Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, May 2010, Camp Delaram
The next week was a blur of faces, numbers, and equipment. Getting accustomed to a new network is always overwhelming, and this newly implemented and ever-growing network was no exception. The combat team had reached this base a few months earlier. It was completely empty when they had gotten there. Over the past few months, the Marines had erected a lot of tents and very few buildings had been built by the Navy Seabees.
The network team was extremely small, maybe five men total. They were ever-roving to other bases that the combat team was responsible for. If something broke communications-wise, they were expected to travel out and fix it. That type of environment with that few knowledgeable people resulted in overworked people. I was necessary.
One of the men on the team, Gretski, remembered me from communications school in 2008. I vaguely remembered him, because he was in a different class, and there were about 200 men to every girl, but comradeship was slim out in the desert and we became fast friends. Ski made me laugh, caught me up on the network and things I would need to know, and essentially set me up for professional success.
The platoon was offering an opportunity to obtain a grey belt in Marine Corps Martial Arts. I was stoked and immediately signed up to be tossed around by men twice my size. I needed some way to stay in shape and running was almost impossible on that base.
The martial arts training was conducted in a giant green tent with a tall ceiling. The ground was covered in torn up rubber and, you guessed it, sand. Everyone dropped their blouses and practiced take-downs and hand-to-hand combat in combat boots and utility pants. On the first day of practice, my partner of 6’1″ threw me from his shoulder. The person getting thrown is supposed to land properly to prevent injury.
I did not land properly. Besides having the wind knocked from my lungs for three minutes and having a feeling like I was going to vomit, I had landed sharply on my elbow. I felt a snap and excruciating pain.
Years later, it would be discovered that I had shattered the bone in my elbow. But a combat zone doesn’t have time for injuries. I gingerly got up and kept training, occasionally wiggling a shard of bone across my elbow and feeling the pain grow.
Later in the week, the black belt instructor grappled every single person attempting to obtain their grey belt. It was part of the program, and I was very nervous. Mr. Black Belt had about five inches in height and 50 pounds on me. Not too bad, right? Well, he was skilled. It took approximately 20 seconds before I was down and pinned with my head squarely between his thighs. He began squeezing harder and harder and as I began to black out, I turned my head to the right…and bit the shit out of his leg. He yelped and released me, shoving me away from him and springing to his feet.
Everyone circled around us flipped out.
“That’s complete bullshit and inappropriate, Corporal!”
He was furious. If I was a man, he would have decked me. As it was, he scolded me and went on and on about how inappropriately I had acted in front of about 20 male Marines.
I left that session alone; everyone, even Ski, avoided me.