Sunday, April 8, 2007

An Army of One.......Hummer?

In Iraq, one of the things that really chapped my ass was convoys. There was quite a few things that kind of pissed me off, but I could wrap my head around them. Like those ass rags that wanted to kill me. I could understand that they wanted to ensure that I had a Really Bad Day and would do just about anything to do it. But convoys? Never really could figure some of them out.

One aspect of the colossal goat rope that is usually convoy operations is that it is a vital but definitely NOT Hollywood-sexy job. Supplies, vehicles, and personnel all need to move from one area to another. This might involve transit from many, many somewhat secure to not very secure areas over the course of a long day. It is probably not what you trained for. It can be very boring. All of the above I can understand, and have been through myself. More than once. It was the resulting actions from some convoy troopers that really just blew my mind.

Cresting a hill towards the end of another long patrol, I saw the Hummer in the distance and called a halt. Once all of my vehicles were stopped and had our area secured, I noticed that the Hummer did not appear to be getting any closer. As I knew that I was the only security patrol in the area, I gathered that it was the lead vehicle in a convoy heading to the base, only about 30 miles to the North. A few minutes passed, and no other vehicles appeared in the shimmer of the horizon. Scrunching my eyes a little bit more seemed to suggest that the vehicle was stopped, and had a tilt to the starboard side.


I got on the radio and attempted to hail the convoy's lead vehicle.


I got on the horn with higher, informed them of the situation, and asked if there were any of our patrols in the area, anything going on with Battalion that I should know about, or if there were any convoys in the area.

Negative on all.

I pulled my vehicle forward cautiously, and attempted to raise the mystery Hummer on the radio. By this time, a good 10 minutes had passed with no other vehicles appearing behind the Hummer, no visible movement outside the Hummer, and my 'WTF?' caution bell starting to ping. I passed some binoculars to my gunner, and called up one of the other vehicles to my position, with instructions to approach the Hummer from the west flank with all caution.

A number of scenarios were coming to mind as definite possibilities, and not too many of them were very cheery. I knew that convoys were almost always on a pretty serious time-line that usually got totally blown to crap 5 minutes outside of the wire. Convoys had a habit of miscounting, losing and/or abandoning vehicles. Civilian convoy vehicles (i.e. semi trucks, vans, etc) that got blown up or broken down were towed if possible, abandoned if necessary, in order to meet the time line. Military issue vehicle were not abandoned. Only under the most extreme situations would a Hummer be left behind, and steps would be taken to ensure that it would be secured (one way or the other) before departure.There was a mandate for a minimum number of vehicles on patrol and convoy. It didn't really need to be enforced, because who would want to be out on the roads with out serious back up?

Meanwhile, there was still no movement nor comm from and with the Hummer, and no other vehicles were in sight.

As instructed, my flanking vehicle approached from the west. It stopped a good 100 yards from the Hummer and the dismounts began their approach. My gunner still had his binos on the Hummer and informed me that it appeared that the tires on the starboard side were blown out, no other damage was visible, no smoke rising, and still no movement. My Marines came on the radio with a constant update as they approached the vehicle.

"Approaching the road...not one of our Hummers, possibly Army new IED craters, looks like some old damage to the vehicle...(I see him stop and grab a look through his scope) Shit, looks like we got some bodies in the Hummer."

Making his way to the shoulder of the road, he paused to give the shoulder and vehicle a visual once over. No sense in rushing to secure bodies only to get your own ass blown sky-high by an booby trap. I had the binos by this time, and was able to watch him reach for the door handle, open the door and jump about 3 feet in the air.

Apparently, he had rudely disturbed nap time.

As it turns out, there was a convoy that had been scheduled for the morning run. Due to all kinds of SNAFUs, it was only running about 4 to 5 hours late. The scout element of ONLY ONE VEHICLE, sweeping the roads ahead of the convoy, managed to get a ridiculous distance ahead of the main body. Once sufficiently out of visual with the main element, the convoy-appointed member of the infamous Murphy clan came to pay them a visit. He took note of the LACK OF SPARE TIRE, and most definitely the COMPLETE FRIGGIN' ABSENCE OF ANY RADIO, and decided that the best course of character-building situation would be to blow two tires completely apart, go visit the convoy and take out an engine, thereby delaying them another hour or so.

Put yourself, if only for a moment, in this situation. You are perhaps a good 1 to 2 hours away from any back up . You are 30 minutes away from multiple villages that do not wish you well. There are IED and land-mine craters all up and down the road you are on. You have no means of communicating your situation to your commander. You are momentarily a mobility kill. (you can move, but not for very long and with not much in the way of speed). You know that the convoy will be along eventually, so what do you do?

a) Set out security elements to ensure that no one sneaks up on your ass, kills you if you are lucky, kidnaps you if you are not.

b) Attempt to communicate your situation with alternative means. Perhaps by hailing a passing helo re-supply flight, popping smoke, and letting them notify moi.

c) Leave the vehicle on the road, for all appearances abandoned, and set up an ambush in the nearby dunes.

d) Throw all reason to the winds, say 'Fuck it', and go to sleep.

Option d) won out, resulting in a slight scare for both groups.

In hind sight, I kind of think that we should have run up to the vehicle from behind screaming ALLAHU AKBAR!!!!

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