I’m not a machinegunner, I am what is commonly called Tow gunner. But on deployment I was in a machinegunners billet the entire time. I only had the 240 when doing mounted ops. As a member of a CAAT (Combined Anti Armor Team) team the vast majority if not all our missions involved gun trucks. The 240 always stayed on the truck. The M4 at my side in the turret. When dismounted the 240 stayed in the vehicle with a different gunner and I would carry on with the mission with my personal weapon while on foot. We never had to “hump” the crew served weapons, unlike the guys in the line companies.
The majority of the ANA we worked with was very unprofessional. Their weapons carries were pretty lazy and so was their discipline. I saw a mix of guys in there. Some would get scared under fire, others would return fire without any discipline whatsoever, the famous spray and pray. A few others turned out to be pretty good. This ANA squad leader we called Rambo was probably the best I saw, he would be running and gunning chasing the taliban hard and pushing his team to do the same even while under fire. He was pretty good. But the common opinion on the ANA and the ANCOP (Afghan Police) was that they were unreliable most of the time.
Anything ranging from route clearance to heavy gun support for the foot patrols. Throw in a mix of resupply missions, combat taxi, medevacs. Constant QRF (Quick Reaction Force) for everyone in our AO (Area of Operation). A lot of patrols and screening missions working with the 11s as well. Pretty much anything that you needed done we could do it as long as the trucks could get there, or as long as the place was not too far away from the roads. Our section never had more than 14 guys at a time while outside the wire (not counting passengers from other units in the vehicles) so whenever we had to dismount the vehicles we could only go so far away. At the minimun the gunners had to stay back, and the majority of the time you needed drivers and gunners to stay back so the available personnel for dismounted ops was about a reinforced fire team. When trucks were static we could go up to two fire teams. But like I said in that situation the trucks were static.
The AO improved a lot. When we first showed up over there it was pretty bad. We called it the “wild west”. IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device) were everywhere and firefights were daily. By the time we left the big IEDs of the summer time were rare. DFC’s were still around but in much smaller numbers. Taliban activity decrease substantially. Security had increased greatly. It was still dangerous, just like the rest of Afghanistan. But it was nothing like we had seen in the summer time, when every time we left the wire we knew that something bad was going to happen. We found 16 IEDs and escorted EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) to destroy countless others in our company size AO. The area that we patrolled was fairly small I would say, but still activity never ceased and for an area of such size I would say that a lot happened in there.
Best weapon ever made. It doesn’t have to be clean to fire. Doesn’t have to be bathed in lube to work properly. It’s faithful and powerful. I shot about 1100 rounds with it and I only experienced one single jam the entire time. Taliban doesn’t like when there’s bursts of 7.62 heading their way. Nothing bad to say about it.
Best? The Frogg (Flame Retardant Organization Suit) suits that we wore were a lot more comfortable than regular cammmies, especially during the summer time in southern Afghanistan. The plate carriers we used were much lighter and comfortable than regular MTV (Modular Tactical Vest) flak jackets.
The worst? We were forced to wear only boots with the USMC EGA (Eagle Globe Anchor)stamped on them, so all those high speed boots that you see in the tactical stores are forbidden for us. I was sent to Afghan with only 2 sets of frogg suits, and then given one more half way through. You definitely need a lot more than just 3 for a 7 month deployment. Also getting new gear was a real pain, supply never gave away anything easily and always asked for paperwork if we wanted anything. The rear echelon guys were not all that helpful with the frontline dudes.
More than complaining about issued gear, I would complain about the little effort made on giving us better living facilities. Some of the tents I slept in were covered in holes, we had no AC during the summer time and no heat during the winter. Little to no entertainment while in the patrol bases and FOBs. I’m sure the other branches of the military take better care of their guys and ask them to do a lot less work, than what the USMC asked us to do in Marjah, Also a lot of the high speed stuff that you see in Army units or advanced weaponry such as unmanned turrets on top of MATVs is nowhere to be seen in the Marines. But either way, we did what we were asked to do with what we were.
I only bought a few things. Like a few PMAGs, an NVG pouch and a couple little things. I never spent much money in tactical gear. I did have some unused gear, such as gas mask, LBV, Gore tex, etc. I just didn’t have the need for that.
Boot camp sucks. Its quite an adventure. You feel pretty low while you’re going through it but at the end you feel like you own the world. Later on in the Marines, you look back and laugh at all the stupid stuff the Drill instructors made you do. Boot camp is just a different world.
They haven’t advanced in hundreds of years. Their religion and their mindset keep them stagnant. They’re pretty tough though. Living in such harsh conditions is no joke.
Tons… I wouldn’t even know where to start. But when Marines are bored a lot of things happen for good or for bad. One of the funniest things that happened was making our interpreter sing Akon songs for us with his broken English.
During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Taliban was always looking for a fight, and always looking to hit us whenever they had a chance. Our section got hit a couple times, some guys got Medevac and spent several weeks away. The company as a whole got hit a lot during that month. It was a pretty tough time for everyone. But we managed to carry on with all the missions.
This one time halfway through deployment, the mobile PX showed up with laptops and wireless internet. We got to go online for about 15 minutes each. It was pretty awesome. That was the only time they brought WIFI for us. The regular mobile PX usually came once a month, at least until they got hit right outside my patrol base. They stopped coming to our side of the city after that. And of course the moment we hopped in the bird that took us out of Marjah was probably the best time we had. Time for a hard earned break.
They’re not stupid. They know what they’re doing. They want to kill us just as bad as we want to kill them. I’ve heard Air force dudes saying that the Taliban is “retarded” because they attacked the main gate of their big AFB in the north of Afghanistan. But those guys must be of a different kind, because the ones we faced down south wanted to live so they could fight another day. They played their cards smart and always tried to fight us whenever they could.