“man I can’t wait to take a shower.” said Tiger
“Neither can I, you stink.” Lewis chimmed in
We were just waiting for the changeover to be complete. 1st platoon was going to take over COP security. All of us were assembled in the Gym/Mess/Aid Station/breifing room. Basically the largest partition of the downstairs part of the ice cream factory. It served as the multi purpose room close to the sleeping quarters. The nice thing about it was it was spacious, the bad part was that it served just a few too many purposes, and more than once a group of people would be engaged in one activity, say eating, while another would be working out, or someone would be giving a briefing while someone was grunting and straining on the bench press.
I suppose that there are some things that never change. Over the last few days we’d drifted apart, basically stuck on whatever shift we were on. One of the downsides of COP security was that you never really interacted with the rest of the platoon, and even the guy you were on it with (if you were lucky enough to be on a two man post) you didn’t really do anything but talk, and sometimes even that sucked.
So here we were all packed up, waiting for the word to put all our gear in the trucks. I was sitting on one of the benches that the engineers had made us. I was sitting thinking about how good it’d be to get some sleep, having just come off of a guard shift, which just so happened to follow a QRF call.
1st had gotten hit at 2400 on the dot. It blew the shit out of SSG Vera’s vehicle, though amazingly enough despite minor burns and a possible concussion on two soldiers there was no real injury. The TC side of the engine block was gone, pretty much ripped away. We provided security for the extraction, while the truck was towed back to base. I’d seen the truck when I brought 2-2 back to line it up for our SP, I also got some pictures, after all, despite the fact that it was a close call, there was a sort of morbid curiosity. It was just plain cool.
We had gotten back at 0200, just in time for me to go back on guard at north gate. So naturally I was tired as hell. I had gotten some sleep before, but not much. Still, by the end of the day, I’d be back on Rusty, and I’d be in a nearly freezing room, with all the Hajji DVDs I could watch. It sounded like heaven just then.
“I can’t wait for that Harry Potter to come out” said Tiger
“That’s some gay ass shit” laughed Island. “some little kid waving around a stick and yelling stupid shit, oh can’t wait for that”
“what It’ll be cool, I mean Sirius dies, and I even hear that the bitch from Fight Club is one of the Death Eaters”
“I have no idea what you just said” laughed Lewis,
“What was that?” said Island
“I dunno sounds like somebody hit the door.”
“hey we’re getting hit” said Jubi
“oh that’s nice.” I said detached. The rounds didn’t sound too big, and I was inside. There really wasn’t any place to go.
“Must be 60’s.” said SSG G
“Oh that so” I said again detached
“how many you suppose they’re gonna shoot at us?” I asked
“this must be their version of ‘fire for effect’” said Lewis
“well they’re not hitting anything, and this is a pretty easy target”
“no one ever accused them of being good”
I stretched out on the bench and closed my eyes. “wake me up when it’s over.” There were grunts of amusement. People sat and waited for the barrage to end, which didn’t last long. Two rounds that were not even close, later it was over. Though unlike the FOB we didn’t get the “all clear” announcement over the PA. It just kind of stopped and that was it.
It wasn’t long after the shelling stopped, that I heard a commotion over by the little corner that I had lovingly set up once long ago as the Aid station. I peaked my head up. A bunch of people were coming in clustered together, I sighed. Time to go to work.
I got up and headed over, to see Stern and OG 1st and 3rd’s medics and SGT Bouten. The one time team leader of 2nd platoon. He was sitting there with small patches of blood on his back, wincing and practically crying. I don’t think I could manage much sympathy for him. Honestly I’d seen worse after a rough night of sex. Stern was cutting his shirt off, and OG was getting the dressings ready.
“need any help?” I asked casually.
“nope, we got it” said OG
“ok let me know” I didn’t go back to the spot that I’d been sprawled out at though. I figured that it’d be good to see just how bad this was. As soon as the shirt came off I felt cheated. There were about ten spots in all and what looked like a minor burn covering most of his back. Most of the injuries were from thumbnail sized bits of shrapnel that had barely punctured the skin. He was bent over one of the cots wincing, trying to tell everyone that would listen just how it had happened, and how he didn’t even know he was injured yadda yadda. It actually irked me a little to hear him going on. What he had was a few scratches little more.
I could only take so much so, sure Stern and OG had it all in hand I went outside. Harrelson and some kid from 1st followed me out, looking for the impact sites. We didn’t have to look long for the first one. On the wall dividing the Ice Cream Factory from the Spaghetti factory (or the living area from the DFAC/parking area) it was a small hole, only half a cinder block was knocked out, and we could even see on the other side the hole in the cammo net where the Mortar round had come through.
The OB/exam table that CPT Brock had for some strange reason decided to send out to us, despite the fact that we’d told him that we’d just destroy it eventually, had in fact been partially destroyed or at least not useable for the OB/GYN function (not that we needed that) and the majority of the bed had been peppered with shrapnel. I whipped out my camera and took pictures and made sure that everyone knew that this time it was most defiantly NOT my fault, even though secretly I had wanted to rip the damn thing apart as soon as I saw it on the LMTV.
For the next twenty minuets or so Harrelson and I tried to find all the impact craters, but we simply couldn’t. I counted a total of three, which was odd because I heard a lot more than that hit. We both tried to guess what that meant but simply couldn’t figure it out, until I went into the CP.
I over heard some of the radio chatter as the SOG tried to get a BDA from all OP s. they all reported in that they were ok and no injuries, and that surprisingly enough most of the rounds hadn’t even hit our modest little COP. I am not a mortar man, and Mortar platoon wasn’t due out for a while, but I was pretty sure that it isn’t that hard to get six rounds in a 100x100 meter area. But then most of that wasn’t inhabited. They had ironically enough, under shot and hit some of the houses on the other side of some of the T barriers.
Having found out all that I wanted to know I shrugged and went back inside, figuring that the moderate cool of the living area, what with the twenty odd AC units at full blast at all times, was far preferable to the blazing heat outside or the cramped CP/office. I went back to the bench I had occupied, only to find Bishop there sprawled out where I had just been. I grunted and found another less comfortable spot. LT came out and told a half interested platoon that we’d have to wait till we were cleared. I suppose that having just been shelled. They didn’t want us to go out right away. I’m not sure how long we waited.
It was perhaps an hour or two before LT Came in and gave us the mission brief. It took only a few minuets and it was mostly a formality. If there was one thing that 2nd platoon was good at was pulling shit out of our collective asses. However it was important that everyone know the route. In the past people had been known to take the wrong road when everyone didn’t know the route (Jessica Lynch anybody?) The number of safe routs back to FOB Rustamiyah had significantly decreased since Craig died. We wouldn’t go through the mishtals, Fedalayah or most of the built up area between Rte Predators, and Outer Berm Road
Today we‘d be going through the “upscale“ part of Kamilayah, a less urban area where houses weren‘t jammed together in the crazy mish mash jig saw puzzle their architecture usually ended up becoming. It was a ½ Km section of almost rural houses set in a palm grove. Then we’d hop on outer Berm road, a raised up berm of a road that straddled a river before passing palm groves. The southern most end of outer berm road was usually not taken because of the IP checkpoints (a dead magnet for IEDs) and also there were also a lot of places that insurgents had been spoted. We never went sout of the old COP at the power station, but the week before we had made it all the way on outter berm to Pluto, so we’d try again today. We thought at the time it was better than running Predators or through the Mishtals.
Once the briefing was over we got the order to mount up. I grabbed my bags. One 3 day assault pack, my big aid bag, and a laundry bag. I suppose that I pack a little heavy, but the Aid Bag I have is something I couldn’t get away with, and I couldn’t put all my entertainment stuff in the assault pack that was packed with all the shirts and crap. I was going to be in 2-4, fourth vehicle in the convoy. Island would be the Driver, SGT “Old Balls” Johnson would be the TC, I was in the TC side dismount, and on the drivers side dismount was Bishop, Lewis was the Gunner.
It’s strange, but once the loading started it took almost half an hour to actually get all the bags into the trunk. The “Duke” took up a lot of room, but eventually we got it all in, with a little bit of jostling. The normal order of movement was 2-1, lead vehicle SSG Wheeler’s truck, and also our map guide, 2-2, SSG Beumont’s vehicle, with Harrelson driving, SSG Beumont TC, PFC Price TC side dismount, SPC Aetie, Drivers side dismount, and PFC Edwards the gunner. Behind 2-2 was 2-6, LT Hammel’s truck, followed by bravo section, lead by 2-4, 2-7 SFC Mays’ truck, today with SSG Davison TC, and 2-3 SSG G’s truck, and primary CASEVAC vehicle. However today we’d be taking an LMTV and a wrecker, that would tow SSG Vera’s destroyed vehicle. The wrecker went after 2-4 and the LMTV went after 2-7.
The engines turned on, and the sound of idling diesel engines filled the air. I stood outside waiting for the last possible second, not wanting to get in until it wasn’t an option. I always hated “sweating like a slave” as Island would say. The problem is that I had one tiny ac vent, and that really didn’t do shit for you when it was 130 outside. Gunners made their jokes, and people milled about until it was clear that it was time to go. One by one we all got in, and got ready to roll.
It wasn’t long before 2-1 started to roll out the south gate. Before we even started moving I was already in a half asleep state, I usually was in times like that. The convoys out and back for some reason were always so hard to stay awake for. I had my iPod nano playing in one ear, so I could still listen to the radio, and away we went. We took a slightly serpentine path, just so we didn’t make it too easy.
I dozed in and out of consciousness. There were points where I was very alert, and points where I simply can’t remember. I remember coming insight of the old COP. The power station. It gave me a small smile. I had a lot of good memories there. It was almost the half way point to Rusty. I suppose there are some places that stick out in your memory. It was perhaps three hundred meters past the road to turn into Riyassa that it happened.
“FUCK!” I knew it meant one thing and I already dreaded what I would find.
“2-2 is hit” called the LT
“Get me up there” I yelled at SGT Johnson
2-4 started to close the distance to the vehicle ahead of us, and instantly we tensed up, ready for whatever we saw.
“Dismount!” I heard SSG Davidson
I opened the door, and threw my aid bag on my back and grabbed my weapon. I sprinted once I got around the vehicle in front of me I saw to my horror that 2-2 was fully engulfed in flames. Already I could hear the insane popping of rounds cooking off. LT was standing by the Burn blanket, and saw me as I came running up on the scene
“Harrelson is dead” he said simply.
I veered right and went past PFC Hassibaf who was trying to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher, but at that point it was beyond putting out. I went to help drag SSG Beaumont down on to the lip of the berm below the burning humvee, to provide some cover from the rounds that were cooking off. I started to asses the casualties. By far SSG Beaumont was the worst. He had multiple punctures and lacerations, and at least one of his arms was broken., his left leg was oozing yellowish fluid, and I put a tourniquet above the highest wound. It was almost on his groin. His right leg wasn’t much better.
I quickly cut away part of his pant legs, to see what his injuries were. It was then that SSG Wheeler showed up, and started helping me with buddy aid. I directed him what to do and moved on to PFC Edwards. He had a large through and through wound in his left leg above the knee, it looked like he might also have some burns around his lose and mouth. I quickly put a CAT above the puncture, and moved on to PFC Price.
He was screaming in pain, blood pouring out of his right eye. The wound looked like it extended into his eye. Right there, I thought he was going to lose his eye. I called for water to clean out his eye, and once cleaned out it looked like it may have narrowly missed his eye, but I still wanted to bandage it up. I quickly pulled out a roll of Kirlex and a 2x2 and patched his yey then wrapped the Kirlex around his head, to keep it in place. I SSG Vera to stay with him, and try to bandage up his leg.
“You’re going to be alright Price.” I tried to reassure him,
“Doc how bad is it?”
“You’ll live.” I told him
“Give me morphine.” he cried
“Not yet. Hang on.” I moved back to Drew Edwards, and took a quick look at Aeti he gave me a shaken thumbs up, but I didn’t have time. If he wasn’t bleeding, or hurt, I simply didn’t have time, but I did keep asking if he was alright.
SSG Beaumont’s injuries were too numerous to list. He had a broken arm I’m sure, his legs were all sorts of fucked up, and he had a 1000 yard stare. He wasn’t tracking despite incredible pain. I did what I could from him and noticed yellow fluid leaking out of his wounds.
“Yes?” he asked dazed
“I can’t give you Morphine man, I think you might have a head wound”
“ugh” was all he replied. He would later ask at least twice for morphine.
I don’t know how long I was there I remember only flashes of it. I had run out of cravats so I used an ace bandage to make a sling for SSG Beaumont. I remember SSG Vera asking if he should plug PFC Price’s wound and I threw him some Kirlex and told him to do it.
I would only spend a minuet on each man bouncing from man to man. All the while the Humvee 2-2 was burning close enough to feel the heat. The popping as rounds cooked off sounded like the popcorn from hell, getting ever louder. The rounds cooking off were getting bigger, instead of a crackling sound like popcorn, it was starting to be a loud pop POP POP.
I remember hearing someone say “the AT-4 is going to go!” and I remember looking up right after a flare shot over my head. I was between March and Beaumont, when the AT-4 blew. I was perhaps no more than 15 meters away, and the explosion rattled all my hollow organs. Even dampened by the wreckage I felt the heat from the fire and the force of the blast.
It was almost an eternal moment. I just stared at the Humvee. Had that just happened? Had I just been that close? Was I still alive. All was silent, the noise of the screaming wounded. The smell of the fire, and cordite, all of it disappeared and I sat there staring at what should have killed me. I turned to look over my right shoulder, and there SSG Davidson was looking at me. He was 10 meters away at the bottom of the berm in the ditch but I could see he was rattled too. We shared a look. It was nothing more than “we’re still here.” and I went back to my work. I continued my work. Men brought stretchers to load up the wounded.
It was time to go, but first I had to plug PFC March’s leg wound. He had a through and though hole where a .50 round had cooked off and shot through his leg. I’d already put a tourniquet on, but, I had to plug that hole. Drew was already turned over.
“hang on Drew this is really going to hurt” I told him. I took a wad of Kirlex out and started shoving in the wound. Immediately he started screaming
“OH STOP!!! GOD DAMMIT PLEASE STOP!!!” his cries becoming more incoherent and piteous as I grit my teeth and shoved the kirlex in for all I could. I had to plug the wound but the pain it was causing him made me sick to my stomach.
When at last I stopped the rest of the platoon was getting set to load up. I tried to get Drew and SSG Beaumont in one truck and Price and Aeiti another. But someone told my Drew’s foot was broken, which I had missed completely. They loaded him up as a litter patient and put him in with Price in a second vehicle. I had to climb in at an odd angle because Humvees are just not meant for medical evacuations.
As soon as I was in the remaining humvees in Alpha section sped off down Outer Berm Road. Now that I wasn’t doing anything I noticed my hands were shaking. I couldn’t do any more for either Drew or Price.
“Our father who art in heaven” I reached into my medical rig on my chest, and took out a morphine auto injector “hallowed be Thy name” I pulled off the safety cap, my hands shaking “Thy Will be done” and held the lateral portion of Prices thigh “give us this day our daily bread. One one thousand two one thousand three one thousand four one thousand five. . . “I counted to ten before removing the auto injector I bent the needle and tried to put it against Price’s top, which had been cut open.
“forgive us our trespasses.” I took out another, my hands shaking wildly “as we forgive those who trespass against us” I held the auto injector against Edward’s leg and counted rapidly “lead us not into temptation.” I bent the needle and tried to put it again Edward’s shirt, his top long ago been cut off. “but deliver us from evil” The gunner called out that there were Sandbags in front of the Iraqi Police station. Sandbags were notorious for holding more IEDs or marking them. The Driver Espadas who was known for thinking he was a drag racer slowed down and was going to weave through the maze “Espadas if you get us killed I’m going to kill you!” I said
He weaved in and out of the Sandbag maze, though they were no more than one high, they were designed to slow cars. He could have gone over them but it was better just to avoid them. “for thine is the Power” he pulled right “and the Glory” and then left. “forever” he pulled right again “forever and ever” we were through and he sped down outer berm road. “Amen”
I repeated it one more time as we sped toward FOB Rustamayah. The lead gunner fired a couple of rounds across the MSR to get a clear path. The Humvees all sped down the MSR, and through the gates. They pulled in front of the Hospital, and the casualties were pulled out. I watched it all in a surreal way.
I took off my vest and K pot. Left my weapon in the truck and followed them in. I watched as they worked. It wasn’t as furious as they had with Craig, these men were nto going to die. The Battaion Commanded and Sergeant Major came down and watched as well. I’d had my fill and walked outside, that’s when it hit me. That thought that I had ignored for almost an hour
Harrelson is dead
I went to the nearest bunker and leaned against it. He had just turned 19! Spanky he liked to be called, because he looked like the character off the Little Rascals. The only other person I had known that knew what that show was. He was going to go to Bama and be an Engineer. He had a girl back home he was gonna marry!
I saw out of the corner of my eye my Senior Medic coming towards me, arm outstretched as if to comfort me. I didn’t want to be comforted. I took an deep breath and let out a yell. Of frustration, rage, pain or just the sheer wrongness or unfairness of it all. It was all of those things and none of those things, but I felt better when it was done.
The fact remained. I had lost another man. Another friend. We weren’t chasing some evil terrorists, or saving puppies from a burning building. We were just returning to the FOB for some well deserved time off. Hell of a way to fight a war.