Regular readers will remember SFC John Post from his time in Georgia training with Latvian soldiers and his subsequent tour to Afghanistan. John is back in the US and this is an update on the end of his tour. This is part I of his latest letter.
I actually have returned to the States. Presently I am situated at Fort Polk, Louisiana, safe from everything but boredom. The newsletters are about a month behind actual events.
The following newsletter covers the end of our “Patrol crazy” month, summarizes indirect fire attacks on the FOB (Forward Operating Base) and preparation for returning home.
Our training with the Afghan National Army (ANA) has slowly petered off. Our company of ANA is now working with the local US Army Company. Together they conduct planning, logistics, training and missions. Eventually we only tag along occasionally and try to work out conflicts between them.
The patrol crazy month continued. Depending on the mission I was driver, dismounted security, commander’s aid, turret gunner or remote turret operator but always the guy who linked the US Army with my Latvian teammates. At times this was annoying but for the most part I believe both parties appreciated this. I’d spent so much time with my Latvian teammates I could pretty much read their minds even if they were struggling to put thoughts into English. Most of the time this wasn’t necessary as my Latvian commander spoke excellent English that was easy to understand. The Americans appreciated this because I used common army vocabulary and procedures, keeping my communications short and concise.
After the last death march when I heard we were to soon go on another one I was filled with dread. I’d altered my exercise regiment to be even more cardio and core focused exercises but it had only been a week. I rearranged my plate carrier to lighten and more evenly distribute the weight.
The day of the foot patrol as usual we gathered in front of the US Company’s headquarters at O’dark thirty (really, really early). I was the guy responsible for making radio checks with the American Company then ensuring I could communicate with the my Latvian Commander and Latvian Joint Terminal Attack Controller(JTAC). The ANA showed up with two of their Ford Ranger trucks for extra fire power (each with a mounted 240 Machine Gun), carrying additional ammunition and equipment (as well as for an impromptu ambulance). I fell into line behind my commander so I could relay communication to/from him. It was almost dusk when we moved out of the FOB’s (Forward Operating Base) gate.
The villages we were going to visit were probably a mile (1.3 km) away in straight line distance. Of course, the newest concept of moving in a straight line hasn’t quite hit Eastern Afghanistan so our marching distance at least doubled if not tripled. As expected when we hit our first incline I burst into a waterfall of perspiration at the mildest exertion. As I’ve said before I look terrible whenever I exert myself. At the same time I’ve never been a heat casualty. But everyone seems they need to grab a defibrillator as soon as they see me. Case in point; the US’s Platoon Sergeant passed by me and asked “You going to make it?” We were of the same rank and I picked up a hint of condescension. Defensively my mind came up with the appropriate response “I’m three years older than you, look ten years younger and will probably live longer!!!” Of course, what I actually said was “Yep!” with a smile and big thumbs up (instead of my first digit choice).
My sweaty mass continued to chug along until we hit our first village. There we conferred with the ANA and American leadership to set up security in for the key leader’s engagement. This was pretty tough considering we had to secure the middle of a village with winding roads and paths going up and down the side of a steep hill. It didn’t take too long for them to figure it out. Soon the area was locked down and the meeting began.
(to be continued)
SFC John Post
Operational Mentoring Liason Team III