24 January 2008 (CAMP TAJI, IRAQ)

I could really go for a drink. I had a hard time getting to sleep last night, because I couldn’t get my mind to shut down. I kept going over today’s mission in my head, and I just couldn’t get over the feeling that something would go wrong with my charges. I just really want everything to work correctly.

Finally, I decided I wasn’t going to get any sleep if I didn’t get up and double check my work. I got dressed and walked to the internet cafe around 1:30 A.M. and did a little research online. I double checked a few things to make sure I had it all set up correctly and finally got back to bed around 3 A.M.

At 4:30 A.M., I got up to check sensitive items. Once I verified that all of my guys still had their stuff, I went back to bed for a bit. I got up to get ready for the mission around 6:30, and after breakfast, I made a few minor adjustments to the initiating system on my explosives. It was actually set up safely, and it should have functioned properly the way it was. While I was looking online though, I found a more practical way of putting it all together. So, I’m confident that everything will function now.

Later that day…

Battalion finally decided that we should take HMMWVs out for the mission today, so we rushed around this morning getting them ready. Mission Prep. #2There was a lot of mission-essential equipment that had to be transferred from our Strykers to the HMMWVs. We had radios, recovery equipment, batteries, megaphones, chem. lights, demo, SSE (sensitive site exploitation) kits, first-aid supplies, litters, and everything else that we might need outside the wire. It all had to be taken out of the Strykers and put into the HMMWVs.

Mission Prep. #1

It’s hard to identify who these soldiers are. SGT Morado is standing on the hood of the HMMWV. SPC Eichler is standing in the front of the truck without the gear, and SPC Daggett is leaning against the front of the truck in at the far right with PVT Steward next to him.

About the time we finished getting everything ready, we were told that the mission was cancelled. Not a big surprise, but it was still disappointing. I was really looking forward to putting my training and experience to use and blowing some shit up. There aren’t many guys around here who know much about explosives. We trained with demo almost every time we went to the field at Ft. Drum. Privates were expected to know how to make and set off breach charges to get through fences, walls, and doors. Here with 25th ID, it seems like no one knows anything about using explosives.

We spent the afternoon returning everything from the HMMWV’s to the Strykers. It took quite a while to get things put back into order and situation. We’ll have a regularly scheduled patrol tomorrow, so the Strykers need to be packed and prepared.

More drama came out about yesterday’s incident with 4 Vic. Now we are hearing that we may have to go and see the battalion commander about it. This is all because of the photo that was sent with SPC Williams smiling in front of the stuck vehicle. It’s the most ridiculous shit ever.

Just another reason that I need to get the hell out of here. The army just isn’t fun anymore. There have always been certain parts of the job that I hated, but the pros have always outweighed the cons. At some point during the last couple years, that has changed for me. I find myself enjoying it less and less, and hating it more and more. I’m sure I’ll miss some parts of being an infantryman, but I’m ready to be done. Even the people in the army have changed. I don’t even want to be associated with a lot of these guys, and I’m starting to have serious doubts in the abilities of many of our leaders. Those doubts sometimes make it hard for me to support and enforce a lot of the standards that are passed down from higher. As an NCO, that tells me that it’s time to go.

Leo and I walked to dinner tonight, and we were talking about what our squads’ roles in tomorrow’s patrol will be. This is what we came up with. 1st squad will be the lead element with my squad in trail. 3rd squad, Leo’s guy will probably stay in the Strykers to act as security and reserve in case anything should happen.

After dinner, we went to our nightly platoon meeting. LT Schardt briefed us on the plan for tomorrow’s patrol. SSG Heckman was told to take the lead on the patrol with my squad following. Leo was told to keep his guys in the vehicles as a reserve.

It seems like our plan, or at least our order of movement on patrol is always the same. Squads on the ground move in number order: 1, 2, and 3, with the headquarters elements mixed in. Our vehicle order is always B-11, B-12, B-13, and B-14 brings up the rear. Even if the trucks are set into a security perimeter and end up in the wrong order on the way back to Camp Taji, we will stop to get everyone back into the correct order. I understand, to a point, that we need to be in a specific order to make sure our trucks are all protected by the DUKE systems that are only on two of the trucks, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be 1, 2, 3, 4 all the time.

Lloyd is angry that his squad always has to take the lead. Leo and his boys are upset because they think that LT Schardt doesn’t have any confidence in their abilities on the ground. I’m disappointed because I think if anyone should be pushed out in front, it should be me and my guys.

After our meeting, I joked with Leo, “Maybe the PL has OCD, and things have to be in numerical order.”

I guess my squad did take point after 1-27 hit that IED. 1st and 3rd squads got to kick in some doors that night, and I had to sit and watch. Whatever the PL’s reasoning for our order to travel, I do know this: my squad has the most combat experienced soldiers in the platoon. With that in mind, I want to take the lead on everything. I want to be the main effort in every assault and raid, and that’s what my boys want too.

In unrelated news, there are signs in the dining facility on the drink coolers that say, “Due to a theater wide shortage, we are out of Diet Coke.”

Coca Cola Light

It went on to say something about restocking as soon as more became available. They are completely stocked with Coke, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Root Beer, 7-Up, Diet 7-Up, Sprite, Diet Sprite, Fanta, and all sorts of other shit. How the fuck, can the entire Middle East, be out of Diet Coke? I would love to hear the explanation for that. Did the NutraSweet truck hit an IED? This is going to be a problem for me.

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