People don't try to jerk you around a lot in Afghanistan. It just seems that way some of the time. This past Sunday, the Bunker Brass Quintet got a nice dose of it. The problem stems from the fact that anytime personnel from the band are tasked to go to another base and perform, there are many, many logistical hoops that must be jumped. And at any given point in the process, we have to understand that there may be very good reasons why we can be scheduled to fly out, only to be bumped for other people that need that flight more. Or the flight itself may be canceled, delayed, moved forward, etc. All of which are issues that (thankfully) I don't personally deal with. Also, coordinating a trip requires good communication with a point of contact at a distant location, often a point of contact who has many more pressing things to deal with than whether or not the band folks have a place to sleep or chairs to sit in. Add to that the fact that getting good communication with anyone anywhere in Afghanistan can sometimes be a very challenging...um...challenge.
But we were scheduled to fly out Sunday afternoon to another base where we would be playing at a couple of Transfer of Authority ceremonies as well as doing a morale performance at a dining facility. We were packed and ready to go, loading our instruments and other gear onto the truck at our tent, when we received word that our trip was no-go. Slightly disappointed, but not very surprised, we trucked our personal gear back to our rooms and met up at the tent afterward to do some rehearsal. After finishing our first number, the phone call came--we needed to be at the departure ramp in twenty minutes. Fortunately, none of us had taken the time to unpack anything. A couple of people loaded our instruments, stands, and music onto the truck along with the "kicker," a large container that we build around the gear so it can all be forklifted at once onto the helicopter. The rest of us hopped into the van and went back to the rooms to grab all the personal gear. We met up at the loading ramp area, just in time to build the kicker and get on the aircraft.
We experienced something similar Thursday morning while waiting for our flight back to KAF when the chopper arrived about half an hour early. Gave everyone who was scheduled for that flight a bit of a surprise, but that's why you get there well before you're supposed to fly out. We had to take the kicker apart for that particular flight, as we were on a different helicopter with different space requirements, but we still managed to load and move everything by hand. (Including the disassembled kicker box.) One thing about traveling around Afghanistan--it is rarely, if ever, dull.