6 February 2008 (RAID)

NOTE: This journal entry tells the story of a raid that took place on February 6th, 2008. It gives the basic details about my experiences and thoughts on that night. This entry is the foundation for “A February Raid in the War on Terror,” which was published in Proud to Be: Writing By American Warriors, Volume 3. The revised version that appears in the book was edited, causing some details to be embellished or altered, while others were completely omitted. The entire platoon’s performance during the preparation and execution of this operation was fantastic. Because this raid is documented elsewhere in the blog and in print, I am not spending a great deal of time focusing on the prose here. There are some details and images in this entry that are not included in the original post, so I didn’t want to completely skip it. If you’d like to see the published version, please check it out here.

About an hour after we went to bed, LT Schardt knocked on our door. Leo was completely naked when he got up and opened the door. LT Schardt kinda freaked out, and I started laughing hysterically. That reminds me, a few mornings ago when I was checking sensitive items, Bobby Gene answered his door in nothing but a hoodie. Apparently, he didn’t realize his state of undress.

“Nice ass,” I said jokingly.

Bobby Gene looked and quickly covering himself said, “Oh! What the fuck?”

Leo and I met the other squad leaders in the PL and AB’s room, and they briefed the OPORD (Operation Order).

After we got our plan figured out, we went back to our room to get a couple hours of rest before we had to start mission prep. The plan alone had my adrenaline pumping, so I had a hard time falling asleep.

MISSION: 1st platoon, B Co., 1-14 Infantry executes raid on target house, vicinity grid…in order to kill or capture Saddam Abd Salih and Abd Salih. (NOTE: There was more to the names, but I no longer have that information.)

The raid was to be a hard and fast hit on 2 buildings, and possibly a 3rd. The target was located a hundred or so meters to the west of an Iraqi Army checkpoint on MSR Tampa. 1st squad would be responsible for local support, while my squad would take the objective, and Leo’s squad would act as a reserve and take the 3rd building on the north side of my target if needed.

2nd platoon would conduct a similar operation directly to the east of our target on the opposite side of MSR Tampa. The plan was to hit our targets simultaneously.

I think I finally fell asleep a little after 1 A.M. We were up at 3:30 A.M., and after waiting on all of the other elements, our Company Headquarters section and 2nd platoon, we rolled out of Camp Taji around 4:30 A.M.

Our line of vehicles moved up MSR Tampa until we reached our planned ORP (Objective Rally Point). There, we dismounted and moved west into a field off of the highway and regrouped. Something went wrong with Leo’s radio, and no one could reach him. We looked around and couldn’t find him either. Somehow, he ended up on the east side of MSR Tampa with 2nd platoon. Eventually, he got his radio to work, and he managed to make his way back to us.

By the time Leo caught up with us, we were creeping through palm groves getting closer and closer to our target house. It was like a scene from a war movie, dark, and completely silent. Aside from missing a squad, it all seemed perfect. Then we heard Leo yelling on the radio trying to find us. I could hear him through my radio, but also through the darkness from the area toward the highway.

As we approached the house, we saw that there were lights on inside and out. My squad continued to move in a wedge, leaving the palm grove and moving out into the open area.  We tightened up as we crossed into the yard and approached the door.

SGT Fraleigh moved up to the metal door and kicked it. Nothing happened. He kicked it again, and again. Still nothing happened. He took a step back and put his shoulder into the door. It still didn’t budge. The door started to bend as he hit it, but it wasn’t moving. One more hit with his shoulder and his night vision goggles came off of his helmet and were hanging by his paracord tie down.

“SGT T, my NODs are down.”

I said, “So. Their lights are on. Can we deal with that once we’re inside?”

It seemed like we stood there thinking about that for a second. It was about that time that I noticed, through the window at the top of the door, that there was a large wardrobe or something pushed up against the inside of the door. At the same time, the curtain in a large window next to us opened up. A woman inside was gesturing for us to stop kicking the door. She motioned for us to look toward the other side of the house, and a little boy came out of a different door and waved for us to follow him.

We moved into the house and started clearing it. We found two men, three or four women, and three or four kids on the first floor. This was a large house with lots of furniture, silver, and all kinds of other stuff. I left SGT Bridges’ and his team downstairs with the occupants, and I moved upstairs with SGT Fraleigh’s team. I about busted my ass on the top step; it was about six inches taller than all the others. It was not the first time that I’ve nearly fallen on steps here because they aren’t all the same height or width.

Once upstairs we saw five doors. The closest door was open and led into an empty room. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe bypassed that room and went straight for the nearest closed door. Frolo kicked it just as our interpreter told him to wait. As the wooden door and frame splintered and the door flew open we saw a man roll out of the bed toward us. A woman rolled out of the other side of the bed taking the blankets with her. We told her to get dressed, and once she was covered, she hurried down stairs. Lover boy stood there, not knowing whether to put up his hands or pull up his pants. It was Saddam Abd Salih.

We finished clearing the top of the house and moved everyone downstairs. We discovered that Abd Salih was one of the men we had already grabbed when we first entered.

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The other man in the house was a CLC who worked on a nearby checkpoint. LT Schardt recognized him, and he showed us that he had two AK-47s, eight magazines, and two bandoleers.

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We separated the men and moved the weapons into a different room. I cleared the weapons, and then started our sensitive site exploitation.

We started the SSE in the room where we had found Saddam and his wife. In one of the nightstand drawers I found about a dozen rounds for a handgun.

That was all that we found.  We really didn’t think that we had anything. Both of the men we were looking for were very cooperative, and this is the same house Charlie Company had hit when we sat outside freezing before. The family even remembered the interpreter that we had with us.  They were familiar with the search procedures,  and made it sound as if American soldiers checked their house fairly regularly. I asked about any other weapons, and told them that I wanted to know where the handgun was. They swore that there was no handgun.

I started getting irritated because 1SG Angulo and CPT Veath were in the house poking around. This was my objective; they didn’t need to be in there digging through shit.

SGT Bridges was in a room upstairs that was filled with junk. He pulled out three green tubes that were probably eight inches in diameter and three feet long. There was white lettering on the side that said, Warhead, HE SS 30 M3A. They were from Brazil. This made us a little more curious about this place.

We started digging deeper and finding little things, but nothing substantial. There were several rice bags filled with wool in the room with the rest of the junk. We pulled them out and found a backpack at the bottom of the pile. In the backpack, we found stripper clips, a cleaning kit, magazines, several empty bandoleers, pistol belts and a rifle scope. Once we found all of that, I decided that we were flipping the whole house.

We moved back to the first upstairs room and started over. I told PVT Stuard that I wanted him to check everything again.

“Pull the drawers out of the furniture. Flip them upside down, and then turn the furniture over. Look for anything taped on the backs or bottoms. Got it?”

“Roger, Sar’nt,” he said.

A couple minutes later he pulled the drawer out of a nightstand and found a green military style duffel bag stuffed into its base. It was full of AK-47 magazines and ammo.

Next I moved back into the junk room. I pulled out my knife and started slicing open the bags of wool and dumping their contents. My men started taking everything out onto the roof and going through it. Once all of the bags of wool were out of the room I started poking around a rolled up piece of orange canvas. It looked like an old tent that had been rolled up.

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I looked at SGT Bridges and said, “Let’s unroll this and check it out.”

I tried to lift it up, but it was awfully heavy for being a roll of canvas. I started unrolling it right there and found another one of the green “warhead” tubes. When I reached for the end of it, it was sealed. I thought that we had actually found a rocket or something, but when we carried it outside, we found that it was filled with 7.9mm rifle ammunition. Once that tube was out, I went back and continued to dig through the rolled up fabric. I found several smaller pieces of rolled up fabric. I reached down for the first roll and knew exactly what it was as soon as I touched it.

As SGT Bridges came back into the room, I said, “Check this shit out”, and held up a bolt action rifle.

When we finished that room we had three bolt action rifles, another AK-47, and a sniper rifle with a rail that matched up with the scope we had founder earlier.

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LT Schardt was ecstatic. 1SG Angulo and CPT Veath were just as excited. LT Schardt said, “See, everyone bitches about 2nd squad always being in the lead, but they deliver.”

We finished searching the house, but didn’t find much else. I went downstairs to ask our new friends if they were sure that there were no other weapons in their home, and they assured me that the only weapons that they had were the two AK-47s they had already shown us.

We put flex-cuffs on the men and then escorted them upstairs to the roof. There we had nearly 2000 rounds of 7.9 and 7.62mm ammunition, over 30 AK-47 magazines and the five rifles. They were pretty upset when they saw how trashed their house was.

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Busted. Not only were they upset with the condition of their home, but I could tell that they were about to panic when they walked out and saw the weapons after they had just told me that they had none.

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This is what I meant by flipping the house.

We bagged everything up and prepared to leave the house. When we took the two men outside the women and children got really upset. It made me think of how Theresa would react if that were me being dragged out of our home. I didn’t like that feeling, but I shook it off. I was the one doing the dragging, and my mission had been a success.

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Me with the weapons I found. SUCCESS!

I was a little irritated with CPT Veath. A boy in that house was looking at us like he hated us. I can’t really blame him for that. The evil Americans came and took his father.  Hell, we probably created a new insurgent that day. CPT Veath handed the kid a soccer ball.

I thought, we are taking this kids father and you give him a soccer ball in return?

The look on the kids face said the same thing I was thinking.

It was about 11am when we left the area and headed for Camp Taji. We got held up for a few minutes at a nearby CLC checkpoint when 3-vic got caught up in some concertina wire.  They pulled the wire out of the axles, and we continued back to camp.

In my truck on the way back we were feeling victorious. We had captured two bad guys and had the evidence to prove it. We joked about how we always accidentally looked good, and we wondered how many times we could accidentally look good before we could start chalking it up to skill.

Once we reached Taji we had to go to the ALOC with our prisoners and evidence. The medics had to complete an examination of the prisoners before they could be taken to the detainee holding area (D-HA). While they were doing that, we spread out all of our evidence and started filling out reports and inventory sheets. It was a little after noon by the time all of this was happening.

While we were doing our paperwork, SGT “Doc” Wilhelm came and told us that we needed to get our food off of the box it was on. This was one of those four foot square stackable containers, like storage places use. SFC AB blew him off.

A few minutes later, CPT Djuric the battalion surgeon, came out and yelled at us. He said, “Get your fucking food off of my medical supplies! Is that clear enough now?”

We had Styrofoam boxes with food sitting on top of the plastic lid of this container. A little later he complained about a Gatorade bottle that was on top of the container next to me.  He went on about how we were going to have rats in the supplies that he would be using to save our lives later…

I told him it wasn’t my bottle, and then I picked it up and dropped it on the floor next to me. I grabbed my shit and walked away.

He followed me, and told me that I could use the surface to write on, but he didn’t want any food or drinks on it.

I told him that I didn’t want anything to do with his box, and that I would find somewhere else.

He got all huffy and said, “That’s fine, sergeant. Go then. Good.”

We were exhausted by this point, and coming down from the adrenaline rush. I was frustrated and in no mood to deal with some officer who never left the wire.

After doing the paperwork for the 3rd time at the ALOC, we were finally ready to take our prisoners to the D-HA.

While we waited on 2nd platoon to complete their reports, two mortar rounds landed near the PX. I went outside to see if I could tell what was happening.  The sirens were going off, and some private came running up to me with his weapon at the ready. He asked if I had a truck, and if I could take him somewhere. I told him that I didn’t have a truck, and that I couldn’t help him.

Then I said, “You’re not going to be able to do much with that M4 without a magazine in it.” He looked terrified.

We got tired of waiting on 2nd platoon and finally got a HMMWV to take our detainees down to the holding area.  Once there, they told us our paperwork was all wrong. SFC Brown had told us that it was all correct, after he had made us do it multiple times already. Apparently he doesn’t know what he’s talking about

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