L>R: 2 Humvees, HEMMT Wrecker, HUSKY, Cougar.
The mission began just before sunset. We drove to the gate, and past the guards. We passed the concrete barriers printed in large red letters “COMPLACENCY KILLS”. We bumped through the ruts of hundreds of tanks and trucks, and out past the perimeter wire. We drove out into the gathering night and started looking for bombs. It was well past dark, and the moon was peeking from behind the clouds when we found the first IED of the night.
These roads are familiar territory for us- we patrol them often, and we regularly disable IEDs here. This time, however, there was nothing. As we neared the end, there was a large explosion across the canal. The radio crackled- the Marines had found and detonated a parked car rigged as a VBIED on the first route, further down than we had cleared. They would go on to find several more IEDs. For us, though, the night is almost over.
We reach the limit of our advance and turn around again, threading through the Marines that have already begun to stretch out and dig in behind us. We barely beat the dawn into Falluja, and settle in for the day, exhausted by the constant strain of searching for bombs.