From the Soldier side: Here’s another e-mail I sent from Baghdad, Iraq in April 2005. Most of my e-mails just kind of rambled on and had no point. If there was a point I guess was to let people know I was OK and to try to get them to laugh.
I often have been asked: "were you afraid?"
Hell yes. You needed a little fear or you'd fall asleep in the heat. Not the kind of fear that made you unable to function, but just enough to make you do better and fight harder. Fear is not something you can simulate very well in training.
Here's another rambeling e-mail I sent to my friends and family...at least the ones who wanted me to.
The Baghdad Carpet Ride.
It’s Tuesday in Camp Slayer, Baghdad, Iraq . Saturday night we had sirens and horns going off. That usually indicates one of two things. The first possibility is someone bumped the Alert siren button by mistake when they spilled their coffee beverage. Or, as in this case the siren was a Real Alert…. to let everyone know to put on their helmets and body armor ( we always have our weapons and ammo with us) and report to the company office.
We thought it might be another drill. They usually pull a drill to see how long it takes everyone to check in. The drills are to prepare us incase the camp is attacked. In this case our camp was not under attack, but another nearby camp had come under attack. So as a precaution, they put all camps in the area on alert. Not a bad idea.
A typical attack on a camp usually consist of some insurgent firing a mortar or rocket from some distance, then leaving the area before we can greet them in return. For this attack, the insurgents did something new…they attacked with several weapons and for a somewhat longer period of time.
Our camp didn’t get attacked that night, but we had to remain in our “homes” or offices since they are solid.
After a nice warm day in the 90’s, and wearing body armor, a nice shower is usually quiet refreshing. They installed a decent shower trailer not far from my “home” and I was looking forward to using it…but despite what the President (Bush #2) said, we are in a war.
There is no hot water in our building since the contractor ruined most of the hot water heaters. How did they do that you ask? They put gas in a diesel generator. This generator had to be replaced. When the hooked up and turned on the new generator, they forgot to set the correct voltage. This caused a massive surge of power and blew up everything plugged into the system—including the electric hot water heaters.
So, I took a cold shower. Actually it was not cold since it had been over 90 F that day. The “cold” water was warm. So what… at least we were not getting bombed. I was in Kalsu and other places when they were “attacked”. Most of the time they miss anything important and just annoy the hell out of everyone.
Sunday I was tasked with going out to a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Baghdad to do a little investigation. I got a ride with another team in one of their armored Hummers. They were happy to have me go, since one of their “security” guys is one of the people I trained on how to shoot a machine gun. This was about his 70th mission out into Baghdad and other places. He’s done well and has never let anyone drive close to the convoy…and he’s never had to fire one shot at anyone.
Now, some of you may remember in Dec when my team went to Fallujah on a convoy. Well it was nothing back then. All the roads were closed to all but military vehicles. So it was a nice straight shot up to Fallujah with nobody on the road. Even when we rode into Fallujah a few times with the Marines, it was ok.
In Baghdad however, it’s a big city. There were cars and trucks all over the place. It’s always a wild ride!
We have a few worries. The insurgents like to stick Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) along the road. And, when they can find someone who is stupid enough to drive, they will fill a car or truck with explosives and drive the vehicle into a convoy. That would be a Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) Wow! What a treat.
So as we’re riding along at max speed… every time a car approaches from a cross street or an on ramp to the highway, we all eyeball them and make sure they are not going to ram into us and blow us up to meet Allah.
We pass vehicles where ever we can….on the shoulder, sidewalk, into oncoming lanes and if we have to, we’ll push a car out of the way if it’s stalled. We can’t stop....if you stop, you are an easy target. The trick is to get speed, zig zag, don’t stop and do not get close to stopped traffic or let other cars get within 50 yards of us. This is done as a team. The driver moves the vehicle; the truck commander looks ahead and tells the driver what he sees. The gunner on the top uses hand/ arm signals, a whistle, and brandishes his machine gun to keep a safe zone around us all the time. All the passengers have M-4/ M-16s to cover the sides. We are all looking around and communicating with each other if we see a possible threat. The rear vehicle has a warning sign in English and Arabic warning vehicles to keep back 50 meters (yards). This little group of 3 vehicles has more fire power than a whole infantry platoon in WWII.
We made it to the FOB. The other team did their mission and I did mine. About a week ago, 5 women who cleaned bathrooms at that FOB were stopped on their way home from work. All 5 were shot to death. My job…put the cowards in prison that did it. I can handle when a soldier gets attacked, but why kill 5 innocent women just trying to feed their family?
Mission over. We jump back in our M-1114 Hummers and head back to Camp Slayer . To fight the commute traffic all over again. We get back, have “chow” then spend hours writing reports. Monday… the teams go out all over again.
Tuesday, today. One of our guys from the “home” unit who has been out at Al Ramadi was due to come back to Baghdad today. He’s going home for two weeks of leave. Man did he have a fun Blackhawk ride. As his helicopter almost got to the landing pad in Baghdad , it hit something and went down hard and fast. Lucky they were only a few hundred feet up and the chopper pilot was trained well. Nobody was hurt and our buddy made it in to catch his flight home.
California Army National Guard~~ one weekend a month…yeah right.
In IRAQ putting the "fun" into Dysfunctional.......