By Jay Kirell
Because as Buzzfeed as shown, apparently lists equal eyeballs, so even though I have a predisposition against lists, in this small context it’s warranted.
Believe me, the only way I can comfortably walk you through the stuff you see in Afghanistan that’s completely separate from the war – the stuff that both soldiers, native Afghans and Pakistani-trained Taliban fighters have to deal with – is to list one-by-one, the creepy crawly things that make up everyday life in the country America has been at war with for the last 12 years.
In the interest of full disclosure and honesty, not all of these things actually crawled into my bunk in Afghanistan. Over half of them did though. But I’m not going to say which ones.
So here they are, in increasing levels of horror:
We had a lot of stray cats on our outpost in Afghanistan. Not all of them survived due to army policy about vermin – which stray cats are considered. One of the few who survived and became something of a COP mascot was Teddy [pictured above]. Teddy hung out everywhere from the bunks to the guard towers. Unfortunately, Teddy’s life was tragically cut short when a soldier in my platoon, who was getting kicked out for getting caught smoking hash, shot him inside a guard tower. For those concerned, the soldier who shot Teddy was treated to special brand of military justice called a “wall-to-wall counseling” for killing the cat as well as discharging his weapon inside the outpost.
<— This, times a hundred.
It figures that if there were going to be stray cats on our outpost they’d be feeding on something other than whatever food soldiers in combat leave around – which isn’t much. The rat population in my outpost must have numbered in the hundreds, if not thousands for an area that consisted of a single six-room building and three guard towers. I believe we went through somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 glue traps without making a dent in the rat population.
<— This, times a billion.
Oh my God, when I said we had a rat population somewhere in the thousands, that’s nothing compared to the flies. I couldn’t even count. We couldn’t even count. We actually tried. In addition to standing guard in the towers, it got to the point where you were so distracted by the flies (which were attracted to all the garbage soldiers toss down the bottom of towers and spill inside of them) that you spent most of your shift trying to swat them instead of …you know… actually guarding stuff.
It got to the point where we would make sure to have our fly swatter with us for guard duty as much as our rifle. We eventually started counting how many we killed in a 4-hour guard shift. The record was something ridiculous like 430.
5. Oriental Hornet
Near actual size (not really…but still)
This is the Oriental Hornet. This is what Wikipedia says about it: “In 2010 a team of researchers from Israeli and British universities discovered that the yellow stripe in the hornet’s abdomen is capable of harvesting the sun’s light and converting it into energy.”
So basically it’s a giant hornet with huge mouth pinchers and feeds on sunlight. Did I mention that these things used to swoop down and land on my plate – walk onto my food, which was steak or chicken or whatever – and with its pincers CUT A SLICE of meat off my plate and flew off with it. I actually witnessed this.
4. Mole Cricket
I came face to face with this thing numerous times and never had a clue what it was until I got back to the states and randomly came across it online. It looks like the Predator. It’s about the size of a child’s hand and it both burrows in the ground AND flies.
These little guys used to run in packs in this little spot by a creek in front of our outpost. One day they got in and one couldn’t get out. So infantry soldiers being infantry soldiers, my platoon caught it and cooked it and ate it. Seriously. I had a piece – it tasted like jerky. Afghan mongoose are not filling.
<—- cooked mongoose
2. Saw Scaled Viper
Oh yeah, the reason the mongeese (mongooses?) were there in the first place – to keep all the snakes from biting us. This is a Saw Scaled Viper, probably the worst snake we had crawl into our beds – they weren’t as big as something like a python, but they are venomous. Their favorite place to hide when I was there – the showers.
1. Camel Spiders
This one you might be somewhat familiar with, since they were a big deal when the Iraq war was still in the headlines. These spiders are not as big as the photos might lead you to believe. They’re much smaller than a tarantula – they just look like some creation of a demented scientist or vengeful god.
Believe me, you never get used to seeing a camel spider, no matter where you see it. The first time I encountered these was when I first arrived at my outpost. I walked into the building and all along the walls and floors and CEILINGS were wet spots with camel spider parts. There had to be dozens of them.
My first experience with a live one was the night we first got mail. It was brought into the building from the truck and people were sorting through their packages. I went to pick one of them up. I had my thumbs on either side of the box and just as I was about to raise it up to my face to look at it I noticed – sitting right between my thumbs – was a five-inch camel spider.
<— that’s it’s mouth.