Saturday, December 03, 2005

Nights in Iraq

There is much that I have written concerning the operations that I have been on since I arrived in Iraq. I wish that I could share some of the stories with you all but I am understandably reluctant to out of concerns for operational security. The internet is a wide-open arena and there are many people I am told, who purposely read sites such as mine in an attempt to gain knowledge concerning our techniques, tactics and procedures. But I will not be the one to jeopardize my life or the lives of my brothers out of negligence. I am reminded of Geraldo Rivera and his now infamous drawing in the sand on CNN detailing the location of the Army unit whom he was imbedded with and as a result of his journalistic negligence, his expedited exodus out of Iraq. So when you read what I have written and will eventually write, please understand my reticence to share certain operational details as I do not want to end up with a one way ticket back to the States before my job here is finished. I do however, want to share with you all what it was like at night during a particular operation that Bingo and I were involved in. If there is something that “just doesn’t seem right” about what I have written and you are left scratching your head, please understand there are some details which I have purposely omitted. But I trust that you will be able to get a sense of how I have spent many of my nights in Iraq which is my intent and desire…

During the operation, I prayed for the darkness. The fighting was fierce in the daylight hours and night was the only time that you could forget to a certain extent, that you were in a combat zone. Except for the occasional burst of gunfire and the ever-present humm of aircraft overhead, it was relatively quiet. We would sleep in a house that we cleared and had long-since been abandoned by its inhabitants (willingly or otherwise). Occasionally we would get lucky and end up in a house with small mattresses used by the Iraqis to sleep on. These proved to be fairly comfortable. What I really prayed for even more than the mattresses, was a source of running water. We didn’t dare drink the water as it is filled with bacteria and promised to leave the poor once thirsty Marine and his bowels wishing that he had remained thirsty and never drank it. It was however, a perfect solution to prickly-heat on our backs and for washing our screaming feet. It was very comical when the word was passed that we would be stopping for the night. As soon as it was passed, Marines began laying stake to whatever real estate looked promising within the house. Mattresses seemed to come from out of nowhere and our cumbersome gear was shed at an alarming pace.
I began to establish a routine. So as not to imposition others, I purposely looked for the unwanted piece of real estate as Bingo would take up his share of space and the share of at least three other Marines. As a result, this often landed me mattress-less and near a window…both less than ideal. I would feed Bingo from the food supply that I carried around with me in my patrol pack and begin my hunt for a water source. Bottled water was a precious commodity and no one dared even begin to consider using it for anything other than drinking. More times than not, the houses either had a sink, some form of a shower or a water hose. Also more times than not, there was no water running to these houses. When I did find water, I would wash my feet often two or three times. Every third day, I would change my underclothes which left me to some extent, feeling like a new man. There is no worse and futile feeling than putting sweat-drenched socks on clean feet or a sweat stained shirt on your back, but you do whatever you can. So with somewhat clean feet and the ever-present itchy back, I returned to Bingo to eat my dinner.
We would stage our day packs containing sleeping bags and other non-essential items on a high-back humvee which would follow us throughout the city albeit at a very safe distance. Also in this humvee was our daily resupply of chow, water , ammunition and in my case, extra dog food. Most nights our humvee would catch up with us. There were however, a few nights when it did not. The temperatures were in the low forties at night and without our sleeping bags, the cold was bitter. You would be hard pressed to find an unhappier group of people than the Marines after they are told that they will not be resupplied until the next morning. If the rush to find adequate sleeping positions was chaotic when the word was passed to go firm (Marine-speak meaning stop for the night), the melee accompanying the word that the resupply humvee was not going to make it to our position was horrifying. Now you not only wanted a good sleeping position and a mattress, but you absolutely had to have some sort of blanket. It was not uncommon for Marines to leave an absolute perfect sleeping position in search of a blanket, only to return to find their position re-acquired by another Marine. I however, had a wonderful one hundred pound fur blanket that absolutely loved to sleep as close to me as possible. Many nights, I would fall asleep fully on a mattress only to wake up on the cold concrete of the floor with Bingo sleeping soundly on what was once my bed. To be honest, more times than not, I would allow him to use the mattress as he was working as hard if not harder than I during the day. I could only hope that he was willing to share. Here in our hooch, I cannot allow him to sleep with me in my bed as he constantly wants to play, lick my face or otherwise interrupt my much hallowed slumber. During the operation however, he slept harder than I. It was not unusual for me to wake up in the morning to find him in the same position he was in when he fell asleep. There were several times that I had to ensure he was still breathing. He proved himself worthy in combat which is what every Marine desires to be told.
No one wanted to get out from under their sleeping bag or blanket as the mornings were frigid. Mornings were always an interesting time. Most mornings, the expletives would only be outnumbered by moans and complaints about sore backs, knees and feet. Most Marines would put their boots on, pack everything except their sleeping bags and try and sneak in another 20 minutes of much needed sleep. To the outsider, we received more than enough time for sleep. If you played your cards right, you could easily get 8-10 hours a night. Our bodies and minds were so taxed throughout the day however, that 8 hours of sleep seemed like 5 minutes in the morning. It was amazing to see the transformation that occurred as soon as we began to once again push forward through the city. There was no loss of tactical intensity with any of the Marines that I was with. It was as if our minds picked up right where we left off the previous day. We knew that we had a job to do and were determined that no one was going to slow our progress. I was thankful and proud that I was fighting beside these men and not against them.

5 comments:

Barb said...

Thanks for the peek into your world there. I had to laugh out loud at the idea of you waking up in the morning off the mattress, with Bingo hogging ...*grin*
A 100-pound fur blanket that likes to play would be a challenge!!!

Anonymous said...

hello my name is mike and i want to thank you and the rest of your troops for a job well done and for keeping all of us safe and i hope you will get home soon so stay safe we are praying for all of you

mike said...

hello my name is mike and i want to thank you and the rest of your troops for a job well done and for keeping all of us safe and i hope you will get home soon so stay safe we are praying for all of you

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