Tuesday, January 31, 2012

War stories

Part of the fun of life in Afghanistan is the downtime spent with new friends trading "war stories".  Some really are war stories, or stories from the personal lives of colleagues whose other work as policemen, firefighters, etc. often sounds far more frightening than an average day in Parwan.  Other stories are more along the lines of "worst date ever" - and the histories of misspent youth.


Officer Friendly - a perennially cheerful and talkative officer got the ball rolling one night by asking the group if we'd ever been arrested. This unleashed a flood of tales that ran the gamut from excessive speeding to assault with a deadly weapon. I have never been so glad that I could answer "yes" to that question, since I was well out of my league in the wildest story competition, and didn't want to come off like the Momma's boy I am generally assumed to be (no I'm not telling - but it was solidly on the speeding end of the scale).

View From the Turret

Soon some of the real war stories starting popping out, with a bit of gore, and a lot of humor, often at the expense of the person telling the story. One of my favorites was about the proper use of a mortar. One intrepid mortar team was getting tired of trying to adjust their fire (change the angle and direction of the mortar) using a spotter since they coulnd't actually see themselves where their rounds were landing. They hauled the mortar onto the roof, and waited for the enemy to start shooting again. Soon enough they could see the muzzle flashes and they started firing. Now able to get instant feedback on their accuracy they were rapidly zeroing in on their target when they dropped in their third (and final) round, which was wildly inaccurate because of mortar mechanics. A mortar is just a tube with one open end (that points in the direction of the target) and one closed end (by the ground). The projectile is dropped in, and when it hits the bottom the propellant explodes in that very small space, and part of that force expels the explosive round out of the open end and it flies out in a nice arc to land on the target (in theory). The rest of that very considerable force is transferred to the closed end of the tube, and onward into the ground, or in this case, the roof. Having already withstood two impacts from a heavy object being forced downward, the roof gave way as the final round went off - plummeting into the (thankfully unoccupied) barracks below. The Afghan commander walked in, looked up at the hole in his roof, shook his head, and went away muttering about who is training who.

Camel Spider
a popular feature in Afghanistan war stories
(I'm told they're harmless)

Other things are simply goofy, like issues with the camp "Mayor" a military officer who serves as a kind of  administrator/landlord/handyman/ombudsman/counselor to the facility he/she is located on. At a big base, it's very like a civilian mayor, dealing with roadwork, housing issues, quiet hours etc. etc.  On a small FOB (check the list) it's more like being the older sibling who was put in charge as the babysitter - except they aren't usually the older sibling, and Mom and Dad are usually still home. Like any Mayor, they hold town hall meetings - with the difference that attendance isn't usually optional.  Our Mayor held a memorable gathering one evening in which we were advised of our collective inadequacies, called liars (for not publicly confessing to sins like scraping the icing off the cake and leaving the remainder) and informed that most of the (somewhat severe and unnecessary) rules which had been proclaimed by the Mayor and generally disregarded by the troops would be henceforth disregarded by the Mayor as well, since actions speak lounder than words, and he wanted to say *#%^ you to all of us...

The incumbent lost this year.

1 comment: