January 6th, 2008 (CAMP TAJI, IRAQ)

1st patrol complete!

There was no planning or coordination on my unit’s part, of course. We went along with a group going out from 4/9, but not the original guys we were supposed to roll with. I rode in the back of a Stryker with Lt. Schardt and Sgt. Capelli from my platoon, and Lt. Dudek, Sgt. Thomas, and Spc. McCurdy from 2nd platoon.

We left Camp Taji and rolled out onto Highway 1. Our plan was to run up to the north, stop for a short visit at a little village in our AO, and then stop at a factory on our way back. As we were leaving, we got word that route clearance had just passed through and everything was clear.

We were only a few miles north of the gate to Camp Taji when we passed through an IA checkpoint. The Iraqi soldiers there flagged us down and said there was an IED in the road ahead. About that time, we got a call on the radio about a suspected IED on Highway 1. We continued heading north and found it.

Some asshole had wrapped up two 155mm artillery rounds inside of a piece of an old tire inner tube and just dropped it right in the middle of the northbound side of a four-lane highway.

We blocked traffic and dismounted our vehicles, moving across a field into a bombed out auto repair shop. The buildings were mostly rubble, but one of the garage stalls still had an old Mercedes Benz sitting in it. The walls were caving in on the car.

Behind that lot and building, was a large area filled with tall grass, date palms, and citrus trees. We received another call about a possible weapons cache, so we started searching for that. We found nothing. We checked both sides of the road while EOD did their thing. The whole place stank. Grass and trees were burned, and everything smelled like burned garbage.

The 4/9 guys found some thin copper wire, that was most likely trigger wire, for this IED or possibly for others that had been set off in this same spot in the past.Command Wire.JPGI was a little embarrassed. It’s hard to see, and we aren’t used to looking for it. I had a small piece of it caught on my boot and didn’t even know it until I felt it catch something. Traffic on the road got stupid really quickly.After EOD was done, and our search was complete, we continued our patrol. I was pretty pumped being on the ground out there. It felt like business as usual, just like my other deployments. The dates were really sticky. My boots were a mess when I got back into the vehicle. The citrus trees smelled sweet, when I was close to them. The sweet smell and palm trees, even though they aren’t coconuts, reminded me of being back on the island.14 Jan. 2008 030The rest of the trip was quiet. We definitely own the roads over here. People pull off to the sides for us, and when traffic gets too thick, we just cross the median into oncoming traffic and keep going. We were traveling at highway speeds, and never even slowed down.

The mud and brick buildings here remind me a lot of Afghanistan. The markets look the same too. They use branches, leaves, and whatever else they can find to build and cover their stands. This part of Iraq looks very similar to other places I’ve been before, except for the palms.

Having Jacob has definitely changed my outlook. I feel bad for the kids here. I saw a little girl hugging her father’s leg as we passed. He was wearing a long coat and had it wrapped around her shoulders. His arm was around her, holding her close to help keep her warm.

If I had a child in this place, I would want nothing more than to get out of here. It makes me sad to see these kids suffer because they were born in such a shit hole. No kid deserves that.

Mike Scott stopped by my room tonight. He graduated a few years ahead of me from Mattoon High School. I knew his wife, April, too. When I was a freshman, he gave me the nickname “Haystack.” It’s a reference to some Stephen King character, from It, I think. I didn’t recognize him at first, but it was good to see someone from my hometown and to visit for a bit. He asked if I needed anything and said that he had access to all sorts of equipment and stuff. Hopefully that’ll come through. The army is, after all, all about connections.

Taji PictureI have a photo of Theresa on my locker, and I love it. She looks happy. It reminds me of our time in New York, but it also just reminds me of her. I feel closer to her when I look at it, like she’s really looking back at me. I don’t know what it is about that particular photo, but it’s definitely one of my favorites. I saw Orion last night, and it made me think of her.

 

We went through Mushada on patrol today. It is actually part of another company’s sector, but we’ll have to pass through there to get to ours.

We have two patrols planned for tomorrow; one during the day and the other after dark.

More to follow.

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