By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 27, 2009 - (American Forces Press Service reporter Fred W. Baker III writes about his experiences in Afghanistan, where he is embeded with a provincial reconstruction team and an infantry unit.) To say that Paktia province needs better roads is a bone-rattling understatement.
I took a ride north of the forward operating base here this week to the district of Sayed Karem with the civil affairs section of the provincial reconstruction team for a meeting with the sub-governor, and to deliver some food, clothes, blankets and other winter supplies to needy families there.
It is about a 25-mile trip, but bumping along the narrow dirt road took nearly two hours. Back at home I commute about 45 miles one way to work, and I gripe when traffic is bad and the drive takes an hour. My 90-mile daily round trip here would take most of the day.
I grew up in rural West Virginia, and have seen my share of bumpy roads. But even those eventually opened to wider, smoother-paved roads. This one never did. We moved steady at speeds somewhere between slow and stop.
In the back of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, I felt like one of those lottery balls that are flung about the air-filled machines. More than once there was daylight between my backside and the seat. Thank goodness for seatbelts and Kevlar helmets.
Along the way, trucks, small cars and motorcycles pulled over for our convoy. I can't imagine the shape of their shocks.
And, surprisingly, the road we were traveling was a good one by area standards. Most of the locals use the dry creek beds, or "wadis," to make their way through the mountain passes. Many of the locals never leave their villages.
As the PRT works to develop the area, it is obvious that the roads they have planned that will eventually spider out into the province are critical to its work of providing the basics such as health care, education and commerce.
Ironically, the road we traveled is part of what is called the "spine" road, a provincial connector route that is slated for improvement and paving. I joked to those traveling with me that I would need my spine adjusted after the trip.
More spine jokes were traded as we bumped up the road.
Maybe in addition to more troops, the United States could send some chiropractors