19 March 2008 (ABAIJI, IRAQ)

It was cold this morning. I sat wrapped up in my woobie (poncho liner), while on radio watch from 0100 until 0230.

Bushmaster JSS called about 0200. Whoever was on the radio explained that TF (Task Force) Raptor, a Special Forces team, was planning to hit an objective soon, and we needed to be prepared to act as QRF.

“If needed, you will be taken by air to the objective,” they said.

Dragon 3 quickly countered that and said we would be driving, and that the air assets were to be used for extracting the Special Forces team. He went on to tell us that we would likely need to do consequence management later in the day.

I informed LT Schardt and went back to my spot in the dirt.

Leo took over at 0230, and I slid into my sleeping bag. It wasn’t long before LT Schardt was up and on the radio. I could hear him and Leo talking about plans, and communicating over the radio with the company and battalion.

I was kind of in and out, dozing off, but I could hear them asking questions, which I occasionally answered from my sleeping bag.

Next thing I knew, LT Schardt came over to where I was sleeping. “I need you to get your squad ready to roll,” he said.

TF Raptor was expecting to have at least one detainee, and we needed to be ready to go pick him up. Our job would be to drive the detainee to the extraction point and hold him there until the team finished its assault and arrived at the HLZ (Helicopter Landing Zone). There, they would retake control of the prisoner and be extracted by helicopter.

We got ready to roll and mounted up in a couple of HMMWVs to wait for the call. At 0450, LT Schardt came by and told us to stand down. The SF team had already hit, cleared, and exfil’d. They were already on-board aircraft headed for base.

“They hit the jackpot,” he said.

We all sat wondering who they might have snatched up.

At 0800, we walked to the Nehia Building with LT Schardt, Dr. Matsuda and his entourage, and 3rd squad. Dr. Matsuda was there, in part, to discuss tribal conflicts in the area, so he was meeting with a number of tribal leaders. As soon as we walked through the gate, Sheikh Walid Alysh went to LT Schardt.

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“Hello, Lieutenant. I must tell you about a rocket that has been planted near my home,” he said.

LT Schardt stepped aside to ask what he was talking about. A few minutes later, LT Schardt came and told me to take George along with my squad, and a couple of trucks down Route Cobras to his house. It was supposed to be about 3 clicks south, and the Sheikh volunteered one of his guys to go along with us to point it out.

“EOD will be up here around noon today, anyway, so just go down there and get a grid location and some photos. Once you have that, come back up here, and we can take them out to it later,” LT Schardt directed.

“Roger that,” I said.

We walked back to our patrol base to grab a couple of HMMWVs and got loaded up, and on our way back past the Nehia Building, we stopped to pick up our informant.

The trip seemed much further than 3 kilometers. It felt like we drove south down Route Cobras forever. I’m not entirely sure how far we went, but it was far enough that we felt like we were kind of hanging in the wind. We were eight men in two HMMWVs, with no working Duke systems. We had no FBCB2, and by the time we stopped we had no comm’s, because we were out of radio range.

Jimmy chuckled and asked, “You guys ever see any bad war movies; you know, the ones where they make all the tactical mistakes?”

We laughed and started rattling off titles of old war movies.

Our informant finally told George that we had arrived. “He says, the missile is just down that road toward the Sheikh’s house. There are SOIs there now,” George said pointing toward a dirt road that went toward the Tigris River through a palm grove.

We parked our trucks to block traffic on Route Cobras and left a driver and gunner in each vehicle. The other four of us followed a small group of AK wielding SOIs into the palms. One of the SOIs was wearing woodland camouflage pants, a tight green t-shirt stretched around his chest and biceps, mirrored sunglasses, and a red beret with wings pinned onto it.

I assumed they were some sort of Iraqi paratrooper wings or something. I was walking behind the man when I looked at Jimmy and nodded toward him. “This fucking guy looks like Soldier of Fortune,” I said.

The Iraqi man turned to me and smiled. “Thank you,” he said.

They led us through a chain-link gate and point out the UXO (Un-exploded Ordnance). We were expecting a small rocket or missile of some sort, similar to the one we found in the cache awhile back. Instead, we found a very large bomb; the kind of bomb that would have been dropped from a plane. It was clear that it had been lying around for quite some time. It was covered in rust and dried mud.

We snapped some photos, figured out a grid coordinate, and told them that we would get EOD there a little later in the day.

Very Large Bomb, South of Abayachi

This is the photo that I turned in from the bomb. The photos below are the ones I didn’t turn in.

SGT Bridges with the bomb south of Abayachi

Jimmy and the bomb.

SSG T. with the bomb south of Abayachi

Me and the bomb.

The drive back to the Nehia

Kabob, Iraqi style

Kebab and bread.

building was uneventful. We actually considered stopping for some food on our way back, but I decided against it. Once we had met up with the platoon, I allowed some guys to go and get bread from a local shop. George sent one of the sheikh’s guys to go and pick up some kebabs too. They were made of lamb with fresh tomatoes that had been roasted on skewers and a few piles of flat bread.
It was delicious! I washed it down with a cup of chai.

While we waited for Dr. Matsuda to wrap up his meeting, LT Schardt asked me to talk to an engineer about the city’s water system. The man told me that he had written a report, and that he would just take it to Tarmiyah. Later, when LT Schardt was free, he explained the whole situation to him.

LT Schardt told me later that he didn’t want to talk to me because I’m an enlisted man. I considered having George tell him that I am also educated, older, and that I have 6 more years of military experience than the officer that he wanted to talk to. I just let it go though.

I was still annoyed when we got a call on the radio telling us to return to the UXO down south. “Maggot 7 says to put some stank on it. EOD is almost there, over,” the soldier on the radio said.

I grabbed the squad, and we jumped into our HMMWVs and took off. We tore ass through town like we were rushing to a fire. The locals were definitely wondering what in the hell was going on.

When we arrived, EOD was on site. They were checking out the situation, and they were also a little surprised at the size of the bomb. They didn’t really need us, so we just sat in our HMMWVs waiting for them to resolve the issue. I sat and watched a little scorpion scurry around the road.

LT Calway, the engineer officer with the EOD team suggested that I have the platoon meet us there. Because we were too far away to reach them by radio, we drove halfway back to the patrol base, so I could call and tell them to head south and link up with us.

Once we made contact, we headed back south to the EOD team. One of our trucks was overheating by that point, and it kept stalling. By the time we got back to the EOD team, the platoon wasn’t far behind us. They showed up a few minutes after us, and we headed toward Taji on Route Cobras with a route clearance team leading the way. We also had an air weapons team overhead. The pilot was awesome. He told us he’d stay on station until his fuel light came on. He finally told the PL that he’d be able to cover more of our movement if we’d pick up the pace a little. He was a friendly guy though.

After being out for a couple of days, and with the slow movement behind route clearance, I could barely keep my eyes open along the way. Getting back to Taji was a relief. We unloaded the HMMWVs and went to grab some dinner. Afterward, we had to rush back for more weapons training. PFC Jenkins from headquarters platoon had a negligent discharge while we were out, after the company commander had checked his weapon. I just don’t understand why people are having some many accidents over here. It’s not hard. Drop the mag, pull the charging handle, watch the round come out. It’s clear.

Lloyd was back when we got back in. It’ll be nice to have our 3rd squad leader back.

Leo and I sat outside with AB, bitching about the upcoming squad leader changes. I felt better after voicing some of my opinions, even though I know it won’t change anything.






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