Nature (Human and Otherwise) in Afghanistan
Captain Graham Kallos
10 June 2009
In every human being, there remains primal piece of wet-ware wired directly into our autonomous response system. Scholars believe that the hind-brain is one of the last vestiges of our cave-dwelling fore-bearers’ ancient brain. Five thousand years ago, the hairy club-wielding peoples for whom daily life and death struggles with wildlife would reinforce the necessity of having a system that would allow for the massive dumps of hormones required to either flee imminent danger or to stay and fight with the utmost ferocity was one of the more formidable tools in an arsenal that would lead humanity to the pinnacle of the world’s food-chain.
Fast-forward to 2009 and you will find that conquering nature has relegated the once mighty hind-brain to the realm occupied by the likes of the appendix and the tail-bone; a realm where the occasional squirt of adrenaline is meted out when something moderately exciting like finding a quarter on the ground interrupts the monotony of modern living. On occasion, however, an event will make your hind-brain harken back to its glory days. An event where a full dose of the ‘fight-or-flight’ juice will hit your Endocrine system like a six-pack of Red-Bull being shot into your veins by a gas-powered syringe. An event like sitting in the Command Post at Fob Masum Ghar and having a camel spider the size of your fist squeeze its hairy body through a crack in the ceiling and land with a wet ‘thump’ on the ground, not six feet from you.
In this type of situation there are two possible immediate responses. Scream like a ten-year old girl or succumb to an instant fear-induced paralysis. Once the high-pitched squeal finished gurgling past my lips, I sprang into action. Foregoing the mighty spear and shield of my primitive ancestors, I chose, instead, to wield the weapons readily available to the modern Duty Officer: A can of compressed air, a Gerber Multi-Tool and a sturdy combat-boot. Turning the can upside-down, I blasted the beast with a jet-spray of cold air in an inglorious attempt to cryogenically freeze it, effectively stopping it from scurrying into a crack under the wall. Being a male, I decided to empty the can onto the creature, ‘just to be sure’. Once satisfied that the spider would not jump onto my face and burrow into my brain and lay a thousand eggs, I pinched its frozen torso with my Gerber and held its corpse aloft in a sort of primitive victory pose. Having satisfied the need to display the spoils of my hunt, I delivered the ‘Coup-de-Grace’ with the heel of my right boot. The ensuing crunch of the monster reverberated, both through the entire CP and up my leg as far as my knee. Being the environmentally conscious Calvary officer that I am, I placed the corpse of my vanquished foe on a concrete pedestal just outside of the CP.
In the end, the moral of this story is not a complicated one. This isn’t a story about the journey that our species has taken over the last few thousand years, leaving caves and conquering the animal world. This is not a commentary on the modernization of our society and the gradual shift to a sedentary existence; this is a story about leaving a gross dead camel spider in a place where you know that Sgt Englehart will see it during his morning smoke and hopefully scream, just a little bit more girlishly than you did.