Friday, November 9, 2007

FOB Tombstone

FOB Tombstone

We passed through Char Rah, Delaram, and a thousand small dirty sun baked hovels. Every mile further south the poppies grow from small plots in secluded places to fields that cover the landscape from one end to the other.

Riding down out of the craggy mountain cliffs and into a vast open plain that lies north of the Khash desert ends the nine hour trip. At the gate we waited for 30 minutes for someone to get there collective shit together and let us in.
Tombstone seems to be just another shit hole rising up from a layer of bedrock, dust and flat stone in the middle of nowhere.
With the vehicles parked I told my guys
“Be sure an go over your guns with a brush before you plant your ass anywhere.”
“Joker, go with the colonel and find us a place to sleep…roger?”
He came back fifteen minutes later sayin
“Watch out, some Navy light bird came over to Dave and just went ape shit because he was wearin his ball cap, made him take it off” he said.
“You gotta be shittin me man?”
“Does this guy know where the fuck he is?” I said.
“The Colonel told me to pass it on brothers…boonies only.” Joker said
“Alright…alright I’m too tired for this shit, let’s find an empty rack.” “Take your weapons off and keep um with you, there’s no telling who’s watching the chickens in this henhouse.”
Nate motioned me over to a Quonset hut and I found us a few bunks to crash on. I laid my 240, my M4 and the Drag on the bottom bunk and climbed up, boots and all, and promptly feel into a dreamless sleep.
The sun has barely crested the horizon and already the dust and heat waves have begun to obscure the surrounding landscape. I got up, scouted out the latrine and took a piss then found my way to the chow hall. It’s always a treat for the first few meals to see all the fresh fruit and green salad in one place, it sounded like a fuckin rabbit warren in there.
Nate came over and told me we would be getting an “official” briefing later today but the consensus from the drivers, SECFOR, LTF, and the Brits is Sangin area is a very bad place.

Joker had cornered a Spec-4 named Morrison who was a medic and worked with the SECFOR team from Kandahar. He told us he was going to act as a scout with a couple of the other guys and lead us up North into Sangin. He said
“This is a place where you don’t want to get caught with your pants down.”
Our rules of engagement [ROE] has changed somewhat to reflect the METT-T [Mission, enemy, terrain, troops, time] we have here. Intel says expect to be hit on the way up and never get on the road, it has been mined so heavily no one uses it. Instead we will be using the open desert between the road and the adjoining eastern ridgeline and if things weren’t interesting enough, the powers that be have introduced another poppy eradication mission called “Riverdance” to our full schedule.
At 10:30 we gathered together and entered the CP to receive our brief from a Lieutenant Colonel Slusher [previously National Guard Bureau Pentagon seat shiner and five star REMF asshole] and another Captain. He kinda looks like a shorter, pudgier Telly Savalas albeit the lollypop and “who loves ya baby” smile.
I’m not wearing any of my Army designated patches or rank, my mustache is way outta limits, and a fine layer of afghan dust covers me from head to toe. As I move through the office area I’m noticing everyone else watching me from the corner of their eyes.
Great, I’m thinking, these are the spit and polish types the other team warned us about.
The LTC began by telling us that we were now under the operational control of the 205th RCAG {him} and no longer a part of the command structure of the 207th in Herat. This was diametrically opposed to what we were told when we received the initial brief and I looked around seeing all the others looking around with that “What the fuck?” kinda look. The LTC on the brigade team from Herat says he’s in command, the ODA team say they have operational control of the FOB, the Canadians want some kind of say in this show…Jesus this thing is beginning to be a fuckin goat rope nightmare.
The Captain took over the brief and began showing us our new area of operations and contacts from fire and IEDs over the past few months.

Each contact was represented by a red box containing date, time and weapons used during the engagement. The route we’re taking looks like it was hit point blank by a shotgun and started hemorrhaging.
The main supply route 611 is unusable cause every time someone uses it they blow up. The land to the west of the road is full of pissed off poppy farmers and drug runners.
The land east of the road is open desert but the ridgelines form a couple of nasty choke points we will need to stay away from.
So, in a nutshell, the path we will take will meander [Not a term used much during military planning] east to west in a crazy, irregular pattern.
This is my type of planning! The young Captain is doing an exceptional job during the brief but he is constantly being interrupted by the Colonel who adds nothing of any interest but I guess he feels he needs to say something.
The Captain says, “No accurate estimates of the enemy strength can be made but we believe there is fewer than 150 dedicated Taliban fighters in Musa Qala, Kajaki and Sangin districts of the Helmand Province.”
They seem to have the strongest presence in Musa Qala and generally operate in squad sized elements. We also believe they are trying to rebuild their numbers and leadership after the TICs in March.” “The timeline of significant events is as such:
In February during the beginning of the mission and build up of FOB Wolf there were a few minor TICs mostly involving the SF team and the ASF members near Sangin village. Then, as it looked to the locals like we were going to stay around for awhile they started routine probes using small arms fire and mortars.”
“Things were in a state of relative calm until March 25th and the SF team at Wolf conducted Operation Carpe Diem. While securing an LZ near Sangin they took one US KIA and another WIA. On the 26th a SECFOR element was ambushed near the junction of RTE 611 and Hwy 1 taking no casualties.”

“On the 28th at 15:00 hours a re-supply convoy heading to the FOB was hit by an IED and it destroyed an ANA LTV killing eight Afghan soldiers and cratered the road so badly they had to unload an excavator to fill in the hole.” All the while they’re taken fire from the village near Hyderabad and they called in CAS to lay in a coupla 500 pounders complements of a pair of A-10s. That seemed to quiet them down enough for them to finish the march and they ended up inside Wolf without further losses.”
“We believe this was the first shots of the battle that culminated with the attack on FOB Wolf that evening at approximately 23:00 where there was one US and one Canadian KIA and three WIA.”
All the while I can see the light bird eyeballing us and I can tell he’s fuming about something. Some of the guys wear DCUs, others the new ACUs and most of my SECFOR team is sterile.
He interrupts the brief again and starts talking about the uniforms and personal hygiene of the team members at Wolf. He says our guys up there are all screwed up and it looks reminiscent of a scene from “Apocalypse Now” and he doesn’t run his operation that way and on and on…then he picks out SGT Reddick and tells him the combat patch he’s wearing is unsat. This leads into an even bigger argument because Reddick isn’t backing down. He quotes 670-1 word for word in a calm and somewhat contemptuous tone and now the colonel looks more like an ass than before and it takes a few minutes until the whole room gets back in order.
These guys here are more concerned with uniform violations and etiquette than combat action, I’ve heard you promote to the level of incompetence but this is ridiculous. Where do they find men like these? The colonel ends his litany by saying “There are 5-“Stans” here; Tajikistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and now “Talibanistan.” Great.


  1. We head to Tombstone the end of this month. We have 365 boots on ground. Any additional insight?


  2. Jedi, when were you at Tombstone? I was there in 2007 -Jan to Jan 08. I don't recogonize any of the names you've mentioned but if you've changed the names to protect the guilty......