Monday, July 30, 2007

Aren't we just full of luck?

Well basically the title of the posts deals with a lucky day for our battalion a couple days ago. Not a whole lot to write on, but the cold facts are this. 1 guy shot in the hand while on guard duty from a small caliber weapon. Another guy shot in the head on guard, but nothing serious, again by a small caliber weapon. A 3rd guy out in sector was shot in the head by a sniper. The round entered the front of his helmet, traveled along the top of his head, and burst out the back of the helmet. Other than a cut along his head (and Im sure one hell of a headache) he's OK. I don't know what made God watch down on us that day, but he sure had other plans for those 3 guys. The one that was hit in the head on guard used to be in my company and me and him are pretty cool. I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet, but I did see him walking around the other day with his head bandaged up, so he's doing good. This was his 3rd deployment, and this deployment he became a "fobbit" and doesn't have to leave the FOB. How ironic, on this deployment he gets shot.

Well, I'm sure many of you heard, but there was a big soccer match that was going on I believe in Asia. Iraq had been doing good in it, as I mentioned before, they celebrated with the gunfire. Yesterday apparently was the finals and it was Iraq vs. Saudia Arabia. My squad was on our patrol shift throughout the game and afterwards, and we decided that if Iraq won, we would go out on patrol and possibly see if we could find some of these guys that are out there shooting machine guns in the air. For the record, no Iraqi is allowed to own a machine gun.

Well, Iraq ended up winning, and as expected the whole city erupted in gunfire. As this was going on, we were getting our gear on and getting ready to head out. We were waiting for the massive barrage of gunfire to die down and then we would head out. I was excited because this was about the best chance of getting in to something that we have had in a long while. I figured with everyone out shooting, there might be a person or two that got ballsy enough to take a few shots at us. To my dismay, word came that we were told not to go out. I was pissed. Things have slowed down a lot lately, and I really haven't felt like I've accomplished much over here lately. Its hard, because I try my best to stay positive, especially considering how much time I have left, but this place manages to suck that motivation out of you. Especially when other around you are as positive.

So today I was chilling up on the guard tower. Nothing really noteworty throughout the day until just near the end of the shift. I heard an explosion. Nothing loud, just what seemed to be a normal (I know, crazy!) explosion. I wouldn't of thought twice about it, except that I hadn't heard any all day, so I started scanning to see if I could tell where it came from. I couldn't see anything from my tower, so I ventured outside and thats when a saw a plume of smoke. I radioed the other tower to ask them if that smoke was there all day and they said no. Slowly the smoke became thicker and thicker and my heart sunk. I knew what this was. Something I've become all to accustom to; a car bomb explosion. Suprise, suprise. Its seems endless the death and destruction they rain down upon each other.

Just before our shift was ending, we got word that we were to head out there and check it out and to take pictures and whatnot for our company commander. Alright, well as most of yall probably know, I wasn't too thrilled about the idea of heading down to check out another VBIED (Vechicular Borne Improvised Explosive Device) but again, I had no say in the matter. We rolled out to one of the markets in our sector, but when we arrived I was quite suprised to not see much carnage. In terms of car bombs, this one was pretty pathetic. By the time we left I believe they said only 5 people were killed and 20 wounded. I hate to use the world only, but after seeing the carnage at a site that killed 180+, 5 is really nothing anymore. But this just goes to show that our mission of "protecting the markets" is a waste of time. The only way to stop this is to go after those making them. Until that day though, I will continue to wonder if today is the day I'll drive by a VBIED.

One thing that I noticed and was talking with my grenadier about (he was gunning and I was driving) was how Iraqi civilians reacted to all this. They would walk by, sometimes they would stop, maybe exchange a few words with the others around, but then walk away, still looking at the blast site. The best way I could describe this, would be the way Americans treat car accidents. They all drive or walk by, staring at the scene, but then just continue on their way like nothing happened. Its just a part of their lives and they've, I guess, become adjusted to it.

This reminds me of one more thing. Yesterday while I was out guarding the gate, there was this little kid that ended up coming up and talking with me. I guess his mom or family had come inside for something but hey stayed outside. I dont know why but this kid didn't annoy this shit out of me, like a lot of them tend to do. He was really cool, spoke pretty darn good English for his age (he looked about 6 but was actually 10) and we had some good "conversations". It was pretty cool, but then out of nowhere he started telling me some stories. One was about how his friend was killed in a sectarian driveby, telling me how he was shot in the head and others were shot in various appendages. He also explained another time about when someone thre a gernade at them, and made the hand gestures of pulling the pin, throwing and then the explosion. I remeber thinking, how fucked up is it that this kid should even have these kind of stories and memories to be able to tell. He's so you, yet he's had to learn some of life's hardest lessons. Things I dont even know if I'm fully capable of handeling at my age. It just truely sickened me, and I wished I could of just taken him away from all of this. Instead, all I had to offer was the rest of my Cherry Kool-Aid.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Look at the worlds greatest Army NOW!

Well, the meat and potatoes of this post are going to be on what I call, 82nd Airborne Greatest Bloopers. I couldn't believe what had happened and in the end, it ended up being quite hilarious. We were headed out to this one place early in the morning, before sunrise. We were driving through this one neighborhood and we ended up missing our turn. Well we went to loop around to come back to the road that we needed to take, but it wasn't a route that we normally take. It is now, a road we will probably NEVER take.

As soon as we turned on to this road I knew it was going to be trouble. I was driving and happened to be in the 2nd vechicle in the convoy. Even thought it was nighttime and I had my night vision on, I could easily see what we were about to drive through. Instead of a road, there existed a pathway of shit/mud/water combination. I slowed down on a spot that I found to be solid and waited for the 1st vechicle to get through and to give some room between our vechicles. I knew with our heavy ass uparmored Humvee's that there was the possibility of getting stuck in this mud because, well, it was thick. Once there was enough room, I told everyone to hold on and I hit the gas, making sure I had enough speed to get through any potentially soft spots. Well, along the way there was this big bump, and yeah, I hit it pretty hard. But I figured hit the bump hard or get stuck.... and well considering that I didn't want to have to get out and walk around in this shit mud, the choice was simple; I kept the accelerator down. We hit it hard and it was bigger than I expected. It tossed our gunner around like a ragdoll, and I feel bad because he hurt his back. Nothing serious, but he was in pain for a couple minutes. Our LT hit and hurt his elbow. Damn, my bad. Well, at least we made it through.

Unfortunatly one of the trucks was not so lucky. They ended up getting stuck, and pretty good too. Another truck attempted to go back to them and to hook up a tow-bar and pull them out, but they ended up getting stuck. Oh great, this is not looking good. A third truck pulled up and attempted to pull the newly stuck truck out. They wern't having any luck. I saw the other team leader from my squad out there sloshing through this shit mud, just covered. OMG, you are truely a trooper, I mean that. He ended up having our truck pull up and along with the other truck, we both attempted to pull one of the trucks free. The more we pulled the more the other truck seemed to get stuck. Nothing seemed to be working, and I can only imagine how funny this must have been to the locals in the area. The sun was coming up now and they were waking up to the worlds greatest Army bogged down in the mud. We were in the process of calling for a wrecker to come out when somehow we ended up pulling the right way and getting the one truck out. I guess another truck was helping the initial truck that got stuck, and finally we had both of them free.

In the end, I think we spent almost 2 hours in that shitty street. 3 trucks were coated in this mud, and one Humvee door had been damaged when it was pulled open by another Humvee. The funny, although its not really funny, part of this is that the other team leader who was working so hard at getting the trucks unstuck; the one who was gallantly trudging through this mud, ended up getting hit by this door flying open. All of a sudden we just see him come flying out of seemingly nowhere in the air, feet at his waist and he comes crashing down on his back, yup, directly in the mud. We all couldn't help it and we just started busting up laughing. It truely was hilarious to see, especially considering that he didn't get hurt. Once we got everyone safely away from that street we continue on our way.

The next day we were chilling at our outpost. Me and a couple other guys were in the middle of playing an intense game of Axis and Allies, when we started hearing a bunch of gunfire. We went outside to check it out and it sounded like the whole city was shooting at once. I've never heard that much gunfire here. Apparently, in a celebratory fashion like a couple days ago, the locals were celebrating another victory by the Iraqi soccer team by shooting thousands upon thousands of rounds in to the air. I even heard a couple machine guns shooting. Wow, you have got to be an idiot. Do they not know these bullets come down somewhere and as our interperator pointed out sadly, "A lot of people are going to die today." He was referring to the bullets coming back to earth and I guess, its pretty well know that this kills a lot of people. Could you imagine something like that in the US? I know people do that kind of stuff on New Years, but it doesnt even come close to comparing to the volume of fire over here.

The whole time, we just sat outside listening to it, and in a way hoping that some dumb moron would get the balls to shoot at us during this, but it never happened. The next night, some guys drove by an Iraqi Police (IP) checkpoint, just a block over from our outpost and began shooting at the IPs. There was a short little gunbattle, but it was very load because of how close it is. Man, things going on just right around us, yet our lives continue to exist and boredom. Its so crazy how this war can be. Just have to maintain the train of through to ensure that we are ready 100% of the time, for that once chance when things do hit the fan.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What the hell is going on around here?

Well I haven't made a post in a few days, at least not much about what I've been doing lately. So I'll talk a little bit about the last 2 big patrols we went on. They both ended up being long and tiring patrols. Not to mention its starting to get really fucking hot here. I think the temperature the past few days have been around 115+ and its been partially cloudy and extremely dusty. Its not as bad as I thought it would be a couple months ago, but it definatly sucks, no lie about that.

So the other day we ended up starting our patrol time off by participating in a company mission. Usually company missions are accompanied by Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police, which this one was. The Army works with us and usually does the meat and potatoes of the mission and the IP's work with the MP's doing the cordon and whatnot. The nice thing is that our job is not to actually do these mission. We are there to help, advise and make it go quicker, but not actually do it ourselves. I've noticed that in the last 5 months or so that we've been working with these guys that they have been getting better and more effeciet. We're normally not out there as long as we used to be and we are having to do less and less as they take on more of the responsibility and become better at doing these things.

This mission was to clear out a local cemetary for some stuff that the IA had intel on. The weird thing is that the cemetarys here are not like the US. Back home, for the most part, we bury our dead below ground. Not here. They build these concrete or brick coffins above ground and its just full of these tomb type of things. Really weird. Anyways the IA went around doing their thing and we pretty much didn't have to help them at all. We just went behind them and kind of spot checked their work. One thing that was kind of creepy was that every now and then one of these tombs would look like someone was getting in and out of it, so we would have to open it up and see if there was anything in there. God, I was totally worried about seeing some 1/2 decayed corpse but fortunately off all the ones I opened, I never saw one. Spent most of the time trying to weave my way around the cemetary and trying my best to leave it exactly the way I found it. At least here its easy to not walk on peoples graves.

The rest of the patrol time was pretty uneventful, with the exception of the stay round story I already put up here. Sucks for us. Good I'm sure in the eyes of those back home. Its hard to stay motivated and not get complacent when your constantly going out and nothing is happening. Its so funny though how the news paints this picture like this place is the Wild Wild West. If you actually came out here, you'd be totally shocked how little actually happens. Wish I had experienced the war earlier on and had something to compare to, but from what I hear it seems to be a lot better than it used to be. That wouldn't suprise me.

So after that patrol we were back at base, and during our down time me and my buddy went to the chowhall this one evening. On the way we heard a shit ton of gun fire going on out in the city. I remeber thinking, damn thats a big firefight. I like the sounds of that stuff and I wanted to stay outside and listen to it, but we went about our lives and went to eat. When we came out it was over. A little later that night I heard a mortar come in. Nothing crazy. Then another, then another... and so on. After the 5th one, it had my attention because we usually dont hear that many, so I went downstairs where a few others were gathered by the door listening and watching things outside. Then out of nowhere, they started dropping them on us like no other. It was no stop explosions for a good minute. It sounded crazy as hell. Thankfully no one was hurt. In the end, durring the 3 minutes they fired on us, I think they said 16 rounds came in on us. Wow, haven't had that many fire here in a long time. Especially not in such a short time. The next day we came to find out that all the gunfire was celebratory gunfire because Iraq had one some kind of soccer game. WOW! Could you imagine that in the United States?!? Kind of ironic, a guy from another company was at another base and he was hit, nothing serious, by a stay round that came down from the sky. Not a suprise though considering the volume of fire. But made me think of the other day when I had my close call. That would of sucked. How random?

During the next patrol, we stopped by our base for something and on the way back out we were heading along this road. There was another convoy a little ways in front of us. Then out of nowhere we heard a LOUD explosion. At first we were like what the fuck was that?!? Then we spotted the dirt cloud. It was an IED that had gone off about 100 meteres in front of our convoy and a little ways behind the other convoy. We were going to turn before there, but still, that was close for being that big of an IED. The only IEDs we've been hit with were small ones, that our truck well protected us from. That one was big, and I cant say for sure if it was an EFP or not, but either way I wouldn't of wanted that to go off on my truck. Needless to say, we were extremely nervous and cautious when it came to IEDs that day.

That night we had some supposed mission we were to go on and help assist. We never ended up going, but we didn't end up getting to sleep normally. The only sleep I got was in the truck, with all my gear on for a couple hours. Nothing restful. The next day our Brigade commander and CSM flew to our base to participate in an award ceremony for guys that got awards for the day of the day-long firefight a few months ago. A few ARCOM (Army Commadation Medal) with V (Valor) devices were given out and a couple purple hearts. There were 2 guys that were put in for Silver Stars (3rd highest award for Valor) but those are going to take a while to get approved. The rest of the day was playing taxi service to a host of people that were going around and checking out our different company sectors and combat outposts. By the end of the day I was thoroughly exhausted and once we returned I was up for a little bit, but ended up crashing hard. Was so nice to get some sleep finally.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

A disgrace to anyone in the military...

Since I started this blog, I decided that I wanted to blog, specifically about my experiences here. I've read many other blogs that talk about the latest news and whatnot, and I decided that I did not want to do that.

But something has come to light that, at least in the milblogging world, that is making huge waves everywhere. It has captured my attention and emations and therefore I feel it necessary to share it with you all. It has to do with some stories submitted my a supposed "Scott Thomas". He claims to have experienced and partaken in some stories that, in my opinion go far beyond reality and even basic human dignity that its disgusting.

The stories were origionally posted in the New Republic, but the Weekley Standard has done a great piece on this supposed 'whistle blower' entitled Fact or Fiction.

Here's an example of one of the sick stories this guy tells.

We were already halfway through our meals when she arrived. After a minute or two of eating in silence, one of my friends stabbed his spoon violently into his pile of mashed potatoes and left it there.
“Man, I can’t eat like this,” he said.
“Like what?” I said.
“Chow hall food getting to you?”
“No—with that fucking freak behind us!” he exclaimed, loud enough for not only her to hear us, but everyone at the surrounding tables. I looked over at the woman, and she was intently staring into each forkful of food before it entered her half-melted mouth.
“Are you kidding? I think she’s fucking hot!” I blurted out.
“What?” said my friend, half-smiling.
“Yeah man,” I continued. “I love chicks that have been intimate—with IEDs. It really turns me on—melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses . . . .”
“You’re crazy, man!” my friend said, doubling over with laughter. I took it as my cue to continue.
“In fact, I was thinking of getting some girls together and doing a photo shoot. Maybe for a calendar? ‘IED Babes.’ We could have them pose in thongs and bikinis on top of the hoods of their blown-up vehicles.”
My friend was practically falling out of his chair laughing. The disfigured woman slammed her cup down and ran out of the chow hall, her half-finished tray of food nearly falling to the ground.

As expected milbloggers have lashed out and attempted to dissolve these fictious stories. Blackfive and The Mudville Gazette have some excellent pieces with responses from many milbloggers (to include myself) on what they feel about these stories. Make sure and check them out.

I'll include my responses in a comment on this posting. All I hope is that this is resolved and that is fucking moron will be exposed for the liar and loser that he really is. And I hope there is a sever ass kicking awaiting him once he is discovered.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

My number must almost be up...

OK, well I'm going to make this a short entry, because I dont have much time but I just wanted to get this little story out there because it scared the hell out of me today. So my last post I was talking about how I almost got hit by Iraqi drivers twice with a 3rd close call. Well, wouldn't ya know, today I almost got crushed by a Iraqi driving pickup truck. Jesus! This is starting to get a little old.

Basically we were walking along this road durring the busy "rush hour" type of Iraqi traffic. The sidewalk became impassable so we moved in to the street to bypass this one part. I was walking in between a parked utility truck and a pickup truck stopped in traffic. There wasn't much room to fit, so I went to make it quick but sure enough just as I was about to squeeze through, the dude started moving, and to top it off attempted to turn right, which would of crushed me. I immediately started pounding on the guys door and window (thankfully it didnt break) and proceeded to yell at him for almost crushing me. Wow, and I thought drivers in Arizona were bad.

Later on durring the day today we had taken a break at our outpost that we go to. Just before we were getting ready to leave I got out to smoke a cigarette and was sitting on the front of the Humvee by myself. All of a sudden I hear a loud THWAP!! sound on the ground literally a foot away. I look down and see a dust cloud from whatever had impacted there at a high rate of speed. I jumped up and looked around thinking someone had thrown something at me, but there was no one in sight. My next thought was sniper round. I ran around my vechicle attempting to hide from whoever. Thats when I realized how stupid that was because I would of heard the snap or pop of the bullet' s supersonic speed.

Apparently a gunner for another truck had seen the impact too and me run away and asked what the hell it was. I went over there and explain that I had no clue, but that it had me freaked out. He suggested that it might be a stay round.

That totally makes sense! I asked around, and between what people said, and an old episode of Myth Busters I've seen, I've decided that what that probably was, was a round that had been fired in the air somewhere, and had landed almost on top of me. The Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army fire warning shots in to the air ALL the time, and so those rounds have to come down somewhere and I think I happened to be unlucky (or lucky??) enough to be right next to one. I'm not certin about this, but I am certin that no one had thrown anything. Definately had me a little nervous for a while. How crazy!?!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How many times can you ALMOST get hit???

Alright well yesterday was my first day back out on patrol after almost a week off straight. The way our schedule works is we rotate guys in the squads off on patrol days, and I happen to have my day off work come at the right time to get 5 off! It was great not doing anything, but it came to bite me in the ass. For this day out was extremely exhausting. Add to it that the air was extremely dusty pretty much all day and it created a overcast, yet still hot and exhausting, dreary day.

Well we did our typical market guarding and before lunch they dropped us dismounts off and we conducted a foot patrol through some of the neighborhoods. Nothing really special, for we pretty much just walked around, talked with some people, and just generally made our presence known. On our way back to our linkup point with the trucks (which was quite a ways away), we started to cross this one major road. There happened to be a lot of IA (Iraqi Army) guys there and they helped to stop the traffic as we crossed.

I was the last guy, and just as I was almost finished crossing the road I see this car coming towards us. It wasn't going to fast, but I thought to myself, "This guy had better stop." Once he was close enough I could see in the car and the driver totally was not paying attention. It now was lining up to where his car and my body were on a collision course. Then, still without looking, the guy hits the gas and starts flying directly at me. Without hesitation, I bring my rifle up to my shoulder, pointing directly at the driver, and I yell at the top of my lungs "HOLD THE FUCK UP!!" I guess the other occupants in the car noticed this just about the same time the driver finally decided to look forward. Every single occupant in that car, driver include went wided eyed as the driver slammed on his brakes, stopping about 3 feet or so in front of me. I was furious at this point, and even though they didn't understand the words I was speaking, I think they knew EXACTLY what I was yelling. I went up to their window, pissed that they almost hit me, and yelled at them for not paying attention, ya de da de da. It was funny because when I got done, I went back to falling in to the patrol about 1/2 the guys were looking back at me wondering what the hell happened.

We continued on, and were just a couple hundread meters from our linkup point, when again, we had to cross another road, this one semi-major. We actually ended up walking in the road the get to where we had to go. We were walking along, and I looked back like I usually do as the rear guy and I see this van coming at us. Ok, you got to see us, slow down now. Nope. Dude comes right up on me all quick, and again Im forced to stop this man in the same terrifying manner in which I stopped the last guy. JESUS! Its the middle of the day. How hard is it to see us and stop!?!


Nothing else really exciting the rest of the day until we ended up doing our night patrol. I was 2nd to last guy for this one, and we ended up patrolling around long enough to suck, but not really too long. About 1/2 way through the patrol, the guy in front of me was about to cross this road when I heard this loud, high pitched sound. I origionally though it was an RPG or a rocket being fired but as soon as I though that, I saw what it was. This car came in to view from where I was in the alley, slidding to a stop just before the guy that was about to cross. The car had been flying and I guess didn't see us since it was night. Initially I was still on alert because I had no clue if thats what happened or if they were about to hop out and start shooting. So for the 3rd time, there was a close call with a car, and for the 3rd time I had to point my rifle at the occupant of another car. It immediately became clear, what happened, and we continued on our way. The rest of the patrol was uneventful.

Before heading back, we learnded of an IED attack that had taken place on another company from my unit. Fortunately nobody was hurt, but it was the new deadly roadside bombs they have here, EFPs (Explosively Formed Projectiles). The scarry thing, is that it took place in an area that we have driven past on several occasions, which now makes it the first EFP to go off in an area where we could have been the recipients. The EFPs are extremely deadly because they punch through our new uparmored Humvee's as if the armor were butter. I knew they would come up eventually, but its been so long and we were fortunate to not have had to deal with they really up to this point. Now, we have to worry about this new form of faceless attacks from our enemy. I pray to go that we don't see many more in the future.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

You'll go down in hisssstoooooryyyy...

In case your wondering, the title comes from the last line of the "Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer" song. Didn't know how to really type that out!

Well today was the day that I was scheduled to talk with the historian that I mentioned. I was origionally scheduled to meet with him at 230pm. I had stayed up late (since its worked out for me to have quite a few days off in a row) and so I was a little worried about getting up in time. I told others to make sure I was up and my buddy ended up staying up until 10am today, so he woke me up when he went to bed. I ended up getting up and running by the Hajji shop (Iraqi run shop) and bought a couple movies, a web cam and a microphone/earpiece things so I can make calls over the internet. One thing that is cool is that movies here only cost $1 or $2. And they have all the new movies on DVD pretty much as soon as they come out in the theater. The only thing is sometimes they are horrible, like some guy took a video camera into the theater. Dead serious. But usually they are good and cheep as shit.

Well when everything was all said and done I was rolling back to my room around, oh, 1130am, and everyone starts telling me that my platoon sergent was looking for me. And I mean everyone. I didn't find him, but one guy said that he said I needed to be at the TOC (Tactical Operations Center... i think). So I headed on over there wondering why because my interview still wasnt for a while. When I got there, no one there had any clue why I was there and they couldn't get ahold of anyone on the radios. I waited around for a while, and nothing so I decided to leave. Right as I was leaving the call came up that my 1SG wanted me to see him in his room, so I walked on over there. He just wanted to talk to me a little bit about this interview. He basically told me that this was an official Army thing, to basically record the Armys history here and that, as I figured, he picked me because of my blog and that I've been keeping a pretty accurate account of things here. He just wanted to make sure I understood that is was a factual thing and not an opinion opportunity. I totally understand, and was pretty excited to be picked.

I ended up just chilling out until my time to go, and at the last minute they said for me to be there right away, which was right around 2pm. I headed up there and went in to our conference room to talk with the historian. He was a pretty cool guy, with the 90th Military History unit or something like that. Sorry I can't remeber. He explained to me that their job is basically to travel around from Brigade to Brigade and they are alloted so much time that they have to split up amungst the batallions in each Brigade. Well, now he was on mine. He would conduct a few interviews, go out on a couple patrols and take some pictures, and then when it was all said and done, it would be compilied in the official Army documents and, as he said "used years down the road for history books and TV such as the History Channel" etc. Wow, this is really awesome I thought. How cool is it that I will have a part in writing the official history for my unit over here!

It was pretty much just like an interview I would of imagined. He had a voice recorder, turned it on and then would ask me questions. He asked stuff about the missions we perform, the area we're in, the people in our area, stuff like that. Just questions to get a good snapshot of what our role is here and what its like for us. I was a little nervous at first, but I think I did fine, and tried answering his questions to the best of my ability. When everything was all done, he took a picture of me too. How could would that be if I had my picture in history books for my grandkids to see! haha. Not likely though.

Afterwords we ended up chatting for a little while and he shared some cool stories with me. He travels all around all the time and gets to meet some interesting people, to include a guy by the name of 1SG Eversman (sp?). If it sounds familiar, thats because thats the guy from Black Hawk Down, played by Josh Hartnet. How crazy!? Its such a small world you know!? I ended up talking with him a little about my blog and how Im keeping record myself of everything and he thought it was pretty cool and wanted to check out my blog so I gave him the address. Who knows... maybe he's reading this right now! So in the end, I thanked him for the opportunity to help write the great history of my unit, and I left there feeling pretty good. Not often in your life do you get to have a direct impact on history and how its written, and it felt awesome being able to share our story.

That was really about it for the day. The only other thing that was noteworth was just a little bit ago, I was walking down to smoke and checked out the date on my watch and realized that is was Friday the 13th! Holy cow. Normally not a day of good luck, but for the rest of my life that date will have a whole new meaning, and a experience of war that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. If you haven't read about it, check out my post from the last time that day came around... "Friday the 13th will never be the same..."

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wow, that was a close one...

Well, Im back to my sweet ass schedule now. Our schedule changes through different cycles and we've now switched into the easy cycle. And my turn at a day off is up next and it will end up working out to quite a few days off in a row for me! God its going to be nice. Today was good, although I didn't get to sleep in as long as Id like to. I woke early so that I could go down and get the internet setup in my room so I no longer have to go to the computer lab. This is so nice and I feel free now! :)

Tomorrow Ill be able to sleep in a little more than I did today, although I do have an appointment to meet with a historian for my batallion. A historian? I was like "What the hell?!?" when they told me about that. Apparently theres like 8 or 10 people from the batallion he's going to speak with, and Im one of them. I can only guess that it has something to do with me and this blog, especially considering that almost everyone else he's talking to are of rank much more considerable than this lonely Corporal.

So durring our time that we were out at our outpost, it was pretty chill. Time went by fast which was great. One thing I noticed is that it had been pretty quite for a while in terms of that one bad area. I guess they have been trying the whole "peacful" approach, and for a little bit it seemed it was working; although myself and many others figured it was pointless. But they have to try right?

So anyways, the quiet finally ended the other day when they decided to attack an American convoy from my unit that operates in their area. I guess it was a pretty decent attack because they had called for assistance, and another platoon from my company rolled out there to assist them. They didn't end up getting into anything though, for it was a fairly short lived attack. Somehow that platoon always are the lucky ones who tend to be in the right place at the right time to get in to stuff like that. Bastards! But either way that was an attack on US troops so in my opinion, the whole peace thing just went out the window. Ever since that day, we've been seeing and hearing little firefights going down in that area; like how it used to be all the time. In fact one night there was a qucik little engagement and a stray tracer round ended up flying just over the top of our outpost. I ended up hearing that distinctive SNAP as it flew by, which is something I haven't heard in a while.

Well the other day we were out on patrol and for some reason we ended up having to make a stop by the Green Zone, which is this large base here in Baghdad where a lot of the Iraqi Goverment is housed as well. Its rare that we get to go there, but when we do it is awesome because they have a big PX and some good food we can eat. As we were pulling in, one of the guys on my team was saying how he had read on the news that the day or so before, 5 guys were killed and 20 injured in mortar and rocket attacks. I guess lately they have been mortaring the shit out of them.

We ended up getting a chance to get some food and then stop by the PX. I had already made my stop in the PX and got what I needed and had gone to get some food at Subway. After I got my food I ended up going to this one area where me and a couple others could sit and enjoy our food. We were actually in the middle of sharing stories from either their last Iraq deployment or my stories from my deployment to New Orleanse for Katrina. All of a sudden out of nowhere theres a loud scream for a split second and then an earth shaking BBOOOOOMM!! We all immediately look over where the explosion came from and see that a mortar had hit this building right next to where we were sitting, maybe 25 meters away. It was a BIG one too. We all immediately jump up and begin running for cover, expecting more rounds. After 2 steps, I realized I didnt grab my rifle so I stopped, grabbed it and started running again. About 1/2 way to the bunker I realized that others had probably forgot them so I turned around and went back and sure enough there were a couple. I grabbed them up, while another guy had run back out to grab up all of our bags of stuff we had bought. Wouldn't want someone stealing our stuff in the middle of a mortar attack right?! :) lol

At this point, we could tell that more rounds probably wern't coming so we wern't in the frantic rush and at this point just walking to where the shelter was. Well apparently some Air Force and FOB dwelling 'security' personel were freaking out like WW3 was underway. They were yelling at us "GET THE FUCK IN THERE!! HURRY THE FUCK UP!! LETS GO!! NOOWWW!!!" We just kind of look at them like are you serious? We continued to walk to the bunker. I guess another guy from my platoon was taking his time and one of the Air Force girls had threated to arrest him because he wasnt getting to the bunker fast enough. WOW! That is HILARIOUS! I would love to get arrested for that. Theres no way I would get in any trouble and it would be hilarious for my chain to have to come bail me out for "Failure to run durring a mortar attack"!! HAHAHA!!

Once under cover, we saw this one kid that was in there that had taken some shrapnel to his shoulder. It was nothing big, just a little bit. The funniest thing was that as the medical personell were patchin him up, he was bitching up a storm about how he had just paid for his pizza and was waiting for it to cook, and now he wasnt going to get his pizza! Thats great! Hey, Im sure that Purple Heart will get him a free pizza or beer or two.

The crazy thing was that he was twice as far from the mortar than we were. The thing was it hit a building with a solid roof and thus exploded 15 feet above the ground. It was pretty much dead online with where we were sitting, but because we were below it, all the shrapnel flew past us over our heads and ended up hitting that guy. If it had ended up hitting the ground level, it could have been a very bad day for the 5 of us sitting there. But once again, luck or fate or whatever intervened and we escaped totally unharmed with a crazy story to tell. Thats how it is. If it doesnt kill you or hurt you it makes a great story. The question is how many great stories until it becomes a horrible story. And with war, you just never know.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

They say money can't buy happiness...

Well, the past few days have been pretty nice. Not a whole lot of anything going on, and not much that we have been doing. A break is always nice. Pretty much all I've been doing is pulling guard shift in our guard towers that we have. This used to be a horrible experience, like Im sure I've talked about before, but now, its really not bad. They shortened the amount of time that we spend in there at a time, and the best part, the wired in electricity so we have a/c in there now!!! Now granted theres the big opening that we have to look out of, but they closed off the open doorway and it stays, comfortable in there. I dont sweat my ass off anymore, infact, I dont even sweat at all!!

Hasn't been much excitement, other than the other day. Me and my buddy were in our tower when we heard a gun shot. Nothing suprising. We hear gun shots all the time, and unless its another firefight going down in the bad area, its usually just some Iraqi Army (IA)or Iraqi Police (IP) shooting warning shots. This one sounded close, but I couldnt see anything. One of my guys was in this other tower when he called over the radio for me to come over there. Well, he usually doesnt just call me over there like that so I figured something was up. I walked on over, and when I opened the door to come in I saw him standing off to the side, out of the direct line of the opening, and he was looking intently out there, scanning for something. I immediatly knew what it had to do with. He proceeded to tell me that he saw this car pull up to this alleyway in front on his position and stop the car. Thats when the gunshot was heard, then he said the car sped away. There were a group of kids at the entrance to the alleyway, but they all started running away to another alley, and eventually started peeking around. Unfortunatly, with the quickness of it all, there was nothing we could do. I never found out what, if anything happened.

One thing that has been on my mind alot lately has been money. Either money I have, can make, or just in general. One instance of this was when I was working another guard position and this IP came up to me asking if I had any ammo. All the IPs carry these brand new Glock pistols with them, and infact, Im a little jelous. Anyways, he was wondering if I had any ammo for it, which I didnt, because as he showed me, they only had enough to give him 3 rounds. 3 ROUNDS!! You've got to be kidding me. I've seen this with the IA guys too, where they are given barely a full mag, if that sometimes, for their AKs they carry. With all the reconstruction money, and oil money Im sure the Iraqi government is getting, you think they could at least afford ammo for their guys. No wonder some of them don't stay and fight.

So the past few days I have been reading this book that one of my readers was kind enough to send me. Its called "Blackwater - The Rise of the Worlds Most Powerful Mercinary Army". I had heard about this book and was actually quite interested in reading it. That was until I started reading it. I soon realized that this book was not just a mere account and story of Blackwater, but a very liberal view and very much anti-Blackwater, Bush, the war in Iraq, and general conservative thinking. As it was put they believe that the Evangelical Christian run Blackwater is the military strong arm for the neoconservative, right-wing movement. The book also describes how this "private army" posses a threat to our very own democratic system. I almost didn't make it past the first chapter, except for the fact that I am extremely bored. I've had a lot of down time and nothing to really keep me occupied, so Im reading it to pass time. Fortunately, after the first chapter or 2, the anti-bush, anti-war rhetoric calmed down, and it has turned more into telling the story of Blackwaters rise and their role in Iraq. I'm about 1/2 of the way through it. Its quite the big book, so its taking me some time. Not to mention its more of an informative book that it is a story, so its not the same kind of read as what I usually do.

The funny thing, is as much as this book is slamming on the Blackwater orginization, its effect on me is probably opposite of the authors desire. First off, for those of you that dont know what Blackwater is, Ill tell you. Basically they are a private military contracting company that is used for various missions around the world, but mostly in Iraq. Their missions range from personal security for companies, to US officials, to base security, etc. They are basically a private security company that picks up the slack where the US military cant and shouldnt have to worry about. There are many companies, but through many incidents in the past (and as the book suggest, political ties to the administration) Blackwater has risen to become the most popular and the most notable. Some of the other companies out there are DynCorp, Triple Cannopy and various others from around the world.

I've know about these types of companies for some time. I actually learned about them before I enlisted in the Army from one of my friends who was considering going back to Iraq with one of these companies after he was discharged from the Army due to wounds he recieved in Iraq. Since then I've had the opportunity to work with them and talk with them a couple times. The first of these times was in New Orleans when my unit deployed there to help with the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. I met some Blackwater guys down there, and they definately seemed cool. The second chance I've had was to meet and work with some DynCorp guys here in Iraq. Again, same impression. Anyways, the greatest thing these guys have going for them is the money.

And for that fact, I have been thinking alot about working with one of these companies after I return home and get out of the Army. Now, most jobs here in Iraq pay well, and especially once you consider the no tax advantage. Shoot even military pay isn't all that bad here. But once you get into the private security jobs here (which obviously are the greatest risk civilian jobs) then the money starts to get really good! I was looking around on Blackwaters website, and unfortunately they are only looking for SOF Soldiers (special forces, etc) which I am not. I then browsed around DynCorp's website and there are 2 jobs they have that I would be interested in. Security Supervisor and Personal Security. Security Supervision has requirements in which I meet. 3 years active military service, obtained the rank of E-5 and be in combat arms job. Personal Security said they are looking for guys with SOF experience, but did not say it was a requirement so I dont know. Basically Security Supervisor stays at some base and does security around a location, in a supervisor position... while Personal Security are the guys that are charged with moving around with a said client and to provide their, well, personal security. This one pays more, Im sure, even though the website does not mention salaries. The average going rate from what I hear from many people for someone with my experience is $90-120,000 for your first year. WOW! Tell me that would not be awesome; tax free, to put another $90,000 in the bank on top of what Im already saving now. Its looking very tempting...

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

E True Hollywood Stories - Infantry Guys: What They're Really Like

Infantry (n.) - soldiers or military units that fight on foot, in modern times typically with rifles, machine guns, grenades, mortars, etc., as weapons & a branch of an army composed of such soldiers.

Mission of the Infantry - To close within the enemy by means of fire and maneuver, to defeat or capture him, or to repel his assault by fire, close combat and counter attack.

That being said... I know that most peoples perceptions of the Infantry tend to be the guys that are just in the shit, day in and day out. Always putting their lives in danger. Hard tough men doing the dirtiest of dirty work. Those who willing place themselves at the gates of hell and kick the door in and rush in. Well, in some ways you would be correct. But for the most part we are just everyday normal guys, that just happen to choose a job that isnt sitting at a desk. A job that puts us face to face with our enemies, ready to kill, and only the greater of whom survives. But on an average, day to day life, you wouldnt really notice the differnce in us. Until, that is, you spend more than 5 mins with a group of us.... then we seem to be in a world of our own.

To get to where I can explain this, let me just talk a little about my day. We went out, typical market stuff. Nothing crazy, nothing exciting. Pretty dull. We ended up getting a very good amount of down time throughout the day for us to just chill and get out of the heat and relax. It was very nice for once not being worked to death in 110+ temperatures. I ended up getting a good amount of time to get online which was good because I've decided to go back through my email account and try to respond to most of the emails I have from yall readers! :) This has turned to be a greater task than I anticipated. On top of all that, we even ended up getting all 3 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) while we were out there. Wow, must of been a cold day for Lucifer!

So yeah, once again towards the end of the evening, the last minute word came down that the engineers needed some security while they finished emplacing the barriers that we did a couple nights ago, and then do a little cleanup. Great... another night of being up all night just sitting there, doing nothing. And for the record my butt was already incredibly sore from the LAST time we went out and didn't really have much chance to recouperate. Anyways, we had to drive to go pick them up, and then escort them out to the site to do their thing.

Ok, heres where the Infantry guy thing comes into play. First off, consider our situation. We are a bunch of males, many of which are straight out of high school. We now live together, work together and pretty much spend 24/7 with each other. And to make matters worse, you coup us up inside a Humvee for 10's of hours at a time. Its going to get crazy.

We started to pass time by playing a game that we came up with. Basically there were 4 of us in the truch that were playing, and it was a name that tune kind of game. We would start with one person. One guy would think of a song, and sing a part of the chorus or verse as best he can, and that person has to guess the Artist and Song Name. Each correct answer was worth 1/2 a point. Now the other 2 guys, if either of them knew it, immediately they could claim a steal. Basically the first one to claim a steal got the first shot at it, if either a) the 1st guy guessed wrong or b) they had no answer. For a steal, if the origionally person got the Artist name, but not the Song Name, you could still steal that 1/2 point. The funny part was that we didn't start with any of these rules and through heated debates (arguments??) this stuff was hashed out. In the end, my buddy ended up winning, but that was no suprise. Music is his passion. Me an another guy from the other team in our squad tied, and my rifleman on my team came in with a whopping 3 1/2 points! haha! It was a good time and probably helped pass almost 2 hours.

Well after we got bored of the music game, we were just sitting there, trying to fight the sleepiness, and dont remeber who started it, but we started ask "Would you rather..." type of question. Like would you rather be deaf or blind... love and loose or never love at all. That kind of thing. Well, like any topic being discussed by a group of boasterous young Infantry guys, the topics turned.... lets just say crazy. I wish I could tell you what some of the questions asked were because they were quite hilarious and we were laughing our asses off! The only thing is, and this gives you an idea of how bad it got, I have a line that I wont cross with my blog. I know I cuss alot and talk about some mature things, but I just wont cross the line into what we talked about that night. You'll just have to come up with your own conclusions. Anyways, we ended up asking each other these questions for hours, and it totally kept us awake, having a good time. We even started asking other guys in the platoon the next day and played it some more that day too!!

Once all the engineer stuff was done, we dropped them back off and we headed for somewhere to sleep. We got to kind of sleep in, and ended up getting about 5 hours of sleep. Not too bad. Fortunately the next day was pretty much a repeat of the day before, so we had a lot of time to pretty much relax and sleep.

That night, on our last stop before we headed home, I dont know where it came from, but a couple guys decided to do a little wresteling. This is something we haven't seen much here, but back at Ft Bragg, it was an almost daily experience. Although here in Iraq it has been more of the group fighting, where lets say, my squad will decided to gang up on a person or even a whole other squad and we'll all just go at it for a bit, trying to choke each other out or get the other guys to tap. I know this sounds brutal, but its all in good fun, and SOOO much fun! So these guys decided to go at it, and it was a pretty good showing. The one guy was like 6 inches taller and had about 50 pounds on the other, so he ended up winning, but it was a good watch. Well that got everyone the "taste for blood" and we needed to see more. What better subjects than the 2 new guys we got. Its a tradition that when new guys come in, that they go at it, to see who is the grappelling extrodinare. They didn't want to, but after a few, well chosen words, they agreed to it. I almost forgot what watching new guys wrestle was like. They dont really know what they are doing, and its pretty damn funny. Everyone was egging them on, but it wasn't really a great match to watch. After that was over, a couple more guys went at it, and they had the technique and violence of actions so that was a much better display. We were happy, for blood had been drawn a couple times, and our alpha male agressiveness had a chance to come out.

We ended up heading back in after getting everyones stuff returned and dusted off. It was a long time out, and it was so nice to be able to be back in my bed again. Most everyone passed out, but not me. I didnt end up going to bed for a few hours later, but it gave me some good alone, personal time. Something that, after that patrol, I realized I need a little bit more of! :)

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