Afghan Guardian of Camp Phoenix for 13 years
By Sgt. Gary D. Romine U.S. Army (Ret.)
From the January 2015 issue of SOF
I first met Rambo after we arrived at Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan. I was a specialist at the time. I wore a lot of hats while I was there, but everyone else did, too. We were a small SECFOR unit that was taking over from 10th Mountain Division. I was “voluntold” to go with the CO and CSM on a recon of the area. That is where we met Rambo. He was wearing his sunglasses, of course, and at the time he carried a red and white stick. After meeting him I was impressed. You could tell he was harder than woodpecker lips. His skin was like leather, the cold dead stare that was in his eyes, and the hate he had for all Taliban. The Taliban killed his wife and he would do the job as main gate guard for free, if it meant he could get his hands on the Taliban.
I was with C Co. 1-179 Infantry, 45th IBCT. Our mission was to secure the area for the embedded training teams that were training the ANA. I was a gunner with 3rd Platoon. But when we got there, HQ didn’t bring RTOs, so guess who got the job. Four of us rotated to cover the base defense operations center (BDOC). We did that for almost four months until the rest of the battalion followed on. We were 112 men handpicked for the mission. We had 11B, 11D and cavalry scouts all combined into one company. We had two “leg” platoons and two “mounted” platoons. We were from all over the state of Oklahoma. We would do whatever the mission required. We did route recon, patrols, convoy escort, and provided over watch for whoever needed it.
Every time we would go outside the wire, Rambo would have traffic stopped, the crowd of people pushed out of the way and have a salute for us as we left. No matter day or night, Rambo had the gate for us. I remember one time when I was shaken out of my rack from a loud explosion. I thought someone was messing around in the hooch, but it came over the net. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) had detonated outside the front gate. We jumped up made it to our trucks and staged to go help. When we got there, we found out that a Toyota Corolla packed with approximately 200 lbs. of TNT blew up a vehicle with Gurkas in it. Rambo was right there with us, helping with anything and everything. We picked up the remains and cleaned up, but there was always that blood-stained asphalt that reminded us every day that this could be the day.
I always respected Rambo; he was always a professional and an honorable man. It was always good to see Rambo, because you knew you made it one more day.