Deeper down the foxhole in Afghanistan

Deeper down the foxhole in Afghanistan
Marines take a “shower” under the handpump at COP Turbett.

COMBAT OUTPOST TURBET, Helmand Province, Afghanistan - When Cali Bagby and I began this trip, we were originally slotted to embed with a unit near the Pakistan border.

Four days before our flights out of Oregon, the situation changed, and the press liaison officer informed us they would locate a different unit for us.

At that point, Cali and I had no idea where we were going - just that we were still going.

We were told to get to Camp Leatherneck. So Cali and I assumed we would embed with a unit there.

After a couple of days at Leatherneck, the press liaison officer on the ground there told us we were moving on to Dwyer.

Cali and I packed up our bags and flew to Dwyer, where we assumed we would be embedded for the duration.

After a couple of days in Dwyer, the press liaison officer there told us we were moving on to Forward Operating Base Marjah. Once we arrived at Marjah, we assumed we were definitely going to spend our entire embed there.

After a couple of days in Marjah, the press liaison officer there told us we were moving on to Combat Outpost Turbett. | PHOTO GALLERY: A virtual tour of COP Turbett

And we absolutely definitely thought we would spend at least a month there.

We have just been informed we will be moving on to yet another combat outpost, much further south.

So:

With each move the living conditions get more spartan. Because Cali and I sent out a dispatch trying to give the flavor of FOB Marjah, because we thought that would be our home for the next several weeks, it is only appropriate to try to give you a flavor of life in COP Turbett. And I suppose we will do the same thing once we arrive at our next post. And probably the post after that.

At some point Cali and I assume they will just send us to a post with two Marines in a foxhole …


Welcome to Combat Outpost Turbett

Life at Combat Outpost Turbett is sparse, but not without its charms. The main compound is mud, cinder block and brick.

The enlisted men live in tents.

The tents have air conditioning.

But they are crowded and noisy.

There were over a dozen men in the tent I stayed in.

Ironically, Cali was put in a room in the main compound for privacy reasons, and therefore had no air conditioning at all, which made her room like a sauna. How she could sleep in 120 degree heat is beyond me.

Meals are two hots a day, with an MRE available at midday. Many of the Marines have food that has been sent from home and whip up gourmet meals. Some of the Marines buy chicken, bread and other items from the bazaar and often barbeque.

The restroom is similar to the ones at FOB Marjah: plastic toilet seats inside plywood stalls. For some reason the Wag Bags at Turbett are brown rather than silver and seem to be the, uh, less expensive variety.

At Turbett we have actual Piss Tubes, complete with a sign warning us not to urinate on the rocks.

Personal hygiene consists of shaving using the shard of a busted vehicle side view mirror. Most men shower under a well hand pump, although some have brought solar shower bags, which they hand from a hook in a plywood shower stall.

Laundry is done by hand in a bucket using the same pump.

There is a phone that the Marines use to make “morale calls” to loved ones. Not long calls, however, and not often.

It is very hot.

Very dusty.

There is really nothing to do except go out on patrol and get shot at.

Every day.

For months and months.

COMING UP: On patrol with the Marines at COP Turbett.

Dan Morrison and Cali Bagby are embedded with the Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan, north of the Pakistani border, as multimedia journalists for KVAL News.

Morrison teaches photojournalism and multimedia reporting at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication in Eugene, Ore.

Bagby is a freelance multimedia journalist who spent 10 months embedded with the Oregon National Guard in Iraq for KVAL.com.