Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Saturday, May 05, 2007

There and Back Again (A Soldier's Tale)

This is the third and last segment on our 40-hour mission. It's a little more disjoint than the others, because I don't remember the second day as well as the first and I didn't take the luxury of a lot of time editing this one. Hope you enjoy!



First call was at 0500. I rolled over in the blackness and felt for my breakfast MRE and my last cigarette carefully nestled between my ammo pouches. I emptied out the backpack that I normally bring on missions before the previous mission, because the lead truck has no room to spare for it. I miss that bag more than anything this morning. It had all the essentials that I need today: a spare pack of smokes, clean socks in a ziplock baggie that keeps them dry, and a small jar of sleep-replacing vitamin B12, as well as some other comforts. This will be the last time I take crap about my bag.

The mission is only one-third complete, but we will be turning around and heading out the way we came. There are too many IEDs, too many caches, and too little time to finish out the route. The smaller trucks are refueled from the disabled vehicle to ensure we don't run short of gas if the day drags on again. We know we'll find bombs replaced in the road behind us, so we prepare for a long day and set out at dawn.

The day progresses, and we find more IEDs. EOD is once again called off to the sides to deal with bombs the infantry has found. Periodic explosions announce the reduction of another IED and the impending return of the EOD team. The bombs that EOD judges too damaging to blow near their surrounding buildings get stashed in the back of the truck. I didn't wear a seat belt the entire second day- it seems a little ridiculous to worry about your neck when the secondary blast from the back-seat cargo will turn you to mush before you can feel the IED hitting the truck.

One bomb was burrowed in nearly four feet from the roadside, underneath the asphalt. It was a Russian 152mm artillery shell- 90lbs of explosive and steel waiting the chance to turn into deadly shrapnel. Along with it we found eleven liter bottles of diesel fuel; over the radio someone joked "Well, at least we solved our fuel problem". When we dug it up, someone had already tried to set it off. The blasting cap on the bomb was blown, but the IED had not gone off. Someone got very lucky.

Beauty and humor are the two things that most easily make me forget Iraq. The last push back into Amiriya had both. We were rolling down a narrow, rutted road through the middle of a wheat field starting to turn tan and gold from the sun. Lines of Marines and Iraqi Police stretched away on either side scouring the ground for hints of war, despite having their finish line in sight. Bradleys clanked behind the infantry, pushing stalks of wheat into the soft earth. I looked out over the line of troops- Marines in digitalized desert MARCAM and IPs in old woodland BDUs. In the middle was one Army soldier in ACUs, sticking out like a redneck at a fashion show.

We spent the next few hours uneventfully, back in familiar territory clearing the last roads between us and home. One last detail remained before we rolled back into Camp Falluja- we had to destroy all the explosives I was carting around in the back of the truck. We stopped in the semi-secure "pink" zone on the gate road, and set up the blast. Artillery shells, rockets, signal flares, bulk explosive, and a healthy helping of C-4 all went into a pile that totaled something close to 450 pounds, 200 of that explosive. I pulled the initiator on the time fuse, and we stepped back over the berm, drove down the road to our desert amphitheatre and watched the fireworks. The blast was perfect- all the ordnance detonated and left behind a six foot crater with a small hill in the center.

We rolled inside the berms and barb wire of Camp Falluja at a little after 1730- we were out for almost 39 hours, and we got back just in time for dinner. We were credited with six IED finds over the course of the mission- EOD reduced four more that the infantry found on side roads. Between IEDs and caches, we and EOD destroyed over 1200 pounds of ordnance.

It was a good day.

22 comments:

  1. Essayon! We read you all the time. Appreciate the knowledge. Friend of mine, South African-SF Ret., now an X-pat in Saudi Arabia likes your writing too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey TD - another great blog.
    Just wanted to let you know I posted parts 2 and 3 at your GDG blog.

    Have a good one - stay safe.

    Kafir

    ReplyDelete
  3. karin in tx5/5/07 07:46

    Awesome writng as always...thanks for sharing. Stay safe and God Bless!

    ReplyDelete
  4. This three part series was great, I have had a shout out up each day to send people here to enjoy your writing skills, great mission, thanks for what you do, and thank you for sharing it with us.

    STAY SAFE, there is something wonderful in your future.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "It was a good day." indeed...

    smiles, bee

    ReplyDelete
  6. TD-

    You and your fellows are quite simply great Americans! Thanks to all of you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. way to cache the spare cig! Good work. Thanks for all you do and your amazing writing.

    ReplyDelete
  8. alexa kim5/5/07 16:01

    Wonderful series of posts TD, simply wonderful. Now, sleep the sleep of rescued pups.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous5/5/07 20:22

    Thank you for your service and your sacrifice and keeping us informed. The daily statistics of the war seem like a G.I. Joe comic, but your writing reminds us that it is real people in harms way. To you and all your buddies in harms way, stay strong and stay safe.

    ReplyDelete
  10. TD,

    Thanks for keeping on..keeping on..

    You and your guys are in our thoughts and prayers.

    Appreciate your service,and your blog..

    VR..donw

    ReplyDelete
  11. Once again TD, mission accomplished, lives saved. You guys are top notch.

    ReplyDelete
  12. SGT Dave6/5/07 22:12

    Bless all you bastards, well done.

    ReplyDelete
  13. May all your days be good days.

    WM

    ReplyDelete
  14. Amen, All good days for you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 05/07/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

    ReplyDelete
  16. STOP SMOKING!

    You always did enjoy making things go boom. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. You guys rock! I give you crackers----> [::][::]. Oh, and I linked you to my page, k?

    www.sylky.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  18. Gosh you are a good writer!
    Try to stay safe!

    ReplyDelete
  19. "Beauty and humor are the two things that most easily make me forget Iraq. The last push back into Amiriya had both. We were rolling down a narrow, rutted road through the middle of a wheat field starting to turn tan and gold from the sun. Lines of Marines and Iraqi Police stretched away on either side scouring the ground for hints of war, despite having their finish line in sight. Bradleys clanked behind the infantry, pushing stalks of wheat into the soft earth. I looked out over the line of troops- Marines in digitalized desert MARCAM and IPs in old woodland BDUs. In the middle was one Army soldier in ACUs, sticking out like a redneck at a fashion show."

    honestly my favorite paragraph you have written thus far...

    ReplyDelete
  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I can repeat all the things that everyone else has said...

    or I can just say hey.

    Hey.

    ReplyDelete
  22. This was a great post. I am consistently amazed by your writing. To be able to find beauty and humor in the situation you are in, is truly a gift.
    Thank god there are brave men such as you! I feel so blessed for having known you!

    PS- I will have to ask you about what some of the acronyms mean! :-)

    ReplyDelete