Sunday, August 25, 2013

Month 12 Day 25

Today started out at FOB Geronimo
I was not happy when we started out.  I thought that our route was unnecessarily risky.  I told the LtCol as much over breakfast.
“Sir, I’ll be happy to see Nawa in my rear view mirror.”
It was a delicious breakfast, as it always is at Geronimo, egg white omelet, French toast, fresh fruit, biscuit, gravy, everything.

I got an intel update from the S2 shop, we were skirting Red-Air most of the day.  Meaning there would be very little ISR or air support for our trip.

We set off south and I decided to break a lot of desert to be well clear of the ‘graves’ two ‘women’ who did not have the typically hunched walk of women were screwing around with them and walking away just as we were driving up.  They also let they burqas flap too freely.  We steered clear and pressed on. 

We went through “Indian Country” as I call it, southern Nawa where the ANA have taken over security and we (Marines) have very little visibility on what is happening.  I was not thrilled about this part of the trip.  We made it through with no real incident.  Thank God and my heart felt pretty good.

We stopped at Geronimo.  I met up with the Legacy mentor there, Steve, and his linguist, Sherif.  We gave them some of the IR strobes that we had given out to everyone else.  He really believes in the mission, and is a team player.  He doesn’t give a shit who gets credit, he wants to put his guys to work and teach them how to kill Taliban.  It is amazing given that he’s been here a year and a half.  I met up with Strom there too.  He is doing well, but he is stuck at the HQ.  His Princton Physics degree was too much to waste at the companies.  By his own admission
“Once they figured out that I had reasonable written and verbal communications skills, they decided to never let me off of the FOB.”

We moved from Dehli to PB Shamshad.  This is now their training academy for the ANA in 2nd Kandak.  It has expanded a lot since we arrived.  When we got here a year ago they’ve pushed out the wire and added a lot of amenities, power, a big COC.  When we were there last it was four MATV’s and a hut, the SSgt there didn’t want any generators because he didn’t want to be tied down.

While at Shamshod the new team was busy questioning Petranzio, the team lead from their kandak.  LtCol Valquist sat down in the back.  I got a chair and sat next to him.
“Sir, it’s not our fight anymore.”
We overheard them talking busily with Petranzio about ATG, how the training package was still oriented toward the ETT alone and unafraid, how they didn’t learn any of the ANA policies or procedures, they still just did medevacs. I snapped a picture.
“Overwatch.” He said, not giving away too much
There was a pause.
“I was thinking about it the other day, no matter the hell I’ve been through with these guys, I can’t just not care.  Does it get easier when you have a bunch of deployments?”
“Most guys who are just ready to turn over and get out of here are those guys who have a desk to sit behind, who walk to chow, then to their computer, then to chow, then to their computer, then to the gym, then to sleep.  Look at Hesco, he’s turned into a basketcase since he took over the current Ops Job.”
Maybe, but it didn’t answer my question.

We loaded up and went to PB Barcha.  There was no real point, the LtCol just loves the damn place.  It is an old fort the Ghaznavids probably built that has been used intermittently since. Being the highest piece of ground around, the Marines naturally took it. 

I sat down with Dan Petranzio.   The poor bastard was really feeling bad.
“I feel like I’m about to pass out.”
“What’s up.”
“I’m fasting.”
“Yah, I just get useless in the afternoon.  At first it was seven then eight, days then I figured what the hell.”
“Brother, you are nuts, 50 years ago it wouldn’t have been so bad, Ramadan would have been in the winter, you poor bastard.”
I found out later that he was doing it so that he could have the credibility to say to his Afghans
“I’m fasting too, and I’m working, so figure it out.”
Maybe I should have done it.  The Afghans were asking me if I was at the beginning.

We rolled from there, dropped Dan off, he got out and shook my hand as he left.  Good dude.

We rolled across the long bridge for the last time, our minroller had the winch cable snap and it was slightly off to the right. The end of the bridge had collapsed because a jingle truck fell off a couple of months ago.  As we came off the mini bridge and down onto the real bridge with our mineroller the thing climbed the curb and started bending the right railing. 
The Gunny yelled
Mondt didn’t respond immediately.
By this time the cab settled down and I could see too.
I yelled, “JESUS, LEFT MONDT.” It was about 60 feet down to the Helmand river, the bridge is so narrow that pedestrians and motorcycles all need too clear out before we cross, and then we only do it one at a time. Our mineroller kept bending the guardrail like it was nothing.  I could barely feel it because my truck weighs 24,000 lbs.  Fuck.

Mondt pulled it out, but what was normally 6 inches of clearance became two inches.
Gunny made fun of him from the turret when we stopped. 
“Here lies GySgt Louis Casanova, savior of Afghanistan drowned in the Helmand river.”

We moved back to base, the dust was bad, I tried to mitigate the dust, but picking a cross track that would keep everyone out of it, but then when we got back everyone bitched about the bumps.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

The LtCol shook all our hands, gave us what he called a “man hug” and told us we were not having a meeting.  He basically told us we were done.  

Jokes for days...

'It's not our fight' the new mentors were on deck.

PB Barcha

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