Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Left Seat/Right Seat, Deployment Theme, & First Pucker Factor

About two hours after getting off of the plane in Iraq, the Company Commander called a leaders meeting to discuss the schedule of operations & current situation. In the coming days and while the company was getting itself unpacked and moved in, we would be going out on left seat - right seat patrols pretty much effective immediately. That is to say squad leaders, platoon commanders, and company staff would go out on patrols with the squads we were relieving. After a few days, our squads would take over patrols, and their squad leaders would ride out with us for a few days. This would give us just under a week to pick the brains of the experienced guys to figure out all that we could about the area. No pressure.

We met up with some of their squad leaders, all of whom were smoking celebratory cigars and walking around with big ol' shit eatin' grins at the sight of their replacements. They had a lot of good information for us, like the locals that we needed to keep an eye on, common IED areas, enemy tactics, and the like. They explained that the area that we were in was not so much of a hot spot as it was a means of transit for weapons and fighters from other countries to cities like Fallujah and Ramadi. Finding out that something like 12 out of the remaining 15 members of their squad merited the purple heart did not soothe the mind as to their definition of 'not really a hot spot'. It's all relative, I suppose.

The really spot-on description of the area was that there was going to be a hell of a lot of boredom with moments of "Oh shit"!! interspersed here and there. As it would turn out, 'Oh Shit!' became somewhat of a running theme to that deployment, at least for me.

On to the patrols...

We all crammed into the back of one of the truck-looking Hummers for our cherry patrol. (Old Marine joke: Q. How many Marines can you fit into a Hummer/AAV/fighting position etc.? A. One more.) The area pretty much consisted of numerous small villages, sand, the two north-south roads that traveled through the area, more sand, the air-base, yet more sand, the Euphrates on the eastern limit of out area, and last but not least, more sand. About half way through the patrol their squad was tasked with making a few random civilian vehicle stops. Minor grumbling about SVBIEDs (car bombs) aside, the squad proceeded to see if they couldn't get lucky and catch someone transporting some bad stuff.

While conducting the vehicle inspections, we got a call that there appeared to be an IED emplacement going on a few miles down the road. The order was to verify the report and capture if possible. Explosive Ordinance Disposal teams were on standby. See, one of the tactics that insurgents would sometimes use is to note where we set up, lay a few bombs, and then try to lure the squad into an ambush.

The squad immediately broke off the inspections to see if we could possibly go over to say 'marhaba' to the bad guys, and see if we couldn't arrange any personal meeting with Allah for them. Get Some!!

In a very good display of situational awareness and communications, the Sgt. leading the patrol called up a sister squad to swing in from the south, while we would come from the west. Noticing that there were a few helos flying the friendly skies, he asked for a couple to sweep the site just as we came over the hills, to provide us with a bird's eye view of the area. Off we went...

We were hauling ass, as much as you can in worn out, loaded down, packed to the gills Hummers, and the pucker meter was experiencing its first 'off the charts' reading, a whole 12 hours into the deployment. Comm between the squads was good (probably because it was one of their last patrols / give us some false sense of hope when it came to good comm in combat), and they were able to coordinate arrival on scene within seconds of each other. We came screaming around the bend to see two men on the side of the road, shovel and pick-axe in hand, a wheel-barrow off to one side, dirt piled up on the other side, and what I am sure would translate from any language as a very large 'Oh Shit!!!' look on their face. Beautiful.

Marines were leaping off of still-moving vehicles with weapons aimed in, safeties off, taking positions, and screaming at the dudes in Arabic. Just after we got there, the other squad materialized from behind some buildings, cutting off any chance of escape. The helos were thundering overhead, with a primo view of the whole proceedings. Locals were diving out of the line of fire, cars were flying off of the road out of the potential line of fire, and just then, with perfect timing...

...the water line that they were working on burst, sending a small plume of water 5 or 6 feet into the air between them.

Well, sheeit.


Old NFO said...

Along with a few other "waterlines" I'm sure... :-)

Murphy said...


Me, if I had almost a dozen Hummers, a couple of birds, and about 35 Marines chargin me when I was just doing some work, I probably would have done more than just lose water pressure...