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Sketching the Drawdown (part three)

Pushing out


Saturday, December 8, 2012 @ 2119
Forward Operating Base Geronimo, Helmand Prov., Afghanistan
Continued from pt 2 

I finally got to meet the BBC reporter who's been occupying the space across from me. His name is Ben Anderson, a Brit in his late 30's. This was either his sixth or seventh trip doing this. Early this morning, Ben and I took a stroll to the Dining Facility (DFAC) to have breakfast, where he shared with me his latest experiences in Sangin with 2/7. Ben, a veteran embed, had created a documentary of the battle of Marjah for HBO a while back so, naturally, I hung onto his every word. Ben pledged that the soldiers he'd spent time with from the Afghan National Army (ANA) truly hate the Taliban and, that in most areas, are good to go (with the exception of their lackluster rules of engagement). On the other hand, he stated that the Afghan Police are plagued with corruption. He believes that there's still more work that needs to be done before we pull out. Ben left to go back home an hour later.

Pirek picked me up later in the day to take me to the the airfield, and, from there, I flew to Geronimo to link up with 3/9. I took a V22 Osprey, and had arrived just before 2000 where I was promptly greeted in the pitch black LZ by the battalion Adjutant, Lt. Haviland. The young Lieutenant toured me around the FOB introducing me to all the important people, including the Battalion Commander. The unit was extremely hospitable and inviting. To say otherwise would be a crime.

The FOB resembled very little to that of a combat zone. Zero indirect fire (IDF), little to no kinetic activity in the area, nothing. Marines no longer stand post either; the job has been contracted out to civilians. Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, now mans these positions. Lima Company Marines go on patrols every so often, but that's it. I was leaving in a day, so the chances of me landing on one of those patrols was slim. 

Haviland put me in the guest area for the duration of my short stay. The accomodations are unreal (for combat zone standards). Definitely a far cry from my earlier days in the war where human comfort took a backseat. This is not the war that I remember---this is what a drawdown must look like. 

From what was said to me, I will be here until the 10th where I will fly south near the Afghan/Pakistan border to FOB Payne. More patrols run at that location than they do here. Then on the 14th, I will make my way to FOB Hanson near Marjah where India Co just lost a Marine in a nasty ambush a few days ago. I guess despite how "nice" some of these places have it, the war still rages. Will I get to see it during the course of my embed? Who knows, I suppose we'll see.

Page 9 of Journal 

I was bored, so I did a quick self-portrait from the mirror on the wall.


Sunday, December 9, 2012 @ 1917
Forward Operating Base Geronimo, Helmand Prov., Afghanistan 

I spent much of the day roaming the FOB, familiarizing myself with the area and sketching whatever seemed worthy. Last night was probably the best nights rest that I've had since the 4th; I slept six hours straight and, at one point in the night, I woke up and forgetting where the hell I was. The day began at around 0730 when I went to eat chow and hygiene. Afterwards, I went back to my quarters to grab my drawing kit and camera and mosied around outside in the bitter cold looking for something to draw. The sun was beginning to rise and I wanted to capture it. I took out my watercolors, sliced in half a bottle of water to use as a cup, and then went to work. The results were disasterous. This was a learning experience, as Moleskine pads don't take to water kindly. Needless to say, my painting went to shit before it really ever began. After that abomination, I repositioned myself behind a truck bed and began sketching the Lima Co. side of the FOB. Using both sides of the book, I worked the drawing over in pen, color pencil, and dirt. Yes, dirt. This was a little trick that I discovered from my last time in country. I lick my index finger and rub it into the dirt. Then I take the wet dirt and smear it onto the page. Works beautifully, and I'm the only one that I know who does this.

 Lima Co area sits behind the antennas and satelite dishes.

Academi contractor, Chris Maher, on post.

Ghost post (unmanned) overlooking a portion of the LZ.

Early in the afternoon I began prowling around for a Marine to interview. I ran into LCpl. Utley, a Motor-T Marine who operates Wreckers. We bullshitted for a few minutes and then headed to the motorpool where he spent most of his days standing by. I asked Utley if it was cool that I draw his portrait. He obliged. I took a seat on an old wooden pallet and he pulled up a cooler to sit on. We casually spoke about our lives as I began to sketch him out. Topics such as homelife, getting promoted, how we both fell prey to Non-Judicial Punishments (NJP's), and his future outside the Corps were discussed. I asked Utley how he felt about our withdraw in 2014. He believes that the ANA is not yet ready to take the lead and that we should stay in Afghanistan for at least a few more years after the anticipated deadline.

 LCpl. Adam Utley of H&S Co. at the motorpool.

Which leads me to this next question: Why in the hell do we publicly announce pull-out dates anyway? Is anything sacred in the world of media/reporting?

Afghanistan is a strange place. On one hand, it's dangerous. But, on the other hand, I feel safe. This battalion lost a Marine on 2 December outside of FOB Hanson, where I'll be at my last 3 days of the embed. If there's one thing to remember, you're never too safe no matter where you're at. Tomorrow, I take a bird out to Weapons Co. over at FOB Payne. I hope to hop on a few patrols while there.

Continue pt4 . . .

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Reader Comments (1)

Very interesting post !*

May 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCamil

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