While I was deployed to Afghanistan, I had a wooden stand next to my desk. It was, ironically a wooden cross that my armor sat on. I wrote on there “Psalm 23” and “Psalm 91” so that I could see those passages whether my armor was on the stand or not. Plus, every time I donned my gear, I was reminded that Jesus was there right beside me, and that He was watching out for me each and every day.
I was very fortunate to have been stationed on a relatively secure Forward Operation Base (FOB) in a relatively secure part of the country. I travelled a good bit, but it was mostly to other FOBs in our Area of Operations (AO). The few times I travelled to areas “outside the wire” were always a little tense, but one occasion sticks out in mind that was more tense than usual. It was definitely one of the most sticky situations I was in throughout the deployment.
We had hired a local contractor to build some wells for a small village just outside of Kabul and we needed to make a site visit to check on the progress, talk to the contractor and talk to the village elders about the project. We had received some intel that morning about the enemy targeting the area and the trip was almost cancelled. In the end, the decision was made by the higher ups to allow the mission to proceed.
This was one of the few days where I actually “went red” on both of my weapons. “Red” is the status of the weapon itself. There are three states the weapon can be in and they are coded by colors: Green, Amber and Red. Green is an empty weapon. No ammunition magazines are loaded. An Amber weapon has the magazine loaded, but no round chambered and the safety is on. When a weapon is Red, there is a round in the chamber, but the safety is still on. The safety only comes off when you are ready to fire.
While on my home FOB I carried my pistol in an Amber status and my rifle was locked in a rack in a Green status. Most of the time I travelled I carried both of my weapons in an Amber status. On that particular day, they were both in a Red status. The OIC of the group later admitted that one of the reasons he had asked me along was because I was another set of eyes and another rifle, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Our first stop of the day was to the regional Afghan National Police (ANP) headquarters. We had a little visit with the chief where we shared Chai Tea and talked about the local goings on, and then we asked about an escort to the village. Normally such a thing would have been extra security, but with all the insider attacks, in this case it added to the anxiety a little. At least for me.
The route to the village was a series of very narrow dirt roads with high walls on each side. The ANP Truck was the lead vehicle. The roads themselves were filled with blind curves and only one vehicle could pass at a time. Our site distance was very limited and our reaction time was severely hindered by the route the ANP took us on.
They led us to an open area that looked sort of like a town square, if the town square was all dirt and the buildings were made of out of mud. The area was not defensible. We were exposed. The ANP said they were lost and needed to get directions and then they left. The had led us to an area where we were open and left. Everyone had the same thought: we were about to get hit!
Time seemed to slow down as we waited for the inevitable. Much to our relief, the ANP returned. They couldn’t have been gone more than 10-15 minutes, though it seemed like hours. They then proceeded to lead us to the village we needed to go to. Keep in mind that the ANP were from that area and knew it quite well. There should have been no need for them to ask for directions, and to this day, nobody knows why they left or why they returned.
One of the soldiers on the movement team was convinced that we were only spared because we gave them 15 gallons of diesel fuel for their truck. Outside the city proper, commodities like fuel were very scarce and a little bit of diesel would go a long way with the locals. While that may be partly true, I am convinced that God was looking out for me. Psalm 91 tells us in part:
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
Given how safe I was throughout the deployment, both on that particular day and every day, I know that God was with me, protecting me and watching over me.