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BLOG - On the Frontlines

By Amy K. Mitchell
USO, Vice President, Publications

"Running Block"

April 26, 2009, Part II

Back to the Pakistani border, through mountain passes, we reached FOB #11 in the afternoon. After a quick set up so that Toby could spend as much time with the guys as possible, the unplugged concert began.

FOB #11 hasn't had a celebrity visitor in close to two years. The unit there now arrived two months ago, and two weeks into their stay, one of them was killed by an IED while out on a mission. They needed something to lift their spirits during this difficult time so far removed from the rest of the world, and Toby was the perfect fit as he sang and joked with the guys.

The most popular song at the base was "Running Block." A song about being a "wingman" to a friend on a double date. The guys (and one woman) howled as the story unfolded through the song's lyrics... but the woman in question had a "great personality" or so the story goes.

FOB #11 has probably been one of the most beautiful places we have visited during our journey. The base is nestled on the side of arid, rugged mountain slopes with sweeping vistas.

Horse shoes and watching movies pass the time at this remote location when the teams are not out on patrol. "This our little piece of heaven," smiled Richard, a sergeant first class, originally from Oklahoma but based out of Anchorage, Alaska, like the rest of the Soldiers from the 509. Richard's wife is in the Air Force. Both have been deployed numerous times over the past three years, and not during the same time frames. "It is a marriage between war zones," he joked, "we see each other long enough to fight and then one of us is off again."

Most of the servicemembers we've met here recently deployed - having arrived here anywhere from six months to two weeks ago. It is amazing how they work and live in some very extreme conditions. - from weather to the basics such as housing and water.

At our last stop and concert on Day 4, the FOB (number 12) lives under black out conditions due to frequent mortar attacks -- But luckily for us, the bad guys decided to take the night off.