I've received a few more questions, so here goes....
What do you think about the new uniforms?
We were issued new uniforms a few weeks before we left. The new pattern, Multi-Cam, was designed to blend better in the rugged environment of Afghanistan than the current standard issue, the digital-patterned Army Combat Uniform. The new pattern is similar to the old Battle Dress Uniform they had when I joined, but is not as dark and has more brown and no black. The cut of the uniform is similar, but they've redesigned the collar to lay flat a bit better, the "hook and loop" fasteners (a non-copyrighted way of referring to Velcro) down the front are a bit smaller, and they've replaced the fasteners on the pants cargo pockets with buttons. The material is also coated with materials to make them flame-retardant and insect-repellant. So far, I like them--they look better, they're stitched a bit better, and the material feels a bit more comfortable. They're sized a bit differently, but I was able to get the right size so they fit well. I'd prefer for them to make this the standard issue uniform. They also have new "mountain boots" that are supposed to go with these, but due to a supply shortage they weren't able to issue them to non-combat troops, so we're still using the tan desert boots. That's also fine by me; I have not heard good things about the wear or durability of the new boots.
Do you always have to wear your glasses?
Yes, I do. If you know me well, you know that I'm quite near-sighted. (I didn't inherit my paternal grandfather's military-pilot-perfect vision...and neither did any of his other grandchildren!) Most of the time I prefer to wear contact lenses, unless I'm sleeping. However, military policy prohibits the wear of contact lenses in combat zones and with the amount of dust here, that's most likely for the best. Most of the time I wear normal eyeglasses, but during the day when I'm outdoors I wear polarized, dark ballistic protective lenses that have prescription inserts attached. They're large enough that they completely cover my eyes from the very bright sunlight. (Low humidity=very few cloudy days)
What provisions are made for worship services?
There are services and classes all through the week at the two main chapels on the post. Catholic services are held just about everyday, and Sundays are booked solid with services such as Traditional Protestant, Contemporary Protestant, Latter-Day Saints, church of Christ, as well as services for other faiths like Judaism and Islam. Many of the services are run by chaplains, but there are Soldiers and civilians who are involved as well. There's a Wednesday night class that I want to check out as well sometime. Also, from time to time we can hear the Muslim prayers over the loudspeakers from the Afghan section of the base. (I presume they're in Arabic, not Dari or Pashto, which are the main languages in Afghanistan.)
Do you have access to beverages like sweet tea and Coca-Cola?
I have not yet found sweet iced tea, though there is a military-focused coffee company called Green Beans that has a couple of shops here. (LOVE the chocolate smoothies!) They have iced tea that I have yet to try but I hear it's the best thing on the menu. I'll take the plunge soon. We do have soft drinks at the dining facilities, usually Coke, Sprite, Fanta orange, and "Coke light," which is the equivalent of diet. They come from a distributor in Kabul, and because they aren't subject to the dietary squeamishness of the US, they still use sugar rather than corn syrup in the recipe. The facility closest to where I now live is the most "American" dining hall, and up until a few days ago they also had regular A&W root beer, shipped straight from Texas. I guess their supply ran out and they have yet to get more. A real shame, as root beer is my favorite soft drink.
That's all for this installment. Thanks for reading, and please continue to send any questions you have!