We packed our trucks up in preparation for our move out to the Afghan police checkpoint. To make an already horrible plan worse, we had totally run out of room in our trucks for our own bags. We quickly enlisted First Squad to help us haul the rest of our crap out there. We waited for nightfall and our long convoy snaked out of Grizzly Base toward the checkpoint.

In the middle of the night, the roads were totally abandoned and the markets void of life. Electricity in the area was spotty at best so when the jerry-rigged lights went out, everyone vanished.

While sitting in the back of Grandpa’s truck, I noticed a particular barn-like smell. Cali was behind the wheel and laughing like a maniac.

“Baaa,” came a muffled noise from somewhere in the back of the truck.

“What the fuck was that?” Grandpa yelled. Cali started laughing so hard the truck began to swerve all over the road.


“What the hell is that, Cali?” I yelled up at him. I was frantically looking around the back of the cramped truck.

A goat’s head popped up from under a pile of camo netting.

“Holy shit!” I screamed. “Why is there a fucking barnyard animal back here?”

“Did you say an animal?” Grandpa yelled, trying in vain to turn around in his seat, but the bulk of his gear restrained him. By this point, Cali stopped trying to drive and pulled the truck over. The whole convoy had to stop behind us.

A military operation was halted because Cali had stolen a goddamn goat and stuck it in the back of our truck.

How he got the goat was even better. About a month before we had moved into Grizzly Base, Walt had bought three goats to fatten them up for Thanksgiving dinner. We hated those stupid goats. Walt was too damn lazy to take care of them himself so he ordered us to look after them instead. We had been plotting the death of those goats ever since.

Unbeknownst to anyone else in the convoy, Bugsy and Cali had snuck into the goats’ pen the night before and stolen one. Cali wrapped it in camo netting and tossed it in the back of Grandpa’s truck without a word.

With the convoy at a standstill, it wasn’t long before Slim’s voice crackled over the radio wondering what had happened. Grandpa knew that he couldn’t explain to Slim the situation with our transmissions being monitored, so he mustered his calmest voice possible. “Hey, Slim, we’re having a mechanical issue. Can you meet me at my truck?”

“Roger, be right there,” Slim answered back. Slim calmly walked over to our truck and exchanged a few words with Grandpa.

I watched as Grandpa spoke and gesticulated with his hands.

Slim slowly turned, opened the back door of our truck, and came face to face with our goat friend. “Mother fuckers,” Slim laughed, walking back to his truck.

Once Cali had composed himself, we drove on to the destination.

Our convoy pulled up next to the checkpoint and started heaving piles of gear onto the side of the road. Because the checkpoint was hardly defensible, we planned on tossing our bags quickly and having First Squad speed off before anyone was the wiser. That plan quickly went to hell when the rolls of concertina wire got tangled up on our radio antennas and Hesco baskets and had to be cut apart.

By the time we had everything untangled, we had been struggling for about an hour. It was pretty safe to assume that everyone in the area knew we had moved in. We hastily set up a ring of Hesco baskets as First Squad drove away. No one in the squad had ever filled up one of those bastards by hand before. Turned out it was slow, dirty, painful work.

We scraped away at the side of the road with splintered and broken tools, making meager progress. The hours went on performing this laborious task. Eventually, we stripped down to just our pants and kept working through the muggy night.

A few soldiers fanned out to cover us while we worked, but chances were that if any Taliban were watching, they were just as confused by our plan as we were. After several more hours, we stopped to check our progress only to find we had barely made a dent in the baskets.

“Holy shit,” I panted. “Slim, we haven’t even filled one fucking basket!”

“I’ve noticed. And we’re running out of dirt,” Slim motioned to the fact we had dug out the sides of the road, probably making it pretty unsafe for a car to drive over it. “We either start breaking up the road or call it a night.”

“I would just like to let it be known that I voted for this OP to go fuck itself,” Nan said, dropping his shovel to the ground.

“I say it goes and fucks itself now,” Cali said.

“Yeah, screw this,” Slim exhaled.

We trudged back inside the checkpoint to rest and get some water.

Our interpreter came out of the checkpoint’s Afghan commander’s tent, weed smoke billowing out behind him. “Hey, dude, the commander asked what you guys are doing with the goat.” He giggled.

“Good question.” Slim turned to Cali. “What was your plan when you stole the damn thing?”

“I don’t know. It was Bugsy’s idea; I just kind of went along with it.” Cali shrugged, spitting out brown tobacco dip.

“We could eat it,” Bugsy pointed out. For some reason, he was kneeling down next to the goat and spray painting the word ‘Radio’ across its body in black paint.

“What’re you doing man?” I asked.

“I named it.” Bugsy gestured to the word sprayed onto the goat’s side.

“Well, are we eating Radio or not?” Slim asked.

“Yeah, but I have an idea first,” Bugsy said.

Bugsy’s idea was brilliant. Walt had no idea who stole his goat and was probably not even aware it was missing yet. So Perro, Bugsy, and Hamid took off their army uniforms and put on some local clothing. They wrapped their faces in scarves and had Slim videotape what happened next.

Hamid screamed random shit in Pashto and gestured wildly with his hands. Afterward, Perro marched up, pulled out a small pocket knife, and cut the goat’s throat open. The whole time Bugsy yelled “Radio!” in his best mock-retard voice.

The slaughter had several purposes. Cutting an animal’s throat and bleeding it out was the only way the Afghans would eat with us. We also made sure it was facing Mecca while we did it. Making a counterfeit Jihadist execution video of Walt’s goat to send to him was just a theatrical bonus.

After we had killed the goat, the Afghan police cleaned it and prepared it. They chucked the whole thing into a hole in the ground with onions, potatoes, and spices and lit the thing on fire. About an hour later, we all gathered around and ate it.

Everyone sat in a circle picking at the goat with bare hands. I plopped big handfuls of meat and rice onto bread and shoved it in my face. It was actually a good bonding experience. That, and it was always good to show our Afghan hosts that we weren’t total dicks so they didn’t kill us in our sleep.

After we finished our dinner and had some tea with the police, Walrus turned to Hamid. “So, where do you guys take a shit around here anyway?”

“Oh, they just go out back, man,” Hamid pointed out to where our trucks were parked.

“God dammit! If I have to go outside to take a shit, someone has to come guard me…Joe?”

“Ugh, fine.” I grabbed my rifle, and we both walked out of the checkpoint. Behind it was where the Afghans tossed all their trash and went to the bathroom. Unlike most people forced to take a dump outside, they didn’t dig holes or keep it all in one area. There were little piles of shit all over the place. They were completely uncovered with empty water bottles next to them. They wiped their asses by splashing them with water.

“Fucking animals,” Walrus cursed. Walrus perched himself against a wall and squatted down behind a small cutout of Hesco he’d brought with him to act as a wall for privacy. I stood by and made sure no one murdered him while he took a dump.

I heard someone start running down the small alley that went from the checkpoint to the trash field. I quickly brought up my rifle only to see Perro sprinting by.

Perro ran over to Walrus’s Hesco wall and kicked it over sending it and his toilet paper flying, exposing Walrus to any leering eyes—of which there were plenty. Several soldiers were standing on top of the checkpoint’s walls snapping pictures and laughing.

“Fuck you guys, man! Someone bring me some toilet paper!”

I started laughing uncontrollably. Mostly because I knew no one was going to bring him any toilet paper and I was curious about what he was going to do next.

Walrus slowly shimmied over to where his toilet paper roll had landed, cursing us the whole way. The laughter from the peanut gallery followed him as he waddled. I wasn’t guarding anyone at this point; I was too busy doubled over with laughter as I watched Walrus do a strange crab walk in an attempt to wipe his ass.

Once the night slowed down and people stopped harassing each other while they took a shit, we settled into our cots. They were lined up in the middle of the checkpoint under the clear Afghan sky. I saw more stars that night than I ever had in the States.

We set up guards throughout the evening and went to sleep. At some point during the night, I was awakened by Oldies screaming. While switching out guard duties, Oldies had caught Walrus, illuminated by his iPod, beating off in the guard tower.

We woke up again early the next morning to a gunshot and the sound of screaming Afghans. By the time we all rolled out of our cots and grabbed our rifles, the Afghan police were dragging a man into the checkpoint while simultaneously smacking and kicking him.

“Hamid, ask them what the hell is going on!” Slim yelled, still half asleep.

“They say he shot at them while they were directing traffic, but his gun jammed after the first shot, and he surrendered,” Hamid sputtered among the chaos.

“That guy is so going to be executed,” Perro laughed. He wasn’t wrong. Generally, the police just took people out back and shot them when they captured them. In a few hours, we would probably find his body among our shit piles.

“Should we, like…stop them?” I asked. Honestly, I was more concerned about being an accessory to a war crime than saving the man’s life.

“Hamid!” Slim called out. “Don’t let them kill that fucker!”

Hamid ran over to talk to the commander. The policemen were still laying into the guy. The kid was taking a beating worse than anything I’d ever seen. Sure, he was probably some kind of Taliban operative, but the poor guy was given a shitty thirty-year-old Russian pistol to attack a checkpoint manned by twelve American soldiers and five Afghani policemen. He never had a chance.

“We have to stop them,” Grandpa said forcefully. He looked disappointed in us.

Slim glanced around and saw the faces of the young soldiers. Most were either terrified or disgusted at the unholy beating being given to the prisoner. The prisoner was nothing more than a skinny teenager. “Hamid, call off the attack,” Slim said. “We need to have a meeting with the commander. Grandpa, take a few soldiers and make sure they don’t beat him anymore.”

Guapo and Perro pushed the policemen away from the prisoner and stood in front of him. Slim, Hamid, and the Afghan police commander, Naweet, ducked inside the command tent for an impromptu meeting.

Other policemen kept a close eye on us, waiting for us to get bored on guard so they could swoop in and take their prisoner back. It was the type of situation that could easily lead to the Afghan police and U.S. soldiers shooting at each other. I had my hand resting on my holstered pistol and was squared off with an Afghan who was doing the same. It was like a production of the most fucked-up western movie ever made.

Thankfully, Slim and Naweet emerged from the tent all smiles and laughing. It turned out Naweet—who was about twenty years old and just put in charge of this checkpoint—was a pretty agreeable person. Once Slim explained that you couldn’t just beat and kill your prisoners, Naweet apologized.

The fact that had to be explained spoke volumes about the Afghan police’s inability to function as an actual police force. Naweet traded the prisoner to us in exchange for some fuel for his trucks. We radioed First Squad and had them come and pick up our new ward.

Part of the mission we had while living out at the checkpoint was patrolling the surrounding markets and villages. This was made a little more dangerous by the fact that we had to leave a team of soldiers back at the checkpoint to guard, so when we went on patrol, we had three fewer soldiers than normal. Not to mention that three soldiers weren’t exactly a stout defense if a determined group attacked them.

We all thought about it and decided that this incredibly ill-advised mission wasn’t worth it. We wouldn’t go on patrol. We would just hunker in behind the walls of the checkpoint and hold our ground.

We built a few better fighting positions at the checkpoint’s gate, ran up an American flag on a stick next to the Afghan flag, and Bugsy built an enormous wooden sign that he spray-painted “Chap Stick 25” onto. He positioned it so that anyone could clearly see it from the road. He wouldn’t explain why he named it that, but it stuck.

We lived out in that shithole for a week, and surprisingly we were never attacked once. Not counting the one random teenager firing a shot at a traffic cop. But it was clear the mission didn’t have its intended outcome. We were supposed to act as a breakwater for Taliban attacks in the area. The Taliban just attacked the police stations around us and left us alone.

Dweebly ordered us to dismantle our improvements to Chap Stick 25 and to move back to Grizzly Base. We didn’t do that. We’d grown to like the young police commander Naweet and decided to leave him all our Hesco baskets, camo netting, fuel, and piles of water bottles. He was thankful for it and happily invited us back whenever we wanted to go fight the Taliban with him.

Naweet excitedly left the big sign that said Chap Stick 25 up, saying it was a sign of our friendship. For one fleeting moment, I felt as though we’d really helped the Afghan police take a step in the right direction.

We packed up our bags and left the little checkpoint. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to work with Naweet again. He was killed in a suicide bombing when he went home to visit his wife a few days later.

After our mission went so badly, there was never a repeat of it throughout our area, not that we were complaining.

The Chap Stick 25 sign stayed in its place as long as we were in Afghanistan.