There is a phenomenon we experience here that most people do not understand stateside – artillery. Typically around sunset, sunrise or the middle of the night the artillery battery on our FOB will shoot off rounds. The battery is responsible for providing coverage and support to a large area in our province, thus at any time during the day or night one can hear the sounds of out-going artillery.
Soldiers at locations other than mine call for artillery when they are under attack, when they have positive identification of insurgent locations or when they need illumination during nighttime. Although the sound of out-going artillery is always shocking and unexpected, I think of it as the sound of salvation – who knows what the guys who requested artillery are going through. Thus, artillery – the sound and feeling of freedom. And by feeling, I do mean feeling.
Outgoing artillery is characterized by a series of huge blasts. Since we are located on the same end of the FOB as the artillery battery we really get to experience outgoing. Blasts typically shake our building, rattle the metal window coverings and always make you jump. If you’re outside, the blasts literally shake your chest cavity. You know what I mean? Have you ever been at the movie, watching one of those loud, surround-sound, digital, dolby, TMX stereo movies and your whole body sorta convulses when the explosions go off or something crashes. Well, imagine that tenfold – with no visual warning. It’s enough to make you crap your pants. Well, not me, at least not yet.
Incoming is a totally different phenomenon. It’s not as loud, but the psychological affect is much more damaging because you can die from incoming – hardly the sound and feeling of freedom.
Ironically, today we experienced incoming. That’s not happened very often on my FOB – thank God, but we heard this one land nearby and yeah, there is a kind of whistling noise followed by the boom of the explosion. About 30 seconds later the base alarm siren went off and continued sounding for around 10 minutes. We had only one round come in – a mortar set off by someone on a nearby hill.
Thankfully, no one was hurt. Two of my team was inside the office and two were driving to the front gate when the shell landed. The two driving parked the vehicle, jumped out and ran to a nearby bunker then called me to say they were okay. (The first thing I must do is get and report the status of my team). The entire crisis lasted 25 minutes or so then we went about our business. Mission first, remember?
The previous paragraph was written quite some time ago. We actually had mortar rounds dropped on us last night. Everyone expected the “spring offensive” to come on full force once the winter snows melted from the mountains. It’s here. About 1am a couple of nearby explosions sounded…. Don’t worry, no one was injured. But as usual – we got a quick accountability of everyone, sent it to the Commander then went about our business. Everyone except Carmen was in his/her room. It’s anyone’s guess where she was at 1am but 5 bucks says she had her heels to Jesus and was saying “Oh God” but I’m sure it had nothing to do with the incoming artillery we heard. Lucky girl.