We were in our heavily armored MAT-V’s sitting in a line in front of the engineer area. That was our home. A walled off compound inside of the larger base. All of our equipment was here, along with our platoon HQ. We were the only unit that had the luxury of piss tubes in our area. We also sported a homade poker table, and blackjack table. Living in style, in the middle of the arid Afghan desert. In a few minutes we would be leave the safety of Camp Hansen, and venture out into the city, then beyond to Camp Bastion. The mission was to resupply our lumber pile, and other essential gear.
It would be a four hour, rough, and most likely boring mission. We should have been on our way an hour ago but, a common problem was holding us back…. COMMS. It is important, being able to communicate in battle is vital to winning an engagement. The sophisticated, but complicated COMM systems we used were always suffering problems. Us gunners had the standard black Motorola handheld radios. We kept with us in our turrets. They weren’t encrypted, so we normally either used them to B.S. and pass insulting messages to other members of each respective vehicle. Marine talk!
We had six vehicles in the convoy for this mission. Four MAT-V’s and two 7-ton utility trucks. The MAT-V’s are large, powerful, and fast, lacking in cargo room. They are well armored with a V-Shaped hull to direct blasts from mines and IED’s. The 7-Tons were like semis, only they sat really high off the ground. Making them fairly survivable in a blast. The convoy would start with two MAT-V, then the 7-Tons, followed by the other two MAT-V’s.
Brett was always the front gunner, manning the only ma-deuce that we had. Its a Browning .50 heavy machine gun, and has been around since WWII. A beast of a gun, always up front to deal with oncoming traffic. The rest of the MAT-V’s had 240B Medium Machine guns. They fired 7.62 and could mop up a squad of insurgents like it was nothing. The two 7-Tons were sporting a couple of SAW’s (Squad Automatic Weapon) each squad has a M249 SAW. We only had three 240’s that were functioning, so we had to settle. The M249 fires a 5.56 and make body’s reflect Swiss cheese. I was always the rear gunner, manning my 240B, I protected the rear of the convoy.
Finally the COMM guys found the issue, and it was time to go. The convoy rolled up to the ECP (Entry Control Point) stopped, and requested permission from HQ to leave the FOB. Permission was granted. Our Platoon Commander’s voice came over the radio “Engineers, were Oscar Mike.” Marines use the Phonetic Alphabet when communicating over the radio. Each letter of the alphabet is assigned a word. A=Alpha, B=Bravo, C=Charlie, and so on. Oscar Mike means “On the Move”.
The gate guard moved the concertina wire out of the road. The trucks roared to life, turning right onto the hard packed, clay road. Brett and I had a tradition. Every time we left the wire, brett would say over his Motorola “Party like a Rockstar!” Then as my vehicle passed the ECP, I would reply “and F*ck like a Porn Star!” We had never been blown up before, and for some reason we credited it to saying our traditional words when leaving the protection of the wire. #MarineLogic
We made the right turn and sped up fast, the plan was to push hard to Bastion, resupply, then turn right around, and head home. It would be a long day, but it was doable if we didn’t run into problems. For the next hour we rolled through little villages and bazaars. They all belonged to the city of Marjeh, but were spread out. There would be a group of homes, separated by fields of poppy. We drove by the fields were we had landed in helo’s in the middle of the night, three months earlier. Dodging kids as they played in he road. The ladies we would pass were covered from head to toe in their burkas. Every single one of them. The only skin showing on them was their hands. This comes as nothing less then a culture shock, you never get used to it.
After two and a half hours we made it to the outskirts of town. It is a shocking sight. You see, Marjeh is situated in the Helmand river valley. A fairly lush area, irrigated by an ancient canal system. It is also very flat, there is almost no discernible change in elevation while you are in the valley. But here green instantly turns to course, blowing sand. Gigantic dunes rise up, right next to homes, gaining in elevation the farther in you go. A lot like the Rockies, only dull and hot, and maybe like 70 feet tall. There are vehicle tracks that run off in every direction with no plan or reason. They cris-cross in random directions.
We drove out into the desert for half an hour before turning, and running parallel to the river valley. The only thing in view was a dry, ancient land, sand from horizon to horizon.. A perk to this area, was that you could haul ass! We drove as fast as we could, which was about 55 MPH. The MAT-V’s could do 70-75 MPH, but the 7-Tons ran 55 flat. 20 minutes into our new course a herd of wild camels appeared, hundreds of them in every shape and size. Walking along lazily on top of giant sand dunes, with their heads bobbing with each step. As we passed them I just thought about how unreal this place was.
Out of nowhere a giant tornado appeared under a clear blue sky. Being an Okie from Oklahoma, I am used to seeing the occasional tornado. Nothing like this though. These were enormous, at least an 1\8 mile wide at the base. Roping up into the sky for hundreds feet. A beige- light brown column of dust. Then another appeared on the horizon, and another! Then one more! It was insane! In a line moving parallel to us in the opposite direction, no more then a mile away. Never would I have thought that I would see four gigantic dust devils, vacuuming up the dessert floor. The camels didn’t seem to mind them, and went on with their business. Kind of like a lot of people I know in Oklahoma. Sitting on the back porch with a beer and watching a tornado pass by. Just another day in Afghanistan!
We finally made it to Bastion and got our supply’s loaded, just in time to get some grub at the fancy chow hall on base. It was a huge tent that employed civilian contractors from country’s in Southeast Asia. We were so dirty, us gunners had solid white faces, except for where our goggles had been. The cammies that we wore were drenched in sweat and mixed with the dirt from the road. We ate the delicacies, and laughed and poked fun at the “fobbits” that never left the security of the wire. We finished eating with out incident, surprise! Jumped back in our Vic’s, and headed back to Marjeh. Riding off into the sunset, winding our way through the desert, back the way we had come. Making it home without trouble, and completing our mission in record time.
Thought this was a good little story to share! Hope you enjoyed! If you can relate in any way let me know in the comments! Don’t forget to share to social media, and leave a like!