HERE COMES THE BOOM |
September 06, 2007
Yesterday was going to be a pretty chill day, because at night we had a raid to go on. To start the day off we were to go around to some of the banks in our sector and talk with them and assess their situation. I was among the dismounts that day, and at each bank I'd hop out with a few other guys and we'd go with the Squad Leader in charge while he did his talking. There weren't many banks in our sector, so this was to be a pretty quick assignment.
At one of the banks we happened to go inside, and I started to get bored. I decided I wanted to open a bank account, and went up to one of the ladies working one of the teller windows. I was trying to explain to her, but she spoke practically no English and my level of Arabic is far below adequate for such a conversation.
I pulled out my debit card and tried using that to explain, but I was still getting nowhere. That's when an older gentleman a little ways back noticed and heard me, and he called out that they did not offer credit cards. He rose from his desk and came over to me and another team leader who at this point was interested in the same thing. We proceeded to talk with him for a while since he spoke pretty damn good English. Come to find out, it is not possible for an American to open an account, at least at that bank. Well damn, that sucks. Apparently there is a bank somewhere else that offers this, but I'm pretty sure it's not anywhere near where I can go. Oh well, it was worth the try. I really had no intention of using it. I just thought it would be cool to say I had a bank account in Iraq.
At our last bank, we rolled up in front and stopped the trucks. Just as the call came for the dismounts to get out and I was reaching for the handle to open the door, we heard a fairly loud explosion. Everyone kind of gave the same look, like "What was that?", but I was on my way out the door and on to the bank. We set up outside the bank and that's when I saw the people next to me making the face and hand signals for something tragic happening. I looked down the alley that they were facing, and that's when I saw the smoke. It wasn't a lot of smoke, so I wasn't sure if it was just a fire or what.
We turned back to the people and asked if it was a "Qumbola", or bomb, and they said yes and made the hand gesture of an explosion. I looked back towards the smoke and it was becoming a thick, black cloud, associated with only one thing; a car bomb.
The guys were moving inside and I made my way back out the vehicles to let my squad leader know that the explosion was a VBIED. Just after telling him that, a couple shots rang out. They were close but not directed at us, and I believe they were warning shots from a passing emergency vechicle. I looked down in the direction of the shots and saw people in the area begin to scatter on foot. OK, well standing in the middle of the road was not a good thing right then, so I moved my way to the side and into the bank. I let the dismount squad leader know about the shots and the VBIED, which was just a couple hundred meters down the road, and we loaded back up and headed down there.
At this point the smoke was thick, forming a dark ominous plume above the scene. We arrived to find an eight-story parking garage billowing black smoke and flames. Emergency workers were on the scene, and the firefighters were shooting water from below in an attempt to extinguish the fire. Things were hectic but not as hectic as the massive car bomb attack I had been at before. After going around and talking with the Iraqi police, Army, and firefighters we came to find out that if anyone was killed it was probably only a couple of people. I mean shit, it went off in a parking garage! Not many people are usually in there. We ended up staying for a few hours, out in the heat, which began my exhaustion process. The Iraqi Army had a group of people they had detained, who I guess they believed had something to do with the bomb. Hopefully they caught some of these bastards. I ended up finding out later that Iraqi EOD (bomb squad) found another unexploded car bomb.
We finally left the scene, and after doing a few small things headed back to base to relax for a bit before we went out for our mission, which was going to last all night.
The mission was a raid to try to grab some dudes we have been looking for. We ended up having to park at another base that was quite a ways away, and walk through some of the bad area that we used to have. It was to be a slow deliberate walk, for we were going to be prepared for anything. Along the way some guys working at some bank began yelling "Wake up! The Americans are here!" I'm not sure why or really what happened, because I wasn't right up front, but we ended up confiscating their weapons, including a couple of machine guns. They were Iraqi police and federal guards, so we couldn't detain them for having the weapons.
While we were held up dealing with that we heard an AK burst off in the distance. My heartbeat accelerated a little, and when whoever was being shot at returned fire with a burst of their own, the adrenaline began pumping. For about a minute a little firefight broke out about 600 meters away. They were shooting down this one road that was about 300 meters from me and I could hear the bullets snapping and popping as they passed down the road. The adrenaline was going full steam at this point and I was totally awake and alert, on edge, ready for anything. Unfortunately nothing ended up coming, and the rush and excitment I had began to fade, and it was back to sucking.
We continued on our way and headed out towards our objective. Once there we began our raid, and with what little energy we had left we began kicking in doors, clearing rooms, running up stairs and overwatching from rooftops. At one point I was outside of one of the homes pulling security when I heard single shots from some kind of gun. Over the course of five minutes there were 15-20 shots fired. They sounded pretty close, but no one knew where or what it was. I guess one of the resupply convoys began taking fire, but they never returned fire. I figure it was someone taking pop shots at them, and they probably weren't able to identify where the shooter was. So we did our thing, grabbed up some people, and sooner than planned we were heading back.
Because of the long walk and how long we had been on our objectives a lot of people were out of water, so we stopped in an alleyway and took a much needed break while a resupply on water came to us. Once we filled back up we continued the trek back to the base. This time the pace was quicker and it was uneventful. I was sweating my ass off and sore as hell and all I could think of was that I just wanted to get back and get home.
We finally got back and after hours of wearing our shit we were finally able to take off our sweaty equipment and tops for a much-needed airout. It didn't last long, and before we knew it we were back in the trucks on our way home. I was tired as hell and was driving, and to be honest I don't know how we made it back safe. I fell asleep at the wheel probably 15 times. I'd nod off, and then wake up five seconds later veering towards the side of the road. No one seemed to notice because they were all half asleep too.
Thankfully I didn't hit anything and we made it back in one piece. After filling my aching stomach with some chow I lay down in bed, too tired to shower, and slept for about 12 hours straight.