A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Monday, April 05, 2004 :::
Friend Jason, proprietor of Just Another Soldier is certainly seeing his share of the action. Jason, it turns out, is something of a perennial college student, and so this adventure probably is the welcome change that he paints. He also seems to empitomize the saying attributed to George Orwell: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
." Or something like that. The source of the quote has never been found, and it has a few variants. Have to make sure we didn't just invent another.

Jason is also a very good writer.

Prayers seem to be appreciated by friend Jason, though he likes to make fun of religious people.

This week he writes:

Iraq right now is not unlike the early American wild west and all of my Indiana Jones-fueled boyhood fantasies have come true for the most part. We live a pretty primal existence. We have to be creative when it comes to everything. We build what we need by hand from available materials. Even when it comes to combat readiness, we have to use a lot of ingenuity and elbow grease to make things work. Humvees are being kept together with bubble gum and bailing wire half the time, weapons are covered in duct tape to keep pressure switched in place, and recently a slim jim was constructed out of a wire oven rack taken from a home we raided to open a car the owners could not seem to produce keys to. And despite all the high tech bullshit we carry, personal defense is still the most primal act. Everytime we leave our forward operations base (FOB), we lock and load. In the old west, gunslingers went everywhere strapped because they never knew when they'd be in their next gunfight. There is nothing different about being in Iraq. It's an oddly exhilarating way to live.

But when something does happen, there is excitement. If you are there for the event, there is a certain intensity and elation. If you weren't there, you absorb every word of the recounted stories. I feel like I need to apologize constantly for enjoying myself here. They say that morale is incredibly low in Iraq among soldiers. That sucks for them. I'm having the time of my life.

And I'm not enjoying myself just because of the G.I. Joe factor. The culture here is fascinating. I feel like I'm in one big Bible story. When I was four years old living in Spanish Fork, the s*****est hick town in Utah, my recently adopted father would read me these illustrated bible stories. Add AK-47s and shabby cars to those stories and you have Iraq 2004. As a child I didn't understand Charlton "I loves me some rifles" Heston when he cried out to Pharaoh, "Bricks without straw??!! How can we make bricks without straw!!!" Bricks need straw? I had never seen bricks containing straw. Well, I have now. And the story about the temple that needed the exposed bricks of its exterior wall mended? I've seen that wall. Men's fashion hasn't exactly improved over the last three millennia either. They still wear man-dresses, just like they wore when Jesus was still a teen hangin' out at the local Haji-mart and later in his life when people were touching the hem of it. I've seen kids on donkey-drawn carriages in place of bicycles and men wipe s*** off their asses with their bare hands in place of toilet paper. I also was perplexed as a child by a Bible story when someone washed Jesus' feet when he came to visit them. Never having worn sandals in my life, this seemed like a totally random thing to do. Now I understand it.

This place is so harsh and backwards and perpetually stuck in the fucking stone ages in most ways, but you just have to love it for it. There are no shining new strip malls or housing development here, no Super Target, no Starbucks, no Jiffy Lube. It's full of people that will die twenty years earlier than Americans and who can't help but understand that life is survival first and owning a Playstation second. Although there's nothing special about people that live in poverty and squalor, there's something genuine about these people and their life that I can't help but admire. I wish to god I spoke Arabic because I have a thousand questions I want to ask them. Tyler Durden would love Iraq.

But I'll have time to write the tour guide to Iraq later. Let's get back to the soldier's update. We agreed we like the dangerous and gritty, right? So here's an overview of what's gone on in my AO over the past couple weeks:

The first firefight goes to second platoon who went on a night raid in a small town near our FOB. An intel guy and an informant from Baghdad said an attack on a very large FOB in the area was going to be perpetrated by men from this village that night at such and such time. While they were approaching the town and before they even made it to the house to be raided, they took fire. It was an ambush. Ray and John were both on the mission. Ray spotted some guys using night vision devices and infra red lasers. Some guys returned fire immediately, some wailed away on the enemy with their SAWs, but mostly there were a lot of confused soldiers that took some prodding to kick into gear. Here's a quick scorecard from the stories I heard:

Friendly dead: 0
Friendly wounded: 0
Friendly shoulders dislocated from jumping behind cover: 1
Friendly dislocated shoulders self-relocated: 1
Enemy killed by Ray and Socky: 0 (maybe next time)
Overall enemy dead: 0
Enemy wounded: 0
Directions of fire received: 3
Soldiers' pants pissed: 1
Soldiers with pissed pants who pushed on with the fight: 1
Soldiers who refused to fight and returned to the Humvees: 2
Soldiers who fell asleep on the objective: 1 confirmed (most likely more)
40 mm HE grenades John fired: 2
40 mm HE grenades it took to convince the enemy to stop fighting: 1

(Will put link back in later.)


Three men of Arab descent and unknown allegiance drove by an ICDC building in my AO and threw an explosive at its front gate, apparently in hopes of baiting them into a vehicular pursuit. The ICDC did what they do best: nothing. This time it probably paid off. In their car the three men had an AK-47 and an RPK, a Russian machine gun. Frustrated that the ICDC did not give chase, the three hooligans drove alongside and opened fire (probably impulsively) with the AK on an up-armored Humvee with its window open. The soldier behind the driver was killed and two others were wounded. Immediately, a .50 cal and a M240 in the Humvee's convoy showed the three men the flames of hell. Two of the men were shredded by the gunfire and the third, the driver as I understand it, ate a self-administered 9mm round. This put all three with rounds taken to the head. Two female bystanders were killed in the crossfire. One took a round to the back of the head, removing most of her face. Not a good day for heads. I feel horrible about the women. I have several close-ups of these dead a******s, but I've decided not to post them. We all know combat is f****d up and I figure me self-righteously showing you the end result of patriotism, religious fervor or whatever it is you choose to motivate you to kill is unnecessary. However, I found myself fascinated by what the dead guys were wearing. It was very Western: jeans, Dickey-like blue pants, white t-shirt, blue plaid button-down shirt, black t-shirt, brown leather belt, and all three had well-groomed hair and facial hair. And it's not that I expected to see them wearing traditional garb. You know when you're driving and someone on the road does something stupid and you get p****d off and you have to see what they look like, as if you could collect a mental catalog of how a******s look? Well, it's like that. I can't help but want to know what my enemy looks like, how he dresses, how he does his hair.


While on guard duty I was sitting on a folding stool beside my Humvee that was parked at a position on the berm that protects our FOB. We heard the unmistakable hollow report of a 40mm grenade being fired then a second later the even louder sound of the round slapping into the berm not 40 meters from us. The sound of it hitting the soft dirt of the berm was loud, but not loud in the way a 40mm grenade exploding sounds. A MK-19 on a Humvee, part of a convoy leaving our FOB, had an accidental discharge (now called a "negligent discharge" in military parlance). Had the round been fired about two seconds earlier it probably would have hit my Humvee and I'd probably be in a world of hurt right now, another one of those stupid fratricide statistics.


A man on a scooter was trailing a convoy entering our FOB. He was repeatedly commanded to stop in English, Arabic and the universal language of an assault rifle being pointed at him. He was unarmed. It is uncertain what he was thinking. However, it is certain that the 5.56mm round that he subsequently took to the chest killed him. It was reported that his lover killed himself the next day when he got word of his death.


I've been on two raids now. The first was in response to three IEDs that exploded next to a Humvee as it drove down a road near our FOB. No one in the Humvee was hurt. My platoon, acting as the quick reaction force (QRF), was called to the scene. We cleared about seven buildings in the area of the attack. The buildings were all chicken farms (ranches?) and the homes of the people that ran them. We turned up a lot of weapons, but all were legit. No bad guys or IED-type materials were found, just a bunch of terrified families. As usual, I ended up with Jeff and his squad, meaning much fun was had. We trudged through canals and swamps and covered a lot of ground on foot. It was incredibly physically exhausting. G*******d heavy-a** body armor. If it didn't protect my vital organs so well, I'd pitch that thing in a canal. The squalor these chicken ranchers lived in was sad. But I'll tell you what, clearing a building and entering a room 75 meters long and full of thousands of chickens is really bizarre.

The second raid was on a house of an apparent IED maker. The best part of this was how the location was recon'd. Kirk and Jeff were part of a foot patrol that passed by the home of the intended raid. They acted like stupid soldier-tourists and took pictures of themselves in front of everything: the approach to the house, the neighbors' homes, the target house itself and all its inhabitants who were more than happy to come outside and pose with them. I guess if the enemy is brazen enough to just drive right up and plant IEDs on the side of the road, we can walk right to their homes, photograph everything including them, then raid the home a few hours later at first light. They looked so happy in the pictures, it kinda made me feel bad about raiding their home. It was good to know that the house was cram-packed full of little rugrats though. We counted four kids in the photos, but after the raid we discovered ten. These Iraqis don't fuck around when it comes to makin' kids. All ten kids slept through the entire ordeal. The raid went off without a hitch, the smoothest operation I've been on, even in training. We were supposed to send a breech team over the wall surrounding the property to open the metal gates from the inside, but once we got to the home, the front gate was unlocked. It was kinda funny. The breech team and the raid team were lined up against the wall, wating to go over the ladder. Mike, my platoon sergeant, tried the gate and it opened. It was unlocked. He looked back at us and shrugged and directed the raid team in. Once at the door, the man of the house was already awake and at the door and let them in. Once inside and searching the home, my platoon sergeant found hidden behind the home's AK-47 a plastic bag containing woman's lingerie and some booze. There was booze stashed all over the house actually. The man of the house was none too happy and I'll bet a big part of it was knowing what a world of s*** he was going to be in not so much for having to explain the IED materials to us but having to explain the naughty items we found to his wife. Willy's platoon raided another home in the town simultaneously. They chained the front gate of their target house to a Humvee and pulled it down along with half the wall. Once again, no shots fired at either house, no one was hurt, everything was performed on time. A very successful operation. And for the concerned bleeding hearts out there, all damages are reimbursed.

Here are all the photos: http://www.recognizant.com/myiraq/blog040403.htm

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 12:49 PM



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What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

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