The ride north on the “Highway of Death” was pretty much a repeat of the drive south. We stopped at a few more ANA COPs and OPs. At one OP, a herd of sheep was roaming freely about. I didn’t see anyone guiding them, but the thought of savory taste of lamb kabobs was starting to fill my head. Maybe it was because we didn’t have lunch yet.
Also notice in the other picture how a large truck is transporting a vehicle on its roof. This is a common sight here.
We came upon a bridge that was being heavily guarded by the ANA. As usual, the ANA general saw this as an opportunity to meet and greet his men. After our Marine Lance Corporal checked out the bridge, my MRAP crossed over and we pulled off the side of the road next to a small village and
established security. Originally the village children were engaged in a game of volleyball, but the sight of our MRAP piqued their interest. Our convoy commander (AF Captain) saw this as an opportunity to meet and treat the children. He decided to share a bag of red licorice with them. Initially only 3-4 children approached him cautiously, but when the
other children saw him handing out licorice, others came running for their share too.
Our convoy continued our journey to FOB Airborne. Our MRAPs were becoming thirsty for fuel from the long trip. Before arriving there we listened attentively to the external radio traffic. U.S. soldiers discovered an IED on the highway near COP Conlon. This
was going to be our next stop after we refueled at Airborne. Another group also located some leftover cluster bombs. We were certain that the Explosive Ordinance Disposal team would neutralize the explosives, so we didn’t pay much more attention to it and continued with our journey north-bound.
We arrived at FOB Airborne and filled up the
large diesel tanks on the MRAP and prepared for the next segment of our trip. The chow hall tent was still open too. Even though it wasn’t serving hot entrees, they still had a sandwich bar and some hot chili stewing. The soup and sandwich meal was good, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about lamb kabobs. When prepared properly, the lamb raised in the Middle East is much tastier than the domestic lamb in the United States. I still haven’t pinpointed why, but the flavor is much different, even when I cook the lamb at home.
While at Airborne my eyes started to itch and became sensitive to the sun light. At the time, I didn’t give it much thought because there are so much dust and pollution particles in the air, this is a common occurrence. The sun was slowly setting and we were losing daylight fast. The command was given to board the trucks and depart for COP
Conlon. The goal was to make it there before dark. Somehow we missed the turnoff and our ANA counterparts took us to the ANA COP. It took a few minutes to get sorted out, but the ANA general would accompany us back to COP Conlon.
It was during this
segment of driving, my eyes became very sensitive to on-coming traffic. It didn’t help matters that most people travel with their high beams on because there are no pole lights on the side to illuminate the road and since the villages don’t have electricity, very little light was being emitted from their wood-burning stoves. Needless to say, it was pitch dark and difficult to see the road. I kept my focus on the vehicle’s taillights ahead of me so I wouldn’t run off the road.
COP Conlon was named in honor of PFC Paul E. Conlon who died Aug 15, 2008 after his vehicle struck an IED and then received small-arms fire and RPG fire. In June, prior to his death, he was injured and received a Purple Heart, but refused to go home and stayed with his team. This Mashpee, MA resident and hero was only 21 years old when his life was taken in Wardak Province. 1Lt Donald Carwile who I mentioned earlier (re: COP Carwile) was also in the same vehicle when PFC Conlon perished.
I’m uncertain whether COP Conlon was expecting us or our itinerary had changed. Initially, they had no room for us to stay. So they improvised by clearing out the gym tent and we set up 20 cots inside of the make-shift gym. All of the hot water was consumed, so I waited until 1130 pm to take a hot shower. Just as I finished, the hot water ran out again. My eye situation had worsened and I set out on my own to find the medic. For security reasons, no white light is used, so I resorted to my headlamp and utilized my red light. Barely able to see with the lamp and one eye, I stumbled into the mortar pit by accident. Fortunately I caught myself on both hands and knees, preventing any major damage.
I went back to the chow hall/MWR center. This facility houses the chow serving line, dining table made from plywood and a handful of computers and 2 telephones to contact loved ones. It was still filled with soldiers actively engaged in playing the game of Risk and people typing and chatting on the internet. As luck may have it, the medic was playing Risk and went back to his clinic and returned with some eye drops. To be cont’d …. Tomorrow my ride with the culvert clearing crew ……
Filed under: Food and living conditions, Missions Tagged: | Afghan National Army, Afghanistan, ANA, COP Conlon, ETT, Explosive Ordinance Disposal team, Eye Infection, FOB Airborne, IED, Internet access, MRAP, MWR, war, Wardak Province