9-13 March 2008 (JSS ROWAD)

We were originally told on the 9th that we would be moving out to the site of our new JSS on the 11th. The following day, on the 10th, we did all of our mission prep, so we could stay out for a few days. As we finished getting things ready, Bobby Gene left for R&R. It seems awfully early to be going on leave, but that’s how it works; some guys go early, and others go late.

Everyone pitched in, and we thought we had all of our loading and inspections and everything done by about 1 P.M. I think we were all hoping for some down time for the rest of the day. About 4:45 P.M., we were told to get everyone to chow quickly and to be back at the CHUs by 5:30 P.M.

We were told to head to the company CP at 6:30 P.M., because there were more supplies to load. The XO gave me keys to one of the company’s supply containers. “Take whatever you want, just make a list,” he said.

I found tons of shit that I wanted to take, but I couldn’t really justify it. Plus, 1SG Angulo came in, so I didn’t want to chance taking too much. I loaded up on chem lights, 550 cord, some extra first aid stuff, and a few other odds and ends. If 1SG wouldn’t have been in there, I would have raped that place.

We were finally done loading pallets and strapping everything down around 8 P.M. The XO, LT Green, came out and told us that we needed to follow him down the street to another unit’s headquarters.

What the fuck, now? I thought.

Apparently we needed to borrow a large tent from a unit with the 82nd Airborne Division. I drove our company’s pick-up truck over to their headquarters. It was kind of nice. I turned the radio on, and AFN was playing country music. I’m don’t typically listen to country music, but I’m not opposed to it. SGT Condon and I drove with the windows down and the radio turned up kinda loud.

We are both from Illinois, and he commented, “we could be in this truck on any street in Illinois right now.”

I agreed. For a brief moment, it felt like we could have been back at home.

We parked in front of a large tan tent next to a building with a huge 82nd patch painted on plywood standing in front of it. We started pulling up tent stakes, and with the help of some of their soldiers, we disassembled the tent and packed it up. They were 100% POGs. They might have been paratroopers, but they would have fit in well with the 2-25 people we took out to 14th Ramadan before.

One female lieutenant was really starting to piss me off out there. She kept talking to us like we were stupid and making comments about what we were doing and how we were doing it. She must have thought we were just dumb grunts, and that we couldn’t possibly know anything about taking down or putting up tents. Even LT Schardt noticed that I was not a big fan of her. It was just after 10 P.M. when the tent was down and loaded with our pallets.

Once we were dismissed from our detail, I went to the phones and computers. The lines were outrageous, and I knew that I’d never get any sleep if I waited for a turn. I was upset as I walked back to my CHU. I wanted to call home, and I was pissed that we waited until the last possible minute to load all of our supplies. It wasn’t like we had decided at the last minute that we were going to go and build a JSS. There was not reason to have soldiers out loading equipment and supplies at 10 P.M. the night before going out for multiple days. Once I got back to the CHUs, I took a shower and went to bed.

4 A.M. weapons checks on the 11th came early. I got up, checked my guys’ weapons, and then went to the phones again. The automated system kept telling me that my PIN was wrong, and I couldn’t reach a customer service representative. I gave up on the phones after several tries and went to the computers instead. The internet wasn’t cooperating, so I couldn’t get my email to open. I managed to get a few messages out through Facebook, but that was it. By that point, I was really aggravated. Curtis saw that I was online and sent a message. I told him that I couldn’t get in touch with Theresa, and that I wasn’t going to be able to for several more days. He said he was texting back and forth with her right then, and then I was even more pissed off.

Must be nice. I thought. Our shit here doesn’t fucking work, but at least you can get ahold of her.

I was still wearing PTs, so I walked back to the CHUs to shave and change into ACUs, so that I could walk up to the payphones near the PX.

I grabbed my shaving kit and a towel and walked to the latrines. Stepping up to one of the sinks, I pulled out all of my shaving stuff and wet my washcloth. Most guys were still in bed, so the water was hot at least. I pushed the button on my Edge shave gel can, and it spit out about 1/4 inch of blue gel. The can wasn’t empty, but there was no propellant.

“FUCK!” I screamed as I threw the can against the wall at the end of the row of sinks.

I was surprised when I heard a stall door open. I wasn’t aware that anyone else was there. I glanced up in the mirror and saw a reflection SGT Willis sitting on a toilet looking at me. I walked over to pick up my can, and he shut the door.

I think he saw me and decided it was best not to engage.

After shaving with water, I walked to the payphones and managed to get get in touch with Theresa. She was working, but we were able to talk for a few minutes. She was feeling down about being away from Jacob so much because of her new job. I wish there was something I could do to help, or at least to ease her mind. I definitely know how she’s feeling though.

12 months to go.

We moved out to checkpoint Delta 18 around 10 A.M. and cleared the area to the north and east. Our supply drop was scheduled to arrive at 2 P.M, but it was later changed to 3:30 P.M.

Day 1 was rough. We worked, strained, and worked some more. I haven’t been that tired for a long time.

Our JSS is located northeast of the intersection of MSR Tampa and Route Asp.Route Asp.JPG

Today is March 13th. It is day 3 of our planned 5 days out here. Each day it gets a little easier. At this point, we have most of our set up taken care of. Improving our security perimeter is now our main focus. We came out with the Maggot platoon, 1SG, a headquarters section, forward observers (fisters or F.O.s) a medical evacuation vehicle (MEV), a mortar team, and 15 Iraqi Army soldiers.

Setting in at Bushmaster JSSIA Truck with StrykerDSCN0178

 

This area has definitely been occupied at some point in the past. As we walked around digging fighting positions, we kept finding boots, pistol belts, helmets, and even pro-mask (gas mask) parts. It looks like the remnants of some old fighting positions too.

AB said that they found similar places the last time he was here in 2004. It’s crazy to think that 5 years ago, Saddam’s army might have been dug in here waiting for the American invasion to push north of Baghdad.

Being here reminds me of the times I found old army equipment in training areas that have been used for a long time. I found a clip from an M1 at Ft. Benning, Georgia once. Almazan found a C-ration can of peanut butter when we were at NTC. Ft. Drum had a lot of old Willy’s Jeeps in different spots out in the woods.

The only difference here, is that this isn’t a military base. This is a barren field in someone else’s country. It is left over from an army that no longer exists and probably from fighting and not training. It woudl be like walking out into a field back in Illinois and finding remnants of an army camp.

 

We got to work pretty quickly after getting out here on the 11th. We set in security and started to dig fighting positions. Digging in full combat gear in this heat is a real bitch. We used sandbags and wood that we had with the Strykers to get started. Our Iraqi Army counterparts were not interested in helping at all. They complained that they didn’t want to get dirty. The complained that they couldn’t help because they were wearing their gear. One guy even told me that he couldn’t help because he had a baby at home. They took turns standing around and watching us work. Occasionally, one of them would help us for 5 or 10 minutes, then stop again.

SPC Dreamer, one of the guys in headquarters platoon, actually came over and helped with one of my squad’s positions. I was kinda surprised. Those headquarters guys aren’t usually too interested in helping the line platoons.

We moved some big pieces of cement around and stacked them around the positions, so that we wouldn’t have to fill so many sandbags. One of them, a big solid concrete cylinder, took four of us to roll it. We called it a Flintstone wheel.One of the IA guys helped with that until he scraped his hand. It wasn’t scraped enough to bleed, but he was done after that. He was pissed about it too. He looked like he was ready to punch SGT Fraleigh. I kinda wish he would have. Fraleigh would have crushed him.

Our supplies finally arrived around 5:45 P.M.

We started putting up concertina wire around the whole area, and my squad had double-strand up around our side before 1st squad even got their first strand out. We ended up doing two sides of the perimeter while the other squads each did their own sections.

The guys who pulled guard in the Strykers, PL, PSG, squad leaders, vehicle crews, and 1 soldier per truck stopped working around 9:30 P.M. Everyone else helped set-up the tent. They finished after midnight. The guys on the ground had a 1 hour and 20 minute guard shift during the night. Those of us in the trucks did 2 hours on 2 hours off all night long. We were exhausted after working all day, then rotating guard shifts all night.

Each time we sat down on the 12th, our heads were nodding. In the morning, the IA soldiers refused to get up. Their “sergeant” was telling them to get up, and telling us that they were just too tired. Most of them slept while on guard anyway.

I drew my pistol and charged it. “Get the fuck up!” I shouted.

That got a reaction from a few of them.

As they got up they started saying that they wanted food, so we offered MREs. They declined and said that they didn’t like MREs. We have some other food out here, but it is for us. That, of course, it what they wanted. We have some Gatorade, cereal, shelf-stable milk boxes, and some other snacks. They didn’t bring any supplies or equipment themselves: no shovels, sandbags, wood, hammers, food, water, nothing. They only want our comfort stuff. They don’t want water or MREs. They want soda and snack stuff. The Iraqi soldiers, at this point, have been more trouble than help out here.

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The positions that we built for them are still not correctly constructed fighting positions. We did the digging and filling the sandbags. They were supposed to finish them up.

 

These so-called soldiers shit on the ground right by their positions, slept on guard, stole some of our supplies, constantly complain about working, throw garbage everywhere, have no concern for security, and they have absolutely no fucking discipline.

Their lieutenant told us that he can’t be everywhere at once, so it isn’t his fault. The Iraqi NCO says that they won’t listen to him, so it’s not his fault.

It’s amazing; it must be no one’s fucking fault.

They have set off MRE bombs out here. They took sandbags off of their overheard cover and filled in the firing ports in the fighting positions. It’s pretty fucking unreal to see just how bad they are.

We spent much of our 2nd day out here working on the concertina wire. We had some more wire brought up from Taji, because we had a couple of places around the perimeter that only had one strand. By the end of the 2nd day, we had double-strand c-wire all the way around the place. Triple strand is better, harder to get through, and quite frankly, it is easier to set up.

I hate working with wire. It’s just some nasty shit. When I took my gloves off last night, the palms of my hands were polka-dotted with dried blood. Between the wire, and the 6-foot date palm that we cut down with a machete, my hands were like Swiss cheese. The blades on the wire, and the leaves on these trees will go right through the leather palms on my gloves.

We were completely sweat-soaked by that evening, hell, even after just a few minutes of working. I never got dry overnight, and we started sweating again first thing in the morning. At least today has been a little cooler, and most of the hard labor is done. My clothes are mostly dry finally. My crotch is completely raw from sweating, and being wet for two days while moving around so much. Two more nights here, so we’ll see how that goes.

4th platoon has brought breakfast out to us from the chow hall both mornings we’ve been out here. It’s cold when we get it, but it sure beats MREs. The difference between us and the IA soldiers, is that we don’t expect real food, and we would eat MREs if that’s what we had available. SGT Taaga cooked some rice in the back of the Stryker at lunch today. I had rice with tuna and a hot Diet Coke. Can’t beat that for field food. It’s amazing, what can seem like a luxury, when you’re away from the comforts of home. Warm soda is the norm. Cold soda is a treat. Warm water is normal. Cold water is amazing. Cold food, wet smelly clothes, dirty hands, baby wipe baths, that’s all normal. Hot meals, clean clothes, showers, and flushing toilets…all luxuries.

We have the plywood outhouses out here. Inside, there are plastic toilet seats screwed down to a plywood box. Under the plywood box is half of a 55-gallon steel drum. You shit through the hole into the drum. Each morning, someone has the pleasure of pulling the drums out, filling them with fuel, and lighting it. Then, the lucky soldier has to stir it while it burns. It’s a shitty job, but someone has to do it.

We really don’t mind using the outhouses. There is more room than a porta-potty. I was pissed when I went in to use one this morning. The IA soldiers have been using them, and they go in and stand on the seat and squat. It’s been raining off and on, so the whole damn seat was covered in mud, rocks, and shit. I left that one and went into the second one. It was…I’m not sure if clean is an appropriate adjective, but it wasn’t muddy. Problem is, that one has no roof. I sat down to do my business, and it started raining. That seems about right.

1SG Angulo has actually been decent out here. He saw Oineza walking around with all of his ACU gear, but with green M203 grenade pouches, and he asked why I didn’t steal ACU pouches from supply when I was in there. I told him that I had considered it, but wasn’t sure how accurate their inventory was. He said, “I left you alone in there so you could rape the place.”

I wish I would have known!

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