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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Haole Wahine said...

Fibre Optics, not an easy fix. WRONG ! You been had, young man. As the techies showed.

You have fibre optics! That's it, pity party over. All you need are the right tools and motivation.

Batteries charged and package ready to go Monday.

Anonymous said...

Another amazing entry into your blog.
I really hope that no one is on the receiving end of the big one! i know that isnt quiet possible but its always nice to hope for the best! Congratz on getting internet back haha, its amazing how bored i am when i cant get on the internet! Haha the world is at your figure tips :P . welp take car hun!
Be Safe eddie :D