While serving in Kajaki Afghanistan during the spring of 2011, our police advisor team made camp aboard FOB Z near the Helmand lake. The FOB was an old stronghold of the kings, then later, the Russians and now us. We were staying in an old ruin of a structure. The exterior walls were constructed of stacked bricks covered in river mud to make an adobe paste. The same mud lined the interior walls then covered in a white paste which dried bright starch and easily took color.
We had been in the building for only a couple of days. It wasn’t much to look at, just a small house with one large room and two smaller. There was a courtyard which offered some privacy from passersby. Really the only complaint was the neighbors, two triple-7 Howitzers that would launch a 155 mm round over 30 kilometers in any direction. Canon concussions are loud, they wreak havoc on the ear drum…and pound the heart off rhythm. Our bedding is only yards away from the gun line.
Late one night while we lay on cots asleep in the warm air of the Afghan spring a voice called out.
Now the gun line bustled with frenzied Marines who were acting on muscle memory alone. The fire direction center had spun up a mission and the charges were set. Breach closed and locked, the gun prepped with the line hanging slack—then taught……”FIRE!!!”
With a pull of the cord, the round fired. Powder in the charge igniting as the primer was struck. Fire burning hot, creating pressure behind the massive round. In a split second the magnificent contraption spews precision targeted hatred toward the enemy.
-falling rubble has caused our Marines to slide their cots into the middle of the main room.
Another round goes blazing downrange toward northern Sangin. Marines on the gun line scramble to get their weapons back into the fight. Ready and waiting but the call comes to stand down.
-we blink bleary eyed through the darkness and watch as they scramble, then fade back to sleep….
BOOM! Another massive explosion a few hours later, this time without warning. The guns were set and holding from the stand down. Team frantically reloading—-another round downrange.
The concussion causes rubble to shake from the walls of our house. Dust fills the air and we tuck deep within our sleeping bags to hide from the mess.
BOOM!! Another concussion 20 minutes later; somebody was in a firefight and having fun.
Dust, rubble, concussion…..silence.
In the morning we wake to heat, unbearable heat and flies buzzing through open, unscreened, windows.
The Marines who once lay in the middle of the room now slept peacefully in the center, still in their cots. All around them lay rubble. Massive chunks of wall which could easily crush a man had fallen all throughout the night, landing where the Marines had been sleeping.
Round after round of exploding artillery had concussed the building to hard that the foundation was literally crumbling and bringing the house down around with it.
Luckily we made it through the night and moved into another structure down the hill…. in a quieter neighborhood.
Only seven more months of war to go.
Mike served 8 years in the Marine Corps infantry, deploying three times to combat; 2 tours to Ramadi Iraq and 1 to Kajaki/Sangin Afghanistan. After leaving the Corps in 2012, Mike set out as an entrepreneur. He's now the co-host of Cigars and Sea Stories, VP of business development with LifeFlip Media and director of programs at Bunker Labs RDU. Mike is a voice actor and regularly contributes to outside publications such as The War Horse and American Grit.
When he's not toiling away in the office, Mike enjoys spending time shooting, hunting and, hanging out in nature. In the evening you'll find him out on the deck puffing a stogie and sharing sea stories with his fellow Marines.... and Doc.
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