Location : FOB Inkerman, Upper Sangin Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan
I decided to move my radio shift of 0100hrs to a later one of 0300hrs because of the HF Crypto change. If I’d done the earlier one then I’d only have been woken up at 0420hrs just as I was going into deep sleep.
My luck with Crypto wasn’t very good and this showed when my fill gun batteries had died and the Crypto e-purged itself. Luckily the Royal Marines had the relevant fill for my radios. They were expecting me as well. The bastards.
“Don’t have much luck with Crypto do you?” Dave the signaller remarked.
“Don’t remind me. That one day it took 12 fucking hours to sort out the TacSat nearly finished me!”
While toying with the Crypto we were told of the inbound Chinook 15 minutes before it landed. Taff was about in his body armour and helmet to bring it into the HLS. Two Apache helicopter gunships, circled our base. These were the Chinook’s bodyguards, prowling for targets like predators in a savannah. The Chinook swooped in with its underslung load. As it dropped the load somebody shouted, “Stand to!!”
After 5 minutes of deliberation. Questions as to why it was called, who called it? The slightest whiff of ‘Stand to’ and everyone caught it. It was worse than D&V. Before you could say D&V, everyone was in body armour and helmets.
The Chinook didn’t even land. It swooped, dropped and fucked off! Blasting chaff behind it – the pilot wasn’t taking any chances (probably on R&R soon). What was wrong with a bit of mail? We could have had a bag on the underslung at least!!
The BRO had organised an interest period at 1000hrs. The Marine Mortar Fire Controllers would take us through an introduction into their position. A ginger bearded Sergeant introduced himself as the Firing Sergeant. He was in charge of 3 82mm mortar tubes. These had a range of approximately 5.5km and could hit targets as close as 150m away. They were top loaded; dropped into the tube and the firing pin would initiate the primer which would launch the round vertically. Various ammunitions included; Smoke, HE, Illum, Infra Red Illum and white phosphorous. White phosphorous was particularly nasty, when ‘Shake and Bake’ was called over to the MFC they would put Smoke down the tubes as well as Phos. This he said was against the ‘Geneva Convention’, so this wasn’t officially done, he said.
The Mortar pits were positioned to the westernmost part of the patrol base. The walls that protected the base were pocked and holy. They didn’t offer much protection in so much as to screen the crewmen, whom had trenches for incoming rounds. Behind the mortars to the east were mounted support weapons of varying calibres. These were used to defend the base. Before leaving, the ginger bearded mortar sergeant made us take some plastic charge tubes each. These could be made into crude mugs, similar to a Bavarian Stein, but not glass. I was paranoid about using these plastic receptacles for the fear of contracting D&V. The use of the ‘Greeny’ as a pint glass for beer sounded good though.
Around dinnertime while setting up a game of Risk for world domination, a thunderous explosion made us all take cover. There’d been no warning. Normally the LCMR (Lightweight Counter Mortar Radar) would detect the launch and we’d be notified. Whilst the rocket was in mid flight. On the Company net we heard, “Bang successful.”
Disposing of mortar shells and not telling us about it was a habit the marines would have to break quickly. We’d soon stop telling them if we had a fire mission: that’d shit them up.
Two minutes later another explosion shook the building. “Ah! That’s another controlled explosion!!” I yelled. However there was a whooshing noise that preceded the explosion – that wasn’t meant to happen! FUCK!!!
The south sangar reported an impact 250m to his left. Bullets began to zip overhead in droves. I heard a ‘ping’ as a bullet reached the end of its trajectory and bounced off a Pinzgauer. The hammering of the 7.62, 50 cal, 5.56, and GMG went out to the crazy people attacking us. Their fanatic optimism and dedication was something to see. I had to admit I admired the crazy fuckers!
A Harrier was on station and was given instructions by the JTAC callsign to drop a 1000 pounder. After mortar had minimal effect on the Taliban position, the Harrier was called in. Later after the TIC (Troops in Contact) was over we could see the heat sources of the Taliban glowing white on the video footage. In essence it was a snuff video or Kill TV as it was known over here. A countdown timer could be seen until the whole screen blossomed white and went blank. As the Harrier left the target grid it switched to its rear cameras. The uplink cut as the aircraft left the area. There were a total of 2 bombs dropped. This had the desired effect as the Apache Attack Helicopter found no movement and the TB intercom was dead.
That evening at orders we were told a Captain Ferooki, a prominent Taliban Commander had been killed in the Harrier drop. RIP Ferooki.
JTAC – Joint Tactical Air Controller (co-ordinates aircraft in attack and battlespace deconfliction)
Pinzgauer – A Truck
GMG – 40mm grenade launcher. Similar to the AGS17
HE – High Explosive
Illum – Illumination
D&V – Diarrhea and Vomiting
HF – High Frequency (A term used to describe a radios operating fequency)
TacSat – Satellite Radio
Crypto – What is says. Crypto. Can’t and won’t disclose anymore info on this.