In our Fall/Winter digital issue, we will be taking you into the life of a Marine, being salty, deployment, relationship building and life post-Marine Corps. But before that, we wanted to share with you Nick Marine's encounter from May/June of 2010. We call this "Preface - Life of a Marine."
During the time that Marine was in Afghanistan; I recall having read an article in the NY Times about Lt. Col. William F. McCollough, commander of the First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, and it was from 2009, when there was quite the intense Taliban stronghold.
You are speaking of Colonel Bill. Unfortunately I didn’t have the pleasure of serving with him. We Marines use a certain formula, if you will, of how we approach operations. His unit was apart of the attack phase. They helped lead the assault into Nawa district and into the City of Marjah. We came in and were apart of the “secure and holding” phases once they left. The Taliban had a massive hold on the local population at the time before and during my first tour. Even kids were helping plant IED’s and taking shots at patrols.
The ANA (Afghan National Army) and the AMP ( Afghan Military Police) were as corrupt as they come. A group of AMP ran into a Marine PB about a month after we got there and killed three Marines and injured a few more. We did see a difference the farther we got into our deployment. My unit specifically really put out a show of force. We were on a rotation of 3 days on, 2 day off.
For 3 days you would be a patrol schedule. You were required to patrol a minimum of 30-kilometers a day and be outside the wire for no less than 14 hours. This really put the pressure on the Taliban. We constantly had 6-13 Marines patrolling at all times. They still tried to take their shots at us obviously.
Specifically one time I remember, it was about 2 or 3 weeks into the deployment.
Mission came down to patrol the southern most town in our AO ( Area of Operations.) So 9 of us loaded into three trucks and set up for a 72 LP/OP (Listening post/Observation Post.) We pulled into an area we thought would be good and sat – for three days. Watching the locals, learning their habits and waiting for something to happen. Four or five of us would go out every few hours on a small roving patrol, refill on cigarettes at the bazaar, that was a few clicks away, interact with the locals and just see what we could do to help (we were required to have an interpreter with us at all times.)
Hour-71 rolls around; we are prepping the trucks and gear to get ready to roll back to base and a call comes on the radio. A guy was putting in an IED on route Wild Turkey, on the only way back to our base. We load up and head out to hopefully intercept the guy, we get to the area of where we think he put the IED in.
Another squad came up from the backside of the road and had already detained him and laid down chem lights around the area of the IED. They told us they got there late so the chem lights might not be in the right spot so to make sure before we walk. My sergeant, at the time, tells me to grab a metal detector and start sweeping with him. I line up on the right, and him on the left side of the road. We start sweeping, stopping at every little beep we get. Mostly are nails and screws, but my heart skipped every time that detector went off. We get about 10-yards away from the chem lights and my sergeants detector goes off, biggest hit so far. We stop dead and he bends down and wipes away some surface dust to uncover a 80-gallon drum, which we suspect is full of explosives. We freeze and scan for any signs of a detonation device. I look down at my feet and realize I am actually standing on top of a pressure plate – a very simple way of setting off IED’s.
Basically, (there are) two metal plates connected to wires. When you step on them they complete the circuit and it blows up the explosives they are attached to.) We both looked at each other and just waited for it to go off.
He said maybe it’s a pressure release, which is the same concept as a pressure plate, but the circuit is complete after you release the pressure. So he told me not to move while we got EOD out to us. Everyone backed away to a safe distance and we waited. I stood on that for about 15 minutes, just waiting for EOD or for it to go off.
EOD radios in and says they wont be to our position for another two hours. I know I can’t stand that long. I’ve been out for three days straight, with only a few hours of sleep keeping me up. The adrenaline is wearing off and I am getting weaker by the second. I call my Sergeant over and tell him that I have to take the chance and step off. We argue back and forth…I told him I either have to step off or I will eventually lose strength and fall off. I would rather be making the decision than it just happening. Finally he agrees and backs away.
I closed my eyes, said goodbye to everyone in my head and lifted my foot.
Nothing. Nobody really knows what to do.
I bend down and pick up the pressure plate. I turn to show everyone, it wasn’t connected to the explosives. The guy had been caught and was trying to run before he could complete the wiring. EOD shows up a few hours later and digs up the barrel. It is packed to the brim, 80-lbs of explosives meant to take out one of our trucks on the way back to base.
I was lucky unlike so many others. That night has never left me.
The feeling of fright of my life, joy that I was lucky, and guilt for surviving.
We thank you for so bravely serving & protecting our country. And we thank each member of the Marines, Military and other Armed Force. You can read Nick’s complete interview in our Fall/Winter issue, releasing in December 2016.