Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bringing 'em back! (Part II)

Alright well here is installment #2 in my attempt at going retro with my blog. Once again I have gone through, dusted the cobb webbs off a few more old posts, done some light editing and they are back online for your viewing pleasure. I even added a couple pictures to one of them.

Just so you know I have been going in sequence with these as well. Those posts that I redid and put up with Bringing 'em Back! (Part I) were some of my very first, and right in chronological order come these posts. I believe these posts were some of the very posts that began the word being spread of my blog. These were the exciting, fun, scary and memorable days of my deployment. I hope yall enjoy them as much as I did.

Links to old posts:

It doesn't get much better than this!: This post is basically about a very sucessful and exciting day. We ended up putting a good (or technically I should say 'bad') guy behind bars.

We fucked them up!!: This is a day that I will never forget. It is the culmination of an Infantryman's life. This is the day that we first made contact with a known enemy of the United States of America.

Staring death in the face...: I did exactly that this day. One hell of a close call, and to be totally honest, I dont know how I'm alive today. I guess I'm just impervious to bullets! ;)

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

The attack of the demon dog...

This is to be a story of a dog. In fact this will turn in to a story of two dogs. One of which almost lost its life by my hands. Now let me make sure and tell you that I am truely an animal lover. The one thing I have missed more than anything being in the military as a single soldier, is the fact that while living in the barracks I was not able to have ANY pet, even something like a fish. Shoot I don't even think I could have a live plant. As a kid, when Id go out playing with my BB gun, I could never bring myself to shoot even a bird or a squirel. The one time I almost did, I lined it up in my sights and at the last second I raised my rifle and fired just above it. How ironic the first life I removed from this planet was that of another human bieng? But anyways, back on track here. Here goes the story.

The story of these two dogs would not exist without the story of one dog. That probably makes no sense right now, but I will explain, trust me. I might have mentioned it before, but we have a dog that stays at our combat outpost. A few months ago my old squad was out on patrol at night and this cute little black and white puppy began following them. They didn't pay much attention to it at first, but he kept following them and, well, he was just so damn cute. They brought him back that night. I was on guard shift and happen to be sitting on the desk inside when they brought the little guy in.

He was pathetic looking. He couldn't have been more than a couple weeks old and looked like he could have died any minute. But he was SO cute. They gave him a couple baths to clean him up and tried to get him to drink as much clean water that he could. They had him wrapped in a blanket and left him at the desk I was at. He was throughly exhausted and his body was so hot. He was shivering while he slept and honestly from the looks of it I didn't think he was going to live for more than a few days. Even after the bath he still had fleas so one of they guys went and dipped him in JP8 (Diesel Fuel). We thought this was crazy, but it worked and he was flea free. As the only appropriate name for a dog for guys of Charlie Company was, Charlie.

As the days went by Charlie began doing much better. He slowly began eating MRE's and as time went on he began filling out. He became more active and he was even cuter than before. He was the center of attention and got everyones affection. This is where me and Charlie truely began to bond, especially after the first time I did my best to comfort him and keep him warm. I really started getting attached to him and I began thinking about him and his life after we leave. Nothing good...

After we rotated out of there the other platoons that would rotate in would take care of him just as well and by the time we were there again he had grown so much and he was acting like the normal energetic puppy you'd expect to see. We used to keep him inside and we'd take him out to pee and poop and up on the roof and to the guard towers to get outside some. Well one day our Battalion Command Sergeant Major (CSM) told us that he was not to be allowed inside and we technically shouldn't even have him at all. So from that point forward, he became an outdoor dog, living downstairs in the courtyard area of the compound. This did nothing to stop the attention and affection he would recieve from all of us, and now gave him a lot of room to run around and play.

Charlie barreling towards meTime continued to pass and he grew and grew, learned to bark and bite and all the typical puppy stuff. Everytime we'd come back to a new rotation he seem so much bigger. I remeber the first time I came back this one time and he remembered me and he came hauling ass towards me! I was shocked because I'd never see him really run before and it caught me off guard. I knew I was totally attached to this dog now and it was horrible thinking about having to leave him behind. The Iraqi's dont have dogs as pets here. There are dogs everywhere, but they are all wild. They roam the streets in packs and somehow manage to live, but are nothing like the 'dog' that Americans are used to. Generation after generation they learn to survive on their on, a natural existance in an unnatural world.

For this reason Iraqi's view dogs as wild animals with diseases and are either afraid of them or hate them. This attitude carried over to Charlie, even though he was obviously domesticated. They were afraid of them, and some obviously abused him. They would chase him and kick him. Anytime we'd catch them we'd yell at them and be on the verge of kicking their asses. But this attitude of theirs is why, to this day, Charlie does not like Iraqi's. It doesn't matter if its Iraqi police, Army or even our interperators, he barks at them like crazy and acts all tough. I don't even bother trying to stop him anymore. The thing is, if we leave, his life is in their hands.

Isn't Charlie just so darn cute?!?Charlie has now grown in to what I'd say is almost a dog. He's still a puppy in many ways; his puppy bark, his constant need to chew on things, his enless supply of puppy energy. But he's grown ALOT and he's really starting to look like a dog, and not so much a puppy anymore. He normally finds trash or water bottles to chew on so one day I decided to pay an Iraqi to get me a bunch of cow bones, and now he has some real bones to chew on. Any chance I get I spend down with him, and despite what some may think, I let him like me and crawl all over me. We've totally bonded and it's awesome. I decided there has got to be a way to get him out of Iraq and after reading a book about a Marine and getting a dog to the states called "From Baghdad with Love", I learned of an organization called Military Mascots which specilizes in just that. I've sent them a couple emails, but have yet to hear anything back. We still have time, but I hope they contact me soon. I want to secure him a way to the land of the free, to give him an opportunity to enjoy his life to the fullest. I'd love to see his reaction to a giant field of green grass for the first time! So hopefully we can make this happen. I don't quite know what it will take, or even if we can do what we need to, but its worth a try.

OK, so now that I've told you about Charlie, let me tell you about this demon dog. It was a few days ago and I was to be on guard down with the trucks outside. I like this spot, even though its hot and sucks being outside during the day, because I get to spend a lot of time with Charlie. Well the guy on shift before me told me that there was some stray dog underneath one of the trucks. We joked around saying Charlie was finally going to get some ass, or that it was his long lost mom coming to find him, but once I saw her it was obvious that it wasn't. I dont know how or why this dog came in here, but there it was chilling under a Humvee. One of the squad leaders decided to have this guy move the truck in hopes of getting the dog to run out and hopefully away. Well, the dog came out, but it went after the squad leader and tried to bite him. The kicked the dog and it scurried off somewhere else, but not away.

I was a little concerned because Charlie has not had any shots and Id hate for him to get bit by a diseased dog and get rabbies. I wanted this dog to leave, but Charlie had no fear as was all up in the other dogs face barking away like Mr. Toughguy. I have to give him credit for trying. The dog ended up finding a spot in this one lounge chair and we were trying to get it to leave, but it wasn't having it. I even went so far as to grab this metal sign frame and was pushing its head around. Nothing other than a quick snap at me for a reaction. We were in the process of getting some more people to help get it out when it hopped up and ran around this side of the building with no escape. It was back behind these metal lockers and I came up with, what I though at the time to be, a genious idea. I grabbed this broom and went up behind the lockers. I was going to hit the lockers really hard, scare the dog and it would come running out and hopefully away. Charlie decided to go with me, unafraid and continued his barking. Well, I hit the locker with the broom handle, and as expected it scared the dog and it came running out.

What I neglected to factor in was the possibility of what happened next. Since Charlie was basically blocking the way, the dog ran in to Charlie stopping it from flying past me. Once it stopped, it looked at me and immediately knew I was the cause of all its problems and got this look on its face that only a true rabbies infested, ravenous demon dog could have. It snarled its black dirty teeth as white foam seeped out its mouth and it took all its hate and agression out on me as it lunged at me. I was paniced at this point, no longer fearing for Charlie and him getting infested, but now the thought of getting bit by this infected dog. My first reaction was to quickly kick the dog in the head. This stopped the attack and for a second I though the dog was done. But nope, it shook that off, looked at me again with even more hate and lunged again. At this point I was already starting to make my way away so I tried a new approach, not wanting to miss the dog and having to be so close to kick it. I took the broom handled and swung hard making contact this time with the top of this dogs head.

Again, another unexpected reaction took place. After being pelted in the head, this dog somehow latches on to the broom handle with its rabbid mouth and begins growling and snarling like Lucifer himself posses this dog. After a couple quick tugs in attempt to retrieve my self-defense stick back I say fuck it and begin to break contact running, well somewhere, anywhere away from this devilish dog. I took a quick glance back and sure enough the dog is in pursuit. I quickened my pace thinking it was only a matter or time until this dog caught up with me so the first thing I saw to get away was to get on top of the hood of a nearby Humvee. I escape, but the dog proceedes to go chill under this Humvee. Theres other people around, now at this point laughing their asses off, but does the dog attack them?? NO!!

I'm pissed at this point, and I tell this guy to give me the radio and I then call up that theres going to be a couple shots fired but for no one to be alarmed. This dog was going to die, and preferable by my hands, or should I say gun. My squad leader, who knew about the dog, immediately tells me not to shoot the dog. God damnit. Well, I won't now, but if this thing comes at me again you can sure as hell bet I'm going to pump this dogs body full of 5.56mm lead.

After a couple minutes of the dog not showing its face, I decided to get down to get said rifle. Wouldn't you know the second my boots touch the ground, Satan himself comes lunging out again at me and I'm forced to immediately climb this sandbag wall just a few feet away. Now I'm feeling like an ass and the thought of ending this dog's life is become sweeter and sweeter to me. Well, I dont know what or why what happened next did, but I'm guessing maybe the dog sensed trouble and called it quits. On its own, it decided to run back out the entrance and all the way out in to the street and just like that, this whole ordeal was over. Holy shit!

Charlie chilling on sandbag wall I found refuge on

Sandbag wall I found refuge on

I figured that would be the last time I had to see this dog, but sure as shit that night we ended up going out to do something and as we turned on this road just outside our outpost I hear a couple dogs barking away, like all dogs do to us in Iraq. Well just as I'm passing them, one of them stops barking and just begins staring at me. I take a closer look, and sure as shit its that damn dog, and I would swear it was deciding wheter or not to come after me. I began waving my arms and pointing to the guys on my team, since I have to be tactically ya know, its nighttime. I don't know if they knew what I was getting at, but me as well as that dog knew. I had my rifle read and trained in case it decided to act on its thoughts, but fortunately it never did. Hopefully that will be the last time we ever come face to face.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Half way there...

Alright well as of a couple days ago, based on a 15 month deployment, we are now officially 1/2 way done. There is still the chance that our deployment could be shorter than 15 months, but if it does last that long, we are in the 2nd half. It's crazy to think that had this been like any other deployment that this unit has gone on since September 11th, then we would be finishing up or long done with the deployment. But instead, we reach a mark that is significant, yet painful at the same time. It has been a LONG time already and we must do the same thing again.

I don't know what it is, but this waypoint has proven tougher on me than I expected. I figured that once I got here that it would all be down hill and that all I would have to do is exactly what I already did, then I would be home again. I think my logic would of worked out, had the pain and suffering not come down upon our squad. It has been a few days since I've last posted and there are reasons for that. For one, I have been extremely busy, in fact I still am. Our schedule is so packed that we haven't much time to our selves, mostly working or sleeping, then getting up and doing it again. And the work we are doing is not easy work. It is pushing our bodies beyond the point of exhaustion; a place we haven't been since the begining of the deployment. In fact I can't remeber the last time I have been this tired and this sore. Still, we must go on. The second reason I haven't posted much is because with everything that has been going on, it has been hard to keep a positive attitude; myself as well as others included. I figured it would be best if I waited to post something that way it was not a rant about how stupid the Army is or something to that effect.

Right now, with a significant milestone in our deploymnet passed, we are being tested. A test of physical and emotional strength, and Im afraid that it is breaking us down on both ends. The harest part in dealing with this is that it is unecessary. Right now, within the company my platoon is getting the dick from our CO. And somehow, once again my squad is on the receive end of it for my platoon. We are the only ones that are sucking right now, and we are sucking bad. Ever since our CO had come back from leave, he's been hard charging, super motivated, and back to thinking that his soldiers are superhumans, not regarding the fact that, believe it or not, we do have limits. These limits are quickly being approached. The sad thing is, no one beyond our leadership that is in the shit with us day in and day out, really seems to care. Guess thats why our company has the lowest re-enlistment rate, and ironically, the CO was to speak with us today and find out why we aren't re-enlisting. I'm very tempted to give him a piece of my mind, and lay it out there honestly why I, and many others, are not re-enlisting.

So beyond that, my time right now has been boring and uneventful. The only things really noteworth over the past few days have been these.

We were driving along the other day, and we happen to be driving through some of the back roads in this one nieghborhood that has some of the worse roads I've ever seen in my entire life. The funny thing is, this is a nice nieghtborhood in Iraq too. Anyways, there are some seriously dangerous areas and some potentially hazardous spots. It was in this same neighborhood that we managed to get a couple Humvees stuck in the shit mudd that one day. Well anyways, we cruising down this one street and along one side there are these really deep holes. I dont understand what they are for, but its pretty ridiculous. The lead vechicle was just in the process of calling up one of them that didn't allow for much room to pass, when all of sudden the truck in front of me began sliding in to the hole. It was some scarry shit at first because as one side began sliding it, it took on a angle of posture that was nearing a roll. Just before reaching the threshold, the truck stopped. The occupants inside began scrambling to get out and as the last person got out and shut the door it began sliding some more. We totally thought it was about to roll in to the hold, which ended up being full of water. Somehow, the front bumper got caught on a solid part of ground and prevented this from happening.

Humvee holding on for dear life!It was surreal seeing one of our trucks in such a position. Everything you learn about gravity and center of balance told you that the truck should be on its side in the hole, but it wasn't. It was quite hilarious to see it like that except for the occupants. Some of them were pretty shaken, for had they gone in the ditch, the truck might of began filling with water. I dont think it would of been enough to fill the whole cab, but it would of been a scarry moment waiting to find out. Either way they got out and so now, as a lot of things go here, it became a comical event. Once again, the US Army, the worlds greatest Army, was stuck and helpless to do anything. As Iraqi's passed us walking by, they didn't want to look at the truck, but Im sure I know what they were thinking. We ended up having to wait for a wrecker to come out and after a few failed attempts, they found a way to hook up to it, part of which required running a chain to our truck to prevent it from rolling, and were finally able to get it out, undamaged and good to go. So with that, we continued mission.

The other event was nothing exciting. The thing was that we thought it would be. There were reports coming up that the Iraqi Police (IP) had found a car bomb. They had the area cordoned off and they had Iraqi EOD (bomb squad) that was other there and there were going to do a controled detonation of it. It was far enough away to where we could watch in relative safety, yet close enough to where this had the potential to be a cool show! So of course those of us with interest, including myself, got our cameras and video recorders and got in positions to best record the massive explosion we knew was coming. The time was ticking down, but we didn't know the exact moment that it was going to happen because the Iraqi's kept telling us times that wern't right. So we waited. That's when all of a sudden it happened. It was one of the most pathetic explosions that I've heard. In fact, I've heard many IEDs that detonated with much more force than that. We kind of look at each other like, "Was that it?" We were confused and our worst fear was confirmed when the Iraqi's told us that was it. Wow, that sure sucked. We were really hoping to get some good footage of a massive explosion. Guess not today.

One last update on my leave and Ramadan. I did some research and learned that the Muslim calander is based upon the Lunar year instead of the Solar year. Didn't mean much to me at first, but I learned that the Lunar year is 13 days shorter than the Solar year, and so dates of holidays and whatnot come earlier and earlier each year. Ramadan this year is to fall durring the time of September 13th to October 13th. I figure my chances of getting leave in late October are pretty good and so I decided to switch my leave back, so I will no longer have to wait the additional time. I think this will be best with how my nervers and temperment are being tested lately. I definately need a break and the sooner the better.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Boom, here comes the boom!

Well after the last patrol, I am throughly exhausted. I can say that yesterday officially broke me off. Im feeling it today and am quite sore for it. We ended up being on our feet doing stuff for much longer than we have in a long time, and with the added heat and all that, it just drained us.

Yesterday was to be a pretty chill day, because at night we had a raid that we were to go on. To start the day off we were to go around to some of the banks in our sector and talk with them and assess their current situation. I was amoung the dismounts that day, and for each bank, Id hop out with a few other guys and we'd go with the Squad Leader in charge while he did his talking. There wern't many banks in our sector and so this was to be a pretty quick assignment.

At one of the banks we happened to go inside and I started to get bored. I went up to one of the ladies working one of the teller windows and decided that I wanted to open a bank account. I was trying to explain to her, but she spoke practically no english, and my level of arabic is far below asking to open an account. I pulled out my debit card and tried using that to explain, but I was still getting no where. Thats when an older gentleman a little ways back noticed and heard me and he called out that they did not offer credit cards. He rose from his desk and came over to me, and another team leader that at this point was interested in the same thing. We proceeded to talk with him for a while since he spoke pretty damn good english. Come to find out, it is not possible, at least at that bank, for an American to open an account. Well damn, that sucks. Apparently there is a bank somewhere else that offers this, but Im pretty sure its not anywhere near where I can go. Oh well, it was worth the try. I really had no intentions of using it, just thought it would be cool to say I had a bank account in Iraq.

As we were headed to our last bank, we rolled up in front of it and stopped the trucks. Just as the call came for the dismounts to get out and I was reaching for the handle to open the door, we heard a fairly loud explosion. Everyone kind of gave the same look, like "What was that?" but I was on my way out the door and on to the bank. We setup outside the bank and thats when I saw the people next to me making the face and hand signals for something tragic happening. I looked down this alley that they were facing down and thats when I saw the smoke. It wasn't a lot of smoke, so I wasn't sure if it was just a fire or what. We turned back to the people and asked if it was a "Qumbola" or bomb and they began saying yes and making the hand gesture of an explosion. Alright well I guess we've figured out what the explosion was. I looked back towards the smoke and it was becoming a thick, black cloud, associated with only one thing; a car bomb.

The guys were moving inside and I made my way back out the vechicles to let my squad leader know that the explosion was a VBIED that had gone. Just after telling him about that a couple shots rang out. The were close but not directed at us, and I believe they were warning shots from a passing emergency vechicle. I looked down towards the direction of the shots and saw people in the area begin to scatter on foot. Ok, well standing in the middle of the road is not a good thing right now, so I moved my way to the side and in to the bank. I let the dismount squad leader know about the shots and the VBIED, which was just a couple hundread meters down the road, and we loaded back up and headed down there.

At this point the smoke was thick, forming a dark ominous plume above the scene. We arrived to a 8 story parking garage that was billowing black smoke and flames. Emergency workers were on the scene and the firefighters we shooting water from below in an attempt to extinguish the fire. Things were hectic but not as hectic as the massive car bomb attack I was at before. After going around and talking with the Iraqi police, Army, and firefighters we came to find out that if anyone was killed it was probably only a couple of people. I mean shit, it went off in a parking garage! Not many people usually in there. We ended up staying there for a few hours, out in the heat, which began my exhaustion process. The Iraqi Army had a group of people they had detained that I guess they believed had something to do with the bomb. Hopefully they caught some of these bastards. I ended up finding out later that Iraqi EOD (bomb squad) found another unexploded car bomb.

After we finally left the scene and after doing a few small things we headed back to base to relax for a bit before we headed out for this mission. It was going to be late and last all night.

The mission we ended up having was a raid to try to grab some dudes we have been looking for. We ended up having to park at this other base that was quite a ways away and required us walking through some of the bad area that we used to have. It was to be a slow deliberate walk for we were going to be prepared for anything. Along the way some guys working at some bank began yelling "Wake up the Americans are here!" Not real sure why or really what happened because I wasn't right up front, but we ended up confiscating their weapons to include a couple of machine guns. They were Iraqi police and federal guards, so we couldn't detain them for having the weapons. While we were held up dealing with that we heard a burst of an AK off in the distance. My heart beat accelerated a little and once whoever was being shot out returned fire with a burst of their own, the adrenneline began pumping. For about a mintue a little firefight broke out probably about 600 meters away. They were shooting down this one road that was about 300 meters from me and I could hear the bullets snapping and popping as they passed down the road. The adrenneline was going full steam at this point and I was totally awake and alert, on edge, waiting for anything. Unfortunately nothing ended up coming about, and the rush and excitment I had from that began to fade, and it was back to sucking.

We continued on our way, and headed out towards our objective. Once there we began our raid and with what little energy we had left we began kicking in doors, clearing rooms, running up stairs and overwatching from rooftops. At one point I was outside of one of the homes pulling security, I began to hear several single shots from some kind of gun. Over the course of 5 mins there were maybe 15-20 shots fired. They sounded pretty close but no one knew where or what it was. I guess one of the resupply convoys began taking fire, but they never returned fire. I figure it was someone taking pop shots at they and they probably wern't able to identify where the shooter was. So we did our thing grabbed up some people and sooner than what was planned we were heading back. Because of the long walk and how long we had been on our objectives a lot of people were out of water and so we stopped in an alleyway and took a much needed break while a resupply on water came to us. Once we filled back up we began the trek back to the base. This time the pace was quicker and it was uneventful. I was sweating my ass off and sore as hell and all I could think of was that I just wanted to get back and get home.

We finally got back and after hours of wearing our shit we were finally able to take off our sweaty equipment and tops for a much needed airout. It didn't last long and before we knew it we were back in the trucks on our way back home. I was tired as hell and was driving, and to be honest I dont know how we made it back safe. I fell asleep at the wheel probably 15 times. Id nodd off, and then wake up 5 seconds later as I'm veering towards the side of the road. No one seemed to notice because they were all 1/2 asleep too. Thankfully I didn't hit anything and we made it back in one piece. After filling my aching stomach with some chow, I layed in bed, too tired to shower right then and slept for about 12 hours straight.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sweet dreams are made of these...

So the other day I was off in la la land when I began to have, not suprisingly, a dream about being here in Iraq. I was walking across this parking lot on my way to the chow hall when mortars started coming in. They wern't landing close to me so I just continued to walk on my way. I distinctly remeber looking over and seeing the dust clouds rise from the impacts, one, two, three. Then small arms fire erupted...

It was at this point that I awoke to the sounds of smalls arms fire while I lay in bed. It was still kind of early, but now, no matter how hard Id try, I would not be able to go back to sleep. As I was slowing waking to my new day, the incoming warning sirens continued to blare a warning to those yet to of found cover. More mortars began to impact. These sounded very far away, and they were definatly small; probably 60mm size. Nothing like the ones from the other day, none the less still potentially deadly. Small arms fire continued as more and more rounds impacted in this place I call home. I didn't get a count, but it wasn't as many as the barage the other day, but more than the norm. Good morning Iraq.

Although the day would start off on a bad note, it ended up being a pretty good day. Mainly, my internet was fixed and back up! YAH!

The next day we ended up heading out for our patrol and we found out that one of our platoons was ambushed the day before. They were in the trucks and drove in to some heavy fire from AKs, a couple machine guns and RPGs. One RPG hit a truck and obliterated the engine. Rounds were hitting the trucks at a greater number than normal and one of the gunners joined the lucky day club. Apparently a round struck him in the head, but off to the side. It entered into his helmet, looped around the back and back out the front of the other side. God was again watching down, for he only received 5 stiches and we picked him back up from the CSH (Combat Support Hospital) the next day. The crazy thing was, no only was this ambush a new thing for the area we're operating in, but these guys seemed to be better shots than what we've seen in the past. But once again it was the platoon that is the only one that seems to find trouble these days that wandered in to this. How do they always manage to find it?!?

I guess a couple of the areas we operate in have had some increase in the levels of insurgent and militia activities. Attacks, IED, small arms, etc, have increased against US troops and Iraqi troops/police. If this trend continues, I feel this Ramadan, which is set to begin Sept 13th, might be a crazy one. Guess we'll see.

Today we participated in a joint operation with the Iraqi Army as they raided a few buildings in search of something. Im not real sure what they were looking for, but Im pretty sure we ended up empty handed this time. No suprise there. The best part of the raid was watching the Apache pilots showing off as they flew around, doing tight turns, flying low over our heads and doing some cool looking aerobatics. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, and now I'm getting ready to bed down before a LONG day tomorrow. Be excited, be be excited!

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bringing 'em back! (Part I)

Ok, well as some of yall know, back in the day things around here used to be more exciting. In the infant stages of me doing this blog, I was smack dab in the middle of fighting an enemy that was willing to show up with AKs, machine guns and RPGs, and it was becoming common place. Shortly after my blogs popularity began, I ran in to some issues with my old platoon leader and what he felt were OPSEC violations with my blog. I ended up shutting it down for a little while and removing all my old (as I would say exciting) posts.

After an article about my blog writen by an Associated Press write Robert Weller, which appeared in the Stars & Stripes found here in Iraq, things with my chain of command changed and I was allowed and in fact encouraged by others to keep writing. To save myself trouble, I kept my old posts offline, athough I did vow to get the back online eventually. Well folks, I have finally gotten off my lazy ass and done a few. I've gone through and done some lighting editing, for I didn't quite like the way I said things and hoped to make it less confusing. I'll be doing more as time permits so definately stay tuned, and make sure and check them out and let me know what ya think!

Links to old posts:

"They're all fucking militia!" - My first patrol: This is about the first time I left the FOB on patrol with an MP unit that was operating in our soon to be AO.

My first combat mission...: Pretty self explanitory. This was the first real mission we ended up having once in Iraq.

The day of one legged crippled guys...: This was quite an ironic day as I had several clashes with men with only one leg. This was a busy couple days with a funny story that I'll have to take with me for the rest of my life.

A day of excitement!: After several weeks of running patrols and nothing really happening, this was the first day that we had ourselves something exciting to talk about once we returned to the FOB. Also my first experience with the carnage of Iraq.

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Safer off the FOB?!?

This is going to be a short one, but as I've promised for a little while now, I'm going to include some pictures that go with this story. Im sure some of yall have gotten sick of my plain, bland, mostly text only blog, so I'll try jumpstarting the imagination a little.

Today was again my turn to be off for this next patrol. I was pretty stoked because this now makes 2 patrols I've had off in between rotations to our outpost. I normally only get one so this extra time off is an added suprise. Well I ended up going to bed at a decent time last night (1230 if your curious) after watching Aliens 2 for the first time with my grenadier. It was a good movie and when it was all done I was ready for bed. One of our trucks apparently had some damage done to it a LONG time ago and it was just now discovered during one of our semi-annual inspections. This was to be at least a day fix and so those of us off had to set up a rotation to go down and watch the truck while they worked on it. I was going to have to get up early, but not really that early.

Around 0600 or so I was awoken to the sound of a loud explosion. It was louder than most that I hear around here and I just figured that it was another big mortar that had landed close to our building. I did notice that the warning sirens were not going off though. I thought this to be a little odd, but that was about the extent of it before I passed back out.

I ended up getting up and heading down to the motor pool to do my shift watching the truck. When I got there, they had pretty much every part of the front end disassembled and I thought to myself, damn, this is going to take a while. They ended up getting to where they needed to, took those parts out and were begining to put the new parts back in and start the slow process of rebuilding it. OK, maybe its not going to take as long. I had brought my book with me so that definately helped pass the time. Once I was relieved I head back to my room.

RPG strike on balconyWhile at my room I ended up hearing about the explosion earlier in the morning. Apparently it was an RPG that was fired and hit a building right very close to us. That explains why it was so loud then! Once back, I sat down and did some work on some of my old blog posts from back in the day, and then started some work with my Platoon Sergeant to write some memorandums for a packet he was putting together.

Closer view of RPG strikeWhile we were doing so, we heard a loud explosion, followed by a crap ton of small arms fire and then another loud explosion. This was not a normal sequence of events for our base, so everyone not on patrol and back at the rooms grabbed our rifles and ammo and ran outside to try to see whats going on. We saw a bunch of smoke down a couple buildings and so we headed down to find out what happened. I guess these bastards tried shooting RPGs at us again, 2 this time. I think the smalls arms fire was mostly our guys returning fire, but I'm not totally sure. Either way, this is not the norm for what these guys do to attack our base. We vowed if we heard that shit again, then we'd get to a location where we could fire back. Fuck these guys. You don't attack our base and get away with it if I have anything to do about it.

So yeah, that was really about it. Oh yeah, and my internet is back down again, so here I am at the damn internet cafe. This is getting old...

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

The million man march...

"Hey man, you really ought to get to bed."

Those were the words from one of my friends around 1130 the other night. He had the next patrol off and I had to go out. It was to be another LONG patrol. We were going to be leaving early, but I wasn't quite tired enough to get to bed. As I took the last drag from my cigarette, I put the butt out and told him that I was going to hit up the internet cafe, read a little and then go to bed.

Lately I've been having trouble going to sleep early. Its not that I'm stressed or anything is bothering me, and once I am tired, I have no problem falling asleep and staying asleep. It's just that with our schedule, we have become used to irregularity. Between the nights off, late returns from patrols and long nights while on patrol, my body has adjusted to being up late. So if I am to head out at 0500 or 0600 in the morning, I really need to get to bed by 9pm at the latest. Let's just say that is impossible for me. I folded the page over as I finished reading my chapter in my book and turned off the lights to go to bed. It was about 1230. I layed there for a little bit before I drifted to dreams of better places and times.

Next thing I know I'm being woken up. With how late I went to bed I was already only going to be getting about 3 hours of sleep before we had to get up and get ready, but it felt like I had just fallen asleep.

"Hey we gotta get up, 2nd platoon is in contact." The words were spoken casually and we grumpily began to get out of bed, get our gear together and head down to the trucks to get ready to roll out. I looked at my watch; 0136. Damnit, only an hour of sleep. Your probably wondering why things wern't crazy as we got ready to head out to battle. Well, first off, with the enemy we face today, a platoon of Infantry in most situations can handle just about anything that is thrown at it. Not to mention we had another platoon that was out in sector, and a another platoon from another company that is our batallion QRF (quick reaction force). Its a little drive to our sector and well, if that sense of urgency was there, we would already of known about it. At this point we were more jelous that they had managed to find some action in this seemingly dull enviroment these days.

Just before we rolled out, we got word that they were no longer in contact. Awesome, so we can go back to bed for a little bit right? Of course not. Our company commander wanted everyone out there, so out we went. When we arrived at our outpost, the other platoon had a wounded local national and we had to cover down for them while they transported him to the Green Zone to receive medical care there. While there we ended up finding out what happened.

The other platoon had sent out a dismounted patrol through a neighborhood that a few days ago some guys with AK's fled and along the way, had dropped a pair of night vision goggles. This was in an area that is heavily populated with JAM (Sadr's Mehdi Army) that mainly fight the Sunni milita just to the north, where we used to have all of our fun. While walking through the alleys they spotted 3 guys with AK's and wearing military cammo. The yelled for them to not move and drop their weapons, but they fired on them and began to run away. The guys up front began returning fire while attempting to catch them. While this was going on, a man came out behind them with a pistol and brought it up to shoot them from behind. He was immediately dropped by the men, unbeknownst to him, behind them that did not pursue. The engagement didn't last long and the guys with AK's got away. And for this, an entire company was needed...

Well we were out there and nothing was going to change that so we continue on with our mission. Today, was the pilgramige day for this 3 or 4 day Muslim holiday celebrating some Imamn or some religious leader or something. It really all confuses me. Anyways, on the way out from our FOB we got to this one main road and were shocked to seen hundreads of people marching down towards the river at, oh, 0300 in the morning. One whole side was just packed full of a stream of people that streached in either direction as far as the eye could see. Our mission later in the day would be to help protect these people.

Once they returned we headed out to go do a dismounted patrol. This was going to be through an area that we don't patrol a whole lot. Our goal was to clear the area around the river on both sides of the road and bridge that the pilgrams were walking on. This was going to be a far one, basically taking us from one side of our sector and back; much farther than we normally dismount for. I was driving this day and normally I wouldn't do any dismounted stuff, but we ended up parking the trucks and heading out with more dismounts than normal. Makes sense considering there are thousands of people on the streets and if things went bad, well, you'd want as many rifles firing as you could get. Fortunately the weather was working with and for that time of day it was quite cool with a nice breeze. Other than the normal discomfort of wearing the IBA (Interceptor Body Armor) and other gear, it wasn't that bad at all.

It was pretty surreal walking around. There was a traffic ban so no cars were out and the streets were pretty much dead with the exception of people making their way to the pilgramage road and of course the actual march itself. We walked along the river and it was quite the beautiful site, well at least as far as they get here in Baghdad. Along the river there are many signs of the early invasion, with bombed out houses and buildings that had been obviously used by fighters loyal to Sadaam and therefore bombarded with missles, tank rounds and full of bullet holes. I imagined what it was like for the first US soldiers to come upon the Tigris and had to fight their way across. I wonder what they thought of the soldiers and the "war" they are fighting now. Anyways, we ended up walking underneath the bridge that the pilgrims were using to cross the river. We could hear them chanting and shouting stuff, but really I had no clue what they were saying. We continued on and then back, again passing below the bridge. I was just waiting for people to start spitting and throwing rocks off at us, but none of that happened. We stopped a little ways past to just watch them. It was quite the sight and I really wish I had my camera to of captured the moment I was experiencing, unlike anything else I've seen here in Iraq. I ended up hearing that our interperator was saying that whenever we passed, the marchers would begin to chant and yell anti-american slogans. Wow, I thought I sensed some hateful feelings. Its cool, I guess we can go and not try to keep someone from blowing yall to bits of flesh and meat then right?? Its kind of crazy how the mob mentality really comes in to play in Iraq. In general, when approached alone or in small groups, most Iraqis seem to show that they are happy to see us and glad we are here. But as soon as you get a big group of them together, then apparently it is cool to hate on Americans and that seems to be the trend. I guess it doesn't help that the route the were taking meant that most of the pilgrims we were seeing were coming from Sadr City, know to be quite anti-American.

The rest of the day was uneventful, with what I would consider "busy work" for us to do, because, well they didn't really have anything for us to do. Unfortunately they had enough of this to keep us busy well in to the night and by the time we finished and head to go to sleep, we were looking at about 6 hours. Thats before you factor in the time to settle down, fall asleep and also waking up for an hour guard shift. Fun fun!!

The next day the vechicle ban was lifted but there wasn't much traffic. This was the last day of the holiday, so there were still a decent amount of people in the street and not really much else going on. We ended up getting quite a bit of down time which was nice, but even as tired as I am, the petty naps here and there don't do much to make me feel rested. I couldn't wait for the day to end and to finally get back and rack out. We ended up having one last thing to do. There was a report of some explosion going off in our sector. Not anything crazy, and definately not outside the norm, but they wanted us to check it out. We went to find out what happened and from talking with some Iraqi police we found out that US Army EOD (bomb squad guys) had detonated an IED that was found in our sector. Well, sure was nice of them to tell us they were doing such a thing. Well, at least thats one less IED now for them to use to try and kill us. We have yet to receive that "big one" yet, but we all know its going to come sooner or later. Its been so long and we have too long left. As selfish as it is, I hope to God I'm not on the receiving end of it.

We headed back shortly after than, and my bed never felt so good. I showered off 2 days of sweat, dirt and grime and drifted away to my dreams. I woke up kind of early today. My mission was to find out why the hell my internet is not being fixed. Its been 8 days now and still its down. I went and talked to him and apparently when the last big mortar attack I talked about happened, it damaged some fiberoptic cable that brings internet to my building. This unfortunately isn't an easy fix and was going to talk him a while to figure it out. It said to stop by in a couple days, and talk to his boss and I could get my money back for the month I paid for. FUCK! After becoming spoiled by having my internet in my room, I really was not looking forward to an indefinate time of having to go down to the internet cafe. Well, fortunately the batallion communications guys live in the same building as I do, and they decided they were NOT going to go without internet. I have to praise these guys because they were doing all this work (a couple hours) on their day off, and not just being selfish and bringing internet to themselves, yet the whole building. Basically they just hopped in on the building next door's network and WALA! we have internet again! Perfect, just as my next time off of patrol comes rolling around. :)

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Monday, August 6, 2007

Once you feel at home...

... and you begin to feel that you are safe and things are normal, the war comes and slaps you across the face. I don't know how to describe how or why that is, but it holds true. The second you begin to think "Hey this doesn't feel like a war" thats when it happens. Its like clockwork. Thats what happened to us the other day.

It was early in the morning. I had stayed up late, almost until daybreak and I had just gone to bed. I was sleeping good when I was awoken by a loud explosion and the rattling of the walls. I sat up in bed as the incoming warning sirens were blaring. Then another thunderous explosion. This one sounded like it had landed right on top of me. The concusion of the explosion threw helmets off the walls they hung on and anything laying on the window ledge ended up on the floor. Our windows are covered up, but we have a soda can sized hole in ours that is covered with tinfoil. The force of the explosion blew that right open. The giant ray of light shone through the darkness, allowing our imagination to run wild.

My grenadier, who sleeps above me, woke up to that explosion and to a giant hole right by him and immediately thought it was shrapnel that caused it. I've never seen him hop down from the bed so quick. Almost immediately following, 4 more explosions rocked our building, sounding like each one was a direct hit. At this point almost everyone was awake wondering what was going on.

We gathered in a safe area and just listened to the sounds of what would be the largest mortar barrage of this deployment. The explosions could be heard all over the FOB, but even the far ones were loud and could be felt. We came to find out that these were the big boys; 120mm mortars. These are no joke. Mortars don't get much bigger than this and they have the capicity to fuck a lot of shit up. The mortars continued to come and come and come. I've never heard so many of them exploding just one after another after another. It had to be 20+. I'm not real sure of the official count.

When it was all said and done, somehow no one was hurt. At least not bad enough for any word to spread around. Thank God. There was of course damage to things here and there. To be expected when that many mortars, especially the large ones, fall on the FOB. Once it quited down, we ventrued outside to assess the damage, expecting to see where one had hit our building. Nothing did, but one had hit about 25 meters from our door, which was probably the one that was so loud. It had left a nice crater in the dirt and many flat tires and fractured glass on trucks in its wake. It was going to be a bad day for the mechanics.

The greatest casualty was the internet though. Walking around the FOB that day you could see where all the new mortar marks were, and also all sorts of downed wire. Apparently one of them was on of the wires that brought internet to my part of the FOB. It has been a couple days now, and they still have yet to fix it. I have been forced to go down to the computer lab. Uggg!

Finally I was talking with my old squad leader last night. I don't remeber how we started talking about it, but we came on the subject of Ramadan (sp?) one of the biggest Muslim holidays. Durring this time, the insurgent attacks increase sharply, and worst of all it takes place in October, the month I go on leave. Fortunately for me, they had opened up December for leave and a week or so ago were asking if anyone wanted it. I dont think there were any takes, and so today after much thinking, I decided to move my leave back 2 months. This kind of sucks, but it will be good for many reasons.

First if I was home on leave and shit went down here during the holiday, I would never let myself live that down. Also, the weather will be nice then, so I'd rather get away once it starts getting cold. Once I get back we won't have that much longer until we are leaving here, so that will be nice too. Finally, depending on the timing of my leave, I could possibly get my birthday, Christmas and New Years all back home in Phoenix. How awesome would that be. So now, once my leave window began to shine in the dark tunnel, it is now once again a mere speck of light. Now far enough off to not even think about it for a while.

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Friday, August 3, 2007

A drastic misallocation of surge troops in Iraq...

Alright, well let me start off by saying that I try my best to stay positive about what I'm doing here in Iraq, and I generally wish to portray a positive attitude about my job. But like anything else in life, sometimes you need to just let a little steam off and get some things off your chest. This is the post that I will do just that. Consider this my rant so I no longer bottle these feelings up inside causing me to turn in to some horrible bitter man. :)

We ended up leaving the outpost the other day and headed out on a day of patroling. Origionally I was to be a part of the crew to go back to the FOB and have the day off, but they did things a little different this time. No worries, because this again allows for me to get 5 days off in a row. Not a bad trade off. Well come to find out, the first thing in the morning we have a company mission. Great... come off an outpost rotation with no shower, limited a/c (when the generator is running, which durring the hottest time of day its usually not) and no satisfying and tasteful meals, and then go in to a mission that usually involves lots of time in the heat, clearing some neighborhood or business sector.

Before we went to do so we, of course, had to ensure the markets were safe that morning so we did our rounds. Yup, nothing happening. We were to stop and get some chow at this nearby base real quick, but we were behind schedule and so we had to scrap that. Damn, I was really looking forward to a complete meal that morning. Well, once back we began our movement with the other platoon and other units for our mission. This time, it was to be a whole NEW type of mission....

We rolled up to some Ministry of something building and our first task was to get inside and to make sure it was clear. Kind of hard to do like how we usually operate considering there are armed guards and tons of people coming in and out. We had some engineers and a military bomb detecting dog and they did their work along with our searching to make sure there were no bombs inside. So your probably wondering why... well, the mission we were here for, get this, was to protect a mass marriage ceremony of 200 couples because there were supposed threats of attacks and car bombs. Yes, the 82nd Airborne, first boots on the ground as a part of President Bush's new Iraq surge plan, was now officially providing security services so people could get married.

This is the part that blows my mind. My company, plus parts of a few other units, were tasked out to provide security, in what some would call one of the most dangerous cities in the world, to a group of people wishing to get married. Now I understand that the point of the surge is to improve the overall security in areas of Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, but I feel this has gone too far. General security situation, ok, but to risk my life and the lives of other soldiers so people can get married; I truely can't believe it. Not only is it shocking to myself, but also to everyone else in my platoon. There is not a single person that feels this was an appropriate mission for us to be doing. See thats the thing around here lately. What we have been doing is having no real purpose and just risking lives, with nothing in my opinion to show for it. Don't get me wrong, I'm a full supporter of the troop surge and I feel we need to stay in Iraq still until the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) can handle things on their own, but right now we are not doing a job the US Military should be doing.

The Iraqi President claimed his ISF were ready to take control. I can tell you they are not, at least when it comes to total control of Iraq, but in area like the one we're operating in, and the types of missions we are doing, they are more than capable of doing that. We should hand over those types of areas to them, let them gain experience and confidence in those areas while their numbers continue to rise, and put the US Military to more use in areas where they are needed, doing missions with more impact on the greater issues of the security problems.

So with that said, for this protection service for the weddings, we cleared the building and then moved outside to check the surrounding area for bombs and whatnot. Everything was clear and we took up positions in and around the building to "protect" it. I ended up outside, and it was starting to get hot out. Not to mention I didn't have my knee pads and so taking a knee was quite uncomfortable. While we were inside initially, there was word that they were talking to the officials there and no one seemed to know anything of any weddings taking place there. WOW! Are you serious?!? Still, we continued to "protect" the place while higher was contacted. Durring that time, a group of Blackwater guys showed up as a part of some Iraqi officials PSD (Personal Security Detail). Now to work for Blackwater USA, you have to have some Special Forces backround, so there was the equivelant of a Special Forces A-Team there, which I'm pretty sure they could of more than handled the security situation and didn't need a couple platoons of paratroopers there. Once they learned how many of us there were they realized their job became useless and they sat inside their trucks (with a/c) and cracked open cold American Pepsis. Bastards! :)

So after, oh, 2 hours of being outside pulling security, word comes down that the weddings were not going to be taking place at the location we were at and worked so hard to secure. In fact they were at some other highly secured area, outside of our sector. OMG, this was the final straw for many of us. So now, not only did we come out here to accomplish a mission that was way beyond what we should have done, but it apparently was doomed from the get go and we had no clue. WOW! That is all I can think to say. WOW!

The rest of the day was spent doing routine patrol stuff. At night just before we were scheduled to come back in, we had some possible raid to go on, but things fell through and that didn't end up happening. We rolled back in, just a little later than usual, and finally got our much needed meals and showers!

This day has really shown me a problem that exists here right now. I dont know where or how this is happening, but there is a severe disconnect between the generals making decisions on what to do with us and the surge troops, and what is actually happening here on the ground. I wish I knew where it was going sour, but it makes me think of the old telephone game you play as a kid, where one message is started and usually by the end there is a totally differnt message. I think what is happening is somewhere between what I see and experience and what GEN Petreaus (the theater commander) is seeing, someone along the way is filtering the information and presenting a pretty picture of whats going on. Things look good, so lets keep doing them, seems to be the thinking right now, but things aren't good everywhere. Yes in most places they are pretty good, but many places they are not. Lets focus there and clean this place up.

So on a lighter note, today was a really good day for myself. 2 months ago I attended my promotion board to possibly get my Sergeant. This was something I had been waiting on for a while. I was promoted from SPC (pay grade E-4) to CPL (E-4) to attend Jumpmaster school just prior to our deployment. As a Corporal, I am a Non-Commisioned Officer with all the responsibilites and authority inherent to my rank, but I still got paid the same as a Specalist E-4. I was a team leader and so a promotion to Sergeant (E-5) was mearly a matter of more pay, considering there were no more responsibilies and authority I would receive with it. Somehow, I got placed on the back burner for a little longer than I should of. In the end, I still made the jump quicker than the usual 1 year as an E-4 that most people have to do before they make SGT, but I kind of expected it sooner. Well anyways, today the orders came down and I went to the batallion conference room and with the Batallion Commander and Sergeant Major present along with all the staff officers, NCOs and company commands, I was finally pinned my SGT rank. No more CPL Watson. It's now SGT Watson! Oh and I also received my 5th Anthrax shot. The shot is now mandatory and people that had managed to avoid it in the past now have some catching up to do with those of us that didn't care and began the innoculation a while ago. My arm still kind of hurts now, hours later.

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