Archived Story

Another threat — and the Super Bowl

Published 8:04pm Saturday, February 2, 2013

By SFC Ed Holland

Another day has dawned here in Afghanistan, and it brings the same rituals. Wake up, gym, shower, breakfast and our operations center.

With all the talk on Capitol Hill about troop withdrawal and 2014, we are constantly glued to the news. What will happen? The rumors spread like wildfire. But as leaders we must talk about facts and our current situation.

We had a serious issue recently. As a fuel truck arrived, our military working dogs alerted us to a potential problem. This is never a good thing, especially with the threat level high.

My first thought was that my executive officer and I had the command-team responsibilities in the absence of our first sergeant and the commander, who had gone to another forward operating base for the day.

“Handle it and keep me informed,” our lieutenant said, so we got together with our personal security detachment platoon sergeant and developed a plan. Together, the three of us have an abundance of experience and knowledge. He readied his guys, and I got my guys together.

We called to get assistance from explosive ordinance disposal, which arrived promptly. The driver was tested and came back positive for explosive residue on his hands and inside the truck.

We were thinking one thing: VBIED!!! A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device is one of the many deadly things here in country. They are meant to kill, maim and destroy as many people and as much equipment as possible.

We couldn’t let that happen. We detained the driver and secured the area. My intelligence guy was with the detainee doing his thing, and we alerted the base and diverted traffic away from the area.

I asked myself, “What would 1SG (First Sgt.) do?” Finally, I realized, “Do what you have been trained to do, and explain your actions later.”

I called 1SG and briefed him on what occurred, from start to finish. “Thanks for the update,” he said. “You’ve got it covered.”

But it wasn’t just me. Sgt. First Class Phil played a huge part, along with Lt. Gooding. These guys are great. They give me all the support I could ever ask for. But it shows how important communication is in our business. Without it, this situation could have gone horribly wrong.

No matter where you are in this country the threat is always high.

After all was cleared and the truck and driver were hauled away, I sat in my chair for a cigarette and thanked God I am surrounded by great non-commissioned officers and officers, who work together to secure this base and the soldiers on it.

I take my job very seriously. I am responsible for the security and safety of more than 500 soldiers, civilians and local nationals. I have to bring all my soldiers home. Our time is getting short, but we have no time to get complacent. The enemy will do all it can to harm us and deter our mission. We stay prepared and ready.

On a better note, we are getting ready for the Super Bowl. I am a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan, but I am pulling for the Baltimore Ravens. They are playing for a purpose. My brother Marcus is a diehard 49ers fan. I can just see him with his sweatshirt on and that hat. I will call my brother and heckle him.

As we prepare our snacks, soda and chips for the big game, one thing will remain true here: We are united, and occasions like this bring us all together and reinforce the love and dedication. Many people look at it as just a game. We here at FOB Lightning look at it as bonding time, fun time, for those of us who have spent the past five months together. The game airs at 4:30 a.m. here, but we will watch.

So when the National Anthem starts, do me a huge favor. Stand up, place your hand over your heart and remember us here at FOB Lightning. Thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan are fighting to ensure you can enjoy the game in peace.

Enjoy the game and Go Ravens!

Sgt. First Class Ed Holland, a 1989 graduate of Suffolk High School, has been in the U.S. Army for 18 years. He is on his sixth deployment, including five to Iraq and one to Afghanistan.

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