FORWARD OPERATING BASE WHITEHOUSE, Afghanistan — If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to walk through peanut butter, visit southern Afghanistan during a rainstorm.
I learned that lesson the hard way in the last two days in Kajaki district. The storms started Wednesday while we were visiting elements of Weapons
Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, at Patrol Base Sheheban, a small outpost to the west of the Helmand River. The rain kicked in again today
before dawn, and continued with few interruptions until nearly 2 p.m. local time.
Rainy season here is in February, they tell me. Except when it pours in April.
In all seriousness, the storms present both comedy and challenges in a land with almost no pavement.
On the light-hearted side, Marines slip and slide through ankle-deep mud nearly anywhere they go, even on a relatively big base like Whitehouse. I
watched a Marine in shorts and a Gortex poncho slip on a hill at Sheheban yesterday, landing square on his backside. He wasn’t hurt, and everyone
nearby cracked up.
On the more serious side, the storms limit air operations and change the dynamics on patrol, too. Improvised explosive devices hidden during the rain can be difficult to find because the water washes away tell-tale signs, such as disturbed dirt. Marine units also typically vary the paths they take when they leave the wire, but that’s difficult when fields, streams and canals swell with water.
Photographer James Lee and I returned today to Whitehouse from Sheheban, trekking through the rain with a squad of Marines to the Helmand River before crossing it in a small steel motorboat piloted by an Afghan. After playing in the mud for the last three days, the hot shower waiting for us here was a blessing.