The 2 deployments I had the honor of doing with the Army National Guard were some of the most interesting times in my life. I got to celebrate both Christmas and New Years away from home 2 years in a row. New Years in Bosnia was more like a “normal” time in the States, but the New Years in Iraq was something that is almost impossible to describe in a short blog post.
The New Years in Bosnia (2003-04) I was able to spend with my “team” and some friends we made in the EUPM (European Union Police Mission). These were cops from all over Europe and some of the best folks I have ever known in my entire life. They lived on the local economy and went about un-armed observing the Bosnian cops. In California I won’t even go to the grocery store without a gun, but these guys didn’t feel that they needed one. And to tell you the truth- it was actually safer in Bosnia (crime wise) than it is in most places in California!
Camp "Ugly" Bosnia
For New Years 03-04 we were invited to one of the homes some of the EUPM cops were living in. With the low cost of food and housing, most of them had a difficult time spending their per-diem on such things, so they tried to expend these finical resources on alcoholic beverages. On most days they were able to achieve the goal. For New Years, they did meet this objective. (In all my leadership courses, they always mentioned setting goals,)
Unfortunately, in Bosnia we also had “General Order #1” which pretty much covered all aspects of us not being able to have any kind of fun…including drinking. However, since we were in a somewhat special team, we actually had an exemption to the drinking rule- if kept within reason. I did not drink that night, but I did allow some of my team to do so if they chose to….keeping it reasonable. Too many adults can’t figure how to act like adults when left without supervision. We kept it legal and still had fun with our European friends. ( I never drink at all if I’m going to drive.) I felt it a great compliment when one of the German cops told me: “I don’t like Americans, but I like you guys.”
A year later, I was in Fallujah, Iraq. Same rules of “though shalt not drink” but we traveled in armored Humvees in full battle rattle, not civilian Volks Wagons. The mission we did with the “First Mar Div” (1st Marine Division) on this day in 2004 was full of excitement and adventure. Hell, just driving outside any camp in those days would make your sphincter tighten shut.
During the “Battle of Fallujah,” the Rules of Engagement were a little different in that area at that time…but so many American vehicles were getting blown up with Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED, or Car Bomb) that we couldn’t hesitate if a car came at our convoy.
I’ve told this story in the past, but somebody thought it was worth repeating. That day the Marine Gunny my team was working with asked if we could go into the city with him. He needed at least one other armored vehicle with a gun to be allowed to go out. He wanted to go check on his Marines in the city and bring them mail etc.
Of course we’d go I told him. I’d do anything for that Gunny…, he taught my team and me a lot and his group was a pleasure to work with….after all, we were just Army National Guard pukes called up, but when we were able to pull our own weight doing our job (Mess Kit Repair) they treated us with a great deal of respect. (The Gunny was a Marin Reserve and was also a cop in his civilian life.)
So, we borrowed another M-249 SAW (5.55 MM machine gun) and loaded up our M1114 Armored Humvee. The Gunny was also taking a few other very special Army guys with him…they were very high speed…the kind of soldiers that if you got a chance to work with them, something good would rub off on you and make you a better soldier. But, they didn’t put up with any bullshit or any sloppy work that would get them killed.
"Say Hello to my Little Friend"
The basic rules of engagement at that time allowed us to stop any vehicle or person from getting within 100 Meters of our vehicles. If they got closer, you gave a hand signal and shouted for them to stop (non of us could speak much Arabic, so we yelled in English….kind of useless) But the third step was the universal language of STOP--- we pointed a gun at them. The forth step was a warning shot and then we lit them up with a burst of machine gun fire.
Just before going out, Gunny gave his convoy briefing. Short, simple and to the point. When we stop at the check points, the rear gun (my vehicle) was to not allow any civilian vehicles near out rear or to pass us.
At our first check point, I guess my gunner was afuckingsleep or forgot the instructions. He let an Iraqi car come right up behind us as we were stopped, and didn’t stop it as it drover around us…coming wihin several feet of our vehicles.
The “special” guys riding with Gunny were so pissed…one of them started to yell at my gunner…(who was Cuban American) and of course you can’t yell at somebody like that without them yelling right back. The “special” guy (who’s rank was totally unknown to us) threatened to kick my gunners ass and called him all kinds of names…
After we were done in the city, I told everybody that I’d man the gun just so nobody came up on us. I had a lot more experience with guns (well, shooting targets anyway) and I had been a cop for over 20 years, so I felt I could handle it just fine.
We made it all the way back to the last check point before we returned to the camp. As we pulled into the barricaded control check point, we drove through some turns and crap designed to slow vehicles down to a crawl. I was watching our 6 (rear) when all of a sudden the old Pile of Shit (POS) Toyota van comes flying in towards us at 40 miles per hour. I swing the gun around and start yelling “stop you mother fu…er, STOP, STOP, STOP!!!!!”
Well, that always worked being a cop back home… my command presences, my badge and all. But this stupid ass just kept coming. I had my left hand up giving the stop hand signal and my right was on the pistol grip of the SAW flipping it from Safe to Fire…finger moving onto the trigger getting ready to give him a good burst of 5.56 MM.
As the van got closer, I could see the driver…black beard and all….just staring ahead….then he looked up at me…and it looked like he was going to shithispants (I was to) as a Marine on the check point ran towards the van and yelled at me telling me: “Don’t shoot, that’s the mayor and his family.!”
I had just started to put a little more pressure on the trigger, then let go of it… I guess I had held my breath….and I started to breath again…
Everybody in front of our Humvee had no idea what almost happened…. I talked to the Gunny about it later and he said if the dumbass didn’t stop, it would have be OK to “light him up.” But, we were all glad he stopped….I never saw a Toyota Van stop so fast…
The “special guys” heard what I did and patted me on the back later…telling me: “That’s what you’re supposed to do, get them to stop.”
الإقامة السابق 100 متر! Stay Back 100 Meters!