NOTE: I may post pictures later. They're pretty "impressive" in that they show the destrutive power of such an explosive device. They show the reality of the violence that our soldiers face every day.
Well today (Tuesday, July 31, 2007), after almost a year in country, I experienced my first VBIED (vehicle born improvised explosive device – translation: suicide bomber in a vehicle). Now before you get too concerned, I was in the chow hall when it exploded but I experienced it nonetheless. Of course I’m not saying that my experience was like that of those guys who have actually been in a humvee and been hit by one but I at least caught a glimpse of what it was like.
This morning at about 0845 I was sitting in the chow hall with a bunch of Utah guys – Merrill, Jim, Larry, Damon, and a few others, when there was this loud whump, followed by a concussion. Outside I could hear the sound of breaking glass. Of course everyone in the chow hall got up and in a fairly orderly fashion “rushed” the door. When something like this happens you have to get to your assigned bunker so that roll can be taken to account for everyone.
As I walked out the door I could see the smoke plume directly across the compound on J-Bad highway. I then realized that it was most likely a VBIED. As I arrived at my bunker the rest of the office was there. Of course we engaged in a discussion of what had just happened.
While in the bunker we got reports from those who needed to be out and about. What we heard was that a convoy from the KMTC traveling to KAIA (Kabul Afghan International Airport) was hit outside our compound by the VBIED. No US deaths but some injuries. SGT Bodie, Martha Dawn, swore she heard that some KBR employees had been killed but Stanley and I called her on it and made it a “Barney Bet.” (More to follow on the “Barney Bet.”) She lost so had to make good on the “Barney Bet.” It was hilarious! After about 10 or 15 minutes in the bunker we were free to return to duty.
Just as we were getting ready to be released two Blackhawk’s showed up with gunners in the open door and circled the area. As they flew overhead pulling security it made the situation seem even more real. Let me try to explain. After the explosion there was the initial disbelief as to what had happened. After that wore off it was simply a matter of sitting in the bunker. Since we couldn’t see what was happening and we could only talk about it the reality just hadn’t set in yet. But when the choppers started circling overhead, that, for some reason, made it seem more real.
Of course the base was shut down.
Stanley had to go to the front gate. He came back with updated details. He said that he accompanied a few other soldiers outside the gate to view the scene. He said that there were body parts of the suicide bomber strewn all over the place. I’m sorry if this offends or sickens you but it’s reality. He said that the spinal column was lying out in the open. Brain matter was spewed all over the place. A pharmacy across the street had to call and ask that an arm be retrieved from off their roof. Intestines were hanging from the vehicle. Are you getting the picture? He said there really wasn’t anything left of the bomber. “Good,” I thought.
As I said, no US soldier was killed but Stanley said that from the condition of the humvee, the occupants on the side where the bomb exploded would have been pretty shaken up. I can only imagine. Update: the most serious injury were some broken bones.
As I said, we’ve had our share of Utah soldiers live through this kind of experience. I won’t try to tell you who because frankly, I don’t know. What I do know is that our up-armored vehicles save lives and it makes me angry when we are expected to drive around in what we call “thin-skinned” vehicles, in other words, non-armored vehicles. I’m just grateful that the bomber decided to hit one of the humvees and not one of the thin-skins as the results would have been vastly different. Update: since this incident occurred, we’re not allowed to travel outside the gate in thin-skinned vehicles. Go figure.
Of course we all had to discuss whether or not this would qualify us for a “combat action badge.” They’re awarded to those who see combat, are within a certain radius of something like this as well as a few other requirements. I know that there will be those who will submit themselves for the badge by virtue of being within the specified distance. In fact, Trooper was discussing that he should be eligible since he was in the chow hall, reaching for a diet Coke when the explosion took place. He said the explosion shook loose a piece of ceiling tile which fell in close proximity to him. We all suggested that he might even qualify for a Purple Heart. (I don’t mean to make light of those soldiers who have legitimately earned these awards.) Again, we could all imagine the “award-hungry” soldiers who were probably scheming just how they could get these kinds of awards. Me, I was just grateful that I wasn’t close enough to have earned it.
Martha Dawn, bless her heart, was pretty shaken up for most of the day. Her fiancé works at the KMTC and even though he wasn’t there at the time, she knew some of the guys that were. In reality, I think in our own way, we were all shaken up, just a little. For those of us who have never experienced this before I have to admit it was a little unnerving. Brought the violence that takes place elsewhere in the country too close to home.
I admit, I’ve been safe and spoiled this last year. Just the way Janae and I like it!
Here's the official Press Release:
Suicide Bomber Attack in Kabul
Kabul, Afghanistan – A suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacked a U.S. convoy today on Jalalabad road near Camp Phoenix resulting in the injury of three local nationals and four U.S. Soldiers. The bomber died as a result of the incident.
Of the injured, two U.S. Soldiers were flown to the Bagram Medical facility and two were treated at Camp Phoenix. The local nationals were treated at Camp Warehouse. The condition of the injured is unknown at this time and the incident is currently under investigation.
“This incident is a harsh reminder that we must stay vigilant in our efforts to provide stability and security to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” said Brig. Gen. Robert Livingston, Commander of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix. “Our goal right now is to ensure our Warriors and injured locals national get the best possible care and we pray for their quick recovery. I can assure you we are working with Afghan National Security Forces and our Coalition partners and we will do a complete investigation of this incident.”