24 January 2008 (CAMP TAJI, IRAQ)

B Co. StrykersToday, Bravo 1-4 (4 Vic) was parking in front of our battalion headquarters on Camp Taji, and as Crowley was turning around to position the vehicle, he got too close to a ditch that separates the parking area from the building. It has rained nonstop for about two days, and the roads and parking lots are mostly gravel and mud. The weight of the Stryker in the soggy mud caused him to slide off into the water-filled ditch. The vehicle looked dangerously close to tipping over on its side, but it stayed upright. We had to have a heavy recovery vehicle come and get it out of the ditch.

While this little incident doesn’t seem like a big deal, small things like that can certainly become a big deal in the army. All of the NCOs in my platoon got an ass chewing from our first sergeant. Then SFC AB and all of 1st platoon’s squad leaders: Leo, Lloyd, Capelli, and I, had to go see the battalion command sergeant major.

We were left standing outside of our battalion headquarters in the rain until he was ready to talk to us. It was cold enough that day, that we could see our breath, but we stood there watching shovel wielding soldiers fill the ruts left in the mud from our now unstuck Stryker. Heaven forbid we might leave ruts in soggy mud causing a drainage ditch in Iraq to be an eyesore. The rain soaked into our uniforms and ran down our backs and legs until it finally reached our socks, making us completely miserable and wet from head to toe.

The ruts were nearly filled in before CSM Ordonio finally came out to address us. He was a little Filipino man, whom I had met when he was the commandant of the Air Assault School at Schofield Barracks. A funny guy with a thick accent that made him difficult to understand and even more comical at times. He seemed like the kind of sergeant major who didn’t really like stupid shit. In my experience, he didn’t take shit from anyone either, and he was quick to voice his opinion when things got dumb.

“Are you cold,” he asked as he approached. He looked at me as if waiting for a response.

“I’m good, sergeant major,” I answered.

He was wearing several layers of snivel, (cold weather clothing) topped off with gloves and a Gore-Tex jacket to keep him warm and dry.

He stopped directly in front of me, looked me in the eye and said, “You have plenty of fat to keep you warm,” as he tugged the zipper of his Gore-Tex up a little closer to his chin.

Once he was done insulting me, we were lectured about standards, safety, discipline, and a whole bunch of other shit that had absolutely nothing to do with the driver of an armored vehicle misjudging his turn radius.

Our soldiers were still taking turns with a couple shovels, working on the ruts. CSM Ordonio told SFC AB that when all the water was gone from the ditch, he didn’t want to see any tire tracks. So, the guys were trying to smooth the mud under the water, and make the sides of the ditch nice and even. It reminded me of the time I spent at Ft. Benning, as a private, raking lines into the dirt outside of our barracks. They ran north and south one day, and the following day they had to go east and west. Earning that paycheck, I suppose.

My takeaway from this speech was that the 1SG and CSM were pissed that “Willy P”, 4 Vic’s gunner, was photographed posing in front of the stuck vehicle, and he was smiling. Somehow, that photo was emailed to our battalion commander, and he felt that it was inappropriate. We learned later that our first sergeant had also posed in front of the vehicle, and flipped a “shaka” for the camera. Wonder if that photo also made it to the LTC Boccardi?

There are so many soldiers, even leaders, in the army who are experts in the art of being dumb asses. We put so much emphasis on the things that don’t matter, and then we don’t focus on the things that do. Reason number 7,249 that I am looking forward to leaving the military.

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s mission. We’re supposed to do a tactical call out at a suspected Al Qaeda in Iraq (IQA) training compound, and our platoon will be the main effort. From the way higher is talking, it sounds like they are expecting some action.

Basically we are going to surround the place and use a loud speaker to demand that the occupants come out peacefully. LT Schardt and SFC AB were talking about the possibility of suicide vests, trap doors, and even tunnels under the houses. In addition, there have been instances when entire buildings have been rigged to blow up when coalition forces enter, and there is some concern about that being a possibility.

Battalion is still trying to decide if we are going to take Blackhawk helicopters to the objective, or if we will take up-armor HMMWVs (hum-vees). As of right now, we are being told that if the people inside refuse to come out of the main building, we will just destroy it.

I spent most of the evening preparing demolitions. I set up a few breach charges, which are pretty basic bombs made of detonating cord (det. cord). I also threw together a couple of charges with C4 plastic explosive. Engineers would probably throw a fit if they saw me making bombs on my bed, and they’d probably throw a fit about how I’m making them, but from the way SFC AB is talking, I might have an opportunity to blow the door in, then send in a larger charge with a robot to see if we can’t scare people out. Preparing Explosives #3Preparing Explosives #2Preparing Explosives #4

I’m feeling a little concerned because I am kind of rusty when it comes to working with explosives. At Ft. Drum, we never really trained with time fuse, but the shocktubes I have here aren’t really long enough to safely detonate a charge inside of a house that may have additional explosives. I hope that I don’t show my ass in front of the entire company by sending in a charge that doesn’t work. I can just imagine pulling those rings and having nothing happen. EOD would takes hours to arrive, and then what? They go into the building, that we are trying to stay out of, and they have to go in with a bomb that has been set off but failed to function? I don’t want to be responsible for that fiasco.

On the flip side, I hope that I don’t blow myself up. That’s always a concern. I’m actually not too worried about that happening. Fortunately, I know enough to handle this stuff safely, I think. Getting it to blow up when and where I want is what I’m mostly worried about. I’m considering adding a different secondary ignition system to the big C4 charge. Maybe if the time fuse doesn’t work, I can have a back up.

We’ll see, I guess. I’m just going to be stoked if I get to blow the hell out of that place tomorrow.

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