Afghanistan: Times of Lull in the “War On Terror”


Camp Leatherneck Welcome SignWhen you hear the words “War on Terror”, “Operation Enduring Freedom” and “Op Herrick”, what do you think about?  Typically people tend to hear these words and immediately think about all of the negative things that could be going on with their friends, family and loved ones.  Are they in a dangerous situation? What are the base and living conditions like?  After being over in Afghanistan for the better part of five years, I have had the opportunity to visit a few of the main bases in the country and can tell you, though your family members are far from home and missing home, should they travel through these main hubs it’s not hard to find something that is familiar and welcome by all.

If one finds themselves lucky enough to be stationed at one of Afghanistan’s main NATO bases, they will quickly realize that there are opportunities for rest and relaxation.  In Helmand Province, Afghanistan one can find Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion.  The two bases are connected and are more like mini cities than military bases.  It is not unheard of for people to get too complacent and forget all about the war if they are at one of these “safer” locations.  If you were to wake up tomorrow in either of these particular places, you could pretty much have your heart’s desires with regards to culinary choices.  If for instance, you found yourself tired of the typical “chow hall” food and needed something fast, you could swing by this family friendly joint.

 Pizza Hut, Camp Bastion

Not in the mood for Pizza Hut pizza?  That is completely fine; at Camp Bastion you can have your choice from any of the three pizzerias that are available.  “The Blue” pizzeria and Ciano’s Italian restaurant both offer thin crust pizzas made the way you like them.  Ciano’s also has a wide variety of other delicious choices from Nutella filled crêpes and pasta to lamb chops and whole rotisserie chickens by reservation.  None of these choices are striking your fancy?  We’ll move on then.  Perhaps you recognize this other familiar eatery.

KFC, Camp Bastion

While back home in the states, it is almost an embarrassing feeling to stand in line at a fast food restaurant; over here it is a regular occurrence for many.  If you still are a little uneasy about eating fast food or are just trying to watch that figure, there are still other options available to you.  Bastion is also home to various coffee shops, at least five exchanges, a fish and chips stand, an all you can eat “contractor” style buffet and “The Blue” steakhouse and bakery.

While my current location is Camp Leatherneck/Bastion, I have also had the opportunity to spend a year at Kandahar Airfield.  Kandahar is famous for its “Boardwalk”, a restful, city block sized area complete with a T.G.I. Friday’s, Kebab House Grill, Nathan’s hot dogs, a Green Bean coffee shop and a full sized hockey rink.  When your troops and soldiers are not hard at work, chances are they can be found at the gym or the boardwalk finding enjoyment in their off time.

All of these options truly are a great morale booster for the troops and civilian contractors alike.  Those individuals out at outlying FOBS (Forward Operating Bases) have coined special terms to refer to these places, “Camp Cupcake.”  While many view the amenities as a great way to unwind when you are transitioning in or out of theatre, there are those that argue that places like this should be banned.  I will leave you with your own opinions on the matter.  I have spoken with the troops who are deploying or re-deploying through these hubs however, and the majority of them view this as a little piece of heaven in a country that has been blown to hell.  Much appreciation surrounds the “safer” areas of Afghanistan because for a moment, even a brief second, they are able to take your mind off of the stresses associated with a long period from friends and family.  For the men and women of the armed forces and those that support them, places like this are indeed a shining light in the distance.

Paul Freitas

I am currently attending MatadorU's Travel Photographer course. I am preparing for Portland State University this Winter (though the degree decision is still up in the air). I currently reside in Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, where I have spent the last 4 1/2 years working alongside the United States Marine Corps as a civilian contractor.

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