On Patrol

We’re going on a foot patrol…

Get up! It’s 2am, start planneeeerrrr*STOP* Say that again. 2!!! am. When did you last get up at 2am to do ANYTHING besides pee?  And we’re just getting started. 

Why 2am?  The early bird catches the Taliban?  Ultimately, it’s because we have to reckon with how long will it take to get 50 dudes, Afghans and Americans over a MOUNTAIN, no shit, a mountain. 

Is it always 2am?  No.  Sometimes it’s during the worst heat of the day.  We’d also walk in a dry riverbed.  Why, it’s “safer”–safer is code for “so hard nobody else wants to do it.”  Sometimes, like this patrol, safer means walking OVER a montain instead of around.  I think you get the idea.  

What do we wear?   

Uniform, long pants, long sleeves, gloves, knee pads, helmet, body armor (approx. 25lbs).  As soon as you put on your armor your shoulders hurt, back complains, rubbed raw sides light up and you start to sweat.  Are you a SAW gunner?  That’s about 30lbs of weapon, plus your ammo. 

Boots?  Not only boots, but the correct ones.  This terrain is hazardous and chews up soft boots (the comfortable ones).  We’re walking on loose rocks on a tiny trail lit only by moonlight (remeber it’s 2am).  You WILL roll your ankles; you WILL have to save yourself from falling more than a few times.  Someone, you hope not you, will let out a “whew” and enjoy a shot of terror when their leg surprises them and holds (remember you weigh over 300lbs with all the gear).  You look down a 1000′ and walk on…

You carry your own water, a Camelbak, bottles, whatever.  If you run dry–I’ll get back to this–there is a troop that carries a 5 gal bladder for refillls.  Don’t chug your water, you’ll want to puke the next 45 mins while you huff and puff up the trail. 

Breakfast?  That’s easy, you don’t want any.  Sure you need calories and you eat a little something…but the “hump” up the hill makes breakfast a mistake.  Instead, you nibble on protein/energy bars.  Regardless, heartburn, farts and burps are a constant on patrol.

While we climb you are gonna swear you need to stop, your heart is racing…but you can’t.  If you stop everyone suffers or worse.  No talking..and for sure no lights of any kind.  It’s a lonely affair.

Why would you run dry of water?  We’re on a mission, it’s not a hike.  We’ll cover six miles, several hundred feet of elevation changes, over rocky technical trails at about 5000′ altitude.  Even descending is hazardous and draining.  It’s going to be cold in the morning before sunrise; but you’ll still sweat.  The temp will hit 100+ by the time we get back.  IF, we get back on schedule.  If we run across a bomb, something that looks like a bomb or anything weird happens, we’ll address that “thing” until complete.  Complete can take hours.  So bring lots of water.  BTW water is heavy.

When you climb mountains and patrol 6 miles EVERYTHING is heavy.  My notebook 4×7 takes on a weight 3x it’s own.  It moves from hand to hand, this pocket…under my arm.  It gets covered in sweat no matter where you put it. 

Oh, and the Taliban wants to kill you.

14 thoughts on “On Patrol

  1. That is not what I thought you were doing dude. I can kind of relate to the conditions having hiked desolation valley (8000′ and bad terain, but breathtaking in it’s beauty) many times. No Taliban up there though, just the occasional granola eater. As for the 9/11 entry, I think we all felt and feel that way, what sets you apart is you did somthing about it.

  2. I feel your pain. Though I never did such training with a true threat to us, other than ourselves. But that has to play a huge role in the back of your mind with that sort of training/mission. And of course being an armor, I know that neither the SAW nor the M16 do very well in sandy conditions. So it’s a little unsettling knowing that if you hit the deck in a fire fight and your weapon getts sand in it you will be facing death when coming against the nearly invinsable AK47. Oh and you forgot to mention the pain that lasts longer and flares up quicker than any of the weight you put on your sholders, back, feet, hands and arms. The chaffing. Nothing like some heavy sweat soked pants, mixed with dirt, more sweat, heat and all rubbed together over a 5-15 mile humpm with hairy legs to turn them thighs raw. And there is no hiding the pain of the chaff, cause you can’t help but to walk like a cowboy after that sort of event. Can’t say that I miss it.

  3. Pete, I had no idea that you were out there doing this valiant job. Keep up the blog and the great work you do on behalf of all Americans. 🙂 Most importantly, stay safe and believe that your daughter will grow up knowing her daddy is a hero.

  4. Yo Pedro con Queso.
    random but true. a few months ago while @the el paso airport, home of fort bliss, i chatted with a military contracted fashion designer. i was told that after something like 25 years, the government saw fit to revamp the standard issue attire. I’m of the opinion thst is our troops are outfittex with the right gear made from the best materials possible and applicable to the variety of conditions that they are exposed to, then maybe just maybe it would be the least congress could do to say “we care”. i was surprised when i heard about this and explains why those 2am walks are uncomfortable. so here’s that f-ed up part about this. the outfitting development has just begun and at the rate of progress our government operates, it might be another 5 years before the standard issue gear is even available.

  5. Pete, Gee only 2AM what happened to the mid-night brief and then saddle up ’cause it is still a long way to the objective area. Yes I still remember and always will those long walks and horrible rides in the back of an MRAP. Would rather walk ’cause at least then I could see the threat. Being blown up in an MRAP is really no fun, rattles the brain a little. And even after we got back we spent another one or two hours writing reports and getting a debrief. But hey who is tired, ME. Keep the reports coming bro’ and I will keep reading them.

    Rich

  6. Hi Pete, Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts. I have little access and understanding of what is happening in Afghanistan. Your words resonate and make me think, and I greatly appreciate this. Take care of yourself. Cheryl

  7. Wow. That is intense. I want to know more about how you train your mind to keep going through all that. Thank you for sharing and being so honest and real about what you are doing.

  8. …so I take it you don’t carry the whip along any more? Just too much weight? You dragged that damn thing up half dome with us that time back in ’85. So it sounds like more of the same, just a different country and a different “half dome”?

  9. So with all of that stuff, do you still drag along your whip? Hell, you dragged that damn thing up half dome with us back in 1985. So it sounds like you’ve moved along to new “half domes”, but these are in Asia? Good to hear you’re still alive and kickin’.

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