Thursday, September 17, 2009
A night mission and a near miss...
Thursday 17th September. Paktia Province
Not much has been happening the past few days as the weather have turned significantly cooler and it has been raining almost every afternoon till evening. This means ‘Red Air’ gets called (no flights) and missions has to be postponed. This is also the time for soldiers to relax, carry out maintenance and minor work on the base.
However, we did go on a night patrol on midnight Sunday. It was to be a short recon mission into a nearby village that has known to harbor insurgents and IEDs has been found on this stretch of trail. Everyone was carrying the minimum kit and ammo and we were to use night vision devices also known as NODs (Night Optical Device).
Now the NOD looks good when you see it on TV or the movies where everything seems to be casted in an eerie greenish glow. It actually is pretty cool, for the first 10 minutes anyway! Then you need to constantly try to stop your helmet from slipping down your face due to the weight in front, and your vision screwed because you don’t get any depth perception and you see everything through only one eye. Trying to walk a narrow trail without any depth perception and a fall means into a small river or a deep ditch makes the entire walk a royal pain in the butt! Whenever we walked past a house or two the dogs would raise hell and that was unnerving. I could only pray that we won’t get contact this night. As we walked past a house, the dogs started again and a light suddenly came on. I could only see the silhouette of the man who came out with a light and then he fired a few shots into the air! That’s when you hear the safeties go off the rifles and everyone braced for a possible incident. Tense minutes later the guy went back into his house and we decided to turn back. Whew!
It was soon getting light and I realized that we have walked for nearly 5 hours. The return trip was much more sedated and we walked past several fields of marijuana. The pungent smell of these plants tickled my nostrils and it was a shame I couldn’t take any photos of it!
Nearly 6 am… The entire platoon was dead tired and we trudged along the trail and finally made it back to the COP. And we were hurting!
Later in the afternoon, an IED went off just outside the COP on one of the roads that lead up to it. No one got hurt but we realized that had the platoon taken the other road this morning to come back to the COP it would have hurt much more than the 5 hours walk…