Thursday, September 1, 2011
Above: Preparing to clean the central section of the former rehearsal tent.
It's a new month, and with the turning of the calendar I am now measuring my remaining time in Afghanistan in weeks rather than months. Much has happened in the past several days since my last post so I'll try and catch up quickly, but today I'll focus on a milestone event in the 10th Mountain Division Band's deployment--the deconstruction of the tent. Not long after we arrived here, we set up a tent to use as our rehearsal facility. It also became our meeting area and instrument storage space. It wasn't perfect--the air conditioner frequently broke down in the stifling heat of the Afghan summer, the acoustics were nothing special and did nothing to keep the sound of loud rehearsals from "bleeding"into the outside world, and keeping it dust-free was a fantasy--but it was our space, and we were happy to have something that kept us out of the bunkers for practice time.
We began the process of disassembling the tent in early August by packing up nonessential equipment or moving it to our office in the Headquarters compound. We then had to take down the storage locker for the instruments that had been built out of some spare wood. Then came the process of taking down the lights, disconnecting the power generator, and removing all the interior support struts before actually taking the various sections of the tent apart. Spreading this out over several days allowed us to not only do our other jobs, but also avoid overexposure to the triple-degree heat.
I actually missed the day that the tent was finally finished because I was elsewhere on the base inspecting some equipment before it was packed up to ship back to Ft. Drum. I'm not complaining about that, though; I don't envy the people who had to figure out how to get that thing back on the trailer. (The trailer also contains the power generator; when disassembled the whole thing-except for the wooden floor-fits into a single unit that can be towed anywhere by truck.)
Of course, that isn't the end of the process. Once disassembled, the tent must be cleaned. Anything, indoors or out, that spends any length of time at Kandahar Air Field gets dirty. There are copious amounts of dust in this region, and the tent's various components were saturated by it despite our best efforts to keep them clean. This was especially true for the outside of the tent, which received less attention over the past year than the inside. So we spent the next Saturday at the motor pool using a pressure washer to clean the tent. Every single piece of it. We started about 6 am, and were not done until after 5 pm. Long, long, day. And also hot. But the tent was cleaned, and the parts actually dried off very quickly in the sun. I was glad to have my sunscreen with me. I don't burst into flames anymore when I walk outside like I did when I was younger, but I still burn easily and I'm sure the Coppertone SPF 30+ saved me some very sore moments later on. It is a bit odd to think of our place of work being folded up on a trailer now, and we are again having to improvise places to practice and rehearse (yes, we still have a few performing jobs left to do!). I'm glad I have a Best Brass practice mute for my trombone; it allows me to practice in my room occasionally without disturbing the roommates, or neighbors, too much. Of course, we still have the wooden floor just sitting there all by itself. Not sure what we're going to do with that....