By Sgt. Jon E. Dougherty
Public Affairs NCO
203rd Engineer Battalion
April 19, 2010 - FOB SHARANA, Afghanistan – No matter where you are in Afghanistan, the war is never far away.
The sound of an explosion or small arms fire; the crashing boom of outbound artillery fire in the middle of the night; the roar of fighter jets overhead; or maybe just the news that friends have been “hit” while on mission – the war is always close.
That’s not to say we are in constant imminent danger. After all, bases and combat outposts are well-defended; troops are motivated and highly trained; air- and ground support is readily available; equipment and vehicles are the best they can be.
But suffice to say it’s impossible to forget you are in a war zone, because the enemy is everywhere (and nowhere). Reminders of the presence of insurgency are obvious and continuous.
That point was driven home last week when, during a route clearance mission with Second Platoon, 211th Engineer Company (sappers), South Dakota Army National Guard, a pair of Afghan Uniformed Police officers riding a motorcycle near our convoy were killed when the struck what was believed to be a mine.
The “Big Dogs,” as they are nicknamed, had already found a couple of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and had, unfortunately, been struck by one as well – all reminders in and of themselves that war is all around.
But the death of the two AUP officers so near the convoy brought home the realities that, not only are we deployed to a war zone, but that it is everywhere we are.
From the combat logistics and infantry patrols that are ambushed to the outposts and forward operating bases that are under frequent direct and indirect fire, to the route clearance platoons who encounter the IEDs to the Agricultural Development and Provincial Reconstruction Teams that must protect themselves against Taliban and insurgent presence, the war is always close.
No one knows that better than the men and women who are here, all in the name of freedom. They know that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
There isn’t a day when they are completely out of danger.
There is never a moment when they aren’t doing something to protect themselves, protect the people of Afghanistan or defend the dirt on which they stand.
And there isn’t a moment of respite, a time when the enemy insurgency isn’t plotting its next move.
While today’s Guard forces in Afghanistan may not be engaging the enemy in a manner more reminiscent of World War II, Korea or Vietnam, they know there certainly there is no shortage of war here.
Having said that, there is also no shortage of vigilance. The Guard has not only taken the enemy’s best, it has given back tenfold.
In Afghanistan, as on other battlefields throughout history, the Guard has remained true to its oath, which is that duty, honor and country count for something, and are all worth defending.
War is everywhere in Afghanistan. There is no escaping it. There is no eluding it. There is no ignoring it.
But it is worth knowing that the nation’s citizen soldiers are living up to the image of the National Guard: that of the lone Minuteman, who forever remains vigilant in defense of freedom.