The Invasion, Part 6

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I don’t remember much of that ride, just that I felt horrible, but all the muscle relaxers where keeping me from losing it. The only problem with this, was that I was literally a zombie, I couldn’t really talk or do anything. When we took a security halt, waiting for the air assault, flown by my brother, that I was supposed to be on. I’m still bitter about this.

I’m not going to be selfish and say that they should have sent me even when I was so sick. This is combat. I really only remember being woken up when we hit our “tactical halt,” in the trucks, waiting for the air assault. The 502nd had cleared the city, street by street, and we relieved them in a school, that had been a weapons cache in the middle of the town.

These disgusting bastards took shits in almost every room, and wrote a note on all the blackboards in the classrooms for us. We let our CG (Commanding General) know– MG Swannack –and he let their’s know– MG Petraeus. Their 1SG, CO, PLs, and PSGs, all had to come clean it up and give us a personal apology. Don’t mess with real paratroopers, legs.

We pulled security and ran stupid presence patrols, one of which got ugly. I wasn’t there, but some Iraqi “hero” decided to try to come out and face a nine man squad– armed to the teeth –with a lowly AK47, he promptly got cut down. Apparently he had come out of nowhere– at this time everyone lined the streets when we walked past –pulled the bolt and started burst from the hip. 3rd Squad was out with one of the guns from Weapons Squad, and they cut that stupid bastard in half.

school in karbala

 

View from one of the rooftop gun positions at the school in Karbala

They took no causalities, neither did the local populace in attendance, and they allowed no collateral damage. This idiot’s rounds went right in between my first team leader “TJ,” and my boy from basic training/Airborne School, “Jeffe,” who will be telling stories at my wedding– mind you. Rounds ripped through Jeffe’s “pro mask carrier,” on his left leg, right near his femoral artery.

For their quick action under fire– these dudes did not seek any cover, they just pulled their weapons up and fired –TJ received a Bronze Star with V, and Jeffe a ARCOM with a V. I’m sure all of you are thinking, “it was just one guy,” have you ever had a person with a fully automatic assault rifle step out right next to you, in a crowd of people at dusk?

Exactly, instead of hitting the deck or running for cover, these guys stood there and engaged the target. After that, no one wanted to mess with us. We were know as “The Angels of Death,” because the “double A’s” on our patch looked like wings.

dcu

 

We recouped and ran presence patrols out of a school in the middle of the ancient city. With multiple religious shrines around us. Once things had calmed down, and the 3rd ID and 1st Marines were able to make their advances to the outskirts of Baghdad, our patrols got lighter and lighter. This was a weird time, we still deficated out in the open, even though we were in the middle of a city, with locals all around, able to watch. Sick bastards.

I don’t know why they would want to watch, but after endless days of pulling security and running presence patrols, we go the order that we would move out to the the outskirts of the city and link up with a SF (Special Forces) unit, and their FIF (Free Iraqi Forces) counterparts. We really wanted to get back in the fight, but they were putting us in the rear, with SF, in order to have us ready to meet pockets of resistance in Baghdad– and elsewhere, and make sure this religious procession went off without a hitch.

I think it’s called “Ashura,” and all the Shi’ites make a great procession to Karbala, whipping themselves and hitting themselves with chains, in order to honor the martyrdom of Husayn, and the separation of Islam. Either the holiday is the wrong one, or they just celebrated at the wrong time of year because Saddam wouldn’t let them for so long.

karbala procession

 

Procession of pilgrims to Karbala, for the first time in over twenty years.

Either way, I was sleeping in a huge barn, at a sulfur factory– seriously –watching these idiots maim themselves. Just wanting to be back in the fight. After watching this madness for awhile, SF moved out, then we got our orders, we were going to go to Lake Habbaniyah,to work in and around Fallujah, that was in the “Sunni Triangle,” –whatever that was. We were in reserve to deploy at a moments nice to face whatever horrors awaited in Baghdad.

We were bored already…

 

 

 

The Invasion, Part 5

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Make sure to read the previous posts in this series, starting from the bottom, here.

This is probably going to be the lamest post in the series. Almost no one can recall everything that happened in Al Rumaitha, and it isn’t mentioned in any of the books or articles, because it was just our company, and some mechanized folks shot at each other, which was the highlight in the news. Basically, from what I can remember, after we had taken care of As Samawah, the 101st, and our brigade, were getting ready to continue the push through the “Karbala Gap,” so that 3rd ID could continue toward Baghdad.

If you want a bland and scholarly– but awesome –report on the events, read this. After stomping everything that came our way in As Samawah, we were without a mission and purpose, as 3 ID and 1st Marine Division reequipped to make the assault on Baghdad. The order came down– without warning, of course –that our company would be securing an entrance/exit to the city of Al Rumaitha. Please note, I thought it was “Ar Rumaitha,” but it seems it’s “Al Rumaitha.” Sorry that I don’t know, but it was just another mission.

My platoon was in the lead, for the first time since the train station assault, and 3rd Squad was the assault squad for the first time, (they were seen as the weakest squad). Our objective was a Ba’ath Party headquarters on the outskirts of town, and the adjacent Iraqi Army barracks. My squad was in a support by fire with Weapons Squad, I was actually glad for this, as I was slated to be the second guy into the basement in the “Hospital Mission.” Which, based on “intel,” seemed to be a suicide mission.

We trucked up to the town from the train station, then offloaded and walked the rest of the way. Once we reached the battle line, we all got into formation and hit the headquarters, in full-on assault mode. My squad assaulted forward and setup the initial support by fire, with local, and long security. Weapons Squad joined us soon after, and setup their two M240B machine guns, with intersecting fields of fire on the objective. It is the absolute dark of night, mind you. This all literally took seconds.

3rd squad bombed out to our flank, between us and the Bradley’s we had covering us. Company 60 mm mortars were setup and ready to fire, so were the platoon’s guns, and Javelin anti-tank missiles. With 3rd Squad approaching their assault point, I saw 1st Squad move out through the green glow of my NODS, off to my left. 3rd Squad, confirming the move, sent one team up to the building, gaining local security over the windows and doors. The squad leader and the other team moved up, they then entered and cleared. 1st squad moved up to the “breach point” and followed into the “foothold.” 

There was a problem, the first team didn’t look around back to see if their wasn’t another entry point, as they were so focused on the front door. 3rd and 1st Squads entered  and cleared the main headquarters office, a small concrete and mud structure, without contact. This gave 3rd Platoon the go ahead to come on down and assault the army barracks.

The story goes, that as 3rd Platoon approached the back side of the building we had just assaulted, their last covered position, they noticed the door,– locked with a padlock from the outside –but figured it had been cleared from the inside. It had not. Their platoon went and took the barracks, without any contact either. The so called “elite,” and “most loyal to the regime,” had literally laid down their weapons, still loaded, and ran away. I guess they heard the “Eighty Deuce” was in town? They literally had two recoilless rifles, loaded and aimed, but just left them like that, even though they could have taken at least three of us with them.

There was a school next door– which would become a common theme –with school buses parked. Somehow– and/or some reason –one of the trucks caught on fire. 3rd Platoon blamed it on the locals, but I still think it was them. They were kind of brigands, and I don’t really know how the locked room went down, but it got cleared the next day, and i’m pretty sure 3rd Platoon was involved in the clearance. Apparently there were mortar rounds and whiskey bottles in the locked room, there were also whiskey bottles in some cars we cleared at the TCP (Traffic Control Point).

Our mission at the time, that we had setup, was to sleep in the headquarters and army barracks, then run TCPs on the road outside– which led in and out of the city, blocking attacks on the supply line. We had “Concertina Wire” setup all across the road, that we would pull back to let people through. I was very serious about my job that day, as we had already found a small two door Mazda truck with RPGs hidden in the back cushion. Not to mention, all the goats, chickens, and people wedged in all manner of places.

whiskey

 

Idiot With Whiskey

I wasn’t interested in drinking, many were though, and I will never know why. I love to drink beer these days, but as an 18-year-old, all I wanted to do was fight. Some people in my squad got “‘hold of some of the whiskey,” and drank it, before we had out nighttime guard out at the TCP. I was pissed about this, but ended up being just hyper vigilant on duty, while four of the nine squad-mates snored, leaned up against the curb, smelling of whiskey.

This sounds bad enough, and I was rather upset, but then I found out upper-level NCOs from another platoon were involved in the whiskey, and it made me sick, or so I thought. A few people had been getting sick– dysentery, salmonella, and the like –just from being around the water, dead bodies, and such. As I was sitting there being pissed off about the whiskey situation, and not having an active mission in the fight, I had some downtime to write home, and get some sleep.

As I was writing home, the OPORD (Operation Order), came down. After having some “K-rats” and MRE’s, I was ready to get out of this mud-hole, and get away from the whiskey, as it would not be able to come with us on the trucks, with a packing list. We were to ‘air assault” right behind a couple of battalions from the 101st, my brother’s unit would be flying us, perfect right?

I woke up that morning, and ate one of the non-frosted pop tarts from an MRE, then proceeded to vomit violently. The sickness had gotten to me, wasn’t this a bitch? The one mission that I would be able to do with my brother, I was scratched from the assault. I rode up on a truck, delirious and full of muscle relaxers for my stomach, with Battalion HHC (headquarters), and the other sick and wounded. We were headed to Karbala, one of the holiest cities in Iraq, which had the 101st and 82nd Airborne headed its way.

karbala

Karbala Mosque

The Invasion, Part Four

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I prefer not to tell most people that I have served. You see lots of dudes out there that advertise it, shirts, hats, bold tattoos – that’s not my style. I have a couple pieces of “body art” that give it away, but just like most of what I do and say, you wouldn’t know, if you didn’t know the true meaning. I don’t judge anybody that didn’t serve in the military, it’s not for everyone. It literally takes someone who seeks out pain, discomfort, fatigue, and hunger, then gives them all both fingers, while laughing at them.

The thing that really gets to me is when someone tries to say something along the lines of “man, I was going to join but, wah, wah, wah.” Dude, frankly, whatever our reason was, was your reason, please do not try to identify with me, your guilt– or whatever it is –is frankly sad, and offends me. We all find our places in life, and make the decisions we make. I completely respect all those members of the military that serve in a non-combat arms fields. But, do not ever come up to me and say, “[they] did the Infantry’s job,” that one time they got hit by an IED and had to dismount from their trucks and pull security.

Let me tell you the definition of the infantry’s job:

The Infantry closes with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver in order to destroy or capture him or to repel his assault by fire, close combat, and counterattack.”{FM7-8, Infantry Rifle Platoon And Squad}

So, did they seek out the enemy or did the enemy seek them out? I’m confused here. There’s a reason why there was a CIB (Combat Infantryman Badge), decades before this stupid new CAB (you’re not getting that acronym from me). I was all for the CAB when it was first announced, only going to combat arms troops, but now some gas pumper can be sitting on their cot playing XBOX when a mortar hits 300 meters away, and they get a CAB.

I supported the combat arms folks getting their own award for combat actions, because those Engineers and Forward Observers– in my case –were there, in that cow-shit filled drainage ditch, on that farm land, on the outskirts of As Samawah, when incoming and outgoing indirect fire (mortars and artillery) started playing badminton, and all hell broke lose.

3rd platton in their blocking position

 

3rd Platoon in their “Blocking Position” on Our Flank

Where were the gas pumpers and supply guys then? Pulling security in the rear? Maybe. Reading a magazine, playing dominoes on an MRE box, or listening to the BBC on a crank radio? Probably.  Unless they re-classed they never were, nor ever will be, in the Infantry. Just like I was never an Engineer. Some 88M (truck driver) saying that they were “doing the infantry’s job” because they were in one ambush, is akin to me saying “I know what it’s like to be a submariner,” because I was on one, once.

Unless you have tried to crawl up into the smallest ball you can, and crawl into your helmet, you have no idea what it’s like to be underneath indirect fire. I talk to my team leader– from that time –a few times a year, every time, he brings up the fact that my eyes got so wide he couldn’t believe it, then I asked “is that ours, or theirs?,” “both,” “fuck…” You can’t see it, it just whistles overhead, invisible trains of death. Then, one lands near you, and doesn’t go off, it just sits there, stuck in the silt, and smokes, while you poke one eye out of your helmet, trying to catch your breath.

I wanted to either dig a hole back to the comfort of my childhood home, or move, immediately. I’m not a fan of standing there while someone else throws punches at my face. We got the order, with the order of movement: 1st, 2nd, Weapons, then 3rd. Our objective was a house in the middle of the dusty silt farmland. Now that it was light, we longer owned the night, and the enemy could see us just as good– if not better –than we could see them. There were a few idiot enemy, here and there, that had somehow stayed hunkered down through the night in ditches in the distance, they were quickly dispatched by 2nd Platoon in their support by fire, the D Co gun trucks, and anyone who got a clear shot.

After we got a foothold in the building and cleared the bottom floor, we called up Weapons, snipers from Scouts, and 3rd squad. We set this up as our platoon HQ, with the mission to stop any vehicles from coming out of the city. The enemy was launching attacks from within the city, to the 3rd ID supply lines on the main supply route outside of the city. Plenty of warnings were given: fliers, loudspeakers, radio broadcasts, etc. All you needed was a white flag to pass safely.

These idiots were using ambulances as a ruse, they either housed high level officers/officials loyal to the regime, or something to do harm to coalition forces, without white flags, idiots. Poor choice, we are talking about the 82nd Airborne here, a bunch of middle class kids ready to kill anybody they can. It was like a turkey shoot, they would try to launch a vehicle from one of the exit points to the city, but we had complete and total control of sectors of fire. Trying to distract us, they would try to have some of their infantry assault from another direction, everywhere was covered though.

We had artillery, mortars, helicopters, bombers, and fighter support. As soon as they tried to do anything, we flattened them. I shot almost all of my 40mm M203 grenades that day, and almost all of my magazines. The SAW gunner in my team– that would later become my team leader–killed at least five enemy with precision shooting from his SAW. Sergeant “Herne,'” shot a dude with the 50 cal sniper rifle from over 2000 meters, aiming feet above his head. We killed hundreds– if not thousands –of Fedayeen, Republican Guard, and other “irregulars,” that day.

M240 Roof

 

A Sniper, a Team Leader, and “The LT,” After Killing Multiple Enemy [Note expended rounds on the ground, and sniper’s pants]

We were all pumped, no one had even come close to being hurt, but we came close to getting killed by those mortars. We ran patrols, and LP/OPs (Listening Posts/ Observation Posts), without taking much contact form the enemy. My company took ZERO casualties, while we killed so many enemy. It was a good feeling. Judge me all you will from behind your computer screen, but when was the last time you faced men trying to kill you?

After completely destroying the enemy, and getting relieved by a “Mech Unit,” we walked back toward the train station and setup a “patrol base” for the night. I had not really slept in days, neither had my squad mates, so as 3/4’s of a team huddled together to sleep, wrapped only in their “woobies” (poncho liners), one member pulled security at all times, 30%. Only A Co took contact that night from some idiots, and they absolutely drove the enemy, and their assault, into the ground.

In the morning– instead of heading back to the “Train Station” –we got a mission to attack a hospital, that seemed just like the jump into Baghdad, suicide. The local Republican Guard General and Colonel were supposedly holed up in the hospital, with sick patients, and live oxygen lines running through the walls. [Read: hand grenades running through the walls]. This mission– just like the jump previously –got scratched, I was going to be the second person into the basement/first floor, after the engineers breached. I would have more than likely have been killed.

Engineers waiting to do the hospital mission

The Engineers in our Patrol Base, Not Happy About Having to Brave Possible Fire to Breach For Us [Engineers have a hard job]

In the morning we were trucked back to the train station. After a quick meal of “K Rat’s,” we reloaded, cleaned our weapons, packed our gear, and got ready to assault the Ba’ath Party Headquarters in the Saddam loyal town of Ar Rumaitha. This was a weird town and mission.

This, coming up in “Part Four.” [Click on the image to see the locations of the above mentioned cities]

iraq map

dudes relaxingParatroopers Relaxing and Cleaning Weapons Before Leaving to Assault Ar Rumaitha

 

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.

The Invasion, Part Two.

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The 82nd Airborne is somewhat of a unique entity. Being a ‘trooper in this unit you are neither special operations, nor regular infantry. You have to be on 2 hour recall, with all of your bags packed, ready to jump into anywhere in the world, yet you train with the same budgets as other army infantry units. Thus, a unit like the 101st, is probably “on par” with the 82nd in actual real infantry training– if not better.

However, the 101st requires their helicopters to air assault objectives. There’s not a lot of places to air assault within 300 miles of the Kentucky and Tennessee border, where Fort Campbell is. The 82nd Airborne provides roughly 2000 troopers, “gun trucks,” anti-tank capabilities, and airborne artillery, to be dropped from the sky, on moments notice.

One brigade, from each division, had recently returned from a short 5-6 month stint invading Afghanistan– Army standard at the time. One division received orders to deploy the entire division, while the other one received orders to deploy one brigade, and put another on DRF1DRF1, is Division Readiness Force 1, this means that all paratroopers in that brigade and its battalions cannot go outside a 25 mile radius, and cannot have a blood alcohol content over .05; because they have to be ready to jump into anywhere in the world within a moment’s notice.  Get the difference?

The 101st, aka The hundred-and-worst (jest), had a sweet little parade, filmed on TeeVee. Meanwhile, we assembled in our company area, were given our deployment orders, and said goodbye to what loved ones that could come. My parents were in California, I only had a day or two’s notice to let them know that I was deploying. I had just seen them at Christmas on leave, and I think it was probably better not seeing them before I left. All I saw was the other cold hard killers around me– read: suburban white kids with chips on their respective shoulders.

After the families left, the brigade chaplain, and battalion commander said some words. We then had one more “layout,” the last of countless others to see if we had the required “packing list” in our bags. With the help of our buddies, we managed to get our over 100 lb rucks on our backs, our stuffed to the brim duffle bags– aka “A Bags” –on our fronts, and pack ourselves in “nut-to-butt,” in the “cattle trucks.” These trucks are merely metal containers with poles to hold onto down the middle, connected to semi trucks.

cattle truck

 Example of an Army “Cattle Truck”

We left our company area and were delivered upon Pope Air Force Base, which is/was located within Fort Bragg. the commercial airliners were lined up, but they lacked the ground crew you would see at major airports. Thus, my platoon was tasked with the “detail” of loading all the rucks and A-bags on the plane. After all the cargo was loaded, each platoon had to walk across the scale and see how much they weighed, in order to make sure that it was not too much for the plane to fly. My platoon was the last to go, and at the end the First Sergeant (1SG) let us know that we all got to fly business class on the 747 for loading on everybody’s bags. This turned out to be super awesome. We made a quick stop in Germany, then headed straight for Kuwait.

The first thing you notice when you land in the “Middle East,”  is how dry the air is. Even in the middle of the night at roughly 45 degrees Fahrenheit, is feels like there is no water within 100 miles. We formed up, off of the flight-line,– in the middle of the Kuwaiti night –then moved out to collect our bags,we formed up again, then marched to our respective tents and setup our cots for s short night’s sleep.

Air Control Tower Kuwait

 

Air Control Tower at TAA Champion/Kuwait International Airport

In the morning we immediately began training. The engineers built “kill houses,” and we immediately got into a routine of PT (Physical Training) in the morning, training at the sites setup at Champion, eating at the “chow hall,” and going to the “PX Truck.” This quickly changed, as we boarded tour buses with curtains over the windows and headed out into the desert to the Udairi Range Complex to train. Udairi is extremely isolated.

This was a first time sleeping in the desert, seeing our “Hadji” bus driver go “number two” and use his water and left hand, or peeing “online” during a convoy. This was also our first time facing a sandstorm, having to just huddle underneath our ponchos and ride out the misery in silence, and boredom.

Sandstorm Udairi

 

Sand Storm At Udairi

After running the ranges, zeroing our weapons, etc., we went back to TAA Champion. After a few days to recoup and get some “hot chow,” we left again by ferry to Failaka Island in the Persian Gulf. Click the link for the history on the island. We did PT every every morning, then went off to train and clear all the abondoned buildings, and ran drills taking down whole the neighborhoods, etc. One night we had to pull guard with live rounds– my first time ever –and it was ridiculously creepy, another post in itself.

failaka island ferry

While we were on the island, we received our “top secret”  orders to jump into Baghdad, specifically Saddam International Airport (now BIAP: Baghdad International Airport). The jump was supposed to follow this order: 2/75, 2/325, 3/325, and 1/325. I forgot to put my “Pro Mask” on my leg for that briefing, which again, is a whole ‘nother post in itself.

We ran a few “mock-ups” of the mission while still on the island, then caught a ferry back to Kuwait City, and TAA Champion. When we got back the mood was light but serious at the same time, training had become a welcome reality, and the TeeVee in the “chow hall” was already beginning to show the bombings of buildings in Baghdad, etc.

Somehow that idiot Geraldo found a way to make it to Champion and take a rather long segment with our “sand table” in the back. This would change the mission. While we were gearing up to go, Saddam started hucking Scuds our way, and we often had to run to get our pro masks on and get in the “scud bunker,” often times leaving in the middle of chow, etc. The word “lighting” would come over the loud speaker, and you would have to jump out of your bed in the middle of the night, to squat in a concrete “bunker.”

scud bunker

 

Squatting in the Scud Bunker

This was a huge screw-up on both sides, and the jump was scrapped, not just because of this, but because of the weather, and based on the fact that the enemy had vastly reinforced the drop zone. Because I had Strep Throat during that last JFEX, my first jump out of Airborne School, would have been into combat. I feel robbed, but I would have probably been robbed of my life had it gone through. 2/325 was brought back from the compound they were in, in another country with 2/75, to deploy with us. After turning in all of our parachutes, we donned our “MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) suits,” and headed for the flight line. After the Rangers jumped in and secured Talil Airbase, my unit was flown in on the same c-130’s that were supposed to drop us over Baghdad.

A squad ready to deploy

 

One of the Squads Ready to Deploy (9 men is standard)

From Talil we were trucked up to As Samawah, Iraq, to pick a fight with the enemy. An enemy that was pinning down the advance of the Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) toward Baghdad. The tankers couldn’t handle it, so they brought in the paratroopers. This is the subject of my next post.

[Some of these pictures (generally the ones without quotes), and references, come from http://carryingthegun.wordpress.com, which is my boy @dongomezjr ‘s site. He invaded Iraq with the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne too, and is now a commissioned infantry officer]

 

The Invasion, Part One.

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I was raised Catholic, dragged to 10 am mass every Sunday. This made me grow to really despise religion, as I have always hated authority. There are things about the Universe, and the psychics that it has ordained, that we will never be able to comprehend within our feeble minds. Thus, there is a certain bit of luck involved in things, I try to use math for everything, but there is always the ever changing independent variable. The input that determines the outcome, but is  sometimes often unpredictable, and unprecedented.

You will often hear me on here and on Twitter mention “Odin” or “Thor,” that’s just because I relate my improbable luck, and good fortunes, to outside forces that I cannot understand. Luck is a funny thing, in that it seems to sometimes know more than you. You think you want to put yourself in a high risk situation, but Luck knows the real odds.

I have horrible ADD/ADHD, that I have always had, but my parents chose to ignore. Maybe it is a farce, and I just needed to run around the block a few more times? I was a pretty active kid though, and still murder my muscles (no homo) in the gym, yet have trouble focusing. This causes my thought processes to bounce around like Silly Putty in the International Space Station. My thought processes and future plans have been know to change from minute -to-minute, except in one case.

One of the first things I could do when I could walk/talk, was to pick up a twig and act as if it was a gun. From the time I had any idea what the future was, I wanted to be a soldier, that served in combat. I’m fairly certain Thor and Odin were looking down and smiling at me from the beginning, because what led to me to war, was nothing short of some Hollywood movie script.

I grew up in the “Orange County of the North,” Marin County, CA. I think the exit to my parent’s house was exactly the tenth exit, after getting off the Golden Gate Bridge. Marin is like Orange County in the wealth and caddishness departments, without the Republican values, thus you end up with a bunch of burnouts that don’t want to work hard, and just want to suckle off of mommy and daddy.

I never fit in there. I hate conformity, but I also hate heartless pussies, so I was stuck in some purgatory. I was into Punk Rock and Rockabilly, with a huge pompadour, Mohawk, or shaved head; yet I liked playing rugby, lifting weights, jumping BMX bikes off of roofs, and fighting; win or lose. After talking to my brother, Col Fleischer, Gen Stone, and other friends and family that were active duty Army and Marines, I decided that joining the Army provided me with the best opportunity to fulfill my goals.

I originally wanted to be a Naval/Marine Aviator– read “fighter pilot,” then I wanted to be a Navy Seal– but hated deep/dark water, then I wanted to be a Marine Infantryman– but becoming an infantryman wasn’t guaranteed, and there was no assurance of immediate deployment. Thus, I chose the Army as my choice, with the full idea that I was going to get a “RIP contract,” and go to a Ranger Battalion and go kill the enemy. Unfortunately, when I was at this place called MEPS– where they do physicals, written tests, and background checks on you –they ran my background check, and they discovered that I had already been charged with an assault, and thus, could not obtain the security clearance to get a “Ranger/RIP Contract.”

I was devastated  and my recruiter assured me that I could get an “Airborne Contract,” then go to “RIP” or “ROP,” after I got through the time needed to obtain the appropriate level of clearance. (These are now known as RASP1 and RASP2). I wanted this so bad, it was the only thing I ever wanted to do; I knew it was my destiny. In the middle of all of this, some terrorist assholes decided to fly some commercial airliners into American buildings. This pissed me off even more. So I signed a four year contract sending me to Fort Bragg, NC, as an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division.

I'm the 82nd Airborne

Here are important dates, bullet style.

  1. I signed my contract to enlist in the Army and be an Airborne Infantryman with 81nd Airborne Division late November 2001
  2. After graduating from high school in mid June 2002, I enjoyed my summer, turned 18 towards the end of July, then shipped out for Infantry OSUT (“One Station Unit Training,” 14 weeks of basic and advanced training for infantry recruits), August 3, 2002.
  3. After going to “30th AG,” and attending “The House of Pain” 2/58 Infantry Regiment, I graduated November 22, 2002.
  4. After 10 days of “Airborne Hold,” I attended and graduated from the US Army Parachute School, with our fifth jump and graduation on December 21, 2002.
  5. I then went home for leave and “hometown recruiting,” –basically, getting to hang out at home and help recruit, while getting paid for it.
  6. I reported to my duty station, Fort Bragg, NC, January 29, 2003.
  7. I was initially assigned to Scouts, HHC, 1/504, that had just gotten back from invading Afghanistan.
  8. They asked for volunteers to go to 2nd Brigade, the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, and I gladly raised my hand.
  9. I was assigned to B Co, 3/325, February 4, 2003.
  10. We had one jump into a JFEX (Joint Forces Entry Exercise), before we got our deployment orders.
  11. I ended up getting Strep, and getting “smoked” until I literally passed out the day of the jump; because my squad leader didn’t believe I had a 102 degree fever, and didn’t like that I had gone to the aid station
  12. I missed the jump, and instead guarded weapons deliriously with a 103 degree fever.
  13. We deployed shortly there after, on Valentines Day, February 14, 2003. We flew to Kuwait on commercial airliners.
  14. Landed at “TAA Champion (an Army ‘tent city’ built on the outskirts of Kuwait International Airport)” on February 15, 2003, then we immediately setup and began training for the impending invasion of Iraq.

 

Coming up next in part two: Training at Champion, Failaka Island, and the Udairi Range Complex, then running from “Scud Missiles.”

The Invasion, Part 6

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I don’t remember much of that ride, just that I felt horrible, but all the muscle relaxers where keeping me from losing it. The only problem with this, was that I was literally a zombie, I couldn’t really talk or do anything. When we took a security halt, waiting for the air assault, flown by my brother, that I was supposed to be on. I’m still bitter about this.

I’m not going to be selfish and say that they should have sent me even when I was so sick. This is combat. I really only remember being woken up when we hit our “tactical halt,” in the trucks, waiting for the air assault. The 502nd had cleared the city, street by street, and we relieved them in a school, that had been a weapons cache in the middle of the town.

These disgusting bastards took shits in almost every room, and wrote a note on all the blackboards in the classrooms for us. We let our CG (Commanding General) know– MG Swannack –and he let their’s know– MG Petraeus. Their 1SG, CO, PLs, and PSGs, all had to come clean it up and give us a personal apology. Don’t mess with real paratroopers, legs.

We pulled security and ran stupid presence patrols, one of which got ugly. I wasn’t there, but some Iraqi “hero” decided to try to come out and face a nine man squad– armed to the teeth –with a lowly AK47, he promptly got cut down. Apparently he had come out of nowhere– at this time everyone lined the streets when we walked past –pulled the bolt and started burst from the hip. 3rd Squad was out with one of the guns from Weapons Squad, and they cut that stupid bastard in half.

school in karbala

 

View from one of the rooftop gun positions at the school in Karbala

They took no causalities, neither did the local populace in attendance, and they allowed no collateral damage. This idiot’s rounds went right in between my first team leader “TJ,” and my boy from basic training/Airborne School, “Jeffe,” who will be telling stories at my wedding– mind you. Rounds ripped through Jeffe’s “pro mask carrier,” on his left leg, right near his femoral artery.

For their quick action under fire– these dudes did not seek any cover, they just pulled their weapons up and fired –TJ received a Bronze Star with V, and Jeffe a ARCOM with a V. I’m sure all of you are thinking, “it was just one guy,” have you ever had a person with a fully automatic assault rifle step out right next to you, in a crowd of people at dusk?

Exactly, instead of hitting the deck or running for cover, these guys stood there and engaged the target. After that, no one wanted to mess with us. We were know as “The Angels of Death,” because the “double A’s” on our patch looked like wings.

dcu

 

We recouped and ran presence patrols out of a school in the middle of the ancient city. With multiple religious shrines around us. Once things had calmed down, and the 3rd ID and 1st Marines were able to make their advances to the outskirts of Baghdad, our patrols got lighter and lighter. This was a weird time, we still deficated out in the open, even though we were in the middle of a city, with locals all around, able to watch. Sick bastards.

I don’t know why they would want to watch, but after endless days of pulling security and running presence patrols, we go the order that we would move out to the the outskirts of the city and link up with a SF (Special Forces) unit, and their FIF (Free Iraqi Forces) counterparts. We really wanted to get back in the fight, but they were putting us in the rear, with SF, in order to have us ready to meet pockets of resistance in Baghdad– and elsewhere, and make sure this religious procession went off without a hitch.

I think it’s called “Ashura,” and all the Shi’ites make a great procession to Karbala, whipping themselves and hitting themselves with chains, in order to honor the martyrdom of Husayn, and the separation of Islam. Either the holiday is the wrong one, or they just celebrated at the wrong time of year because Saddam wouldn’t let them for so long.

karbala procession

 

Procession of pilgrims to Karbala, for the first time in over twenty years.

Either way, I was sleeping in a huge barn, at a sulfur factory– seriously –watching these idiots maim themselves. Just wanting to be back in the fight. After watching this madness for awhile, SF moved out, then we got our orders, we were going to go to Lake Habbaniyah,to work in and around Fallujah, that was in the “Sunni Triangle,” –whatever that was. We were in reserve to deploy at a moments nice to face whatever horrors awaited in Baghdad.

We were bored already…

 

 

 

The Invasion, Part 5

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Make sure to read the previous posts in this series, starting from the bottom, here.

This is probably going to be the lamest post in the series. Almost no one can recall everything that happened in Al Rumaitha, and it isn’t mentioned in any of the books or articles, because it was just our company, and some mechanized folks shot at each other, which was the highlight in the news. Basically, from what I can remember, after we had taken care of As Samawah, the 101st, and our brigade, were getting ready to continue the push through the “Karbala Gap,” so that 3rd ID could continue toward Baghdad.

If you want a bland and scholarly– but awesome –report on the events, read this. After stomping everything that came our way in As Samawah, we were without a mission and purpose, as 3 ID and 1st Marine Division reequipped to make the assault on Baghdad. The order came down– without warning, of course –that our company would be securing an entrance/exit to the city of Al Rumaitha. Please note, I thought it was “Ar Rumaitha,” but it seems it’s “Al Rumaitha.” Sorry that I don’t know, but it was just another mission.

My platoon was in the lead, for the first time since the train station assault, and 3rd Squad was the assault squad for the first time, (they were seen as the weakest squad). Our objective was a Ba’ath Party headquarters on the outskirts of town, and the adjacent Iraqi Army barracks. My squad was in a support by fire with Weapons Squad, I was actually glad for this, as I was slated to be the second guy into the basement in the “Hospital Mission.” Which, based on “intel,” seemed to be a suicide mission.

We trucked up to the town from the train station, then offloaded and walked the rest of the way. Once we reached the battle line, we all got into formation and hit the headquarters, in full-on assault mode. My squad assaulted forward and setup the initial support by fire, with local, and long security. Weapons Squad joined us soon after, and setup their two M240B machine guns, with intersecting fields of fire on the objective. It is the absolute dark of night, mind you. This all literally took seconds.

3rd squad bombed out to our flank, between us and the Bradley’s we had covering us. Company 60 mm mortars were setup and ready to fire, so were the platoon’s guns, and Javelin anti-tank missiles. With 3rd Squad approaching their assault point, I saw 1st Squad move out through the green glow of my NODS, off to my left. 3rd Squad, confirming the move, sent one team up to the building, gaining local security over the windows and doors. The squad leader and the other team moved up, they then entered and cleared. 1st squad moved up to the “breach point” and followed into the “foothold.” 

There was a problem, the first team didn’t look around back to see if their wasn’t another entry point, as they were so focused on the front door. 3rd and 1st Squads entered  and cleared the main headquarters office, a small concrete and mud structure, without contact. This gave 3rd Platoon the go ahead to come on down and assault the army barracks.

The story goes, that as 3rd Platoon approached the back side of the building we had just assaulted, their last covered position, they noticed the door,– locked with a padlock from the outside –but figured it had been cleared from the inside. It had not. Their platoon went and took the barracks, without any contact either. The so called “elite,” and “most loyal to the regime,” had literally laid down their weapons, still loaded, and ran away. I guess they heard the “Eighty Deuce” was in town? They literally had two recoilless rifles, loaded and aimed, but just left them like that, even though they could have taken at least three of us with them.

There was a school next door– which would become a common theme –with school buses parked. Somehow– and/or some reason –one of the trucks caught on fire. 3rd Platoon blamed it on the locals, but I still think it was them. They were kind of brigands, and I don’t really know how the locked room went down, but it got cleared the next day, and i’m pretty sure 3rd Platoon was involved in the clearance. Apparently there were mortar rounds and whiskey bottles in the locked room, there were also whiskey bottles in some cars we cleared at the TCP (Traffic Control Point).

Our mission at the time, that we had setup, was to sleep in the headquarters and army barracks, then run TCPs on the road outside– which led in and out of the city, blocking attacks on the supply line. We had “Concertina Wire” setup all across the road, that we would pull back to let people through. I was very serious about my job that day, as we had already found a small two door Mazda truck with RPGs hidden in the back cushion. Not to mention, all the goats, chickens, and people wedged in all manner of places.

whiskey

 

Idiot With Whiskey

I wasn’t interested in drinking, many were though, and I will never know why. I love to drink beer these days, but as an 18-year-old, all I wanted to do was fight. Some people in my squad got “‘hold of some of the whiskey,” and drank it, before we had out nighttime guard out at the TCP. I was pissed about this, but ended up being just hyper vigilant on duty, while four of the nine squad-mates snored, leaned up against the curb, smelling of whiskey.

This sounds bad enough, and I was rather upset, but then I found out upper-level NCOs from another platoon were involved in the whiskey, and it made me sick, or so I thought. A few people had been getting sick– dysentery, salmonella, and the like –just from being around the water, dead bodies, and such. As I was sitting there being pissed off about the whiskey situation, and not having an active mission in the fight, I had some downtime to write home, and get some sleep.

As I was writing home, the OPORD (Operation Order), came down. After having some “K-rats” and MRE’s, I was ready to get out of this mud-hole, and get away from the whiskey, as it would not be able to come with us on the trucks, with a packing list. We were to ‘air assault” right behind a couple of battalions from the 101st, my brother’s unit would be flying us, perfect right?

I woke up that morning, and ate one of the non-frosted pop tarts from an MRE, then proceeded to vomit violently. The sickness had gotten to me, wasn’t this a bitch? The one mission that I would be able to do with my brother, I was scratched from the assault. I rode up on a truck, delirious and full of muscle relaxers for my stomach, with Battalion HHC (headquarters), and the other sick and wounded. We were headed to Karbala, one of the holiest cities in Iraq, which had the 101st and 82nd Airborne headed its way.

karbala

Karbala Mosque

The Invasion, Part Four

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I prefer not to tell most people that I have served. You see lots of dudes out there that advertise it, shirts, hats, bold tattoos – that’s not my style. I have a couple pieces of “body art” that give it away, but just like most of what I do and say, you wouldn’t know, if you didn’t know the true meaning. I don’t judge anybody that didn’t serve in the military, it’s not for everyone. It literally takes someone who seeks out pain, discomfort, fatigue, and hunger, then gives them all both fingers, while laughing at them.

The thing that really gets to me is when someone tries to say something along the lines of “man, I was going to join but, wah, wah, wah.” Dude, frankly, whatever our reason was, was your reason, please do not try to identify with me, your guilt– or whatever it is –is frankly sad, and offends me. We all find our places in life, and make the decisions we make. I completely respect all those members of the military that serve in a non-combat arms fields. But, do not ever come up to me and say, “[they] did the Infantry’s job,” that one time they got hit by an IED and had to dismount from their trucks and pull security.

Let me tell you the definition of the infantry’s job:

The Infantry closes with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver in order to destroy or capture him or to repel his assault by fire, close combat, and counterattack.”{FM7-8, Infantry Rifle Platoon And Squad}

So, did they seek out the enemy or did the enemy seek them out? I’m confused here. There’s a reason why there was a CIB (Combat Infantryman Badge), decades before this stupid new CAB (you’re not getting that acronym from me). I was all for the CAB when it was first announced, only going to combat arms troops, but now some gas pumper can be sitting on their cot playing XBOX when a mortar hits 300 meters away, and they get a CAB.

I supported the combat arms folks getting their own award for combat actions, because those Engineers and Forward Observers– in my case –were there, in that cow-shit filled drainage ditch, on that farm land, on the outskirts of As Samawah, when incoming and outgoing indirect fire (mortars and artillery) started playing badminton, and all hell broke lose.

3rd platton in their blocking position

 

3rd Platoon in their “Blocking Position” on Our Flank

Where were the gas pumpers and supply guys then? Pulling security in the rear? Maybe. Reading a magazine, playing dominoes on an MRE box, or listening to the BBC on a crank radio? Probably.  Unless they re-classed they never were, nor ever will be, in the Infantry. Just like I was never an Engineer. Some 88M (truck driver) saying that they were “doing the infantry’s job” because they were in one ambush, is akin to me saying “I know what it’s like to be a submariner,” because I was on one, once.

Unless you have tried to crawl up into the smallest ball you can, and crawl into your helmet, you have no idea what it’s like to be underneath indirect fire. I talk to my team leader– from that time –a few times a year, every time, he brings up the fact that my eyes got so wide he couldn’t believe it, then I asked “is that ours, or theirs?,” “both,” “fuck…” You can’t see it, it just whistles overhead, invisible trains of death. Then, one lands near you, and doesn’t go off, it just sits there, stuck in the silt, and smokes, while you poke one eye out of your helmet, trying to catch your breath.

I wanted to either dig a hole back to the comfort of my childhood home, or move, immediately. I’m not a fan of standing there while someone else throws punches at my face. We got the order, with the order of movement: 1st, 2nd, Weapons, then 3rd. Our objective was a house in the middle of the dusty silt farmland. Now that it was light, we longer owned the night, and the enemy could see us just as good– if not better –than we could see them. There were a few idiot enemy, here and there, that had somehow stayed hunkered down through the night in ditches in the distance, they were quickly dispatched by 2nd Platoon in their support by fire, the D Co gun trucks, and anyone who got a clear shot.

After we got a foothold in the building and cleared the bottom floor, we called up Weapons, snipers from Scouts, and 3rd squad. We set this up as our platoon HQ, with the mission to stop any vehicles from coming out of the city. The enemy was launching attacks from within the city, to the 3rd ID supply lines on the main supply route outside of the city. Plenty of warnings were given: fliers, loudspeakers, radio broadcasts, etc. All you needed was a white flag to pass safely.

These idiots were using ambulances as a ruse, they either housed high level officers/officials loyal to the regime, or something to do harm to coalition forces, without white flags, idiots. Poor choice, we are talking about the 82nd Airborne here, a bunch of middle class kids ready to kill anybody they can. It was like a turkey shoot, they would try to launch a vehicle from one of the exit points to the city, but we had complete and total control of sectors of fire. Trying to distract us, they would try to have some of their infantry assault from another direction, everywhere was covered though.

We had artillery, mortars, helicopters, bombers, and fighter support. As soon as they tried to do anything, we flattened them. I shot almost all of my 40mm M203 grenades that day, and almost all of my magazines. The SAW gunner in my team– that would later become my team leader–killed at least five enemy with precision shooting from his SAW. Sergeant “Herne,'” shot a dude with the 50 cal sniper rifle from over 2000 meters, aiming feet above his head. We killed hundreds– if not thousands –of Fedayeen, Republican Guard, and other “irregulars,” that day.

M240 Roof

 

A Sniper, a Team Leader, and “The LT,” After Killing Multiple Enemy [Note expended rounds on the ground, and sniper’s pants]

We were all pumped, no one had even come close to being hurt, but we came close to getting killed by those mortars. We ran patrols, and LP/OPs (Listening Posts/ Observation Posts), without taking much contact form the enemy. My company took ZERO casualties, while we killed so many enemy. It was a good feeling. Judge me all you will from behind your computer screen, but when was the last time you faced men trying to kill you?

After completely destroying the enemy, and getting relieved by a “Mech Unit,” we walked back toward the train station and setup a “patrol base” for the night. I had not really slept in days, neither had my squad mates, so as 3/4’s of a team huddled together to sleep, wrapped only in their “woobies” (poncho liners), one member pulled security at all times, 30%. Only A Co took contact that night from some idiots, and they absolutely drove the enemy, and their assault, into the ground.

In the morning– instead of heading back to the “Train Station” –we got a mission to attack a hospital, that seemed just like the jump into Baghdad, suicide. The local Republican Guard General and Colonel were supposedly holed up in the hospital, with sick patients, and live oxygen lines running through the walls. [Read: hand grenades running through the walls]. This mission– just like the jump previously –got scratched, I was going to be the second person into the basement/first floor, after the engineers breached. I would have more than likely have been killed.

Engineers waiting to do the hospital mission

The Engineers in our Patrol Base, Not Happy About Having to Brave Possible Fire to Breach For Us [Engineers have a hard job]

In the morning we were trucked back to the train station. After a quick meal of “K Rat’s,” we reloaded, cleaned our weapons, packed our gear, and got ready to assault the Ba’ath Party Headquarters in the Saddam loyal town of Ar Rumaitha. This was a weird town and mission.

This, coming up in “Part Four.” [Click on the image to see the locations of the above mentioned cities]

iraq map

dudes relaxingParatroopers Relaxing and Cleaning Weapons Before Leaving to Assault Ar Rumaitha

 

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.

The Invasion, Part Two.

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The 82nd Airborne is somewhat of a unique entity. Being a ‘trooper in this unit you are neither special operations, nor regular infantry. You have to be on 2 hour recall, with all of your bags packed, ready to jump into anywhere in the world, yet you train with the same budgets as other army infantry units. Thus, a unit like the 101st, is probably “on par” with the 82nd in actual real infantry training– if not better.

However, the 101st requires their helicopters to air assault objectives. There’s not a lot of places to air assault within 300 miles of the Kentucky and Tennessee border, where Fort Campbell is. The 82nd Airborne provides roughly 2000 troopers, “gun trucks,” anti-tank capabilities, and airborne artillery, to be dropped from the sky, on moments notice.

One brigade, from each division, had recently returned from a short 5-6 month stint invading Afghanistan– Army standard at the time. One division received orders to deploy the entire division, while the other one received orders to deploy one brigade, and put another on DRF1DRF1, is Division Readiness Force 1, this means that all paratroopers in that brigade and its battalions cannot go outside a 25 mile radius, and cannot have a blood alcohol content over .05; because they have to be ready to jump into anywhere in the world within a moment’s notice.  Get the difference?

The 101st, aka The hundred-and-worst (jest), had a sweet little parade, filmed on TeeVee. Meanwhile, we assembled in our company area, were given our deployment orders, and said goodbye to what loved ones that could come. My parents were in California, I only had a day or two’s notice to let them know that I was deploying. I had just seen them at Christmas on leave, and I think it was probably better not seeing them before I left. All I saw was the other cold hard killers around me– read: suburban white kids with chips on their respective shoulders.

After the families left, the brigade chaplain, and battalion commander said some words. We then had one more “layout,” the last of countless others to see if we had the required “packing list” in our bags. With the help of our buddies, we managed to get our over 100 lb rucks on our backs, our stuffed to the brim duffle bags– aka “A Bags” –on our fronts, and pack ourselves in “nut-to-butt,” in the “cattle trucks.” These trucks are merely metal containers with poles to hold onto down the middle, connected to semi trucks.

cattle truck

 Example of an Army “Cattle Truck”

We left our company area and were delivered upon Pope Air Force Base, which is/was located within Fort Bragg. the commercial airliners were lined up, but they lacked the ground crew you would see at major airports. Thus, my platoon was tasked with the “detail” of loading all the rucks and A-bags on the plane. After all the cargo was loaded, each platoon had to walk across the scale and see how much they weighed, in order to make sure that it was not too much for the plane to fly. My platoon was the last to go, and at the end the First Sergeant (1SG) let us know that we all got to fly business class on the 747 for loading on everybody’s bags. This turned out to be super awesome. We made a quick stop in Germany, then headed straight for Kuwait.

The first thing you notice when you land in the “Middle East,”  is how dry the air is. Even in the middle of the night at roughly 45 degrees Fahrenheit, is feels like there is no water within 100 miles. We formed up, off of the flight-line,– in the middle of the Kuwaiti night –then moved out to collect our bags,we formed up again, then marched to our respective tents and setup our cots for s short night’s sleep.

Air Control Tower Kuwait

 

Air Control Tower at TAA Champion/Kuwait International Airport

In the morning we immediately began training. The engineers built “kill houses,” and we immediately got into a routine of PT (Physical Training) in the morning, training at the sites setup at Champion, eating at the “chow hall,” and going to the “PX Truck.” This quickly changed, as we boarded tour buses with curtains over the windows and headed out into the desert to the Udairi Range Complex to train. Udairi is extremely isolated.

This was a first time sleeping in the desert, seeing our “Hadji” bus driver go “number two” and use his water and left hand, or peeing “online” during a convoy. This was also our first time facing a sandstorm, having to just huddle underneath our ponchos and ride out the misery in silence, and boredom.

Sandstorm Udairi

 

Sand Storm At Udairi

After running the ranges, zeroing our weapons, etc., we went back to TAA Champion. After a few days to recoup and get some “hot chow,” we left again by ferry to Failaka Island in the Persian Gulf. Click the link for the history on the island. We did PT every every morning, then went off to train and clear all the abondoned buildings, and ran drills taking down whole the neighborhoods, etc. One night we had to pull guard with live rounds– my first time ever –and it was ridiculously creepy, another post in itself.

failaka island ferry

While we were on the island, we received our “top secret”  orders to jump into Baghdad, specifically Saddam International Airport (now BIAP: Baghdad International Airport). The jump was supposed to follow this order: 2/75, 2/325, 3/325, and 1/325. I forgot to put my “Pro Mask” on my leg for that briefing, which again, is a whole ‘nother post in itself.

We ran a few “mock-ups” of the mission while still on the island, then caught a ferry back to Kuwait City, and TAA Champion. When we got back the mood was light but serious at the same time, training had become a welcome reality, and the TeeVee in the “chow hall” was already beginning to show the bombings of buildings in Baghdad, etc.

Somehow that idiot Geraldo found a way to make it to Champion and take a rather long segment with our “sand table” in the back. This would change the mission. While we were gearing up to go, Saddam started hucking Scuds our way, and we often had to run to get our pro masks on and get in the “scud bunker,” often times leaving in the middle of chow, etc. The word “lighting” would come over the loud speaker, and you would have to jump out of your bed in the middle of the night, to squat in a concrete “bunker.”

scud bunker

 

Squatting in the Scud Bunker

This was a huge screw-up on both sides, and the jump was scrapped, not just because of this, but because of the weather, and based on the fact that the enemy had vastly reinforced the drop zone. Because I had Strep Throat during that last JFEX, my first jump out of Airborne School, would have been into combat. I feel robbed, but I would have probably been robbed of my life had it gone through. 2/325 was brought back from the compound they were in, in another country with 2/75, to deploy with us. After turning in all of our parachutes, we donned our “MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) suits,” and headed for the flight line. After the Rangers jumped in and secured Talil Airbase, my unit was flown in on the same c-130’s that were supposed to drop us over Baghdad.

A squad ready to deploy

 

One of the Squads Ready to Deploy (9 men is standard)

From Talil we were trucked up to As Samawah, Iraq, to pick a fight with the enemy. An enemy that was pinning down the advance of the Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) toward Baghdad. The tankers couldn’t handle it, so they brought in the paratroopers. This is the subject of my next post.

[Some of these pictures (generally the ones without quotes), and references, come from http://carryingthegun.wordpress.com, which is my boy @dongomezjr ‘s site. He invaded Iraq with the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne too, and is now a commissioned infantry officer]

 

The Invasion, Part One.

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I was raised Catholic, dragged to 10 am mass every Sunday. This made me grow to really despise religion, as I have always hated authority. There are things about the Universe, and the psychics that it has ordained, that we will never be able to comprehend within our feeble minds. Thus, there is a certain bit of luck involved in things, I try to use math for everything, but there is always the ever changing independent variable. The input that determines the outcome, but is  sometimes often unpredictable, and unprecedented.

You will often hear me on here and on Twitter mention “Odin” or “Thor,” that’s just because I relate my improbable luck, and good fortunes, to outside forces that I cannot understand. Luck is a funny thing, in that it seems to sometimes know more than you. You think you want to put yourself in a high risk situation, but Luck knows the real odds.

I have horrible ADD/ADHD, that I have always had, but my parents chose to ignore. Maybe it is a farce, and I just needed to run around the block a few more times? I was a pretty active kid though, and still murder my muscles (no homo) in the gym, yet have trouble focusing. This causes my thought processes to bounce around like Silly Putty in the International Space Station. My thought processes and future plans have been know to change from minute -to-minute, except in one case.

One of the first things I could do when I could walk/talk, was to pick up a twig and act as if it was a gun. From the time I had any idea what the future was, I wanted to be a soldier, that served in combat. I’m fairly certain Thor and Odin were looking down and smiling at me from the beginning, because what led to me to war, was nothing short of some Hollywood movie script.

I grew up in the “Orange County of the North,” Marin County, CA. I think the exit to my parent’s house was exactly the tenth exit, after getting off the Golden Gate Bridge. Marin is like Orange County in the wealth and caddishness departments, without the Republican values, thus you end up with a bunch of burnouts that don’t want to work hard, and just want to suckle off of mommy and daddy.

I never fit in there. I hate conformity, but I also hate heartless pussies, so I was stuck in some purgatory. I was into Punk Rock and Rockabilly, with a huge pompadour, Mohawk, or shaved head; yet I liked playing rugby, lifting weights, jumping BMX bikes off of roofs, and fighting; win or lose. After talking to my brother, Col Fleischer, Gen Stone, and other friends and family that were active duty Army and Marines, I decided that joining the Army provided me with the best opportunity to fulfill my goals.

I originally wanted to be a Naval/Marine Aviator– read “fighter pilot,” then I wanted to be a Navy Seal– but hated deep/dark water, then I wanted to be a Marine Infantryman– but becoming an infantryman wasn’t guaranteed, and there was no assurance of immediate deployment. Thus, I chose the Army as my choice, with the full idea that I was going to get a “RIP contract,” and go to a Ranger Battalion and go kill the enemy. Unfortunately, when I was at this place called MEPS– where they do physicals, written tests, and background checks on you –they ran my background check, and they discovered that I had already been charged with an assault, and thus, could not obtain the security clearance to get a “Ranger/RIP Contract.”

I was devastated  and my recruiter assured me that I could get an “Airborne Contract,” then go to “RIP” or “ROP,” after I got through the time needed to obtain the appropriate level of clearance. (These are now known as RASP1 and RASP2). I wanted this so bad, it was the only thing I ever wanted to do; I knew it was my destiny. In the middle of all of this, some terrorist assholes decided to fly some commercial airliners into American buildings. This pissed me off even more. So I signed a four year contract sending me to Fort Bragg, NC, as an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division.

I'm the 82nd Airborne

Here are important dates, bullet style.

  1. I signed my contract to enlist in the Army and be an Airborne Infantryman with 81nd Airborne Division late November 2001
  2. After graduating from high school in mid June 2002, I enjoyed my summer, turned 18 towards the end of July, then shipped out for Infantry OSUT (“One Station Unit Training,” 14 weeks of basic and advanced training for infantry recruits), August 3, 2002.
  3. After going to “30th AG,” and attending “The House of Pain” 2/58 Infantry Regiment, I graduated November 22, 2002.
  4. After 10 days of “Airborne Hold,” I attended and graduated from the US Army Parachute School, with our fifth jump and graduation on December 21, 2002.
  5. I then went home for leave and “hometown recruiting,” –basically, getting to hang out at home and help recruit, while getting paid for it.
  6. I reported to my duty station, Fort Bragg, NC, January 29, 2003.
  7. I was initially assigned to Scouts, HHC, 1/504, that had just gotten back from invading Afghanistan.
  8. They asked for volunteers to go to 2nd Brigade, the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, and I gladly raised my hand.
  9. I was assigned to B Co, 3/325, February 4, 2003.
  10. We had one jump into a JFEX (Joint Forces Entry Exercise), before we got our deployment orders.
  11. I ended up getting Strep, and getting “smoked” until I literally passed out the day of the jump; because my squad leader didn’t believe I had a 102 degree fever, and didn’t like that I had gone to the aid station
  12. I missed the jump, and instead guarded weapons deliriously with a 103 degree fever.
  13. We deployed shortly there after, on Valentines Day, February 14, 2003. We flew to Kuwait on commercial airliners.
  14. Landed at “TAA Champion (an Army ‘tent city’ built on the outskirts of Kuwait International Airport)” on February 15, 2003, then we immediately setup and began training for the impending invasion of Iraq.

 

Coming up next in part two: Training at Champion, Failaka Island, and the Udairi Range Complex, then running from “Scud Missiles.”

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