March 11, 2009

Name: Vampire 06
Posting date: 3/11/09
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: Folsom, CA
Milblog: Afghanistan Shrugged

“I wish I was Spiderman, and then this would be much easier,"  I think to myself as we scale the side of the mountain. Afghan soldiers scamper past CPT Brain and I, doing their best imitation of Icarus. We slowly plod along through the cracked pieces of shale that populate the slope like broken dinnerware. My wings have already melted and I’m now stuck with my leather personnel carriers to propel me.

The ANA look at us as they move by with pity. They’re well aware of how much the equipment we’re carrying weighs. Several of them have tried it on prior to this and been shocked. We have failed to grasp the lessons of medieval knights. Mobility vs armor. I am also 20 years older than many of them.

My Afghan counterpart, the Kandak XO, chose to remain back at the vehicles, 2000 ft below us. Upon realizing I was serious about scrambling up here h
e informed me that he felt it was most advantageous to command from below.

Framed Vampire rabbit one

Now I’m at 9000 ft, moving backwards with each step forward as I slide through the broken rocks. CPT Brain is carrying even more than I, as he has an FM radio in his ruck. I offered to carry it but he declined, I suspect out of fear that everyone would razz him about me humping the radio and being older.

Framed Vampire rabbit two

(The building where the trucks are is in the middle background.)

The patrol gradually thins as we continue our expedition. Below us bodies are littered along the line of march, leaning against small trees and rocks, attempting to wring any amount of oxygen out of the air. Even the Afghans are falling out at this point. The ANA refer to American soldiers as robots, due to the fact that we never stop, despite the heat, cold or altitude and the immense loads we carry. We pray to die sometimes, but never stop.

We reach a rocky ledge overlooking our vehicles and pause for a moment. I think I’d be in pain right now but I’m high from hypoxia. Kind of like high school, but that’s another story. CPT Brain and I consult, and agree that he’ll stay here and relay over the radio and I’ll move farther up on the mountain with one of ourTerps.

The mission that brought us here was a Movement to Contact. Basically it means you set out trying to get in a fight. It’s the military equivalent of shoving someone in a bar. Prior to today, CF forces had been in contact with the ACM near here and we’ve come to see if we can bite a piece off of the ACM.

I continue on, working my way up and around the top of the mountain in order to observe a valley and ridge to our north.  My brain continues to tell me to stop; luckily I damaged a lot of brain cells in college so the message isn’t too loud or convincing. Up I go.

Reaching an outcropping near the summit, I flop down doing my best imitation of a goldfish out of water. I reach into my vest and pull out my binos; starting to scan the ridge to our north.  I see nothing, due to the fact that my hands are shaking so violently that I almost give myself motion sickness. I try to slow my breathing and gather myself. It is always important to look very cool no matter what in the Army. I’m doing a poor job of it right now. Danica Patrick is not pushing me hard enough on the elliptical trainer despite her loathing for me.

My breathing slows and I start to scan. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but two booger eaters on the far ridge. Booger eater is our new derogatory term for the enemy. Once again, please don’t comment about my cultural sensitivity. I know it’s insensitive to call them booger eaters. But I know they call us some derogatory names too. What fun is war if you can’t make up names about your enemy?

They look at me and I them across the valley; a distance of about two kilometers. We stare at each other through binoculars for a couple of seconds and then they move into a bunker. They seem unconcerned because of the valley separating us, believing it keeps them safe. Oh, silly rabbit. I have two F-15s.

I move back down to CPT Brain and get on the radio, calling the CAS, telling them what I see and asking them to take a look. They overfly the area and confirm what I’ve seen. By the way, now the booger eaters are running around because they can hear the jets. The pilot calls and asks what I want to do.

“Smoke them,” I reply. Not really, but that’s what I was thinking and it sounds a lot cooler than going through the steps of a nine-line call.

“Roger that, we’re going to release one 2000 pounder and three 500 pounders in this pass,” he replies. All pilots sound like Chuck Yeager.

“Roger, I have eyes on point of impact,” I radio back. I wish I sounded like John Wayne, but I think I sounded more like a couch potato in the middle of an aerobics class, wheezing away.

“Weapons release in 30 seconds,” the pilot tells me.

“Dude, standby. This is going to be big,” I tell CPT Brain. We’re both giddy at the idea of 3500 lbs of high explosive hitting something. Little kids waiting for the door to open on Halloween and yell "Trick or Treat!". Unfortunately for them it’s Trick.

“Weapons away,” as the jets scream overhead, harbingers of what’s to come.

And we wait.

“Dude, what the...? Where the hell is the explosion?” We look at each other, disappointed that our Fourth of July show has fizzled. “I thought it’d be really big,” I comment, downfallen.

KABOOOOOOOOM!  A massive blast rips through the air and orange flames shoot off the opposite ridge.

 Framed Vampire rabbit three

“Hell YEAH, that was awesome!” I shout.

“We have good impact and full detonation, no secondaries observed at this time," I radio the pilots as they pull off station. “Thanks for your help and have a good day!"

At this point I’m pretty darn happy with the day's production. Then the artillery fire direction center calls us and tells us that they’re shooting a fire mission at the same grid to follow up on the CAS.

“Roger, I will adjust,” I call back. The first round is on target, no adjustments, and more rounds follow.

The rounds rip through the sky headed toward the ridge, impacting all along it. Those boys over there are having one heck of a bad day. I predict it’s their last day. Rounds continue to impact, tearing the ground apart. Suddenly we see huge secondary explosions, meaning we’ve hit either their rocket or mortar dump. Which means they can’t shoot those at us later.  Ah yeah, it’s business time!

The fire mission ends and we begin our slow march down the mountain, excited by the fact that today we did our jobs successfully, slipping and sliding our way back to our vehicles for the long convoy back to the FOB. Another day in Afghanistan down, and many more to go.


Dear Vampire06, It sounds like a heart attack hill you climbed and I can really imagine you breathing hard and it seems like you had a good productive day. I like to read your writing and feel we have a vested interest in your well being. I live in Sonoma near your home town. We will be glad to see you home safe soon. Good luck.

Hard work is hard work. Great job. Keep it up!!

Fantastic job!! The work and the tale. I told my nephew about the ANA calling you robots because nothing stops you. He just smiled. Twenty-one and wants to be a firefighter, graduates with the degree this spring. Thank you for taking the time to do this instead of sleeping :>)

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