I was unable to sleep at night and kept pawing at my eyes. The eye drops the medic gave me provided little relief. Around 0530 hrs, someone turned on a fluorescent light and I retreated from it like a vampire. My right eye had become red and swollen and was extremely sensitive to any light. I pulled my knitted hat down over one eye in attempt to block out the penetrating light rays. It was time to inform the convoy commander of the bad news. I was unable to drive and needed to seek treatment. The closest treatment center would be FOB Airborne.
Another AF Captain came up with a solution. He coordinated my transport with another convoy that was already planning to go there. This convoy was known as the culvert clearing crew. This team had the responsibility of searching for IEDs that might have been placed under the highway and into the culverts. The culverts provide an easy access for the insurgents because they don’t have to waste time and energy to dig a hole to hide the IED. I also knew this would be a long and laborious task, but it was the only choice available and I eagerly agreed to ride with them.
I managed to eat some chow before meeting up with my new team. Everything was cold to include the eggs, hash browns, and sausage links. But the coffee was hot and I mixed in a packet of hot chocolate to make a Mocha. My ETT team leader inspired this idea and now I am hooked on these things. Granted it it’s not Starbucks, but it’s pretty tasty.
My Brigade team packed up the MRAPs and departed COP Conlon. They were continuing with their mission and driving west in the Wardak Province to visit some more COPs. I really wanted to be with them, but my eyes had become my priority.
I met the clearing crew and was placed in the back of a Max Pro MRAP. It’s been a long time since I was a dismount (passenger) because normally I am a driver, convoy commander, truck commander and on rare occasions; crawl up into the gunner’s turret. But being a dismount, you get a different perspective of the countryside and are able to look over the mud-brick walls and see life and people interacting, children playing, etc. This view is usually obscured from the front because the focus is on traffic and the road in front of you.
For OPSEC reasons, I will only generalize. The culvert clearing crew is responsible for ensuring the culverts are clear of any IEDs or obstructions. It’s a long and tedious process and such was the case today. Unfortunately due to my eye irritation and low charge on my camera battery, I was unable to take pictures. Instead, I just absorbed the view as we drove through patchworks of orchards, fields and primitively built houses. The villagers cautiously watched our vehicles as we drove past. It was hard to tell what the villagers were thinking, especially the older men. They have persevered through 30 years of war with the Soviets, civil strife, Taliban terror and now 8 years of seeing coalition forces on their native land. It’s almost impossible to empathize because we only stay here for one year and can’t fathom the hardships they have endured.
My crew dropped me off at FOB Airborne and I went to the Temporary Medical Clinic (TMC) for treatment. The Army Sgt made a quick diagnosis and prescribed me some antibiotics and eye drops and sent me on my way. Later on, I caught up with my AF MSgt teammate. He helped me secure some VIP quarters through the Army Sgt Major. I had plans to
spend the night and then rejoin my team the next day. This was also an opportunity to catch up on some rest, but around 2 pm, my Brigade Sgt Major woke me up. They finished their mission early and we were departing for our home camp in 20 minutes. So I quickly packed my stuff and met the rest of my team. Once again I would be a dismount in the back of the MRAP as we proceeded east back through the outskirts of the capital city. I was looking forward to returning to camp and to my small cubicle.