I want you to close your eyes (not literally) and imagine growing up in a great city by the name of Enterprise, in the great state of Alabama and being called to do great things in the Army. Keep in mind, this is before September 11, 2001, but not it’s right around the corner, I’m not that old. Before going off to Basic combat training your recruiter shows you this awesome video of these individuals doing awesome things in labs, in crispy white lab coats, with goggles on, messing with beakers and Brunson burners and all that coolness to find out on your very first day of basic, that you were lied to.
Man, a dream CRUSHED. I wanted to run and hide under the nearest rock, but what kind of man would I be if I went back to my great city of Enterprise, Alabama, if I went back, crying, because I was scared of some dudes yelling and screaming at me. F*** that, I’m not going to let that bother me. It’s 2oo plus other individuals here with me going through the same thing with me. These individuals had a job to do. They had to transform all of us from civilians to Soldiers. For some of us the transformation was easy, for some it took every week set aside for training. Total training time at that time was 19 weeks. I’m not sure what it is now, I’m sure it’s probably it’s a lot more, because the job is a lot more complex. I can assure you that there is no lab coats involved. I did get a chance to wear some goggles and work in an over-pressure environment; in a Reconnaissance and Biological Detection capacity.
Let me set the scene for you, I’m stationed at Schweinfurt, Germany, in Anvil Troop, 1-91 Cavalry, 173rd Airborne Combat Team (It’s something different now, but for the sake of my story, it’s going to be this so like it or not I don’t care!). Before we deployed, of course, I am the Troop CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) NCOIC and I also worked in the Training Room. During Operation Enduring Freedom VIII (8) I was the Troop’s Intelligent NCO, Air NCO, TOC NCO, Assistant Re-Enlistment NCO and whatever else you needed. I could do it all. If I didn’t know how to do it, I went and learned how to do it, perfected it and BAM, I’m your man! During this deployment, this is when I decided that I wanted to make the Army a career. At this time I had been in the Army for about 9-10 year already, but hadn’t made the “Indefinite” enlistment yet. It wasn’t until I was forced to become the FOB Air NCO did I realize I wanted to make the Army a career. I say I was forced to become the Air NCO because the individual tasked to be the Air NCO was injured and sent back and I was thrown into the fire. I wasn’t happy, but I adjusted, made it happen, did an AWESOME job!
During Operation Enduring Freedom X (10), I was tasked to be the COP (Combat Outpost) Air NCO, Intelligence NCO, TOC NCO & Whatever else you needed! Of course I grumbled, but hey, I signed up for this. I deployed with my brothers. The first 2 weeks of April of 2010 I was sent FOB Shank to attend some training to fly a small unmanned aerial vehicle in support of the Troop so we don’t have to depend on Brigade and Battalion Assets, which is a good thing, because trying to get those assets can be like pulling teeth. So I get done with the training and trying to get back out to the COP which is literally 10 kilometers away, it takes 3 days because road status and air status. I finally make it home. Once I get “home”, I want to make sure that the equipment that we have at our COP works so I go down the HLZ (Helicopter Landing Zone) and try to launch the raven, but I can’t. Why? Because there is a big ass radio antenna drowning out the signal so the vehicle can’t get airborne. So I have NO clue if it can even fly. According to the paper work, all the numbers and frequencies are correct and IF I can get far enough away from the antenna, I can get this thing to fly. I brief my commander and he says, okay.
On April 24, 2010, he comes to me and says I want you to go out with Red Platoon, who is going out for a 5 day Operation. I want you to go out with them during the day to gather Intelligence during the day and fly the unmanned vehicle for them at night. I said, Sir, when the hell am I supposed to sleep during this 5 days? He says, you know I didn’t think about that? I then asked, who is going to handle my jobs here while I’m out on mission? He looks at me puzzled? I said, Sir, don’t worry about it, I’ll get with Top (First Sergeant) and work it out and he replies okay. 1SG, immediately gets heated and says he didn’t even talk to me about this, he says, just go packs some things, get with Red 4 and I handle everything else. The 5 day Op turned into a 3 day Op, then finally it turned into a Key leader engagement, but I was still told to pack a 72 hour bag, just in case. I asked if I could take my trusty “airplane” and I was told that I could, I got it packed.
April 25, 2010, that morning I woke up about 0630, did the usual, shit, showered and shaved. Made sure my homie Tommy was up and we went and got some breakfast. After breakfast I went and called my wife. After I talked to her I told her I loved her, but it was awkward as hell. She asked me if something was wrong and I said no. I said that I didn’t really feel like going out, because it was already hot as hell and I had to sit in the back of an MRAP all day, but I would be okay. I would give her a call later. She said okay. I said that I loved her one more time and I hung up the phone. I went to my room, I remember putting a lock on my duffel bag, on one duffel bag. Why just one, I have no clue. Before going to the motorpool, I looked at my IOTV (Improved Outer Tactical Vest) and my Gerber Strap Cutter that I usually wear on my belt, I moved it to the top of my IOTV for some odd reason. Who knew that I would need it later that day.
Anyway, I’m not trying to get all deep and specific with the story, I’ll just give you the basic run down. We go down this route with a Route Clearance Patrol in front of us, they find an IED. We get stuck with them doing what they do. The dismounts get out and we do what we do, go investigate some shit. In the midst of investigating some shit, we actually step into some shit, literally. The Afghans are good people, let me make that clear, but their hygiene is like ours, okay. As we are investigating we hear a shot ring out, so we start running to go investigate, in order to where we need to be, we need to get over this “creek” or “body of water” they use this water to shit, piss, and do whatever they need to do. MANNNNNNN, I had to step in this water. This water came CHEST HIGH! OH MY GOSH!!!!!! My HOMIE Jeff stepped in it first and he is taller than I am so it was like was stomach high on him so I was like okay. Before we stepped in it, I said, dude, do we really have to step in it? There has to be a land bridge or something around it or something. He said dude it’s not that bad. He said we have to go.
We get in and out. Get to where the shot was to find out that an Afghani soldier had an negligent discharge. Our Higher Headquarters had a “better” mission for us to do, but that’s a different story. So we get turned around. Go down a route not made for our vehicles. Get 2 vehicles stuck. Spend 2 hours on this route. Our Troop Headquarters finally says hey F*** that, this is what we need to do, go back, capitalize off that village make some peace and do what we do. Not really in those words, but you feel me. We get turned around, get back in the correct order, get back on the same route we were on earlier that day. Let me stress the fact that we were on this same route earlier in the day, this time we didn’t have a Route Clearance Patrol in front of us. We were the last vehicle in the convoy. All of sudden, there was a loud ass “BOOM” “JERK” “CRASH” BLACKNESS”!
When I came back to, I hear Mikey saying “hey, is everybody okay? We need to get out of this vehicle.” “HEY! IS EVERYBODY OKAY! WE NEED TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF THIS VEHICLE IT’S ON FIRE!” Jeff responds with, I thinks so. I look at him and say what the fuck just happened? He said, we’ll worry about it later, just get out dude. That muthafucka, still hasn’t told me what the fuck happened!!! LOL!!!