Friday, March 18, 2011


During training they told us to keep an eye out for debris in the road. "Anything in the road might be an IED in disguise. An empty MRE bag, an old tire, even a dead animal. Road debris, like broken concrete, might be an indication that they buried an IED in the area." Be alert, they told us. Suspect any debris in the road.

Then we got there and saw what was on the roads. Debris was everywhere. Broken curbs were abundant, trash lined the streets. I did some volunteer work in New Orleans clearing debris after Katrina. There was more crap on the roads in Iraq.

The thing about hiding IEDs inside of old tires stuck in my mind most for some reason. I nearly shit myself my first mission out, because there was a giant pile of old tires just a couple miles from the entry control point, or ECP. Thousands of the fucking things just a few feet off the road.

Eventually you figure out what's supposed to be there and what isn't, but those first few times out were somewhat harrowing, not in spite of our training but BECAUSE of it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Superbowl Sunday 2010

Superbowl Sunday is more than just some big event where I get to watch funny TV commercials and eat chips, occasionally pausing to watch guys get paid way too much to play sports. It's also an anniversary.

Superbowl Sunday 2010 was the night I almost lost three friends.

We were making a run from JBB to Seitz, part of the Victory complex of bases on the outskirts of Baghdad. 2nd Platoon left to go to the same place about an hour or so before us, so we joked that they were clearing the route for us. It was going to be an easy run - zero trucks there, bring some back. As such, we rode a little tighter than usual.

We didn't notice that all the street lights were out this time. We didn't see any of the Iraqi Army around like usual. I was driving the #4 truck, about 400 meters away from our lead scout. There was a flash of light, then a deep "pop" sound, like the world's largest balloon popping. Before the words "what the fuck was that?" even finished leaving my mouth, I saw police lights come on to my right as the Iraqi Army suddenly appeared, reacting faster than they should have.

I heard the lead scout TC over the radio stating that they took a hit on the right side of the vehicle, but everyone was okay. They're still rolling. He wanted the #6 truck, the medic vehicle, to move up so the medic could check out his guys. SOP for a blast.

He would reiterate that everybody is okay a few more times. His voice was cool, like we were running a drill.

The radio keyed again, and a voice started screaming "OH FUCK OH FUCK OH FUCK." Unbeknownst to me, the gunner dropped down out of his turret and landed on his mic switch, accidentally keying it up while he reacted to what had happened. The concussive blast of the explosion rang his bell pretty good and he didn't remember this later.

It was an EFP - explosively formed penetrator.

An EFP is a disc of metal, ideally copper, on a shaped charge. When the shaped charge goes off, the disc turns into a molten spear, punching its way through armor like a hot knife through jello. This EFP didn't form properly, however, and only made it most of the way through the TC's door. However, had it hit a few inches further to the vehicle's rear it wouldn't have mattered, because it would have found the seam where the door meets the body.

We didn't make it back in time to watch the Superbowl. So we missed out on two honest-to-God beers as well.

I still don't like loud noises.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I Hate the Media

In the spring of 2007, Anna Nichole Smith died. I did some cursory research and concluded that she was only famous because she got naked for a magazine and married an elderly rich man.

The news didn't shut up about her for weeks.

In the spring of 2007, Captain Walter Schirra died. Wally Schirra was a Naval aviator, a test pilot, and chosen to be part of Astronaut Group 1, the Mercury Seven. Wally Schirra was the fifth American in space, commanded Gemini 6 and, by commanding Apollo 7, became the first person to fly in space three times and the only man to fly in projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. Wally Schirra was an American hero and I didn't find out about his death until weeks after it happened.

Michael Jackson died in the summer of 2009 and the media wouldn't shut the hell up about him for months. All he ever did was sing some songs and touch some little boys.

Last week, Major Richard Winters passed away. Dick Winters is best known for commanding Company E, 2/506 PIR, 101st Airborne from the invasion of Normandy until just after Operation Market Garden, then becoming battalion XO and eventually battalion commander.

Dick Winters saved the world. But you'd have been lucky if you accidentally stumbled into the news of his passing.