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A Path with Heart—Afghanistan, part nine
Posted By Brandon Reid On August 9, 2009 @ 6:00 am In Happening Now | No Comments
Good morning, dear reader, from Can’t-tell-ya-where-I-am-istan: Where everyone means well, nobody smells bad, and the food—is to die for.
I returned from another mission at a VPB (Vehicle Patrol Base) this morning, and I thought I would give you a slice of mounted infantry life. I keep a diary of sorts; a mission log. Added explanations are in parentheses. Enjoy.
Mission 40: April 30, 2009, 1500 hours—VPB at Karam’r Ghar (mountain) near the village of Kudu. Four-day rotation.
Arrived about 1530 hours. Hot as hell, but quiet today. They’ve finally begun paving the road from Kudu. (We call it Route Compton.) Specialist Nix (a medic), whom I’m relieving, said they met with local elders and told them if we keep taking enemy fire from within the village (Qaleh Wonah), their safety could be in jeopardy. The VPB took fire from the ridge above and from within the village later that night after the meeting. Mortar fire was called in on the ridgeline above, but one of the rounds strayed into the village. Luckily, there were no civilian casualties. No enemy contact in two days since.
Guard duty was unbelievably hot all day, must have been in the 100s. Even the bunkers were hot. About midnight, I thought I saw movement up on Karand’r Mountain near known enemy position No. xxxx. The rocks were still so hot from the day’s heat that it was hard for our thermal sights to see if they were even men, let alone whether they were carrying weapons. Could have been goats, for all I know, but my gut tells me otherwise.
May 1, 2009—What a long, hot day. Everyone just sat in vehicles or a bunker listening to their iPods and playing PSPs between guard shifts. This was the first time SFC Craighead allowed electronics to the VPB. The first person seen with an iPod on guard will get all electronics confiscated. I only ate parts of MREs as the heat saps my appetite. I didn’t have my usual dozen locals a day come up here wanting medicine.
2,000 hours—Guard had just changed shifts. SFC Craighead was telling stories about Pathfinder, BNCOC and ANCOC Army schools. A group of us were sitting on the back steps of the trucks listening.
2010 hours—Shots fired! I first heard whizzes, then crackles (which means the bullets were within 10 feet). This was accurate fire that was honing in on us.
Everyone scrambled to their weapons or climbed up into turrets. KABOOM! An RPG hit at the corner of my truck 11 feet in front of me. A cloud of choking smoke and dust surrounded me. My ears were ringing. I could see maybe 2 feet into near darkness. I heard hissing and creaking metal from the trucks. Was I still alive? Was this really happening? This was war (KABOOM! A second RPG hit the truck next to mine.), in all its brutal ugliness.
Someone yelled, “M-E-D-I-C!” It was our Platoon Sergeant SFC Craighead. I reached up and grabbed my aid bag next to me off the steps of my truck, and moved toward him through the smoke. He was buried under a pile of cots. I felt like Superman, and flung cots in every direction. I asked where he was hit. “I took it in the chest!” All our guns were blazing by now. I yelled, “Is anyone ELSE hit?! Sound off!” No response as I knelt.
I heard enemy small arms fire now from Karam’r Mountain to our front (12 o’clock), Lund Naw riverbed (8 o’clock) and also from “gumdrop hill” in between (10 o’clock). I opened his ACU shirt, and assessed his chest. I saw no bad bleeds on his chest and his ribs were OK, but I saw much blood under his right armpit and on his right shoulder and neck. I asked how he was doing. “I need a medivac right f—ing NOW!” OK, so he had a patent airway. Continuing my rapid head-to-toe blood sweep, I found no life-threatening bleeds, thank God.
Our .50-calibers, 240Bs and 40mm Mark 19 rounds were filling the dark sky above me. Tracer rounds were blazing in the directions of three enemy positions. Afghan Army .50-caliber DISHKAS, 7.62mm PKM’s and 82mm mortars were returning fire from the top of our hill behind me. The night was filled with flash, smoke and thunder.
I got a roll of Kerlix gauze on his neck and Sgt. Lemay (my senior medic) appeared out of the smoke. We began to cut open SFC Craighead’s uniform to expose any further wounds. I took out my stethoscope and checked his lung sounds: clear bilaterally. KABOOM! Another RPG hit somewhere behind us.
KABOOM! Yet another RPG hit near us. Immediately, we helped him get into the nearby vehicle so we could finish our detailed physical exam and begin treating wounds. Our Section Sergeant, Sgt. Quinones, called for a medivac, but 105mm Howitzer rounds were now impacting on the mountain to the front. Aircraft can’t fly through artillery, so we would have to evac him by ground. The earth shook beneath my feet, and the truck rocked back and forth. I took vitals while a Navy Corpsman, Dorsey (embedded with the Afghan Army unit to train them), who had run down the hill through enemy fire, documented everything we did.
Between the artillery, mortars, .50-calibers, PKMs and AK-47s firing from above me, our own .50-calibers, 240Bs and Mark 19s firing next to us, I couldn’t hear myself think. My ears were still ringing.
Next time: Attack at Karam’r Mountain—part two.
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