16 January at around 0900, a vehicle rammed the front gate here at Camp Phoenix. Jamal Udin, who has long been called Rambo and is a paid security guard, despite knowing that the odds were that this was a VBIED (Vehicle Based Improvised Explosive Device), charged the vehicle and smashed the window with the stick he carries.
Rambo’s story is quite intriguing. A great book could be written on the man. As a young man he was part of the Afghan Army under the Russian occupation. He learned to drive trucks. He went to work for the Afghan Soviet Transportation (AFSOTR) company in Kabul. Ar some point the owner of AFSOTR hired Rambo as a guard rather than a driver. He lost his wife to the Taliban. He hates the Taliban and loves Afghanistan. The AFSOTR compound is where Camp Phoenix is today. When 10th Mountain came to set up the camp, they found Rambo there, still guarding the facility though there was no work going on there, and no one was paying him. He continued to guard the gate and has single handedly dispersed a number of demonstrations.
I don’t know why he carries the stick instead of a rifle. He’s been offered firearms and refuses.
When my Brigade, the 45th from Oklahoma took over for Phoenix II, we made arrangements to officially hire and pay Rambo. I was very happy to see him still here when I returned with Phoenix V.
So, there was Rambo struggling with a would-be bomber. All this is taking place outside the unopened front gate. The Security Force troops are are reacting, but they are inside. The bomber has wires in his hands and is trying to make contact with them. An interpreter, waiting to come inside to start his day working at Camp Phoenix rushes in to keep the hands apart, while Rambo subdues him. The bomber is quite pliant by the time the gate is opened and SECFOR can take charge of him. They set up a perimeter, redirect traffic and check for any injuries to locals.
And now there is a 250 lbs bomb sitting on our front steps.
It takes some time to get someone from EOD in to try to deal with this. They bring in a robot, push back the perimeter and hunker down. Something went wrong and the bomb detonated.
I was on the complete opposite end of the camp at that moment. Commo was involved in working out contingencies for rerouting phone lines and ensuring radio comms were up.
The front gate was a mess. Rambo’s house nearby was a wreck. The guard shack was blown apart as well as the porta-john nearby (yuck). Other structures took quite a bit of damage. The AFSOTR building lost all it’s windows. The HESCO barriers prove their worth. Many are badly damaged, but nothing behind them is touched.
Had the bomber been successful, had be breached the gate itself, and gotten into the vehicle search area, there would have been a body count in the teens. As it was, because of the valor of two Afghans, not one life lost nor even an injury attributable to the attack.
Rest assured that these two will be recognized for their bravery and service. I’ll let you know how when it happens.