Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Paddy's Day

My machine gunner in Iraq was an Irishman. Stereo-typical Irish stuff, loved his pints, quick to anger, and quick to resolve differences over a Guinness. Great at impressions, had some hilarious jokes, and had an interesting accent. When you first meet him, you spend most of your time trying to figure out what in the hell he is saying. After a while, you get used to him, and he to you, and you get along well. After he has had a few pints in him, no one knows what the hell he is saying, aside from (perhaps) close family.

This guy had his moments.

In the effort to avoid 'collateral damage', there was quite the effort made to avoid killing of civilians. Unfortunately, the bad guys had at that time stepped up in their efforts to use Suicide Vehicle born Improvised Explosive Devices (SVBIEDs). One attempt that we made at the time to warn civilians away from us was the use of flash bang grenades and flares. Flash bangs are grenades with no shrapnel, but plenty of noise and light.

We would use these tools to get the attention of civilians, and to suggest that they kindly stop immediately what there are doing, so that we might not have to kill them. Usually this was because they were traveling towards our convoy at a high rate of speed and disregarding all of the signs that we displayed that indicated our decided lack of interest at being overly friendly at at that moment. It was decided that, if time allowed, the turret gunner would deploy flares or flash-bangs, along with hand/arms signals and verbal commands to instruct the civilians in what they needed to do to keep their original number of body openings.

'Paddy' was great at this.

He tried to forewarn me when he could, but usually there was only enough time to throw the flares or toss the flash bangs, and let me kind of figure it out for myself. In the heat of the moment, he would also forget the basic Arabic that we had all been taught, and scream out in English and Irish at the poor locals. Someone pointed out that the civilians could probably not understand him (Hell, WE barely could), he replied that it was the thought that counted, and they could probably understand the gist of what he was saying, especially once he grabbed his 240G 'universal translator'.

Traveling along the road, with the wind whipping through the Hummer I would catch phrases of his diatribe - '... the fock outta da bloody focken wankah!...flare, Sergeant!!!...if'n me mah could see this shite...move yer arse!!!...'

Poetry, pure poetry.

The only problem that I had with his deployment of flares and flash bangs were the few occasions that they would be used together, for an interesting auditory combination. There were many things that would get a good ping on the old pucker factor, but a combination of 'WHOOOSH!!!!' (flare) and 'BOOOOM!!!!' (flash bang) would ALWAYS register in my mind as a RPG, EVERY TIME. I am sure that it was humorous at times, me screaming like a little school girl, only to realize that is was just Paddy up top, warning the locals away and offering his own unique commentary on the situations that we found ourselves in.

Here's to you, Paddy.

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