Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, May 2010, Camp Delaram
We were brought to a tent to toss our equipment down. The Marine who had walked out to the “landing rock” to greet the ten of us gestured for us to follow him. We were led away from the sleeping tents and towards tents that looked extremely familiar to us. Antenna of all different shapes and sizes were sticking out of the ground, some haphazardly held up with bits of wire. I noticed a LMST (lightweight multi-band satellite terminal) behind one of the tents, and tons of cables ran across the ground from tents into other tents; sometimes piles of sand covered the cables.
These tents were located inside a secure compound, restricted to anyone who didn’t have proper access. All communications Marines, contractors, and higher officers of every job were given access to this area. The compound was approximately two acres big and surrounded by 12 foot tall concrete barriers. There was a wooden building immediately to the right within the entrance to the compound. The building had a wooden porch that had been adapted into a smoke pit.
A tall contractor stood on the porch with his right leg on the bench, leaning on his elbow as he watched us walk by in the darkness, steadily dragging on his cigarette.
We were used to the check-in ordeal. We all had secret clearances and dealt with access restrictions regularly. We were escorted through the compound to a larger tent called the Command Operations Center (COC) to meet the Marine Major in charge of the base and unit. He was extremely tall and grave looking. As his blue eyes scanned the ten of us lined in front of him, he sighed when he reached the female Lance Corporal and me.
“You’re a girl.”
He studies me with a stern look.
“You’re not supposed to be here. This is a regimental combat team. There are no women here.”
We both stare at him blankly. What were we supposed to say? “Yeah, sorry about that, sir, we will start walking now.”?
“We can’t get the Ospreys back now. You’re stuck here. But you two listen very carefully. You were never here. You will not be a bother to the men. You will, under NO circumstances, do anything unprofessional.”
The male Marines in the tent looked at us out of the corners of their eyes as they stood at ease in front of the Marine Major. I turned extremely red as MY subordinate male Marines looked on.
“As soon as we get some assistance from Camp Leatherneck, you two girls are going back where you belong. Do not talk to anyone.”
With that, the ten of us were dismissed.
The contractor lit another cigarette as we walked away, the red tip glowing in the darkness.