Afghanistan’s ‘120 Days of Wind’

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The shouts of "Hey, check this out" echoed through the concrete walls at patrol base Yellow Schoolhouse as a fast-moving sandstorm blew in May 16. (Photo: Thomas Brown/Staff)

The shouts of "Hey, check this out" echoed through the concrete walls at patrol base Yellow Schoolhouse as a fast-moving sandstorm blew in May 16. (Photo: Thomas Brown/Staff)

COMBAT OUTPOST REILLY, Afghanistan – It’s a relatively slow day here with Kilo Company, so I wanted to touch on a subject that really grinds my gears: sandstorms.

If you haven’t experienced one yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. The sand pelts you hard enough that it’s painful to keep your eyes open, and the storms come out of the blue so quickly, it can be difficult to prepare for them.

Photographer Tom Brown and I experienced our first sandstorm on this trip during the infamous night aboard a CH-53 helicopter, but it wasn’t the last one. Last week, we got caught in another nasty one at the Yellow Schoolhouse in Marjah. As Tom’s photograph above shows, it looked pretty ominous coming in — always fun when you’re staying in a building that has no doors or windows.

It’ll probably get worse before it gets better. Afghanistan is entering what natives refer to as the “120 Days of Wind,” a season beginning in late spring when sandstorms form frequently, suffocating the southern portion of the country, said Lt. Col. Brian Christmas, commander of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines. The threat is significant enough that Marine units stock up with extra water, food and ammunition in case a storm prevents deliveries, he said.

Col. Paul Kennedy, commander of 2nd Marine Regiment, put it this way in a recent newsletter: “Conditions will be akin to blowing a hairdryer in our faces with sand and dust to boot. Joy.”

That sounds just about right, too. Joy.

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About Author

I’m a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.

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