IEDs are the bane of my existence.
They drive us all crazy, but I take it personal. It is hard to imagine how much we could get done if we didn’t have to put the effort into protecting ourselves from these “improvised explosive devices” and avoiding them. We’ve been hit by more than 10 IEDs in the last couple of weeks. During my last convoy we hit one on the way, and one on the way back. I don’t like those averages.
Needless to say, I am continuing my campaign to convince as many leaders as possible that roads are the key to our success. Yes, I believe “it’s the roads, stupid,” but not everyone agrees. There are many who believe that the roads are important, but they don’t agree on who should be building them and how.
There are places where civilian companies have been bogged down because of insurgent attacks so they haven’t made progress as promised. Instead of providing additional security so they can move forward, there are staff officers who focus their attention on what I call “capitalism envy” and refuse to help because they’ve seen how much the contractor is being paid to build the road. What they don’t see is the thousands of dollars the contractor has to pay in “fees” for just about everything. Moving a truckload of materials from Kandahar to Helmand is about $2,500 for “insurance.”
This is where I step in with my engineers and say I’ll improve the road ahead of the company, and I don’t care who gets pissed.
The bottom line is everyone “outside of the wire” who has to work the road or patrol the road is glad that my engineers with our armored heavy equipment improved the road. The locals are happy because something finally gets done on their road. The infantry are happy because they can more readily spot IEDs. IED frequency continues to drop dramatically on the roads we rebuild.
Either way, the pettiness drives me crazy. I end up working around those people who I believe represent roadblocks (pun intended) to our success. We have two new road projects starting soon.
During the recent convoy, one IED in particular was pretty powerful and ripped through the armor within the wheel-well and floorboards of the truck. This resulted in the most serious injury any of our Marines have suffered to date; an open fracture of the lower leg. We called in a helicopter medevac and continued with the mission.
That Marine will likely make a full recovery. He’ll have some extra hardware in his leg that may set off metal detectors, but he’ll be there to see his kids grow up. Most of us consider that a happy ending. Day in and day out our Marines climb back into their trucks without a complaint and quietly accomplish the mission.
We all have thoughts that our truck might be the next one to strike an IED, but we also try to maintain some confidence that we’ll be protected if it happens. The equipment does pretty well. So far, most personnel involved in IEDs have had minor injuries, bruised legs, ringing in the ears and/or headaches. I pray that’s as bad as it gets.
My air conditioning stopped working during a long convoy the other day. Understand that temperatures are still in the 90’s and we’re traveling in vehicles with windows that don’t roll down. It gets a little claustrophobic after a while. It is like being in a rolling sauna. I went to change a battery out on one of our radios and found that the epoxy holding it together had melted in the heat. That’s how I was feeling at the end of the day; my batteries were dead too.
We have about two months left. Sixty days, but I am not counting. I find that takes away from my focus. I haven’t had a day off yet, but why start now? I want the battalion to maintain as much momentum as possible right up until we turn over with our replacements.
I am hoping the units we support will get so used to the type of support we’re providing that they’ll demand it of our replacements. Maybe we’ll leave a legacy of improvements behind.