November 27, 2007

Name: Eddie
Posting date: 11/27/07
Stationed in: Iraq
Milblog url: airborneparainf82.blogspot.com 

Thanksgiving is a time when we give thanks for the things we have, and remember that some of the most important things we have are those that we have always had or will always have; our friends and family. But this year, I have a little something more to be thankful for.

The last couple patrols I went on were the first I had done since being back in Iraq. There was nothing really special about the first one. I was a dismount team leader and we did the usual amount of walking around, but I discovered that it was going to take my body a little bit to get used to working 20+ hours at a time again. I ended up sleeping at every opportunity. Fortunately I had a couple of days off before the next patrol. And since the weather has cooled down a lot, I'm not trying to split my time between dismounting and driving. I should be dismounting a lot more now.

The next patrol turned out to be a true tester of my body's willingness to function. The day started out like most other days, but after our stop for breakfast we were to do a dismount through a couple of the markets with some folks working for Civil Affairs. These are the people that do projects and whatnot to improve infastructure and people's lives in certain areas. I was looking forward to this because it has a completely positive purpose and makes me feel as though I'm accomplishing something, even if I'm just pulling security for the people that actually do the work. Anyways, they ended up stopping and talking to just about everyone, and a loop that would normally take 30 minutes to walk ended up taking three hours!

I was exhausted and sore and sitting back in my truck felt like heaven.

It would be short lived, because we were to go check out some possible car bomb factory. We dismounted for that, along with the Civil Affairs Major for some odd reason. I'm not real sure what business she had going with us but whatever. We found nothing, and ended up being out another hour searching through various buildings. OK enough already, I NEED A BREAK! :)

I'll use this time to gripe about a new rule. It's called No More Lunch. Yes. During days that we are on patrol and outside the wire we may no longer stop by the nearby base that we normally eat at. Breakfast and dinner are still OK (for now) but lunch is a no-go. Now this is completely moronic because this base is not far at all and if we were needed in sector for anything we could get there very quickly. But some officer who never goes outside the wire, and never puts in the hours and work we do, was probably eating a cheeseburger at lunch one day and had an epiphany: "Oh you know what, I think we could be more productive if we cut out a stop of lunch for these guys! Ah yes, I'm a genius."

That's about how it went I'm guessing, and now we are forced to eat MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) when there is no reason that we should have to. Hey buddy, there ain't shit going on in our sector. It'll be fine if we have a damn decent meal. But they're not the ones making the sacrifice, so it's not an issue to them. Makes me mad.

So back to the rest of the day. After lunch it was pretty uneventful and we ended up having to make a trip to the Green Zone for something, which was nice because I was able to have Subway for dinner. We had a night dismount planned across sector (its not really that far) which we got dropped off for on our way back from the Green Zone. At this point I was totally exhausted and just wanted to chill, but now there was this patrol I needed to do. My team was to be in front, so I took up point and led us around sector. I was pretty surprised how well I still knew the alleyways.

We were almost back when we got word that the neighborhood we were in supposedly had 10 guys with AKs walking around in it. We were also told that there was an IA (Iraqi Army) patrol in the same neighborhood looking for them. I instructed my guys to keep their eyes open, but to make sure of what they were seeing so that we wouldn't get into an accidental confrontation with the IA guys. Oh yeah, the two other guys on my team were new and brand new. The patrol picked up and continued on.

Very near the end I turned into this alleyway and noticed an older kid sitting on a desk or something, and through my nightvision it totally looked like he had on a training bra. I thought to myself, "What the fuck is he wearing?" The nightvision sometimes messes up colors and makes stuff look weird like that, so I tilted my head up to try and look at him with my eyes, but it was kind of dark. I had just focused back on him when his friend, about the same age, whom I had not seen before, came out from around him, about five meters in front of me. I noticed he had something in his hands and made out the shape of an AK-47. My heart stopped and I lost my breath. My team and I were probably done for. Fortunately my head kept working and training kicked in as I drew my rifle on him, shining my tac-light on him and putting my visible green laser on his chest. Not taking any chances, I flipped my rifle to FIRE. I yelled for him to stop and to drop the weapon.

The boy froze in place, still holding his rifle. It seemed like an eternity, just waiting to see what he was going to do. Any movement other than a downward motion would have immediately triggered me, as well as the guys on my team who at this point were now aimed at him as well, to unload on him, filling his body with 5.56mm holes. He made the right move and laid down the AK.

I continued to pull security on him and his friend as the guys on my team moved up to search them. The other kid had an AK-47 that I had not seen, and together they had five full magazines of ammo. These kids couldn't have been more than 16 or 17, but apparently they were part of some security force that we, the US military, have been paying to keep things under control in some neighborhoods. I don't see why we would allow them to carry weapons, but it's beyond my control. We gave them their weapons back and left to head back and link up with our trucks.

My mind was still racing, thinking of all the different ways that situation could have ended up. I'm thankful that, due to quick thinking and control on my part as well as by both the new guys, we did not end up having to waste two kids that night.

Once we linked back up with the trucks we got word that the supervisor of the security force had found a weapons cache, so we headed down there and dismounted again to go check it out. Sure as shit, they had found a cache alright. It was eight or nine RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades) and a couple mines. We gathered them up and took them out to the road and ended up having to wait forever for EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) to come out and take them away. As bad as it is, I ended up locking my door in the back of the Humvee and racking out. I was totally exhausted, void of any energy at this point. But again, the proper handling of those kids with AKs paid off, for I'm sure if we would have shot them, their "boss" would not have cared to help us out with the weapons cache.

So that's about it. That second patrol was a long day and totally kicked my ass. But its OK because now any future ones won't be as bad. And I now have a little extra to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. A potentially horrible situation was defused without incident, and I'm forever grateful that it went down the way it did. Thanksgiving was yesterday, and I didn't really do anything special. I had the day off, which was nice, and for lunch they had the whole Thanksgiving Day meal. It was pretty good. Nothing great, but for being in Iraq, I can't complain!


Hi Eddie...

I love reading your posts! I have no true understanding of what you're going through, I'm a 70 yr. old Mom. But you make it real. The horror, the fear, the hope, the intent to do the right thing for everyone. I don't know what it's all about, Eddie. Who's right? Who's wrong? I just know I really appreciate you putting your thoughts out here for me to see. I would like you to know that it would be a good thing if I could give you a hug. It would be better if I could get you home!

Thank you for posting this - the only way we in the US get any idea of what you are all going through is via the blogs, so keep posting!

As a Vietnam combat vet, I'm generally in sync with the challenges for our servicemen/women in Iraq/Afghanistan, but PLEASE, complaining about MREs for lunch! And you had Subway for dinner. How plush can the war get for you? I remember days, not hours, but days, when we had no food in the middle of the Ashau Valley, chopping our way through jungles up and down the mountains. When we found an old U.S. campsite, we would sift through the ashes of cookfires, pulling out any c-ration cans that were there and eating stuff that had been burned in the fire. We didn't have mess halls or MREs. We had garbage in a c-ration can. And you are losing sleep? Compare what you are going through with sleeping on the ground, in the jungle, soaking wet, with only your poncho for protection. Staying up all night because you are worried the guy who should be pulling guard duty has fallen asleep. We had 20+ hour days for weeks at a time! And the only time we got a ride was in a helicopter into the jungle where you couldn't see your enemy....

You did good, and you wrote it well. Thank you for taking the time. I am in some ways a bit jealous of the extras you have, but then since I am wallowing in the American land of plenty plastic I start to feel guilty - but it passes. Again, you did good and did it very well and I have been around those field grades pushing their great ideas on the masses - he probably had steak for lunch. Take care out there.

Ken, I'm not complaining about eating MREs for the sake of eating MREs. Its the fact of having to eat them when there is no need. In a time of necessity, you do what you have to do. But our chains logic behind it is flawed. Thats what I'm griping about. Its the general disconnect between what we do and what those who dont, say we should or shouldn't.

Understood, Eddie. But I've got to conclude, based on your report and many others I've read, that the grunts have it way better these days (aside from the possibility of death or dismemberment) than soldiers of the past. I'm sure WWI vets would say we had it easy in Vietnam, and they're probably right. My Thanksgiving dinner in 1968 was on a bald hilltop firebase in the middle of the Ashau Valley, with bunkers dug in all around, sitting out in the open, my uniform tattered from a jungle mission. They had a food line and there was turkey, but no mess hall. My Christmas in 1968 was spent in one of those bunkers with two other guys, all three of us huddled over a small candle to keep warm and drinking a little of the vodka and Kool-Aid my parents sent over. The other half of that vodka pint was used for New Year's Eve, in a foxhole who knows where.

Ken - I guess I'd have to agree with you. I never saw anything even remotely resembling a Subway either in Quang Nam or later (2nd tour) in the Plain of Reeds SW of Saigon. I remember lots of mud tho and picking bugs out of the C rats if you left them uncovered for more than 15 seconds. We were outside the wire once for over 30 days. Fortuntely, I had brought an extra set of BDUs as the one I went out with rotted off my back 20 days into the mission. The closest thing I got to a shower was in a rice paddy. The only thing we had better was that you could get alcohol, from time to time at least. It boggles my mind that an American military force can function without it. I viewed it as a necessity.

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