Return From Embed

Operation Eastern Resolve 2
Now Zad / Dehanna – Helmand Afghanistan
August 2009

The media calls it “Bang Bang or Action”; the Marines call it “Kinetic”. What it means is that everyone wants War. It is not unusual to be sitting around on a FOB, (Forward Operating Base) and hear a 19-year-old Marine say casually as if talking football that he wants to “Kill someone today”. The officers sitting around do not politically correct him, more than likely they will nod their heads and smile, for that is what Marines on the frontline are trained to do. War is about killing and defeating an enemy.

Now that I am back in the relative safety of Camp Leatherneck in Helmand after nine days being embedded in the North of the Province, reflections become like a stone thrown into a pond the initial splash causes the ripples to extend out and memories are like that, there is no central point but just expanding thoughts on what I have experienced in the last days.

The first thing that strikes you here is the heat, you hear about it, read about it but to live it, is like taking your soul and slowly stripping it down to the point where you simply try to function. A cold bottle of water is something you actually start to dream of, the reality is that you simply accept that you are going to have yet another bottle of hot bath water. I eventually resorted to wetting my sock and putting the bottle in the wet sock and by the process of evaporation the bottle would cool down a few degrees, and that was as good as it would get. One day I drank 11 liters of water and yet only urinated less than half a teacup of dark treacle, drinking water here is not a trendy good for you fad as recommended by a health agency, but a fact of trying to stay alive. Talk with anyone on the frontline and the conversation inevitably turns to urine, colors and amounts are discussed with strangers, stand a piss tube (a plastic PVC pipe into the ground, serves as a urinal, with a piece of gauze over to stop the flies and wasps going down it) and you compare amounts discharged.

This entry will run over a few entries as the story is long and has like a book many chapters, but there is no end, for the war here has no end. More will die, more will be injured.

The “Read Board” of 2/3 Marines newsletter has a 10×8 photo of a colleague who lost both his legs in an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) explosion with two prosthetic limbs learning how to walk again, he looked no older than 20.

They have an expression at the frontline called “River City” whereby in the event of a fellow Marine being killed or injured then all communication with the outside world is severed for them, no phone calls, no Internet. The next of kin must first learn of the casualty from a knock on their front door from an officer and normally a chaplain. When you prepare for any event the first details you give in order are; Surname, Christian name, last four digits of your Social Security Blood type and Religious Preference. The later reflects who will knock on your next of kin’s door.

The War in Afghanistan has become the second longest in US history, after Vietnam. There is no end date, no timetable, just a circle of mistakes and bad policy decisions by leaders, both Political and Military. The average age of an Infantry Marine fighting is between 19 and 20, when 9/11 happened they were 11 or 12 years old not even in High School. Most of the Marines I talked too on this trip cannot remember or recollect where they were when the World Trade Center in New York was attacked.

As most of them say, “ I just want to get some “ action.