28 April 2008 (Sadr City, Iraq)

First thing this morning, I took my squad, all six of us, on a dismounted patrol. We zig-zagged back and forth on the streets between Charlie and Delta, and Tennessee and Gold. This time, it was just us, minus Kirby, of course. Quite frankly, I thought that dismounted patrols as an entire platoon were pointless. With those numbers, it seemed pretty unlikely that anyone would start a fight. This time, considering where we were walking, I wasn’t sure that there were enough of us. One well-aimed shot could potentially stop half of us. One casualty would take one or two men out of the fight for first aid and movement to safety. That would leave three of us to cover them, and if it was an ambush, they’d likely get more than one of us right at the start.

The streets were busy at first, and we were swarmed with kids. The walked with us, moving from soldier to soldier to see what goodies they could get from us. There were several side streets where the kids wouldn’t go. They stopped at an intersection and watched. When we reached the other side of those blocks, the kids would start gathering around again. At one point, we went around a block and walked down the same street for a second time. The kids still didn’t follow. Looking back, that was a stupid decision on my part. At the time, we were hoping that someone would try to start a fight, and it seemed like that particular block was the place. It could have gotten one or all of us killed. I honestly expected to take small arms fire on that patrol, but it never came.

While we were out, the owners of the house we were, “borrowing,” came back to move in. We had searched everything, so the place was trashed. Plus, it was sporting some new bullet holes and broken glass. They were surprisingly understanding when we made them leave again. I told them that they could come back later in the day to get some of their belongings, and they did. I counted 9 children in the family.

Around 1300, SPC Peno and I were on rooftop guard when 5 large explosions shook the building. I got on the radio and reported it to LT Schardt and AB. “Ah, 6, 7, this is 2, over.”

“Send it.”

“Roger. Looks like mortar rounds hitting near the traffic circle, or possibly even JSS Sadr City, over.”

A few minutes later we received confirmation that five rounds impacted inside JSS Sadr City. The main building took three direct hits, and the other two rounds landed near the porta-johns between the building and the makeshift motor-pool. Initial reports said that there were mass casualties. Kirby was there, and I hoped that he was good. I asked on the radio if we had any information about our guys, but there wasn’t any information at all at that point. Fortunately, we learned that the casualty situation wasn’t as bad as we had initially been told, and many of the injuries were just concussive injuries from the blasts.

Later, we got information about the incident. A small flatbed truck had been retrofitted with some sort of homemade rack. The rack formed slides for rockets, and insurgents had just parked next to the wall and set them off. They ran, and the truck burned from the rockets’ back blast.

Later, we purchased a block of ice from some kid on the street. Technically, I guess it was a rectangular prism. It was probably 3 feet long and 6 inches tall and deep. We busted it up and put it in a big rice pot with some drinks. Later, we had cold sodas and water. It was a nice change for $2. Certainly worth it.

It was about 1700 when 3rd platoon came to take our place at the O.P. We loaded into our Strykers, and that’s when they told us our refit day at Camp Taji was cancelled. We returned to the patrol base (school), and we assumed guard there.

The other squad leaders and I found some time to play cards for a bit. My stomach was killing me. It’s been feeling a little off for the last couple of days. It sounds like all the guys in my squad have been having some stomach issues for the last day or two. Hopefully it’ll pass soon.

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