The Last Journey
September 16, 2010 COP Turbett
PMT Patrol to Donkeys

It was Thursday now and I was back with the folks I know best, the PMT Marines. In the morning I managed to get cleaned up by taking a very cold water shower of sorts at the ANA well and washed my hair also. After that I did some laundry and was able to really get my clothes somewhat clean because I had an abundance of water and time to do it right. I borrowed some laundry soap from the PMT tent and proceeded to get my chores done. After that, I got my teeth brushed and shaved. I was not ready for the day. It was now about 11 am in the morning. I managed to collate all my photos from the Sistani village trip and backed up the same photos on different modes. Once that is done the next thing is always to prepare a story set up page with notes to before I forget all the things that just happened. It keeps my mind exercised best doing it that way and avoids me having to play catch up later on down the track. By 2:00 PM the PMT guys were going to roll out to the east towards a road they had not been to previously.

Each area has its own boundaries and where we would be going on this day actually is the top end boundary of another company but we had received permission to enter their AO for this particular patrol. Each and every step is coordinated among and between Marine companies. Detailed logs of each patrol and events are kept as well. Everyone pretty much becomes their own historical bank for what goes on during day to day operations throughout any deployment. Today, we would be going to check out an area that two or three nights earlier had been very active with sustained gunfire. I remember going up into one of the posts that faces north and listening to it with the Marine on duty. It was loud and we all could hear it. The ANCOPs were the ones supposedly handling the situation but it does seem at times that communication is weak at best among them. There is a process and that involves finding a terp, getting him to come and translate things over a radio and trying to listen to exactly what the situation is as it is going down. Pretty much it boils down to if they are in dire need of assistance the Marines will be dispatched to assist. On this particular night I remember hearing over the radio that the ANCOPs had the situation under control in spite of repeated inquiries by Marines here at the operations center. The enemy knows very well what places are only manned by Afghan forces and what places have Marines.

By the time we were to depart friendly lines I was feeling really good about being on this patrol. I knew these guys, I had an idea of what we would be doing and where we would be going. I was comfortable with them and they are more than comfortable with me. Basically, I felt at home again and had only been gone for one and a half days. As the patrol began, I decided to get the audio recorder out and do as many short audios as possible while we were walking on flat ground. I knew that soon my time here would be up and I would not have the chance to do this again. I needed to push myself to do whatever I can while I can and while I’m here.

We headed out at 1400 hrs in the heat of the day. It is now not as hot as it has been and high temperatures for the day are now dropping rapidly as the end of September draws near. We stepped out headed east and stopped at the first ANCOP station for a moment or two and then kept pushing east to the next ANCOP station. Here we took a short breather and then pushed out to the mud structures that are believed to have been the locations that were used by the Taliban to attack the ANCOP station previously.

I was with Sgt. Reid most of the time on this patrol as he and a few other Marines as well as a small handful of ANCOPs entered the homes gingerly and began searching them. Sgt. Reid, who is always taking special precautions to look out for me, advised me to wait to enter each building until he and the ANCOPs have cleared the structures entrances first. He, (Sgt. Reid) has really taken a liking to me and feels it his personal responsibility to make sure nothing happens to me. I am constantly telling him where I am to keep him informed of my every move. I really appreciate that he looks after me and his direction has for sure filtered down to all the Marines under him. They have become my own personal security team in a sense. It is an honor to have them care for me in such a way.

Going into the mud structures is a dicey move and it is not a matter that should ever be taken lightly. Two sergeants on the advance team that came here prior to the main body arriving, were killed entering a mud home in exactly the same fashion. Whatever Sgt. Reid tells me to do, I listen. It is why they keep me around. I do what I am told. It makes their lives easier and keeps me as safe as possible. It is the kind of relationship any embed should have with his hosts. I am sure that now I could teach a class on how to do this.

We entered the home and began searching it. It appeared abandoned at the moment. There were fresh bullet holes in the building from the return fire the ANCOPs had delivered when they were attacked a couple nights earlier. Sgt. Reid had brought along a tool that checks for IED’s that may have been placed in the mud walls. He directed one of his Marines to get the tool out and began scanning selected walls of the structure. Nothing was located and we moved on to the next house.

At the next house we found some people there who denied that any Taliban had been using their place for the attack. This was probably a lie and all concerned knew it. But these people are stuck in the middle and are for the most part farmers that are completely illiterate and always threatened by the Taliban with loss of life if they cooperate with the Americans. It is just the way the game goes. We searched this house in the same fashion as the one prior. We then moved on to the third and final mud structure we would search this day. It had some occupants and we did the same things to this house as we did to the other houses. Searched it for evidence, looked for the enemy, scanned selected areas for IED’s that may have been placed in the mud walls, all while a security net had been formed around the structure by the other Marines. Everything is done in coordination and everyone knows or should know where each and every Marine on the patrol is at any given time. That way, if and when something should go down, reaction time is prompt and a coordinated maneuver is put into place as soon as possible, lessening the chances for injury or loss of life.

After all this, we headed back towards the two ANCOP check points, stopped in for a while to rest up and then headed back to the COP. The patrol had gone on without any major instances and Sgt. Reid once again says to me, “I brought all my Marines home and no one got hurt, that’s a good day.” Good days are always a welcomed event here, especially the closer it gets to everyone going home. We would enter the east gate and come back into the compound. It was not that hard of a patrol and it felt good to me to be back with guys I know. My shoulders were still very sore and I was indeed feeling the wear and tear on my body of having been out here now for going on three weeks.

The next day would be preparations for the elections which will be held on the 18th, a Saturday. Lots goes into this event and security is a major concern. We’ll see how the next two days events unfold. For now, this is how the day ended on September 16, 2010 at COP Turbett in Helmund province, Afghanistan among the Marines of 2/6, Fox Company.

Jim Spiri