Culture shock: my first impressions of Kandahar Airfield

23/08/2019 Posted by admin

by Melanie de Klerk

For years working on the assignment desk at Global National, dealing with correspondents and public affairs officers based at Kandahar Airfield (KAF) in Afghanistan, the picture I had of the base did not prepare me for the culture shock I experienced when I arrived here in early June.

Stepping off the plane for the first time I was greeted by a wall of intense heat laced with fine talc-like dust particles. While I was warned, I was still a little taken aback by just how hot and dusty it is here and how the soldiers decked out in full gear, cope with such extreme heat.

Despite the dust and extreme heat, everyone is hard at work all around Kandahar Airfield. And it runs like a well-oiled machine with constant activity.

It is fascinating how thousands of troops call this place home, working, eating and living together, in what can only be described as less than ideal conditions.

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HangZhou Night Net

In one area you may be walking by a barracks housing Dutch, British, Slovakian, U.S. or Canadian troops. In another, you are on a boardwalk with shops and restaurants like TGIF and KFC. Save for the noise of planes and heavy machinery when you are here, it feels like you are strolling around a tropical destination, shopping for souvenirs. The only tell tale sign that you are not in a holiday resort is the sheer number of NATO soldiers browsing through the shops, at their side.

Throughout the day I slowly acclimatized with the new surroundings, feeling a sense of calm that there were thousands of soldiers and civilians living their lives on this base —I relaxed feeling more at ease with the new surroundings. However, getting some much needed rest was a different story. I wasn’t prepared for the incredible amount of loud noises, from the whirr of jet engines to the dull thumps of distant explosions. Needless to say I didn’t get much shut eye listening to a world of new sounds orchestrated throughout the night.

Melanie is Global National’s research supervisor, based in Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @emmyjd2.

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