“FOB Salerno sustained a rocket attack, five impacted inside the wire, three impacted outside the wire, no major damage or casualties sustained.” — Source: 3/3 Command Chronology for the Period 01 January to 30 June 2005
Lance Corporal Eric German
3rd Platoon, Guard Force
The March 11 rocket attack started for me at the Front Gate as a Lance Corporal with [my NCO] Corporal Demlow. We were a part of 3rd Platoon Guard Force at the time, and we were well within a few hours of our watch duties. The Bazaar was open that day and Demlow was joking around with one of our Interpreters (Terps), when a Jingle truck pulled up to the main gate, requesting entry on to base. So me being the junior Marine, I proceeded to check the vehicle for entry while Demlow was still joking with the Terp…but something didn’t feel right. My anxiety started to rise for some random reason but I ignored them and manned up.
As I got closer to the truck I noticed that the truck was “clean” as compared to other Jingle trucks that frequent the area. But the driver was beyond dirty which was also a shock. So I looked up at Outpost (OP) 4, the post that has the 240 Machine Gun in case of a breach. A guard from my platoon was watching me, so I felt safe. I searched the truck. The driver gave me lip, so I denied him entry. He appeared very disgruntled about that but left anyways. Demlow and other Marines were completely unaware about the situation.
Now, back at our Front Gate post, the Terp was on his bike still hanging out with me and Demlow. It was hot out. After a few jokes were exchanged, I heard a “distant boom”. I heard a slight boom and saw smoke down the road at what seemed outside the base but was not sure where: perhaps the Afghan Army post. Then the Terp noticed it too, said “Talk to you later” to me and Demlow, and proceeded rapidly down the same road to a bunker. A few minutes later another rocket impacted, but this time inside the base at the edge of the road near the flight line. The Terp was lucky because the rocket would have hit him at the end of the road had he waited an extra 5-8 minutes.
I was sweating more, but grabbed my camera, wanting to capture an epic moment. I set my camera up on a box of water. I thought I had set it to “video record”, but must have not noticed it was switched to “photo”. When the next rocket impacted, it hit the Detainee building at which time I pressed the button to capture the impact. At the same time I took cover. When the rocket impacted, I witnessed the ground around the Detainee building ripple like water and a tree across the road broke a branch. It was the coolest scariest thing I have ever witnessed.
Afterwards, we heard from Corporal Mack, who was walking from the “porta potty” to his position in OP 4. He told us, “They’re walking them in here. [A forward observer was guiding the rockets into the center of our base one by one] You guys should leave and seek cover.” He kept walking to his post. Demlow looked at me and said, “You can seek cover, but I’m staying here to man the post.” I thought about leaving, but decided not to leave Demlow by himself. If he dies, I die too. Another rocket was shot off, which was recorded on the video [Demlow is shouting “Incoming”], but the rocket landed a hill away from us near or on OP 3. Both of us gasped for air when it impacted. While this was going on, we heard the Helos taking off to counter the enemy.
My memory fades from that point. It was one of my intense days in Afghanistan.