Death and Taxes are the two things in life that we can be sure of, and well there is a natural third. What goes in most go out, and at FOB (Forward Operating Base), in Now Zad Afghanistan, what starts in plastic ends in plastic.
MRE rations come in brown plastic bags, with yet more plastic bags inside that then contain more plastic wrapping different items from a spoon to the salt. The thing about MRE’s is that is like grown up’s baby food, sometimes there is consistency more often not the meal resembles what’s on the label, just do not read the ingredients, to keep meals from spoiling no chemical compound is forgotten.
Eating on this trip is a challenge; not because the meals are bland and monotonous, but the heat makes your appetite just disappear. It is hard enough to keep drinking enough water to stay hydrated and alive.
But nature does take its course and in the middle of the desert with nearly 400 US marines, you simply cannot have everyone defacting wherever they wanted, as sickness would spread fast. Portaloos would be useless as they cannot be emptied and the proverbial taken away and disposed off.
Enter plastic bag Number 2 the “Wag Bag”. WAG naturally is a military acronym for “Waste Alleviating Gel”. Porcelain is a distant memory and a plastic frame greets you as you enter the little room. Open your Wag bag Kit take out of the plastic bag from inside the plastic bag and fit over the frame. Let nature take care of itself, sans fluid.
Take out the plastic WAG and seal it in another zip loc plastic bag and walk up to the drums and deposit the WAG in the drum.
Perhaps one of the least glamorous job for any Private is being assigned to burn the bags, but every evening you would see a couple of Marines pour diesel in the bins and setting fire to the Wag Bags. Not exactly back breaking hard work but a key function on the frontline.
The guys would sit there, talk and occasionally stand up grab the shit stick and poke the bags to complete the “Cycle of Plastic”.
Death and Wag Bags, two facts of life in the War on Terror in the Helmand Desert