31 January 2008 (ON PATROL)

Thankfully, today’s terribly planned mission was cancelled. I guess we won’t have having a gun battle with 4th platoon after all. We started planning for a short patrol in place of the original raid, but that too was cancelled. Again, weather has all of our air assets grounded, so they won’t let anyone roll.

I decided to spend the day cleaning up my living area. I organized my stuff, created some extra space, and put the new sheets on my bed. Living conditions on Camp Taji are a hundred times better than they were on my first two deployments. I would say that they are comparable to what I had in Kandahar on my last tour.

Around 2 P.M., we were told that we would be going out on patrol around 3:30 P.M. Our task was to escort CPT Veath to a meeting with “Colonel” Wahlid Muslit. SGT Heckman, SPC Daggett, and SPC Condon were all told to stay behind because they’ll be going to a promotion board tomorrow.

I feel like our priorities here are a little ass-backwards. Leo was annoyed at having to go out on patrol on the rain. I was kind of joking with him when I told him to quit his bitching. “For the next 13 months, we go where we are told when we are told,” I said. ”
Besides, since when does a little rain stop a war?” I said that, but lately, rain has been stopping the war. Every time our aircraft are grounded, we are told we can’t go out. It seems a little ridiculous to me. On the other hand, those rules would have been nice on some of my previous deployments.

Word came down from brigade headquarters that our brigade commander, Colonel McCaffrey, is pleased with our results from yesterday’s raid. 2nd platoon’s detainee was the #2 HVT in our area of operations, so that’s good.

Air still wasn’t cleared at 3:30 today, but we did end up going out to meet with “Colonel” Wahlid. I sat in for part of the meeting between him and CPT Veath.

Wahlid is a small man, but he has absolute authority over his men. I’m not sure where he managed to pick up the title of Colonel, but he was wearing an old military uniform, so maybe that’s it. Wahlid oversees a large number of the concerned local citizens groups, or CLCs. They fear him. He only has two fingers on his right hand, and wears a glove on his left hand. Supposedly, the glove is there to cover his “bad hand.”  He talked with CPT Veath for a long time, discussing CLC contracts and payment, possible insurgents in the area, caches and all kinds of other things.  Personally, I think that he, like most of these guys, plays both sides.

While we were there, Wahlid asked if we could have our medic take a look at one of his men who had been shot. SFC AB and I sat in a small room with SPC “Doc” Yasko, while he looked him over and treated him. The man had a bullet wound on the inside of his left knee with an exit wound in the back of his knee. A second bullet had struck him just below the waist on his right hip/buttock and exited close to his tail bone.

Doc Yasko got all worked up about how the man needed te medical attention. He wanted to call for a medevac helicopter right then, and get him taken to a military hospital. AB and I both told him to shut the hell up. We didn’t shoot this guy. We weren’t with him when he got shot. We don’t know what he was doing or who shot him. We told Doc and Wahlid that the man needed to go to an Iraqi hospital to be seen by an Iraqi doctor.

PFC Jenkins, CPT Veath’s driver, was just about to snap a photo of the wounded man’s ass, but I stopped him. “You better ask permission before you start taking pictures. Fucking headquarters guys out here, fucking shit up, taking pictures like you’re on Goddamn vacation and shit. You’re gonna piss somebody off, and those of us who patrol out here regularly will have to deal with it.” Jenkins didn’t ask permission; he just left the room. The rest of the meeting went smoothly.

When I got back to 2-vic, SGT Bridges and Bobby Gene were standing in the back hatches joking around with some of the CLCs. Apparently some soldiers who were here before us have taken the time to teach these guys some infantryman terminology. They were back there talking shit to one another, and Bridges and Bobby Gene were fucking with them a little.

Worst Day Fuzzy Dice

Enter a caption

On the ride back to Camp Taji, it seemed that we were in a hell of a hurry. We crossed the median into oncoming traffic a few times, without even slowing down, and at one point, we drove down the median for awhile, as we were passing through the middle of a route clearance team. I wasn’t complaining though, because we reached Camp Taji right around 7 P.M., which meant we were there in time to catch dinner chow.

SGT Taaga was telling us a story today about how he once slapped PVT Ross in the face.

SGT Taaga Watching With The .50 Cal

Fuzzy dice in 2-Vic. If we can’t have any fun at all, I think we might go crazy.

SGT Taaga isn’t the biggest Samoan soldier I have ever encountered, but he still has an intimidating air about him. He never complains about anything, and he always goes the extra mile to be sure that our vehicle is mission ready. T is the kind of soldier that every leader wants. He is dependable, and I know that he will do whatever I ask of him, and do it well. I trust him, and I appreciate all that he brings to my squad. He is a perfect example of a silent professional, and I was impressed with his leadership abilities from the first day I met him. I’ve only seen him get really excited once, and that was when a soldier was disrespecting me. T grabbed him by the collar and forcefully dragged him out of sight and away from me, so that he could adjust that soldier’s attitude.

 

T reminds me a lot of my good friend, Ioasa F. Tavae, who I met at Ft. Drum back in 2001.

Tavae and Taylor APG.JPG

Then SGT Tavae and I at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD. We arrived here only days after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. After spending about 45 days here, we deployed to Afghanistan together. SSG Tavae was killed in action in Mosul, Iraq on April 2nd, 2005 while doing what he did best, leading his men in combat.

Apparently, SGT Taaga was riding in the back of Ross’ car and Mrs. Ross was driving. She and her husband were arguing and Ross drew back like he was going to hit her. Taaga slapped him in the face and said, “Don’t even think about it.” Knowing SGT Taaga, I can hear him calmly, but in a very menacing voice, saying that to Ross.

 

That has to be one of the funniest damn stories I’ve heard in a long time. I wish I would have known about it sooner. It’s just one more reason that I’m glad Ross isn’t here with us. That kid was nothing but trouble from the get go.

Tomorrow’s patrol will take us through Sheikh Jamal Village. Heckman, Daggett, and Condon will be at the promotion board and SFC AB will be sponsoring them, so I’ll be acting is “Maggot 7” for the day. I’m a little nervous to be playing platoon sergeant during a dismounted patrol through an area that we aren’t terribly familiar with, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.

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