FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHUKVANI, Afghanistan - When you ask soldiers about their deployment experience, you might hear about them going down to the PX at Kandahar Airfield or about how they were in the middle of nowhere using water bottles for brushing their teeth, shaving, or using baby wipes for a shower.
Soldiers of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade are witness to these contrasts as they exist between service members at Kandahar Airfield, which has more services and resources to offer, than to the soldiers at smaller forward operating bases.
Service members at even smaller outlying FOBs must continue normal operations without the services and resources of the larger FOBs. Soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, currently attached to the 25th CAB, conduct medevac operations out of FOB Shukvani with only essential tools and equipment.
"When we first arrived here, the only thing for us was a bunker," said Staff Sgt. Mike Berry, a flight medic with C/1-169th Aviation, originally from Covington, Ga. "We sent a three-man advance team to set up our area. They drew up the floor plan, set up tents, built floors, and coordinated with the Marines here for generators, constructing outhouses and emplacing HESCO barriers."
Another experience the soldiers at FOB Shukvani experience is living with no plumbing. For bathrooms, they had to construct outhouses and equip them with exposable baggies known as Wag Bags. Within the past couple of weeks, they received two portable toilets. Another new addition is a tent equipped with water bags and nozzles so they can shower.
"The shower was the biggest improvement for us," said Sgt. Cherie Flett, flight operations non-commissioned officer, C/1-169, from Smyrna, Tenn. "Before the shower tent, we were using water bottles for showers. Since being here, we are still making improvements like making walk ways, building doors for the tents, just the small things to make it more homely."
The bigger bases have several dining facilities with chicken, steak, tacos, hamburgers, hot dogs, salad bar and a dessert bar. The smaller outlying posts have nothing of the sort.
"We receive T-Ration meals twice a day, one for breakfast and one for dinner," said Berry. "For lunch, we have Meals, Ready-to-Eat, or make what we can out of snacks."
On rare occasions, the soldiers on FOB Shukvani get a taste of the big FOB life. For example, the nights of "surf 'n turf," which is slang for steak and seafood; the shrimp is delivered in a garbage bag. The shrimp is in addition to the four trays of steak and rice that are about as wide as a laptop computer and as thick as a stack of printer paper.
Since the medevac company is split up between three different locations, they receive assistance from their counterparts in Kandahar Airfield or Dwyer to bring out needed supplies, parts and food via.
"One of the things that help keep us going out here are the care packages from home," said Flett. "We get mail about once a week. My husband and I are both deployed out here. Since we are located at different FOBs, we send each other care packages containing movies we watched with letters. It gives us something else to talk about out here other than work."
With every installation not the same, soldiers must bond together to take care of each other and accomplish the mission.
"We have to do what we can to get by out here," said Flett. "Being out here makes you grateful to be able to walk to, and buy, the simple things. When we go back home, I won't take it for granted."