Just got back from a long six days in the Zaidon. Our platoon got sent out a few days early so that we could continue to search for the three Army soldiers that were kidnapped. It’s strange, because I know nothing about what is going on with that story. All we know is that they got taken close to where we were about two weeks ago, and that supposedly they are still alive and being kept prisoner. I haven’t seen any news in weeks so I really don’t know any details.
Anyway, we were running patrols in an area around where they were taken for six days hoping to get lucky. Unfortunately we did not. I pray that a miracle happens and that they stay safe.
The six days that we spent out there were relatively uneventful, for us anyway. We were in the vicinity of Echo Co and Mobile Assault Co., both of whom took extensive contact while we were there, and all within about 1200 meters of us. It was weird because I was going out on 2-3 foot patrols everyday and never got hit, but it seemed that every time we went out we could hear Echo or MAC lighting someone up somewhere near us. In fact, a squad leader from Echo was able to do something that every infantry squad leader only dreams of- he called in close air support on an enemy position. Close Air Support! That might not mean much to you, but if only I could do that. It goes something like this-
Echo is on patrol. Dumb insurgents shoot at Echo. Echo immediately returns fire with extreme prejudice. Dumb insurgents stay and fight. Echo squad leader gets on radio and calls a helicopter pilot in the area, lets say his call sign is Maverick (its actually probably something cooler like Slayer 78, but we’ll stick with Top Gun)
SL: "Maverick, Maverick, this is Echo-2-Bravo"
Mav: "This is Maverick, send your traffic"
SL: "Roger, request immediate close air support at grid MB 34239 93847, how copy?"
Mav: "Roger, solid copy, mark your targets"
Squad Leader directs his team leader to shoot a smoke grenade at dumb insurgents.
SL: "Maverick, this is Echo, be advised target marked with (some color) smoke, friendly units located 300 meters south on road"
Mav: "Roger, I have positive ID on target"
SL: "Roger, Maverick you are cleared hot, light ‘em up"
Mav: "Roger, WilCo"
At this point a Cobra gunship swoops in and rocks the insurgents with about 5 hellfire missiles, maybe comes back for a few strafing runs with his chain gun, who knows, maybe he doesn’t have time?
That happened on the second day we were down there. Needless to say, every time we went out after that I rehearsed my call for fire and made sure that I was never further than 10 meters away from my radio operator. Alas, I never got my chance. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any excitement for us down there. One of our squads found an IED in progress at one of the intersections during the day. Later that night my squad had to go out and set up overwatch on the intersection to try and catch anyone that might come back to finish the job. That’s usually exciting because you are pretty much clear to engage anyone caught emplacing an IED. We set up in a house to watch the roads. I was talking to the family, one of the women spoke decent broken English, when one of the guys on watch saw two men run to the intersection, look at the ground, and then sprint off into some fields. We of course assumed that it was someone coming back to finish the job, but we couldn’t tell for sure.
Meanwhile, I continued to talk to the family. We learned a lot from them. One thing that she kept repeating was how happy she was that we were there, and how we bring them safety. She kept thanking us for coming to Iraq and asked us not to leave, that is until she could afford to move to the US. The family was Sunni so its generally rare for them to be so pro-American, but you could tell she was sincere. Well, while we were talking, a car drove by very slowly on the opposite side of their wall. The man of the house stood up cautiously and peeked over the wall. You could tell that he was scared, and when we asked her why, she said that the car was full of insurgents from the southern part of the region. That got the hair on the back of everyone’s neck to stand, things just didn’t seem right. I kept imagining grenades being lobbed over that wall, I knew that they knew we were there, it was just a matter of whether they had the nerve to mess with us. We didn’t stick around to find out, we didn’t want to endanger the family, so we left.
We went to go investigate the intersection up close, we thought that maybe the two men had hastily placed a pressure mine or something. As we were creeping up to it someone took a potshot at us. It wasn’t too close, but everyone immediately took a knee. I remember I just closed my eyes and thought to myself "This is it", I thought for sure a nice, long, accurate burst of machine gun fire was going to follow quickly behind. It didn’t happen obviously.
-Another part of the weight lifting team has left. First, Hunt got shot (keep rehabilitating that wrist with beer curls pal), now Roberts is leaving because his time in the Marine Corps is up. This is his third deployment to Iraq and his contract ends in a month, so he is being sent home early. He is going to be attending UC-Berkley this fall. I’m sure by the time I get home he’ll be wearing tie-dye, eating granola, have long hair and be waving a sign that says "No Blood for Oil". But let’s hope not (and he knows we’d kick his ass)
-My friend Jackie sent me a harmonica in a care package, so that’s how I now pass my time at patrol bases.
-I showered for the first time in two weeks today. I know how you all love shower updates. I get sent so much soap and shampoo and I can probably count the number of times I’ve showered on two hands.
-I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do when we get back to the States in a few months. Well besides the obvious answer of Badgers, beer and bratwurst, I’m talking about with the Marines. I can either be a squad leader on the next deployment (and rumor has it that our next deployment is going to be in March because of the surge).