Reporter’s Notebook: In Afghanistan, early risers look to feed their football Jones
August 10, 2006
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — It didn’t matter that it was 4:30 a.m. or that he was in a combat zone more than 8,000 miles away from Canton, Ohio.
Senior Airman Reese Vaughan was ready for some football.
“I just really needed to watch a game,” he said. “It’s the first one of the year. I had to see it.”
So Vaughan woke up well before dawn and hit the Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team headquarters to turn on the NFL’s preseason opener, watching the Philadelphia Eagles and the Oakland Raiders in the Hall of Fame game Monday morning.
He’s not even a fan of either team. Vaughan said he pulls for the 49ers and really prefers college football to the pros.
“But those games don’t start for another month,” he said. “You’ve gotta watch what you can.”
Since the preseason game was on so early, his commanders at the PRT told him to make himself comfortable in front of the giant flat screen TV in their conference room. The airman welcomed the chance to relax and act as if he were back in the States, although the relaxation was short-lived. An Aaron Brooks interception in the first quarter left him taunting the TV, and a few other good plays had him up out of his chair as well.
Vaughan doesn’t know if he’ll be back again early Friday morning for the next preseason game on AFN, but he has already started his next countdown: Only 25 days left until college football.
What’s up?Roshan Sarif, the first sergeant major of the Afghan National Army, wants U.S. troops to know that the language barrier goes both ways.
“I hear that one of your doctors has a Ph.D., but here that stands for public high school diploma,” he told U.S. troops on Sunday during an open forum, prompting laughter from the crowd.
“And people keep asking me ‘What’s up?’ I don’t get this. I look up when they say it.”
But the sergeant major, who was visiting Bagram with Command Chief Master Sgt. Curtis Brownhill, said he’ll forgive the linguistic hurdles as long as U.S. troops keep showing him the same dedication and respect they have for the last four years.
“Afghanistan was like a sick person,” he said. “You came and gave him medicine. We are still sick, but we are starting to walk.
“Now we are following you, but one day we will walk together.”
Sarif’s comments drew rave reviews from military officials, who called him the best of what the Afghan army has to offer. Several of the 200 troops who attended asked for him to pose in photos and praised him as an inspiration.
“I signed up four years ago to serve my country, and mine is in a lot better shape than yours. You are a man of courage. Countries are built on the backs of men like you,” said Cpl. Christopher Harvey, from the headquarters company of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.
Dance the night awayThey don’t always have the right shoes for it, but troops here are practicing their moves nearly every night of the week.
Every Friday night at the main MWR facility several dozen servicemembers gather for country dance lessons and a good old-fashioned dance afterward.
On Saturdays and Monday nights, it’s salsa time. On Thursdays, officials hold hip-hop night.
MWR officials say the events are a chance for troops here to unwind and enjoy themselves. Mike Biggs, a civilian contractor from Texas who volunteers his time to teach the country dancing classes, said that he has been impressed by many of his students’ enthusiasm.
“And we’ve got some guys who can make those combat boots scoot across the floor,” he said.
And while officials can add other nights of dancing if demand grows, they probably won’t take over Wednesday nights, when troops practice a different type of fancy footwork: tae kwon do.