Ferocious was in Oklahoma City last weekend, only five or six hours away, and I was upset that I couldn’t spend the necessary 12 hours in the car to get to see him. For those of you who might not know, “Ferocious” was the name I gave one of my security guys in Afghanistan. I nicknamed him that not because he was actually ferocious (although he looked pretty ferocious), but because I wanted to write about him in my blog without using his name. I nicknamed the other man “Huge” for reasons you can imagine. Truthfully, Ferocious could have been Huge as well, because he is. I don’t know his height, but his arms are big around as tree trunks – or so it seemed at the time.
When I went to Afghanistan, I first went to Kabul, spending three days becoming acclimated to the time change and to the idea I was in a war zone. Then I flew to Herat. When I got off the plane, I saw Ron, one of my colleagues I had met in Kabul, and he was accompanied by two gigantic men. Ron asked me about my luggage, and I pointed out my two humongous bags stuffed with everything I would need for six months. I started to say, “They’re really heavy,” but by the time I got out “They’re,” each gigantic man, standing on the tarmac, had picked up a suitcase from the baggage area on the plane and lifted it down and carried it, not pulled it, over to me.
Thus, Huge and Ferocious were named.
That day, before we got to the camp, Ron had to find some items on the Italian air base, which was where my plane had landed. Huge and Ferocious stayed with me, because I knew absolutely nothing about anything. They were a little shocked, I think, when I explained I needed to find a ladies’ room; they hemmed and hawed, and finally said they didn’t know where a ladies’ room might be. So, both good sports, they wandered around with me until we found one. It wasn’t marked at all, so they agreed to stand outside the door until I exited. From that moment, we became fast friends.
I often ate dinner with Ferocious, once asking him about how he had determined that private security was the career for him. He told me that he first was a British soldier – yes, he has a lovely accent – and then decided that he wanted to stay in the military service, but not as a soldier. So he took the necessary six-month training for personal security and then he did extra duty in South Africa for five weeks riding along with paramedics and other first responders. That stint allowed him to apply for more jobs in high-danger zones. Afghanistan was most certainly a danger zone.
For the last three weeks of my time in Herat, the camp was under a credible threat – Taliban fighters were threatening an attack on the camp. I was scared and asked Ferocious what that meant as far as our safety. He told me that if anything happened, he would come grab my supervisor and me, get us in the truck, and drive us to the Italian base. Then he added, “Don’t worry about it. They’re really bad shots.”
The night before I left for Kabul, I treated Huge and Ferocious to a pizza on the Italian base, and we said our good-byes, although I knew I would see them when they took me to the plane at 5 a.m. the next day. As we waited in the truck for the plane to land so I could hurry on and they could once again carry my humongous bags, we promised to stay in touch, and thanks to social media, we have.
Sometimes, we connect with people who have an unexpected impact on our lives. Who knew that I would befriend a Brit I met on the other side of the world? I would have loved to get to Oklahoma City last week to see Ferocious, but I think that we will meet again, though I know not where. I’m looking forward to it.