I got back to Ramadi on the 28th of June, and spent two days doing a whole lot of nothing while waiting for my platoon to come back from Falluja. I planned to spend day three turning in extra unused gear at noon, and then doing more nothing. I woke up to the phone ringing. The other soldier in the building, left behind on guard duty, answered the call:
Alpha Company, 3rd platoon, this is SPC W.
Yeah, he's here.
Ok, I'll tell him.
I dimly reckoned that I was late for my appointment with supply, and started to roll out of bed, stopping to look at my watch on the way. It read 0936. Uh-oh. My buddy came in: "You need to go down now and turn in your gear." I said "I thought I was doing that at noon?" "Oh yeah, and you're going to Falluja today. They destroyed a truck".
My tasks for the day now included going over to another company's Tactical Operation Center (TOC), drawing the RG-31 that they were lending us while ours was in the shop for repairs, and then driving it to Falluja with the team sent to transport the damaged truck back to Ramadi. I got the paperwork for the new truck from the TOC and headed down to the motor pool to sign for the vehicle. The maintenance teams for the different companies normally reserve vehicles just for such occasions as this- in the states, we'd call them lemons. Here, we have a less kind name for them, one that reflects our heightened chance of injury while operating them. My hope that the truck I was signing for would not prove to be one of those proved false. Before I could sign for the truck, I had to help get it running. The batteries were completely dead and needed replaced, and the navigational system was also toast. The air conditioning functioned poorly, and the radio mount was built out of wood- a solution liable to become a hail of screws, splinters, and flying radios in the event of an explosion.
I swapped out the batteries, signed for it, and drove it away. Later on, in Falluja, we swapped out bad electronic parts with working ones from the blown-up truck. We had a few problems with the loaner before we handed it back in, but nothing so major it couldn't be fixed by someone punching a window and screaming a little. I turned it back in with new batteries, some fresh oil, two new bullet holes, shrapnel damage to three windows and the left side, and all other issues unchanged. Fair trade in my book.
I spent the next hour and a half running around trying to track down a working gun mount. The RG-31 is of foreign construction, and the ring mount on the turret requires a different style of pintle than the US standard. As trucks get blown up and mounts are destroyed, we're left with few options besides finding adapters to use with other mounts, or performing redneck hack&slash welding that maintenance really doesn't appreciate. I never did find a mount- fortunately, the convoy to Falluja already had enough gun trucks that we weren't required to mount a gun for the trip. Once we got to Falluja, we found a working mount in the platoon gear stockpile. All the time I had that morning was taken up by the lemon.
We left the gate at 1400, and returned at 1410. The backup tractor for the tractor-trailer recovery team broke down before we made it completely out of the gate. We had to stand by the trucks for another two hours while the tractor was recovered into the FOB and replaced. At 1730 we finally pulled into Camp Falluja, where I learned that the lineup time for our next mission was at 0130. It would be a three-day operation.
Great. So now I have 6 hours to eat my first meal of the day, finish fixing a truck, supplement my previous night's 4 hours of sleep, and pack for three days. This is why they call Iraq "The Suck".
Next up: mission pictures (as soon as the Blogger.com web photo transfer starts working)