The Smoke Pit

The smoke pit is the place business is conducted in the corps. Good or bad, serious or just having a laugh. It usually happens in a Marine smoke pit.

In the Marine Corps, the smoke pit is the place were all the behind the scenes business occurs. Wether it’s back home in garrison, or in a combat zone like Afghanistan. A good majority of Marines smoke, so it makes it not only a convenient location, but a practical one. Smoke pits are strategically placed all around bases at home, and abroad.

After we had been in country a month or so, civilization had started to catch up to us. We went from living in small two man tents. To living in large comfortable, and air conditioned Alaskan shelters. They sent in two full sets of gym equipment, and a tent were we could fight over computers, to get on Facebook, or Skype home. Eventually there were even showers. You might have to walk in cheap shower shoes a half a mile to get to them, but they were there.

We rarely went to these places during the day though. It was either to hot, to crowded, or our family’s would be in bed. So it made sense that these activities were done at night. My engineer unit would stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning, sleep for a few hours. Then get up and work in the morning until it inevitably got to hot. We would sleep during the hottest part of the day, then get up that evening, and finish up our work before enjoying the necessity’s that had found their way to our camp.

For myself and my closest friends. We would work out anywhere from 2 to 4 hours every night. Usually after 2am. The gym and computer tent weren’t jam packed after 2. Unless we had a mission the next day, then this schedule became irrelevant, but the smoke pit is where we would congregate between chores, or whatever else we had going. The place you could always find someone to talk to, relieving the stress’s that inevitably piled up on your shoulders. Or just find someone to talk to when everyone else was asleep or busy.

There were many smoke pits scattered around camp Hansen. We claimed one that was close to our tents. There were a dozen of these giant tents, three wide in perfect rows. On one side of the tents was the inner wall. The inner wall was a giant triangle made of hesco. It was the original base that we had moved into, before the follow on forces arrived, and the base had to be expanded. On the other side was a long mortar shelter that was made of hesco, concrete, and sandbags. In the event the base was under mortar attack, these shelters were your best chance of survival. They ran from one end of the tents to the other.

A small gap used as a quick entrance in the long bunker, also served as the back door to our claimed smoke pit. The pit was about 25 feet in diameter. In the center was a butt can. With a ring around that, made up of improvised chairs. Some were just a simple sandbag on the ground. Others were full on arm chairs made of sandbags. Even better then the sandbag chair, was a chair made out of hog wire and hesco felt. These could be so elaborate that they resembled comfy beach chairs.

My friends and I spent many nights talking about all sorts of things. The “how are we not dead” subject was popular, along with criticizing politicians, or our higher ups. A lot of the time we would reflect on those thoughts that you normally get in the shower. You know! The meaning of life! Stuff like that. There were a lot of nights we would be smoking Pine cigarettes, and watch the sun rise. We had commandeered the Pines from the bazaar, cigarettes were hard to get in country. They were Russian in origin, and very strong. The sunrise in Afghanistan is spectacular, bright reds, purple, yellows, and orange colors were brilliant. The sand and dust in the air always brought the most amazing shows. The night sky is something else too. With there being very little electricity in the country, there are no lights to drown out the stars. Adding to that, the southern provinces see almost no rain, and the sky’s were almost always clear.

Looking back, and reminiscing, really helps me deal with the bad emotional memories. I would go back in an instant. Looking past the death, and dreadful ordeals we found ourselves in. There is always a good memory that trumps it. I have never experienced anything like the comradery that I experienced with my brothers. I regrettably have lost touch with a lot of the guys that shared these experiences with me, but there are still a few that I talk with often if not daily. Its true, that saying.

No better friend, No worst enemy, then a United States Marine.

Okieschaos.com

@okieschaos

Afghan Kids have Jokes Too!

A funny story about Afghan children having some fun at a Marines expense! A small insight into the relationship between the two different cultures.

It was another scorcher in the Helmand river valley. Our patrol left the wire almost an hour ago, and traveled a few clicks (kilometers) down the MSR (Main Supply Route). The mission was to escort a civilian contractor, to a prospective bridge site, which would cross the main canal. The location was only a few of clicks from where we had landed in the middle of the night on helo’s a few months prior.

I was in the last Vic as usual, providing rear security. Brett was in the first, on the .50. Zane, and Abnet were in the trucks between us. My sector of course being the rear, made me somewhat oblivious to the scene behind me. Occasionally I would turn and look back at what was going on. The contractor, along with our Engineer Lieutenant, were standing next to the canal discussing the project. The contractor wore nice clothing, with a flack jacket and black Kevlar helmet. He also had his private security contractor with him.

The contractor was a spectacle in itself. He wore tennis shoes, and a Hawaiian style collared T-shirt, sported kakhi shorts, and Oakley sunglasses. All under his plate carrier and black high-speed Kevlar helmet, complete with a go pro. I guess he had been on the golf course when the mission had popped up. His weapon of choice was a AK with a collapsible stock. He sported a super high speed leg harness. His sidearm was almost down at his knee, I’m sure it was a .40 or .45, but I don’t recall. He walked with confidence, and authority, always on the contractors hip like a puppy seeking approval of his master.

We sat there for what seemed like hours. I’m sure it had only been 15 to 20 minutes, but it was hot sitting in our turrets. There were a dozen or so kids playfully swimming in the canal to my right, and slightly behind me, just out of view. They would holler in their native tongue at us, trying to get our attention. When we would look, they would jump off the bank into the canal. Doing flips, and cannon balls, some of them with an actual talent. Apparently I wasn’t giving them enough attention at one point. So the older boys in the group took action.

When I hadn’t been paying attention for awhile, they decided a more aggressive approach was necessary. One of the boys found a large rock and chucked it at my turret. Hitting the thick armored plating on my right side. Now I had been shot at in these turrets before. They offer great protection all the way around, and rounds hitting the armor made a specific “TING” sound when they hit the armor. Well it just so happens a rock does the same thing, and almost perfectly mimics a rifle round’s sound.

I hastily started searching for where the shot came from. I called over my radio that I had taken a pot-shot. Zane replied that he hadn’t heard the report of a rifle. After searching for awhile, I calmed down, but was still vigilant. A few minutes later it happened again! This time Zane saw the rascals throw the rock at me, letting me know over the radio. Since they had almost made me piss my pants twice now, I decided to return the favor. My turret was electric, and would move really fast with enough pressure on the joy stick.

So I swung it around really fast. When I was pointed in the culprits general direction, I half racked my 240B Medium machine gun. Never locking the bolt to the firing position, just enough to make the sound. The kids faces lit up with surprise, and they began scrambling to run! I laughed along with Zane. Of course I had no intention of firing. I just didn’t want to have the crap scared our of me like that. I’m surprised they weren’t walking on water, the way they ran.

I gently turned my turret back to the rear facing position. The kids walked back with big smiles on their faces, giggling, and talking amongst themselves. I threw them a few bottles of water in good faith. They laughed and went back to swimming. A few minutes later the contractor and his party returned to the Vic’s, and we sped off down the road, and headed for home. Never receiving any “real” contact, we made it home safe.

okieschaos.com

@okieschaos