We loaded our gear in the trucks and headed back. I think the higher-ups were in a hurry to get us out of the AO. It was a restful at Camp Taji; we didn’t have anything to do. We had just repacked our gear the day before; everyone had clean clothes and everything from our previous visit. For the most part, our vehicles didn’t need anything. It really was down time, but I could tell that I was on edge. I think we all were.
An air weapons team firing at the range made me feel uneasy and jumpy. It’s funny how gunfire and explosions in Sadr City didn’t bother us at all, but loud noises here did. Explosions and gunshots here seemed out of place. To be honest, I’m not sure what bothered me more; though, the Apaches at the range, or the quiet when they stopped shooting. It was hard to get to sleep without small arms fire in the distance.
The next day, the differences between us and the people who stayed at Taji were even more apparent. Seeing soldiers walking around Taji, living through their deployment, and wearing their combat patches really rubbed me wrong. What did they really know about “combat?” Some of our first-timers got a taste of it also. A few of them had only been in-country for a month or two, but they realized that their wartime experience was very different from the soldiers who never step out of the wire. They spent their entire deployment protected by guys like us.
When it was close to the end of our 24 hours of downtime, we gathered for a formation. LTC Boccardi and CSM Ordonio came out and promoted SGT Capelli to staff sergeant. CSM Ordonio talked to use afterwards, and his remarks were super inspirational, as usual. “You have to treat each patrol like it’s the first time. Things like this happen when we let our guard down.” I think what we all heard was, this was your fault, and it could have been prevented.
LTC Boccardi spoke about more of the battalion coming down to Sadr City. He talked about the possibility of the rest of our company, plus Charlie Company, and maybe even a company from 1-27 Infantry joining us. It sounded like we were done messing around on the outskirts of Sadr City; this time we would be on the offensive, taking ground in the city and helping to write history. History books aside, it’s what we all wanted. We wanted to push into Sadr City where we weren’t supposed to go. We wanted to roll right into the center of their city and show them that they couldn’t do anything about it. We go where we want, when we want, and we do what we want. That was the message we wanted to deliver to Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia. Honestly, I think we wanted to send that message to the Iraqi army and police forces too.
Personally, I think it’ll be worse for us if the entire battalion heads down to Sadr City. Plus, I don’t buy it. I don’t think we’ll do anything new. We’ll be assigned to a new sector, away from where 1-2 SCR has us, and we’ll do patrols and watch intersections.
Once the speeches were over, we loaded our gear, fueled our trucks, and got ready to go. It was late when we finally got back to the patrol base. Chaplain Burton was at the school when we got there. Downtime was over; we assumed security at the school.
Welcome back to reality.