Print Story "I want to go back to Afghanistan at some point."
Diary
By technician (Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 10:32:31 AM EST) (all tags)
"Why? I mean, learn farsi and wait until we attack Iran. It's way prettier."


This new kid is a little different. He's still a Marine, and the one thing I really like about Marines in a professional sense is that I can show them something once (or hand them a procedure, once) and they'll do that thing perfectly without complaint, without error, and without any deviation. Once they find out that they're doing something right, they do that right thing all the time. Things you do automatically are done smoothly, and smooth is better than struggle. Things done without thinking are better, overall, than things you have to stop and think about. You hand a Marine a task list that has 50-something steps and four pages of additional work and procedure, and he'll do it like you wrote it, perfectly, every single time.

This new kid, though, looks the part of a teenager in chunky Corps-issued prescription glasses, a teenager who spent his time divided equally between the ranch and a gymnastics class. He's mostly muscle, but the eyes are quick and curious, and he's got that flat west Texas accent that makes everything sound lazy. Must have driven his superiors nuts to hear him on the radio...he was a comms guy, like most of our guys...drawling out the coordinates of a fire grid.

He can't be more than 22 years old. When he first stepped foot here, he hadn't yet been assimilated; he still had that shrink-wrapped starved dehydrated look, tired but wired, sunburned ears and a level of alertness that wouldn't occur to someone not used to being shot at. That first day, he had his girlfriend and newborn baby with him, touring our offices, seeing where he'd be working for four times the pay with none of the risk. His girlfriend talkative and curious, filling in for his lack of small talk. Blonde, a fan of Camaros and sushi, really into the music I was playing ("Honey, that's TOOL, you'll love them!" like he was new to the planet). Now that he's been here a few months, he's hydrated, relaxed, and smiling all. The. Time.

Yesterday I'm in a room doing work, and there's a handful of guys there, three of whom are former Marines: one who'd been in Balkan and African and Mid East theaters, one who'd been in Iraq, and the new kid who'd spent most of his time in Afghanistan. They were talking about the things these young vets talk about: the mundane and precise nature of new-world combat vs. the way the world actually works on the ground. How they'd be called into an area, and given a textbook set of orders, and somehow carry them out perfectly despite actually being in an alternate universe, one not well described or understood by the orders, one that couldn't be seen by the drones or intel-gathering electronic bits. I've said it before: the ground war in Afghanistan is fighters from the 21st century fighting people in the 13th century, and the reality is wildly different from the high-rez maps provided by satellite.

This new kid, he was talking about being in a valley that was once so deeply and terribly controlled by Taliban that the locals were arbitrarily killed or raped or beaten or just fucked with in general  when the local fighters would get bored. They'd lost their tribal leaders, and their teenager men were pressed into service or shamed into service or cajoled into service or had their mother's threatened to force them into service or just volunteered and the whole of the valley was lost to the Bad Guys, and these were really Bad Guys. The goal there was to remove the bad guys before the bad guys removed the population.

"So we're heading up this brand new road. There's a number of new hiways in that area, all of them smooth and really fantastic except for the bits every few miles that have been blown up by the Taliban. We're two squads, then a mile or so, then two squads. I'm in the second humvee. We get to the area we're supposed to patrol, and it looked like Colorado: grass and trees and blue sky, big rugged mountains. We get our patrol into place and move up toward this compound.

We're six or seven kilometers into the hike when we start taking fire. Radio back that we're taking fire after we take cover, and start the request to return fire. We can hear the first three parts of this while we're firing back...we're allowed to return fire, but it's best to clear it. We're sorting out the targets and doing the math while, ya know, shooting the hell out of the place, and all of a sudden, WHAM, the Sergeant next to me is down and my ears are ringing and I'm sort of cross-eyed. Find my glasses while checking myself for holes...the Sergeant is laying back coughing sort of chuckling..." to this point everyone in the room has had a sort of half-smile, eyes locked on the kid, but now they start to look at the floor and the smiles are dropping "...and he sort of gasps and yells 'FUCK, L.T. WHAT THE HELL JUST HIT ME?' overly loud, and I can't see blood or anything, but there's a shiny piece of his trauma plate exposed..." all the guys in the room make the same "phew" type noise and laugh "...and he's gasping but no holes. The radio is all chatter about a sniper, and fire is now being poured in earnest toward the front and the left-rear of our location. The second squad arrives firing, and we get our shit back together and start finding targets and doing the math again. I'm on the comms with some A-10 MA and I'm like calm. Like, everything is OK, sir, we're just pinned down by about a thousand bad guys and almost totally surrounded. No biggie" the guys in the room nod and chuckle, surrounded is where they do their best work. "One of our guys is shot, and then another, but that second one spotted the sniper. The Sergeant says, 'I expect that AK to be found and returned to depot for destruction' and I'm like roger that and we get a team together, drop everything, and head up the left slope under cover fire. The bad guys have no comms or we'd have found them, so when we get to the guy, he has no idea we're there, no one warned him. It's him and a shot caller, and a third guy about 200 meters away covering them...we found him first and put him down, then dropped the shot caller and the sniper, walked down, got the rifle and walked it back to the Sergeant. The A-10 had unloaded on the compound by then so second squad was just mopping up. I hand this Druganov to the Sergeant and he tags it and sets it aside, then looks at me odd. 'Marine, did you know you're bleeding?' and I didn't." The room erupts with laughter but the kid's face goes distant. "Yeah. I'd been nicked, something had hit the top of my left shoulder and gone through it and into my cheek, then out and through my glasses frame...tiny little hole. I got patched up and we walked up that valley, and all I could see was that tiny hole in my glasses frame for the rest of the hike. We cleaned up the compound, camped out for a week under moderate fire, and turned it over to the RMs that followed. The rest of that outing I was obsessed with that little hole in the left corner of my vision, so much that I tripped from not paying attention to the trail."

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"I want to go back to Afghanistan at some point." | 19 comments (19 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
his story at the end by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #1 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 10:44:45 AM EST
is what keeps me from making pithy comments about people who can only follow directions.

(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 2) #2 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 10:47:24 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth



Numbs it, too. by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #6 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 11:26:43 AM EST


Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 1) #10 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 11:56:38 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth



[ Parent ]
I fear not Greenrd's Law! by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #11 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 12:13:19 PM EST


Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
Editorial Comment by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #3 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 11:24:07 AM EST
Great story, but this has been annoying me since 2001 - Dragunov.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Gah by technician (2.00 / 0) #7 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 11:48:30 AM EST


[ Parent ]
Don't worry . . . by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #18 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 10:32:31 PM EST
I've seen hundreds of ITGs get it wrong on the intarwebs, and they should know better.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
VS2FP by toxicfur (4.00 / 2) #4 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 11:26:10 AM EST
Amazing story. Thank you.
--
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
a level of alertness by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #5 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 11:26:32 AM EST
My friend T was like that when she got back from Baghdad. She came up here for a visit about two weeks later, just in time for the snowstorm that shut the town for a week. I think a week snowbound was exactly what she needed. Nothing to do, no where to go, no way to go there, and nothing to worry about.

Now she's in El Paso which she reports is almost as exciting as Baghdad.

Which makes me think we'll be dealing with Mexico before we deal with Iran.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Yeah, by technician (2.00 / 0) #8 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 11:50:50 AM EST
I think the desire is to go into Iran, but the reality is Juarez will kill west Texas if something isn't done. I just hope that something isn't troops being sent in. I'd rather see, oh, legalize the marijuana, re-jigger NAFTA to make more sense, and pump humanitarian and economic aid into the border towns...while quietly helping the Mexican gov't kill the drug lords that run the joint.

[ Parent ]
quietly helping the Mexican gov't by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #9 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 11:55:46 AM EST
I wonder if we're already doing that. Drones are small and hard to spot. Commo intercepts even harder. Not too hard to combine the two and feed the data to the Mexican government. The only real issue is, how badly penetrated is the Mexican government? If it's bad enough we may have to act independent of them.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
politicians have big mouths. by garlic (4.00 / 1) #14 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 02:56:41 PM EST
but it is a good idea.


[ Parent ]
LOLCATS by ammoniacal (4.00 / 2) #19 Thu Mar 25, 2010 at 12:56:37 AM EST
Dude, the DEA practically owns Colombia and other Banana Republics. Do you seriously think we're not assholes-and-elbows deep in an adjacent oil-rich state of millions which could flip Marxist any day now? Seriously?

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
By the way.... by technician (2.00 / 0) #12 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 12:35:18 PM EST
...if your friend in El Paso can locate it, let her know that L and J Cafe (a little hole in the wall) is worth the effort. Assuming they're still open. And Roscoe's for burgers. I can't imagine they've closed...they're scary good.

And she knows by now to never go to Juarez without a handgun, right?

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She's a Chaplain's Assistant. by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #13 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 01:12:10 PM EST
I don't think she goes to Juarez at all. Certainly not alone.

I'll let her know about L&J's and Roscoe's.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
I'm going to be in El Paso. by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #15 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 02:58:58 PM EST
I'm doing two seminars back to back, so I have three nights in town.

I am not going to Juarez.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
You should probably not go to El Paso. by technician (2.00 / 0) #16 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 04:38:08 PM EST
But if you have to, the west side of town is safe-ish. The older areas in central, up against the mountains, that's all OK.

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I have to. by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #17 Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 06:15:21 PM EST
But I managed to make it one trip instead of two. Even so, it was clear I didn't want to go because I booked flights to San Antonio instead and had to change them.  

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
"I want to go back to Afghanistan at some point." | 19 comments (19 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback