COP Conlon, Eye Infection and IED

My team pulling security with the village animals.

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.

SUV being transported on top of another truck.

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

ANA OP protecting the bridge on Highway 1.

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

AF Capt handing out red licorice to the village children.

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

ANA OP proudly flies Afghan flag.

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

Overlook from ANA OP.

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.

ANA living quarters inside ANA COP.

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

My eye irritation starting to bother me.

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

PFC Paul E. Conlon

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.

Sleeping quarters at COP Conlon.

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 ……

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8 Responses

  1. Rex,

    You have a makings of a great book here.

    Stay safe. We think of you daily.

    All the best,
    Angela and Dan

  2. Rex: We’ve been following your blog daily since this last mission. Will be glad when you arrive back at your OP. Hope you get Rx for your eye condition. Just stay safe.
    Love, MOM and DAD

  3. Sir,

    Thank you for posting this blog. My son, Spc. Parker, is posted at FOB Airborne with First Rock, HHC Co. I think he may have even been in one of your pictures. It is wonderful to see your images and get more detailed information about the area and local current events. I will be following your journal closely and praying for your safe return daily. Thanks for your service.

    Keep up the good work and be well.
    SkySoldierDad

  4. I have started to follow your blog. Hope the eye infection gets better. Stay safe!!!

  5. Thanks for talking about my boys Conlon and Carwile. I was in the 506th and was the PSG of the PLT that established COP Conlon. I was there when both Conlon and Carwile died, and the COPs were established but not named until then. We only had 13 men on the ground at COP Conlon back then, and it was a daily fight to keep it from being taken from us. Take care bro and be safe.

  6. Thank you My son is heading there..it is nice to hear something about Conlon even though i don’t like any of it..God bless… praying hard and fast for you guys..

  7. I just saw your Blog. I’m Pfc Paul E. Conlon, Jr. mother. I hope your eye healed and you made home safely to your family. As you might already know COB Conlon was closed. After reading your blog and seeing your living quarter it may have been a good thing. Here’s the link if your interested. http://e-ariana.com/ariana/eariana.nsf/allDocs/3E945263525DAB7287257A4F0069F1DE?OpenDocument

    Maria Conlon

  8. Rex,
    Thank you for taking the time and mentioning both PFC. Conlon and my little brother 1Lt. Carwile in your blog. Although the COPs were named after them, they mean so much to us, their families. It was just nice to see someone taking the time to acknowledge that it was not just another hill in Afghanistan.

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