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Night Into Day

Finding the Enemy
Corporal Lee Edwards with Molly the bomb dog.  Everyone loves Molly.  First off, she’s a cool dog that likes to swim in the river with the soldiers, and secondly she trots into combat and has found a lot of bombs that could/would have blown people up.  Molly can cross ladders spanning deep ditches, or when needed she piggybacks on Corporal Edward’s shoulders.  It seems that every working dog in Afghanistan is treated better than the soldiers.  Molly is no exception.  Corporal Edwards treats Molly like the Queen of Sangin.

Up to this point, there had been no gunfire, but first light was coming at 0440, and we needed to get into position before light.  So my section of eight left the compound while others stayed behind with Rifleman Grieves.

Corporal Kenny Copeland 2 Plt A Coy 2 Rifles.

We moved another two hundred meters through low corn to another compound, which was occupied by a family.  The man of the “house” asked if he could leave, and if he could take his wives and children.  The British soldiers treated the family respectfully saying they were free to stay or to go.  I kept the camera low.  After all, the man was not known to be Taliban, just a farmer, and it’s bad enough that we would commandeer his compound for half a day, much less that someone would start to take photos.  The soldiers were respectful of the little property, though there was practically no property other than a few filthy blankets, nasty pillows, one light bulb, and just enough cooking utensils to fill up a brown grocery bag.  The family tantamount lives in a barn with three cows, two donkeys, some sheep, chickens, and what appeared to be a fat dove-like bird in a cage hanging above their filthy blankets.  Corn, okra and other vegetables were growing within the compound.

The compound, rooms and all, covered an area about the size of a tennis court.  Tomato slices were laid out drying on a chest-high wall while human and animal feces dried just near the bottom of the same wall.  Fred Flintstone would call the place primitive.

The compound had been selected because the commanders thought Taliban might stumble into us while the Taliban were, let’s say, reacting to some other initiatives.  If the Taliban ran into us, the soldiers were to kill them, and by now various elements were scattered smartly about to make the Taliban feel like a pinball, only instead of getting hit with flippers, it might be machine guns, rockets, mortars, howitzers, and fire from aircraft.  The Taliban are trying to snare us with mines, bombs, and SAFIRE (small-arms fire), and basically we try to do the same, only we don’t use mines, and our bombs often come from the sky.  The Taliban are very brave, but they are ignorant brutal men who murder locals who do not support them, and brave doesn’t stop bullets.

After we occupied the compound and the family walked out, the soldiers heard some activity and were keen to check it out.  Compound walls are incredibly resilient and can stop 30mm rounds, so AK-47 bullets make little more impression than do mosquitoes on windshields, but that doesn’t stop people from tossing grenades over the walls or popping up from tunnels. The rustling next door was just a family going about their business. And so we waited, and waited.  While other British and Afghan elements did their work.  Our job was to wait for about ten hours to shoot any Taliban who stumbled by, or maybe call in an air strike or cannon fire. Lance Corporal Kevin Bowen, from Jamaica, mans the radio after carefully checking/cleaning his machine gun and laying the brush down.  Kevin’s accent is easier to understand than some of the British accents. Riflemen Jamie Massey and Jordan Farrer checked their weapons and zonked out.  Everyone was wet from the canal crossings and sweat, and so the morning was chilly.

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