In the past few days, I’ve experienced more than one alert that our area was receiving IDF--indirect fire from Taliban (most likely) outside our perimeter—and instructing us to put on our body armor and seek shelter. I actually heard one of the rockets fly over my housing and felt/heard the impact as it landed. This was my first time to actually feel it, so I think I may always remember that moment in time.
I had just gotten back from a nice relaxing shower and was back in my tiny room in my “District 9” shack (sorry, can’t resist the reference to the movie—it’s just what my “house” reminds me of). I no longer had my Army clothes on, but a pink tank top and comfy, over-sized Banana Republic boxers with little elephants printed on them (not the most militant outfit, I know). I was actually about to get my laptop out to look at my class’s online discussion, write my ACA blog for the week and then read a few pages of Dan Brown fiction before slipping into my sleeping bag (often fondly referred to as the Glow-Worm, but that’s another blog topic).
I was standing in front of my little plywood shelf/nightstand and looking down at it while putting my dog tags down. I heard an odd noise that seemed to be moving overhead, but heck there are always noises that remind me of war movies coming from all angles. There are various aircraft noises at all hours and the most annoying of them are the loud afterburners of the jets that rumble, shake the room slightly, and wake me up in the night. But when I heard a muffled but notably loud “THUD” immediately after the noise and actually felt it shake the ground under my feet and saw my nightstand shake to the point of almost knocking off my dog tags, I knew this one wasn’t jet-induced. This was the Real Deal. IDF.--and not very far away. From the other side of the thin wooden partitions separating our rooms, I heard one roommate release an expletive from her mouth and another gasp and say, “Oh my gosh, I’ve never heard one that close before!” Then another say, “(Expletive) they’re starting up early tonight. What’s up with that?” After quickly exchanging my elephant boxers and pink tank top for my Army attire, I went to another roommate’s door and couldn’t believe it when she told us she hadn’t noticed it---she thought someone slammed the door to the house while she was balancing atop a box while hanging fabric to cover up the ugly, dirty-looking ceiling.
The moments that followed were not the freak-out scenes you see on TV and in the movies where people are running around screaming, diving into bunkers. (Can’t share specifics or procedures of what follows the impact and/or the alert on base.) But as I’m now learning from personal experience, IDF is a part of life on posts here in Afghanistan and if you freak out every time you hear an alert or a “THUD” you’ll drive yourself crazy. (The closest thing I can think of to describe the sound the IDF impact makes is to compare it to the noise a huge cardboard box makes as it is dropped onto the carpeted ground from the top of a ladder to an attic, or the muffled sound of a trunk of a car being slammed shut outside your living room window.) So people joke around about IDF even. I suppose to make light of it—what are we going to do to prevent a grenade from landing on top of us from a rocket propelled through the sky from miles away? Nothing. There is nothing we can do to avoid that fateful impact if it is headed our way. There’s no warning for that first one. Plus—here comes my new most-commonly-used-phrase: It’s all relative. There are places receiving much more IDF than where I am and we all know this here. So we normalize the IDF event and we tell ourselves we are silly to be scared or stressed when we could be at such-and-such post. We tell ourselves there’s no point in freaking out about it because if one is headed our way, there’s nothing we can do about it.
Since the one that I felt in my room though, I have to admit I think a bit more about “THUD” noises I hear now. Tonight I felt a little paranoid as I heard noises and thought to myself, “Was that one?” and stopped what I was doing to listen for a moment. Then I’d think, “Hmm, guess not. So what was that noise? A car door slamming? A door shutting?” Then I just shrug and go about my business. Just now as I’m typing I heard the loud speakers screech an announcement. My first thought was, “Wow, my iPod wasn’t so loud I missed another IDF, was it?” So I pushed the pause button and listened for the repeated announcement. No IDF, it was an announcement for something else. The message does have me wondering though—will have to ask about that in the morning. IDF nights are not particularly fun, although they definitely break the monotony of typical day-to-day. I’m glad IDF is not part of my day-to-day life as it is for some of my fellow Troops elsewhere in this country. I’ll be glad—Sheesh, there went another “THUD” noise. Sounded like a door, but my goodness it sounds just like the impact from the other night. Anyway, I’ll be happy when the weather is colder and the likelihood of the noises being IDF will be much slimmer and I can feel more comfortable going to sleep in my Banana Republic boxers and turning up the volume on my iPod.
Natosha Monroe is an Army Reserve Mental Health Specialist stationed in Afghanistan. She is a counselor and PhD candidate passionate about increasing Troop access to counseling services. Her blog contents are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense in any way.