Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lucky Sons of...

The Hummer slowed down and paused on the shoulder of the road. Marines jumped out of the back of the truck and started visual sweeps of the road to ensure that there was nothing there that shouldn't be. The detainees remained in the bed, hands zip-tied behind them, blacked out goggles over their faces, with one Marine, m9 in hand, standing guard. Vehicle commanders started their final head count and weapons checks.

All vehicles rogered up and the call came over the radio to stand by to move out. The raid had been a resounding success.

Starting out early that morning, the CO had called all parties together to run through the plan one more time. There would be a squad designated for the raid itself, another tied to the hip with them that would be security and detainee transport. Another (mine) would be on patrol in the area, looking for anything out of the ordinary and as a mobile quick reaction force. Maps were distributed, we loaded up and set out for the target house. They never knew what hit them.

One thing that we always did at some point before completely leaving the area was a head and weapons count. This was done to make abso-friggin-lutely that there would be no one left behind. Of only slightly lesser concern was that we had all gear, weapons, detainees, and intel.

On the side of the road that day, the vehicle was stopped on the bare shoulder of the road. The pick up style Hummer was the tail end of the convoy returning to the Forward Operating Base. As such, two Marines sitting in the bed of the truck had their weapons facing to the rear, at all times. When the vehicle came to a stop, it was they that opened the saloon type steel doors, hopped out, and cleared the shoulder around the vehicle. They did not look under the vehicle.

Our visual sweeps started at just at the vehicle and in a circle. If nothing suspicious was in the immediate area, the Marines knew that they were to gradually increase their circles, pushing out to a pre-set distance. Once the ground was confirmed clean and if they were still stopped, they would usually take a knee or find some sort of cover and wait for the call to move.

The call came over the radio; all victors (vehicles) were present, all personnel present, stand by to return to base. The dismounted Marines returned to the truck, climbed aboard, and secured the doors. They returned to their position, rifles pointed to the rear, resting on the lip of the doors. The vehicle crawled forward, in anticipation of the convoy getting started.

When the Hummer had pulled forward about two feet, the slight discoloration of the ground caused the Marines glanced down at the ground.

The buried IED that blew at that moment had to have been expertly camouflaged. It must have been level with the ground and hidden well enough that the Marine driver had completely missed it as he brought the vehicle to a stop directly over it. It blew as the two rear guard Marines were both looking down at it, from a distance of about 5 feet.

The call that you never want to hear came over the radio, 'stand by for medivac, two friendlies, urgent surgical.' Urgent surgical is the phrase used for the most serious wounds, demanding immediate removal and evacuation to the rear. An explosion going off in ones face from a distance of about 5 feet would normally be a safe bet to call for urgent surgical. Only minutes later the birds were launched and en route to the hastily formed security perimeter around the damaged but amazingly still technically drivable vehicle.

It would seem upon later reflection, that the IED had been buried too deep. The concealment of the device was almost perfect however, as a result the force of the blast was not anywhere near as powerful as it could have been. Another factor might have been a degradation of force due to the type of round used. It was almost certainly a 60mm mortar round or smaller, and probably an old one at that. There are only a few other factors that I can think of to explain why they were not killed outright.

They both survived.

The force of the blast had knocked them both out, shredded their flacks and kevlar helmets, and shattered their protective goggles. One Marine had eye damage to his eyes as a result of the shattered lens and some dust & metal fragments. Had he not been wearing his goggles, loss of vision would have been almost guaranteed, but the least of his problems. Both Marines had some shrapnel wounds to the face and to a lesser degree, their hands and forearms.

A short time later we got the word that one of the Marines had made it back through the hospital ladder, from Iraq to Germany back to the States. He was going to be okay, save for some slight damage to one of his eyes. The other Marine returned to duty. He looked like hell, like he had gone ten rounds with a pro boxer.

He was a beautiful, lucky bastard.


Ssssteve said...

Wow! Learned a lesson and lived to tell about it! Amazing

SpeakerTweaker said...

Excellent, sir.

I wish that all stories from that hellhole ended like that.

I saw a YouTube video the other day of an IED going of as a Hummer passed by. As a sidenote, I usually do NOT watch those videos as I have no desire to see Bad Things Happen to our boys, but this one clearly indicated that Bad Things were avoided.

That explosion peeled up what must have been a 12-ft. radius of asphalt and sent it probably 20 feet high. And the beauty? The bad guys missed.

But it was sobering, still. I don't know how you guys did it, but I'm glad as hell you did.


Deborah Aylward said...

May God Bless and keep you all, this night and always!

Veritas et Fidelis Semper

Abby said...

It's always a roll of the dice, isn't it?

I'd shill for ESS goggles for free - the gear we get now is amazing, and saves lives and quality of life.

Murphy said...

It was kind of funny, somewhat, the number of times when we would roll over, dust ourselves off, and other than a few scrapes and a serious headache, we would be just fine.

Gear was a big part of it.

There was a SSgt. that took some shrapnel to the leg after a SVBIED. Long story short, it was a struggle, but the docs stopped the bleeding and probably saved his leg (I honestly am not positive about that, never saw him after that). Well, they cut all his gear and whatnot off of him before putting him on the helo, had his legs all bandaged up, and off he went. When it came time to inventory his personal stuff to send home and gear to reissue, they pulled out the ceramic plate of his vest only to find that it had a 6-8 inch crack in it from shrapnel. Had he not had that in, it would have definitely ruined his day. Stories like that were often enough that we always had every piece of gear on that we could get our hands on.

Should anybody read this before going to the party for the first time,

wear. your. gear.

All of it, every time. I know it's hot, I know it sucks the big one, don't be the lesson for everyone else.