) without you..
Columnist Bill Nemitz is reporting from the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Nemitz left Memorial Day weekend to join the 152 Maine men who make up Maine Army National Guard’s Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry. Bravo Company is part of the 94,000 soldiers currently in Afghanistan.