Monday, 2 May 2011

The best way to sum up this historic day from Afghanistan is that I’ve spent it “in the dark”. First off, it’s worth noting that as I was trying to fall asleep last night, about 4am Afghan time, I remember thinking to myself, “What the heck is with the fighter jets?!” I have never heard so many F-15s taking off, circling and landing before at the same time. It went on for about an hour. Then because of my crazy sleep schedule I woke up to about 25 emails in my inbox from friends and family commenting on the death of Bin Laden and asking after my safety which was exceedingly kind of so many of you. Having slept through the breaking news, I hurried onto and read as much as I could before I had to shower and get to the office.

I had hoped that I would be able to learn more from the Armed Forces Network (AFN) which supplies our TV news coverage over here, but I was dismayed to see that a bunch of servicemembers had already commandeered the TV and were watching a DVD. So I started my shift not really knowing what was going on in response to the news. My team leader and I agreed that when the movie was over we would turn on the news. This did not happen however, as 5 minutes into the start of my shift, we went into a rolling blackout that lasted an hour. In consisted of 10 minutes blackout, followed by 5 minutes of everything reloading, followed by another series of beeps and pops and everything would go dark again. These blackouts have continued throughout the day.

I can tell you one thing I have observed. I would not describe the mood out here as one of relief or celebration. In fact, in my opinion and in my experience, I would describe it as somber accompanied by heightened caution. As many of you are likely aware, both the Taliban and NATO released news statements just a few days ago acknowledging the start of a new offensive by the Taliban. On Friday morning, Billeting went round our camp and checked the smoke detectors in the Bhuts. On Saturday I did my daily hospital visit and there were so many people in the Ward, they were doubling up beds in the curtained off partitions. Running errands on the base today there were numerous changes evident from just the day before.

The death of Osama Bin Laden is undoubtedly a significant event. But in my own opinion, the news does not resonate the same way for the Americans and Allied forces in Afghanistan as it does for those so geographically far from the conflict. The fear of retaliation that the news is reporting is not a whimsical threat for those located in the midst of the conflict. I will have to continue sleeping with my gym shoes unlaced and set out like a Tri-athlete finishing the swim, but instead of a bike, I’m throwing on my body armor and Kevlar helmet and running for a bunker and not the finish line.

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