Reporting Afghanistan

John Wendle

The Death Star

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A Window On the War in Afghanistan – here is the intro to a audio slide show at – Multimedia: The War in Afghanistan Up Close – this is pretty good. Some of the pix are pretty scary. I was in an MRAP just a few days ago. Its messed up to see what an IED can do to one of those beasts.

The MRAP crews name their machine just as crews used to name bombers in WWII.

One was named Sophie since that name was written in small, neat, red, permanent marker letters under the door.

The Death Star

The Death Star

Another machine was called Death Star. This name was written in big letters in permanent marker across the front, right over the International hood ornament. The Marines who dubbed the machine got in trouble since the military does not allow vehicles, or ‘victors’ in military speak, to be marked with aggressive names or logos like skull’s heads since, as one Marine told me, “they feel it would send the wrong message to the people or locals would come up and ask us what ‘Death Star’ means and we wouldn’t have an answer.”

The Death Star

The Death Star

One crew called theirs The Rhino because it has a meter and a half long nose piece sticking up like a giant, all steel black flag from its nose. The boom lowers and the “flag” hangs down emitting a signal near the ground that, in Iraq at least, was meant to block detonating signals for IED sent from devices as simple as garage door openers. As of yet, the crew had not operated the device yet since IEDs in Afghanistan are huge, but not too sophisticated in their detonating devices.

Even if the IEDs aren’t sophisticated in their detonating mechanisms, they are still deadly, as Ferguson says in his TIME piece. All of the 26 injuries that Apache company sustained in Wardak province in Ferguson’s piece were sustained from IED attacks – as was the one KIA.

Sometimes its something as simple as a line stretching away into the bush. One Marine at Jaker told me he traced a line some 200 meters off the path, finding the end, he found nothing.

But those who plant IEDs are becoming more devious, the Marines told me. One Marine, who covered me as I ran back inside the wire after local Afghan National Police (ANP) started shooting over my head in an altercation with some police recruits who didn’t want to be recruited and were high on opium, told me that he was walking down one of the narrow lanes that wind through the mud walled villages along the life giving canals in this region and so a very slight bulge in a wall. That’s it. Just a slight bulge. The marines ended up blowing up the whole corner of the wall and figure they vaporized a dozen pounds of fertilizer based explosives along with bolts and nails and other random pieces of metal that had been embedded in the explosives in the wall to act as shrapnel.

The guy, who is only 22, said that there had been enough explosives concealed behind the re-smoothed mud of the wall, “to do some serious hurting.” He added, “the funny thing is, is a week later, we patrolled by the same wall and we found another IED. It was hidden in the hole where the other IED had been. This time they just put a piece of paper over it.”


Written by johnwendle

October 12, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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