Monday, April 30, 2007

The true cost of war...

SGT Norman Lane Tollet
6 May 1976 - 28 Apr 2007

Well its been a few days since I've made a post, but its also been a few days since I've been able to get online. The past 2 days there has been a communications blackout. Those of you who have been deployed know what this is. Basically the reason our base goes under a communication blackout is because someone from the base has died and the military wants to make sure they are the ones to contact the family of the deceased before word gets out from soldiers over the internet or phones. Well I was sitting in here on the computer getting ready to post some stupid blog about how boering life is now when they came in and told me we were under comm blackout and had to get off.

I remeber feeling bad at the time because I hate to have to hear about soldiers dying here, but when theres a comm blackout it really hits close to home. This base I stay at is not very big and so theres really not that many soldiers here. When one of them dies, it really lets you know how real things are here.

After I left the internet I went back to my room. I hadn't been there more than 20 minutes when they came in and told everyone in my platoon to get their stuff on and get the trucks ready because we were heading out NOW! We wern't supposed to head out until the next morning so we all started wondering what was going on, but noone knew. We had our assumptions tho that something was or had gone down with some unit in our battallion. We got our stuff ready and shortly after getting the trucks loaded up we were all told to go inside. Ok well maybe were going to be told to stand down. My entire platoon gathered in this one room. Then guys from the other platoons in my company started coming in and we found out that our First Sergeant wanted to speak with us all. OMG! The room was silent, because we all knew what he wanted to say.

After a few minutes our First Sergeant came in and shut the door. He wore a terrible expression on his face. We all knew what was coming, just wondering who. And sure enough the words came from his mouth.

"I just wanted to put out to you guys before the rumors got started. Today SGT Tollett was out with the CO and was shot. He didn't make it."

The room became a dungeon of fear, anger, sorrow and pain. I couldnt believe what I had just heard. I had just seen him right before he had left and had talked with him briefly. How, why could this of happened? What happened? So many questions, but the same end result. One of our fellow soldiers, a brother in arms, and a friend, lost his life. We wern't particularly close, but I had come to be friends with him durring this deployment. I know people have nothing but good things about people after they're death, but this man truely was a great man. He was loved by everone in the company, and probably the worst guy to have ever died from our company here. And I truely mean that from the depths of my soul.

This really put things in to persepective. There wasn't much that could have been done in the situation to of prevented this. It was a lucky stary round that had found had hit in a lethal spot. It could have been anyone else. Thats the sad thing about war. Theres never knowing who or when or what or how. It simply comes down to if its your time or not. And even though we all come over here knowing that this is war, and this is a real possibility here, it still caught everyone off guard. Until that day, noone from our unit had been killed. Im sure others, as well as I held on to that slight hope that all of us would somehow make it home from this place. Maybe I was naive to believe this, but I, as well as everyone else now know the true cost and its not something that can be measured in dollars, or planes or time.

All I know now is that there is a score to be settled. This now became more personal that it ever was, and I feel sorry for the future SOBs that cross our path.

In memory of SGT Tollett, you will never be forgotten and will always have a place with us. Watch down from heaven and be proud of your boys as we are proud of you and your sacrifice.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The 'Asset'

So your probably wondering.... "What the hell is the 'asset'?" right? Well let me explain to you the importance and significance of the 'Asset'. Basically it some something that is so sensitive to our security and our information gathering and collection that I really should kill you for telling you about it. In the event that the 'Asset' should come into enemy hands, it has already been decided that it will be destroyed at all costs. In fact we keep an incindeary gernade (one used to burn sensitive equipment into non-existance) right next to it for just that purpose. Hopefully though, this item of equipment never falls into the hands of the enemy. The repurcussions could be very serious.

The 'Asset' is truely amazing. It has helped guide us along our voyage here in Iraq. It will let us know which route is the safest/least traffic bogged. It will let us know wheter we are at the right location for a raid that we must conduct. It is also a great tool for alerting us to potential insurgent activity in the area. We have come to trust the results of the 'Asset' for it is highly accurate. It has only failed us a few times and for the most part has proved over and over its own worthiness. I can't imagine leaving the wire without it, and it always sits right up in its special spot by the TC seat in our truck for quick evaluation and anylasis of any given situation.

I imagine at this point you are truely curious as to what exactly the 'Asset' is. Well to let you in on the secret information, the 'Asset' is a magic eightball. HAHAH!! Yes Im dead serious. We use it probably 20-30 times each patrol now that I recieved it in the mail. It helps us decided which roads to take so we dont get bogged down in traffic, lets us know if we are to encounter any engagements that day. It will tell us if a mission is bullshit and is going to waste our time and going to have us miss chow or get us back later than we're supposed to. It has even helped to clarify the sexual orientation of a few individuals! :) Overall tho, the thing has been quiet accurate and has served us many hours of enjoyment durring the multitude of endless boering hours spent inside our trucks at a time.

OK, so now that the cat is out of the bag I'll tell ya a little about my last outing.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Going out with a BANG! or 2 or three...

Alright well the title of this blog is in reference to yesterday, a sad day for myself and all the guys that I work with.

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War is seemingly and absolute boredom, filled with fleeting moments of sheer terror and excitment.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

I cant believe my eyes...

Well yesterday was one hell of a day. We started out the day before when we headed out to go pull overwatch over that shitty area Im always talking about. Pretty uneventful because my squad stayed back to guard the trucks, while the dismounts set in. Not that Im complaining tho because overwatch usually involves a tall building and a lot of stairs, and with all the equipment that we have on us, we have to weight in the neighborhood of 50-60 extra lbs. But yeah, I ended up just sleeping in the truck all night, which sucked because I could not get comfortable for the life of me and mesquitoes were chowing down on me like I was some full course meal!!

Well the next morning we went out and did a little dismounted patrol around the area we were staying in. Nothing exciting. Just a lot of walking and not really anything to show for it. When we got back we got a call to head out to the towers that we just built in the bad area. Apparently the IA (Iraqi Army) took a couple days to come occupy them. In that time they had blown the tall tower to the ground, and had placed a 155mm artillery shell IED (Improvised Explosive Device) in the other tower and we were to secure the area for EOD to come in and blow it.

We ended up pulling security in the EXACT same area where I had the gernade thrown at me. OK, a little unsetteling but what can you do. Hopefully if it happens again we can shoot the bastard this time. Well not even 30 mins into sitting there all of a sudden we hear a loud explosion behind us and see a dirt cloud coming from the IA check point about 200m back from our position. They then come under small arms fire and engage them for about 20 mins until things settle back down. Again, no US troops involved. Nothing else ended up happening while we were out there, which is good. Once EOD had successfully placed a charge on the IED, we made sure and had our video recorders out and got an awesome video of the explosion. They set it off inside the other tower, and amazingly the tower is still standing.

After that we headed back to base for a quick lunch stop and to pick up our CO to go check some markets with us. On our way out, we got a call of an explosion in one of the markets in our area and they believed it was a car bomb. Before we were even somewhat close, we could see the black smoke billowing in the sky. This definatly was not going to be good. As we got closer and closer it became obvious how big this was going to be. Finally we approached the street that the blast was on and all of a sudden I no longer felt like I was living my life. I honestly felt like I was watching a movie. Hoards of people were walking away from the area, some hurt, some shook up. We then began to see the emergency vechicles flying in and out of that street. Even average civilians with flatbed trucks were helping. We'd see them fly by with 20 people on the back, some screaming, some helping the wounded who were lying on the bed. We were about 1/4 mile away when the street became too crowded to drive down and us dismounts hopped out and headed down on foot.

It was utter choas down there the closer we got. I honestly could not believe my eyes. It was surreal. People were being helped away from "ground zero", some of them covered in blood and wounds. Windows hundreads of meters away were shattered; glass scattered on the ground. The closer we got, we began to see the damage from the blast. Cars 100-200 meters away were damaged by flying debree. Windows shattered, hoods bent in, blood on the paintjobs. The streets were soaked in the foam/water mix used to put the fires out, which were still going stong when we arrived. The closer we got, to more tainted the water became with an aweful red. I could only imagine what it was going to look like the closer I got. We ended up looping around to the west end of the blast site and we were probably about 25-30 meters away from where the vechicle had exploded. The ground was charred and black, and every vechicle in that area was a chared mangled metal mess. People were rushing in, some trying to put out the fire, others to rescue others, and even more simply recovering bodies.

The crowds in the area had to be in the hundreads if not thousands. Some of them had been wounded themselves in the blast. Many of them carried expressions of sorrow on they're faces. Some had anger, and even more wore expressions of confussion. They all had something to say to me as I passed, and although I do not speak their language, I knew exactly what they were saying. 'How could you let this happen? Do something about this!' but there was nothing I could do. I was helpless to do anything, yet people continued to plead with me. While sitting there at ground zero, I personally saw about 10 charred dead bodies pulled from the mangled charred car frames. It was the worst sight I've ever seen in my life. Evertime someone would come pushing a body, or 2 or 3 on a wooden cart, away from the scene, everyone in the crowd would all begin yelling 'Allah Akbar' or God is Great. Over and over with some other phrases. They would load the bodies up on a vechicle with many helpers on back and they would begin to chant as the vechicle sped away sirens blaring!

All of it just did not seem real. I could not believe what I was experiencing. It was truely something from a movie, yet I was there, living it, experiencing it in its full senses and emotions. I just still cannot believe what I saw. I dont think I will ever see something so horrible in my life as what I saw that day. And I truely pray that I never have to see anything like that, ever again. That one event has angered me here, more than anything else. All this carnage and destruction in the name of God. Allah. Where in the hell is God's work in all of this. It makes no sense and these people are crazy fanatics. I just dont understand it. Talking it over with my buddies, I estimated from the number of bodies I personally saw, and by the devistation I saw that there had to of been at least 50 killed. I was utterly shocked to hear the real numbers. Here's a news article on that blast. Im not sure how accurate the numbers still are because the death and injured toll seems to continue to rise with every hour. Truely a horrible and horrific day.

Death toll from blast in Baghdad's Sadriya 140-police
18 Apr 2007 19:35:58 GMT18 Apr 2007 19:35:58 GMT
Source: Reuters

BAGHDAD, April 18 (Reuters) - The death toll from a car bomb in Baghdad's mainly Shi'ite neighbourhood of Sadriya on Wednesday rose to 140, with 150 wounded, police said.

It was the deadliest single insurgent bomb attack in the capital since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
That is truely all there is to say, and thats all the article says. The intersection at the top, slightly right of the picture is where I was standing behind one of the pillars on the right building. I just truely cannot believe how devistating this was.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

GERNADE!!! for real this time...

Well if you havent read my post on this before go check it out, entitled "Gernade!!" and you might understand a little more of what Im talking about.

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Needless to say after it didnt blow, I ended up smoking a lot of cigaretts. :) I was in the truck and i would of probably been fine, but still, some asshole threw a gernade at me!!

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th will never be the same...

Friday the 13th, a day that is known to be a day of bad luck. Well it definatly was for a man that I encountered on this day.

Basically, I ended up killing a man today. My bullets and my bullets alone were the only ones fired at him. He was about 30 meters from me and I watched as he droped to the ground as my bullets passed through his body. Im not going to share the details of this one, because Im sure you all dont want to really know them, nor do I think I want to really share them. But not only did I kill him, but I had to check his body, move him to be transported away and wash his blood off of the transport vechicle. A little more contact with him than I would of wanted, but whatever.

Its kind of crazy because Ive always wondered about the act of killing. I read a great book called "On Killing" which talkes about the psycology behind killing, training people to kill and the effects of killing. I think he hit it pretty well on the head with his understanding and study of the subject. One part that I want to share that I think was dead on was about the 'Phases of Killing' Basically there are 5 phases he says. 1) Worry about being able to kill 2) The kill and the circumstances 3) Exhiliration of the kill 4) Remorse for the kill and 5) Justification of the kill.

I noticed that I followed this almost to the T. Initially I always wondered how I would react when the time came to kill. I had never been hunting and had never killed anything before in my life and I had always wondered if I would be able to when the time came. In the past gun battles, Ive shot at people many times, but its either been nightime or too much distance to see the effects of my rounds. I think I may have killed or shot someone before, but never knew. This time there is no doubt that it was me. Initially there was the thrill and excitment. I know that sounds sick, but its a great accomplishment to be able to defeat your enemy. Its like hunting, where the other animal is able to shoot back and is hunting you, and when you kill, you win. Anyways, after the fact I started thinking about it and I felt bad that I did have to take the mans life, but in the end it was justified and I know that I had to. Followed the 5 phase path exactly. Just thought that was interesting.

But anyways, Im doing fine. Have no issues with it. And now I, as well as others in my platoon know that if it comes down to my or their life or someone else, they can count on me and that I CAN shoot! :)

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

This is fucking bullshit!!

Ok first I'll post the news article and then fill you in on some details.


U.S. says 20 gunmen killed in Baghdad battle
By Ross Colvin

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - At least 20 suspected gunmen were killed in a fierce day-long battle between U.S. and Iraqi troops in central Baghdad on Tuesday in which 16 U.S. soldiers were also wounded, the U.S. military said on Wednesday.

Residents of Fadhil district, a violent Sunni insurgent stronghold on the east bank of the Tigris River and the scene of Tuesday's fighting, held funeral processions to bury the bodies of 15 men at the nearby Adhamiya cemetery

The U.S. military said the battle erupted after gunmen fired on U.S. and Iraqi troops during a routine search operation. The fighting quickly escalated and two U.S. helicopters were hit by ground fire and had to return to base.

It was the worst outbreak of violence since U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a major security crackdown in the capital two months ago aimed at curbing rampant sectarian violence that threatens to plunge Iraq into full-scale civil war.

U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Garver said an estimated 20 gunmen had been killed. The army initially put the toll at three. He also said that 13 of the 16 wounded American soldiers had since returned to duty.

An Iraqi policeman at the nearby al-Numan hospital said the hospital had received 30 people with wounds of varying severity.

Fadhil was reported to be quiet on Wednesday, but residents taking part in two funeral processions down the main street of the district were angry.

They denounced the Shi'ite-led government and said those slain were innocent and one old man threw his slippers at a passing patrol of three U.S. vehicles, witnesses said.

"They were shouting and demanding the government compensate families of the slain people and pay money to those whose homes had been damaged," a local journalist and resident Abu Omar said.

Abu Omar told Reuters on Tuesday he saw a U.S. attack helicopter open fire on gunmen holed up in one house.


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Sunday, April 8, 2007

The heat is about to get turned up!

al-Sadr calls for attacks on U.S. troops

By SAAD ABDUL KADIR, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD - The renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged Iraqi forces to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerrilla fighters to concentrate their attacks on American troops rather than Iraqis, according to a statement issued Sunday.
The statement, stamped with al-Sadr's official seal, was distributed in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Sunday — a day before a large demonstration there, called for by al-Sadr, to mark the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.

"You, the Iraqi army and police forces, don't walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your archenemy," the statement said. Its authenticity could not be verified.

In the statement, al-Sadr — who commands an enormous following among Iraq's majority Shiites and has close allies in the Shiite-dominated government — also encouraged his followers to attack only American forces, not fellow Iraqis.

"God has ordered you to be patient in front of your enemy, and unify your efforts against them — not against the sons of Iraq," the statement said, in an apparent reference to clashes between al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters and Iraqi troops in Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad. "You have to protect and build Iraq."

The U.S. military on Sunday announced the deaths of four American soldiers, killed a day earlier in an explosion near their vehicle in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad. The province has seen a spike in attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces since the start of a plan two months ago to pacify the capital. Officials believe militants have streamed out of Baghdad to invigorate the insurgency in areas just outside the city.


Well that isnt the whole article, but the rest talks about other stuff not related to the main title. Just wonderful. So no more attacking Iraqi forces and now all will be focused on us! Well I guess that means there will be more targets to shoot at the next time I go out. I really wonder tho what they think. Do they really believe they stand a chance against us?!? Are they that brainwashed? Well I guess I will keep yall informed of any further details when I can.

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Here they come again...

... the mortars that is. Its been almost a month and a half since the almost daily mortars hitting our FOB ended. Such a peaceful month, at least on base.

Well this morning when I got back in for this training it was about 6am and I decided to swing by the chowhall to get some good food and to have breakfast which I havent had in a while. I had just got my food and sat down and taken a couple bites of my sandwhich. I poked the straw through my OJ and took a couple more bites of my sandwhich when I heard the explosion. It had been so long that I just figured it was outgoing, but it definatly sounded different and you could see it in everyones faces in the chowhall. Just then someone ran from outside in to the chowhall and yelled "ITS INCOMING!!". God damnit! I semi-quickly grab what food and drink I can carry and make my way out there. Of course when I get out there, the shelter is full. I haven't heard anymore explosions so I say fuck it, casually walked back inside, grabbed the rest of my food on my plate, threw away my tray and walked back to my room to eat in peace.

I had told others about it, but most of my company was either gone or asleep so they knew nothing of it, and to be honest I didnt really think much more about it until later in the day, around 3pm. I was reading my book and I hear a loud explosion again. This definatly louder than outgoing would sound, so I sat up in my bed. I heard others come out in the hallway and then another explosion, even louder. Oh shit, this is definatly incoming. I jump out of bed and run to the door leading to outside, the whole time mortar rounds are landing all around my building. The building I sleep in is sturdy and safe and I just wanted to see where they were hitting. By the time I got to the door, one more round landed and that was it. In all I believe it was 8 or 9 rounds, which is alot more than normal. Normally is like 2-4. Just BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, one after another. I guess a couple people got hit by shrapnel but very minor injuries and noone from my unit.

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My new home, well temporarily...

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A couple of engagements ago, I was thinking about who all had been at each and had realized that there was a group of 4 people that had been at each engagement that my platoon had been in. One of our FOs (Forward Observer - Artillery guy), my Platoon leader, my squad leader and myself! The incident a few days ago narrowed that down since the FO guy was not around. Now after last night, its down to just me and my squad leader. The last 2 standing. Who will be the last one left? I predict what will happen is another squad will get into it and both me and him will be elimated together, but for now its cool being able to say I was there for it all.

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Monday, April 2, 2007

I hate alleys at night!

Well its official. When I leave Iraq, and Im back home and I come across a dark alley or street at night.... I will NOT go down it. I can already tell. I fucking hate them now without a doubt. Obviously I dont have much control over that here, but I will make sure I never have to see another dark alley when I leave this hell hole.

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