As most loyal readers know, I'm a government contractor working on a US Army base in Afghanistan. I've been here for almost eight years now and a lot of people think I'm crazy and they just might be right (I am the Syko Wargamer after all) but what does my life really look like?
I admit, in some respects I've got it pretty good. Free meals, lodging, free laundry service, my uber hawt wife is here with me, we both make pretty good money in a failing economy and I get to play with toy soldiers twice a week (plus I paint at work).
Sounds pretty cushy, huh?
Now let's look at the reality.
Free meals - We eat most of our meals in a DFAC (Dining Facility) that is much like a run down buffet. The food is nothing to write home about but it fills you up and it's free. There is also a Burger King and Pizza Hut on base but I rarely eat there because it's pretty nasty. The highlight for me is when we get "take out" from the Thai place on another base. We also have to present two forms of identification in order to get food from the DFAC.
Free Lodging - Since my wife and I are here together we get "married quarters" which is a major step up from the rest of the population. Our room is 7'x16' (most single rooms are 7'x8' and some guys are living in 7'x16' with two other roommates) with indoor heat and air conditioning. We don't have a window and have another married couple on one side and a Colonel on the other. We can literally hear our neighbors fart. As you can imagine, we have to be very quiet at all times.
Free Laundry Service - We can turn in laundry any day and have a 24 hour turn around. Of course our clothes usually come back with new stains on them and are in no way clean. Needless to say, we don't keep nice clothes here.
Internet - We are able to purchase wifi internet for $90 a month. That package gets you a whopping 512k bandwidth. That's so slow that it takes over an hour to download a 400mb video.
Travel - Ah the joys of travelling. It is one of the perks of this job that I've been able to go places I likely never would have otherwise. I've been to Uzbekistan, Kirghistan, Turkey, Germany, England, Ireland, Australia, Thailand and the UAE (Dubai). Of course, that all comes with a price. In order for us to leave here we have to pay $750 round trip just to get to Dubai. From there we can buy a ticket anywhere in the world. Our trip home in May is costing us $1500 each from Dubai. So that's a total of $4500 in airfare for the two of us to get home and back. That's quite a chunk of change.
Being civilians, we are basically third class citizens in the eyes of most military, especially those in charge.
I came up with an analogy the other day that can really break down how it is for us over here:
Imagine that your apartment is run by a group of transients who get to live there for six months to a year and get to make new rules. You are completely at their mercy and they can evict you with no notice on a whim. They are angry that they have to live in this dump and try to take it out on the residents as much as they can.
Now imagine that at your job your management are the temps. They come in on a year long contract with very little training and rely on you to fix everything, even though they are the ones who get the credit for it. They are unhappy with their current job and really want to go back to their old job so they take out their anger at the regular employees who have been at their job for a few years.
Now, I'm not saying that I dislike the military because I don't. If I didn't like them I wouldn't be here doing this job year in and year out. I respect them and what they do but I do have to admit that I get a little fed up at times.
What does this have to do with war gaming? Nothing. I just wanted to give you a little glimpse of what it's like to be a war gamer in a war zone.