In April 2011, Jessica Garza deployed to Afghanistan with the brigade S-1 section, 1-25th Striker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT). Initially, the command assigned Garza and her unit to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Lagman. FOB Lagman was a former forward operating base in Qalati Ghilji, Zabul Province, Afghanistan. While there, she recalls celebrating her twenty-first birthday with a Rice Krispie cake. It was the only time she received a birthday celebration.
Within a month, her unit moved to FOB Masum Ghar. Time at Masum Ghar for Garza was challenging and included long days and nights with 24-hour duties. Her unit was the last to do a year tour and lost the most soldiers at that time. She spent hours and hours on background duties and paperwork in cramped plywood-constructed office quarters. Especially trying was paperwork associated with letters to the surviving families of fallen soldiers.
Here, Garza recalls the time a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) hit her position:
GARZA: I literally just got off of my shift, a 24-hour shift working overnight, and I went back to my little tent and I took a shower and I got to wear a little bit of civilian clothes to sleep otherwise, you're wearing your military uniform. So, I was in my civvies and I was laying-- I was about to lay down and all of a sudden you hear a huge boom and everything shook right by me. And you just see this-- it's not like an explosion, I can't remember. Everything happened so fast. And then I just remember grabbing my gun, putting my little bit of clothes back on and running to under the cement blocks because that was my reaction, to get there and just wait, I guess. Wait with my gun if anything happens. But it turns out it was just an RPG that hit by me. And so, I dealt with that. Other than that, I never experienced an IED or anything. And I'm thankful for it.
INTERVIEWER: Was anyone injured in your unit by that RPG?
GARZA: No, not that I know of.
INTERVIEWER: You happen to remember about when that was while you were there?
GARZA: Oh, my goodness. I do not remember exactly when that was.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. Just curious.
GARZA: I just remember within that year, so much stuff happened, from losing people and my own experiences there. So, I don't remember exactly when the--
INTERVIEWER: What was going through your mind? Was anything going through your mind when you were underneath that concrete barrier or the tunnel or whatever it was, a protection?
GARZA: Just that I got to protect myself because there was no one else around in that if by chance our FOB did get overrun by anybody, that I'd have to protect myself. So, I have my weapon ready. And if it came to and if it was my time, it was my time. There's nothing really else you could do for it, the Army did prepare us for this. They trained us and we get briefed every day what to do and if anything does happen. And I was prepared. So, that's really it.
INTERVIEWER: Did you or the FOB end up returning fire that day when the RPG came in?
GARZA: Mm-mm. I think they looked for the person who shot it and I don't know if they ever found him or not.
To listen to the complete interview, click on the image below or here: