I challenge you to go “Blackout”. Could you do it? Are you mentally strong enough? What if you didn’t have a choice?
One year ago, on April 4, 2012, I returned to post from a three-hour video and photo shoot out on the landing zone. Immediately after I made my way through the entry control point, I was met by a staff sergeant who looked quite relieved yet quite frustrated to see me.
“Where were you?” he asked. Before he gave me time to respond, he quickly followed with, “Where’s your boss?” I promptly explained to him where I had been and that my officer in charge (OIC) was not too far behind me.
Curious as to why he needed to know by whereabouts, I respectfully asked him what was going on that he needed to know.
There had been an attack near one of our combat outposts in the western end of Regional Command – North and we had Soldiers that were either killed, injured, or missing. The attack had just been reported and details had not come in yet.
I swiftly walked across post to report to my section leader for accountability then headed to my office to meet up with my OIC to begin receiving details of the attack. As public affairs, we acted as part of the team that would need to know names of anyone involved in the attack. My OIC would receive this information and work with RC-N’s public affairs office for the press statement.
A dreaded feeling came over me as the information began trickling in. We had lost three Heroes and there were several injured Soldiers as result of a suicide bomber in the village of Maimaneh, Afghanistan. I knew the men that were killed and several of the injured.
The next three days were rough for many reasons. To start, I had to photograph the Ramp Ceremony and the Memorial Ceremony. I had to watch the faces of the friends, colleagues, and fellow Soldiers as they watched their battle buddies caskets being loaded into a plane in the early morning hours on an eerily quiet tarmac. I had to hear the chilling shots of the 3-volley salute and their first sergeant sounding off the Last Roll Call with no responses from the three Heroes during their Memorial Ceremony. I watched grown men tear up, sob into their hands, and outright cry. One by one they walked up to the makeshift memorial, slowly raised their hands to salute the fallen then slowly allowed their hands to drop back to the position of attention.
Once the ceremonies were over, I spent hours going through the photos and videos, editing and perfecting the productions to build CDs for the Hero’s Families. Over and over I looked at photos of the caskets, weeping men, and the memorial. While part of my mind was wrapping itself around what had happened, the other half of my mind had to drive on and to work. I had a job to do and I didn’t have time to grieve.
To add to the roughness of the situation, we were on blackout with our communication. There was no internet so that meant no way to email or to video chat. The phones were out and the televisions had no signal. There was no way for us to contact our family members to let them know that something had happened but that we were still ok. There was no way to know what had been reported on the news or if our families knew why we weren’t contacting them. There was no way for us to hear their voices or read their messages to calm us while we dealt with the reality of the life we were living over there.
We were 7,000 miles and 4 months away from home. A horrible attack had occurred and, for three days, all communication to the outside world had been cut off.
Could you do it? No internet? No texting? No emailing? No phone? No TV?
How would you communicate with your friends and family? How would you know what was going on in the world? How would you conduct your everyday business?
What if your friends and family heard that something bad had happened in your life and there was no way to get a hold of you? Can you imagine how they would feel?
Rest in peace, Capt. Nicholas J. Rosanski, Master Sgt. Jeffrey J. Rieck, and Master Sgt. Shawn T. Hannon. Fallen but not forgotten.