I

  am an 0311 Rifleman. I take pride in that fact. Historically, riflemen have always been the ones doing the majority of the killing and dying across the battlefield, and I was proud to be counted among their ranks when it really mattered. I was there when my nation called, right in the thick of it. You’ll hear a lot of lamenting from my fellow 03’s now that the war is over, and for good reason: no more patrolling, no more combat, no more slaying bodies.

 

 

But, perhaps worst of all—no more standing post.

 

 

Most infantrymen relish the prospect of a combat deployment. Sure, the workup sucks; long hours, the missed weekends, being away from family and friends…But it’s all worth it once you’re in country. Most infantrymen looked forward to the firefights and the adrenaline. Being the first kid on their block with a confirmed kill. That’s all well and good, but I loved deploying for a different reason. I looked forward to the HESCO barriers and the ballistic glass. Being the first kid on the COP to crack open a brand new, standard-issue green logbook. There may have been many like it, but that one was mine.

 

 

Most of my fellow grunts think standing post is boring, a waste of time, or a joke. They just gaff it off, like they aren’t the first line of defense should the Taliban attempt an assault on the base. Spending all their time up there smoking and joking. Little do they know, standing post is the pinnacle of existence for the grunt. You’re being entrusted with your entire unit’s lives! You’re the eyes and ears of the COP. It doesn’t get any better. I always hear guys brag about how many firefights they’ve been in, or how many Taliban they’ve shot, but they all fall silent when I tell them how many hours of post I stood.

 

 

See, I come from a post-standing family. My father stood post, and his father before him. While the neighbor kids were out playing war, I was steadfastly planted by my mailbox, logging their activities and challenging passersby. I ran such a tight VCP, even my own mother had to call in before I’d lift the gate. From the second I stepped onto those yellow footprints at 3 AM in the pouring rain, staring straight ahead at nothing, I knew I had made the right choice. By then I was a natural; I could stand in one spot without moving for hours on end. Firewatch was a breeze for me: the red light on my drill belt, writing down everything that happened, even waking up the DI’s in the morning. Don’t even get me started on standing duty in the fleet; a whole 24 hours in a box, reporting my post left and right. Sure, it’s paradise on earth, but it just doesn’t compare to being in country.

 I remember my first time standing post in Afghanistan, the thrill of it all. Getting lined-out by the Sergeant of the Guard before the briefing, being checked to ensure my rifle was condition 3, and that I had my Night Vision Goggles should it suddenly become dark at 10:00AM. I remember the dull, muffled crunch of rock and clay under my boots on the way to the corner of the base: my corner. For me, nothing ever quite matched the magic of a proper relief ceremony, dutifully supervised by the COG. From my first day in country to my last day standing post, nothing could match the excitement.

 

 

Unfortunately, that’s all over now, and the war is grinding to some semblance of an end. The last infantry unit is out of Afghanistan, and I’ve seen on the news that the Taliban is steadily gaining ground, occupying abandoned bases. Hell, I bet they’re not even standing post. The ANA have taken over most of the COPs and FOBs, but I don’t have much hope for these guys after seeing their lack of discipline, and their soldiering ability in general; half of them can’t even read, let alone fill out a logbook with the proper Date/Time group. Most of us knew this was going to happen; I knew it would be like this from the beginning.

 

 

 That’s exactly what happens when you aren’t properly relieved.

Tyler McCarthy served in the Marine Corps from 2010 to 2015, first as rifleman then as a Scout Sniper. He was assigned to 2/9 Weapons Co., deploying twice to Afghanistan and once more to Okinawa. He currently lives in Boston, and is working towards an undergraduate degree in architectural design. Follow Tyler on Twitter.

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