We had just returned from our ANA Memorial Service mission and were in our cubicles unpacking our gear. Word came down to repack our gear and plan for a multi-day mission. We were tasked to escort a brand new Kandak (several hundred soldiers) and a hundred vehicles to their new location. The original plan was to meet our vehicles at 1000 hrs and get them ready for the mission, then depart later in the afternoon.
We met at our vehicles with our gear, weapons, etc. and started our normal routine of preparing them, inspecting them, refueling, etc. Everything was going according to plan. We would meet again at 2 pm and prepare to depart. This is when we started having problems. The first issue we had was a mechanical problem with the 50 cal. Machine gun. We weren’t able to fix it, so we swapped it out for another crew serve weapon. In the interim, when I went to pull forward with my MRAP, it wouldn’t budge and kept rolling backwards. The mechanics came out and started to work on it. Meanwhile, I worked out a deal to borrow another MRAP. But this meant unloading the vehicle, weapons, ammo, gear, etc. When my gunner crawled up on the hood with the M-240 machine gun, he slipped and fell into my windshield and metal hood. As a result, he injured his wrist (unknown at this time, he fractured it) and we would have to find a replacement for him. While we waited for the new gunner to pack his bag and get ready, we encountered some communication problems while installing the radios. All of these delays were adding up.
Despite the delays, we could still meet our deadline. Originally we were visiting another FOB and were planning to spend the night and then wake up at 2 am to start the next leg of the mission. About this time, we received word about the suicide bombing at Camp Phoenix. Based on our original plan, we should have been passing Camp Phoenix when the suicide attack occurred. So these delays were a good thing. Around 7 pm, a decision was made to meet back at the MRAPs at 11 pm with a departure of midnight and then we would stay awake all of the next day.
I returned to my room and managed to get an hour of rest. It was too early to sleep and I wanted to get something to eat before we left. By now it was pouring down rain too. My ruck sack with all my clean clothes and gear was strapped to the outside of the MRAP and was saturated. There was no time to repack and everyone met at 11 pm in the rain. A little bit of rain wasn’t going to stop the mission.
We departed our camp around midnight and drove through the heart of the capital city. Due to lack of street lights it was pitch black outside. The glare of the rain and approaching traffic using their high beams was blinding at times. It was eerily quiet and the city was vacant, almost like a ghost town.
We arrived at our destination and saw a large parking lot of empty ANA vehicles. In a few hours, the thundering roar of 100 vehicles would reverberate as we would set out on the next segment of our journey….driving through Kabul with a convoy that stretched over 2 miles long. To be cont’d………