Dispatches from FOBistan: A Week of CRC

by Joshua Foust on 1/22/2009 · 5 comments

FT. BENNING, GA — Having now spent six days at the CRC, or CONUS Replacement Center, I believe I have experienced the Army at its worst, and best. Most people complain about this week—the waiting, the endless stacks of standardized forms to fill out, the pseudo-panic of rushing to make up things you missed while standing in line elsewhere, the waiting, the very “meh” DFAC, and did I mention the waiting?

Where I lived the last week.

I mean, it’s not that atrocious—annoying, yes, to have to wait in the cold for three hours for a bus to take you somewhere—but there were Sargeants at the DFAC saying this was the worst experience of their lives. Weapons qualification sucks, it’s true, and spending forever and a day waiting in line just to hand in a certificate that says you completed a webform they already have on file is a bear, but that’s trifling. The first day, for example, it was freezing rain… in Southwest Georgia. Which I didn’t expect at all (no umbrella), but seriously.

There were good—I would say very good—sides to this as well. The Sargeants assigned the rather thankless task of herding the hundreds of contractors that sweep through here each week actually do a good job of it. They get practically zero credit, but they deserve it. I had a tangle with my schedule and missed my initial fitting for my ACU. Instead of telling me I’m out of luck (which I would expect), and without throwing a fit, they just… took care of it. I really am impressed with the NCOs in the Army as a whole, especially when I’m otherwise stuck listening to retirees bitch and moan about how undisciplined everything is. How lame—I’m surprised it runs as well as it does. And the amount of gear they issue everyone in such a short period of time, while making sure we’re medically fit AND teaching us first aid and (very) basic survival skills… well, I mean, I’m actually very impressed. Obscenely long wait times and all.

MCI Airport the morning of my departure.

Of course, things would have been easier if there hadn’t been a raging snowstorm the morning I was to fly out to Ft. Benning (the forecast was for a light, barely-noticeable dusting of flurries). I missed my morning flight by 4 minutes, and had to wait until the afternoon to fly into Atlanta, only to learn all my paperwork wasn’t done processing. So I had to get a hotel. Luckily, I have friends in Atlanta, so I salvaged it with them at a wonderful Turkish-run Hookah bar near Decatur.

Nevertheless, I’m really looking forward to this—this is literally the trip of a lifetime, and I’m deeply grateful to my bosses and coworkers for affording me the opportunity to do this. If things go even sort of according to plan (which, this being the Army… and worse, this being Afghanistan, might not be the case), I should get to see a good chunk of the East, though not anywhere really sexy like Nuristan or Gardez. Regardless, with the understanding that I will not blog in any way that might put my current or future job in jeopardy, I plan to post as many pictures and posts as I can. Eventually I might even have some videos, as I got a solid-state camcorder just before I left.

This title, “Dispatches from FOBistan,” will be the rolling title for the duration of my trip. And if you have any comments, suggestions, or questions, please don’t hesitate to send them my way!

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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TCHe January 22, 2009 at 10:56 am

I believe I mentioned my state of acute envy already 😉
Also wished you all the best and fun and stuf. So I’m just looking forward for some pictures and videos that won’t violate OPSEC.

Joshua Foust January 22, 2009 at 1:19 pm


Thanks! I’ll try to post as many as I could. As for the trip… well, I mean, 4th time’s a charm, right? Right. I hope I can put some up during my trip. But if not, I’ll have an enormous backlog from it all. I’m hoping to shoot some video in Bamiyan, if I can at all. That would be amazing.

Ben January 22, 2009 at 3:11 pm

This time it’s for real. Congrats on finally getting out there.

Patton January 22, 2009 at 5:15 pm

As far as the freezing rain, it’s been cold here- for Georgia. Trust me, I live here, and it’s been very cold, relatively speaking. And I really can’t wait to see the results of your journey. Take lots of pictures and videos, and share the ones that won’t harm OPSEC. And most of all, be safe.

Blazingsuth January 23, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Good luck and enjoy your time in Afghanistan! I went through CRC last year and was similarly amazed at how smoothly everything went. After spending 6 years active duty, I was prepared for lots of charlie-foxtrots, and there were none.

Safar-at bi-khatar bashe!

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