6 Things You Learn Detonating Roadside Bombs for a Living

#3. We Have Our Own Wartime Forensics Experts

Chris Hondros/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Good news, everyone!

We can't be more than a year or two away from CSI: Kabul. Roadside bombs leave evidence, just like any other crime. And we have our own forensics experts to help figure out exactly which assholes tried to kill us this time. Was it the assholes, or the assholes? It's a subtle language. Huge difference.

AFP / Stringer / Getty
"We're not totally sure ourselves."

First they get down to the blast crater and take measurements and soil samples to figure out what kind of ingredients were used to make the bomb. The next step is to calculate the size of the blast to try to figure out how big the intact bomb was and how much punch it packed. Then it's off to look for pieces of the bomb that might have survived the blast so the experts can study them. You'd be shocked at how much money we spend every year on cool sunglasses to put on after one-liners. That's not even mentioning the licensing fees for that Who song.

That's not to say it's all store-brand quality puns and guitar licks, though. Forensics is useful stuff, even in a war zone: Every bomb maker out there has a signature fingerprint. It's very dangerous work, so they often build them the exact same way every time they make them, lest they try something new and blow themselves up in the process. Eventually if enough bomb fragments are recovered and all the little clues are put together, the experts can get a pretty clear idea of who the bomb maker is. If nothing else, it gives us a chance to cut off their ingredients. That's easier said than done, because terrorists are so crafty, I'm surprised more of them haven't found gainful employment on Etsy.


$300. $350 if you want it personalized with your favorite My Little Pony.

No, seriously ...

#2. They Can Make a Bomb Out of Anything

Brent Stirton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Much like your fourth grade art teacher taught you, the only thing limiting a bomb maker is his imagination. They can use cellphones, clocks, garage door openers, kitchen timers, anything. Even the humble Tabasco bottle, former mainstay of our MREs, can be twisted to evil purposes. They'll fill it with a sensitive chemical that sets off the main charge when crushed by a vehicle driving over -- or even an errant boot step. It's like fighting an army of bearded dickhead MacGyvers.

Muttley & Own Work
Et tu, Tabasco?

Afghan insurgents are very poor. If they didn't use junk to try to kill us, well, they would have to stop trying to kill us altogether. And what is life, if you don't follow your dreams? You heard about those explosively formed penetrators in Iraq, where they'd use copper pots to form shaped charges? That wasn't ghetto. Iraq had fancy insurgents. People in Afghanistan aren't going to waste a copper pot on murdering a stranger when they can use it to cook food for their family. They'd rather use plastic jugs (which are given out a lot for aid purposes) and pack them full of explosives. These guys make maybe a thousand dollars a year if they're lucky. They have to be experts at ballin' on a budget. For example: Take 110 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, mix in the contents of a military garbage dump, and you've got enough bomb to vaporize a Humvee for less than the cost of an iPad.


"I'm impressed at the blast radius! And their thrift!"

There's like the equivalent of the Frugal Gourmet somewhere out there in Afghanistan right now, teaching folks how to blow up an American without breaking the bank.

#1. Afghanistan Can Be Hilarious

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images News/Getty Images

This is like the potpourri category on Jeopardy! -- all the random stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else. But it might give you the sense that not everything is deadly serious all the time. Even war has moments of absurdity.


The Normandy landings were actually accompanied by the "Yakety Sax" theme.

My first time on route in Afghanistan, I saw all these kids giving us thumbs up as we drove by. It was awesome and endearing -- they would run out from wherever they were and flood the sidewalks just to give us a thumbs up. I thought they must really love us. Then I noticed they got pissed off whenever I gave them the thumbs up back. It turns out the thumbs up is how the kids ask for candy. To them, it looked like I was denying them candy and then mocking them.

Later that same day we were stopped and got busy loading one of our busted trucks onto a flatbed, and I saw I see this old Afghan dude stop by the road to watch us. He got close to my truck, maybe 5 feet away, then lifted up his man-dress and took a shit right in front of me. Welcome to Afghanistan!

The Washington Post / Getty
The world's beard-basket.

Another day we stopped to take a piss break and situated our trucks so that we were blocking the road. Everybody was forced to drive through the desert around us. One guy didn't go around. He hopped right out to look at our trucks. So we asked him questions and looked in his broken-ass old '80s sedan to see ... an entire family and two full-size cows crammed into his hatchback.


Give this dude a flatbed truck and he'll carry the whole damn herd.

This next picture is of an RG31 fording what we initially thought was a river of mud. It wasn't until we were 5 feet deep that we realized this "mud" was pure human shit.

The smell first started seeping in through the air conditioning, and the horrifying realization hit every man in the convoy at a different time. This was downright tragic in the case of one of our gunners. He was strapped into an exposed turret, directly behind the giant back wheels of one of our tractor tanks. If you've ever had a car stuck in the mud, you know what happens next: Those wheels spun a tidal wave of rancid poo right into his face.

"Spinning your wheels in a lake of shit" is as good a metaphor for the war in Afghanistan as I can give. Maybe they'll issue us snorkels on the next tour.

Jim Walker would like you to support the veteran-owned business Inkfidel. Please consider supporting The Art of War project to help vets struggling with PTSD. Robert Evans can be reached here if you have a story you'd like to tell him.

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Related Reading: Cracked talked to a real-life drone pilot too, and we wrote this article with him. More interested in an inside look at spycraft? We've got you covered. There's also this article by a prison guard to satisfy your need for order, and this article by a legal prostitute to sate your lust for vice.

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