War Stories: What Lies Ahead by CPL Smokey


headerOur squad had just been tasked to set up security for a new Forward Operating Base (FOB).  The reason for building a new FOB was because there was a remote roadway between the two largest FOBs in the Area of Operations (AO) that served as an egress route used by the Taliban after placing IEDs and ambushing our Main Supply Route (MSR).  Command wanted a FOB there because of the high enemy activity and to split their routes up.  Our squad had the most firepower and the senior squad leader so we were chosen.

We had machine gunners, assault men and motormen attached to the squad.  Myself and two of my guys with a M240 made up the bulk of the firepower, machine gunners.  We stepped off with enough supplies, ammo, and clothing to last us a week.  But most of us packed dip, Monsters, and cigarettes.  Our ilbes were filled to the brim and gave everyone a hunch as we patrolled.  We finally made it to the new FOB site and saw just an empty farm field. I set my team up down a road while our riflemen and assault men cleared to the site for IEDs.  The site was clear and we dug one foxhole per marine in a 360.  That was our living area and our defense, and a small camie netting with green gear made our Command Operations Center (COC).

Anyone we saw we were allowed to engage because the area was considered a tier 1 Taliban stronghold, and civilians were not allowed.  A few days went by and nothing big but a few mortars and pop shots.  Nothing close enough to legitimately engage.  Usually the side of the 360 degree that took contact opened fire at the muzzle flashes.  The problem was that we were not allowed to patrol farther than a certain matter of yards with less than ten marines.  We had more than that but still had to man three posts so any engagement we called it up and let it go. They were testing us and we all knew it.  The fourth night had just passed and we had not received contact.  Some of the boots thought it was over and that they were done, but none of us knew the fight that lied ahead of us.

The next day was hot, filled with fixing up our defense, and small security patrols around the farm field. The fire team that was sent out had returned about an hour before dawn.  We huddled around the COC for a debrief and some MREs.  Engineers and CLB were supposed to arrive two days ago to start putting up hescos and posts but because of the Marine Corps’ infinite wisdom, they had screwed up and weren’t coming for another three days.

We had communications with our company PB and tried to get vics, or more ammo and crew-serves out to us, but most of our resources were out in action.  What we did have was 24/7 air on station; usually an F-18 or at least a raven, “watching our backs.”  Our squad leader had set us up for dawn and dusk stand too with about 90% of us geared up, but the Taliban were smart and knew that already.  They waited until most of us were in our holes asleep.  The night that will change my life forever was about to unfold. Read more

Today in History: Mayflower docks at Plymouth Harbor, 1620


On December 18, 1620, the British ship Mayflower docked at modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, and its passengers prepared to begin their new settlement, Plymouth Colony.

The famous Mayflower story began in 1606, when a group of reform-minded Puritans in Nottinghamshire, England, founded their own church, separate from the state-sanctioned Church of England. Accused of treason, they were forced to leave the country and settle in the more tolerant Netherlands. After 12 years of struggling to adapt and make a decent living, the group sought financial backing from some London merchants to set up a colony in America. On September 6, 1620, 102 passengers–dubbed Pilgrims by William Bradford, a passenger who would become the first governor of Plymouth Colony–crowded on the Mayflower to begin the long, hard journey to a new life in the New World. Read more

Soldier Responds To Letter From A First Grader


Dear Mackenzie,

Thanks for your kind words. The support of young Americans like you makes everything we do feel at least marginally worthwhile. But let’s get a few things straight.

First of all, I’m not your friend. In fact, I specifically tried to avoid receiving this letter to save myself the burden of writing you back.

Second, your black-and-white characterization of this conflict grossly misunderstands the complexity of modern warfare and, indeed, the folly of declared war against any group as broadly unspecific as “the terrorists.”

This isn’t World War II, and the extent to which I am “good” and the enemy is “bad” is subject to debate — just ask anyone who’s ever woken up to a Hellfire landing in the backyard. It’s inaccurate, in any case, to suggest that we’re here fighting any sort of unified adversary. On a given day, I couldn’t tell you if I’m being shot at by Taliban, Haqqani, Hezb-e Isalmi, Taj Mir Jawad, or the Afghan National Army. At a certain point, when you’re surrounded by people who hate you, there comes a time for looking inward. Read more