The life of a soldier overseas in Afghanistan
Written by Andrea Gump on May 9, 2018
An Ohio Army National Guard unit based in North Canton, Ohio is getting ready to deploy to the Middle East in February of 2019. This unit has already faced a few hardships while serving the United States overseas, but one day in 2012 changed their lives forever.
“FOB Salerno from the rest of the country was actually like a little resort. From me coming from one of the bigger bases farther away, the day we left there it was 32 degrees and snowing… flew an hour south, and it was actually 75 degrees and no snow.”
Staff Sergeant Derek Seavers describes the day he arrived at Forward Operating Base Salerno which was occupied by the U.S. military from 2002-2013 during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Located in the Southeastern province of Khost, Afghanistan, Salerno was nicknamed “Rocket City” for the numerous rocket and mortar indirect fire attacks targeting the base over those ten years. Those soldiers in the 3rd of the 238th just so happened to be there on the day of one of the most massive suicide attacks that the base had ever seen.
“Let’s just say the locals, they really left us alone except for one day on June 1, 2012, they decided to drive a 15,000 pound VBIED, a vehicle born IED through our fence, and that pretty much woke everyone up that day,” he said.
“Well, I was working nights, so I was sleeping, and all of a sudden we saw a super bright white light and then this huge boom. I mean obviously we were sleeping so we had no idea what was going on. We had these walls built in our building to partition rooms off, well the top of my wall came off. Luckily, it didn’t hit me, but it fell down so, we are all in our jammies trying to figure out what is going on, and all you see is people running towards wherever the attack came into,” said Sergeant Nicholas Coe.
“So, we basically stayed put because obviously our building just survived the explosion so we are safe, and at that time, all we had was our nine-mil sidearm, so we didn’t even have any long range rifles to do us any good. So, we all got dressed, and the Sergeant First Class in our building said he would figure out what was going on and then I’ll come get you guys. So we pretty much all just stayed put until he said we were going to do a cas evact,” he said.
Cas evacts are mass casualty evacuations. It’s a military term for the emergency patient evacuation of any and all casualties from a combat zone. These can be done by both ground and flight; however, they would have done this with military aircrafts, a chinook specifically.
“How it affected me… the best way I could describe it was feeling like a caged dog because you heard a big explosion it, and you see the bright white light, but you don’t know what is going on because you cannot see anything. It was an eye-opener for me. You felt hopeless. We did not know if it was the first and only attack or last. That was the first time in my life where I thought I was going to die,” said SGT Coe.
The media doesn’t show this kind of stuff, so what are your thoughts and opinions on the coverage from this attack?
“I am kind of glad they didn’t cover it. It was already scary enough for us to have to experience it. I could only imagine if the media portrayed it the way they cover it for our families to see. Because it’s like not only is your family member gone, but now something just happened. When stuff like that happens, you know, you’re not supposed to be on Facebook. They shut down all communication, and you don’t say a word until the proper authorities or the proper chain of command tells everybody that everything is okay. So, I am glad it was kind of hush hush, but in the same sense, we are over there and things do happen and people don’t know about it, and it’s super scary that you don’t know what is happening day to day. People here should just worry about their lives here, and we should worry about ours and staying alive. They shelter our world and think we are wasting tax payers’ money, when in reality we just fight whatever group tries to attack us that day, so it is a reality check for everyone involved,” he said.
SSG Seavers said, “Yeah, it had no coverage at all in the media, our families found out about it because we told them. Other than that, you could only say, ‘Oh yeah my base got attacked in Afghanistan.’ You could not say what base it was or anything like that. But Something like this is what the media needs to see. Because everyone is always about hearts and minds… Look what they did to us. They only want to see one side of the media; they don’t see both sides.”
The insurgents created a propaganda video and released it to their followers. The way they portray their side is definitely different than reality for a United States Soldier.
“From their video they put out there, they said they were very successful. They said they took down multiple aircraft and killed multiple people. None of it was true. I’m just going to say they made it about 50 yards into our base before all of them got exterminated with extreme prejudice,” SSG Seavers said.
Nobody wants to be attacked, but that is the reality for these soldiers. When bad things happen, it is their job to react and defend themselves and their battle buddies. There lives were definitely altered after that day.
“From that day on, everyone was on edge. This is serious, there are people actually out there trying to kill us, and they just proved it. They did a good job cleaning up the damage on the base. They destroyed the DFAC and we ate MRE’s. There was no red bull, no smokes. Let’s just say the ‘normal life’ was now gone. We were adjusted and made it home, and they disrupted it. You’re away from home, and now they destroyed your home away from home. It heightened everyone’s senses,” SGT Coe said.
Now these soldiers are going back overseas, and they have already been through a lot… but no matter what they have experienced, good or bad, they still continue to serve. They do this because being a soldier is more than courage; it is sacrificing yourself for something bigger than yourself, and for that, I have to thank you for your service.