A former soldier's daily experiences while living and fighting in Iraq.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Back in Kuwait
Wonderful Kuwait, my favorite place in the world. I would pay large sums of money to go up to Iraq right now. This is my fourth different time in Kuwait, and while the amenities have gotten a lot better, it doesn't change the fact that is sucks. I'm at Camp Buerhing along with the rest of the 3rd Infantry Division. This desolate piece of desert in the middle of nowhere has become a small city complete with roads, restaurants, airport, water tower, homes, showers, bathrooms, and any other thing that you might imagine. The only thing is it takes forever to do anything since around 10,000 other soldiers are trying to do the same thing. You should see the chow hall. It's a maze of tents, trailors, and other manufactured buildings. Once getting inside, you are herded like cattle through this maze until a room is empty enough to sit down. It never fails to hear someone making the mooing sound as we are walking through. The chows not bad though which is a plus. My time is about to be cut off on here because I only paid five dollars to have an hour of time, most of which was spent emailing my wife and family. The free internet is great, you only have to wait a couple of hours in line for a whole twenty minutes of internet time. What else? Showers are okay, I've had some luke warm ones and some ice cold ones. Toilets are great if you enjoy goint to a port-a-john. It always amazes me that people have the time or the desire to write on the walls of these things. I regret to say that these writings are somewhat entertaining when you lack other reading material. The manufacturer of these wonderful boxes of waste actually take there time to put there website on the door. If you would like to visit them it's www.polyjohn.com . At least I think that's what it is. I only have a few more minutes. Anyway, Iwish I could be in Iraq for the elections but it looks like my unit isn't getting up there until afterwards. I really wanted to be up there for what I think is going to be a historic occasion. Gotta go before my time runs out.
It's almost time to leave. This may be my final post until I can find a computer somewhere in Kuwait. Time is growing short, and I have a few more things to do before I go. Tomorrow night I will have dinner with some extended family members and the rest of the time will be spent with my wife. She has been a trooper about all of this. I can't imagine what she must be going through these last few days.
I want to thank everyone that takes the time to read this. Hopefully I'll have some interesting stories to tell you from Iraq. I'll talk to you later. Take care.
Today was windy and cold when we first woke up this morning. Making it even harder to get up was the fact that Bryan and I had a two hour roving guard shift in the middle of the night. Once we were up, we cleaned all of our gear and got word of an order that was going to extend over a period of three days. Twice each day we were going to set up on the outskirts of the city along with two other units, killing everything in sight. I suppose the decision makers decided to make some kind of statement.
We loaded up in the Bradley and headed off for what we thought was supposed to be a short trip. It ultimately turned into a long one because of the extremely poor visibility. Nobody could see anything. Those of us in the back noticed the portholes become a dark orange color. It was just a little after noon and it looked almost dark out. We finally got set up in our position and were told to prep our night vision goggles. Our NVG's weren't going to help us in this obvious sandstorm, but we got them ready anyway. The guys in the turret couldn't see anything through their thermal sights, how were we going to see anything with NVG's.
The ramp slowly made its descent to the ground, revealing an eerie foreign planet. When we first dismounted there were strangely no winds, just an orange glow that only added more strangeness to an already bazaar world. Looking out from the inside of the Bradley with the ramp down, the guys in front of me were pitch black silhouettes backed by this orange presence. I stepped out into this orange world and went with the others to pull rear security for the Bradleys. There was a railroad track about thirty meters to our rear. We stopped there for a few minutes and got in the prone before they decided we should go further down on the other side of the track. While I was laying there with my elboys almost touching the track and not able to see twenty meters in front of me, I tried to take in a little of my strange new surroundings. I noticed the railroad ties were made of stone. For some reason I remember thinking that this railroad track looked well made, like something I would see back home. The stone was smooth and cool to the touch. I also remember putting my fingers in the cool dirt. It felt good feeling the dirt in my hands in this land with endless sand.
We layed in the prone for almost another hour at our second stop down from the railroad track. We could'nt see or hear anything. At one point, after what seemed like an enternity, something finally appeared among the orange haze. A shepherd, complete with flowing robes and staff, appeared out of nowhere like a guost. As soon as I was able to discern that it was a shepherd, he again faded into the haze, never to be seen again. A strange sight for all of us that saw him. I wonder if he had any idea that we were even there, or that for a short time every weapon in that area was aimed squarely at his chest. The guost shepherd, tending to his phantom flock.
We got a call on the radio to remount. We were heading back because visibility was zero. The trip back was even slower than the trip out, with sporadic reports of enemy sightings that never seemed to materialize. We heard some medics fired at something that must have spooked them. Once we got back we stayed in the track because of the cold wind. A little while later it started pouring down rain. Everyone raced to cover their equipment, mud caked on everything, dirty, wet, and miserably cold.
We all packed in the Brad and relieved some stress by laughing at our predicament. We finally set up a tent during our misery. I got some much need sleep before having to pull the last hour of guard. Getting up and putting on wet muddy gear in the cold wind adds a new definition to the word misery. Later in the morning we tried hard to clean our gear as much as we could with little success. Got word that we were getting relieved by another unit coming up behind us so we could continue our push north. I have no idea what is going to happen to that city. We heard artillery being fired throughout the night and more this morning. I have grown used to these explotions, even finding a way to sleep through them.
We heard a rumor that eight Marines got captured and maybe killed. Overall, I think we're still bombing Baghdad. They must be focusing most of the power up there. I'm glad we're continuing north even though that will probably mean more intense fighting. Part of me wants to stay back and secure that city, but I always though I would end up in Baghdad. I wonder what will be waiting on us and how long this war will last.
Today was our second traffic blocking mission in two days. We blocked an overpass with all four of our platoon's Bradley's. Two Brads on one end, two on the other. This overpass and the highway underneath it are exactly like anything back home in the states. The similarities of this highway to the interstates back home made the battles raging around in even more surreal.
Our squad, and the squad from the other Bradley, pulled security out to the sides, scanning the building tops and watching for any traffic on the highway below. The guys on the other end did the same. Other elements from our company were down in the neighborhood next to the highway. Tanks and Bradleys were busy patrolling the streets below, and A-10's were busy patrolling the skies above. All of these elements were conducting the business of war. Our relatively inactive position, coupled with a somewhat elevated view, gave us an interesting perspective on the violence below us. It was turning out to be a boring day, most of us envious of the action around us. Our desire for action would soon be satiated.
All day we layed on the pavement pulling guard and watching the Brads shoot at cars that wouldn't turn back. Bazarre thing to watch. On a few occasions, after warning shots were ignored, the Brads would fire at the tires or hood, disabling the vehicles. I couldn't help but wonder what these people were thinking. Why would they keep driving towards two Bradleys shooting at them. Why don't they just turn around. I was happy to see that the people in the disabled vehicles walked away unharmed. One man, the hood of his car in flames from three rounds of HE, casually got out of his car and walked away. He acted as one might act after discovering they had a flat tire.
Besides pulling guard and watching cars get shot at, there were other strange sights to be seen considering our locale. Guys eating MRE's while in the prone, looking up from there meal to see which car was getting shot at. Iraqi civilians walking along the street in the distance oblivious to the fighting around them. The funniest thing to see is something I've seen over and over since the war started. War doesn't exempt the human body from having to perform certain functions. These functions are normally reserved for the privacy of a bathroom or at least a port-a-john. Being in an elevated position on an overpass with nothing but hard pavement makes these bodily functions even funnier. You can't expect a group of guys to go a whole day without shiting or pissing. It became normal to see a guy role over to his side and relieve himself of all that water he'd been drinking during the day. It sucked if you happened to be down hill from his stream of piss heading your way. It's either get up and move, or hope it runs out of steam before it gets to you. Some of the guys had the decency to stand up and go off the overpass. Taking a shit was a whole different story. Where are you going to go. There's no hole to dig or curtain to go behind. You can't walk off a safe distance, hoping not to be seen by others. Nothing but hard pavement. The trick is to get an MRE box, open both ends, and at least have something to sit on. The other option was to grab a five gallon water jug, prop one cheek on top of it, and get down to business. The can, if placed properly, can act as a shield from your buddies laughing at you. The box somewhat hides the business at hand and provides a comfortable seat. The best is seeing someone do this while the Bradley is shooting at vehicles. The rest of the day we had to dodge the various land mines left on the road by our buddies. I just hope none of the Iraqis down the street were able to see this.
By the time dusk rolled around all of us were tired and bored, wondering if the day would ever end. Our Lt. and his crew had to go meet with the CO, who was parked about 200m away on the highway below us. Leaving the dismounts behind, they closed the ramp, and rolled away. I was laying on the edge of the overpass watching for any bad guys when their Bradley came into view on my left. I was casually watching their Bradley go down the offramp of the highway, which would normally be into oncoming traffic. As they were going down the ramp I saw something from the right. With my eyes still on the Bradley, not having enough time to instinctively look to my right, a huge fireball envelopes the Bradley's turret. Boom! Holy shit! My mind racing. Did that really just happen. They had to be dead. Sgt. W, laying to my right, looks at me with a look of dread. Are they dead? The impact of the RPG knocked the ramp down and the Bradley came to a rolling stop. At this point everyone's focus is on this one house on the right. Once we determine which house it came from, we're thrust into action. Invigorated by the sight of the Bradley's ramp coming back up, meaning at least the driver is okay, we want to exact some retribution. I got up and ran back to our Bradley to grab the AT-4(shoulder-fired rocket). As I was running back some guys had already started to unload their weapons on this house. The dismounts on the other end of the overpass were doing the same. Sgt. B yells at me over the noise to fire the AT-4 into the house. I'm thinking no shit Sherlock, you think I went to get this for shits and giggles. Happy to oblige him, exhilarated, and just wanting to shoot the AT-4 because it's fun, I ran up to the guard rail, took it off safe, and lined up my sights. Sgt. W ran up next to me to provide some cover if needed and shot a 203 round for good measure. After making sure my backblast area was clear, the AT-4 explodes out of the tube, hitting the house. Damn, I can't hear out of my right ear, and my equilibrium is temporarily out of whack. All of this went by in an instant. Soon after I shot my AT-4, Sgt. P grabs another one and does the same. I remember thinking that his made a nicer fireball when it hit the house. During this time, Sgt. B, the gunner of the Lt.'s Bradley, whips the gun around over the back deck and unloads about 30 rounds into the house. Almost all of the individual weapons were firing at the house. With the house destroyed and the shooting dying down, we're all back on the pavement looking for more bad guys with RPG's. The Lt.'s Bradley resumed its path down the ramp and over to some other Brads from our company. With the intense chaos gone our adrenaline levels lowered, and we began doing what seemed the only thing to do, laugh.
It was something to see how everyone responded when one of our Bradleys got hit. There's nothing cooler than watching everyone come to their buddies defense and get some revenge. We were a little more alert the rest of the night even though none of us got more that two hours of sleep. The night turned out to be pretty quiet. It makes me wonder if someone is just waiting for another opportunity to hit us again. All of us wondered why they waited until that one moment when they could've hit us at any point throughout the day. Sgt. B and the Lt. were a little shaken up but pretty much okay.