Last night we went down into the canal region south of Falluja. We cleared back and forth through the tall reeds, along canals, and through villages. In one nasty little village, we found a bomb in an intersection. It was a large plastic tube of rocket propellant, jury-rigged as an IED. The LT decided, along with the EOD team, to shoot it and try to set it on fire, rather than get down on the ground to blow it up. Of course, we all foresaw the result- we ended up with chunks of unignited rocket fuel all over the road, and had to get out anyway to gather them up and dispose of them with an incendiary grenade. The fuel caught fire immediately, burning with a white flame tinged with green. There was a sudden *pop*, and bits of flaming fuel flew in all directions, trailing greenish fire. We watched the flames quietly burn themselves out, and prepared to continue with the mission. At some point while we were digging up the bomb, all the lights down the road went out, leaving the scene light only by the ghostly half-light of the moon. As we pulled off down the road, even that pale illumination faded- the lunar eclipse had come and stolen the light.
Tonight, we struck out once more for the lovely (I use that term very loosely) village of Karma. The last time we were there, a week ago, there was a giant new blast hole near the bridge where we found our first IED in the area. It stretched nearly twelve feet in diameter- halfway across the road. At the bottom was a metal culvert shorn in two. Someone had pushed a huge bomb into the culvert and detonated it. Tonight, I noticed that the hole is gone again, or nearly so. The crater is filled with dirt, and a large half-circle of fresh asphalt is the only reminder of the devastation of a week ago. The small palm grove that was near the road is gone- the tops of trees sheared off by blasts, and the stumps toppled by tanks. The village looks like what it has become- a prominent battlefield in the war for Anbar province.
North of Karma the road is normally quiet for a few kilometers, and it proved to be so again tonight. The last few klicks are often busy, and tonight, that is where we start finding bombs. The first one is relatively easy: the truck slows to scope out a pile of rubble by the side of a culvert, and I spot a wire heading off along the ditch. As the BUFFALO is digging out the bomb, one of the other trucks notices movement through their thermal imagery. They report what seems to be one or two individuals at a house some distance off the road, in the same general direction as the wire seems to run. As we continue to work on the bomb, our Marine security element splits off across the fields to corner whoever it is taking advantage of the 1AM air and ask do they happen to know anything about yonder bomb? The bomb finally pops out of the ground- a mid sized IED, and the Marines call back in. They have in custody two insurgent cows. Our pleas to retain the triggercows for further "questioning" are denied, and we continue mission.
Just a little further up the road, we find the second and last IED of the night. There are certain things that attract our attention more quickly and strongly than others, and this bomb had all of them. It was buried, but so painfully obvious that we started wondering where the well-hidden second IED was (we found no second). We blew it up, and moved along the rest of the roads we had to patrol, finding nothing more. We pulled in back home just as dawn was breaking. I looked up at the moon as she drifted silently behind a thin veil of morning haze and mentally checked myself.
All limbs attached- check
No new holes- check
All friends here- check
It's going to be a beautiful day.