It was just another morning.
This picture was taken a week before I stepped on the IED. I was in charge of a six man element, and we used the Polaris RZR I’m leaning on to drive to nearby partner force outposts. I had a mechanic with me to take a looksie at their generators. Before you read the story, note I don’t recommend not wearing a helmet. I have a friend who was shot in the helmet and lived.
I watched the Afghans bustle about in the fog and chill of their outpost. I was drinking the strongest and hottest green tea in all of Afghanistan – I’m pretty sure it was still boiling in my stomach. Afghans are very persistent in offering food and drink, and it’s an ancient way to bond without sharing a fluent language. I always enjoyed hanging out and trying to make them laugh with my limited Pashto.
About an hour after this picture, I was drinking MORE tea at the second outpost when I heard PKM machine gun fire. I ran out to the entrance to see a teammate and mechanic huffing and puffing their asses behind the kalat walls. I calmly yet quickly asked the simplest questions to estimate the distance, direction, and disposition of the enemy. The PKM seemed to be 300 meters away in some buildings I would later clear the day I almost died. Our RZR was dead center in its sector of fire.
I climbed up onto the roof next to a machine gun tower that was shooting back. The enemy gun ceased firing, so I intentionally stepped out from behind cover while working the radio. I was looking at the buildings to estimate where a good firing position would be so I could call in mortars from our outpost.
A kind yet concerned Afghan interrupted me, “Medic! Get back! They will shoot you!” I calmly walked over to him and said, “I know, I want them to. So I can kill them. Please shut the fuck up.” I walked back out to finish what I was doing.
Our CCT coordinated with the mortar teams in the outpost and had a first round direct hit on my target building. Sweet! Fire for effect, pretty please. Meanwhile, my team sergeant had a quick reaction force ready in trucks within seven minutes, which is impressive. In an unsurprising yet bullshit order, higher command told him to stand down. To be clear, a small element was in contact without air support, and some officer was making decisions for the guys on the ground. A classic bullshit officer thing to do.
The team sgt told me this on the radio. Holy shit, I was pissed, and I could tell he was too. I wanted to attack. Maintaining an irritated calm, I told him, “For your SA, the RZR is in the sector of fire of their PKM.” The CCT decided to mask our movement with white phosphorus rounds, fired for effect. We decided to run out when the first round hit. As I was climbing down the ladder, one of the Afghans was asking for radio parts. During the fire fight.
“We’ll talk about this later, I gotta go, dude.”
When the first Willy P round started to billow, we sprinted to the RZR. Six of us for four seats. I jumped on the side railing holding onto the roll cage. The RZR didn’t start. Once. Twice. Maybe a third? I fully expected to be lit up by machine guns. Finally the fucking thing started and we took off. Our windy and hilly road passed in and out of kill zones, so as we drove I pointed out pieces of cover to use if we took contact. Luckily, we returned to the outpost safely. I don’t know if the mortars killed them, but a week or so later, every enemy fighter in that valley died.
It was just another morning.