In the meadows of Afghanistan, an endless search for IEDs
Cpl. Justin Crabbe turns from the flames, which are oppressive in Helmand's 115 degree heat. Aug. 6, 2011.
(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
KAJAKI, Afghanistan —
Marines from Echo Battery, 2/12 Field Artillery, are what is known as provisional infantry.
They are trained for something else, in this case firing huge howitzers at distant targets. However, with the military stretched thin, they are required to patrol and fight on foot as infantrymen.
And like most infantrymen, they find themselves operating as a provisional bomb squad.
The area around the Kajaki Dam and hydroelectric power plant is seeded with old Russian mines, and local Taliban fighters make improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that are just as deadly and often more difficult to detect.
The Marines carry sophisticated electronics to try to find or disable the IEDs, but often it comes down to having sharp eyes, and spotting a bit of wire poking through the soil.
The artillerymen, based at Forward Operating Base Zeebrugge, have lost one Marine and had several terribly wounded in the few months they've been at Kajaki. Local children have also been killed by IED. A little boy rode his bicycle over one recently.
The meadows are littered with shrapnel from 30 years of war, which makes the metal detectors difficult to use. The knee-high grass also hides bones of IED and mine victims.
Marines make the grim discoveries from time to time, finding a leg bone from one of their fallen comrades picked clean by ants or a shredded piece of body armor.
Songbirds chirp and flutter about Kajaki's verdant meadows without a care, but a creeping fear hangs over anyone who sets foot in the grass, soft and deadly.