Medicine Soldier

A View from Iraq


12.27.2004

Rough Week

We are back out of the field for Christmas. We have done some interesting things this week. We had a full day of classes on cultural and situational awareness which included everything from Iraqi history and current tactics. My job at the Red Cross required us to use tracking and trending and random sampling as tools to help solve problems and conduct checks. Well it seems the enemy "insurgents" are also using these tools to figure out our weaknesses. If we use the same routes or follow the same schedule we become predictable and become more susceptible to ambush. This covers everything from patrols to sleeping and eating.

The leadership challenge is to find some doctrine to maintain order and discipline, but vary enough so not to become complacent or predictable. Yes, for the Star Trek fans it is like fighting the "Borg." We have actually developed some tactics and techniques that should work well.

I was also faced with another leadership challenge last week, which left me with very little free time. My company commander was determined to be non-deployable for medical reasons. This meant that I have been in charge doing his job running the company and coordinating training with the Camp Shelby trainers and our higher unit. I have also been trying to keep up with my job. In the middle of all this we had a five day live fire exercise with many moving parts. We had .50 cal. machine guns and M249 machine guns mounted on HMMWVs and we had the guys on the ground with grenade launchers and rifles. Lots of moving parts and live bullets. Not to mention the final exam was at night in a thunder storm. It was pretty intense, since the national guard is normally allocated only 49 rounds per year to qualify on our rifles.

Before we went hot on the range I had a pep talk with the guys and told them, "Don't be nervous but to have fun. This will be the last time you shoot real bullets without getting shot at." We all laughed a bit, but they all focused on what they were doing and we did a good job in the mud and rain. I was in the HMMWV on the radio behind the firing line taking contact reports and issuing orders to 45 guys on the ground.

The mission started with 4 guys in watch towers and plywood targets popped up beyond the wall of dirt protecting our perimeter. A few shots rang out in the dark and the report came in from the Platoon leader. He called for the rest of his platoon to join the defense as more targets presented. Lightning flashed illuminating more silhouettes as a volley of rifles broke the sound of the rain in the earth. In pairs the rifles fired and more reports came across as ammo was distributed.

Plywood truck targets and artillery were observed from the lookout towers and the platoon leader called me for reinforcements. The second platoon in the HMMWVs was on its way as the rifles continued to hold the line. Across the radio the second platoon leader reported he was nearing the position and stopped just behind the dirt berm. I signaled and at once all four trucks pulled up and the machine guns were unleashed echoing the thunder and lightning. Tracer rounds bounced off the dirt as flares and lightning flashed across the sky.

I watched the wet soldiers scurry back and forth passing ammo and reports to each other. I sat in my vehicle recording the battle and directing the flow of events. I realized my truck was leaking and I was just as wet. It didn't bother me, I was focused taking casualty reports and plotting artillery rounds. It was a long night, but everyone went home happy, knowing they could perform under pressure and the weather.

The next day we went on a Mounted combat patrol to clear routes along our supply lines. We had to identify suspicious activity and visit a local town. The army has hired several Iraqi refugees to participate in our training and they interact on our simulated battle field serving as translators, officials, bad guys and passers by on the street.

We ended our training with a convoy back to base on the 23rd. I was more excited on Christmas eve putting on a clean dry uniform than I was thinking about opening presents. I took my commander to the airport Christmas Eve and had to find the luggage of another soldier who arrived a week ago at the base. He had only one uniform with him and his bag was lost in transit. So I set off with two of my Sergeants to find him clean clothes. I relaxed in the afternoon and agreed to go out to dinner and a club with half the company. They were very excited that I was coming along. Three weeks ago they hardly knew me and on Christmas eve they would not go out without me. I was there for them on their first real tactical test and they now trust and respect me.

We had Christmas day off and many people had guests. I spent the morning doing laundry and my friend who lives near me is also training here with another battalion picked me up in the evening to watch a movie. His wife flew in from a business trip in China. It was weird not being home with family for Christmas. We spent the last two days conducting land navigation and the powers that be picked another Captain to lead the company, but the process is not finished so I am still in charge and I am keeping him informed of our training. I hope this issue is resolved in three weeks before we go to Kuwait. I am glad I had this opportunity to prove myself, but being in limbo once again has taken a lot out of me.

I hope you all are enjoying your holidays. We got our ballistic plates for our body armor Saturday and I am looking forward to a visit from mom on New Years.

What happened to the Patriots at Miami? Do we still have a chance at the playoffs?

Take care everyone and Happy Holidays.

posted by Scott | 22:26 Baghdad time | © 12.27.2004
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