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Rogers: Barbecue in Kandahar

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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (TheStreet) -- I rose bleary-eyed at Germany's Ramstein Air Base in the middle of the night, quickly gathered my belongings and staggered over the road to the shiny military passenger terminal.

The last leg of my trip was finally underway as I boarded the Boeing C-17 to Kandahar. The same friendly faces greeted me and my escort as we climbed aboard. After a day's rest, the aircrew that brought us from Dover Air Force base in Delaware were continuing their cargo-laden trip to southern Afghanistan.

This was clearly going to be something of a different journey, though. Whereas I was one of a number of civilians on the flight over to Ramstein from the U.S., now I was the only passenger not in uniform.

The C-17's loadmaster, who just a few nights ago chatted with me about how the Air Force has placed aircraft manuals onto Apple iPads, was now discussing the likelihood of donning body armor when disembarking. "There's a bit of activity lately, but it's not bad," he said, referring to the threat of rocket attack at Kandahar airfield.

Also, unlike the first leg of the trip, my request to visit the flight deck was turned down, a crewman explaining to me that "it's a bit hectic up there at the moment."


The final stages of the flight were also an experience. Even at the best of times, traveling in a C-17 is an uncomfortable few hours, a combination of freezing cold and jet engine din. As we approached Kandahar, however, it felt like we were on a roller coaster, hurtling toward the earth with engines howling while lurching from side to side. I later found out that this may have been a "tactical approach" to avoid potential ground fire.

Soon, though, we were on the tarmac, and minutes later the C-17's huge rear doors opened, the sun glinting between the huge piles of boxes stacked throughout the hold. One passenger started putting on his body armor, but a crewmember gestured that he shouldn't bother -- it seemed that it was relatively calm outside.