21-22 March 2008 (JSS ROWAD)

PFC Jenkins has earned the nickname “General Jenkins” out here. After his ND the other day, Jimmy saw him and asked if we should now address him as Lieutenant Colonel Jenkins. I thought is was pretty damn funny.

Yesterday was a prep. day for heading to the JSS for a few days again.

We planned to SP at 0915 today, and we were supposed to make a stop at Sheikh “Colonel” Wahlid’s compound because he was having a ribbon-cutting ceremony for his SOI headquarters.

It was a few minutes after 10 A.M. when we arrived at Wahlid’s place. The crews got the trucks positioned in a coil formation, so we had eyes in every direction. 1st Squad dismounted and escorted LT Schardt and CPT Veath up to the ceremony. 3rd Squad also dismounted and stood watch at the gate to the compound. I stayed with my squad in our Stryker.

LT Schardt told me that they were expecting a couple of men from our wanted list to show up at the ceremony. “If they do show up,” he said, “you’ll need to snatch them up quietly.”

Once the ceremony was complete, they served rice, bread, and lamb. Some of the SOIs brought a platter and some sodas out to all of the soldiers who were on guard. We left the compound around 2 P.M. and headed north toward JSS Rowad (Bushmaster JSS). We were supposed to stay at the JSS until Easter Sunday, the 23rd.

Things around the JSS had changed since. We were all surprised to find that we could hardly recognize the original perimeter. The engineer soldiers were out there with heavy construction equipment, and they were really building the place up.

We pulled our vehicles into the JSS and looked around a bit. We weren’t really doing much out there, so we just hung out. After sitting for a couple of hours, we were told that we might be doing an intelligence-driven raid based on information the commander got from the ceremony. An informant was expected to arrive around 7 P.M. to meet with CPT Veath. He would decide, from that conversation, whether or not we would move on the target.

We were also given the task of heading back to Taji to escort a logistical convoy that was scheduled to leave base at 11 A.M. the following day (March 22nd).

While we were sitting around waiting for the elusive word, CPT Veath walked up.

“Hey, sir. How’s it going?” I asked.

“Meh, things could be better,” he said. Then he told me that he was expecting to receive a general letter of reprimand as a result of General Jenkins’ negligent discharge.

“Fuck it,” I said. “Nothing you can do about it now.”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying; fuck it,” he replied.

I have definitely gotten the impression that that’s his overall attitude toward most things right now. It’s sad. Regardless of his situation, there is still a company of men relying on his leadership. He hasn’t always been the most professional company commander I’ve had, but he’s always been there. He’s had other stuff on his mind since this whole incident with Jenkins happened.

2nd platoon created a makeshift grill from some scrap lumber and half of a 55-gallon drum. SPC Meier was cooking for everyone. They had hot dogs, sausages, steaks, ribs, and burgers. I noticed that Meier was using a pocket knife to cook with, so I went to the truck and grabbed my grilling utensils.

While they were grilling, our platoon went and cleared out some tents, and started filling up some sandbags. I guess SSG Gomes was giving Crapenter a hard time. He wanted to know what he was doing out there, besides eating 2nd platoon’s food. Then he told him to go fill some sandbags.

The food didn’t turn out too bad. There were flies everywhere, and there were no plates or forks or anything. We all pulled out our knives and cut up pieces of dusty cardboard to eat off of.

The informant showed up around 7:30 P.M. We weren’t really sure how reliable his information was. Some of the details in his story changed, and he couldn’t seem to answer all the questions we had for him.

CPT Veath gave us the go ahead for the raid, though, so we went. Supposedly, there were three houses with 8 to 10 MAMs (Military-aged-males) inside. They were accused of manufacturing suicide vests, and our informant to us to be prepared for a fight. He also told us that the roads were too narrow for a Stryker to pass, and that the SOIs were corrupt and would inform the insurgents that we were coming anyway.

LT Dudek and SSG Gomes kept giving us tips on how to keep tabs on the informant, and how to avoid walking into a trap. I kept thinking, We’ve fucking done this before. I’m not stupid.

We [Leo, Lloyd, Capelli, AB, and I] sat down with LT Schardt and came up with a plan. We briefed the platoon and rolled out.

Our target was off of a canal road that we called Route Boas. When we arrived at an SOI checkpoint on a bridge, we dismounted and talked with them about how things were going. We wanted them to think that we were just checking in on their checkpoint and other area SOIs.

While we were there talking with them,  Dragon Mike (from Battalion HQ) called on the radio and told us to standby. Then the whole thing got screwed up. We were instructed to conduct a tactical call-out instead of hitting the house hard and fast. Dragon Mike also told us to hold our positions until we had a route clearance team to escort us and an air weapons team on station. At that point, our quick in-and-out raid became an all night operation.

1st squad was supposed to escort LT Schardt on a leaders’ recon, while 3rd squad would take the main house on the objective, while we were hitting one of the smaller houses. My soldiers were a little bummed that 3rd squad was the main assault element. In the original plan, we didn’t even have a target house. Leo had suggested in our planning meeting, that I should get to take one of the objectives since I only have a couple of months left in my squad.

Once we had air weapons overheard and route clearance at our location, we started moving toward the objective on foot. Our ORP (Objective Rally Point) was supposed to be about 800 meters away from the bridge.

Because it was now going to be a tactical call-out instead of an actual raid, SGT Fraleigh was carrying a bullhorn. I told him, before we left the Strykers, to make sure that the volume was turned all the way down so we wouldn’t be compromised during our movement. Needless to say, I was about to lost my shit when he bumped the siren switch as we were sneaking through a dark open field. It took him a second to get it shut off. We figured that everyone knew we were there after that.

Lloyd signaled a halt, and we set into our ORP. LT Schardt called the squad leaders in, and we got ready for the leaders’ recon. LT Schardt decided that he and the squad leaders would take George and the informant with forward to get a look at the objective. The squads would all stay back with SFC AB.

We walked further and further away from the ORP. According to my pace count, we moved nearly a click north of the rest of our platoon. George was complaining that we had walked too far, and he wanted to know why we hadn’t brought our Strykers up. We were practically at the end of the main house’s driveway before we stopped.

“He says, this is the first house,” George told us.

We found that the three target houses were actually three separate walled compounds, each 100 to 150 meters apart.

“He also says, the man in this house is an insurgent. He has made many attacks on the Americans,” George translate, pointing to a fourth house on the opposite side of the road.

I felt like we were kind of hanging in the wind. We were, at least, a kilometer from our platoon and looking at an objective that was suddenly much larger and more spread out than we had originally anticipated, and there were only four of us, plus two unarmed Iraqis. It was a little frightening, but also exciting.

“You know,” I said quietly laughing, “if something goes down, they’ll just see four of us hauling ass up the road as fast as we can go.”

As we continued looking around the area, a group of large dogs started following us. There were six of them, and they kept getting closer and closer to us. They didn’t seem to be too friendly, so Leo and I were starting to think we might have to shoot them.

Once we had an idea of the layout of the place, we returned to the platoon without incident. We all agreed that the objective was too spread out for a platoon to handle, and LT Schardt told the commander the same.

After a bit of a wait, the mission was scrubbed. We took CPT Veath back to the JSS to pick up a few things, and we dropped off our informant. Once that stuff was taken care of, we headed for Taji. We were back inside the wire around 3 A.M.

 

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