About 2 dozen people gathered in the MWR center for the New Year’s Eve party. We had a couple pans of chicken wings and snacks from the DFAC. Prior to the official countdown, the entertainment was being provided by camp personnel singing karaoke. I don’t think you will see any of these folks auditioning for American Idol, but they were having fun crooning their favorite songs. Then at midnight, we had an official countdown even though everyone’s watch in the room varied by up to 12 minutes apart. Unfortunately we aren’t allowed any alcohol and had to settle for some bubbly grape juice in a corked bottle.
I returned to my room around 1230 am and woke up 5 hours later to prepare
for our mission. I don’t plan to make that a habit, because I was a bit tired today. But since we were only going a few kilometers outside the camp, the effect would be minimal. The newest members of our merged Brigade team wanted some practice on the crew serve weapons and some additional shooting of their personal weapons.
So we convoyed out to the range. I drove an MRAP and was followed by several up-armored Humvees. For some of my passengers, this was the first time they ever rode in an MRAP. The road leading out to the range was clear, but the surrounding mountains still had a little bit of snow on them. Since the range is still littered with anti-tank and anti-personnel mines from the Soviet era, I had no desire to get any closer to the snow. A few months ago, one of the mine clearers was killed trying to defuse a mine.
We positioned our targets and vehicles mounted with various weapons. Meanwhile, some of my teammates practiced shooting their M-4 rifles at targets located 100 meters (330 yards)
away. The weaponry we use is very accurate. Individuals were given a chance to shoot the M-240 machine gun with the aid of a bipod while lying down on the ground and then also while its mounted in the turret. I chose to practice shooting the M-240 while standing up. I did this once before and my teammate created a video of it. I don’t
shooting up at steep angles. We also shot the Mark-19 loaded with high explosive rounds.
The M-2 nicknamed Ma-Deuce or better known as the .50 caliber machine gun was another crew serve weapon used today. We were shooting at targets over 1200 meters away. The thundering crack from it is deafening and it echoed throughout the
mountain range and down into the nearby valleys. These echoes are the signal for the villagers that we are shooting and their chance to collect our brass casings. They collect the casings and sell them for scrap metal. It took about 2 hours before the first villagers arrived. They were two young boys around the ages of 7 and 8. They came prepared with empty feed sacks in hopes of making some money from collecting the spent casings. By the time we finished shooting, 8 boys had gathered.
Normally the crowd is much larger, but the ANA soldiers have become greedy and beat the kids and take the brass for themselves. We were determined not to let to let this happen and ensure the kids would get the brass today. One of
the smaller boys was no older than 4 or 5 years old. I put my helmet on his head and posed with him for a picture. Some of my teammates also took turns in trying to entertain the kids so they wouldn’t get near the shooting area. These kids have no fear and often they are only 20 yards away or sit off to the side on hilltops while we shoot. Trying to
chase them off has become a futile effort too.
One of my teammates, an Army National Guard Lt (who is also a school teacher) gave a boy one of his pens he had secured on his uniform. This almost started a fight among the other boys and they held out their hands demanding a pen too. The Lt only had 4 pens and he gave 3 of them out and kept one
for himself. I used this as an opportunity to detail about my school supply drive. As a result, he is going to contact his school and conduct a supply drive. Coincidentally, we will be working jointly on other humanitarian projects in the future. One of our future plans is to purchase desks, chalkboards, etc. and then supply the school with the school supplies that have been donated to me.
After we were done shooting, we moved the vehicles away from the mounds of spent brass casings. Then we gave the Afghan children permission to pick up the brass. Our Sergeant Major made it conditional that they didn’t fight with each other and if they found any live rounds to give them back to us. If they didn’t obey his orders, he would make them leave and the 2 ANA soldiers standing nearby would get all of the brass casings. Surprisingly, the boys followed his instructions. Their only problem was they collected so much brass casings; it was too heavy for them to carry.
We let the boys collect what they could carry and watched them depart. It was 2 pm and we missed chow. The rest of our day we spent stripping down the weapons and cleaning them. I feel very confident in all of our gunners and look forward to going out on future missions with them.
Note: I could not locate my camera instruction booklet. So I never did figure out how to adjust my camera settings. My picture of the blue moon illuminating the palace didn’t come out as planned. Also, I forgot to wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope your resolutions come true.
Filed under: Missions, Videos Tagged: | .50 caliber machine gun, Afghan National Army, Afghanistan, Blue Moon, crew serve weapons, Deployment, M-2, M-240 machine gun, M-4 rifle, Ma-Deuce, Mark-19, shooting M-240 while standing up, target practice, war