Like anyone needs a second one.....
We spent most of our time on missions like presence patrols, cordon and search operations, and handing out Humanitarian Aid, which mostly consists of t-shirts and shoes and some odd mixture of things that relate to good hygiene called a “hygiene pack.” I am not certain that many of the people we give them to have any idea what the items inside are for. Cleanliness is not really next to Allah-ness here. Without the wind, this place would smell like feet and ass all the live long day.
Some of these missions to distribute Humanitarian Assistance are relatively safe, despite the fact that the Anti-Government elements and Taliban types have an open reward of 50,000 dollars for turning one of us over to them. I didn’t tell my family these kinds of things to keep them from worrying about me, but safety in general is relative here in Afghanistan. One of our sayings is that “there is no safe place in Afghanistan.”
I tell that to my wife and family, but in the mind of my family, Afghanistan is a dangerous place. For me and my fellow embedded trainers, it is not really that simple. All of the major things we do are made of many little things. These little things you do every day, in every place you go and in everything you do. Some of the roads we traveled on and some of the villages we visited were dangerous, while some were relatively safe. Within the dangerous villages in our area of operations, some sections of the villages were dangerous and some were safe. In any of the dangerous sections of the villages we might find ourselves in, one side of the road or an alley might be dangerous, while the others might be relatively safe. Some of the people we met or saw were definitely dangerous, while most were safe. I don’t know if I will ever be able to explain to my wife whether or not I spent most of my time feeling as if I was in grave and mortal danger or whether I was actually rather safe.
The day that we went on our third patrol to a town called Nakah would be a good case in point. That day, we endured our 3rd mountain thunderstorm, which in Afghanistan means that the rivers go from little dribbling creeks to resembling something like the Colorado River or the Salmon River in the River of No Return Wilderness in about 15 seconds after the downpour starts. So, our off road driving skills get tested, along with our ability to shoot, move and communicate. And the weather in turn reduces our combat power, maneuverability and vision, because the weather always gets a vote in your battle plan.
Since the weather got so bad and we had to turn back for the FOB, we had to stop a number of times to ford rivers and creeks that ran straight through the roads. I am standing there along the side of the road while we wait for another one of the creeks that have become the raging Nile River to go down so that we can continue to return to base. I have my ANA Soldiers out on the high ground for security while we are halted and they are doing their best to stay dry while doing their best to ensure our security. I am out on the road with some of the active duty soldiers for the 10th Mountain Division that is on patrol with us. This US soldier motions to me and points to something sticking out the ground as I am coming up the road and I stop to see what he is looking at. It is yellow and looks like a wire. I am looking at the ground to see where it goes and I see that the terminal ends of this yellow cord go into the ground about three feet in front of me and that the other end is in the dirt up the hill about 10 feet from me.
This was how I found my first IED…..By looking down to find myself standing directly over where it was buried in the road.
The other soldiers moved over to stand behind the armored Humvees we were riding in and the Company commander of the 10th Mountain Soldiers with us gets in his vehicle and promptly backs it up over the rise we were parked on, leaving me standing there with myself and about 3 of my ANA (Afghan National Army Soldiers). So, I called my ANA guys over and they start pulling the cord to find out where it leads. Where it leads is to the rest of the US Soldiers around me scattering to their armored Humvees and I hear the sound of slamming armored doors echoing in the valley and the racing of engines as they try to move down the road to get out of the area. I guess they didn’t see my ANA soldiers cutting the commercial detonation cord so the explosive wouldn’t detonate and they probably couldn’t see me in the cold fucking sweat and me moving really quickly away from the area myself.
Turns out that the commercial detonation cord was hooked to a blasting cap that was connected to a cordless phone base station with a hidden antenna and a hard line that lead to firing position and some fighting positions that were in the area overlooking the road where we were parked. The whole set up was hooked to a 13 pound TC-6 Italian anti-tank mine with a plastic case buried 18 inches in the road.
EOD came out and cleared it and told me later that it takes about 250 pounds of pressure to set off the mine if it is pressure initiated. They also told me that if the mine had gone off under a vehicle that it would have killed everyone inside and probably tossed the vehicle about 20 feet in the air and about 40 feet down the road. Oh, and it would have left a 20 foot diameter crater that was about 3 feet deep in the road. SSG Vega, the EOD NCOIC for his detachment, told me that I would have pretty much been vaporized had it gone off..
Lovely….And I was standing on it…...And I weigh 230 pounds in full battle gear
Someone was looking out for me that day, because here I am, at home healing my broken leg that happened while driving home from work on my motorcycle; after spending a year in Afghanistan.
He truly does work in mysterious ways......