Saturday, December 18, 2004

Street Fighting in Baghdad Suburbs (War Journal Entry)


Today was more intense than our last day of fighting. We woke up early and moved into our objective before 0700. The Bradleys, ours included, had many engagements, destroying vehicles and dismounts. There's no better drama than listening to the radio chatter during these chaotic moments. Our crew trying to identify targets, identifying them, and then the thump thump thump of the 25mm or the familiar sound of the coax machine gun.

With the Bradley still firing, the ramp suddenly unlocks and begins to go down. We're forced out of our protective shell, emerging onto the mean streets of Baghdad's suburbs. Once we're out, we find ourselves next to a brick wall that's blocking an entrance to a house. Amid the confusion of suddenly being in the middle of a firefight, our Bradley still engaging enemy down the street, I notice the edge in everyone's voice. To dismount in this environment is scary but exhilarating, not knowing where enemy fire is coming from and being disoriented from being in the back of the Bradley. I've never felt so alive in my life. Explosions going off all around, fireballs rising into the sky, quickly replaced by black smoke, the already familiar smell of charred bodies, the Brad's guns exploding in your ears, tow missiles whooshing through the air, not knowing where the enemy is and frantically trying to find him.

We're up against the wall when we receive fire from the second story of a building on the opposite corner of the street. We couldn't see the shooter, making us even more pissed about being shot at. Sgt. W unloads three rounds of HE(high explosive) with his 203, hitting the second story with perfection and impressing me in the process. One block down to my left, I can see the other Bradley in our section engaging down their street. The guys in the back have already dismounted and are pulling rear security for the Bradley. I start looking around for something to shoot at, feeling guilty for wanting to shoot at anything, wondering if someone is on the other side of the wall I'm against, patiently waiting to lob a grenade over.

As soon as I was getting my bearings, we mounted back up in our time machine. A minute later we were getting out again, this time at the corner, one block down from the other Bradley. Like the other dismounts, we tried to find some cover and pulled rear security on our Bradley. I was facing towards the street, with a woodline on the other side. Our Bradley was now situated on the road perpendicular to the one I was overwatching. I had decent cover to the left of a small mud mound that was supporting a telephone pole. Sgt. W was to my right, while the rest of the squad was at my nine and ten o'clock.

About 100 meters down to my left, a truck, carrying three guys with AK's, pulled out of the woodline parallel to the road. Other elements, farther down the road, open up on it with small arms fire, Killing the three guys as the truck slowly comes to a stop. An instant later, small arms fire erupted from the woodline at my 11 o'clock, the rounds whistling over my head. Until this moment I didn't realize how little cover I actually had, especially from that angle. Pissed off at being shot at again, with little or no cover, I strained to see someone. All I could see was smoke and the rustling of leaves from their fire. Hopelessly looking for better cover with none to be found, Sgt. W and I have a quick laugh before responding. Nobody else seemed to know where the fire was coming from, so I fired in that same area, to try and supress if nothing else. Once I started, everyone else started firing in the same direction. Sgt. W fired two 203 rounds, one starting a small fire in the woods. The firing from the woodline ceased shortly thereafter. I have no idea if I hit or came close to hitting anyone.

With a lull in the action, I roll on to my right side, unbutton my fly, and commence to taking a much needed piss, all the while joking and laughing with Sgt. W. Adrenaline pumping, feeling comfortable behind my M16, almost hoping for someone else to fire on us so we could fire back. Another Bradley was busy shooting up a weapons cache nearby, causing some kind of rockets to randomly fire off into every direction, at one point sounding like one was going to land on top of us. We finally secured that area, with other elements still fighting in the city.

Later I heard that Sgt. T panicked during a firefight their squad got into one block down from us. Leaving Scott and Thomas to fight on their own, he panicked, started banging on the Brad to let him back in, and with his hand over the 203, it goes off, tearing up his hand. Scott and Thomas were mad as hell that he left them, but like me, weren't suprised by his reaction. He's now back in the rear where he should be. I also later found out that a Brad from another platoon got hit by an RPG, giving one guy a concussion.

Having secured the area, a huge convoy comes lumbering through, guys waving at us as they pass. Later that night we went to our AO, which was between a main highway and a canal. The place was by no means secure. While we were sleeping and on guard, we would here small arms fire cracking in the distance, their tracers sometimes getting close. The crazy thing is, it really didn't bother us. We just tried to stay low to the ground. While laying on the ground to sleep and sitting on guard, I didn't even move when hearing these shots. I guess I'm getting used to it.


Blogger Accipiter in Yarak said...

Your (silent, but deadly) instrument, forged by training and tempered by conviction, honed to penetrate through all the words of your post and pull them all into a rigid, unwavering mass -
....CONFIDENCE,... Pure.Raw. American Spirit.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sgt. T's wound counts as much in the news media's body count as do wounds inflicted by the enemy. But I have no idea how I would react in combat, so I am not going to condemn him. I hope he does useful work wherever he goes next.

In the meantime, your pissing in the street during a firefight is a priceless moment that would never appear in a war movie!

9:22 PM  
Blogger The Sub Committee said...

I am in the middle of reading an incredible novel about The Vietnam War and accidentally bounced upon your blog. I have no idea why you think you need to brush up on your writing skills... I am completely impressed and think I'll toss the forty year old Vietnam story for your account of being in Iraq. Not only are you articulate but the fact you find the time to write is extraordinary given the stress you must be up against. I'll be back to read your blog regularly and wish you and your comrades a Merry Christmas despite being so far away from home. Stay safe and keep writing.

Canadian in Hong Kong

8:36 AM  
Blogger irish6848 said...

God Bless you and all of your fellow soldiers. Have a Merry and safe Christmas. I pray for all of you great American patriots over seas fighting for freedom.

3:19 PM  
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