Thursday, March 6, 2008

Combat vets, part 2

From SPC Mark. Part 1 is below.

I'm not sure when but eventually I had passed out and I
was blinking awake now. Waking up in the Army is the
hardest part of my day. Usually I have a full poopy
face going as I sit collecting my thoughts. Took a
drink of water, strapped on my boots and headed for the
tent door. It's so dark in those tents that you have to
close your eyes before you open the door so as not to
go blind from the piercing sun light of the late
desert morning.

Stepped out, took a look around, stretched a bit, turned
and headed down the row of tents to the latrines. It
was nice with everyone gone. No one in the latrines. . .
hot water in the shower. . . I could get used to this. Yes,
it was going to be a good couple of days.

I finished my morning routine feeling quite good and cleanly shaven.
I stuck my head into my squad leader’s tent to see
what was what. Surprisingly they were up and already
playing video games. We exchanged a couple insults
and I sat down and picked up a controller.

“Hey, uh, where's Sgt. Medina?”

They all sort of moaned at my question. I had developed a bad
reputation for asking too many questions. I couldn't help it but I needed to know what was going on at all times. I blame my father, a former reporter, for that one.

“Uh, someone for the battalion TOC came by and was asking for him. probably some detail or something.”

“Bummer”

I sank into my chair at that news. I had hoped to avoid details while everyone was gone but I
guess I wasn't surprised. Moments later Staff Sergeant Medina flew through the tent door. We all spun around in our chairs. I didn't like his facial expression.

“Start getting your shit together we’re going out
with alpha company in a couple hours.” His voice hada hint of anger or desperation i couldn't tell.We didn't move. We just looked at each other all puzzled.

“What do I have to do ask you please get fucking moving!”

His voice now definitely angry we all jumped to our feet and tripped over each other as we did. I
headed for the door and as I was half out, Sgt. Medina said something that changed everything.

“Someone got killed last night.”

It wasn't until the door closed behind me did it sink
in. My mind flooded with questions. Who? What
company? What the hell happened? Where are we going?

Despite the urging of every bone in my body to turn
around and find the answers, I walked quickly back to
my own tent. There were no answers back through that
door and my questions would only make him angrier.

Within only about an hour, I was ready to go. Two
days food and water. Machine gun clean and oiled.
Ammo belts neatly rolled into pouches. Extra chem
lights, AA batteries, zip ties and a couple
extra pairs of socks and t-shirts.

I couldn't take it anymore. I headed back to my squad tent in search of
some answers and to find when the mission brief would
be. There wasn't much to hear they really didn't know
that much.

The guys had gone into an old container yard near an abandoned power plant and had made
contact with the enemy. As the last hours of daylight
passed, more details came in. They had been out there
and had been in and out of contact with the enemy all
day. News that they had come under “complex” attack
was especially disconcerting. Complex meaning they
used coordinated mortar and small arm attacks. A good
sign that these were not your usual insurgents.

We were the supplement Alpha Company and occupy a
blocking position for them as they cleared a small
village about a mile from the rest of the force.

Nervous and antsy, we moved out to the LZ several hours
early. We propped up against the blast walls and
chain-smoked cigarettes as the sun melted into a sea
of gold and red.

We said nothing really. No real small talk we just sat deep in thought. Sgt. Medina
was the first to break the silence.

“You guys scared?”

No one said anything.

“I'm scared and if your not, I don't want you in my squad.”

We all eventually admitted the same. One of our
Sergeant Majors came out and spoke a few words of
encouragement. It did little but add suspense to the moment.

Hours ticked by as the sky opened and the stars lit
up brightly. The time for the birds to arrive came
and went. But we waited on. Finally two hours late, the
bird showed up in dramatic fashion as always. Thunder
and dust. We boarded, packed into the uncomfortable
cargo net seats.

I had started a little tradition for
that time. When the bird started to lift off and we
headed off to go who knows where. I had developed a little
way to keep my mind level. And to an extent it worked.

Every-time when the helicopter throttled up and the
bird shook its way up, I pushed the light button on my
watch to see what time it was. Did the math and
figured what time it was at home. Right then, at that
moment, I pictured what was happening at my house.

"It's 0100 here. . . that means its. . . it's 1700 back
home. Five o'clock. It's five o’clock. That means that
Mom's sitting on the couch watching the news. Dad
should be home and is probably finishing up the last
of his emails. Jon. . . Jon hopefully is doing his
home work. But no, he's probably surfing. Mike. . .
Mike is at his house, home from work and he's definitely
drinking a beer and thinking about doing his homework.
its five o’clock.”

That usually did the trick. Put me at ease for a
bit. Bridged that gap between opening jitters and
total focus.

Before I knew it we got the six minute
warning. Weapons could be heard clicking as they were
loaded. I followed suit and loaded my SAW. The bird
banked and jostled and without any further warning the
bird slammed into the ground and the ramp opened.

Everyone jumped to their feet and hustled off the
bird. The only problem was that somehow the fact that
we had a two hour layover at another airfield hadn't
made it to most of us. So when we ran off the bird,
we were not greeted by the enemy but a rather portly
and confused staff sergeant holding a glow stick.

3 comments:

MightyMom said...

will come back and read part 2.....

have something you might appreciate but can't find your email...are you interested?

this dot mightymom at yahoo dot com

Jan Wesner said...

I read the last part to my husband, who just returned from Iraq, and he thought that was pretty funny.

Airbornedad said...

Jan,

Thanks for standing by. I have an after action report from a MNF-I briefing on this mission. If I can find it, I will post the photos.

Mark