Thursday, August 11, 2005

Boardman heads back to Afghanistan

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Aug 11, 2005): Army Capt. Jeremy Boardman of Scarborough was home recently on a two-week leave from service in Afghanistan.

Boardman, a West Point graduate who has been stationed in Germany for five years, was last home at Christmas time. He was stationed in Iraq for a year from 2003 to early 2004.

A member of the 510th Personnel Services Battalion in the Adjutant General Corps, Boardman handles mail delivery, and processes paperwork for promotions, deployments, training and casualties.

He has been stationed in Afghanistan since March, mostly in Bagram, the main U.S. base, but more recently in Kandahar, in the southern area of the country. He is the only officer in his unit to be stationed in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

When he returns, he will serve there for eight more months before coming home to Germany, and then, he hopes, the United States.

Boardman scheduled his leave time in part to take a graduate-school admission test, part of his application process for the West Point teacher’s program. He hopes to be accepted to teach economics. If he is accepted to the program, the Army will decide what they want him to teach, and will pay to send him to graduate school for two years.

Then he will teach at West Point for three years, and will have to serve in the Army elsewhere in the world for another three years.

In Kandahar, “it’s a lot like Iraq,” Boardman said: hot and dry. “Get rid of the heat and the dust, it’s not that bad.”

But life is better there than in Bagram, which is at about 9,000 feet of altitude, which takes its toll on the body.

In Bagram, he was assigned a wooden hut to live in, but promptly improved it, with help from fellow soldiers.

“It felt like you were living in a toolshed,” he said. He called a sergeant friend from Iraq who is now building a house in Germany. The sergeant sent Boardman extra building materials, including floor tiles and wallpaper. Boardman also managed to score a real bed, rather than the folding cot the Army gave him.

“It’s 10 times better than it was,” he said.

In Kandahar he lives in modular housing, which is sturdier and more comfortable, he said.

“Our office is in what they call the ‘Taliban last stand building,’” where a contingent of Taliban fighters holed up until an American bomb blew a massive hole in the roof. Much of the building has been repaired for Army use, but the hole remains. A flagpole with a U.S. flag flying now sticks up through the hole.

Boardman signed up to go to Afghanistan, anticipating it would help him prepare for graduate school.

In Afghanistan, “your downtime isn’t really downtime” like it is in Germany, where his girlfriend is a short distance away and there are plenty of things to do.

Instead, “it’s kind of like ‘Groundhog Day,’” a Bill Murray movie in which a man wakes up every morning to find it is the same day over and over again, until he learns the lesson: Make the most of what you’re given.

While in Afghanistan, Boardman has been able to study and prepare for the West Point program and the Captain’s Career Course he needs to qualify for a future promotion.

He has also been working hard, helping handle 500,000 pounds of mail every month, as a primary task. “That’s only going to increase” as the holidays approach, Boardman said.

His unit takes “mobile post offices” to remote outposts in huge twin-rotor Chinook helicopters, as well as in trucks to nearby bazaars, where soldiers can buy local goods and ship them home right away.