The times are changing at Camp Falluja. It's not just the situation outside the camp, though we've seen many changes there. The summer is coming, bringing hot air and dust storms.New Marines are arriving in Falluja, and before long, others will go home again. The chow hall and the telephone center are jam-packed 24/7. There are more people asking for directions.
A few days ago, the loud siren sounded, and the "big voice" speakers bellowed "INCOMING! INCOMING!". A group of new Marines scattered like ducklings under the shadow of a hawk. Several ran around the corner of a concrete barrier and into a group of us chatting on as though nothing had happened. We watched as they collected themselves and tried to pretend as though nothing had happened, and then returned to conversation.
It wasn't so long ago that I was doing the same thing, along with the rest of the platoon. It took us some time to realize that the siren will inevitably go off after the incoming round hits. There are times when an explosion does not precede the siren- we raucously jeer "Watch out! Big bird crapping on the radar again!", and listen for the big voice to call out "All clear" moments later. I'm told that there are bases in Iraq where the siren is accurate, and you should duck when it sounds. Falluja is not one of those places- neither is Ramadi.
I remember when I was new to Iraq, when I flinched at the sound of any explosion. I had to learn the difference between incoming and outgoing rounds. It took several weeks before I stopped flinching when the outgoing boomed overhead. Outgoing fire booms- if it's mortar fire, sometimes you can hear the whizzz of the shell. Incoming rounds cruump- if you hear whizzing, you were way too close to it. Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference, and now, we've seen what indirect fire can do to someone. I've started flinching again.