We were relieved by 3rd platoon today. SFC Lewis called 1SG on the radio and complained that our platoon left a mess behind. He and AB exchanged some words. We have already had some issues with 3rd platoon talking shit about us. They’ve gone through a lot of ammo here, and we simply haven’t. 2nd platoon has also done a lot more shooting than us. To us, it seems like they’re trigger happy, and then they want to talk to our guys like we haven’t done anything since we’ve been here. There is a large radio tower on top of a building near the house at Charlie and Tennessee. Apparently, one of the other platoons fired a bunch of 40 mm grenades at it, because they were bored. Somehow, I don’t think that’s quite what we’re here for. There was also an incident with a flash bang being thrown onto a neighboring rooftop, and we’ve even heard that one of the platoons got into some trouble for firing some AT-4s (anti-tank weapon) and leaving them. They are supposed to be fire and forget weapons, but we are accountable for them. If they’ve been fired, I guess we need to be able to show that it was expended and not lost or left somewhere. It seems ridiculous, but on the other hand, I suppose it makes sense.
Once relieved, we went forward and talked with the IA again. LT Schardt asked them how they avoid fratricide between them and adjacent units. Apparently, they don’t have radio communication with the next unit over. They have to call their battalion, who calls the brigade, who then relays to other battalion, and then down to the other company. That’s fucking crazy. The other unit is 3 or 4 blocks away. The most unexpected thing happened while we were up there. We started hearing thunder, and then there was lightning. It turned into quite a little thunderstorm.
LT Schardt continued talking with the IA, and I snapped some photos. The NY Times photographer told me that I needed to turn off my camera flash, because it might draw fire. I said, “that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” He pointed out that the IA might get spooked, thinking it was a muzzle flash, and if that happened they’d probably start shooting all over the place. I turned off my flash.
Once we finished up there, we returned to the company patrol base. They moved from the high rise building we’d been in, to a school that was across Route Florida. It looks like an elementary school, from the size of the chairs and from the decorations on the walls.
When we arrived, we were told that we’d be housed in the little gym. The floor was covered with the little foam squares that connect like jigsaw puzzle pieces.
Everyone here is tired, but we are also on edge. I think that we all needed to blow off some steam, so once we were in the gym, a game of dodgeball broke out. We ended up playing several games. It was good for the boys to blow off some steam. The NY Times photographer snapped several photos, and he seemed like he was enjoying watching.
Afterward, 2nd platoon rolled in from taking a few hours to refit at Camp Taji. Once they got settled in and assumed security, we loaded into our vehicles and headed for Taji ourselves. B-66, with Captain Veath came along with our convoy. We stopped at JSS Sadr City to pick up a contractor who needed a ride back to Taji, and then we got on the highway. We were maybe two miles into our trip before we were ordered to turn back.
3rd platoon had come over the radio in a panic that they were taking heavy fire, and that they had taken a hit from an RPG. We rushed back to their location, and everything seemed relatively calm. There was some shooting, but it was about the same as it had been every other time we had been up there. No help came running every time we took contact though. After sitting at the intersection, for what seemed like forever, we rolled back to the company patrol base.
We finally left around 1900 hours (7 P.M.), and got to Taji about 45 minutes later. It’s funny; it took us about 2 hours to get here the first time we drove down. We took a more direct route, and we ran about 60 MPH the whole way. Everyone seemed at ease on the way back. We played music, and bullshitted along the way. Everyone was telling stories and joking around. We made it in just before the chow hall on Taji stopped serving dinner.
It was great to have a hot meal, although there was a little trouble when we first went in. We were filthy, unshaven, and in improper uniforms when we went into the chow hall. Everyone stared at us, and a master sergeant from some POG unit approached and asked SFC AB where we were coming from. He complained about our appearance, until AB told him we’d been in Sadr City. The guy got all excited and started telling the people at his table, like he’d met a celebrity. It quickly went around the whole chow hall. SSG Miller, another Golden Dragon soldier who was working at Camp Taji, told us that we’d been all over the news, CNN, CBS, NY Times, etc.
We ate and returned to our rooms. Antonio Hermida, “Bobby Gene” Alleman, and Shane Stuard were all back from R&R. We showered and shaved, cleaned weapons, and our crews serviced the vehicles. The shower, clean clothes, and air conditioning was fantastic. Then everyone slept for a few hours, in a real bed.