Our convoy was screaming down the road, traffic got out of our way in a hurry, as most would when multiple multi-ton armed vehicles packed full of pissed off soldiers are in their rearview mirror. We shouldn’t have even been out in sector this night, mostly because we got back from another patrol only a few hours prior, and it was the other squads turn to roll out but there we were.
The Afghan National Army had received a tip from a kid saying his dad was Taliban, and that he had weapons in his house somehow this got sent to us. We never work with the Afghan Army, we work with the Afghan Police. The area they got the tip from wasn’t even in my company’s battle space but again, there we were.
Everyone in the trucks were bitching and complaining, my Team Leader kept saying the whole thing was a trap, my driver kept saying we were all going to die. I just sat in the back seat and tried not to fall asleep.
We pulled into the District Center, were the Afghan Army and their embedded US trainers lived. Our squad leader got out of the truck and went inside to try to figure out what was going on, everyone in the trucks got out stretched their legs and lit cigarettes.
My driver kept spitting nasty dark brown wads of tobacco spit all over the place and pissing in the dirt next to our truck, also known as where other people lived in full view of the US trainers and ANA soldiers. No one told him to stop. No one ever tells anyone in our squad to stop, I think they see our level of disturbance and anger and let us do our thing.
We were sitting there for a few hours we all got bored so I tried dipping some of my driver’s Copenhagen and had to spit it out quickly as I almost vomited all over myself. Thankfully our squad leader emerged from the planning room looking angry as hell stomping back over to the trucks.
“Stupid fucks don’t know where the house is” he snarled, “We have to follow the Afghans”. This idea was a hundred times worse then it sounded at the time. Like I said before we weren’t going to be working in a area that we really knew, and we were going to let a bunch of Afghan soldiers bring us into the unknown. Also the Afghans didn’t know where the house was either, they had the kid.
The one that was trying to turn his dad in, in one of their trucks and he was telling them where to go. We didn’t bother pointing out the terrible flaws in this plan as it obviously wasn’t our idea; we just cursed and got back in our trucks.
We traveled down the main drag in our part of town, squeezing in between cars, horses, donkeys, and food carts, probably hitting a few in the process. People threw rocks at us; they bounced uselessly off the side of our armored behemoth of a truck. Old men franticly pushed their carts out of the way as we tore down the road, the Afghan Army pickup truck in the lead didn’t seem to care about the chaos we were causing as we drove, they were riding in a tiny Ford Ranger going about sixty randomly pointing their weapons at people who wandered too close to their truck.
They hooked a right down a shitty dirt road, one we knew was the boundary to our battle space.It is true that all US Army vehicles have GPS maps in them, but all of ours had been broken since day one in the country and had never been fixed. And this being the twenty-first century Army, no one had brought a paper map. We just shut up and followed the Afghans.
The dirt road got smaller and smaller, the rickety buildings with their obvious lack of any building code or standard started encroaching on the shitty track of dirt we were driving on. We parked our trucks which at this point almost touched the buildings on each side of the road. We left our gunners in the truck to make sure no one messed with them and dismounted.
Though I was a gunner at the time my team leader told me to come with him. As the building next to my truck was too tall to see over, therefore I was staring directly at a wall and my mounted weapon was as useless as the plan we were currently executing.
We walked down the street about another hundred meters and the kid stopped at a house, the Afghan Army soldiers went in first and found the whole thing empty. I got stuck outside the house with another soldier to make sure no one tried to get into the house while the rest of our guys were inside.
It turns out the cache the kid was talking about were buried inside his Dad’s compound. Meaning underneath five feet of dirt and cement. Thankfully Afghan cement isn’t what you would think of; most contracting companies in Afghanistan are seriously corrupt and skimp on actual cement mix. Mixing it with about 90% dirt and sprinkling real cement mix on top to give it the right color before building.
So we could feasible still dig through it. Now being Americans we weren’t going to do this labor ourselves, so we gave a pickaxe to the nearest Afghan Soldier and pointed to the ground. Unfortunately the Afghans couldn’t do it all on their own, so two of our soldiers jumped in the small hole the ANA made and started digging. Before long they had a hole that was several feet deep but had nothing to show for it.
We were getting ready to quit when a old woman wearing a off white dress and head cover, her face looked like old leather and she only had one visible tooth that jutted stubbornly from her bottom jaw came out of a back room we had apparently forgotten to search.
She started pointing franticly at a different spot, a spot inside the damn house. Our interpreter Hamid, said she was trying to tell us we were digging in the wrong spot that the cache was in the house, under the foundation.
Afghan soldiers chipped away slowly at the foundation of the house. Only making a little progress, we again sat down and did nothing while they worked. Before long they quit and our guys took their turn chipping away at the cement until a sizable hole started being formed. That’s when our squad leader saw plastic bags embedded in the dirt at the bottom.
He reached in and pulled them out; inside we found what we came for.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” He cursed, inside the bag was a landmine, a few grenade bodies, and four grenade fuses, and it looked old as hell.
“I dug into a god damn house for that?” One of the soldiers said sitting down in his hole. Even the Afghans looked disappointed. Our squad leader lined up the weapons on the ground to get a picture of them for the paperwork we were going to have to do later. He told Hamid to tell the Afghans that we were going to call EOD (explosive Ordinance Disposal) so they could come out here and either blow up the weapons, or take them away. The ANA did not like this idea.
The officer in charge of the Afghan platoon out with us rejected any idea of EOD coming out. He said they were going to bring the weapons in to the District Center. Our squad leader told him that we were in charge of the scene, and EOD was going to come out, end of story.
Then our squad leader sent me and another soldier out to the street to start evacuating the surrounding houses. In case of the off chance something exploded we didn’t want any civilians to be killed, that would make us look bad.
He and I knocked on the next house over, the scrap metal door rattled on its badly made hinges. The group of Afghan soldiers outside immediately stepped forward and yelled at us, as our Pashto is as good as our French, we didn’t understand a single damn word they were saying. Our squad leader gave us an order so we knocked again. This time a lot harder.
Then all hell broke loose.
Something that sounded oddly like metal sliding against metal filled the air. Then a distinct clack, The Afghan soldiers across from He and I had locked and loaded their weapons. All of the Afghan soldiers around had done the same thing, they were all facing us.
Our weapons were already loaded. My M249 Machine Gun, two-hundred rounds of belt fed, armor piercing anger was at my shoulder and pointing at the Afghans before I even thought about it.
“Drop it mother fucker!” I screamed, another soldier was on one knee to my side.
“Gun!” He was screaming “Sergeant! They are drawing on us out here!” the sound of racking rifles was all around us. Afghans came running in at all angles, the six of us were badly out numbered. From inside the compound the angry, thick accented voice of one of my squad mate screamed out
“Get your fucking hands off me you faggot!” Inside an Afghan soldier had walked down a flight of stairs behind him and grabbed onto his shoulder, spinning him around. He had his rifle in the soldier’s face in seconds.
Our squad leader had his rifle to the chest of the Afghan commander. Half screaming at him, half screaming at our interpreter. My team leader loaded a grenade into his launcher, pointing it at the nearest Afghan pickup truck. Its mounted weapon was pointed down the street towards us.
“What the fuck! They are taking positions around us! Get behind some cover!” My team leader yelled out, and that’s when I noticed it. The Afghan soldiers, using the ten years of training we had given them had taken up positions all around us. On the roof tops, in the alleys, everywhere, we were well and truly fucked.
“Get ready fella’s!” The squad leader was yelling out, the whole scene was one side screaming English and the other screaming Pashto. Our squad leader had contacted our camp telling them the situation. He was requesting back up immediately. Camp told us to secure the weapons, fuck the Afghans. “This cache is nothing! People are about to fucking die!” He screamed into his radio.
The empty static coming through the radio told me he had finally beaten home the seriousness of the situation to our superiors. While we were waiting for them to make a decision our back up arrived in the form of a very pissed off Platoon Sergeant and our entire sister platoon. Third Platoon’s Platoon Sergeant stomped into the scene. Sawn off shot gun in hand, with about twenty soldiers behind him and took charge of the scene and started laying into the Afghan commander.
After only a few minutes the angry screaming from the shot gun wielding mad man scared the shit out of the Afghan commander. His entire force stood down and retreated back to their trucks. It was around this time after we had almost been dead for about ten minutes, that our camp called back and told us to just give the Afghans the weapons.
A lone Afghan Soldier ran past all of us to pick up the meager cache and ran back to his buddies. We thanked third platoon for possibly saving our lives and slowly went back to our trucks, knowing the kind of people the Afghans were we didn’t put it past them to set up an ambush for us on the way back. Thankfully they didn’t, we all climbed back in our trucks and drove back to our camp, we were hungry, tired, and very pissed off.
We made it back to Camp Grizzly some time passed midnight and found that our platoon sergeant had made us dinner. We sucked down the food without chewing and explained to him what had happened. Before long I shuffled back to my tent and collapsed into my cot for a few hours of sleep.