We stepped off the helicopters somewhere in Northeast Afghanistan around 0200, just under 10,000ft in elevation, snow everywhere, and I was owning every bit of a 102 degree fever. And thanks to my platoon sergeant and the greater U.S. Government, I’m wearing lightweight Goretex™ shells made by the lowest bidder and summer weight DCUs.
My job as a fire supporter was to provide ground control for the gunship overhead. As soon as we hit the ground, the "Nav" came up on comms and worked overwatch for the platoon’s clearing operations. Vaguely remember talking to them--I woke up to the sound of MSG H. calling my name, “Lee, you alright?” “Yeah. Roger MSG. I’m good.”
After around an hour of standing around waiting for our chain of command to do their thing, the platoon sergeant tells me to crawl into my sleeping bag.
You don't have to tell a Ranger to get sleep twice.
I found a little outcropping at the base of the mountain--perfect. A few hours later, the sun came up and the reality of my covered shelter hit me right in the nose.
I’m sleeping in human feces.
After embracing the suck all night, the village elders gave us a place to stay. It was a small shack across from the village mosque. Upgrade. A neighbor’s backyard was the perfect overwatch for the single mud road that entered the village.
Security. Shelter. Schedule. Check. Check. Check.
As luck would have it, I drew the 0400-0500 guard shift--still sick as a dog. Standing guard, in the dark, frozen, I remember thinking life could not get any worse. Before I could finish the thought, the sound of a door handle caught my attention. The woman hosting us in her backyard woke up early. Warms cups of goat milk chai, fresh naan bread, and a jar of marmalade--carried by two angelic little girls.
I’m not a religious dude, but I was smart enough to see that God was throwing me a life raft. Things were going to be ok. If you're down for more stories of tea time, poop, and recognition of The Big Dude upstairs, sign up for the Combat Flip Flops newsletter (bottom left on this page)