The following is an account of events that occurred several weeks ago. It was not the first time that we had been near incoming fire, but it was the first time that we were part of the specific target. The rocket that impacted near us one day as we entered Bagram was simply a “pot shot” taken at that large base. I have omitted only minor details of the attack, and only to avoid giving any operational information that could be at all useful to anyone.
It was about 1020 hours. The Maniac started the coffee and O came down the walk as we sat outside enjoying the quiet and the coffee. O had just topped off his coffee and was refilling mine when the idle chatter was interrupted by a loud “CARROUMP!!”
“That’s not good,” the Maniac opined as his butt lifted about an inch off of his folding camp chair. About five seconds passed and there was a terrible screeching noise… a low buzz with a high pitched shriek overlaid upon it.
BOOM! The glass and doors of the khalat vibrated. Loose dirt and chunks of dried mud shook loose from the khalat wall and sprinkled the gravel and concrete.
“Rockets!” said the Maniac, ducking into the doorway of our concrete room. “Hey man! Get in here!” O was just finishing off topping my coffee cup.
“Hey, almost done with the coffee,” I said. O was walking up the walkway towards his room. He stopped about halfway, turned, and said, “Are those rockets?”
“Yup, sounds like rockets.”
He turned and continued up the walk to his room. By the time I was into the room, the Maniac was already in his ACU pants and was finishing putting his socks on. He was ready for a fight. I started into my ACU’s, and within three minutes we were all suited up, including armor. Several more explosions sounded within the limits of the outer wall of the FOB. The Maniac was out the door, weapon in hand as he prepared to defend what the guys in the other compound referred to as, “The Alamo.” I was about 30 seconds behind him.
As I was on my way out the door there was a loud explosion that felt very close. “Son of a bitch!” yelled the Maniac. “That one was really close! I think it was one of ours… are they supposed to shoot that close? That was right out on the berm!”
As I reached the roof, the Maniac was pointing to where the round had hit. There was still smoke coming from the point of impact, about 250 meters away. “See? It was right over there! I saw it hit, and I’m kicking myself for not ducking. I saw it hit, and I thought, ‘hey, that’s a mortar’ and then it went off. That bastard was really loud! Now I’m kicking myself in the ass for not getting down when I saw it hit.”
The mortar crew was firing the large mortar to the southwest of the FOB. The Maniac, O and I were on the roof of the khalat. We peered over the mud parapet and observed the rounds detonating to the southwest, out on the area that was used days earlier as a machine gun range; out on the ground that we had stood on a few days before, showing the staff guys where some specific sites were. There was a flash and a mass of dust and black smoke. Seconds later, the report… “Crump!” The smallest mortar chimed in, the smaller rounds noticeable in the difference, but still deadly.
The handheld radio had died as O attempted to report to the team leader in the other compound that we were all okay. We were “out of comms” with the other compound.
The three of us watched as the mortars fired. The ANA checkpoint to the west began firing, and some of the heavy crew-served weapons began firing towards the mountain to the south and into the ravine that separated the FOB from the base of the mountain. Some time later we observed several ANA Ford Rangers and two humvees roll out to the southwest towards the finger that was used as the machine gun range. Some explosions were visible near the trail humvee as it rolled along the dirt road. We debated what these explosions were. We would learn later that they were hand grenades that one of the guys was throwing over the low ridgeline to clear that area.
The humvees pulled out to the edge of the finger and we heard the reports of automatic weapons as they fired into the ravine. We could see no other activity. Minutes later the silhouettes of several helicopters were seen and the sounds of “fast movers” overhead could be heard. The humvees and ANA vehicles returned from the finger.
The whole thing had taken about an hour and a half, but it seemed like 20 minutes. We were all happy to have made it through our first incoming with no injuries, and we had all reacted calmly and matter-of-factly to the fire.
We’d had our first taste, and we had weathered it well.