Medicine Soldier

A View from Iraq



I did not get to finish my email this morning. I had wanted to go into some more detail about out training mission on the urban training lane. They had a mock town set up with marked buildings that included burned out cars, Arabic writing, and animals running around. There was also Iraqi and Arabic Refugees along with other paid civilians to interact and cause confusion and interrupt the battle. The whole training focus is on being prepared to be lethal yet use every effort to resolve the situation by other means. This has been a hard concept for our hard core tankers from Vermont who are used to blowing things up on contact or otherwise running over them with the tracks. We are forced to be less lethal and more exposed.

Our mission was to secure five suspected insurgent leaders from a fictional town in Iraq. The idea is the town was trying to have a democracy with the use of a mayor but the local Sheik had more sway over the population. We had to negotiate with the mayor to allow use to enter his town armed and search the town for suspected terrorists and solicit the use of the local police to go knocking door to door. Our secondary goal was to capture intelligence or weapons present in the town.

Things started off well we had one platoon with vehicles block roads and set up check points to control entry and exit from the towns. They also had roving patrols on foot to flush out snipers. The second platoon was going to negotiate and conduct the search. The third platoon over watched the town from far and had the machine guns and the reinforcements. I was with part of a platoon that was to enter the town from the wood line and hang out in the sewer tunnels and reinforce and assist the search teams. The negotiations ended up breaking down and the crowd started to become hostile. We ended up having to pass the reserves through the tunnels to support the platoon that still was trying to make the negotiations work. Finally, the tide turned and the platoon started to split up and forcibly occupy and clear the buildings. I was still hanging out in the sewer tunnels getting bitten by ants. After clearing four buildings and detaining several town people I found myself supervising the enemy prisoner handling point. Initially this was in the sewer tunnel and we eventually consolidated in one of the buildings. Our intelligence was not accurate and we were unsure who was just unruly townsfolk and who were the guys and girls we were looking for. So I found myself pushing forward running from building to building in the smoke and confusion of the town trying not to run over or shoot the civilians. We ended up flushing out some more of the insurgents and pockets of battle were taking place in different locations. I ended up setting up a operations center in one of the taller buildings and was trying to push information from the platoons and commander to keep everything organized. This was not an easy task. We ended up taking sniper fire, and having spontaneous pockets of fire fights while people were milling about the streets selling trinkets, asking for cigarettes, wanting to have tea with us or just otherwise trying to confuse and disrupt our tempo. We ended up capturing four people that made the list and killing one of them. Finally we leapfrogged all our squads our of the town and cleared our of the city.

It made for a long day but it put many things together that we were doing. The trainers really try to crank things up and throw a lot at us and make us think and react. The idea is that it will be unlikely for all these things to happen at once, but if we can handle the level of difficulty in a training environment, the real thing should not be as bad. If you want more of a feel for what we were going through try watching the movie "Blackhawk Down."

Today we did close combat training will live rounds. We had plastic targets with painted shapes on them and we had to move down lanes with and without cover firing into the plastic silhouettes when someone randomly called out a shape. All our targets were 25 meters away or less and we were moving in pairs and groups of four.

They kicked up the level of difficulty by making us ground our weapon and run back to the ammo point, get the magazines and then run back to the round and had 15 seconds to lock and fire. (Mind you, we have about 45lbs of helmet, body armor, and other crap on.) They made it more fun for the officers and leaders. We had to chase the guy with our ammo. I was running against another Lieutenant and the ammo guy ran up the hill and we chased him and the other LT pushed me in front of my commander and first Sergeant. I had to leap over them. Coming down the hill he grabbed my vest and I lost my balance. I managed to grab the magazines and on the way down I completely lost my balance and had to employ my "John Woo Combat Roll" (refer to Samuel Jackson in the movie SWAT). So yeah, I pretty much tripped in front of the whole company, but I managed to recover with the combat roll and save my pride and cool points to make it back to the firing point. We finished the lane and I was applauded by the guys. I wonder how sore I will be tomorrow.

We also had our first intel brief from our battalion commander. Things are starting to get really focused as we prepare for our move. He showed us pictures of the area we will be going and we discussed the impact of the elections and that the town will be celebrating a religious holiday for the first time that was outlawed during Saddam's rule.

I am still feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Most of my frustrations have been equipment issues. We are hearing that all the good equipment is already deployed and there isn't enough stuff here to train on. We are not the best army in the world because we always have the best equipment; we are the best army in the world because our soldiers have the freedom and ingenuity to make things work.

God Bless America.

P.S. For all the cool toys we have (lasers, scopes, night vision, radios), the enemy is using dogs to do a better job detecting us. The dogs know we smell different and keep us from sneaking up on the insurgents in the dark.

posted by Scott | 00:30 Baghdad time | © 1.07.2005
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