The Last Journey

September 7, 8, and 9, 2010  COP Tubett

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

Part A



Today is now Thursday, September 9, here at COP Turbett.  It’s been a busy last couple of days and it is always hard to catch up on what has and is going on.  I will try my best to fill in the gaps before any more time goes by.  It is almost half past six in the afternoon now and I’ve been very tired today.  I’m also a bit sick with a sore throat and it is taking a little bit of a toll on me.  I’ll be fine, I’m drinking plenty of water and ended up taking a long three hour nap today just to recover from the morning patrol.  I will start by going back to Tuesday and retracing from my notes the events that transpired.  I do not have email access so it is not possible to send things for postings.  Such is life and it will all be fine.  I talked to Candi this morning and she is leaving from Silver City back to Albuquerque as I write.  Lots going on. 


On Tuesday morning, I got up early and went with Langolotz and his squad 3/1.  He is a good Marine and very tough.  He’s been through a few things including the other day receiving divorce papers from his wife.  He pretends it does not bother him but I think it does.  He is nice to me, as is everyone else.  I think what helped was the fact that Mathers gave him a good report about me. 

We went to the West first and then pushed north after departing the gate at 0545 hrs.  The mornins are getting cooler but the morning light is well worth it.  This particular squad has had many firefights and I thought it best to hook up with them.  Any time heading to what is known here as “The Taliban Tree” one usually gets into some sort of contact.  This morning we would not see any contact but once in a while we would here in the distance some shots.  We spent a lot of time maneuvering in and out of fields and across wadis or what we call ditches.  Moving through this type of terrain is very grueling with the hardest part just trying to keep from twisting ones ankles.  Leaping over ditch banks is also a bit if a challenge and I find myself always looking for these little dirt bridges that can be found if one walks down or up the ditch a ways.  However, this is not always the case and there are times you just have to give it your best shot and hope you don’t fall in and ruin everything like the camera and audio recorder. 

During this patrol, we detained two people who were very suspicious and that took up a bit of our time.  The Marines know that anybody and everybody are in comms with the Taliban and the game of trying to figure out who is what and when and where which is nothing more than tedious police work is quite time consuming.  I have my reservations about Marines conducting police work, not that they can’t do it, rather, it is not exactly what the mission of the Marines was designed to do.  Every day, I hear about this and the rules of engagement.  It is the one big thing that everyone talks about and it is the one thing that seems to hold the whole thing at bay, that being the mission here in Afghanistan. 


After determining that the detained person was not a threat at this time, he was released and we began our hike back to base.  We never take the same way twice in order to keep the enemy guessing where each patrol is going to or coming from.  Make no mistake about it, the enemy is wise on some things and must be respected accordingly for the damage he can cause.  Lately as we patrol hear jets high overhead and always see cobra helicopters in the vicinity keeping an eye on things.  We returned to base around noon right before things began to get really hot outside temperature wise.  The morning patrol was nice, strenuous and kept me exercised one more day.  All in all it was about four to five hours long.  After grabbing a couple of packs of raman noodles and eating them raw and with Tabasco sauce, I geared back up and went on an afternoon patrol with PMT down the road to the south about a mile or so.


The purpose of the afternoon patrol was to go to the village that is controlled by the man named Bosgool.  We would once again take along the two female Marines and the new female interpreter.  All of this is to get the local female population accustomed to American females in hopes of pushing the population into letting young girls receive education.  We made the walk down the wide ditch bank road which took about forty-five minutes to complete and finally arrive at Bosgools compound.  It was very hot at this time of day but the walk was fairly easy, relatively speaking.  Meaning that the road was flat, and we did not have to go in and out of plowed fields or planted areas nor did we have to jump across ditches or wadis. 


We arrived at Bosgool’s place and were quickly invited in to sit down in a shade area under a big tree.  There were lots of people there.  The females were taken to another section of the compound where only women are.  They spent all the time there doing whatever it is they do and say.  I am beginning to see that a large portion of time is now being dedicated to accommodating the female FET teams as well as the new female terp.  I am not sure what to think of all this, but, the effort to get the female population educated is going to be a big task.  Time will once again be the deciding factor. 

I have begun to get to know this Bosgool fella a bit.  He thinks I am someone important and I feel I will just keep letting him think that.  I would like at some point in time to spend the night at his compound.  I know he is not the most trustworthy person around and I can tell just by having dealt with him on a few occasions now that he is a player of sorts.  By this I mean he is clever and has some control over his surroundings.  Who knows how he got this far and how he continues to hold it, but for now, he has some kind of clout and I would just like to get to know him a bit better.  He brought out chi for me specifically and I indulged and thanked him.  One of men a bit younger than him named Marza and I began to converse through an interpreter that spoke a little English.  Come to find out it is his brother who is being educated in Kabul.  Marza himself is extremely smart but completely illiterate.  He is the smartest illiterate person I have ever met.  I enjoyed speaking with him and I am even more inclined to visit this compound one day by myself.  I know the risk, but I feel it would be safe.


However, during the time we were all sitting there drinking chi, gunfire broke out and we all jumped up.  I did not jump up so quickly as I felt that nothing was really in danger.  Bosgool tried to reassure everyone that he had called his “militia” and that they had assembled and formed a security perimeter.  He tried to tell everyone there that all was under control.  I think he was actually trying to show us he has his men trained and that they can fight the Taliban.  Bosgool has been trying to convince the Marines that he can handle his own security and that he can vouch for that.  The Marines know he just wants to maintain his private militia and for the time being that may work out alright.  But, the fact is Bosgool works both ends against the middle.  He is a survivor and knows that perhaps one day the Marines just won’t be here but the Taliban may still be around.  It is a typical turf war of sorts that the locals who have to live here must figure out how best to play their own hand. 


After staying at Bosgool’s home for about an hour and discussing things like putting a large well in for his fields, we gathered up our things and sent word to the females that it was time to leave.  It took at least 15 minutes to actually walk out the front gate after saying good bye and shaking hands.  We headed back down the ditch bank road we came on and got back to base in less than an hour.  It was really hot by now and it was good to be back on base and take off the flak gear.  I was covered in sweat and fairly tired by now.  I came back to my tent, got my gear off and set up things to take a shower over at the ANA camp.  They have the best water supply but it is cold.  I got cleaned up, did some laundry as best I could, hung it out and managed to get some dinner at CMOC. 

It had been a long day.  It was time to call it a night.  I went to bed as early as possible after talking with the guys from the PMT.  I’m starting to really fit in here and it just begins to happen this way when I start looking at how I’m going to head home.  One of the reasons I came here was see if I could just “hang out” with these guys so to speak and become a kind of sounding board for them.  They know I could never write a “story” about the things they tell me, rather, little by little they are beginning to realize that I’m just here to be with them as they pass through this current experience called war here in Afghanistan.  It will be hard to leave.  I went to make a phone call but saw that once again we were on “river city”.  Another Marine was lost somewhere close by this day.  It was from Echo company.  I should go there.


This was the end of Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at COP Turbett.


Jim Spiri