THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL |
March 07, 2008
THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL
Name: The Usual Suspect
Posting date: 3/7/08
Stationed in: Iraq
One year ago, we were nervous and excited and apprehensive. Ready to do this. Green as snot.
We jumped through training hoops at Fort Lewis, counting down months. This epic thing looming in front of us, like some tidal wave we were waiting to catch.
Before we knew it, they stuffed us on buses and into airplanes and flew us to the other side of the planet, jet-lagged and confused as shit, dog-tired and sick of travel, sick of fucking waiting and stopping and going, sitting on duffel bags. Not knowing what to expect.
We spent a few weeks in Kuwait, adjusting to the heat, preparing for our next push into theater, just more waiting, all of it, more headgames. Already we were reduced to phone calls and emails, otherwise effectively cut off from the World.
And then they stuffed us all onto C-130s. Wedged in there, full kit, miserable, everyone scowling and swearing at each other for so much as adjusting in their seat. Two miserable hours of loud droning engines. You're off to war, son.
We had landed, anticlimactically, and still, we were herded like fucking animals, still not knowing a damn thing, and the cycle would never end. And there I was, finding myself in Baghdad, chomping at the bit to get outside the wire, to experience This Fucking War.
Barely 21 and dumber than shit, I was all sorts of optimistic, thinking we were going to do great things and kick lots of ass, GI Joe hero type shit. That we could be cool with the people, and bring the hammer down on the baddies.
Then a low rumble shakes my Stryker, and two of our guys are killed by an IED while they are dismounted. People emerge from their houses and cheer.
Every day we pile out of the trucks and into any random building, clearing house after house after god-forsaken motherfucking house, sweltering heat, sweat stinging our bloodshot eyes. Sucking down hot water and tromping up and down stairs all day. First floor clear. Second floor clear. Roof clear. Repeat and repeat and repeat, and where the fuck are the bad guys?
There's gunfire out of nowhere, and soon it's a squad on one rooftop against the enemy on another rooftop. "Chaz" returns fire with his SAW and watches as his rounds smack into some guy's ribs. He shakes for the rest of the day.
We continue to clear every day, we fire warning shots. And a sniper kills another of our guys. My squad returns to the truck to escort the medic's Stryker back to the Green Zone. The air horn blares repeatedly, over and over again, for what must have been fifteen solid minutes as we race to the hospital.
And then we're back out in it all over again, and where's this apparent enemy? Fucking ghosts. This fucking war.
Through the boredom and the monotony and misery, we occasionally have one of our own get wounded. Sometimes minor, sometimes enough to go back to the states. Shot in the leg. Shrapnel in the ass. Shrapnel in the head or the arm. Sometimes we get one of them.
We bust our asses in Baghdad in support of other units, tackling one of the most notorious neighborhoods in Iraq. Every Iraqi I've ever mentioned this neighborhood to nods in understanding, then mentions that it is "no good". Moo zyen.
And then we move. To a more calm area, where we have our own sector. And the monotony picks up exponentially. Days and weeks bleed together in an agonizing blur.
Then a suicide bomber kills three of us.
Still no visible enemy that we can directly engage.
You go on bipolar cycles of motivation and indifference. Of caring about the people to total apathy. Wanting to wreak havoc or wanting to get back to the tent and kick back. All the while the World moves on without you. You wonder if those people back home will think you've changed.
We were green once.