SAVING THE WORLD
There are many things we do to assist the Iraqi people both visible and sometimes not very visible. Many smaller events get accomplished so that larger ones can continue to move on and form the country’s independence. The event themselves I wont discuss but you can get a feeling at least of how we felt traveling around the area saving the world or so it seemed.
Our convoy began in the dark. It was a good one and longer than most. All was good as I peered through my ballistic orange glasses for low light use. Not many Haji’s out and the travel was fast. The sun began to come up and we had to move to another base. Our mission would help many other Iraqis in the long run down the road. It was imperative to get there as we would be going through a lot of shady parts of town (Regular freaking carnival ride!). We moved through a farley large city and it looked like ruins of some Roman Empire with black smoke throughout. (no kilts) Our gunners fire a few warning shotgun shots at a car that doesn’t want to stop. The whole time your doing the continuous IED scanning from hell, here there everywhere, where is the next one going off going to come from? The black burnt craters from past SVBIEDs are always reassuring and a deadly reminder along the highway. Truck one relays to watch the black bag on the right shoulder (characteristic of IEDs). We adjust. Flash bangs detonate near another truck who isn’t stopping. (9 out of 10 times they just don’t see us until we are upon them but the one time is the one that will kill you) This is why we use an escalation of force instead of gunning them down right off the bat. The sun is coming up and its an huge yellow sun rising with clouds above it and looks like something out of the holiday season tv version of the Ten Commandments. We get closer to our destination and more traffic is appearing but the Marines handle it well. Adjusting and clearing traffic we reach our destination without any problems. The credit goes to the young Marines being vigilant and proactive. What great leaders our county has to look forward to as they young Men continue to grow. We complete the first phase of our mission which takes the majority of the day. Many key personnel are involved and Iraq’s future begins to become visible and Americas exit begins to become even more apparent. We are finished here and now have to move to yet another location for more business to conduct.
We began our helo departure as it was dark, wind blowing and cold. The low illume turquoise lights from inside the helo showed our small group onto the aircraft. Crew chiefs manning the guns with their green glow around their eyes from their Night Vision Devices (NVGs) sat ready manning their 50 cals as we began to take off. Engines whining, fluid dripping (it’s a good thing when they leak, its when they quit leaking is when you worry) The aircraft noses down as we lifted off for some reason the song “Born to be wild” by Steppenwolf began to play in my head and my toes began to tap. The low illume lights went out inside the helo and the ever present smell of JP8 aircraft fuel ran through the cabin. The shake of the helo is perfect to put you to sleep. It’s a short hop so I fight the sleep and look out the back ramp of the helo and see lit up clouds by a full moon. Its pitch black in the cabin. As we travel I catch the dark yellow moons reflection on the Euphrates as we fly over a section of the river. As we continue the moon disappears because of darker lower clouds we fly into and they begin to surround us. Its completely dark in the cabin minus the green eyes behind the 50 cals and a couple instrument lights in the cockpit. Then, a big flash and I fight my gear to twist to scan out a window and begin to clean the crap out of shorts. Its never good to see a big flash in the sky with helos. There is no more moon out and the flash was very bright. Were not hit I thought as we are still flying. As I always sit in the same place on the bird I know how to get out if we go into the drink (water) and as I reach for a well known handle to turn just in time to see spider webs of lightening go through the black cloudy sky just above us. Great! Grand! Wonderful! Were heading into a thunderstorm. The kind or lightening you see out on the prairie in the movies. Its actually pretty neat to see, just not at a few thousand feet. The aircraft drops down nice and a lot lower than usual as I can easily see the halogen lights that light up the houses in Haji land as we fly over them. For some reason I think about the last cigar I burnt about a half hour ago, it still tastes good. More lightening bolts off in the distance as the flight is pretty smooth surprisingly and there is a diamond shape cut out of the clouds as the full moon briefly shines through then goes behind black clouds. We approach our landing site banking hard left and I can make out a black helo silhouette behind us as the “Dash 2” helo approaches in our adjacent path. We are low over the city and anti missile chaff begins to deploy off the aircraft to misdirect surface to air missile (basically it seems someone is locking on to us ) CRAPTFREAKINGASTIC!! Just what I need. I have had a long butt crack day, been up since yesterday, sitting in crap (not really) and now surface to air threat. We land however without any problems (ok the flyboys did a good job) and we are on the ground. Its dark, soaked ground from hours of past rain and our night begins to wind down but before we rack we go over the next days plan.
It was a short night (stooopid alarm clock) and its still dark as I enjoy a nice pop tart and coffee………..cigar to follow of course. We have yet another mission and its going to be a white knuckle ride. Im not humming Born to be wild anymore more like shitting diamonds cause we are so puckered. Helo support is above us and nice and low where I can see the pilots. I like it that way! We begin out the route weave through the many barriers to only be met by the many IED pot holes in the road right off the bat. My driver hits a pot hole (never good) and I say do you think we can go AROUND the potholes; I really don’t want to hit any mines today! He is trying but he still hits a couple. We can’t afford to get dead. Not today. We continue to motor down and have the air support about 50 yrds ahead of us at a couple hundred feet just looking for ass to beat. Our Forward Air Controller (FAC) vectors them to recon our path and watch our flanks as the city is bare and empty. We have a million moving parts to today’s op and for some reason things are just not going as planed. They say the best laid plan changes as soon as you step off. We ours went into another millennium. Adapt, overcome feel like shooting something, its all good we adjust and overcome. We get to our destination in downtown. First class craphole. Its like if you ever asked yourself, hmmmmmmmw here is the worse place I could think about being. BINGO, your there. The buildings shot up from previous gun fights, collapsed building floors, nasty standing water and a nice stench lead your way. We conduct our business with the Hajis’s who we are working with. Its pretty interesting and they are doing their damnedest to build their country. You got to give it to them when they know America’s history and George Washington better than some Americans. We talk and they tell us, yes like George Washington this and GW that, our country will be great soon. Good on em………time to go, see ya. We load up our Marines and do the smashed pedal race back to base. The Army works well with us as they cover our flanks as we move through the city. Im always scanning and all of a sudden I see a black silhouette on a roof top and so does the gunner as he swings the turret around and the split second that goes by I make out a burkah and not a black hooded RPG shooter. The gunner and I comment on that later and agree it got our attention as she was just hanging laundry, the young Marine says with a shit eating grin on his face. We continue to haul ass back home and arrive without incident. Another couple fun packed days in Iraq.
I figured I would try to give you an idea of what it’s like here a couple days at a whack. For those Marines who are on post consecutively and cant email you and explain what they see and do, the above is for them and for the Iraqi we are helping. The Ones who are working with us and the ones who cant do it for themselves.
Approximately 400 Iraqi Police candidates arrived in Baghdad early this morning from the Al Anbar Province to begin a ten week Iraqi Police training course. Half of the men were recruited from the Al Qa’im region in western Al Anbar and the other half from the provincial capital, Ar Ramadi. On Jan. 5 a suicide bomber attacked the recruitment center in Ramadi killing more than 30 applicants. Despite that attack, the recruits returned en masse today. There are approximately 1,200 Iraqi Police Officers patrolling the streets of Fallujah with 400 more attending the Baghdad Police Academy. This is the first large group of Iraqi Police candidates from Ramadi and the Western Euphrates River Valley to attend the Ministry of Interior’s police training. U.S. Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team (28th Infantry Division) assisted in providing security for the convoy to Baghdad. Subsequent groups of candidates will attend this training course in the near future.