Hawaii-Based Soldiers Deal With Snow in Afghanistan

By Bradley Rhen
Special to AFPS

FOB ORGUN-E, Afghanistan — Before deploying to Afghanistan in March, the soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division knew they were in for a change of climates.

For the next year, they would have to say good-bye to the tropical paradise of Hawaii and deal with the climate of this rugged country, including its famously harsh winters.

Old Man Winter must have thought it funny when he dropped about a foot of snow on this base in Paktika province that is home to several hundred Tropic Lightning soldiers. The snow started the night of Dec. 27 and didn’t stop until early Dec. 29.

The snow was especially painful for Pfc. Noe Arce, a cannon crewmember from 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment. The Los Angeles native said he’s never seen snow in his life. "It’s the first time I’ve ever been in snow," he said. "It’s crazy."

Arce said he and some fellow soldiers started a snowball fight, but they got in trouble for it, so they stopped. Instead, they decided to build a snowman.

Instead of a corncob pipe, a button nose and two eyes made out of coal, this snowman was toting an M-16 and had buttons made out of cookies pilfered from the chow hall.

Arce said he isn’t looking forward to any more snow this winter. "It’ll just be tempting to throw snowballs, and we’re not allowed to throw them any more," he said.

Spc. Andrew Whittenberg, a medic for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, said he saw snow only twice when he was a kid in Texas before joining the Army and being stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. And with an assignment to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, he had again been able to dodge snow for the past two years.

"I don’t really mind the snow that much. It’s just another day out here," Whittenberg said. "I wish it could have snowed on Christmas, though."

The snow not only brought a little holiday cheer to the base, it also introduced a new threat to personnel here: snowball snipers.

No one was safe from these bandits, who roamed the base in packs of up to five and launched barrages of snowballs at unsuspecting pedestrians and then fled the scene.

Even journalists felt the wrath of these "evildoers," who were known to knock on hooch doors and wait for the occupants to open them before launching their stockpile of snowballs inside.

Whittenburg said the snipers hadn’t ambushed him yet, but he knows it’s just a matter of time. "Fortunately, they haven’t got me yet, but I have a feeling that my time is coming," he said.