Saturday, August 15, 2009

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 10x8 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.


Anonymous said...

Does seem mad to fight a war in a land that will never change against an enemy that will never deminish no matter how many you kill. Maybe we should just secure our borders and bad move against us from your country ...and your country is glass. Beats the heck out of sending our men to die in an unwinable war. Maybe if the world knew our words weren't empty like they now seem to be they'd stay at home and kill each other off instead of messing with the rest of the world. Wouldn't take but one glass country and I bet the rest of them would get it figured out. War is hell but this one is hell in a country that isn't far from hell itsself from what you say. And by the way....sounds like it is kill or be killed for our Military so the attitude is understanable. Doesn't sound like pussies spouting PC would last long there. Thanks Mal....look forward to your next thoughts...

Dr. Bzzzz said...

The pictures and films you send back look like 1914-1919 (WW1) the sentiments and marines ages read like the 60's/70's (Vietnam) so what have we learned? The hardest thing must be trying to fight people who aren't afraid to die. However, the Taliban know why they are fighting even if they are slightly delusional. Do these young American lads really understand what they are doing and, more to the point, why? Maybe the war will just finish one day like Vietnam did. It sort of just finished didn't it as presidents changed and troops were ordered out and I guess Vietnam then just got on with it. Men died during Vietnam too and it was hot but it was communists not Muslims that scared us. Culture, religion, and history repeating itself.I suppose if nothing else the military is potentially a satisfying career, especially in times of recession, and countries, cultures, religions and men like to fight it seems. Maybe it's all part of the human psyche?

Anonymous said...

No matter how this war comes to an thing for sure....we won't be pulling Europe's bacon out of the fire this time. No, being American and having family and friends who have fought...they didn't just join the Military to have a a hell of a career wouldn't it..while others sit on their hands or enjoy life back home. And it wasn't out of fear of communism or Islam..or fear at all. It was for our freedom and the freedom of others from tyrants and the opression they bring with them. They fought to defend our Constitution and way of life. And sometimes they died. I guess many haven't learned anything from history or the facts around them or from having lived under tyranical rule. Easy to think there is nothing worth fighting and dying for if you haven't been truly free or truly a slave to a dictator.....if life and peace have been provided for you by others at no cost to you. But I agree maybe men don't know in these times when or where to take a stand anymore....and maybe they have forgotten how to fight to win and not to just play politics...a show for powers sake while sacrificeing our men in ill thought out wars. God help us when we think there is nothing worth taking a stand for and that peace at any price is a good thing. We went down that road once...Didn't turn out so hot.