“Why does this always happen to me?!” I said to myself with frustration. I had just fallen asleep for a moment, till my body sent a surge of adrenaline through my body. I instantly pushed myself out of bed and looked for my weapon. It was the same feeling as being late for work, or being late for a finals, combined with almost getting hit by a car. Yeah, a pure rush. Sadly, this was the wrong time to get that feeling, because I was ready to fall asleep. Smearing my hands over my face with frustration, I sat and remised. Thinking, “What made me this way?”
“Just another day on escort duty”, I told myself as I walked over to the main gate with my M4 rifle and magazine slung over my back. I looked up at the rising sun, “Dammit, it’s going to be another hot day.” In hindsight, I should have volunteered for that patrol with the marines again, but I didn’t. After back to back days going over the wire, either to bring goodies for the local in humanitarian missions, or to be an extra for a patrol, I really didn’t want to have another physically long and emotionally exhausting day. I wanted to rest for a change.
Today, I got ready to answer work orders and troubleshoot cables. After eating breakfast I headed over to the Commo-site which was in the center of the web, the foundation of where calls and internet go in and out. There were two big satellite dishes that point towards the heavens, manned by 35 Foxtrots or 35 Uniforms, and our Help-desk where we took work orders for new cable installs or maintenance issues. I was one of six Cable Dawgs or 35 Limas, we were also known as the grunts of the Commo world, thus the title Cable Dawgs.
On a usual day, if you wanted to find the Cable Dawgs, all you had to do was take your Humvee down the main road and there we were, holding pick axes and shovels, and hanging off our belt would be a butt-set- which is really just a telephone with two alligator clips at the tip to tap or test phone lines. We weren’t damaging the road for fun with the pick axes and shovels; on the contrary, we were either adding new lines or fixing them. I can’t say I really enjoyed these days installing cable, but it definitely made time move faster. Unless it was raining or really cold, then these days really sucked.
I plopped down on the couch at the Help-desk tent, and just before I become comfortable, Mr. Butter-bar (2nd Ltn.) tells me that I’m on escort duty. I will be across the road watching local national workers build the new Commo building. “You should be happy, you’re witnessing the construction of a historic building!” Mr. Butter-bar exclaims. I don’t really know if he was being sarcastic or not, but there was nothing I could do. Mr. Butter-bar had a higher rank. All I could reply with after being volun-told was, “yes sir.”
“I guess this was the resting I wanted to do, right?” as I uttered sneeringly to myself. All I had to do was sit here and watch these Afghan locals till Five Zulu, ideally a pretty easy day. The sun was finally blazing down. I checked the time and it was only one Zulu! “I’m not going to make it.” I thought to myself sluggishly. Staying awake on duty is essential as having food and water. Without food and water, lives are lost. Same thing with sleeping on duty, lives are lost. So, I did all I could to stay awake; walking around in circles gradually turned into jumping in place. From retrospect I probably looked like a fool to the Afghan locals, but I had to move or the sandman was going to get me. But, all the calisthenics to stay awake just left me drowsier and now sweaty, so I took a seat and watched the locals as they prepared their lunch. My eye lids began to close, like window blinds being lowered slowly. The sunlight began to dim.
My weapon was now slung in front of me, with my arms wrapped around it, as if I was snuggling with my pillow in bed. I was indulging in an afternoon nap as the enemy sat around me consuming their lunch and tea. A few minutes later the interpreter nudged me and said, “There is someone coming, maybe you should wake up.”
I sat up, looked around at the Afghan local workers sitting around me, they were snickering with their lunch in hand at me. I asked, “How long was I sleeping for?” One of the locals told me I was napping for fifteen minutes. “Damn”! I thought to myself, “I was literally sleeping with the enemy under my nose.” If they were snakes I would have been bit. Fortunately, these Afghan locals, these Muslims that Americans perceived to be all enemies were not snakes, nor were they bad people. If they were all bad people, I know this situation could have resulted to more than a bite, but a dead soldier.
Five Zulu finally came around, as I walked the Afghan locals off to the front gate, I was bewildered that the enemy did not take my life, especially with all the beliefs of how bad these people were. I waved goodbye and sent the locals off to checkout. “I will never get complacent like that again…” Telling myself, as I walked back to the hut both disappointed and grateful.
I checked the time, it was 2 a.m. “Yup, I’m not going to make it to 8 a.m. class tomorrow.” I told myself under my breath. I got up and went to make some coffee. It’s better being awake anyways, there’s more peace in this world than what I see in my dreams.
Blason Taon served eight years on active duty in the United States Army. He was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom during 2004-2006, and 2006-2008. He since been a Naturalized Citizen since 1991 and resides in California. Taon has completed his Bachelors at the University of California, Riverside and is currently pursuing his degree in Industrial/ Organizational Psychology.