25 November 2008

Baghdad Carpet Ride...in an Up Armored Humvee

From the Soldier side: I've been pretty busy working overtime, so I've not been able to do as much "bloggin" as I'd like. Now, to get back to our adventure in Baghdad.
So, the E-4 (Let's call him Chris, to make him more real) wanted to be able to stop and chat with people in a automotive garage area in Baghdad. He drew a sketch of what it looked like, then we checked on Google Earth (this was actually better than mapping software we had at the time), so I had a pretty good idea of what to plan.
I went outside the office and did the "Old School" way of planning in the dirt. To me this was better than paper. We could get the scale pretty close. We used empty milk cartons and junk for buildings. Someone had little toy trucks, so we used those for our humvees.
I had 4 humvees, one more than the teams usually took, for extra support & fire power. I like lots of fire power....the more the better. If you think your going to a gun fight, bring lots of friends with lots of guns and ammo!
Now, for those who've been reading my post for awhile, have noticed I took lots of pictures in Iraq (and Bosnia) but in Iraq I never had my camera in my hand when I needed my rifle in my hands. So, there's lots of good photos I never got to take. At the time, I figured having my weapon ready was a hell of a lot more important than a cool photo---so I'll have to describe the area we went to since I never took a picture.
I got permission to send the team + out (that means the team plus extra people.) I had the office E-4 prepare the mission roster so the commander wouldn't notice me on it...since I was still on light duty...but you know I had to go.
Once the security team leader saw that I was going, she was good with it. She was actually a regular Army MP with years of experience as an MP, so she was all about survival. I don't blame her for not wanting to stop in the place we were going....it looked like hell… even on Google Earth.
So we went. I let Chris lead the way, since he knew where we were going. We drove like we stole the trucks and took all the extra ammo we could find (I had over 900 rounds in my foot locker in my room, so I spread it around & we borrowed more, as much as we could get). Having lots of ammo gave you a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Chris drove up to the street we were going to stop on, then my truck took the lead. I had the driver go to the end, and then we did a "Harring Bone" with 4 trucks. We blocked the street with the front and rear truck so no vehicles could come in. I told the team we were staying on the ground for 20 minutes...no more. At 21 minutes, we'd be roaring away. I learned this tactic in Fallujah...we figured it took the insurgentassholes over 20 minutes to wake up, get their guns and come to where we were...so by the time they got there, we wanted to be gone.
We left a driver and gunner in each truck, I told the gunners to stay low, very low because the snipers would shoot them first. The driver was "loose" in the cab-- moving around and looking out the windows with his or her M-4 ready to shoot. This was a no bullshit mission...
As I got out of my truck, I was overcome by the smell. It smelled like gasoline, camel shit, coolant, oil, and pee. Down the middle of the street was a gutter. As the mechanics worked on cars and the fluids leaked out, they ran into this gutter. If you dropped a match in the gutter, the whole area would have burned for weeks....which would have been an improvement. ( all of Baghdad smelled like shit all the time, to this day my sense of smell has been destroyed.)
The Hajjis even had a auto parts store on the street...it wasn't like you'd see in the States, because all the parts were used. They were selling used parts that most people would have and should have thrown away. They were selling used brakes, used shocks and other parts that were really only a little better than nothing at all. And nothing at all was what a lot of these people had...so I guess this was an improvement.
As one team walked down one side of the street, the other team took the other side. The team Chris lead was doing well (remember we just did mess kit repair) but the other team leader seemed worried. After 5 minutes, the other team leader asked if it was time to go...I think he was a little afraid. I walked with his team to help them out. I couldn't let on that this scared the shit out of me to. What normal person with half a brain would get out of a perfectly good armored vehicle and walk in the middle of Baghdad in the summer of 2005? Insane!
We finished, I blew my 20 minute and we "popped smoke" and left.
As we pulled out on the highway, we drove like hell...then had to make a turn across traffic...all of the cars stopped...except one.
The lead gunner used his hand signals, blew his whistle to get the dumbass to stop, but the dumbass continued towards us...the gunner fired a signal round warning shot---hitting the dumbshit's front bumper. Now, try this at home, you're in a 12, 000 pound armored SUV going at 60 miles an hour, make a full stop, a hard left turn, then be aware of everything going on around you, then having a car coming at you at 25-30 mph, bringing up your M-4 and firing one round and hitting the bumper….now that’s good shooting. I think that gunner should have gotten a special shooting award.
The dumbshit who was driving with his head totally ups his hajji ass stopped after that, so I guess he wasn’t a suicide bomber after all, just a normal dipshit.
We made it back to camp, and a few extra cold soft drinks, wishing that they were beer and some of us knew we’d have one more stupid story to tell when we got home…we made it, and that’s all that counted. Any day you made it back without anyone getting hurt was a good day. It was a good day.

19 November 2008

My Motto (or one of them)....

From the Soldier side: OK, so I got some pings for not ending my Baghdad story. Before I get to that, let me mention a book that I think ALL LEADERS should read....I'm talking about team or squad leaders up to generals...and most important...the President should read this book. Leave No Man Behind. This book investigates raids and rescues from the end of WWII up to Iraq.

What I got out of it was: Be prepared, have a plan, have a back up plan, let those who'll do the mission plan the mission. Washington and people not connected to this mission need to support it, but not micro manage it. Micro managing from Washington will get the wrong people killed. Also--the leaders in the mission have to have the balls to get the mission done.

My motto in Iraq was: "We'll leave no man behind---unless we don't like you." Really, I'm not kidding!

That made my troops become team players and listen. I wouldn't want to micro manage or plan one of my team's missions if I was not going on it...

Mission: Baghdad Carpet Ride. So, I talked to the E-4 about his problem of getting the security team sergeant to let them stop and "chat" with Iraqis in Baghdad. I drafted up a plan and showed it to him. I let him look it over, make changes and ask questions since he'd never done this kind of mission before. (He wanted to stop in an area where there were lots of automotive garages and "chat"with locals.)

The street he wanted to stop on was about 2 blocks long and had auto garages on both sides. The E-4 drew a sketch of what it looked like... Now normally his team went out in three M1114 Humvees, two armed with an M249 SAW and the rear truck with a M-2 .50 cal machine gun...with everyone inside armed with either an M-4 carbine or M-203 grenade chucker ( a great weapon.) I normally carried 35 Lbs of body armor, a helmet, goggles, M-4 carbine, 9 30 round mags, a M9 9mm pistol-with 7 mags, a first aid kit, water, a frag, dog tags, a cell phone, radio, a Swiss army knife and a Emerson folder. That was a lot of crap.

For this mission, I suggested we take 2 teams, and 4 Humvees, all with machine guns and a few extra "SecFor" (Security Force) folks. He started to think we would come up with a plan that everyone would be happy with (we still had to get our "boss" to sign off on it also.) Hell, this was our damn job, but some days we had to fight our own people just to go do our duty...they never fully understood what we were doing. (mess kit repair)

So, then I asked the E-4 what he thought was our biggest threat on this mission...then make a plan to counteract it. Think what the "hajji assholeinsurgent" was going to do, then beat them. But, this was all random death--or was it? Could we plan a mission into hell, get there and come back safe?

To be cont.

16 November 2008

Ready 2 Roll....mess kit repair...

From the Soldier side: So, I guess I'll get back to my adventures in Baghdad. Now, keep in mind, at the time I was in Iraq, I'd been a civilian cop for over 25 years.
Let-me-tell-you-something! There was nothing in my police experience and training that would have prepared me for this...but, I still think I was 10 times better prepared than the average soldier. I could shoot very well, drive well, talk to people and I had a good sense when something was going to be bad. (To survive in police work on the streets, you have to have that 6th sense.)
As you might recall, I was supposed to be in the management office for a few weeks on light duty. I liked it there so much, that I didn't want to go back out....so the senior sergeant asked if I wanted to trade jobs because he had not had a chance to go outside the wire. (for those of you who were in Bosnia with me, the senior sergeant was "Sgt A" who had been in charge of our vehicles and did nothing in Bosnia.)
So, since I liked having air conditioning and being able to go to a decent mess hall 3 times a day...i was eager to trade jobs.
However, I can't just sit on my ass and do nothing. So I figured out what my teams needed to:
1.) Be safer (1 KIA, 3 WIA so far)
2.) Be more productive (very little useful product so far)
3.) Have fun (nobody wanted to go out anymore- it was not fun)
In that order.
One of the team leaders ( he was only and E-4 until I got him promoted) told me of the main problem he was having when they went out. The E-4 was in charge of the "mess kit repair" team, but there was an E-6 (Staff Sergeant) in charge of the security team they traveled with. The E-4 felt that they needed to stop at some areas in Baghdad to talk to people (about mess kit repair), but the Staff Sergeant didn't think it was safe....so they didn't stop.
I sat down with the E-4 and helped him come up with a tactical plan to be able to stop. This was going to be interesting.

12 November 2008

The other Heros....

From the Soldier side: One thing I've always tried to do was to put myself in the other person's shoes...to think of what they are thinking. This method has always helped me in Police work and in the Army.
One thing I've forgotten about this is...there are others who try to do this with "us" also. By "us" I mean "us" war vets. There are lots of non-vets out there who care alot about "us" and sometimes I think we may have not realized that.
These are the other hero's. The moms and dads, wifes, husbands who support their sons and daughters...the friends and other family who sends the care packages etc.
And when we come home..the ones who do nice things like set up web sites, or other little things to help vets. These people weren't in the wars, they were not shot at, they didn't have to see friends die. But they care. They are concerned and they are good friends to have around.
This is something I didn't understand until the last few days when I started to stop feeling sorry for myself (yeah, sometimes I do that) and saw that there are lots of non-vets out there who really care about us.
They are putting that hand out...time to take it and shake it.

On anther note: I was watching CBS news last night (sorry, I like Katie Couric) and they had a story about some female soldiers who were in Iraq. These soldiers had been in some bad stuff and had to even crank off a few rounds at bad guys....but according to the story, females aren't supposed to be in combat roles.
Oh crap...what should I tell the female soldiers who were on most of the convoys I was on in Baghdad? "Sorry, ladies, you're supposed to stay at the camp and work in the kitchen."
BS. They were good soldiers...and in many cases, I'd rather roll with them than a lot of Chicken males I know.
So, when you're out there shaking the hands of vets, and you see a female soldier...shake her hand too...they've earned it and they are my sisters.

If there's anything I can do to help any vet...I'll do what I can... and I know there are lots of others who will do the same. First thing "we" have to do...is open our hearts and minds and see what's around us.

And for a "not a hero"--- "When I take action, I'm not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It's going to be decisive." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C. Sept. 19, 2001

10 November 2008

Happy Veteran's Day 08

Happy Veteran's Day 2008. For my friends deployed now, thanks for going. For those who've done their time and gotten out, thanks for your service.
I'm working on Nov 11th (my cop job) but I'll do a survey to see how many people actually know what holiday it is....and why we have it. (the nice part about working as a cop on holidays is I get over time....never got that in Bosnia or Iraq, or any of the other places I was on holidays with the Army.)
Are you a Vet? Are you a good citizen who's served mankind in other ways? Regardless, if you run across a vet and are not sure what to do or say...try sticking out your hand and shaking their hand. check: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VcvmoGjGNc and see what I mean. Just a hand shake does a lot.

06 November 2008

Write a book???

From the Soldier side: So, the other day somebody said something that I thought was funny....they said I "should write a book."

I told them if anyone read, I'd have to kill them. They didn't get it. Mess Kit Repair (MKR) is highly classified business. We have to have a special TS/MKR clearance to do this work...and there's a high washout rate at the MOS school. The class I started with was spread out over 2 years...we started with about 27 soldiers. At the end of the final phase, there were only 3 of us from the original group.

Then, there's the work we do...highly classified. We have to take damaged Mess Kits, and fix them as good as new so they can be returned to the front line and put back into service.

On an real story....I was reading on Military.Com today about another new armored wheeled vehicle the Pentagon is putting out to bid. My question is: "are they going to have some office puke in Washington pick out this machine?...some retired general who's getting a kick-back?"

Or, are they going to have private Snuffy and sgt Rock actually test drive it. A vehicle for Iraq needs to be easy to drive and work on...actually it should require little maintenance...should be fast (able to do at least 90MPH--see my last blog posting) be able to stop any friggen IED the insurgentturds can make and be able to actually haul 6 or more troops in the same space with easy access and easy exit. (A MP-3 player would be cool too.)

They have the MRAP in Iraq now...I've never driven one, but I'm instructor certified to train army drivers on everything from the old Jeep, Gamma Goat to the M-113, and M1114.

....and what about our new Commander in Chief? Let me tell you something...I've had the chance to shake hands with a few Presidents in my life...but he's the first one we've had who I'd actually want to shake his hand. If Gen Colin Powell supports him, so do I. If the other guy and that nut from Alaska got into the white house, I was planning to move out of the country.

Coming up soon....walk into Baghdad....

04 November 2008

Hand me a box of ammo & Drive it like you stole it!!!

From the Soldier side: So, it's election day 2008. I voted a few weeks ago. Since I'm not always at home when it's time to vote, I've been doing the mail thing for years.
I've been a bit busy the last few weeks....got a new cop to train.
He's been doing pretty well, but today he said one thing that I had to correct him on. As we were talking about the war in Iraq, he said something like: "I don't think women should be fighting in wars."
You know I quickly corrected his young ass. Some of the best folks I rode with on convoys etc in Iraq were FEMALES!!! "If you look at the M1114 in the left photo, it's a chick driving. Before I left, she'd been on so many convoys that she could tell you where every bump in the road was....her first week she was in the second vehicle in the convoy when the first one got vaporized... she took a few days off and got back into it. In a few months, her vehicle had been hit two more times...and she still kept going out... she had big balls.
She'd not been there too long when I had to go out with their group...(I had a mess kit that needed fixin' across town.) She was driving the first hummer in the convoy and I was the "TC" (truck commander).
We'd never worked together before. As we were rolling along a straight away, I told her she needed to driver faster. She didn't hear me. I undid my seatbelt, reached around the radio and grabbed the hand throttle and pulled it out all the way...as I yelled under her helmet:"drive it like you stole it!"
She went faster after that. She got my point. Don't flounder along, haul ass. Move, brake for turns, then gun it baby! You're not paying for the gas.... go, go, go!
She caught on quick....and IED has a hard time hitting a vehicle moving really fast.
Things were getting better after the Bad LT left. Command sent over a WO-3 to take over. He was a great Warrant Officer...I had talked to him a few times before and respected him alot. He was the OIC (Officer In Charge) and I was now the NCOIC (Non Commissioned Officer In Charge)... we ran a great crew.... of Mess Kit Repair....
OK, I'm going back to watch TV and see who my next commander in chief is going to be...
More stories of the last of the good old days in Baghdad to follow....