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.


October 22, 2007

Name: Kevin
Posting date: 10/22/07
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Oakland, NJ
Milblog url

My unit is responsible for manning several guard towers and entry control points around Camp Taji. We haven’t had any incidents yet, except for the other day when some gunfire (I think celebratory) hit near one of our towers. Camp Taji has been really quiet so far. The outgoing force protection officer said that the area around this base used to be really violent. Mortar and rocket attacks were a common occurrence up until a month ago.

Framed_2kevin_hirez_setttling_in Our guard towers are now made of concrete and bulletproof glass, so our soldiers are pretty safe on their shifts and still able to fire their weapons out when they need to. Only a few months ago, the towers were made of just steel and wood. The unit we replaced had a female soldier severely wounded by shrapnel from an RPG blast and another soldier sniped from a high-powered rifle. The bullet grazed his ear, miraculously went in his helmet on one side, curved around the inside back of his helmet, and exited the other side.

The main highway in Iraq, MSR (main supply route) Tampa, skirts the western wall of our base and is probably the most dangerous road in the world. I live about 300 yards from this road and can see the tops of the trucks driving by at all hours of the day. I used to drive on MSR Tampa back in 2003 with no body armor and no armor on my Humvee. Times have definitely changed. Although the portion of MSR Tampa near Camp Taji has been safe this month, there are still incidents. Two months ago, an American ASV (the vehicle in the picture) ran over a pressure plate mine on the highway only 30 yards from one of the guard towers. Despite the mine’s small charge, the explosion was powerful enough to flip the ASV over. Almost immediately, the vehicle caught fire and the soldiers inside got trapped and were burned to death. The soldiers in the nearest guard tower inside the base perimeter had to stand helplessly by as the soldiers screamed in agony. My friend who went out to assist said he is still haunted by the sound of those soldiers dying.

We’ve been busy over the last few days improving our buildings and surrounding areas. Our new headquarters building was an empty shell when we got here, so we have our work cut out for us. As the logistics officer, I’m setting up some contracts for things such as gravel, vehicles, blast walls, copiers, and printers. The work keeps me busy and allows me to meet a lot of different people on the base, from 1st Cavalry Division guys to KBR (Kellog Brown and Root) to Iraqis who come into our base to sell items that the Army needs.


You should take a look at the Wounded Warriors Project. It raises awareness for severely wounded combat U.S. combat veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan. It really puts a face on the cost of this war. Here's a link:


Hey Kevin - Hang in there as well as you can. How much time do you have left before rotating out? Are they honoring their commitments now to send you home when they promised?

Keep your head low and stay out of harms way.

All the Best,

Tell us what sort of things are bought locally. I am sure that sort of trade is most welcome to local merchants. How do you screen local vendors?

All my love

Hey, Kevin -- Thanks for sharing. I am so sorry for the soldiers who died so horribly in the ASV. Be safe. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. Ana

its so good that the leaders are relying on armor instead of boots on the ground.

Hey Kevin,
I was posted to Taji with the 1st Cav in 2004. We were hit almost every day with a mix of mortars, rockets, RPGs, and small arms even including chemical mortars on at least two occasions. I'm very glad to read that things are quieter now over there, though I know Iraq remains a very dangerous place. Your posting about the trucks reminded me of what Haji used to do to us. The road inside the camp that ran paralel with Tampa used to be a no speed limit road because insurgents would stand in the backs of trucks speeding alont the MSR and fire into the camp. Iraqi style drive by. Hurry home and stay safe.

Your story about the ASV reminded me of a similar incident. A patrol set out from Taji and got no more than 1/2 mile south of Gunner Gate when a huge IED went off flipping a M2 and trapping everyone inside the burning vehicle.

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