A COLD DAY |
February 20, 2008
A COLD DAY
Name: SPC Beaird
Posting date: 2/20/08
Stationed in: Afghanistan
We’ve had snow on the mountains around us since early December now, yet there hasn’t been enough cold or precipitation to see snow at our level. That all changed a couple days ago on a cold and rainy morning, with the freezing rain slowly turning to huge snowflakes the size of silver dollar. While it was short lived (the snow only stuck on the ground for a few hours till the afternoon) it was still quite a sight for all of us -- considering we’re from Arizona, and how hot it felt here in the summer. Baghdad had some light snow too for the first time in like 75 years or something. What happened to global warming?
The snow was fun and all, I just didn’t enjoy being up in the turret as we were driving out on our missions that morning. With the wind chill, standing through the roof of a moving vehicle, my face was numb at times. The freezing rain actually stung worse, but you could still feel every snowflake that would collide with your face while on the move. I was expecting to be pegged in the face with a snowball from some of the little kids who like to throw rocks. Luckily I wasn't, or else I might have flipped out. Although I guess I shouldn’t complain too much, after all, I was able to come back to my comfortably heated room.
We saw a few kids running around barefoot despite it being cold enough to snow out. Wow. There are people who literally freeze to death in some parts of the country in snowstorms. Some PRTs* help out in these cases, providing HA* or other assistance to locals not equipped to handle the weather. Bet you don’t read about that in the news. Read about it here and here.
We actually went out twice that day, once for a meeting, but got cut short after an “escalation of force incident". Americans have been in this country how long now, over six years -- and some locals still can’t figure out what to do when we signal and tell them to stop?
Our dismount team was out walking along a street and was stopping all traffic at one point. All the local drivers knew what to do when a group of American soldiers with guns waved at them to stop, all except one, who for some moronic reason went around all the stopped traffic, and came up on our guys rather quick. They went through the proper steps of trying to get the guy to stop, but even after multiple people pointing their weapons at him he still wouldn’t stop, so one of my buddies shot a single round through the hood of his car. The driver stopped after that, thankfully, because if not they would have been forced to shoot to kill rather than just use a warning shot. What happened in that split second after the warning shot was the difference between that man living and dying. We came back to base after that, and every time you pull the trigger nowadays you have to be accountable for it, so lots of paperwork and sworn statements as to what had happened ensued.
We'd been back for not even an hour when we got called back out for another mission, this time to go locate and demo’ an IED. While we waited for what seemed like an eternity for our EOD bomb squad team to do their thing, the usual crowd of curious locals formed outside, with lots of kids attracted to our trucks. Of course the demands for pens, chocolate, and water started right away from the kids.
Sometimes you give things out, other times you just don’t feel like it, but most of the time you wait till you leave to hand out the stuff. And there are certain missions you hand out things and other ones you don’t. This was one of those where you don’t. You could give these kids bars of gold and they would still be bugging you for hours on end.
So for the time you’re sitting there not giving out anything, dozens of kids are non-stop with “mishta mishta” and demanding all sorts of items. You try to ignore them because even if you, say, explain back in their own language you don’t have anything, they only hound you more because you talked to them and gave them some attention.
Luckily one of the kids was a young teenager who we see often working at our bazaar, and who brings us local food sometimes while out on a mission. I say luckily because this kid can actually speak surprisingly decent English. So I used him as a translator to tell the kids I’m all out of things to hand out, and occasionally to keep them from going too close to the blast site by saying it's dangerous.
We finally blew the IED, and almost immediately after, the dozens of kids who were begging for handouts before started yelling “Thank you! Thank you!” and “Very good.” It felt kind of good for a bit. Though the adults around didn’t vocalize it like the kids, I hope they felt the same way. I guess they were probably not too happy with bombs being planted in their neighborhood and were glad to see us get rid of this one, even if it was meant for us. We’re happy too, as long as we are finding these IEDs or the locals keep reporting them to us before they go off underneath one of our trucks.
PRT: Provincial Reconstruction Team
HA: Humanitarian Assistance