Our 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.
Then just before midnight, a large burst of pkm fire snapped over our heads. In a deep sleep, it took me a few seconds to wake up and realize what was going on. Our post facing that direction was our only crew serve out there, the M240B. My gunner instinctively called an ADDRAC and opened up. Yelling throughout the 360 erupted most of us and we threw our gear on and returned fire from our holes. As a machine gun team leader my job wasn’t that easy. There was a crew serve out there being manned by one marine, and he needed an assistant-gunner. I threw my boots and flak on, grabbed my Kevlar and rifle, then picked up two cans of 7.62 and darted to my guns post.
I remember seeing tracers wiz past my head and hearing the snap that seemed to cutout all other sounds. Just as I jumped in the hole with my gunner he needed a new can. All that training clicked in and without even thinking cleared the weapon, reloaded the rounds, and told my gunner to fire. As he let out a burst I heard a very large screeching sound followed by two thuds behind us. I looked back and saw two dust clouds and my squad leader yelling “RPGS! Motha f’ng RPGS!” My gunner and the pkm gunner traded rounds but all I could think about was if anyone got hit and just then I saw our pyro signal for a casualty. As much as I wanted to go and help, I couldn’t.
I told my gunner to cease fire because I hadn’t heard a snap in a while. The fight was behind us now and was it ever one. I looked back to assess the situation and the dark Afghanistan night was lit up from red and green tracers. It reminded of something I’d seen in a star wars movie. The Taliban had set up in a tree line a couple hundred meters out. I tried getting my squad leaders attention to move the M240 to the fight but he was too busy talking to air. Just then I realized what happened, the pkm gunner had opened on the crew serve post to distract us from the main assault. I had to get this gun over there.
I went to COC to see what was going on. I sprinted towards the COC and jumped into the hole and there I saw him. My friend since I had got to the fleet was bleeding from the neck. A piece of shrapnel from the rpgs’ had lodged in his neck. Red chem lights outlined the whole COC that was dug about 5 feet from the ground. I grabbed my squad leader and told him I was moving the M240 to the other side. He gave me a nod then continued giving grids to the pilots. I ran back to the machine gun post and grabbed my gunner, our system, and all our rounds. As we took off a riflemen hopped in the hole to replace us and yelled “get that gun in the fight!” We dashed through the whizzing tracers and Marines firing from foxholes. A rocket had whizzed no more than a foot from my head. The screaming rocket deafened me and I couldn’t hear my own voice.
As we set up our gun the entire tree line was flashing. I couldn’t count them all but the muzzle flashes looked like a celebrity making an appearance at the Emmys. I set my gunner to traverse along the ridge line. Our main objective was to cover our squad so they could start sending some of our own rockets downrange. Pyro and rockets lit up the night sky, almost like there was a constant sun in the air. Our assaultman sent three smaws into the tree line and we were finally able to start seeing targets of opportunity and gain fire superiority. Two gunmen were running along the ridgeline to the south. A quick burst from my gunner cut them down. I could barely stick my head out of the hole, with rounds impacting all around us. Finally were heard jets overhead and the saying “when it rains it pours” was the best way to describe the amount of boom these planes dropped.
A signal to cease fire was sent and the squad started yelling the command. Everybody ducked down in the holes and hugged the thundering ground. A large womp took over the enemy’s tree line, followed by another one. Dirt and grime swarmed our position. But I didn’t care, I had to watch. An A10 let out a roar and what looked like torpedoes, impacted the ground. The shock waves rattled our position. The muzzle flashes seized and all the echoes and dust clouds from the planes took over the scene. Motivated howls and calls came from our little PB. And a relief took over my mind. I told my gunner to keep scanning just in case.
I ran to the COC and saw my buddy on a litter. His whole neck was wrapped in gauze. I tried helping but my squad leader had orders. The good thing about being in a huge farm field was it was an easy LZ. He wanted me take a fire team and clear it out, then set up a hasty defense. He gave me an LZ marker and told me to hurry because the bird was ten mikes out. I ran out and called for four bodies. I had my team and ran to the LZ. The one engineer we had, whipped out the mine detector and started sweeping. I set the team up as best I could. I heard the rotors of 53 so I knew it was close. Right as our engineer said it was clear the bird came into view. He made a quick pass to confirm the LZ then touched down as the marker blew away.
The corpsman and four Marines came running with the casualty, except there were two litters. I didn’t remember seeing two casualties. I helped load them on the bird. My squad leader talked to the crew chief in there and we all ran out. The bird took off and the red cross sign on the bottom of the bird stuck out like a nightmare. I was glad the bird came so fast, seeing how I had no idea how the casualties were. We rounded everybody up and headed back to the 360. I asked Doc how they were. He took a deep breath and said they both were going to make it. Happiness filled me up and I let out a huge sigh of relief.
As we entered the 360 I noticed half the squad was still in silkies and skivvies with their gear, including myself. I didn’t even realize it but my knees and elbows were all cut up. My rifle, only fired a mag, but was covered in dirt and blood. I went over to my gunner and told him he did well. The Quick Reaction Force (QRF) finally showed up. They dismounted and went over to where the enemy had attacked. They brought back carcasses, busted AK’s, empty rpg tubes, cell phones, and too many brass casings and links to pick up. We all stood to for another hour.
The adrenaline rush calmed down and paranoia settled in. As I got up to check my team I learned the other casualty was one of our mortar men. He was trying to set the tube up towards the ridgeline. He took two rounds to the side sappy and one in the knee cap. Some of us were ecstatic, some scared, but most of us thought we did something wrong. The main question was how so many of them had gotten so close. We always had a plane or a drone over head with the most state of the art optics. Still to this day it raises questions.
The trucks stayed with us until an hour after sunrise. Our command must have finally caught on, because our supply drop would have been able to take on the zombie apocalypse. We got another squad, ammo, crew serves, and the best of all, trucks. That night we prayed for the real heroes of that night and stood by for another attack. It never came. The FOB finally got finished and was named after one of our Marines who lost his life earlier in the deployment.
Via: Real Combat Life
- Different Jobs in U.S. Marine Corps Infantry Units (military.answers.com)
- Going to sleep (antiwarblogusa.wordpress.com)
- Requirements for Becoming a Marine Gunner (military.answers.com)