The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


April 06, 2007

Name: Eric Coulson
Posting date: 4/6/07
Stationed in: Ramadi, Iraq
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Milblog url:

"Can you give me a lift to the airport?" Back in Boise that gesture of assistance involves nothing more than a quick jaunt south on I-184, then west on I-84 to the Airport exit, a right turn, south a block, then another right around the Chevron station, and then the long turn to the left before you make the decision to go to departing flights on the upper deck or arriving flights on the lower deck. A ten-minute trip, assuming no traffic.

In Iraq though, getting a lift to the airport is a bit more complex.

Many if not most of us are in places where fixed-wing aircraft do not land. Our options are are to either drive, or do the fancy-Manhattan-like thing and grab a rotary wing bird to the airport. That is what I was scheduled to do when I went on leave last month.

Time was counting down for us to head to the helipad. It had been a beautiful day, a good day for flying, but now the weather was turning bad. We generally fly out a few days early so that people will be sure to hit their leave date, but because of then-recent events, this is the last day of my "window" to leave. If I don't get out now, the whole leave schedule will fall behind. I have promised Mrs. Badger 6 that I will be home by our anniversary on Tuesday, and it is Thursday night.Framed_cropped_coulson

As I watch the rain role in, the First Sergeant of another company comes up to me.

"Hey Sir, I know you are supposed to leave tonight. We have a Route Clearance mission going to that same base. You want to ride along?"

Hmmmmm. A ride could be relatively short -- a couple of hours, and in before midnight with the chance to get some sleep. On the other hand, I could get stuck sitting on two or three events and not get there till sunup. Still, if I ride with them I am certain of getting there. I could wait on the flight line till 0300 and then still not leave. The patrol leaves in 15 minutes.

"Thanks, First Sergeant. Where are they lining up?"

I grab the other two Soldiers I am travelling with and we pick up our gear and head down to the patrol. Looking at the route, all we really need to do is get through the City of Ar Ramadi. Sure, anything can happen here, but there is a certain predictability to the war as well.

Patrol prep done, we are out the gate. It has been some time since I have been through the city, as we've been doing operations in other areas, and I am pleasantly surprised at the difference that has been made. A great deal of the debris, rubble, and garbage has been cleared away. People are starting to make this city inhabitable again.

Driving past Saddam's Mosque, an area known for trouble, we keep a sharp lookout. We investigate a few things but find nothing. We are closing in on the far side of the city when all of the sudden a brilliant flame appears, and then immediately disappears.

"Did you see that?"

"Yeah. What was it? A bomb?"

"I don't know. That was really weird."

We pull up and start looking.

"It was really too far from the road to be a bomb. Why would some idiot place a bomb over there?"

But that's what it was. Whoever set this event up had evidently been unable or unwilling to get very close to the road, and placed the device way off to the side. Additionally, when it detonated it only yielded a low-order blast. Some of the explosive did not go off. Good thing, right?

Wrong. Now we need to have the experts come out and dispose of the remainder, so some AIF character does not come along and try to reuse the stuff.

My thoughts at this point are purely selfish. This never happens when I am on patrols with my guys. I am going to be here all night! To make matters worse the "experts" want to sit on their little base and have us bring the stuff to them. That's a no-go. We have to have a discussion on the radio for thirty minutes before they will even come out. Finally they do, and we are rolling again.

All of a sudden we see red tracer fire to our south. The IPs and the AIF are having a little gunfight. Again: I never see this stuff, but now that I really need to get somewhere, it's coming out of the woodwork.

Finally, though, we are past that and on the edge of the city. Now we are passing the Al Anbar Law College; I so want a low-profile baseball hat that says Al Anbar Law to go along with my SIU Law, Duke Law, and Wisconsin Law hats. But I digress.

Back in the countryside we pick up the pace a little. And there are no more events. Dropped off by the patrol, my Soldiers and I check in with the manifest people. We are told to be back at 0700. We wander over to billeting to get a bed for a few hours. By 0100 we are asleep.

Rotary wing did fly that night, but the other people coming from Ramadi got it at 0300 and got no sleep. So we made a good choice.

And I will never begrudge a friend a lift to the airport.


I read your good writing over morning eggs just now. Thanks for writing it.

Nice story from the airport. Well, I hope you will have a nice experience next time.

Luigi Hanway

I'm a new girlfriend of a. US Air Force Airman and it's really hard on us both. :-( I don't know how. I'll be after he does. Deploy or don't even know when he'll actually. Deploy to and I'll need someone to try to calm me down after he does leave for the Sandbox.

Rather actually! US Air Force Airman and it's really hard on us both. :-( I don't know how. I'll be after he does. Deploy or don't even know when he'll actually.

We have to have a discussion on the radio for thirty minutes before they will even come out. Finally they do, and we are rolling again.

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