The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Guest Blogger: SGT. Danger… Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda…

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Nathan Geist is currently serving as a Chaplain Assistant in the Army. He is a 2005 graduate of Zion-Benton Township High School, has studied for 3 years at Southern Illinois University, and recently appeared in the film The Promotion. Sgt. Geist has appeared as a periodic contributor to The Seeker since last September as he fulfills a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Note: this posting is over a month old; I’m still getting over the burnout from writing my thesis… my apologies for old information… Jeff

Friends, there are so many things I wish I could tell you about right now, so I’ll do my best and tell you what I can this time, and I’ll save the rest for another.

First of all, let me just say that I can’t wait to get back to college. When I first went to college, I went because it was the “thing to do,” and because the National Guard was willing to pay for it as long as I was still in the Army. But now, when I return in the fall, I will have a newfound appreciation for education and my opportunities to have it. This is mainly because how much I see the Afghans covet an education that I take for granted. Most of the Afghans I’ve talked to have a lifelong goal of attending any university in America. To me, that seems so foreign. Isn’t attending a university the very thing that I’ve always felt got in the way of my life? And here these Afghans are, gnashing their teeth in an attempt to get into an American school.

Of course America is educationally advanced, especially compared to Afghanistan. And in fact, America seems to be advanced in almost every way: economically, politically, intellectually, and militarily, to name a few. However, there is one area in which Americans lag behind Afghans: morality. For the Afghans, they find that some of the crimes that Americans commit to be completely appalling. For instance, it is unheard of that an Afghan would kill his entire family after losing a job. Yet in America, news like this frequently hits headlines. One Afghan I talked to believes this is because we don’t have a war on our land, nor have any of us ever experienced war on our own soil. Too few Americans understand what it means to be loyal to your country, except for what happened on September 11th, 2001. For the Afghans, they’ve experienced terrorism most every day on their land since they were born. As a result, they are dedicated to bettering their country at all costs, being loyal to the land until death. And as far as killing a family member or a friend or even an innocent stranger? It’s incomprehensible. Instead of killing each other, they’ve always had a collective enemy on their land, which drives them to want to be better people for their country.

Now, that’s not to say that Afghans are perfect people, or that they don’t struggle with some of the same things that Americans do. In fact, just this week I had an interpreter beg me to find him a porno magazine, trying to convince me that “it’s the democratic thing to do.” Furthermore, the Afghan government is not always forgiving of things that violate their culture. For example, the Afghans gave me some insight into their punishment system. For a man who has sex with a woman outside of marriage, he receives 80 lashings. For women who lose their virginity before marriage, they are stoned. And if you were to have homosexual intercourse, a large wall would be pushed over onto you. If you are still alive after the 15 minutes, then someone will pull you out. So, while Afghans seem to try to uphold what they consider traditional values, it seems to come at the expense of vile and cruel punishments. And while I only heard about these “rules” and have not firsthand seen or heard about this happening to someone, it does make me better appreciate the justice system in America in the event that these punishments really do happen.

SGT Bandee’s lack of adventure last month has already been rectified in full by the things he’s been through since my last update. I considered editing some of the things he said because of the offensive nature of his way of describing things, but I’ve decided to leave it unedited.“Yesterday morning, as we were getting ready to leave on the convoy, it dawned on me that the mission I was about the go on was, in fact, another dangerous mission. To get to where we were going, I would again have to get through IED alley (also known as Route Idaho). But it was another soldier that put the situation in perspective for me: the soldier, one who was on a mission the day before that got attacked, said to me, “Hey, at least you’re not going down Route Virginia!” That’s when I realized that at least that was true: after all, Route Virginia was probably the most dangerous route in the area at the moment, as that was the route that the convoy was attacked on, not to mention that there were two known pressure plate IED’s placed on the road somewhere, just waiting for a convoy to be the first to roll over it.

“The convoy made it through IED alley and to our destination with no complications, but while we were there, the command decreed that there was another necessary mission that had to be completed, and so it was decided that we would try and complete it on this day. And so, we began heading back down IED alley. Except, after we got through IED alley, we wouldn’t be heading towards Gardez, where we came from. Instead, we had to head out to a small Afghan National Army (ANA) base out in the middle of nowhere… an ANA base that was off of Route Virginia. And so, we trekked down the most dangerous road in Paktya province as the sun was setting on the day.

“Riding down Route Idaho and Route Virginia all in one day was one of the rockiest experiences of my life. The seat I was sitting on in the vehicle (known as a Cougar) was directly above the wheel, and every bump sent me flying in the air. Both Idaho and Virginia are unpaved roads, and so maybe you can imagine how bumpy it was. If you’ve ever played “break the egg” on a trampoline, then you have an idea of how it felt to be in that Cougar. Except, in the Cougar, when I flew in the air, I wasn’t falling down towards a trampoline; it was instead a hard seat, and I was surrounded by bags and weapons that continuously flew onto me. When I’d get launched in the air, I didn’t always land on my butt; in fact, after my body repeatedly crushed my nuts upon impact, I remember yelling out at one point, “I wish I had a vagina!” The trip was like a roller coaster from hell, and it lasted all day long. It even got to the point that I eventually learned how to react so quickly that, while in mid-flight, I’d extend my legs to stand and press my hands on the top of the ceiling so I could better stabilize myself. Near the end of Route Virginia, there was a dead body– an Afghan, covered with a plastic sheet, lying on top of a grave off to the side of the rocky road. I felt fortunate that, even though today was going to have its unpleasantness, at least I wasn’t that dude.

“To get to the ANA base, we had to travel offroad for a couple miles. We arrived to the ANA base with no complications, except for the fact that we didn’t have enough sunlight to make it back to Gardez. And so, we stayed at this small ANA compound that simply consisted of a 10,000 square foot area that was closed in by some Hesco barriers. We were out in the middle of a field, literally sharing the space with an Afghan shepherd and his flock. We were completely exposed with several mountains off in the distance. I couldn’t help but think how easy if would be for the enemy to launch mortars from there. There were no buildings in this compound, nor any real facilities (i.e., flushing bathrooms, chow hall, or lodging). We were either going to have to sleep in our vehicles or sleep outside on the ground. There were some cots, but not enough for everybody. Many of us anticipated getting attacked that night, so we decided that everyone needed to pull guard shifts. Fortunately, because there were so many of us, we only would have to pull one-hour shifts. We had officially settled in The Middle of Nowhere, Afghanistan.

“That night, I laid down my sleeping bag on the rocks right near our commander, Colonel Larsen, knowing that if we were attacked, I would dedicate myself to protecting his life. I settled into my sleeping bag with my rifle and looked up at the stars. I acknowledged that, today, I had been up and down some of the most dangerous (and bumpy) roads in Afghanistan, I didn’t have any shelter above me, I was very vulnerable to an attack, and here I was, lying on the ground on top of some large rocks. At that moment, I finally acknowledged how miserable I felt. No, not miserable for myself, but for you. I felt miserable for everyone who wasn’t going to fall asleep like I was, able to spend my entire night watching God’s craftsmanship above me. I felt miserable for everyone who has never experienced what I’ve been privileged to experience. And, I felt miserable that there were so few moments like this that I would get to enjoy in my life.

“I looked up to the sky and prayed that God ensure it didn’t rain this night, even though it already was cloudless and most likely going to be a dry night. I also had to pray that He protected all of us that night from snakes and scorpions. And just before I shut my eyes, a shooting star shot through the sky. I smiled and closed my eyes, cuddling my rifle, ready to defend this base in the case of a likely attack.

“0300 hours rolled around, and the soldier on guard shift woke me up. It was my turn to man the night cameras mounted in the Cougar. I got out of bed, put on my boots, and carefully watched the cameras for the next hour. I scanned for any suspicious activity, searching my zone for any possible Talibs. When my hour was up, I woke up my relief, and headed back to my sleeping bag and crawled back inside.

“A couple hours later, as the sun shined above me, I felt something poking at me. The night had gotten very windy and therefore very cold, so I was completely cocooned in my sleeping bag when the poking woke me up. I wondered if it was a scorpion, or a snake. I poked my head out and saw a little puppy back away. I couldn’t help but laugh. That is, until I realized he had my boot in his mouth, and had already carried it much farther than an arm’s length away.

“I yelled at him, “Hey! Hey!” as if he would know I wanted my boot back. He continued running around with it, and eventually I had to get out and chase him in my socks on the rocks. I got my boot back and went back to sleep, but not without first putting my boots inside my sleeping bag. When I finally woke up for the day a few hours later, I found out that after the puppy got bored with trying to get my boots, it took COL Larsen’s boots and dragged them to a ditch.

“As I got out of the sleeping bag this morning, I was very sore. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the bumpy convoy or from sleeping on jagged rocks. I imagine it was a combination of both. But, shortly after we all woke up, we were all ready to drive back down Route Virginia to get back to FOB Lightning. As I walked to an area that I could take a leak, the puppy followed me, biting my boots as I walked.

“Before we left the base on the convoy, we were heeded one warning: if anybody was to see any motorcyclists driving parallel to us, we needed to immediately call it in, because that cyclist would most likely turn out to be a Taliban spotter that was following us to blow us up at the opportune moment.

“Route Virginia was a little bit different than it had been the day before: today, there were no children, which is almost always a bad sign. When there’s no children playing outside on a warm day, that usually means they were forewarned that there would be an attack. If that wasn’t bad enough, as we traveled, the villagers stopped what they were doing and stared at our convoy as it passed them, as if they knew we were hiding Santa Claus in one of our trucks.

“To further raise anxieties, within minutes of our convoy, the very thing we were warned about appeared. An Afghan on a motorcycle was waiting for us off the road, and when we neared him, he began driving parallel to us. When we stopped, he would stop, and when we sped up, he’d speed up. The entire time, the cyclist kept his eyes on our Cougar, as if trying to figure out the timing of the vehicle’s movement. There was no question about it: we were in the enemy’s crosshairs. But, because of the rules of engagement, we couldn’t do anything about it because we had no proof he was a member of the Taliban. As we continued on our route, a soldier witnessed an Afghan watching us from an alley, and it was quickly determined that there was a good chance the Afghan was a spotter in cohoots with the motorcyclist still riding beside us.

“COL Larsen said to me over the radio, “Sergeant, if an IED goes off, I want you to dismount and tackle the guy on the bike.” This excited me, and I responded, “Roger, sir!” Then, the Colonel made it clear he was joking, to which I made it clear I was not. I explained to him that I would be more than willing to do it. He chuckled and said, “Yeah, I know you would.” As we traveled on, we prepared ourselves for an explosion, if not from the motorcyclist, then at least from one of the two pressure plates that we had somehow avoided the day before.

“But amazingly, once again, this story doesn’t end in the expected way. Instead, after a certain point, the motorcyclist slowed down and eventually faded away in our rearview mirrors. And from there, we successfully made it back to FOB Lightning, unscathed. Today, we weren’t blown up as we anticipated. And sure, there’s a possibility that the jamming system on our Cougar prevented the explosion from occurring when the trigger man pressed the button. Or, there’s also the possibility that everything was a coincidence: the kids weren’t out today because they were busy with chores inside; the Afghans gawking at us just moved into town and had never seen an American presence before; the motorcyclist was intrigued by our vehicle and just wanted to study it in action; the “spotter” perhaps was just a man who enjoys dwelling in dark alleys; maybe we got lucky and just barely missed the pressure plates. Could be. Yet, how can I see all the evidence and not lift my eyes to God, thanking Him for being the source of my protection?”

I’ve had several people ask when I will be coming home, and when and where I am transferring. Well, I’ll tell you exactly what the military has told me. Last month, we were told that our entire brigade would be home before August 29th, and that the information about our transfer wasn’t known yet. Last week, we were told that we would be transferring to Helmand or Kandahar on June 10th, but we would leave the country altogether in late July. Today, we were told that we are transferring to western Afghanistan (Herat province) on June 14th, and that we would leave the country altogether on September 9th. And, I’m positive that within the last hour, that latest timeframe, too, has become obsolete. So, to answer your questions as clearly as I can with the information I’ve been provided: I will be transferring to an undisclosed place in Afghanistan at an undisclosed time, and will leave the country altogether in the undisclosed future. That being said, I know at least that I will be leaving Afghanistan earlier than September 29th, as God told me in December. Believe me on that one.

Until then, peace out my brethren and sisthren.

Thank you, and God bless!

Happy Mudda’s day!

love, Nate

Written by seeker70

June 10, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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