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A soldier patrols "safe houses" in Kabul during a recent mission. The security team encountered more than it bargained for during its yearlong deployment.
A soldier patrols "safe houses" in Kabul during a recent mission. The security team encountered more than it bargained for during its yearlong deployment. (Anita Powell / S&S)

CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan — Things are a little tight these days at this installation in central Kabul, as soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard’s 111th Area Support Group prepare to depart and be replaced by the 219th Area Support Group of the Indiana Army National Guard.

For the time being, members of both guard units are occupying base housing, leading to some interesting living arrangements. Many servicemembers are jammed into rooms meant for half the people, about 50 are in tents, and some soldiers on their way out have given up their rooms for temporary housing. The surge of soldiers has affected other facilities as well: notably the chow hall, where seating is a little tighter than usual. And getting a shower — or a treadmill at the gym — during peak times can be an exercise in patience.

The glut is temporary and normal, said the outgoing garrison commander, Maj. Stanley Golaboff, who noted that a similar situation is transpiring at Bagram Air Base, as members of the Fort Drum, N.Y.-based 10th Mountain Division arrive.

“We’re going to be in tight quarters probably for the short term,” Golaboff said. “Probably three or four weeks from now, it’ll be better.”

He, too, has given up the comforts of his normal quarters as he prepares to return to his home in Harker Heights, Texas. Like most servicemembers, he’s put up with the inconvenience good-naturedly.

“I live in transient billeting above the gym,” he said. “It affects all folks, all ranks.”

Eventful deploymentFor members of Camp Eggers’ security forces team, their 11 months in country have been — to their dismay — a fairly eventful experience.

“The people before us had one rocket attack the whole time they were here,” said Staff Sgt. Bobby Mullen, a team leader for Battery B, 114th Field Artillery Regiment, a Mississippi Army National Guard unit. “We’ve had [car bombs], we’ve had rocket attacks, you name it.”

Although his unit has sustained no deaths during his time in Afghanistan, hostile activity has “definitely ramped up,” he said. “That stuff is really picking up here.”

Mullen’s unit conducts frequent Humvee patrols through the dust- and car-choked streets of central Kabul, making visits to several “safe houses” — heavily guarded multistory mansions (think “Real World: Kabul,” but on a public-access channel budget) where servicemembers live. Previous patrols have turned up such ugly bounty as homemade bombs.

For the most part, though, he said, the job is “99 percent boredom, one percent fear.”

“We do this 24-7,” he said.

Valentine’s Day separationFor most deployed soldiers, Valentine’s Day is little more than a grim reminder of their separation from loved ones.

This year is no exception for many servicemembers in Afghanistan, many of whom said they weren’t looking forward to celebrating the saccharine holiday without their sweethearts.

For Lt. Col. Wayne Yoshioka, 54, the day is a double whammy: It’s also his fifth wedding anniversary.

He and his wife are celebrating Valentine’s Day from afar, as evidenced by a small pile on his desk of red- and pink-wrapped gifts and cards with postmarks from their Hawaii home.

“Without her support,” he said, “I wouldn’t have been able to come here.”

For the anniversary, however, he skipped the fancy gifts and went with something a little more fanciful.

His gift to his wife was a pair of “fuzzy handcuffs from the German (army) compound,” he said with a smile. “It was just a joke.”

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