OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (2003/2004) – Kabul, Afghanistan
I spent about 8 ½ years in the military with the Maryland Army National Guard – 290th Military Police Company, and one adventurous mission we had was our time in the desert! Our mission began in August 2003 and ended around April 2004, but not without our own stories and excitement to last us a lifetime. If you want to know where I am in this picture, I am the only black soldier in this photo, but if you still need help to locate me – I’m in the front row all the way to the left. The weapon you see me holding is a M249 S.A.W. (Squad Assault Weapon) and my official position during this tour was – gunner. I was the soldier you see poking through the top of the Humvee with my face covered to avoid being plucked by dirt, sand and flies.
The information behind this particular photo was taken prior to our money run mission in Kabul, Afghanistan. For those that may not understand what that means, it pretty much meant we escorted millions and millions of dollars from our hands to the Afghanis and vice versa. I can’t state how much was transported at any given time, but needless to say a person who won the lottery would be set for life – if the money was spent properly that is. These missions didn’t generally last very long, but certainly long enough to make you think when someone or some group attempt to hijack the convoy will.
What you have to remember and keep in mind is that our Humvee, which is behind us in the photo, was not armored and definitely not suited for the service in the desert. However, the Humvee did pretty well during the tour considering the sandstorms we had and the horrible heat waves at times. As the gunner poking through the top of this Humvee, my concerns were always will I get shot by a sniper, if we get into an ambush will I make it out alive and/or lose my legs because of nothing to protect them from an IED or VBIED. These thoughts went through my mind several times as I was traveling through the city and countryside. What made it even worse was that the SUV’s that we escorted weren’t armored either so if an ambush did occur we were at the mercy of our enemy. Thank God we never had that happen to us and everyone came back alive and well!
The other guys with me in the photo are pretty cool guys, and I still keep in contact with all these years later. I wasn’t a police officer then in the civilian world, but I was in the police academy before we got called by Uncle Sam to serve our country. The killer was that I was in my last week of the academy before I got yanked out to fight an enemy amongst the fly heaven sand pits. Thankfully I wasn’t forced to restart the academy, but just finished up the last two to three weeks with another academy class when I returned. I think I returned to soon, but I surely wasn’t going to wait a whole year or pay my way through another academy just to get my certification. It would be about another 2 ½ years before I finally fulfilled my obligations and received an honorable discharged in October 2006. I had already had two interruptions of the military prolonging the beginning of my police career, and wanted to get out and actually focus on that alone without any more disruptions. It wouldn’t be very long before my departure that the unit would be sent to Iraq. It was put on my heart that they would be going back over before I left and boy was I right.