I had a lot of bad days in Afghanistan. The following day was one of them. It isn’t my worst memory of Afghanistan, but it easily makes my top five.
My platoon was in the last month of our deployment, maybe even in the last three weeks, and we had to go on an “A and L” patrol, short for Admin and Logistics. Most of the time, an “A and L” patrol meant driving the fifteen minutes to a base called A-bad (Asadabad) and picking up the mail. Sometimes it meant picking up PAX who had come in off leave. Sometimes it meant taking trucks to get repaired. It always meant a stop at their chow hall’s ice cream bar.
We went to A-bad every week for something. Usually we left around lunch time, give or take three hours. On the “A and L” patrol from hell, though, we left at 0600. We escorted a mail truck down to FOB Fortress to collect the outgoing mail. It was the first and last time we went on a patrol to send out mail. Most of the guys were shipping boxes home so they didn’t have to pack it out with them. No one told FOB Fortress when we were coming, though. And no one told the mail guys how much stuff we had to ship.
Long story short, to collect all the outgoing mail of Destined Company required multiple trips to A-bad and FOB Fortress and Camp Joyce and back. It kept us busy from 0600 until way past dark that night. By the end of the patrol, after countless trips, everyone’s nerves were on edge.
In our MRAPs, everyone had a headset they wore while we drove. The headset was hooked into our radios, and everyone could talk through a vehicle internal channel. All you had to do was key a mike to talk. Or, if you have an IPod ear bud, you could slide it next to the microphone and everyone in the truck could hear the music.
My truck didn’t get to listen to music often; I had a rule against it. We needed to stay alert on patrols.
But after something like 16 hours of the “A and L” patrol from hell without a break, I took it upon myself to change the mood. So I put on a song we could all relate to: “Hotel California” by the Eagles. Everyone in the truck was from California, so the song worked perfectly.
And that was actually one of my favorite moments in Afghanistan. A sucky day, but nothing beats the Eagle’s “Hotel California” to remind you of something supremely better.