Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pucker Up, One Last Time

Peter had a post recently, here, about a li'l old lady that brought what she thought was a land mine to her local police station. Kind of humorous, in the end, due to the fact that no one was seriously injured by the antique... thing.

Reminded me of a story 'bout those who play by 'Better Safe Than Sorry', and those who should.

It was during the left seat / right seat, them in the left seat. This is to mean that the new Battalion was essentially running the show and that we had a few guys stay behind to sit 'right seat', to offer last minute advice, instruction, and anything else that might help.

Guess who was one of those that was initially told his services wouldn't be needed.... and then they were?

Yeah, I got a good picture of all my boys givin' me the friendly one finger salute as their 7-ton pulled out of the FOB.

We were out on patrol one day, nothing too extravagant, just moseying up and down our AO, seeing what was crack-a-lackin', and I was pointing out items of interest to the VC and crew that I was riding with. The reason I was talking to the Vehicle Commander and not the Squad Leader was that my Captain and the new companies OIC were chit-chatting in the vehicle, with the squad leader. That only leaves room for a driver and a gunner, both most likely Lance Corporals, and if anything was gonna get done in that vehicle, they'd need both of the work horses there. Besides, I had sat down with the new Squad Leader already, he looked like he had a good head on his shoulders - nobody I needed to worry about.

I was continuing a conversation that I'd started with a bunch of the new Lance Corporals - where we'd been hit, where we suspected the enemy was moving, how to read the roads, our immediate action drills according to specific situations, particularly spectacular convoy failures, the worthlessness of the average ING and IP when our Battalion started and some of their improvements, enemy tactics, their IED and land mine camouflage - you know, a few odds and ends here and there.

One of the Lance Corporals had asked me about our actions with landmines vs. IEDs, and what my personal thoughts on the matter were.

I started by telling him that there was definitely a progression in the ability of the enemy to set up, camo, and implement their weapons. During the time of my deployment, I'd noticed landmines that I couldn't see from more than 4 feet away and on foot, armor piercing MG rounds wrapped around arty rounds, incendiary IEDs, all building up to where our forces were at that day. The weren't too many stupid Jihadi Joes left, 'cause we'd already killed most of 'em. Our usual action once we determined that we had an actual threat was to call up EOD and let them take care of business. I stressed the fact that EOD was going to be escorted by some of their sister squads on their 'off' days, so it might be nice to know that when your squad is rolling out of the racks after only 2 hours of sleep that you can be pretty sure that you aren't going to get called out to disarm a bag of trash, a dead sheep, or a pillow. I told them that even if they were Blue Falconed that way, in my opinion it was always better to be safe than sorry. I'd take a shit-talkin' every day of the week for calling out a false alarm if it meant I could avoid a KIA, particularly moi.

One of 'em asked about shooting the IEDs. I told them that we hadn't, and that it would eventually be up to their command whether that flew or not, but from my experience, there was quite a few IEDs that were set up interior to a city, on a local bridge, or otherwise in an area where shooting it wouldn't be an option, really. If, on the other hand, they just happened to be out in the dunes oh, say, randomly conducting a test fire and 'just happened' to hit an IED, well then...

They got the idea.

It was about at that time that the lead vehicle spotted a possible land mine in the shoulder of the road, left side, immediately before crossing the bridge. The road was littered with previous craters lining both sides of the road and various vehicle debris, so it was something that definitely looked promising.

The call went out over the radio, the lead vehicle hauled ass over the bridge, the second and third were kind of stuck on account of terrain, but made do the best they could. Another vehicle started to make their way, off road, to link up with the lead victor, just in case. My vehicle stopped in place, turret faced to the rear, and the VC and I got out to check our area. I could hear the initial vocal tension of the FNGs' voices over the radio, and the relative calm as they realized they weren't dead, there was (initially, at least) no further threat, their figurative cherries were kinda-sorta popped, and there was still a job to do.

As the VC and I checked the area, I asked him for a verbal run-down of immediate actions that his vehicle and the squad needed to do. Once we established that our vehicle was secure, we pushed out a bit to face-to-face with the next vehicle and to cover ground in likely areas of attack. I had a separate radio on my gear, for my guys that were right-seating in other vehicles. One of 'em asked me to head up to his position, if I wasn't too busy. He was closer to the suspected mine, had better eyes on, and wanted me to confirm something for him. As the VC and I walked back to the road, I pointed out debris from convoys that littered the area. I wasn't trying to scare the guy, just impress upon him that this particular area was one to keep in mind, for the future.

As we were walking up and over the last of the hills before the road, he asked if I had any EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) trained Marines in my squad. I - still examining old tire, motorcycle, bicycle, sheep, and herder tracks - responded in the negative. I told him we had some former EMTs, some recreational gun-nuts, one radioman, one guy who liked to work on low-riders in his spare time, and an Irishman in some serious throes of alcohol withdrawal, but no EOD guys.

He paused, and asked if we had no EOD, why was one of my guys working on the landmine?

It was the guy who had called for me earlier.

The image that flashed though my head at the moment was one of a curious monkey poking a stick into a potential grub hill, for some reason. Brain Donor was using his k-bar to gently poke around the edges, at a good 45 degree angle, around the circular edge of what, from my closing distance and perspective, could be the edge of the pressure plate. As I contemplated getting blown up two days after my squad officially stopped patrolling, he managed to fit his knife under the device, and more or less pried up...

... what looked like an old, dusty, large paint-can lid that had been embedded in the dirt.

Good thing I had left a few extra pair of clean skivvies for the return trip to the states...


Bob G. said...

Damn, don't DO that to me...almost had to hit the latrine m'self!

But hey, ALWAYS better SAFE than sorry, even "if" it is (just) a paint can lid.

Carry On.

Karla (ThreadBndr) said...

GULP That's so not funny that it's funny, if you know what I mean.

Old NFO said...

Yep, THAT would have generated a puckerfactor and THEN some... sigh... WTF was he thinking? Or not thinking???

Murphy said...

He swore up and down that he was almost positive that it wasn't a mine, and granted, it was fairly easy to tell after the fact and right up close. I still told him I WAS positive that he was an idiot and owed me a couple years of my life back.