Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sangin....leaving home

Leaving home

We woke early from our last day at Camp Mog and began the final preparations for the movement south to relieve our team in Sangin.

What an odd feeling it is to be leaving this area which has been such a large part of our tour. The members of the ODA team have begun to mingle into the group and offer last minute suggestions and tips for staying alive down south where the war strikes swifter and deadlier than the desert asp.
We emptied the ammo conex and distributed the entire load of ordinance between the vehicles and stocked as much water and food as we could manage. The lack of any real intelligence for this mission so far has been a real ass kicker. It’s like playing a treasure hunt, only when you find the “X” that marks the spot it lies over a booby trapped triple stacked mine.
“We won’t be coming back, so pack anything not coming with us into footlockers and boxes for movement to Camp Victory” Said Colonel A. We packed our green footlockers for pickup and I brought along only what I can fit into my ruck, bug-out bag and computer case.
I must admit it’s hard to leave this small group of men I have grown so close to and become so fond of. To call them the “Silent professionals” is such a grossly held understatement. They are the heart and soul of so many operations throughout this country and their absence on this movement will be felt for some time to come.

The convoy moved out of Camp Mogenson first gate at 0600 passed the ANA barracks then out the second gate to the open range of the Palha Shorab Mountains to test fire the guns. We had built some of the locals build a 25 meter range complete with overhead cover and another 100 meter range right outside the FOB walls so we could train with live ammo anytime we felt the urge. We drove out and parked, waiting for a quick check of the area. Slappy and any number of children might be out drifting around the impact area looking for scrap or food in our garbage. We never waited for them to move we just shifted fire and drove on; they knew how to get out of the way.

As usual the Afghans are taking their sweet fucking time getting to the assembly area and were burning valuable daylight waitin on their asses.

By the time they have gotten all their people together we’ve lost 45 minutes. Something about which team was in the red cycle or who was too stoned to drive or some shit. Hell, they said smokin hash made them better soldiers---who am I to argue?
As we pass the second gate leading out of the camp Colonel A. breaks radio silence with “The box is hot” meaning he has turned on the ECM device which always causes a few snickers among us adolescence killers.
Joker is manning the “Ma deuce” fifty cal and is leading the element down the rutted concrete road leading passed the school, the SHAF gate, and down the long curving passage way leading to Highway 1. The children come running out from behind the mud walls and earthen hovels leaving a small dusty cloud in their wake. By now I can recognize most of them. Their small faces dirtied by the ground they so recently slept on. I wonder what sort of future lies ahead of them.
We pulled out past the main gate occupied by the ANA and took a right heading south through the town of Azizabad where one of the 7th group’s ODA team, SFC Pedro Munoz, was killed by small arms fire in January of 05. He died while trying to capture Mullah Dost a local Taliban leader who had pulled off many attacks on coalition troops. Dost was killed in the initial firefight but unfortunately “Papi” died on the medevac chopper in route to the nearest field hospital. His award of recognition was hung over the coffee maker in our team house and I read and reread it daily.
We drove on for a few hours until we met up with our other SECFOR/ETT team from Farah who had brought out their re-fueling vehicle to top off our tanks for the long ride to FOB Tombstone.
Fuel wasn’t the only thing we got though; Sgt Dave L*** from Vermont was going to bolster our ranks. Dave had an easy going manner but always managed to upset the higher ups wherever he went. He had a “no bullshit” attitude and could sniff out a ticket punching, badge chaser a mile away. Maybe that’s how he ended up in Farah.

He worked for the US Border patrol and due to his background in Special Forces he had an unconventional and unique way of doing things and I loved the guy. He kept an AT-4 rocket with him everywhere he went so if he got the chance he said he’d
“Shoot the first Tali-bastard with it I see.”
Unfortunately during the one time he wasn’t driving he happened to be directing the ANA fire from a plateau near the base and he didn’t have it near him. It became a running joke every time we got hit…
”Hey Dave, did you get to shoot your rocket?”

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