(First NTC embed part 3)

September 29, 2008

A Forward Operating Base, by the way, is a sort of tent city that is more or less its own closed-off little world both operationally and literally: every FOB here is bounded by a sand wall topped by concertina wire, and it’s this wire that lends itself to how soldiers describe what lies on the other side of it as “outside the wire.”  And tent city may be overstating things a bit, because it’s really like a no-nonsense summer camp built on unforgiving terrain: a few rows of sleep tents (some small enough that they only fit about eight people but most large enough to fit 150), a chow tent identical to the sleep tents but filled with cafeteria furniture and smells, a smattering of porta-potties here and there that may or may not contain toilet paper, a lot of carts with miniature stadium lights that run on self-contained generators, a control tent, miscellaneous junk, and what amounts to a large informal parking lot for the various vehicles (humvees, tanks, etc.) that get used out here for training purposes.  That’s about it, really.  The configuration changes depending on the specific FOB (the aviation guys have a “deluxe” FOB with more actual non-tent buildings, a standalone chapel and medic station and, of course, an airfield, but these differences are small) but all the elements are the same and are made out of the same materials: metal and plastic. 

 

The unique feature of FOB Dallas is that it’s pressed up against a “hill” on one side that serves as a wall, but also a convenient location point for would-be snipers.  The reason hill is in quotes is this: it’s really more like a wall covered with scrub brush, and except for one area it’s evenly-angled and about ten stories tall, minimum.    It also turns out that the only place anyone can get cell phone reception is by climbing a less-steep part of the hill about halfway up, which is what I get told to do when, on the other side of my stay, I need to call Major Lowe.  Such is the nature of the hill, though, that I also get told this: “Try not to look like a sniper.”  It’s doubtful that anyone will make that mistake, given that I’m climbing up the wrong side of the hill and that I suspect (and photos taken later prove) that I look about as stealthy and at-home as the proverbial land-stranded fish but just in case I try to perform the functions of cell-phone conversation as almost a kind of caricature so it’s obvious that I am not in any way threatening and won’t get in trouble for accidentally setting off some sort of sniper-watching alarm.

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