I was on my way to Kabul, Afghanistan, in early September 2004 to become the new Director of Intelligence (CJ2) for the Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan (CFC-A), in charge of the U.S.-led Coalition conducting Operation Enduring Freedom. For interminable hours, I hunkered down in an uncomfortable webbed seat, deep in the noisy bowels of the windowless airplane, watching heavy pallets strain at their tiedown chains. Finally, the C-17 transport aircraft executed a steep descent into the airport, where I emerged into a scene of bustling activity.
My points of contact knew I was coming, but I wasn't sure they knew when. I had my Kevlar helmet and body armor, but no extra-protective antiballistic "sappie" plates. I had my standard-issue pistol, but no bullets. Gaining commands were supposed to pick up their new people and provide these essentials. I was glad to be in Afghanistan, but felt a tad vulnerable for the moment.