OPERATION ENDURING BOREDOM - EPISODE VIII
A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.
FOB Salerno, Afghanistan
Today was a crude reminder that the grass is always greener (or in our case, browner) on the other side. We were pining for the “relaxed pace” of FOB security only a week ago, yet today was one of the longest, most tiring days we’ve had to date. SSG Sarten (“The Mad Runner”) decides that our squad needs to jog twice the perimeter of the FOB this morning, despite it being “no-PT Sunday” when everyone else is sleeping in. This takes about two hours. Of course, our platoon is on QRF (Quick Reaction Force) duty at the time, thus when a sling loaded 105mm howitzer gets jettisoned from 500 ft. somewhere south of Khost, it becomes our job to roll out and collect what’s left of it. This takes all day.
When we finally locate it, the local townspeople had already stripped it of everything that wasn’t welded on. It was amusing to observe a captain from the S-3 shop try and talk tough with the crowd, demanding that they return the missing pieces. His words had to be translated by one of the terps, who was clearly not conveying the same tone of indignation.
“Tell them they have 30 minutes--I’m starting my watch--to produce every last item they stole, or we’re going to go house to house and tear their village apart until we find them!”
(Likely translation: “The U.S. captain would like the broken pieces of his big gun back if it’s not too much trouble, m’kay?”)
We did end up getting about a dozen or so of the twenty stolen pieces back--one kid came riding up on his bicycle dragging a huge chunk of metal behind part of the slingload itself; God knows what he planned on using this for--but in all, the day was far too long and the jerky ride out there way too hard on my posterior for it to possibly be worth it. So what if a 105 runs about $200K. Subtract it from my postwar chiropractor bill and maybe we’ll break even.
As usual, SGT Manning epitomized the true nature of the mission by making an ass of himself--literally: S-3 “Captain America” is sitting nearby, chatting with the village elder and generally posturing for his tag-along photojournalist sycophants, when here comes Manning, careening across the road at the helm of a donkey cart, all the while bellowing, “Combat patrols, baby! Combat patrols! Woo hoo!” A perfectly ridiculous finish to a perfectly ridiculous day.
Well, it might have been, had our day been over. We still had 9 ½ hours left on our scheduled 12-hour night shift by the time we got back to the FOB. We were more than just a little exhausted by that point. About midway through the night our platoon medic PFC Edmondson drove around to all the OP towers to bring us coffee and make sure we were staying awake. I was pretty out of it by that point--I had been up continuously for at least 24 hours by then. He later recounted calling up to us for nearly two full minutes before I even noticed he was out there in the dark.
The face of 2nd Platoon is slowly starting to change. PFC Belloli is gone to Bagram due to a resurfacing heart condition, SPC Love has moved to the S-3 shop in return for a kid who’s never been in a line squad before, and now we have a new platoon sergeant in SFC Johnston as SFC Blenker swaps places with him in the TOC. The times they are a changin.’ In that vein, I’ve decided to lobby for a new role myself: civilian! Whaddya think, Magic 8-Ball? All signs point to…fat chance, sucker!
--Reports indicate that the recently wounded SPC Riley has been spotted around the FOB already on crutches. Apparently, he received what you’d call a “million-dollar-wound” from his encounter with the elusive B.C. Sniper. Shot clean through the ass, Forrest Gump style. Though still no word yet on Lieutenant Dan or Bubba.
--The Air Farce--excuse me--Force, broke another C-130 (again), so all week we’re going to have Big Bird guard out on the tarmac between our regular shifts. I guess they figured we were getting too much sleep, what with our whopping four hours per night average of late. How about this: You bring us some goddamn mail, and then maybe we’ll think about watching your plane for you, okay flyboys?
--The area around the female tents has turned into a virtual nightclub in the evening hours after dinner chow. Guys aren’t permitted inside the female tents, but there’s never a shortage of cheesedick pogues hanging around outside, vying for the attention of the two or three pre-menstrual soldiers who’s ages don’t nearly equal their dress sizes. One of them will be coming back from the chow hall with a Haley’s Comet-like tail of men trailing behind her just to bask in the rare but familiar scent of a recently-shampooed woman. Yep, war is hell.
"Hookers got their title during the Civil War, when Gen. Joseph Hooker, of the Union Army, tried to boost morale by allowing prostitutes access to his troops. Quickly dubbed “Hooker’s girls,” the prostitutes shortened the name to “hookers.” The term stuck."
Considering the multitude of stories I heard about all the females running around up in Bagram--they actually sell prophylactics and pregnancy tests at the P/X there--it would appear the more things change, the more things stay the same.
The 501st at War
Scene: Yesterday afternoon, the TOC (Tactical Operations Center), FOB Salerno (as recounted by 2nd Platoon RTO Scholz).
Black Goat Down: Leave No Lamb Behind
(Coming soon to an FOB near you)
Just when you thought pulling guard couldn’t possibly get any worse: Enter the 12-hour shift. Sharing an OP tower with SGT “Sleepy” Kair is mildly aggravating at best, as he cannot manage to stay conscious for more than three minutes at a stretch.
The day shifts are tolerable, as the combination of sodas, chain-smoking, and illicit book reading at least help to ameliorate the crushing boredom. The night shifts are another matter. It is an accepted scientific law that time not only passes more slowly during nighttime guard shifts, but that it even appears to go in reverse by approximately the midpoint. (Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, if I’m not mistaken).
Smoking is not permitted at night due to it’s non-tactical nature (a cigarette cherry can be seen from quite a distance under night vision devices), though SGT Kair’s intense nicotine habit would not be denied. I witnessed him spend thirty minutes wrapping an ordinary water bottle with “100 mile/hour tape” (jargon for green army duct tape), poking a hole in the bottom (“For ventilation,” he explained), and clandestinely smoking a Marlboro Light through it like a MacGyver-inspired crack pipe. “I learned this trick in the 82nd,” he says. “Star cluster flare canisters work better, though.” Another proven axiom is that a soldier’s creativity is directly proportional to his level of enforced boredom.
The second worst aspect of the night shift (after the Herculean effort required to stay awake) is the morning after. Following a quick pit-stop at the chow hall for breakfast, all you want to do is crawl into your rack and sleep the rest of the day away. The problem lies in the fact that it is already approaching 90 degrees by mid-morning, rendering it nearly impossible to snooze for longer than a scant few hours before waking in a pool of your own sweat. This is then followed by several hours of tossing back and forth, unsuccessfully trying to locate the “cool” side of the pillow, and muttering “Fuck, it’s hot” every few seconds to no one in particular. I’ve come to realize that Afghanistan has only three distinct seasons: Cold, hot, and flambé.
Coming soon to the Sony Playstation 2 from Electronic Arts:
Operation Enduring Boredom: the Video Game
Level One: Man a dizzying array of OP guard towers, in both day and night conditions, tempting fate in order to stay awake for the critical hourly radio checks. (Power-up on caffeine or you will fall asleep!)
Move on to Level Two and try your luck at a series of increasingly pointless LMTV convoy missions. You won’t receive contact, but you will fall off if you fail to hold on tight enough. Mount and dismount the trucks repeatedly without sustaining a stress fracture or a sprained ankle and you will successfully advance to:
Level Three: Circumnavigate the FOB, all the while maintaining the proper uniform as authorized by the chain of command. Earn extra lives by making it from your tent to the latrine and back during daylight hours without your weapon or boonie hat. (Watch out for the Sergeant Major!)
Unlock hidden bonus rounds and dare to:
All this and much more awaits you in: Operation Enduring Boredom: The Forgotten Front. Are you man enough to handle ten months of monotony? Or will you crack and go AWOL in a foreign land? Only you can decide.
Buy it today wherever video games are sold.
Electronic Arts is not responsible for any possible side effects of extended gameplay, to include but not limited to: Prolonged bouts of extensive boredom, depression, suicide, compulsive self-mutilation, diarrhea, homicidal rage, acute-onset diabetes, alcoholism, and/or death.
Ages 6 and up.
Sponsored by GoArmy.com. You too can be an Army of One.
Wouldn’t you know it, Bravo Company finally gets their act together and starts going out on actual missions further than a stone’s throw from the FOB, and what happens? They get ambushed by all kinds of cool stuff like RPGs, PKM automatic fire, and IEDs. Dammit!
And they were almost in the exact same spot we were at for Operation Avalanche when we didn’t see jack shit. How is this fair? What's more, B co. failed to even pursue these guys after they hid in some caves. Personally, I think Geronimo Six (the BC) is getting gun-shy the closer we get to leaving. So far he’s able to point to a host of ho-hum though brass-impressing accomplishments (mainly FOB construction and infrastructural improvements) with a bare minimum of friendly casualties (one, and he’s already on RTD status).
If you ask me (and no, they usually don‘t), the Colonel already has his sights on one of those shiny general’s stars and doesn’t want to do anything at this point to risk scuttling his future prospects. Frankly, I think that stinks. What happened to the good old days when climbing the military ladder meant treating your troops like expendable cannon fodder? Now, it’s one guy gets shot in the ass and it’s game over for the rest of us? I think I must have been born a few generations too late. (Yes, I fully realize that these lamentations are a tad abnormal). But honestly, what medical professional in his right mind would spend seven years in medical school only to pray to the Lord every night to please cure all those who are sick in the world? I'm no doc, but the impulse is no different.
We don’t think of it as a death wish, it’s more of a death to them wish. Easily a win-win situation for all of us. The bad guys want to meet Allah, and we merely wish to help them along in their journey. Is that so wrong?
Another rocket attack last night, waking me up from a hard earned yet well deserved slumber. Standing there in the bunker with the rest of the platoon, joking around and waiting for the “all-clear,” I had to wonder: Do these Talibantamweight retards really think they’re scaring us with this crap? Because I assure you, they are not. All these “attacks” do is annoy us and fill us with blind vigilante rage for being harassed in such a fashion. If I ever do encounter an enemy towel-head, I’m not just going to riddle him with scores of 5.56, I’m then going to pull out my bayonet and cut off his balls for my trophy case. Sorry, but these fucks aren’t legitimate soldiers, but illegal combatants not covered under the Geneva Convention protections--which can bite me, by the way.
[Ad hoc disclaimer: Buck Sargent disavows all responsibility for the insane ravings of his former self.]
These scum aren’t fellow warriors to be respected, but lawless thugs and mercenaries who believe in nothing other than what furthers their own selfish wants. As President Bush stated during his June 2002 West Point graduation address:
"Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong. Brutality against women is always and everywhere wrong. There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it."
That is why I joined the Army, that is why we’re in this rat-hole of a country, that is why we fight.