Remember how I said that I got to bed around 0515 on Wednesday morning? Well I was woken up around 1100 that morning to the sound of lots of talking. As I lay there listening to the conversations around me it was obvious what was happening. Old friends were being reunited. If I didn'tmention it, the guys from Kandahar, down south in Afghanistan, had arrived in Manas two days before we did. Most of us had not seen these guys the entire year so it was the first time that we had all been together.
It was great to see old friends. Of course the main topic of conversation were the adventures of the last year. Listening to some of these guys tell their stories raised the hair on the back of my neck.
A couple of my friends stopped by my bunk (I still hadn't gotten out of bed yet) and shared their experiences. Since you already know my boring stories let me share the highlights of what I was hearing. I was amazed at the number of fire fights some of these guys were in. I know it wasn't as often as it seemed as I listened to them tell their stories, but it seemed like it was an every day occurrence. It was interesting to listen to them comment how small arms fire directed towards the convoy was not seen as a big deal.
One of my friends said that when the Taliban would start shooting with their AK 47's, he would just get a little bit lower inthe turret. He explained that the Taliban were not very good shots so after time they just figured that the only real precaution was to just hunker down a bit lower. RPG's (rocket propelled grenades) on the other hand, were cause for taking more evasive maneuvers. Apparently the sound they make is much more intimidating than an AK47 - I would imagine so, and as you can imagine, does quite a lot more damage. One of our guys had over 50 confirmed kills. What a sobering thought and to listen to them tell their stories, it was in a days business. War is ugly and death occurs but to listen to someone tell of the firefights, of returning fire, of seeing an enemy fall to the ground as the result of you pulling the trigger, seemed completely surreal, at least for someone who has never had that experience. know that this particular soldier is not alone in having that many confirmed kills. There are a number of our guys with similiar experiences. I can only wonder and imagine what it was like but am grateful not have gone through those experiences.
A friend of mine was telling me that the philosopy of the ANA is that just because the enemey runs out of bullets does not mean that they are surrendering. He said that he asked about that after one particular brutal firefight. He said he knew that the enemy had run out of ammunition first but there were no prisoners taken. He said that's when the ANA made the comment. He said he never personally witnessed the finishing off of the enemy but that it was obviously taking place.
I was told that the Taliban were extremely good at pretending to be dead or wounded. My friend said that you could shoot in the ground near them, kick dirt in their faces, do all manner of things designed to get them to move and they wouldn't. He said that their hope was that you would get too close so they could attack you. I could only imagine the training the Taliban must have gone through to become so disciplined. Scary thought.
I heard lots of stories about ambushes; on both sides. One guy said that they were proceeding up a valley when they ran into an ambush. He said that he and one other gunner were returning fire in two different sectors of fire. He said that he looked in between his and the other gunner's position said that time slowed down, just like in the movies. He said that as he was reorienting his weapon to engage the Taliban he saw the Taliban squeeze the trigger and watched the grenade coming towards his position. The enemy overshot their position, that it flew overhead and impacted quite some distance from their position but like I said before, as I listended to the story, it raised the hair on the back of my neck; not just from the story itself but from the nonchalant way in which the story was told.
In one instance an exchange of observers was taking place. Two uparmored vehicles had remained behind and the rest of the convoy had left. He said they got word that they had come under attack so quickly left their position to support the convoy up ahead of them. He said as they arrived on scene they saw several Taliban run towards their motorcylces in an attempt to escape and once again, very matter of factly described "taking out" the enemy. Again, these stories reflected common occurrences that some of my friends experience all throughout the year.
I'm sure after this gets posted I'll remember other stories and maybe will compile a list to post later but as I listened I realized that my legal stories had nothing on these guys. Of course my mission was completely different than theirs and the success I achieved was very different than theirs but there was a part of me that wished my mission had been a little more exciting. I know there are many of you out there that are grateful that I was not involved in any of these kinds of incidents, me being one of them, but I don't know that you can fully understand the feeling of thinking "I wish that had been me, just once" unless you've been here. I can't explain it but maybe it's the fact that I've been in a combat zone and didn't see a single day of combat. I know, that should be a good thing but still...Call me crazy.