Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Funny Feeling In My Tummy

So, Iraq can be a dangerous place, at times.

Pipe down y'all!

It can be made more... interesting at times, due to the nature of the mission at hand.

There are things that you do in the interest of lessening some of that danger, or at the very least to lessen the consequences of the wort possible scenario. A big part of planning for the worst was distribution of... everything.

Ammo was divided just about equally, save for those vehicles that at times had the only particular type of larger weapon.

We had two guys on our squad that had been volunteer firefighters in a previous life. As tight as they were, they understood my decision to separate them into different vehicles, and not seated with the doc.

Noncoms were distributed amongst the vehicles, not just for the leadership value, but for the continuation of the squad's chain of command, just in case.

Every vehicle had stretchers, fire extinguishers, and tow chains/straps. (Not if, but when...)

Because we were in vehicles, we had the advantage of the thought that if there was something worth putting in one vehicle, chances were pretty good that we could beg/borrow/acquire/pilfer/appropriate/etc. that same item for the other Hummers, without a great likelyhood that we would have to hump our gear back to the FOB.

Dangerous Missions.

I don't really think there was any other type, really. Indeed, the company probably took more casualties from the everyday 'boring' patrols than the Hollywood sexy raids.

Even the chow hall Dr Pepper raids were dangerous, in their own way.

One of the types of patrols that made life interesting were the escorts. Escorting wasn't too bad, in concept; just fill one boat space, take one or more Bubbas from spot A to spot B. Adding rank to the equation wasn't even as much as an issue as I would have imagined, at least most of the time. A few exceptions aside, most Officers or higher ranking Marines recognized that while they did outrank me, I had the experience. I was always happy to listen to advice, but while out in the middle of something was not the place to play 'Who has the bigger pe-pe' game based upon rank.

So, back to and from the title, what gave me the funny feeling this particular story was not the hot chow from the previous night, nor the food of questionable freshness contained in my last care package (Thanks, Mom!). The source was the higher ups (up to and including the Company Commanding Officer) riding along with my squad.

I wasn't afraid of my guys 'getting caught' doing something wrong, or at least not too much. My guys might have gotten me into some stuff when in the rear, but outside the wire, for the most part, they were good to go and did their job. I wasn't even afraid of the Staff or Os finding something wrong in my tactics. I'm one of those types that know there is always something to improve, and welcome criticism on just about anything I do.

What did kind of bother me was that we would have a good portion of the Company's chain of command contained within one squad, for most of one afternoon. This is not an everyday occurrence, and for good reason.

I don't care how hot one squad is, we all know that anything can happen, at anytime, for any reason.

I think there is a law about that somewhere...

At least the C.O. was agreeable to distributing the Staff NCOs and Officers amongst my vehicles. He did insist on taking out another vehicle, and while it wasn't in the greatest shape and would require some creative maintenance and squad personnel distribution, it would add another platform for a big gun.

The reason that the chain was riding along with us was that, if I remember correctly, an Officer was returning to Iraq from the States. He had had either a really bad day and/or a really lucky moment some time earlier, and after the recovery and ok from the docs, was cleared to rejoin the company. He was a great guy, and everyone wanted to get in on the welcome back party.

Everything went fine on the pick up, he was looking good, all got to ooh and ahh over his new scars, and word got passed regarding the guys here and the guys already sent home for recovery. As an added bonus, we even got some how chow out of the deal. Score!

Naturally, this meant that the return trip would get interesting. Sure enough, one of the Hummers died on the return trip.

Give ya a clue as to which one, it wasn't one of my regular Hummers, and was added to my squad just before the patrol...

I had in my squad a couple of tinkerers of the automotive inclination, and those guys could do wonders under a hood. I'm not the most mechanically minded type (stop laughing, you!), but I knew enough to know that if my two vehicle yodas were at a loss for why a vehicle was down, you might as well put a bullet in her and call it a day.

After enough of a delay, I had enough and told my guys that we would tow the dead vehicle to the FOB. It was about this time that the C.O told me that he was going to have a spitball meeting in his vehicle on the remainder of the return trip.

I thought that he was talking about getting together with another Officer. When I realized that in one vehicle (the one getting towed!) we would have numerous Staff NCOs and Officers, driving down the road popularly known as 'the gauntlet' for it's isolation and number of enemy activities, to me, that's the equivalent to thumbing one's nose at Lord Murphy (never a good idea, especially with my squad).

I wandered over to where the First Sergeant was, scowling at pretty much... everything. Nodding over in the direction of the C.O.'s hummer, I asked him, "Hey, Fir'Sergeant... uh, you heard about-" He turned his glare to me and responded with, "Yup".

I don't remember the exact words, but we had a brief conversation regarding who would be the likely candidates to fill the leaderships' spots after what was generally agreed upon as too much temptation for the cruel gods of convoy ops.


Shane said...

"I had the experience. I was always happy to listen to advice, but while out in the middle of something was not the place to play 'Who has the bigger pe-pe' game based upon rank."

Never a good idea to argue with the enlisted crew in their bailiwick, they might forget to tell you to duck. I always hated the officer who could not follow my instructions on the hovercraft. I mean, I know it is not a terribly dangerous piece of equipment, but I am responsible for your safety while you are on it and if you make my job hard, I will not be so worried about letting you get yourself chewed up by a prop.

Murphy said...

It's funny how these little stories and more particular to this situation, your comment jog the ol' memory banks and remind me of another story...