Back to my ol’ stumping grounds

Just when I thought I finally said goodbye to my former camp, we got tasked with a last minute mission to go there today.  Last night around 8:30 pm, we received verbal notification that we were rolling to Camp Blackhorse in the morning.  I was rather excited until I was informed we would have to wake up at 4 am.  Our goal was to be on the vehicles at 5 am and depart by 5:30 am.

Yesterday was a long day and I was already exhausted, but I prepared accordingly.  Around 2 am, I woke up thinking I was late until my wristwatch reminded me what time it really was.  So after another 2 hours of rest, my alarm clock sounded off and I drug my weary body out of bed and prepared for the mission.  I have increasingly grown to hate my alarm clock and the chirping sounds it makes.

My new gunner, Army SFC and Army Sgt Major.

I met up with my new teammates and we started our usual routine of preparing the MRAPs, mounting weapons, ammunition, checking out the radios, etc.  For those of us who have been here for 8 months, this has become routine and we had it down to a science and performed like a well-oiled machine.  But now with new teammates, we are still growing as a team.  If I were to take a page from Bruce Tuckman’s model for group development, most of us have departed the forming stage and now we are entering the storming phase.  Although this stage is necessary for team growth, it can be painful and contentious at times, especially for those who are averse to conflict.  But all teams go through this stage and then proceed to the norming stage.  My team went through this when we first arrived in country and now with the introduction of new team members, we are going through it together.

Pollution settling in the capital city.

So as to be expected, we encountered problems with mounting weapons, faulty radio loads and other communication issues.  After an hour and 15 minutes, we resolved all of these issues and our convoy was motoring through the city.  The pollution was rather heavy this morning and limited our visibility.  But once through the city, the air cleared and objects, people, and vehicles became much clearer.

Sunrise at Camp Blackhorse.

When we drove up to the front gate of Camp Blackhorse, I was eagerly searching for Liberty and Justice.  I was curious to see how much these puppies have grown since departing the camp.  But they were nowhere to be seen.  I inquired through the gate guard and he wasn’t sure of their names, but my description seemed to

Taliban sympathizer village near range.

match those of the 2 dogs that hang around the gate.  We didn’t have much time on the ground due to our schedule, so I stayed with my vehicle and took some pictures of the sun rising between the jagged peaks of the Jalabad Pass.

We departed Camp Blackhorse and drove back to camp.  By now the traffic was much heavier and we weaved

Female Army Capt shooting M-9 pistol.

our MRAPs through the city traffic and returned to our FOB to prepare for our next mission.  Several of my teammates did not have the chance to shoot at the range the last time we went.  So after lunch, we loaded up boxes of ammunition and drove out to the range.

Another team of coalition forces was already there and just finished their target practice.  Two of

ANA soldier with village children.

the village children were actively picking up the brass too.  Since we didn’t have an interpreter today, I had to rely on the few words of Dari I know to get the kids to stop and stand back in the safety zone.  Fortunately, one of the boys spoke rudimentary English and became my translator for the ANA who was also standing by.

We were also on a tight

Mark 19 high explosive rounds at range.

schedule for shooting so Air Force members could return in time to make the 2:30 pm Air Force call with our squadron commander who was coming for a visit.  The Army Sgt Major took charge of everyone and ensured we stayed within the established timetable.  Some of the gunners fired high explosive rounds at an abandoned tank, while

Teammate goofing off at shooting range.

others practiced with the .50 cal and M-240 machine guns.  Sgt Major also gave instructions to soldiers on how to shoot and aim their personal weapons.

While there, I took some pictures of the surrounding environment and a small flock of sheep that belonged to some of the village kids.  After shooting the weapons, we tossed the brass casings out on the ground for the kids.  We returned to camp and attended our commander’s call.

The day wasn’t over by a long shot…………………..To be cont’d………………

Village sheep at shooting range.

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One Response

  1. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 01/11/2010 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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