The Invasion, Part Three

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I pulled 675 lbs from the second pin today– from roughly 1 1/2″ under my knee caps. You’re right, you have a much smaller range of motion, but, you are starting the lift at the most mechanically disadvantaged part of the lift, without the momentum provided by leg drive off of the floor. I could write a whole post on the benefits of this lift, but I digress. Trolls, RC and Chess have seen video proof.

What the hell am I getting to here? The same mixture of giving fear both middle fingers and wanting to kick its ass, and a level of arrogant stupidity, led me to flinging myself out of an aircraft, with a big sheet of fabric strapped to my back. Every single time I jumped, I got scared as hell at about the 5 minute mark, but as soon as I saw the first guy go out and the line begin to advance, I told fear to kiss my ass, and myself, that I would do whatever it took to land safely.

jump

 

Company Jump [Before I Got to The Unit]

 

 

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of other invasion recounts, because of the ten year anniversary. I’ve noticed quite a few, where the thought of deploying and going to war, is synonymous with death. I guess I was just so naive, a cocky white kid from the San Francisco suburbs? When I was an idiot in high school, I think I convinced myself dying in battle was some glorious thing. It’s really not, especially when it’s a cowardly roadside bomb, and I have other ideas about close fights, but I don’t want to sound harsh. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I was terrified and thought, “I don’t want to die,” but I had to convince myself to get pissed off that anyone would have the audacity to shoot at me, and want to, conversely, whoop their ass.

I’ve also noticed a decent amount of folks are also mad at Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld  and the gang, calling the war illegal. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I saw a lot of dead assholes from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi, Chechnya, etc. I’d much rather have halfway-psychopaths, like my brother and myself, fighting them in Iraq, then having my mom be scared of an attack at home. If you cannot understand the semantics of troops in Iraq attracting terrorists, there may be no hope for you.

We were rolling up to do our first combat raid on a train station on the outskirts of As Samawah. At the same time, my brother was getting ready to air assault troops into Najaf. He was the brigade flight lead on the longest– large-scale –air assault in history. My poor Mom– in the meantime –was watching the news 24/7, waiting for the horrible news that her only two children were going off to war. I feel so horrible about this, but I’m afraid it was my destiny, truly. My brother is still in, and he is literally rated as one of the best– read top 5 –helicopter pilots in the Army, and really in the world. I can’t go any further into it than that, but people like @AppFlyer can vouch for it.

riding down the road

It was the only thing we both ever wanted, even though we both had obstacles to getting there, besides our family– full of veterans thinking our family had done their fair share –he had physical issues, and I had the legal issue, that you can read about in part one. Yet there we were, only a few hundred miles away, but in completely different worlds, and our Mom was thousands of miles, away in her own hell.

the 3rd Infantry Division had been getting bogged down, and it’s supply chain attacked, on their push toward Baghdad, at As Samawah, Iraq. Seen here on the map.

samawah

 

Protecting the supply line was vital to the advance on Baghdad, there was only one way to rectify this; unleash some paratroopers with enemies on at least three sides. After showing up in our trucks, LMTVs and 5 Tons, we were escorted off of the main highway onto a side road, by Bradleys and Abrams Tanks, that’s when it got real for me, especially because I saw my first dead body killed by gunfire, it was a guy in a truck on fire, apparently a suicide bomber. The fire had burned a lot of his skin and hair off. Running into the scud bunkers in Kuwait, when the sirens went off, hadn’t done it, neither did SAW gunner from C Co– while getting off of the C-130 at Talil — when he said: “I’ll see you bastards at Sharky’s when we get back.” Nope, now was my time.

We parked well away from the train station, and dismounted. The Bradleys went to clear the road ahead and took contact. Behind the Bradleys was a Civil Affairs HUMVEE with an interpreter and a huge set of bullhorns on the roof. After the Fedayeen, Republican Guards– or whoever retreated back into the train station –crawled back in their reinforced holes under the tracks, the civil affairs truck pulled up and the interpreter started telling everyone within miles, over the loudspeaker, that the 82nd Airborne was in town, and that we were angels of death.

He went on to play recorded cadence by us where we were running in formation and screaming about killing the enemy, with the interpreter interpreting the lyrics in Arabic. I think they then played Welcome to The Jungle by Guns’n’Roses, loud, on repeat; while we rolled up in squads behind some Bradleys. 1st Squad was on point, and had to enter the building first, followed by us, then 3rd Squad would pick up rear security, so Weapons could bring their guns up to provide a support by fire.

This was the first time I really could die, or could have to kill someone. We dismounted the trucks, placed our gear “dress-right-dress” in formation, then took off our MOPP suits for the impending assault. In the distance, A-10 Thunderbolts were engaging “technicals” attacking highway 8, with plumes of smoke vastly evident. After 1st Squad got a foothold, my squad moved up, and as Alpha Team provided security, my team entered and cleared a room. We had done this thousands of times in the past few weeks, since we came to Kuwait. But, this was the first real time, and I’ll be honest, I popped my safety to semi on my M4 as I entered the room. I was determined to live.

The train station would be cleared with great tension, and surgical precision, but no enemy contact. It turns out all of the boot marks led out towards the open pastures– and dirt –between the station at the top of the hill, and the main city below. The 82nd is almost infamous: devils in baggy pants, angels of death, suburban white kids with serious chips on their shoulders; this wouldn’t be the first time the enemy would be scared away knowing the “Eighty Deuce” was coming. (See Haiti, and the dictator giving up when he heard the 82nd was on the way, here).

It was almost a “let down” that we did not engage the enemy. At this point, most of the pacifists and cowards were gone– one guy stabbed himself in the thigh with a Gerber in Kuwait, because he didn’t want to kill anyone, or die. It was a huge “adrenaline dump,” and non-event, which left me doubting myself, because I was wound up tight, and I wanted to test myself under fire. It got even worse the next day, as the only home in our immediate AO (Area of Operations), was a farmstead, the eldest male came out turned himself in, with all his weapons, and said he was a Republican Guard Colonel, but do not want to fight. No contact again.

train station

 

Downtime at the Train Station

I’d get the chance soon, but it would be silly circumstances. After taking the train station without a fight, we setup shop. We dug gun positions into the far side, which looked down into the city, and had fortified positions for all the D Co “Gun Truck” HUMVEES on the perimeter. With at least 33% security, at all times, we were ready to start launching out patrols. Scouts went out first and set up recon and sniper positions, with Alpha Company following with a roving patrol soon there after. I was in the m240 gun position at the time, working with a 50 cal truck, that had a TWS (Thermal Weapon Sight).  I watched through my NODS, (Night Optical DeviceS), as the scouts moved out in their crouched formation, then two platoons from Alpha Company in a squad wedge.

Scouts observed the enemy, but Alpha did not make contact. We were given hot chow for breakfast the next day, which could only mean one thing, we were about to get in the fight. It was horrible “K-ration scrambles,” where powdered eggs were mixed with pieces of frozen vegetables and ham, frozen again, then heated up in metal tins dropped in boiling water. MRE’s were probably better, but it gave us a bit of a social function to go to, in order to prepare ourselves.

Apparently, Fedayeen and Republican Guards– in civilian attire –had been attacking the supply lines. They had been attacking with trucks, so the first thing we did, was go and take the bridges, then reinforce them with fighting positions, claymores, and anti-vehicle weapons. We spent a creepy day and night there, then went back to the train station; got some mail, and got a hot dinner meal– in the middle of the day. K-rats’ again, GROSS.

takin a nap while the other team guards the bridge

 

One Team From a Squad Taking a Nap During the Day, While the Other  Team Pulls Security [Outside of Picture]

outside the train station before gettin ready to assault the city that nigh

 

Outside of the Train Station After Chow, Going Over Mission Details

We were told our missions, then went to sleep on the platforms in the middle of the day, as we would be moving out in the middle of the night. In case you didn’t know, we owned the night. Here we are:

train station

 

We were awoken by our leadership, with all of our gear packed. One of the first things we heard, was a 2000 lb bomb being dropped on the enemy, at over a mile away, but you could still feel it reverberate through your soul. I had so much gear it wasn’t funny, and I couldn’t hear anything anyone was saying, because the 105 mm Howitzers of the 319th were firing like crazy, and so were the Battalion 81 mm mortars.

 

This was FUCKING WAR. We loaded up on the trucks, which took us down to the river crossing bridges we had been guarding earlier. We were now across the river into the enemy’s territory, with only bridges behind us to retreat across. If you didn’t know, we don’t do that shit, we fight to the death, and we had a pact in my squad; we would fight to the last man, then that man would take car of the wounded, then either fight to the death, or turn his weapon on himself, his choice. How many times did you have that conversation as an 18-year-old?  I also had to– on the orders of my platoon sergeant –write a “death letter” that was sealed in an envelope, in a Ziploc bag, inside the “map-flap” of my ruck. The standard. Try and write that shit at 18 and let me know how it goes. (I still have it sealed)

I had to barely slide off of the LMTV on disembark, because I was so loaded down; Tons of 5.56 mm ammo, 40 mm grenades of all types for my “203,” mortars, water, IV bags, 240B ammo, etc, all dragging my IBA body armor down my neck. We dropped certain things like the mortars, machine gun ammo, etc, at the disembark point with headquarters. We were in the squad wedge formation, which we had drilled, over and over again, across the deserts of Northern Kuwait in the Udairi range Complex.

Even after dropping a few things, we were weighed down, and through my NODS I watched my “battle buddy”– our team’s rifleman –fall, multiple times, with an AT-4, anti-tank rocket, strapped to his back. The rainy season had just begun, but it had been a dry year– with multiple sand storms –this made the ground we were walking across dry, but with enough moisture to break it up. Thus, when a loaded down paratrooper stepped in the right spot, his foot would sink through, and he would fall on his face. This happened to me too, but the key was to not yell and cuss when it happened. Others made that mistake.

As the sun started breaking the horizon, and the mosques’ minarets started playing the “call to prayer,” we walked past a farm. With just a tinge of blue light on the horizon, I looked to my left, and through my NODS saw an old man leaning on a open doorway, holding a candle/lantern and a cane. He couldn’t see me, but I could see him, as he just stared out into the distance, knowing some dark angels were about. The prayers made it extra creepy.

We finally reached our battle line, it was probably only a 2 k march, but in those conditions, it felt like 10 miles. We plopped down into a drainage ditch, to get ready to assault the city. After we were in place, 2nd Platoon maneuvered behind us and occupied a house to our 10 o’clock, after gaining control of the house, and setting up a support-by-fire, for us to advance, one of the squads decided we were the enemy. They shot at us, Blue on Blue style. This was the first time I had ever been shot at, but our LT, most likely a divine person, stood above the trench, rounds zipping around him, told us to stay down,  while the squad from second platoon shot at us, not hitting anyone, thank Odin. We fought the enemy sporadically from our defensive positions, through the night.

As the sun came up, and the company 60 mm mortars setup, we moved to take a house in the immediate distance. It would be our base of operations. On the way, we made sure to give the finger to everyone in 2nd Platoon in the distance. Time to REALLY, attack the enemy. Coming up, The Battle of As Samawah, get a little pre-reading: here, and here.

13 Responses to “The Invasion, Part Three”

  1. Great read. Keep them coming!

  2. wow Rhino. this is surreal and intense just reading it. Can’t imagine how unreal it must have been to be there. Playing welcome to the jungle is a nice touch too.

  3. Good job. Looking forward to the next part. Thanks for the effort you’re expending.

  4. Be careful with the “fight them over there so we dont have to fight them over here” mantra. But, I love this post.

  5. I wish you’d quite writing about your bullshit trades and just write about this stuff. It’s so real it’s sick.

    I read each and every word.

    I’m facinated by the reality and you do it so well without all the fan fare and embelishing.

    Great post!!!!!!!

    Now F this market.

  6. Belly of the Beast

    Awesome read !

    Make some cashishe on a book deal !

  7. You can self-publish you jackass.

    Now get to writing!

    This would easily be a great read and a short story. I wish this type of writing was in airline mags for those Vegas flights. All they seem to have is bullshit.

    We need more reality writers and bloggers.

    I want to know some finer details!

    Keep those posts coming.

  8. Great post Rhino!

  9. Thank you for this. Has to be a lot of work writing these – but they’re not lost on ol’ Unc.

  10. Hugh (@CoonCatt)

    Fascinating man. Keep them coming, and I agree, there’s a book in there if you’re game.

  11. I really feel other web-site lovers would need to have a look at this valuable site as an example. Really clean and user-friendly structure, and moreover extremely good subject material! You’re a specialist in this amazing area 🙂

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