Within an hour of arriving in Afghanistan’s Sangin district last month, we heard jarring news: Marine units there had been attacked multiple times recently by grenades at close distances.
How does an insurgent pull that off, you ask? The district’s “Fish Tank” area is a maze of high walls and tight alleys that allow Taliban fighters to creep uncomfortably close before launching an attack. Sure, they may not get away frequently. For a few fleeting moments, however, they still have the element of surprise.
My last long-form story out of my recent embed in Afghanistan went online this afternoon, and it begins with a grenade-related anecdote. Remarkably, Lance Cpls. Jacob Bisek and Daniel Buzalsky escaped unscathed despite a grenade exploding just a few feet from them on a rooftop in the Fish Tank. Key details:
Lying on a dusty rooftop, Lance Cpls. Jacob Bisek and Daniel Buzalsky watched suspiciously as a man down the road peered at them. He was pointing at the Marines and holding a cell phone, raising the prospect he was a Taliban spotter.
Seconds later, the explosion hit. An insurgent had snuck up on them and hurled a grenade onto the roof, sparking a fight in which Marines inside the compound threw grenades over a wall back at the attacker. Bisek and Buzalsky did not sustain any serious injuries, but the Marines learned later that their attacker died from shrapnel wounds.
“I was about to peek over, and that’s when it exploded,” said Bisek, adding his hearing still wasn’t right two weeks later. “For the longest time, I didn’t believe it was a grenade. It landed five feet from my face, and it didn’t do anything.”
Yep, that’s right. An insurgent started a grenade-chucking fight, and it couldn’t have ended much better for the Marines involved. They’re all with 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, out of Twentynine Palms, Calif.
The attack on Bisek and Buzalsky isn’t the only one on Marines involving grenades recently. They were a frequent threat last month before the poppy harvest, and likely will be again now that the fighting season is picking up.