31 March 2008 (SADR CITY, IRAQ)

In the morning, we looked around our patrol base (building) and figured out that it was actually the Ministry of Education. There were offices, interior courtyards, storage area, and conference rooms.

For the time being, we were attached to the 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, commanded by LTC Dan Barnett. He and his CSM, CSM Boom, showed up to check on us and tell us a little about what was going on in the city.

Move of us, by this point, hadn’t shaved for a few days, and they didn’t care at all. They mostly wanted to talk about the plans for Sadr City, and how we fit into them. I really appreciated that LTC Barnett told us exactly what his end state was. We knew exactly what we were supposed to be accomplishing, and what our part would be.

While they were there, they also asked for write-ups on any heroic actions that had taken place in our first couple days of fighting. I mentioned Crapenter crashing through the wall, and they seemed impressed. He may end up with an Army Commendation Medal with a V for valor or something.

CSM Boom seemed like an awesome sergeant major. He reminded me of Sam Elliott’s portrayal of CSM Plumley, in the film We Were Soldiers. He walked around the area we had slept in. “Hell,” he said, “you boys hit the jackpot. You got electricity, air conditioning, refrigerators, couches, even TV. I think this place might be better than some of the JSSs around here.”

SGT Bridges sleeping at MOE

He was right. I watched Mel Gibson in The Patriot on the television the night before when I was going to sleep.

LTC Barnett looked at a door between the office I slept in and the one that Jimmy’s team had occupied. It had three padlocks on it, and we hadn’t tried to open it.

“Can’t get that one open, huh? What do you suppose is in there?” he asked.

“Sir, I have enough demo in my truck to open any door in this city. It’s locked on our side, so we weren’t too worried about anyone being in there. If you ask me, though, I think it’s an arms room,” I answered.

“An arms room? In the ministry of education building? Why would they have an arms room?” he replied. “Go ahead an open it up, sar’nt.”

We cut the locks off of the door and pulled it open. Inside there were 21 rifles, several hundred rounds of ammunition, dozens of empty magazines, and weapons cleaning kits.

There’s your fuckin’ jackpot, sergeant major, I thought.

As the command group pulled out onto Route Florida, LTC Barnett’s vehicle hit an IED and had to be towed. They had gotten maybe 50 meters down the road when it happened. Soon after, we were told that an M1 Abrams tank had also taken an IED a few blocks away and was waiting for a heavy recovery vehicle.

Later in the morning, 2nd squad went on a dismounted patrol. We moved down Route Florida to Route Bravo, and just as we were about to turn left onto Route Bravo to move further into the city, we got a call to wait. EOD was about a block up, and they were about to detonate an IED. As we waited, they found an unexploded RPG and secondary IED, so they had to take care of those as well.

While the bomb techs were up the street working, I saw a wire running into a gravel-filled pothole. I pointed it out to one of the EOD guys in a vehicle, and he drove up next to it, looked down, then backed up and drove over it. When nothing happened, he gave me a thumbs up and drove away.

I keyed the mic on my radio and said, “Two words. Fuck that.”

After waiting a little longer, they blew the IEDs and the RPG. Their controlled detonation started a fire in front of a small shop.

Once EOD left the area, we continued on our short foot patrol. We kept seeing people walking through the streets with white flags or with their hands raised above their heads, and we continue to see wounded Iraqis moving away from the fighting. They were unarmed, so we didn’t do anything with them.

The patrol was pretty uneventful. We walked through a few blocks, and worked our way back to our patrol base.

Just as we returned, LT Schardt told me that we were going to go out on a raid. An adjacent unit was taking small arms fire, and while they hadn’t pinpointed the shooter yet, they had it narrowed down to two houses.

We were getting ready to head out for that; checking imagery, getting equipment ready, and briefing the guys on the plan, when we got another call about an HVT in our area. They gave us the grid coordinates to a house in our sector and told us that intelligence suggests that this HVT was having a meeting with some junior leaders in the area.

We looked through our imagery and maps and found that the HVT’s meeting house was next door to the house we were heading to anyway, so we adjusted our plan a bit. I grabbed some extra smoke rounds and made sure that my grenadiers had some 40mm smoke too. Once the plans were finalized, we were just going to start with the closest house, the HVT house, and move right down the block one after another, we moved out. It was my squad, plus my extras from Lloyd’s squad, and the headquarters element from the platoon: LT Schardt, AB, Nikjoo the RTO, the medic, and the machine guns.

We headed out, walking through the streets toward our objective. We had gone a few blocks when 1SG and SFC Grimes came running up behind us. Just as they caught up, we moved down an alley that had a big gathering of people in it. I’m 99% positive that it was a wake for one of the fighters in the insurgent militia. They didn’t seem to appreciate us crashing their party.

We zig-zagged through a few more blocks and finally approached our target house. I halted everyone, and told them that the target was around the corner and three doors down. Oineza fired a smoke round down the street, but it bounces and went over a wall at the end of the block. I threw out two yellow smoke rounds, waited for them to billow, and we hauled ass into the first house without even pausing at the door.

The first house went fast. We were in and secured in a matter of seconds. There were just a few men in the house, and they were all on their knees and separated almost immediately. 1SG came in just as I was coming downstairs. He immediately started pointing to different parts of the house and asking questions.

“Is that clear? Is the upstairs clear? What about this room, has it been cleared?”

I stopped and looked at him, “1SG, it’s all clear.”

“Well, what about…” he started.

“Everything is clear. I promise you; the whole fucking house is clear!”

He started in on my attitude, but I turned to LT Schardt, told him where I was headed and moved on to the next house.

I was wearing a video camera on my vest, but I had forgotten to turn it on. I remembered as we were entering the second house. As we were going in, we realized it was a duplex, so we had a little more to clear than we had initially anticipated. We were through the 2nd house quickly too, and I left a team behind with the occupants, and moved to the 3rd door.

Watch the video here.

The outer gate at the 3rd house was locked, so I told Oineza to hit it with our 12 gauge. He fired at the exposed hinge, and the buckshot ricocheted back into his face. He fired two rounds, and caught a couple of pellets in his face. After that, Jimmy went up and over the 6 foot wall and opened the gate from the inside.

That house went quickly too. We didn’t find anything inside, other than the allowed AK-47.

We got a call from the PL that we were told to detain all military-aged males. There were 10, but one was probably 12 or 13 years old. His mother was sobbing and begging me not to take them. Another old woman just squatted, smoking, and seemed unconcerned. I called to ask who they wanted, and they told me to bring them all, even the kid. I decided not to. We went back and forth a few times over the radio, and I left him anyway. There was also a really old man. I left him as well. CPT Veath was really pissed when I told him I left the AK in the house with the old man. He wanted me to go back and get it, but LT Schardt told him we were leaving it.

I moved back to house 1 with all of my detainees, and went to tell LT Schardt what we had found in the other two houses. He pointed to one of the guys that we had flex-cuffed, and held up a photo. We got our HVT.

We pulled out some 550 cord (para-cord) and tied their flex-cuffs together, and we quickly walked our 9 detainees back to our patrol base. It was an interesting walk back. There were 12 to 15 soldiers and 9 prisoners tied together with their hands cuffed. The sun was getting low in the sky and we were practically jogging by the time we got back. At each intersection, Iraqi people stood and watched. SFC Grimes about freaked out on a couple of guys who were walking toward us. He had his rifle up, screaming at them to get back as we passed. That whole situation was a fucking trip.

Once we got back, we took the detainees to JSS Sadr City, and we had to fill out 9 detainee packets. Fuck!

While we were doing paperwork, LTC Barnett came out of the building we were in front of and looked at the detainees. He looked at one guy and said, “That’s got to be him.” The guy was #3 most wanted on their brigade’s high-value target list. We learned later that two of the others were on another task force’s HVT list.

While we were at the JSS, I got to sit down in a porta-john to take a shit. That was a nice change from the Haji shitters you have to squat over. Once we had handed our detainees and the paperwork over, we went back to the patrol base and jumped back into the security rotation. SGT Daggett and some of the other 3rd squad guys were bitching that we were out on a raid while they had to stay on security longer.

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