Afghan Dispatch #10: Night Patrol (Originally Sent on July 9th, 2012)

Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. Damn. How in the hell is
it still so hot out here…my shoulders hurt…I think I might be
getting swamp-ass…where the f#$% are we going? Better keep
scanning…complacency kills.

I drop my night vision goggles, or “nods,” back down onto my left eye
and look left to right then back.  I pay particular attention to
windows, crevices, and other dark spots.  They could be anywhere.  The
moon is almost bright enough make the nods nothing more than extra
weight on my helmet. Even with the full moon and the night vision
equipment, almost every Marine on the patrol “eats shit” at least once
by falling into an irrigation ditch, or falling on his face jumping
over it.

The Afghan “breedman,” or lieutenant, leading the patrol keeps asking
the marines if we are tired. I keeping thinking that if he had fifty
pounds of armor on, he might be sweating too.  Directly in front of me
in the “ranger file” is our machine gunner. In front of him is the
radio man.  They are both burdened with another 20 pounds that that I
don’t have, and they take frequent short stops to bend over and get
the weight off their shoulders.

Eventually we make it to our destination, a small compound filled with
Afghan Local Police. They would be the equivalent or reserve police
officers, except that they work all the time and all have AK-47s.  The
guard gives us his toughest look as we are ushered into a courtyard.

With the moon still high, we sit cross-legged in a circle on a patch
of grass. Chai is distributed, and discussion about the nature of our
visit begins. Watermelon follows, and the conversation off-ramps into
a more social tone, with the Afghan commander trying to get a feel for
his counterparts.  The meeting ends and my legs scream at me as I get
up…well one of them does. The other says nothing, since it’s
completely asleep.

On the way back, the breedman’s men all decide to take an impromptu
break, and we have the distinct pleasure of asking them why they’re so
tired.  A few hours later, we trudge back up to the patrol base.  The
Marine leadership, to include myself and two others, take watch until
dawn, and then collapse into a coma until mid morning.  Some days,  I
love this job.

Note: This picture was taken a few days later.  The tall Afghan standing behind me is the “breedman.”


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