So it’s been a while since my last post, and I apologize. School and such can get in the way, as can writer’s block. Thankfully, the imminent deployment of one of my Facebook homies to my old AO has me reminiscing on the good old days, so I thought I’d share (as much as is prudent) the story of my first major battle operation in Afghanistan.
It was Feb 2010, and I had pretty much just finished qualifying after my on-the-job training. We were getting ready to launch an offensive in Afghanistan that my commander called “one of those iconic Marine battles that they write books about” and “our Fallujah”. It was gonna be huge. The Taliban had set up in this little village called Marjeh and was using it as a hub to direct their ops, and the Marines were to go in, kick their ass, and install a new government. The Brits and Marines surrounded the town and dropped leaflets warning all the civies that we were gonna mess up the town, so they better hide or get out while the getting was good.
My job was to help prep the battlespace and keep watch over the Marines. The Taliban had mined the entire area, so everyone was on IED lookout. We were running double missions and collecting more info than could fit in a few books. To make things even more entertaining, we had Marine observers (who wanted to know how we got things done to improve comms in the future) and our imagery guys were also running humanitarian ops for the Haitian earthquake. We processed so many reports and images I can hardly remember if I ever went off-line. It was as close as I could get to a baptism by fire.
Marjeh was also my first look at operational (and eventually strategic) stalemate. While the op was tactically successful (we only lost just more than 60 ISAF personnel), and we forced out most of the Taliban, Marjeh eventually became what Gen. McChrystal called a “bleeding ulcer”, as the Taliban simply moved on to form new hubs. It was disappointing, and the new Marjeh government was stagnating. Of course, pressure was on the intel guys to hunt everyone down, but being the nature of war, we couldn’t find everyone. Eventually, the area died down as we shifted focus to other areas.
All-in-all, it was an eye-opening experience for me. I learned how to multitask like a boss and stay calm in the face of overwhelming sensory overload, and I also learned that despite the in-theater gripes, the Marines did appreciate the work intel does for them. Sometimes I miss the pace of the offensive; nothing in the civilian world quite compares to the pressure. I definitely see, looking back, how some people just enjoy the thrill of it all; I did.
Saying that, I can see why Ares enjoys battle, too. Even if you lose (which we kind of did), it’s an almost ineffable feeling. I’d almost compare it to sex; it can be exhilarating or awful, there’s all this pressure to perform, you never quite know how good it’s going to be, and afterward, it’s mostly indescribable. Maybe that’s one reason Ares is paired so well with Aphrodite (and why they say all is fair in love and war). It may not be the best analogy, but there you have it. Hail Ares! May he bless my brothers and sister who served in that battle, and may those about to deploy carry with them the sharp spear of the War God.