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Letter From An American Soldier
by Brian Williams


December 30, 2004

Hi again, Grandpa.
Thank you very much for what you all are sending me. I really appreciate it. And the gloves will help a lot! And getting me a handheld game was a good idea. I actually call home once in a while, and ask for different ones, since they tend to get old, cuz I'll play it so much. =)
A couple of months ago we went to the district of Mianashin (I believe that is how it's spelled). I don't know for certain how many miles it is from our firebase but it took us a long time to get there (several hours.) There hadn't been any US presence there ever. So we spent the first two days heading that way, stopping here and there to search a random village; or set up vehicle search points and stuff.
We were about a half an hour away when we started picking up heavy traffic on our scanners. We always bring interpreters with us, so they were listening in. They told us the Taliban were going to ambush us pretty soon, but they might wait until nightfall to do it. So our Commander is like, let's push forward and nail these bastards. We got a little farther up and they started calling for back up, over the radio. We always get traffic, but this time it sounded more serious. So we push on through, and there was this town. We searched everybody's houses, vehicles, everything. Well, somehow two of our vehicles got stuck for a long time. It was almost dark and we couldn't get them out. So we had no choice but to stay the night. We set up across from the village a little ways on the small ridge. We still had two vehicles stuck down below us, so we couldn't go any farther away.
My assistant gunner and I were laying in our gun, when all of a sudden we start hearing rounds go off. Small arms, and rpg's.  It was pitch dark, so we were trying to look for muzzle flashes or something. Nothing. Just tracer rounds flying everywhere towards us. Even during a firefight you have to call up higher and request permission to use indirect fire. So we're calling and calling, but the Officer in charge was hiding behind his vehicle, and wouldn't go answer his radio. So me and Ponce said screw it, we'll get chewed out later. So at this point, rounds are flying inside our vehicles, smashing glass, we're sitting there dumping rounds down our tube, not really knowing where to aim at. We must've fired 30 rounds in 2 minutes. We'd hang a round or two, start shooting our M-4's and fire again. Rounds were coming a few feet from our tube. Finally the shooting stopped and we pulled heavy security that night.

The next day we all moved out towards the outer routes where we believed they came in through the night before. The rest of the Infantry guys moved up ahead of us because we aren't much good right there with them. They walked maybe two kilometers and started taking direct fire from pkm's, rpg's, and some sniper rifles. We couldn't see exactly where they were, or where the shots were coming from. The Forward Observer's radio had gone down so he couldn't call us. The Commander and about 12 guys were pinned down, with rounds coming inches away at times. Me and Ponce ran up there as close as we could without being to open, and started laying down fires on the ridgeline where the rounds were coming from, taking out at least 4-5 guys with 10-15 rounds.

And the following day we were fired at multiple times on our way out, but our Battalion Commander wanted us to move out. So we finally came back. If I've learned one thing from that, it was that watching a movie on TV doesn't will not give you the same experience as the real thing. All the training I've gotten in the Army didn't really do a thing for me either. You just go with your instinct, and your too pumped up to really be scared.

When I got back our Battalion Commander saw me and called me over. I figured he'd shake my hand, say some gibberish and walk away. But he gave me a coin, and promised me I'd get a Bronze Star with Valor. So that's my highlight of these past few years in the Army I suppose.
You asked what we do on normal missions like the other day. It all depends. Sometimes we'll just go show the flag....others we'll go ensure that the money we give away is being put to good use. Sometimes we'll go get someone's car back for them. Or help out a family, or an entire village who claim to have been robbed by Taliban. We might go and give medical aid, and pass out hygienic supplies. Or we may go do a raid, search and seizure, patrol, vehicle search point, gather intel by questioning district chiefs and local governors, or a mixture of several different things. It all depends on our intel, and what area we are going to, and our battalion's/company's main objective.
I'll get back on here and talk to you in a few, there's a line so I gotta' go. But it's good to be keeping in touch with you. Talk to you later.


Brian Williams, is a Mortar gunner (he says, "I am a mortar.")  He is a 22 year old Non Commissioned Officer who went into the Army right out of high school and has finished two years of college on the Internet while in the Army. Williams plans to be a firefighter when he is discharged.  Williams is living on a Fire Base not too far from Kandahar - he's been in Afghanistan for eight months.  This is a peek into the life of an American soldier.  This is a real story.

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