Thursday, October 21, 2010

Going, going... Guam.

The Guam guys who are here are the second rotation of Guam National Guard to come through Farah, and will be the last. They'll be replaced by Arizona National Guard, who will likely be equally adept at personal protection but much less happy-go-lucky, and who will almost definitely be less likely to barbeque, which the Guamanians do weekly. They've come to the rescue on many a Friday night, when the only choices were starvation or wretched surf-and-turf at the chow hall, with limp fried shrimp and withered lobsters served alongside shoe leather steaks.

Guamanian barbeques (always with lilting steel drum music in the background) were the social highlight of the week, and the Guamanians were excellent cooks. They have an odd penchant for singing the happy birthday song, and every week they'd gather everyone together before eating, run through the ubiquitous Catholic before-meal prayer, and then point to someone in the crowd and shriek out -- "hey, is it your birthday? It's your BIRTHDAY!" and then launch into the song for no reason at all.

(Guamanian food is generally excellent, and they make a corned beef that they smoke and then cook on the grill that's truly outstanding. I will concede that the one time I got miserably sick in Farah was off Guamanian barbequed fish, dredged in a garlic mayonnaise sauce and grilled in a foil packet, served alongside a lemon juice-cured raw fish ceviche that I knew was folly to eat. Both were delicious but desert ceviche was a bridge too far, and I was incapacitated for days. I have no regrets).

A Guamanian barbeque in full swing. The guy in camo clutching a diet soda is there heretofore un-photo-documented Captain Firepower.

I assumed I'd turn this into a photo post, but it turns out that I have very few photos of the Guam guys -- I usually take photos on missions, and they're always on missions but always in the background, pulling security. The photo below was taken just after one of those missions, as they were unloading a .50 cal from an MRAP. "Take a picture," they told me. "It'll make your mother feel better about you being here."
Two Guamanians with a gigantic gun. Feel better, mom?

The guys could start circulating out of Farah as early as Saturday. I'm hoping I can catch up on photographing and blogging about people before the grand exodus begins -- there are hundreds of people who haven't been mentioned here who deserve to be written down, lest I forget them at some point in the future.

On a hillside in stunningly beautiful Purchaman district, Eastern Farah; the truck laden with Afghan Police and Guam guys hadn't been able to handle the grade, and this photo was taken from the window as we drove past them. The Staff Sergeant in the front, one of the SecFor leaders, has an uncanny knack for catching my eye during painfully long meetings and giving me a wink as if to say -- man, I'm glad it's you and not me who's stuck taking notes.


Shannon said...

Mark, any impact stemming from Karzai's order to get rid of all private security? Know military bases and such have been exempted, but wasn't sure if you all had a large NGO/IO/development org. presence in Farah.


RMealer said...

My son just rotated out with the Secfor. He says you are the coolest
O6 civilian he knows and you made a big impression on him and the Guam
crew. He was the gunner in the Cougar that flipped last month. He will be home soon and back to the Navy life.Keep us informed of the events in Farah (not the bombings).

Adam said...

I too agree a couple of days (not many more) on the toilet can sometimes be worth the tasty food that we are not always supposed to eat.