Group for anyone who models, textures, animates, codes, maps, etc., for the Battlefield series by EA/DICE.
Hi. I do mods for Battlefield 2 and am fairly new to the modding community. I modfy things within the Tweak file and do some messing around with animation systems. When I'm not modding I'm doing Habitat for Humanity, fishing, hunting, archery and a bunch of other odds and ends. I am also a football fan and my favorite team is the Oakland Raiders
10 Months in Hell
Journalist Robert Wilks tells his story of being embedded with the men of 3 Battalion 11 Marines for a ten month deployment in Afghanistan.
In November 2012 I was given the opportunity to report with Marines who would be deploying to Afghanistan in January 2013, and I took it. I had been a combat reporter before, I was embedded with the Army and, in 2008, was deployed with a unit in the Korengal Valley. That deployment was easy, no one from the unit I was with got killed, we suffered a few wounded, one was serious but he did survive. I had never worked with Marines before, I knew a few reporters who had reported with them but this one was a first for me. It really begins the day we left. The Marines were saying a final goodbye to their loved ones before they left on their deployment. Lieutenant Jason Durkee, known as 'Durks' to the Marines, had his four year old daughter Haley in one arm and his three year old daughter, Kylie, in the other. I turned my attention to Sergeant Dante White, known as 'Sawman' after the M249 Light Machine Gun he carries, passionately kissing his girlfriend goodbye. "I promise we gonna make that baby when I get back" He said as he walked towards the bus, White was then taunted by Private First Class Kyle Cox, saying "Yea well you were like one step away from making that baby in the parking lot." White responded with a single middle finger. From all the hugs, handshakes and kisses one moment really stuck out to me and that was when Durkee's daughter, Haley, ran up to him for one last hug saying "Daddy don't go" and he said "I have to, but I'm gonna be home for Christmas this year." The Marines liked being deployed in January, sometimes they'd be home for Thanksgiving, but nothing beat being home for Christmas. The buses pulled away with the Marines on them and we boarded a flight to Germany where we would then be taken to Afghanistan.
We arrived in Afghanistan two days later and were given our assignments. I was put with the men under Durkee's command. He was in charge of thirty Marines, including Sarge White and Cox. Our first combat patrol occurred a week after deployment, just Durkee's squad was told to patrol a small village that was near a possible Taliban strong point. We moved into the village at about 7:30 in the Morning (0730 in military time) and carefully moved throughout the village. We came to this house and a villager informed us that seven Taliban fighters had moved through to a compound about a mile west of the village. Durkee radioed the info to high command and he was presented with two options it was either to get the coordinates and call in an airstrike or to clear it manually. Durkee decided that it was best to clear it manually because of the possibility of any documents or anything that could give info on Taliban operations. So we moved in on it and we got about two hundred yards from it when the shooting started. It was absolute chaos, I was down next to white and he was firing his weapon at small tower that contained a Taliban machine gunner, the tower was then decimated by a rocket fired from a Marine SMAW (A multi-purpose rocket launcher). At one point the firing stopped and the Marines moved up under the watchful eye of Marine Corporal Eric Lambert, who was the squad Marksman. They got into an open area and the firing began again. The Marines dropped and returned fire, it didn't last two minutes before the firing stopped and the Marines moved again. They reached the compound and found twelve dead Taliban fighters, they estimated that one or two more were killed in the tower. They searched the compound and found documents that otherwise would have been destroyed in an airstrike. We then returned to base and Durkee delivered the documents to the proper authority. The next month went by with nothing important for my squad. Patrols and some small firefights but no one was injured in any of them. That changed on February 24th 2013 when we were ordered to do a convoy patrol through a region with a heavy Taliban presence.
"Yea guys expect VBEDS and RPG ambushes. Possible IED's, just stay alert\" Durkee briefed the Humvee he'd be riding in along with Cox, White, PFC Josh Roberts and myself. "So what are VBEDs?" I asked and he replied "Explosive packed cars that they drive into our vehicles, most of the time they are shot up and blow up but sometimes they get lucky, not a lot but it happens"
So we departed and our patrol was three Humvees long. We drove to this along a farm field. And sure enough this car comes speeding out of one of the field's right at us. I remember Durkee shouting to White, who was on the M2 Machine gun, "White fuck that car up" so all three of the Humvee gunners start shooting and the car exploded but another car came just after that one began to move and somehow went un-noticed until the last minute. It was hit several times but it hit our lead Humvee. shrapnel, everything, flew in the air, huge fireball. Everyone, except for Dante, got out of our Humvee. I saw what was left of the Humvee, it wasn't much. I remember Cox saying "Ain't no one survived that" and right after he said that an RPG flew over head and exploded in the field. Gunfire erupted all over the place, they were fifty yards from our position, I could see them. I was next to Durkee, he was shooting his M16 extremely fast, I swear he went through his thirty round magazine in thirty seconds. Another RPG exploded and calls for a Corpsman (Medic) filled the air. I ran over to where they had a Marine, Staff Sergeant James Underwood, on the ground. They had their hands on his leg and I could see that he was losing a lot of blood. Durkee, the most senior officer present, called in for MEDEVAC for the wounded Marine. It took only fifteen minutes for a Blackhawk to get there and they loaded Underwood onto the helicopter and got him out of there. After everything settled down we got out of there, the five Marines riding in the Humvee were killed on impact and Underwood ended up bleeding out on the Blackhawk. The next day we held a funeral service for the six Marines who died the day before. It was very emotional, I cried a lot but I think Durkee was most affected. We didn't do much for two weeks after that, the next few months went by with mainly patrols and some small operations. Over those Months eight Marines of 3/11 received some wounds but nothing too serious, luckily no one was killed. We got to June and that's when High Command began preparations for Operation Black Eagle. The main goal for that operation was to dislodge the Taliban from the Arghandab District. Our objective was to provide support to Army units conducting operations in various locations. This would mainly include cutting off Taliban forces, support missions like taking out specific strong holds and similar tasks. So two months go by filled with preparations and on September 1st Operation Black Eagle was launched. We deployed near a small village and we were told to attack a Taliban artillery position that was nearby. We located the position and called in an airstrike to weaken it before we attacked. The strike was successful but, unknown to us, one gun remained in working order. we moved towards the smoke that rose over the battery position. We got to a irrigation ditch and that's when the first shell landed. The Marines darted into the ditch and another shell slammed into the ground nearby. Then they started hitting us with DSHK fire and the Marines were forced to call in support from a cobra helicopter, the DSHK was silenced right away but the gun managed to get a few more shots off before being taken out for good. One of these shells badly wounded a Marine in the legs, he survived at the cost both his legs below the knee. The wounded Marine held us back and forced us to wait until the Medical chopper arrived, that gave time for Taliban forces to re-group in the area and gave them the chance to counter attack, which they did shortly after the wounded Marine was evacuated. They nearly surrounded the ditch and the Marines were forced to fight their way out of that situation. It took a total of five hours to clear out the Taliban, somehow no Marines got hurt. We spent the night in that ditch and we pulled back to a compound that was being used as a field base. A couple days later we were told to check out a possible weapons cache in the same village. We entered the village and noticed that there were no civilians to be found anywhere, which was strange. We were very convinced that the Taliban had a nasty surprise for us, we kept moving towards the cache location and we noticed a car. Durkee was sure that this was an IED so he diverted us to the next alley over so we moved up the alley and that's when it exploded. It turned out that the car was a fake and that the Taliban has rigged a wall to explode. We had four guys wounded and they opened fire on us from a nearby building. Lance Corporal Ryan Kaslov had a grenade launcher on his M4 and he fired into the building, it silenced them but then more began to fire on us from a rooftop some distance away. I joined some Marines behind a wall where they would pop up and shoot at the enemy. At one point we began to suppress them but they responded with RPG fire. They took down a nearby building with it and in the confusion White somehow got separated from the Marines. He remained in radio contact and tried to fight his way back, he ended up pinned down near a Taliban strong point. Eventually the Taliban forced us into a retreat but Durkee, along with Cox and Kaslov would not leave until they had White with them. At that point everyone was low on ammo, white had resorted to using his pistol after his M249 jammed. I went with the three Marines, I wanted to document this as it happened. It was just us, the rest of the Marines had fallen back, a direct order from Durkee. We began to move towards the building where White was holed up. We started taking heavy small arms fire from a location in front of us, the Marines responded with their own volley of lead and grenades. It was only a minute of complete chaos and whoever was shooting at us was dead or gave up and ran away. We located White under heavy sniper fire, it was so bad that we had to crawl along a wall just to escape it. Just before we got out of the alley a grenade flipped over in front of us, we scrambled to our feet and in the opposite direction. However when we got up they sprayed us with AK and sniper fire that mortally wounding Kaslov. Durkee saw Kaslov lying on the ground and saw the blood near him. So he grabbed Kaslov, who was in a daze, and we all took turns dragging him back to the Marine line. We had to go along the wall to avoid anymore fire. The Air Force ended up leveling the area of the cache later that night, no one could sleep that night. The Corpsman were tending to the four wounded and everyone tried their best to comfort Kaslov before he died the next morning. I talked to Durkee that morning and all he could say was "It was greatly planned on their part, I can't say anything else. They had great planning and knew what they had to do. I hate to say it but that's their victory." We returned to the field base mid-day and White was able to fix his weapon and everyone got some much needed rest and ammunition. I was able to talk to some of the Marines and get to know them better. "My daughter drew this for me" Durkee said holding up a picture with a pink and blue stick figure in the arms of a tan stick figure with the words "Daddy comes home" written on over them and on the back it said "Daddy I miss you" with a heart and Haley after it. I never saw a bigger smile on his face, White was very happy also, he handed me a letter and told me to read it. In it his girlfriend told him that since it was close to the end of his deployment that she wanted him to know that when he came home he would have a newborn baby, a little girl, waiting for him. Durkee's wife was also pregnant, this time with a son, he was due towards the end of October. "Shit gets bad, it gets really bad. Every one of these Marines is important to me. They are my bros, when one dies, a part of me dies. I have lost fifty-five Marines from my first deployment in 2003 to today. It sucks, it really does" Durkee recalled, we then got talking about why he joined the corps. "Ya know, I'm from a rural town in New York and when I was eight my parents divorced and me and my mom moved to New York city, where she's originally from. It was weird, rural to city. We could see the Trade Center and I always thought that those buildings were awesome. So I was eighteen in 2001 and on the eleventh me and, well my now wife, decided to skip school and hang out at my place. So she comes over and is in the bedroom and I'm in the other room and I hear this plane. So I go out on the balcony and I follow it, this big jet and I'm like 'The fuck is this idiot doing' so I follow him all the way into the Trade Center, I start Screaming 'Oh fuck, oh fuck' and she comes out and says 'Did you hear that?' and I point to the Trade Center and we watched it all happen from the balcony." He continued to explain that day and he went on "My dad was in Vietnam and he said it was pointless, I never wanted to join. But that day changed me, I wanted to fight back at the assholes who did this. I didn't want to join the Army because the Army is where people were drafted into, forced to fight. I joined the Marines because they wanted to fight. I called Erica on the twelfth and told her I was joining the Marines. I kept the promise that we'd get married, no matter what. Before I left for Iraq in 2003 we got married." He then went on about how he wanted to go to Afghanistan, how the people who destroyed the Trade Center were in Afghanistan. That time didn't last long, we were again assigned to move out again and patrol an area of farm fields the next day. So the sun rose and we moved out again. An uneventful patrol, that's what it was. It slowed down until October, October 8th was when we were told to support a Ranger operation that was going to be taking place on the 10th. The main objective for the Rangers was to capture a Taliban officer who was hiding in a village, to the west of that village, however, there was a large presence of Taliban forces. High Command decided to use two Marine squads to prevent the Taliban forces from counter attacking the Rangers and causing the mission to possibly fail. The morning of the mission was very tense, we received our briefing and we loaded onto two helicopters, the Rangers left shortly before us and would deploy a short distance from the village, the Marines deploy as they reached the village. The deploy went perfect, the timing couldn't be better. We moved to the top of a nearby hill, this was a rather wooded area and we had plenty of cover. So they captured the HVI with minimal resistance and no injuries, the Rangers call for their helicopter to come and get them, soon after they called for their Chinook is when we got our first contact. They took a few crap shots and the Marines killed them pretty quick, so soon after the firefight is over the Chinook comes gets the Rangers and then the Marines call for their own helicopters. Soon after they called in for the choppers is when the Taliban launched an all out assault. They started shooting off machine guns, mortars, rockets, everything. They started to move in on the Marines position, the Marines started to fight back. I remember this one guy with an RPG shot it off and it hit a tree, it was truly amazing that no one got hurt, it detonated right over the position and shot fragments all over, Durkee killed that RPG gunner. The Marines held them back and the helicopters arrived, we started to move towards them and get the hell out, well the Taliban flanked around the Marines and began firing at the Marines from behind. White was mainly the guy returning fire so that the other Marines could get down to the choppers. Me and White were running next to each other at one point and an RPG rocket came in and smashed into the ground, near the Marine who was in front of us, he dropped. White was knocked over by the concussion, I helped him up and we ran to this Marine's aid and White flipped the Marine over and his face was completely covered in blood, his eyes were open, he was clearly dead. I looked at his face and through the blood I saw that it was Durkee. My heart sank and my blood went cold and I remember thinking "Oh God no, this did not just happen to him." We had to keep moving and we were not going to leave his body there, me and Dante carried his body back to the helicopter. We loaded into the helicopter and it took off, upon reaching the helicopter we learned that Cox was also killed. The ride back was awful, no one talked, White cried, I cried. We got back to base and they unloaded the bodies and everyone kinda just sat down and I remember saying "What the fuck just happened?" The next day we help a service for Durkee and Cox, I think all the Marines cried. Durkee was a very respected Marine, he had been through so much over his deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Cox was a younger Marine, only about 23 when he died, he described himself as "Just a kid who wanted to fight" and he did. I later found out that Cox was killed covering the evacuation of a wounded Marine to one of the waiting helicopters.
I found out that some time before his death, Durkee said that if he ever got killed that he wanted White to escort his body home. I'm not sure how he was able to get this but White did escort him home, and I joined White on his journey. It took us only a few days to bring Durkee's body from Dover Air Force Base to his final resting place in upstate New York. Before the funeral we opened the coffin to put a few of his personal belongings in. One of these was the now blood stained drawing that his daughter sent him, that was put right under his folded hands. The funeral was the next day and I swear the whole town came to pay their respects to him. We reached and cemetery and it began, I was near Durkee's widow and I looked at her and I don't know what it was but I just couldn't hold back from crying. I don't know if it was the kids or her being pregnant but looking at her made me cry. They did the Three-volley salute and when they played TAPS I noticed his widow start to sob very loudly. They folded the flag and tried to give it to her but she couldn't take it, so Durkee's father took it. The service ended and White had a short but emotional conversation with Durkee's widow. I couldn't talk with her, I wouldn't know what to say. Durkee and White had been best friends, they had been serving together since White first deployed to Iraq in 2005.
Over the nearly ten months that I was deployed with the Marines I met the most dedicated men. These guys went to extreme limits to ensure the safety of their friends, with total disregard for themselves. I will never forget Jason Durkee or Kyle Cox or any of the Marines that I was alongside. These guys fight everyday for the people of Afghanistan and when one dies, the whole Marine Corps is shaken a little bit. I can't say that I liked this report but I can't say that I regret ever going on it. I have seen incredible acts of bravery and heroism that no one in the United States will probably ever know about. Sometimes no one can understand why the Marines or any soldier in general, do what they do but for those who understand it makes you realize how dedicated these men and women are to their country and whatever cause they are fighting for.
Robert Wilks decided to stop doing combat reporting after this deployment. Saying that "It was emotionally too much for me to do anymore." He now focuses on political issues within the United States. Most of this deployment was captured on video and is being put into a National Geographic documentary, "Ten months in Helmand," set for a mid-2014 release.
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