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March 09, 2005

The "Other" Sandbox...

I’ve been holding off on this one for a while, but with the addition of MSG Keith to the extended family, this is probably the time…

The MSM is concentrating on Iraq, because that’s where the biggest GWOT military action is. There are other sandboxes we play in, as everybody is aware, but because of the in-your-living-room, front-page footage of Iraq almost every night, the other boxes are kind of relegated to the “page 6” of our consciousness.

Prepare for a visit to page 6.

Biggest nastiness we faced in Bosnia were the mines. Over a million known minefields—not mines, minefields—in BiH, and even though we knew where most of them were (the various factions at least kept decent records), the Cardinal Army Rule of Foot Travel over there was “Don’t walk anywhere that’s not paved.”

Subtract any semblance of pavement outside a city, subtract the knowledge of where the old mines are, add various scuzzbuckets roaming around planting new ones and the result is Afghanistan. Some guys I know were over there, and one of them, Pete Doerr, corresponded with me whenever he could grab some keyboard time. He also sent me pix and the background briefs that explained them…

There were eight troops in the Hummvee; driver and A/D in the cab, six guys in the open rear. They were traveling on one of the few roads to Ghazni, located on the Eastern Plateau about 100 miles southwest of Kabul. They approached a section of the road at the base of a small ravine and the Hummvee triggered a mine that had been placed on the road and camouflaged with mud.

Pete and his wingman were flying a pair of Apaches a few miles away and saw the explosion.

This is what they saw when they approached the area. The Hummvee’s cab was gone; the six troops in the rear had been violently ejected and were lying motionless in the snow several meters from the vehicle’s remains. As Pete flew an initial recon to detect any sign of a secondary ambush, his wingman approached the site to check for survivors and update his initial Spot Report*. The six troops in the rear were stunned, but already moving to assume defensive positions--and think about this for a minute…

…when you are subjected to the dynamic overpressure from a large explosion, your brain is concussed, you feel like you’ve been hit in the gut with a train and chances are better than excellent that your eardrums have been ruptured. First, you’re stunned, then it starts to hurt like hell. There’s the added attraction from this mine encounter of being thrown through the air and landing, hard, on frozen ground and rocks--throw in broken bones, dislocated shoulders, etc. Given all that, would your first thoughts be to prepare to defend yourself and your friends from an attack?

When the presence of the Apaches reassured the troops, they began to move in one direction—toward the Hummvee. They’d counted noses and realized they were short their two friends in the cab.

Then they realized there was no cab left.

We now return you to the front page...

* For the non-uniformed family members, a Spot Report is information transmitted from a recon source to someone who needs that information and, hopefully, can act on it; e.g., a unit commander or the intelligence staffers. Initial Spot Reports are usually sketchy and always updated, on the premise that fragmentary intel in a continuous flow is better than complete intel that arrives too late.