Friends don’t let Friends play with high explosives…
Rob, Ranger Up Fan
No shit, there I was…
Kandahar, Afghanistan, circa April 2002. My team had been reporting on a particular weapons configuration the remaining Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants had been using to rocket the shit out of our FOB for weeks.
All we got for our efforts was crap from TF HQ, and “elitest-look-down-their-nose-at-us-you-can’t-be-serious” bullshit from our OGA friends, who, helpful as ever, reminded us that we wouldn’t find them because “these things don’t exist!”.
A Challenge from OGA – what could possibly go wrong?
“Screw this – I will prove to you that this thing exists. I will bring you one, intact, and drop it off at your [email protected]#%ING FRONT DOOR!”
After my fit of rage subsided, and while pondering whether I would be the first guy PNG’d out of Asscrackistan, I had to determine how best to get a full up, working model of the real deal to end the debate once and for all. (Note: PNG means Persona Non Grata, a diplomatic term which is also used to refer to guys like me getting kicked out of country for doing something the senior OGA person in country doesn’t like or wishes he was able to do himself but got beaten to the punch.)
As luck would have it, we were due our regularly scheduled evening serving of rockets and mortars courtesy of our friendly neighborhood jihadi. So when the report came in of a pending attack and the associated launch location from an Afghan contact, we swung into action. Accompanying my team on this mission of derring-do was Brian and Justin, our EOD friends who had already pulled our collective arses out of the fire on numerous occasions.
When we arrived on site, the device was right where the contact said it would be, properly configured and ready to fire, with about 10 minutes remaining on the timer. Unlike Jack Bauer, we opted to immediately get to work on disarming the device, instead of burning off an additional 9:30 on the clock. Talk about pucker factor – I was at about a 10 at this point (it goes to 11). Not to worry though, Brian and Justin did their thing and we were able to disable and retrieve the device intact.
I am a Bad Man
Heading back to the FOB, it occurred to me that perhaps a little OGA retribution was in order…images of me standing over my “friends” as they were tied up with shaved eyebrows and penises drawn on their faces, as I played a modified version of the device like a banjo, while midgets threw tiny pickles at them came to mind. Unfortunately, that dream never came to fruition, so I did the next best thing – I harnessed the power of the majestic Blue Falcon.
It starts with a Blue Egg…
To really appreciate the story you must understand that we were using up-armored, Nazi-era, Mercedes vehicles that were basically hermetically sealed coffins and, shall we say, painted UN white when we got them…err, uh…found them just sitting there unused at the airport in Kandahar…abandoned really…and definitely not belonging to the UN…at least not yet. We thought we should not leave them unattended, less someone steal them, so we put them to use right away.
So there we were, headed toward Kandahar International Airport at about 55 mph (the vehicle’s top speed, down hill, during a hurricane) in this hermetically sealed tuna can, with who knows how many pounds of high explosive rattling around in the back. I had called ahead, and instructed a friend that I’ll call Lou to meet us at the front gate so that our entry would not be impeded. Mind you, Lou had no idea what we had, only that we were coming in hot with something requiring EOD support and needed assistance through the gate.
CAW CAW! CAW CAW!
Lou was there as expected when we arrived, and had already called ahead to EOD to advise them of our imminent arrival. He hopped in and asked “What the hell is so important that I needed to arrange a welcoming committee?” I replied, “Remember those things they say don’t exist?” Lou, ever the smart ass and for some unknown reason an ardent Eminem fan answered, “Do you mean a female with good looks, who cooks and cleans?” I pointed over my shoulder with my thumb, motioning for him to look in the back. At the same time, I accelerated along the airport road so that I could get maximum air over one of the large speed bumps.
We caught major air and Lou saw his life flash before his eyes judging by the bloodcurdling “HOLY SHIT!” I heard. As I did my best “parking attendant in Ferris Bueler’s Day Off” impression, I thought, “I am kind of an asshole.”
Lou would later confess to me that he actually considered pissing his pants at that moment. He couldn’t though, because all he could picture was a “WHUMP” sound and the vehicle rolling to a stop with a fine red mist all over the inside of the windows. Sort of like the ol’ cat in the microwave joke (a classic), Lou really thought he was about to meet his maker.
I could have told him that Justin had rendered the devices safe before I left, and that he was in no danger, but where’s the sport in that?
They’re not only cocky, revisionist assholes in the movies, kids…
Of course, after the turn-in it was claimed that OGA knew about these things all along, and that it was an old Mujaheddin tactic they used against the Soviets back in the ’80s. Yeah, right. This from the same guys that said these things didn’t exist as of yesterday. As Lou is my witness (Note: From this day forth Ranger Up will use this phrase incessantly – each time in our best Moses Charlton Heston impression), we proved our case and saved lives in the process. We also proved once again that there is no substitute for a group of highly motivated US soldiers on a mission – especially one that doesn’t exist, is possibly illegal, or accomplished using questionably procured equipment, and will very likely either get everyone involved into big trouble or make them heroes.
Hey – even a blind squirrel gets a nut every now and then.
A Small Tribute
Brian and Justin were both killed in action a few weeks after this incident. They were consummate professionals, and my team and I literally owe our lives to them several times over. They and their families are true American heroes, and are sorely missed.