We woke up on the 30th and sat around our patrol base for awhile. Word came down that Bravo Company had no mission for the day, and we were told to pack our gear for Camp Taji. Everyone was excited at the thought of fresh uniforms, showers, and a hot meal.
The ride to Taji was calm. It seemed that everyone relaxed some as we got further and further from Sadr City. Looking back, it’s funny. We all wanted to stay there. We were happy being in the action, and we wanted to stay right there in the thick of it. I’ve already mentioned this, but I don’t think any of us realized just how tightly wound we were until we left that city.
We headed out, and swung by JSS Sadr City to pick up Taaga and Crapenter and 2-Vic. No one had left for Taji yet, so we jumped in our own truck and headed north. We arrived in Taji around 12:30 and were told that we had 8 hours. We’d been living, working, fighting, sleeping, and even going to the bathroom in pretty tight quarters for just over a month at this point. I was ready for some time to myself.
I took a shower, and then walked up to the PX area on the camp. There were some picnic tables under camo nets, a coffee shop, and a few fast food joints set up in portable buildings. I walked up to the window for Popeye’s chicken and ordered some fried chicken. I sat at a table and ate lunch by myself. There were lots of other soldiers around, many who had the luxury of eating a hot meal every day. Many of them never left the camp. Their war came with daily showers, a barber shop and spa, wifi, salsa lessons, karaoke, movie nights, air conditioning, gyms, and lots of other creature comforts. Not to say that we didn’t take advantage of those things when we had the opportunity, but those things weren’t the norm for us.
After lunch, I walked back to the room that Leo and I shared when we were at Taji and dumped my rucksack. I threw my funky uniforms into a laundry bag and took them over to the laundry point. I had a bag waiting to be picked up from the last time we were there. Once I had my laundry swapped, I walked back to the room and repacked for Sadr again.
A little later, Nikjoo knocked at the door. “PL says squad leaders need to have their squads at the A-Lock at 1715 for a PAI. Basically, we had to verify that all of our soldiers were accounted for, and we had to verify that everyone still had possession of their ID cards and dog tags.
Once we had finished those checks, we were told to report to the company CP. At the CP, they issued each soldier two combat T-shirts. I had no desire to use these, even though some of my guys had purchased their own and loved them. The quality of the army-issued shirts was far inferior to the purchased ones. Many of them fell apart on the first wear.
Taaga came into the CP, and I could tell he was really pissed. They had “fixed” our weapon system, but somehow, they were unable to get the gun aligned with the cross hairs on the gunner’s RWS screen. Capelli came in and told me that the repair guys said that the gun could be off as much as 20 meters at a range of 200 meters. There really wasn’t any reason we couldn’t have delayed our return trip to Sadr City by a couple more hours to give them more time to work, but that wasn’t in the cards. We were told to roll with it as it was. Hell, it hadn’t hardly worked since we got it anyway.
CSM Ordonio came down to speak to us before we started doing our final checks to roll out again. His speech was, to say the least, lacking. Some of the things he told us, should have been said before we ever headed into Sadr City to begin with. All of the advice he offered was for situations we had already found ourselves in over the last four or five weeks. “Men, if someone shoots at you…” As he was wrapping up, he said, “The best way to fight a coward is to fight like a coward.” I think I knew what he was getting at, but I might have worded it a little differently had I been in his shoes. Hell, maybe I don’t know what point he was trying to make. Half of what he said didn’t make sense.
Once he’d finished his remarks, he gave battalion coins to Juice, SPC Peno, and Kirby. When AB explained Kirby’s actions during the attack at JSS Sadr City, CSM Ordonio said, “Kirby?” then grabbed Kirby’s head and shook it a bit. “Is it screwed tight now?” The kid had been through some shit and done his job, and the best our sergeant major could do was a backhanded compliment.
Once that was over, we loaded up and headed south. It was late when we returned to the patrol base. We got the guys bedded down pretty quickly. Wake-up would be at 0515, and we’d be assuming the post at Thawra II first thing in the morning.
One section would park and over watch the intersection of Routes Delta and Gold, while the other section acted as a reserve inside the walls of the compound at Thawra II.