Now it was late into the night. Staff Sergeant G. and myself had to recover some equipment rightfully dropped by Sergeant G. as we conducted a night recovery and continued sweeping. Our company commander, who was embedded with our convoy for observation, spotted what he thought was a possible IED trigger-man.
The Captain directed us to fall back. What I didn’t hear on the radio, because Staff Sergeant G. was walking away from me, was that the Captain was going to engage the target. I heard a rapid firing and I immediately dropped to the ground. What most of you may not know is that the magazines for our weapon systems sits right at abdomen level, so when you rapidly drop to your mid-section, the magazines apply pressure to your stomach region. With that sharp jarring I let out a really bad…smell.
I sprung to my feet and ran around the truck where Staff Sergeant G. and the E.O.D. technician were waiting. When I slammed myself against the truck they both looked at me and asked what I was doing. When I told them about gun fire they laughed at me, informing me the shooter was our own. Not long after they asked what was the smell. There was no denying it now. Surprisingly, the remainder of the village sweeping went rather smoothly.
After we had cleared the rest of the village route. It was time to roll on. We all loaded up and continued on to Camp Leatherneck. At this time, I was stationed back up in the gunner’s hatch and the driver was back to his assigned duties. The gunner’s position comes with a few perks and setbacks. One of the perks is you get to have a bunch of snacks at your fingertips. So earlier in the morning I had set up my area with a bunch of snacks and drinks. We made a quick stop to check a suspicious area, and the driver and Staff Sergeant G. got out to investigate.
I got comfortable, or as much as you can get, and started looking for something to drink. I hadn’t had anything to drink all day. I took a huge gulp filling every corner of my mouth.
Now what happened next was a series of rapid thoughts. In my head it went something like this: This is really warm, but it was really hot outside, like a hundred and thirty something. But it doesn’t taste as sweet. Wait, the driver has a bladder the size of a thimble. I think this is piss! Here is where I threw up out the side of the truck. I staggered through the truck looking for anything to get the taste out of my mouth. At that time, I turned off the truck to yell at the driver for peeing in my bottle of Gatorade.
I have to tell you the element that we escorted, used their radios as a personal Radio DJ talk show. However, at this precise moment the radio went dead silent.
Now I crawled up over the weapon platform I accidentally keyed the microphone to my head set.
I broadcast-ed “Specialist C! I am going to f#@%ing kill you! Your piss does not taste good!” Immediately Specialist C and Staff Sergeant G collapsed in laughter. I heard seconds later from Staff Sergeant J, who was concussed in the back of the medical truck, “Best hot mic, ever.” I knew then I would never hear the end of it.
After everyone collected themselves and got moving on. Our entire convoy had made our radios the talk show, and I was the butt of every joke. That is how I got the call sign Orbitz. It cleans a dirty mouth.
This chaos in its entirety all took place in less than twenty-four hours. Defiantly the worst day of my life, so far.
Names have been removed from this story out of respect of others privacy.
This little story is an account to how much can go wrong in one day. There are several variations of this story, but this one is mine. This all takes place in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Helmand is mostly flat with the mountain range just out of reach to the North. It is almost flat enough that you can see the curvature of the Earth. I had been deployed with our company for one month at this time. For most of the guys, this was their first tour. This was my third. Our platoon was tasked with Route Clearance. We were the guys who hunted for the roadside bombs, (Improvised Explosive Device) or IED.
My story starts on an early November morning. The supply convoy had finished resupplying the outpost the night before, and we were headed back to Camp Leatherneck, or Letterneck if you were reading the sign at the Main Gate. We departed before the sun had a chance to wake up. Our platoon got about five miles South of the outpost when our lead security gun truck took an IED strike to the rollers. No major damage was done to the vehicle or its passengers. The platoon started recovery to the damaged rollers. We had soldiers pulling security for the fast moving maintenance crew, and another team clearing out a dried up river bed, or Waddi, to the south of the strike. At this time, I was in the gunner’s hatch pulling security for the ground crews. I was assigned the M14 EBR (Enhanced Battle Rifle). We knew that the village we were passing through had a bomb maker living nearby, so we made our moves slowly and deliberately. By the time the maintenance crew was finished getting the lead vehicle running it was about seven in the morning. Since the ground crew had already made forward progress during the recovery; our next four hundred meters were a breeze to roll through. However, once we had reached the opposite side everything seemed to stop.
We crossed the Waddi and set up security for the dismount sweeper team. Since I had the long rifle, I had to dismount, and pull security along with the sweeper team. The vehicle could not get into a good position to pull proper security. My driver was tasked to get up into the gunner’s hatch and assist in any way he could. During the course of the morning we found four IEDs. We collected whatever evidence we could from the devices. After, we then promptly and safely destroyed the remaining charges. Now it was early afternoon, and the ground team had only moved an additional two hundred meters. This is when the day fell from bad to worse.
Our bomb dog, attached to our platoon, had marked on a possible sight of another IED. The Explosive Ordinance Disposal team, EOD, was walking back to our truck to prepare for the next IED. Suddenly, small arms fire broke out. Our enemy was targeting the EOD technician. I dropped immediately behind cover and started to identify who was shooting. The remaining team fell in behind me in close pursuit. The enemy was clever, and engaged us with the sun to their backs. Making identification that much harder.
One of the sweeper teams decided since they weren’t getting shot at; they would continue. The sweeper team finished up their target area and headed back quickly. Especially once the enemy noticed two goonies walking out in the open. Once everyone had gotten back to cover and were safe; we engaged the enemy. This is the closest I came to death. A stray round ricocheted in between mine and Staff Sergeant J’s heads. Missing both of us by inches. We both slowly looked at each other and nodded that we were good. Just then our Platoon Leader ordered his truck to move up and provide covering fire.
The gunner kept the enemy’s heads down long enough for us to fall back to our vehicles and regroup. The enemy loaded up on motorcycles and left the area once the gun truck rolled in. Now it was getting dark out, but there was a lot of ground which needed to be cleared. This time we went out with less guys on the ground, but we had the support of most of our convoy. Since the last move, we had only moved an additional two hundred meters.
We were only about half way through the hostile village, when Sergeant G. knelt down on an IED. It exploded in front of his face. The entire dismount team dropped waiting for more gunfire to burst through the dust and dirt flying through the air. I distinctly remember looking up and watching for body parts. Just then Sergeant G. came running out of the dust cloud. Another soldier and I dashed after him. I took Sergeant G’s hand and escorted him back to the medics. Fortunately, the only physical damage Sergeant G took was to his hear drum. Staff Sergeant J was standing close by when the IED strike happened, and he was concussed from the blast. We loaded the two up in the medical truck, and two of us stayed on the ground. There still was a job that needed to be finished. Staff Sergeant G. and myself had to clear the remaining route out of the village.
To be continued…
Our Ice Era Chronicles in Order:
All future dates are subject to change.