CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – The more things change, the more they stay the same.
That holds true on this vast forward operating base, which photographer Colin Kelly and I arrived at this afternoon. It still serves as the main hub of Marine operations in Afghanistan, even after thousands of Marines were withdrawn from Helmand province this summer.
We flew here on a British C-130, spending more than an hour in the air from Kabul International Airport. The flight included about 30 British troops and a handful of Estonians, among others.
After spending all of April and part of May embedded in Helmand, I don’t exactly need a tour guide here anymore. Still, it’s interesting to see the nuanced things that have changed at the base. For example, the headquarters for Regimental Combat Team 6 moved here this summer as part of the drawdown. It now oversees units in both northern and southern Helmand as they advise the Afghan military and police force, which is still growing and maturing.
I mentioned in a blog entry last week that we expected to be embedding with elements of 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., but that plan appears to have changed due to the needs of the Corps. It’s now more likely we’ll spend time with elements of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines. The unit, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., is distributed across several districts in central and southern Helmand.
A few other footnotes:
- When you travel in a war zone, you have to find humor in the small things. It’s for that reason that I was amused to see a flyer at the military camp in Kabul advertising lessons in Zumba, a high-energy aerobics workout that doesn’t exactly speak to the stereotypical alpha male. I didn’t see it catching on with the military, but what do I know?
- The Brits posted the sign (see photo) in their airport terminal. Clearly, they’re concerned about bag security. Very, very concerned.
- In just a few hours at Camp Leatherneck, I’ve already heard three Marines say how badly they hope to meet Prince Harry, who is deployed here on Camp Bastion, the British side of the base. That includes two females and one male, for the record. I know, I know. He’s so dreamy.
As always, thanks for reading. As things pop up, we’ll keep posting throughout our embed.