The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


April 19, 2009

Name: Vampire 06
Posting date: 4/20/09
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: Folsom, CA
Milblog: Afghanistan Shrugged

The white flash splits the Afghan night and I see the world in reverse color for several moments. Then the concussion hits me and I feel it through my chest and into my heart and lungs. KARUMPH!

Our little cabal is huddled in the lee of a high ridge, doing our best to avoid an enactment of Kipling on Afghanistan’s plains. An airstrike just crushed the ridgeline beyond the one that is currently giving us shelter. 

Our ridge rises above us and perched on top like Masada is a Combat Outpost (COP) occupied by US soldiers.

Three of us are kneeling around a map, our ACHs* touching; actually putting our heads together to stave off the enemy. Pools of red, green and blue light spill from our headlamps, lighting the map in a mosaic of color. Two armored vehicles are parked to our front, their doors standing open and red light oozing from them, the radios they contain barking and hissing information.

Double, double, toil and trouble. The three of us plot our next move, sorcerers of death's construction. A mist coats everything; hopefully something else is coating the ground to our east. Circling overhead, like sharks waiting for their next meal, are the aircraft.

The COP reports to us that they’re seeing movement farther along the ridge to the south. The next iteration begins. But much to our dismay the squad leader in the sky has intervened.

Now we’re forced to relay through several bases back to the aircraft circling over our heads, because of guidance from higher. Whoever decided this was a good idea can probably barely recognize their own name two out of three times. As the situation now stands we have enemy immediately to our east firing rockets at us, and the headquarters miles to our north has decided they can control the fight better than us. At this moment I’m unsure who is trying harder to kill me.This isn’t the first time it’s happened.

Suddenly another KARUMPH! The headquarters isn’t even bothering to notify us now when the aircraft release ordnance. This is F#$%ing unbelievable! To shed a little light on what’s occurring, imagine this scenario:

You’re trying to guide your buddy to park a car in a specific spot in a parking lot. You can see him and the lot, and he sees you and the lot. Now instead of you just telling him where to park, you have to get on the phone, call someone thirty miles away and tell them, who then relays to your buddy. By the way, the guy thirty miles away can only see through a camera phone mounted on the hood of the car. Hell, I can barely make sense of what I just wrote, much less guide 500 lbs bombs on target in this manner.

I can envision how it went down:

“Sir, what do you think of controlling the close air support for all troops in contact?" Major Crackdemon asks.

General Ego, a highly egotistical guy who always preaches about empowering his subordinates, says, “Um, I think that sounds fine, but why?"

“Well sir, if we don’t, what’re we going to write on our awards forms and OERs?*” MAJ Crackdemon replies.

“That’s a superb point MAJ Crackdemon, I hadn’t thought of that!” GEN Ego exclaims.

Now, SFC Commonsense interjects, “But sir, does that make sense that we should control a fight miles away?"

“Hell yes it does," GEN Ego shouts, "The Army obviously wanted me to be the best Company Commander in Afghanistan, in fact with these new cameras I can probably even be a squad leader!”

SFC Commonsense doesn’t give up easily. “Sir , then what are all those officers and NCOs down there going to be doing?"

“Well, somebody has to go out there and get shot at so I can bring the aircraft in." GEN Ego wanders off to admire himself in the mirror and thank God that they gave him all this great technology. Hell, a year from now he might not even need soldiers.

I’m jerked from my reverie by the smash of artillery and more airstrikes, none of which has been coordinated through us on the ground. It’s on autopilot now. We’re bystanders gawking at the lightshow that was our previously-self-orchestrated defense. We’ll sit here the rest of night slowly getting wet in the mist, wondering if the enemy is coming and we don’t know.

Something is rotten in the State of Denmark!


ACH: Advanced Combat Helmet

OER: Officer Evalutation Report


u guys might enjoy the novel 'flashman' by george macdonald frasier about elfinstein's retreat from kabul while losing an entire british garrison...frasier is a pretty good military historian in my opinion---

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