FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO — This place is getting to me. My first night here, outside the media-operations center (or MOC, in the inevitable acronym-ese), I heard these extremely loud animal-sounds, halfway between an impatient whine and an expectant howl. This was no distant sound from the mountains: whatever it was, it was within yards of the MOC. I figured the better part of valor was to stick around to closing time. Last night, though, I walked back from the MOC in the pitch black, on the way to my tent, and the yelping began again. My first instinct was to grab my videocamera, activate its night-vision mode, and see if I could film these beasts from Pashtunistan. Maybe 10 seconds passed before it occurred to me that it would be stupid to travel all this way just to be something’s dinner.

The FOB is dark in more ways than one. The MWR tents — sorry, Morale Welfare and Recreation — haven’t had their internet connections working for the three days I’ve been here. My satellite modem decided to opt out of our partnership, and no amount of contract negotiation can coax it out of its work-stoppage. Someone, somewhere needs to invent a better method of global broadband than a 10-pound boxy device that makes you wave it around for 15 minutes before it reaches in the right angle to connect to a southern-sky satellite. Had you seen me on Wednesday afternoon, chances are you’d have seen me sweating through my Nationals cap, up on the hill north of the MOC, waving the modem over my head and pirouetting slowly while it beeped at me in an infernal game of hot-and-cold — the frequency of beeps relates to how well it can talk to the satellite — but even when I got it to a sufficient beeping rapidity and it told me it was thisclose to the satellite, it wouldn’t support my browser. There has to be a better way. Someone come up with one by the time we invade the next country located in the middle of nowhere.

So here I am on a MOC computer. Interesting fact: the internet connection here hasn’t let me go to such frequently-frequented internet outposts as Facebook, Twitter, Talking Points Memo and Grammar.police. Why this is, I couldn’t tell you, but repeated attempts at pageloadery have been uniformly unsuccessful. I hung around with a Human Terrain Team and gathered information I never thought I’d get about the tribes in eastern Afghanistan. If you read nothing else that I file from Afghanistan, I hope you’ll read "Through Afghan Eyes."

My Salerno time is, I think, drawing to a close. In a few hours I’ll be on my way to a combat outpost in Paktia Province. After lunch, I asked someone what I should know about the place I’m going. "Lotta IEDs," he replied, matter-of-factly. "Don’t ride in any lead vehicles."

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman