21 August 2006

Convoy Baghdad

Before I get into my story, let me first say that what I did is the same thing that thousands of troops do repeatedly every day. My short trip doesn’t make me hooah-hooah-hardcore, the guys who we went with fit that description. The road warriors who do this every day have my unyielding respect. That being said, what follows is my experience.

Several days ago we got a request for some support at a FOB out in the Red Zone. As my Platoon Sergeant and I were going over our list of available troops we quickly realized that none of them had been outside the blast walls of the IZ. This was a problem since we try to pair up troops who have gone with those who haven’t so that everyone can get a chance to go. The only other available troop who had been outside the IZ was me.

As with most important decisions, this one brought with it a lot of mixed feelings. As a husband and new father I want to make sure that I do the things that will get me home to see my family. Volunteering to go outside the protection of the IZ is not one of those things. As a Soldier and a leader of Soldiers I want to set a good example for my troops. Sending my troops into a dangerous area while sitting behind my desk is not a good example. The though of having been deployed to Iraq for a year and spending most of my time behind a desk dealt a heavy blow to my ego. It would be a great personal disappointment if the day comes that my son asks me if I was in the war and the best story I have to tell is about contaminated shrimp at the DFAC.

I also viewed it as a test of manhood. A man would strap on the body armor and roll out. A man would stand with his troops to face the enemy. A man would go. So I went.

I had no part in the mission as far as getting the work done, my only contribution would be my previous Red Zone experience and as I had responsibilities back at the office I would have to ride with my troops out to the FOB and return to the IZ with the escort (the guys who do this daily). Since I was the only one with any experience in our unit outside the IZ I thought it only appropriate that I should drive (remember my fleet?).

The morning for our trip came and we all loaded up in one of the trucks and linked up with our escort. We ended up having to wait since the guys who would be escorting us were already on a mission and would be returning shortly to pick us up. While we waited we joked and talked about how we would inflate the stories we told our friends and families about this trip.

“So there I was, driving through downtown Baghdad when suddenly 20 insurgents popped out from nowhere! Wait, did I say 20, I meant 50…”

After a bit our escort returned and we finalized the plan. I would drive out with my troops and when we got where we were going I would jump out and get in one of the escort trucks for the ride back. Everyone in the convoy got briefed up and we rolled out. My first trip outside the IZ was on foot, for my second I was a passenger. This time I was a driver.

The trip to the FOB was pretty quick. There was a ban on vehicle traffic that day due to the Shia pilgrimage so the roads were pretty clear except for all the pilgrims (images of John Wayne letting the word “pilgrim” slip from the corner of his mouth running through my head). While driving I split my attention between the truck in front of me and the people around me. “Watch the hands,” the guys from the escort told us, “you gotta use your hands to try and pull any &$!%#.” With all the pilgrims on the streets there were a LOT of hands to watch.

As we drove through Baghdad we passed by a bunch of ISF checkpoints and got friendly waves from the Iraqi troops manning them. When we got where we were going I jumped out of my truck, gave some final guidance, and loaded up in one of the escort trucks. Once I was in the escort truck I got the quick brief on my responsibilities as a member of the truck team. The first brief I got was from the .50 cal gunner.

“Sir, if we get engaged and I call for ammo, you need to cut this strap here and hand me the whole can. I’ll take care of it from there. Also, if I get hit, your job is to push me out of the way and man the gun. Don’t worry about giving me aid, ok?”

“Roger, got it.”

My next brief came from the truck commander.

“Sir, while we’re driving make sure you’re looking out the window and watching their hands. If someone opens your door from the outside … shoot the mother$^%#!”

“Roger, got it.”

Now that I had been properly briefed we rolled back. Doing my best to appear to be a competent troop in the field, I watched the other guys in the truck and did my best to imitate them. I noticed that the truck commander had his M9 pistol in his hand and his M4 stashed next to him. I figured that given the advice he just gave me that should the door get opened it would be easier to maneuver the pistol so I stashed my M4 and readied my M9.

The trip back ended up being as eventful as the trip out (not very) which is obviously a good thing. We got back to the IZ and I thanked the guys for the trip.


Anonymous Anna said...

Stay safe!

Blogger The Griper said...

"ok" as a smile crosses my face,"who is the insurgent?"
a very good question for your readers, bandit.


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