18 March 2008 (ON PATROL)

We checked our weapons and other sensitive items by 0400 and went back to bed to doze off for a little longer. Everyone was supposed to be at the HMMWVs by 0630. Most of us were there by about 0615.

SFC AB came around and told us that our plan had changed a bit, and we would be going to our new JSS for a night, before moving on to Abaiji.

About five minutes later, plans changed again, and we were back to the original.

We rolled out of the gate at 0700 and headed north on MSR Tampa until we reached Route Asp.

PFC Colleran driving HMMWV

SPC Colleran at the wheel.

HMMWV CP 59A, MSR Tampa

MSR Tampa

Our string of vehicles moved off the pavement and onto the dirt road headed east toward Route Cobras and Abaiji.

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Route Asp to Cobra PaintOnce we reached Abaiji, we drove south on Route Cobras to check on the SOI positions.

NOTE: SOI (Sons of Iraq) are the same as CLC (Concerned Local Citizens). At some point during our deployment, their name was changed to make the program more appealing.

Once we had driven through and stopped at all of the checkpoints, we went back north to our patrol base.

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This time, we decided to stay in the original spot that my squad had picked on our previous trip up here.

Once we set in our security, everyone was just kind of hanging out. We were about to have Taaga climb up a palm tree so we could get our long range radio antenna up, but we finally got it without him.

AB kept telling us that he really didn’t feel like doing shit and that nothing was going right. Once we had the antenna up, and had comm’s with the company, he seemed to feel better.

A guy named Dr. Matsuda, a cultural anthropologist, came out with us this time. We, my squad, took him out for a walk through the town to check things out. I took a photo of a pretty little girl with a rose. She stood out to me from the other kids. She just smiled at me. She seemed happy in an unhappy place.

As we walked, we stopped and talked to people. We bought sodas and snacks. I also picked up a couple of soccer balls from a store and gave them to a couple of the kids. I guess I was feeling nice.

In addition to the girl, I came across an SOI who made me think of Snoop Dog. He had some shades, an AK, and ear buds in. It cracked me up. He was standing guard with some other SOIs, one of which was probably 13 or 14 years old, armed, and standing on the street. SOI Checkpoint at Abayachi Bridge

 

While we walked, Jimmy bought a drink from a local shop. It looked like an Icee, but it turned out that it wasn’t frozen. It was just really thick, like a gelatin. It had an interesting taste; sickeningly sweet.

We continued moving through the town, and kids kept coming up and asking me to buy more soccer balls. One man kept asking me for money so he could buy cigarettes. Kids stopped us to play soccer with them in the streets, and some of them started putting stickers on my gear. I have some little Pokemon looking things on my Nalgene water bottle and my smoke grenades now.

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Before we returned to our patrol base, Dr. Matsuda ordered 70 falafels and bought two cases of soda for the platoon. We carried it all back with us and handed it out to the soldiers. These were better than a lot of the others we have had here. I’m not sure what was different, but dinner was good.

After we had eaten, Dr. Matsuda explained some of his findings to us. He talked about the Iraqi culture and some of the problems that the Iraqi people are facing.

Before it was dark, I chose some areas to place trip flares. Because I had never worked with trip flares, I wasn’t exactly sure how to set them up. AB told me to try one out. So, I pulled the pin on one and tossed it on the ground. Hand grenades have a delay, but trip flares do not. As soon as the spoon was released as it left my hand, I heard a pop and felt the heat from the flare. I thought I was going to burn my face off.

After that, I waited until just after dark to set up the trip flares along a trail that passed along the eastern edge of our patrol base. I mounted them low to the ground on tree trunks, and strung wire across the trails, so we would be alerted if anyone was passing by. I was surprised to find that they were all stamped with JUNE 1970. I was setting up flares that were produced during the Vietnam War.

 

Here are more photos from the day.

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