Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, June 2010, AUP Station in the Town of Delaram
“You’re staying here.”
“This is bullshit. Just let me use someone else’s NVGs.”
I looked around at the other Marines. They all shook their heads and averted their gaze. Sgt. P was firm.
“You don’t have NVGs, you don’t go.”
Night vision goggles. NVGs. Yet another piece of equipment I hadn’t been issued to deploy to Afghanistan. My equipment was too large, too inhibiting, or non-existent. I looked over at Virkler. He looked at me with a bit of pity and smugness as he inquired about my lack of equipment.
“You weren’t given NVGs?”
“I was originally part of a logistics group. Why would they waste NVGs on a bunch of fobbits?”
A fobbit was a derogatory term for someone who never left the wire and just got fat from the chow hall food.
“Sucks for you!”
Virkler was giddy. I was pouty. Sgt. P was firm.
“Come on, Sgt. P, this is bullshit. You guys get to have all the fun.”
“You can stay here, at the ECP, and provide cover while we move out.”
Brow furrowed, I accepted my fate from the lack of bullshit equipment. Who needs NVGs anyway? We have flashlights. Just shine a light on those motherfuckers. I’m pretty sure I kicked rocks in frustration as I went to grab my flak and Kevlar.
When I met back up with the Marines who were going on the patrol, I felt distant from them. They were arranging their fire teams, conducting gear checks, and smoking. As Sgt. P reminded us of the rules of engagement, I was surly.
“Cannon, come here.”
Sgt. P beckoned me to the front of line to join him and a Marine whose name I didn’t catch.
“Lights off. Condition 1.”
Suddenly pitched into darkness, we exited the compound, past the staggered HESCO barriers, and walked to the wall that lined the street. The wall’s opening was big enough for our vehicles to enter and exit, but with less than a foot of room on each side of the vehicle. I tripped on the slight hill down to the wall, but I covered the sounds of my trip with a quick cough. Sgt. P placed me on the right of the wall opening and the other Marine on the left.
“Look down the road to the left. He will look down the road to the right. If you see anything suspicious, yell. Watch out for cars that might roll up with their lights off. They will blind you when they flick the lights on and ambush you. Stay behind the wall. Be safe. We will be back around occasionally.”
The other Marines filed out in twos, disappearing down the road into pitch black. The other Marine and I stood in silence, just behind this wall that was 62 inches tall. Exactly 62 inches.
Ho-ly. Shit. I can’t see anything.
I harsh-whispered to the Marine across the eight foot opening in the wall.
“Can you see anything??”
“Yeah, I have NVGs. Don’t you remember how to see in the dark? Did they not teach you that?”
Marines are taught how to see effectively in the dark without the use of NVGs. I remembered the four minute period of instruction from two years prior. “Since everyone is issued NVGs, this doesn’t really matter anymore but maybe you’ll need to know this if your batteries fail.” Fantastic. I scrambled to remember what I was taught.
Completely immerse yourself in darkness. Cover one of your eyes and slightly close the other. Let the slightly open eye focus on an object that you know exists. Gradually open that eye, and then repeat with your second eye.
I felt my pupils dilate painfully as I strained to see. If someone shined a flashlight in my eyes, or flicked on headlights, I would be blinded. Hell, the other Marine would be blinded worse. NVGs collect and expand limited light so full light would burn the eyeballs of anyone wearing their NVGs.
The moon was small and distant but it allowed me to see some stuff. I began to notice the edges of the buildings around us. There was a rooftop across the street and directly in front of me. I could see the rooftop over the wall that I was behind.
There was a noise down the street and the other Marine and I swung our rifles up and faced the noise. I couldn’t see anything.
“It’s someone running between the buildings. Probably kids fucking with us.”
We waited with our rifles engaged for a few minutes before I swung back to “look” down my side of the street. I gazed into darkness.
When was the last time I peed? I haven’t peed since…I did some calculations…holy shit it’s been almost 24 hours. I’m dehydrated.
I picked up my camelbak nozzle and guzzled some water.
Too much. That was too much.
The sound of someone running towards us washed over us. I wasn’t scared. I knew that run. It was Sgt. P, running through the streets of this town in darkness, by himself. His run wasn’t frantic, it was necessary.
He just ran away from the patrol, by himself. What a crazy motherfucker. He must know these streets like the back of his hand.
“Hey, y’all doing okay here?”
“Yeah, we are good, it’s decently qui-”
There were gunshots that rang out.
“GET DOWN GET DOWN DOWN DOWN DOWN!”
I felt 260 pounds slam into my body and shove me to the ground, landing on me. The water in my stomach sloshed and my head cracked against the wall. Sgt. P leapt back up with his rifle pointed directly at the rooftop across the street. I looked up just in time to see a flash of white fleeing.
“GET THE FUCK BACK HERE, YOU COWARDLY MOTHERFUCKER!”
Sgt. P was livid. I couldn’t breathe. 260 pounds is a lot to take at a full tackle. I got to my feet shakily and engaged my rifle around anywhere I could see. If red is the color of anger, and blue is the color of calmness, white is the color of fear. I could suddenly see everything sharpened and clear and bright, like a floodlight was washing over the scene.
Catching my breath, I was choking on the air and my words.
“What the fuck was that?”
Sgt P was yelling into his radio.
“Target headed towards the west edge, fleeing the rooftop across from the compound. Move in that direction and watch yourselves.”
He yelled at me as he ran away.
“Stay the FUCK down.”
The other Marine was stunned.
“He was aiming at your head.”
That wall was 62 inches tall. With my boots and Kevlar on, I was 64 inches.
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