04 September 2014

The Day I Got Arrested in Kandahar, Part 3

This is the third part in a three-part series. Read Part 1. Read Part 2.

"Get down!" yelled the Belgian captain.

He was quite serious. The "big voice" notified us of the incoming indirect fire. These things, while not a daily occurrence on KAF, are not out of the ordinary by any stretch. And while the procedures for responding to a rocket attack are sound, the reality is that avoiding injury from an enemy rocket or mortar on a big base like KAF comes down to nothing but sheer luck.

I hit the deck. Cameraman had a $5000 camera on a tripod, and was more worried about it than anything else. "You have to get down," I informed him. He grudgingly complied. The Belgian was clearly irritated by our lack of earnestness.

After a couple of minutes, we were to move to a bunker. Instead, we got inside the police vehicle and drove with the sergeant to the "precinct."

Threats were issued. Regulations cited. More phones calls.

I offered to have myself flex-cuffed, just to make it official. But since the security officer had a flight line to clear (his protocol for a rocket attack) he let us go with a very stern look on his face.

He was from Utah too! So I thanked him for being so meticulous in his security practices, and he took us to retrieve Ricky, who had been left alone 100 meters away. The Belgian had gone after him earlier and directed him to the nearest bunker.

We met up and moved to another bunker, where we baked until given the all-clear (see photo of Ricky baking). Luckily there was an Air Force E-7 with his rifle at the ready in case the enemy launched a follow-on ground attack. Given that such an attack never came, I assume they had scouts that saw the E-7 and concluded that it wasn't worth the risk.

We went on with our mission for the rest of the day. We ate curry. I played volleyball with the Australians that night.

The aftermath of this, while somewhat anti-climactic, reveals a lot of what is wrong with the Army at times.

I got a call a few days later from the Belgian. He was back! He told me we had to talk about the incident. I told him I had moved on. It wasn't him, I assured him. It was me. We had just grown apart. He really didn't want to end it.

Then I get a call from a Romanian, who apparently do the dirty work of the Belgians. He told me that I needed to come in and sign some paperwork acknowledging the grievousness of my sin. Okay. I went and found out that I had committed several escort violations:
  1. I shouldn't have driven on the taxi way. Why did the guard let me in? The Romanian didn't know.
  2. I was too far away from Ricky. How far is too far? The Romanian didn't know, but assured me that the Belgian assured him that I was too far. Imagine if we came under a rocket attack, all the bad that could happen. You just never know.
  3. I didn't have a memo. The Romanian did know about that, but we all did. You're probably wondering if the lieutenant colonel who was supposed to have provided me a memo took any responsibility. 
Cliff hanger, huh? Well, while the light colonel was avoiding responsibility, a different light colonel was conducting an investigation of his own. He summoned me for a final berating, which was punctuated by,
"Don't do that s--t."
All of my violations apparently sent ISAF into a tailspin.

I also had to get my escort badge punched. It's like getting branded a war criminal. they're not getting that back, I hope they know.

Now this entire story might seem anticlimactic, to which I say, "fine." But let it be a lesson.

Never trust a lieutenant colonel.

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  4. It appears that despite the lieutenant colonel saying that, you learned a valuable lesson here. I think if they were really pissed at you, things could have certainly gotten a lot worse in the end. When he told you to not do that again, reminded me of when I thought I was in deep and my dad just winked and said to not do it again.

    Faith Brady @ KHunter Law

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  5. I am glad that it was chalked up to lesson learned and that you did not face any serious charges for the incident. The fact that your superiors all told you that you shouldn't do it again, but sort of tongue in cheek. Going forward, I know that the way this was handled will resonate with you for years to come.

    Eliseo Weinstein @ JR's Bail Bonds

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