From the Soldier side: you know I realized that when I’m talking about some things that happened in Iraq, it may be difficult or impossible for some good citizens to understand what I am talking about.
For example…take “getting mortared”. How many average citizens who’ve never been in the military understand what that means. Silly me…I just assumed everybody would get it. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll take this episode to help explain.
When I say “mortared” that could also mean “rocketed” because most of the time we couldn’t tell the difference and in most cases it made little difference.
A “mortar” is a weapon with a long round tube. Sort of like an artillery cannon. Mortars usually are measured in Millimeters and go from about 60MM to 120MM. A cannon is loaded from the back or breach and a mortar has the round dropped down the top of the barrel. The mortar bomb or round has a firing primer on the tail so that when slid down the barrel it hits the firing pin. This causes the round to launch out the barrel and go off in the direction the weapon is aimed at. I was a mortar man in the regular Army many years ago. It is actually a complicated weapon to hit a target with any degree of accuracy. Most of the mortars fired at us in Iraq were just pointed in our general direction.
Now when a mortar is fired, it makes a heck of a loud noised at the weapon itself. I lost a little hearing in my right ear from this. (The gunner has his right ear next to the weapon when it goes off.) When the bomb or round hits the ground it also makes a very loud noise. In many cases, it’s difficult to tell if a mortar was launched or landed near you if you can’t see the area in question. Sometimes the only way to tell the difference is when debris comes raining down on you. Then you know for sure.
The first time I was at a camp in Iraq that got hit with a Mortar was on a mission before this story I’m talking about (a camp near Tel Afar, Iraq). So by the time we got to the camp this story is about, south of Baghdad, we were old hands and this sort of thing. The folks at this camp had just arrived in Iraq a few weeks before…so when the bombs started landing…many of them got a bit excited and ran to the bunkers. My team and I knew that after the 2 rounds hit, if we were still not hurt, it was over and we were going to be OK. Some of the folks didn’t understand that and it was hard to get them out of the bunkers for hours after the rounds landed.
The closer the rounds were, the louder they sounded…(duh!) and sometimes they landed within less than a 100 meters and the only thing that saved our butts was the tall concrete barricades the engineers had put up. But the rock and shrapnel would go up in the air and come down like rain. As long as you had your helmet and body armor on, you were OK.
OK, now is that a little clearer? Gosh Darn Bad bombs being randomly fired at us. Loud, scary but usually caused little harm.
Now I’ll get on with this story….later.