5 April 2008 (SADR CITY, IRAQ)

I couldn’t get to sleep night before last, and it was after 2 A.M. before I finally did. While I was lying there, I heard a high-pitched screech of a rocket being fired, and it was followed by an explosion. Immediately after I heard the swoosh of a Hellfire missile and a second explosion. I walked over to the radio and heard an Apache pilot talking about taking out someone who had just fired a rocket.

One less to worry about.

Really, it seemed like our day started at about midnight yesterday. Leo was at the JSS with the trucks to refuel. They picked up some supplies while they were there, and wanted help unloading when they got back.

I covered Leo’s shift on radio watch, and luckily LT Schardt told them that they could unload the supplies. He didn’t want to wake the rest of the platoon up.

At 5 A.M. we left for Old M.O.D. to get our couple of hours of down time. We were there in time for a hot breakfast, so that was nice. I took a hot shower and made a call home. I didn’t really realize how tightly wound I was until we were there and didn’t need to be super vigilant. When I sat down to eat breakfast I finally noticed just how tired I really was. The “combat shower” was only a couple of minutes of hot water, but it was amazing. I put on the same grungy smelly uniform, but I felt like a new person.

I watched part of the video clips from our patrol with Lara Logan. It was heavily edited. The patrol we took her on was uneventful, but that’s not what they showed. They showed us walking and talking to people, but then the patrol rounded a corner, and they cut to a vicious firefight. The corner was actually us walking back into our patrol base. The combat footage was of a different unit from a different time. Gotta love the media.

We left Old M.O.D. around 1 P.M. Our instructions were to drop our F.O. (Forward Observer) off at the company patrol base at Routes Florida and Charlie and move up Charlie to Route Tennessee. We got stuck in some traffic on our way there and ended up taking a wrong turn. We got onto Route Florida a little sooner than we should have. I have to say, it’s a little strange to see signs for Mosul and Basrah. Traffic was the same as back at home on Oahu. Someone joked that it was like Wahiawa at lunch time.

We finally got to where we needed to be, and took over for 2nd platoon. We heard lots of gunfire. The Iraqi Army was having a hell of a firefight up the road, and Captain Veath and 1SG were up there with the M-RAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle). A few of the Iraqi soldiers got hit while we sat there waiting.

2nd platoon and our headquarters element finally loaded up and left the area. We continued to receive sporadic small arms fire for a few hours after they were gone, but it wasn’t anything too serious. Funny, I told Theresa, yesterday, that the fighting had pretty much stopped here. I guess I was mistaken.

When we dismounted our vehicles, my squad followed Leo’s guys into a building. Once inside, 3rd squad moved to a third-level rooftop, and my squad took a second floor room, and the connected second-level rooftop next door. We ended up one floor below, and in front of Leo’s guys. He called on the radio and told me that if I didn’t want him in the fight all I had to do was say so.

I apologized for getting in his way, but he called back that he was just fucking with me.

We started taking some serious fire at that point. Luckily they weren’t very accurate, but the walls in front of and around us were definitely taking some hits.PL, RTO, Rt. Tennessee, Rt. Charlie

We could see movement a couple blocks away, but through the smoke and dust of the battlefield, we couldn’t be 100% sure where the fire was coming from. According to our rules of engagement, we were not allowed to fire without positively identifying the threat. It seemed like the shooting was coming from all over, but we couldn’t pinpoint it’s exact origin. We just sat there, waiting for someone to shoot at. The other platoons have been pretty trigger happy. Sometimes it seems like they shoot first and ask questions later.2nd Squad, B Team taking cover

My squad spread out across another rooftop, and moved up to a third-floor to get a better view. 3rd squad called that they were pinned down, and couldn’t even get their heads up to see over the wall. I think my guys were having too much fun to give a damn. Hell, I was moving up and down the stairs in the open and taking photos of my soldiers while this was going on. At one point, I yelled for 3rd squad to stand up and smile for the camera.Rt. Charlie, Rt. Tennessee Overwatch

“Are you fucking serious?” was the response.

I was standing in the open with my back to the incoming fire waiting for them to stand for a photo. I heard someone shout “1, 2, 3!”

A couple of them popped up, but they were down so fast that my digital camera hadn’t even gotten the photo before they were out of sight again.

While all of the firing was going on, we heard some rockets and explosions. There was a lot happening all at once.

Out of nowhere, an explosion rocked 2-vic. It looked like an IED had detonated on the right side of the vehicle, right near the center where SGT Taaga’s seat was. It turns out it was an RPG that had come from a window on the other side of an open area. I was quick on the radio, frantically trying to get a response from my guys in 2-vic. I got no answer.

I heard guys shouting, “Which vehicle was it?”

“It was ours!” I said over my shoulder.

Fraleigh yelled, “That’s the two!” as he emptied a magazine into the building where we thought the rocket had come from.

At the same time, SGT Capelli started raining high explosive 40mm grenades from his mounted MK19 automatic grenade launcher. There were flashes and explosions all over the street, telephone poles, and the front of the building where the RPG came from. When he opened up with that, I think the entire platoon started shooting across the field.

I kept my eyes on 2-vic, watching for movement and trying to raise them on the radio.

Finally, the truck rolled forward about 10 meters, and then I heard SGT Taaga on the radio. He sounded cool and calm, like nothing had happened when he said, “2, this 2-vic. We good.” He went on to explain that the truck’s computer had restarted, but the truck was fully functional. Also, there had been some small arms fire hitting the front of the truck immediately after the explosion, but all was well.

Crapenter in the driver’s hatch had a bloody nose after the explosion, and Caballero in the back, had nearly had his helmet blown off of his head. While the gun system was down, Crapenter threw open his hatch and returned fire from the driver’s seat with his M4.

Later we found bullet marks on the front and side of the truck, and some of the equipment on the side had holes in it.

They had me worried for a bit, when I couldn’t reach them.

Sometime late tonight, the Iraqi Army is supposed to move up Route Charlie all the way to Route Gold. We are being told that al-Maliki, the Prime Minister has some sort of deal with J.A.M. (Jaysh al Mahdi) to allow the Iraqi Army to move back to their original outposts that they occupied before the uprising. We all think it’s a set up.JT looking for shooters




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