Thursday, June 02, 2005

Note to self: Lights, Doors, Driving, and Mortars

Note to self:

When you are checking to see if you installed the batteries in the Go-Jillion candlepower flashlight, don’t look at it and then turn it on. Apparently, you can point it at a wall and see if light comes out of it. So now I have spots in front of my eyes and a headache.

By the way, if you EVER need a flashlight that is brighter than anything except the sun, get a surefire light. They’re ridiculously expensive, but they are great. I think you could probably use them to toast bread.

Note to self:

Kicking in doors, although fun, hurts.

Doors over here are interesting. They are made from sheet metal, and relatively sturdy. Locks however, not so much. A good kick (get close, raise your foot like you are trying to squish a big bug, lean in and stomp) usually does the trick. Sometimes, we find a door that requires a little extra attention. We have lots of options, including shotguns to blow locks and hinges, a big circular saw type thing to cut through the door, various “Hooligan” tools to pry or batter down the door. Usually, we just Kick Harder™.

I found the most stubborn door in Iraq recently. We kicked it. We took turns kicking it. We shot the lock, and the hinges. We kicked it some more. The saw and battering ram were still in the truck. By now, anyone on the other side was either a) scared out of their mind b) lying in ambush, or c) laughing their ass off. The door became the center of my universe. Must break through door… But how?

I weigh about 170 pounds, depending on the last time I ate Goat. Add about 40 pounds of gear. Accelerate to full running speed. I played football enough to know that running into inanimate objects hurts. But I had thought this one through.

SGT B, (my driver, also my bodyguard and battlebuddy) (He’s not assigned as a bodyguard. He’s my gunner on the tank, the guy who drives the HMMWV, and the guy who tells the commander that he’s doing dumb things. Like the time I was lying on the ground contemplating the finer points of asphalt and he told me it was dumb to run out of the truck with the radio microphone still attached to my head when the radio was attached to the truck.) He’s very helpful sometimes. But he worries about me more than I worry about myself, to include patting me down after firefights to make sure I am still in one piece.

“SGT B, I’m going through that door. You’re the #2 man in the door, cover me.”

“Okay. Wait, What?

The body armor we wear has 1 inch thick Kevlar plates in the front and back. These will stop bullets. They’ll also spread the force of impact out across a large surface area, so it doesn’t feel like you’ve just been shot. Using this knowledge, I ran full force toward the door. At the last second, I turned, throwing my back into the door, and crashing through. The door collapsed, and so did the door frame, and some of the concrete it was imbedded in.

The Plan was that I would go through, SGT B would then lead the rest of the stack into the doorway, and clear over me while I lay sprawled on the door.

The Plan. Funny how things go awry. I’m laying on the door, which has fallen on a desk, and toppled a bookshelf, which is now dumping its contents on me. Books hurt. I’m laying face up, watching books fall on me. I look back to the doorway, in which SGT B is now standing. “Damn Sir, that was cool. You Okay?”

“Uh, I think so. Help me up. Why didn’t you clear the room? After the door crashed in, nobody shot. I figured you either broke your neck or the room was empty. But that was really cool. I wanna try it next time.”

Note to self:

People in Iraq can’t drive.

I learned to drive in D.C. Dad took me, learner’s permit in hand, to the nations capital to learn how to drive in traffic. He said we were going to log in some “highway miles” I thought the 2 hour drive from home was what he meant. Apparently not. D.C. traffic around the beltway at 5pm on a Friday is horrid. Everyone is doing their level best to kill you, and no one is allowed to stay in their lane for more than three seconds. The posted speed limits are apparently polite suggestions, and only apply to vehicles in the break down lane.

And most of those drivers had licenses. Over here, nobody has a driver’s license. If the traffic is blocked, just jump across the median in the oncoming lane, flash your lights a few times, and step on it. Get back in your lane when the mood strikes you. Also, if you have a minivan, everyone has to sit in the front seat. Four grown men, 9 seats, and everyone rides up front. Kids go on the lap, usually of the driver. If you have a pickup, the same thing applies, except livestock (three cows will fit in the back of an S-10). Livestock ride in the back. With the women. One or two (or three!) guys up front, the woman is in back. With the kids.

Note to self:

During a mortar attack, incoming fire has the right of way.

A few weeks ago, we had a couple of mortars land on the FOB

. Nobody was hurt, but in the ensuing chaos, I took a moment to reflect on life. That seems like a weird time to be doing it, but there isn’t much in the way of things to do during a mortar attack. I had called my platoon leaders to count noses and make sure everyone was in the bunkers, I was in my CP. The CP is a “hardened” structure. Iraqi construction is interesting. There’s no real formula for concrete, just mix varying quantities of sand, water, and cement until it is uniformly gray and make walls. We could’ve bombed this place with water balloons and done as much damage. So I stood in the relative safety of my CP and pondered. There were people outside, running hither and yon doing very important things. I’m not exactly sure what they were doing, but they acted as though running around when things were still going boom was prudent, so it must’ve been important. I watched and pondered. The reports came in, the boys were all okay. I called my boss and told him, then went back to the door of the CP to watch the entertainment. More people with very important things to do. Like find the holes. We analyze the craters to determine trajectory, type of munitions used, and assess any damage. It was dark. Well digger’s ass dark. There was a building on fire, which was quickly doused. So I think a mortar may have landed there. Conflicting reports were coming across the radio on where the rounds hit (people were guessing by the sound of the boom (it came from over there!) And others were still looking for the holes. By this time I was lying back in bed, having pondered many imponderables, and went back to sleep.

Note to self:

More fun with flashlights…

Remember the whole look at it to see if it works? I thought about that during our last 0400 “It’s four o’clock in the morning, do you know where your terrorist assclown husband is?” raid. Hajia comes stumbling out into the living room (we don’t knock at 0400) and starts in on me. Nothing like being yelled at in a foreign language by an old woman (think Abe Vigoda in a burka) at four in the morning. Usually I tell the terp to calm her down tell her why we’re here, who we’re looking for, etc. Sometimes, the surefire just gets flipped on, right in her face. You know how you squint when you turn on the bathroom light in the middle of the night? Multiply by, oh a million. She shut right up and sat down. Maybe I should get one of these for the Mrs. after a night at the Officer’s Club when I get home…



Cowboy Blob said...

Great blog!

I took my SureFire to Korea with me on my last tour there. If you can't pack Heat, pack Light.

alix said...

omg. i think i just peed a little.
"Damn, sir. That was cool."
hahahahahahaha!! i'm gonna laugh about that all night. jesus, man. you've got a way with words.

alix said...

btw, as much as you're making me laugh, the other posts inspire a great deal more varied emotions. i appreciate your service, your family's sacrifice, and the glimpse into your life. it sounds so pithy, but there's a lot behind what i'm saying.

HoosierDaddy said...

I'm hearing the Three Stooges opening music while reading the energizer bunny door story.
Thank God you're OK. 1/2 way through the story I knew you would be 1) you're writing about it (I'm a geniusesness) and 2) If anyone was on the other side, it's just not possible to shoot someone when you're rolling on the floor laughing your ass off at them.

I hope you took a bow after getting up for the benefit of any audience in the room and said, "Thank you very much. I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip your servers."

HoosierDaddy said...

You're either the craziest mofo in the military or just bat-shit crazy, period.

The jury is still out.

Toni said...

Wish I could be the proverbial mouse in the corner watching you in action. The door deal must have been interesting.

Barb said...

Great stuff - thanks for the stories! I'm still ROFL over the door thing...Isn't it nice that we can 'share your pain'?