After numerous delays our convoy was on the road. We drove to another location and swapped out our HMMVWs for some MRAP vehicles. The MRAPs would enhance our capabilities. By mid afternoon, we finally arrived at our staging location. It still looked the same with the drab color landscape and bombed out buildings. The sun was blistering hot and we were all hungry because we didn’t have lunch and breakfast was a Pop Tart or some other readily available snack. Before we could eat we still had to set up the camp site.
On a previous scout mission we found the ideal location to establish our camp. This site would provide protection, shade, and be large enough to accommodate the team. We utilized the steel beams of what remained of a bombed out 2 story house to affix our ropes and tarps. We tied 4 large tarps together and then attached them to the MRAPs. It wasn’t pretty, but it would suffice.
While the team was tying off the last ropes and setting up their cots, an AF SSgt and I set up a make shift cooking area. We fired up the charcoal and he cooked hamburgers for everyone.
Later in the evening a group of ANA soldiers stopped by to visit one of our interpreters. I used this as an opportunity to learn more about this site and the previous battles that took place. The entire site is a graveyard of old rusting Soviet tanks. During the Soviet occupation this was an active base until 1988 when they withdrew. They left in such a hurry; they didn’t take all of their tanks with them. During this next period various warlords from the Mujahedeen were dividing the country and establishing their own governmental systems and fighting against the communist established government.
Meanwhile the Taliban had their own agenda and was flowing in from Pakistan. They were educated in the madrasas and were tasked to implement strict Sharia law. By 1994, the Taliban had enough strength to capture Kandahar from a local warlord, thus the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban.
The Taliban promised security to the people, so the village [we were protecting] gave them a chance. When they discovered how corrupt the Taliban were they chased the Taliban out.
The Taliban returned with larger forces and committed cruel atrocities and killed a lot of people. The people with the help of the Northern Alliance warlord Massoud retaliated against the Taliban. The town then established their own resistance government and planted thousands of landmines. The Taliban tried to overrun the camp and their forces fell victim to the landmine fields.
This would only be a temporary setback. The Taliban herded hundreds of sheep for their next attack. From the mountains they dropped mortars on this camp site and destroyed many of the buildings. Then they forced the sheep into the landmine fields. According to the soldier, a lot of sheep were blown up, but this allowed an opening for the Taliban to retake the town and the opposing forces retreated. It will take the mine clearers until 2012 to clear this site of all the landmines planted by the Soviets and the former resistance government.
The ANA soldier also told me a funny story about the camel spiders present at the camp. While another soldier prayed a camel spider approached him. The soldier kept praying but kept one eye on the spider while performing his daily ritual. Apparently he was praying fervently and his faith kept the spider away. The soldiers have fallen prey to the urban legends about camel spiders that spread during the Gulf War by US soldiers and believe the spiders can jump 3 feet in the air and are venomous.
After my history lesson of the camp site, the ANA colonel invited our team over for dinner. In typical fashion, we all sat cross-legged on the floor next to the ANA officers. The meal consisted of cooked fish rolled inside a piece of Naan bread garnished by platters of sliced tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Also for his American guests, we were treated to orange soda pop and Coca Cola. For dessert, we enjoyed locally grown pears and melons. In between the electricity flickering off and on, it was a fun night of conversation and I joked with the colonel about being on donkey patrol for the elections.
By now it was pitch dark and everyone was tired. In a few hours it would be my turn to pull guard duty for the night. I laid down in my cot for a combat nap and then went on guard duty from 2300 hrs until 0200 hrs. While on duty and scanning the mountains, I was distracted by the sight of shooting stars streaking across the star lit sky. I saw 7 shooting stars that night.
After my shift was up, I returned to my cot for some badly needed sleep.