The Other Side of Deployments
“Small Wars Journal” is known for some serious discussions about wars big and small, analysis of strategy, tactics, firefights in deserts, mountains, jungles, yadda, yadda….some of it pretty heavy stuff. But I’ve not seen any discussions about the other side of these deployments…the side where some poor Joe, stirring the s**t mixed with MOGAS has a bunch of it blown onto his face because some twerp throws a capped water bottle into the mix only to have it explode due to the heat (I was told that poor Joe was known as “S**t-face” for the remainder of the deployment). So here’s my story about “The Other Side of the Deployment”.
June, 2008, Afghanistan. I was part of an Embedded Training Team, or ETT as they were still known there. We were based in Kabul. On this particular day, we had gone to Bagram Airfield to get some supplies…I can’t recall what but that doesn’t matter. We were there for about two hours which gave us time to get said supplies as well as hit the PX, Green Beans, Anthony’s Pizza….you get the picture.
We finally gathered at our MRAP’s, climbed in, and took off. Unbeknownst to us, our medic, we’ll just call him Doc from hereon out, had Burger King shortly before returning to the truck. Shortly after leaving the gate, everyone hears the following over their headsets: “I gotta sh*t”. I, as the gunner, couldn’t see anything or anyone so could only rely on the reports coming from the guys below with Doc.
As Doc continued telling us about his need to move his bowel, our artillery advisor, who we will call Felipe’, chimed in….”Hey, I think he’s serious, man.”
Doc: “I gotta sh*t.”
Felipe’: “Hey guys, his eyes are getting big!”
TC (my buddy who we’ll just refer to as “B”): “Just tell him to hold it.”
Doc: “I gotta sh*t.” (At this point, we can hear a tinge of desperation in his voice).
Felipe’: “Hey man! I think he’s serious! He’s taking off his seat belt! Now he’s taking off his body-armor!!”
From this point, things start to really go downhill as I hear Doc’s voice fade away replaced by Felipe’ giving a play-by-play of Doc grabbing a Ziploc bag, dropping his pants, blowing ass, and making everyone in the vehicle yell & gag. Comments like “Doc! You f**kin’ f**k!!”, “Oh my God! What the f**k??!!”, and “Who’s got cigarettes?? Light them!!” were heard interspersed with loud sounds of the guys suppressing their desire to puke. As I, standing up in the gunner’s station, lit my cigarette, I was warned by “B” to make sure the Colonel, riding in the SECFOR HMMWV in front of us, didn’t see me smoking. So, as I continued to wave away the noxious fumes wafting up from the interior, I did my best to smoke my smoke while staying hidden behind the gunner’s shield.
The poor guys inside continued their gagging and were now trying to figure out what to do with the Ziploc bag (I looked down and saw the Ziploc bag, stuffed with toilet paper with a thin line of brown beneath it……you just cannot un-see this). Eventually, someone said “Give it to Smiley!! He can throw it out (cough! gag! cough!)!!”, to which I replied with strenuous kicks and at least one “F**k you!!”.
We finally made it back to Camp Phoenix, happy to see Rambo at his place at the gate. When we got to our normal parking spot, the rear hatch was opened and the guys spilled out gasping for fresh air, as one would. Later, after evening chow, I happened to be walking by the MRAPs. I notice Doc inside the truck, on his knees, apparently scrubbing the floor. “Doc, what are you doing?”, I asked. “Just cleaning up, sir. I got 90 percent of it in the bag.” was his reply. Dinner started spinning around in my stomach and I walked to my CHU. WTF?
Later, I arranged to get team hats for us. Just for fun, I had callsigns or nicknames put on them. Though Doc was not happy with his hat, I couldn’t resist his new nickname….ZipDoc. Wouldn’t you do the same? I think so. The hats were a great way to mark what became known as “The MCRAP Incident” and was the other side of my deployment.
FWIW, I have video of the incident, courtesy of "Felipe'" who made a video diary of our time there (how he managed to hold his IPOD steady during that bio-attack I don't know). He sent us a DVD a couple of months after redeployment. As I said in the article, there are some things you just can't unsee, especially when it's on video.
There's more from that deployment I could share...like our junior enlisted guy who would answer the radio only if addressed as "Swinger 6-9" or our LTC team leader who routinely boasted about how had all the answers for fixing Afghanistan and was subsequently fired....but those are for another time.
There's a lesson in this story for those unfamiliar with the military. If the vast majority of the stories you're being told by an ex-serviceman don't revolve around boredom, stupidity, waste or lewd behavior you're probably being snowed. This is one quick way to spot the "stolen valor" types- they lack a repertoire of tales of "how dumb the (fill in the rank) was".