But is it really dangerous…

Chuck and his Boom Stick

I often am asked, “How dangerous is it?”

We know war from movies. Films depict a particularly tough battle or campaign. Though films are meant to be “real;” war is often boring. We don’t see the dull side of war because there’s nothing there. Hurt Locker is a great example. Sure, it’s gritty and intense, but not real. Yes, there are guys that defuse bombs…but…it’s not exciting, it’s boring.

Let’s say were on a combat patrol rolling through Baghdad…We encounter a guy that throws two RKG3s at us. RKG-3s suck…they penetrate armored vehicles. Once they’ve been deployed, they are HIGHLY unstable. Let’s say, one grenade explodes; we survive with little impact. The other is a “dud”–remember, HIGHLY unstable once thrown.

The mission executes a security halt. We call EOD (bomb squad) to help–we can’t have this thing blowing up innocent Iraqis. The EOD team stops playing X-Box, gears up and preps the required vehicles/team. About 4 vehicles and 12-20 troops roll out to “save” us.

All of this takes several hours to occur. Meanwhile, it’s about 130deg outside, we sit and sweat it out in our vehicles. (“Hurt Locker” nailed the heat.) Ultimately, the EOD team decides the bomb is too dangerous to move and decide to explode it in place. 60 minutes later there’s a large boom–ours–and off we go to continue our mission. Total delay 4-6 hours. Terrifying.

More danger….
On a regular basis mortars are lobbed at us, recoilless rifles launch rounds, RPG’s whiz by, but it’s considered harassing fire. Crazy right? We hear booms and bombs, it’s normal…Heck, many of the booms are the US shooting back. It’s not constant, not even daily in most places, a bomb goes off, we keep on working.

Many times the explosions by the Taliban or Al’Qaeda are more a statement than a means of killing people (though they do hurt and kill). These bombings are a means of saying, we’re hear, you can’t stop us; we’re not going to quit.

Maybe focusing on the boredom of day to day life, you’ll get an idea of how normal, normal really is…

Hundreds of flights occur daily, in a variety of environments using multiple types of aircraft. There are thousands of patrols each month. People and equipment moving tens of thousands of miles every day yet, casualties are not common.

Commanders worry about seat belts, safe driving practices and suicide as much as anything else. I don’t want to overstate the safety–there was a time when numerous daily gun battles was the norm, we’ve all got our “bad day” story; but death is the exception.

Say we met at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, you’d probably find me head down reading my Kindle as I walked from here to there. There are hundreds of service members passing one another on the street. Many of these people have bags from the mall where they buy, leather jackets, Dre Beats headphones, local food or an Ipad.

Maybe we’d agree to hang out at Salsa night for non-alcoholic drinks…or go to the “Green Bean” and drink gourmet coffee…ohhh I can smell the danger. Reading while walking and getting burned by your mocha, those are the dangers most of us face.
That doesn’t sound all that hazardous does it.

This isn’t to say that danger isn’t lurking. Unlike the US there are people actively hunting us all the time.

Before every mission, a squad leader discusses, among other things, the MDCOA (Most Deadly Course of Action). When was the last time you conducted a pre-vacation brief for the family and considered the enemy’s capability to kill you and your family? So there is danger, but of the 100,000 of us…nearly all are safer than many places in the US.

6 thoughts on “But is it really dangerous…

  1. Though I don’t know the exact stats on this, but from what I understand this has been the longest war that the US has been involved with, as well as the fewest caualties for any of the lengthy battles/wars that we’ve been involved with. I guess that is in improvement of sorts. I’m sure that there are many cities throughout the US that I would be a bit more on my toes about existing dangers to my life than over in the sandbox.

  2. I don’t have anything explosive whizing by my head. No bombs going off, with the exception of the neighbors leftover 4th of July fireworks. Maybe I chose wisely in my geographical location. There are neighbors across town dodging bullets. Like I tell my neighbors, “keep your head down, friend”. Stay safe

  3. I’ve tried repeatedly to explain to friends and family that I feel safer on the streets of Kabul than I do in some major urban areas in the States. That’s off a FOB, and on a FOB, while it’s a magnet for all sorts of foolishness by the insurgents, places like BAF and KAF are pretty slick. Good read, plan on following the blog. Oh, and the heat was about the only thing that “Hurt Locker” got right.

  4. This blog was quite intense. Makes me worry more about you Peter. Remember you are like my younger brother. Please stay safe.

  5. You must get used to a certain element of danger over there I don’t think I could ever feel more comfortable in Afghanistan or Iraq even in dangerous areas of the United States.

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