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Sailor's Story: On The Ground In Afghanistan
by LTJG. Ryan Petrosky

Sep 5, 2008

It’s currently 8 a.m. here in Kabul Afghanistan, exactly nine and a half hours ahead of central standard time. I’m writing this as the first installment in what I hope becomes a series of articles about my unique journey from a Naval Officer serving my country onboard a ship, to a “boots on ground” soldier working with the Army.

As was detailed in an earlier story, my journey began with two months of basic Army training at Fort Riley, KS. Upon completion, 45 of my fellow shipmates and I boarded a chartered civilian airplane in Topeka, KS to start our trip to Afghanistan. We flew in a DC-10 which ironically, was packed to full capacity with members of the Illinois National Guard also flying over to begin tours in Afghanistan. We flew approximately nine hours to Shannon, Ireland for a short layover. We then headed to Manas Air Base in Krgyzstan, a country I couldn’t point out on the map prior to landing there. We stayed there for four days until a flight into Afghanistan was scheduled. At this point, we were all extremely anxious to get to our final destination. When this whole thing began, I never would have thought I would be so anxious to get to Afghanistan.

Once we arrived at Kabul International Airport (KIA), we had to load up on a yellow, armored bus known to those serving here as a “twinkie,” a very fitting name for one of the ugliest, but safest, modes of transportation I have ever seen. It was a short convoy to Camp Phoenix where about half of our 45 Navy personnel would be stationed. The other half would be stationed at another nearby base or dispersed throughout the country where they are needed.

One of the interesting things about the Navy Individual Augmentation (IA) process is that many times, sailors don’t know what their job will be until they actually arrive at their base. This is due to the dynamic nature of working in a war zone. The needs of the coalition forces serving here change on a daily basis, and as members of the military we understand that it is our job to fill in wherever we are needed.

I have been dealt this hand exactly. I have served as a logistics and services officer in the Navy for the last three years. However, once I met my new bosses here at Camp Phoenix, I was assigned to the police advisory office. Our office helps to coordinate, plan, and track training for the Afghan National Police forces in the entire country. The police force training is a few years behind the National Army training, so a lot of the process is still being developed. I plan to explain this training in more detail after I have additional time here under my belt, and I understand things better.

We arrived in Kabul on a Thursday. We were a bunch of bright eyed sailors not having a clue what to expect. We had one day of indoctrination classes and then it was time to get to work. I found out that day that I would be going on my first convoy on Sunday. I have to be honest. I was a little nervous and wasn’t sure what to expect. On Sunday morning (right after I watched Illinois lose to Missouri on the Armed Forces Network) we put on all our body armor, loaded up ammo for our weapons, and hopped into two armored SUVs to begin our relatively short trip through Kabul to another base located about 25 minutes away.

There are no traffic laws in Afghanistan. I couldn’t believe how erratic the locals were driving their cars, bicycles, mopeds, and even carriages pulled by donkeys. The Army Major I was riding with seemed completely at ease as we swerved in and out of all the moving obstacles. After an adventurous ride, we made it to our destination. We were there to attend a few meetings to discuss the progress and issues with the police training.

From what I’ve learned so far, my job involves numerous meetings, plenty of work behind a computer, and not much time out in the field encountering enemy contact. I know this makes my family happy, but at times you do find yourself thinking about all the training we go through prior to coming over here. You feel like you owe it to your fellow members of the military to be out there with them doing the dangerous work. I don’t know exactly what the future holds for me here, but I do know I’m happy to be here, and I know this upcoming year will be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, experience of my life. Thank you for all the support from home. From first hand experience, it is that support that allows us to wake up everyday and want to do this. I hope those reading this enjoy it, and I will continue to write every couple weeks with updates on my experiences over here.

My email is

If there are any questions or comments, I will do my best to respond to everyone!


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