Well this last week has been a real roller coaster. I had to wait several days before I could get back to the (IZ) International Zone because of the weather. The dust storms make flight difficult at best. That being the case, I had to simply wait it out.
In the meantime, I did things like helped train Iraqi Soldiers on building clearing techniques. MOUT (Military Operations on Urban Terrain) is a difficult business. Anybody that knows their military history knows that MOUT is a bloody business at best. I never envy police officers because they have to go into buildings all the time never knowing what quite to expect until it actually happens and then everybody wants to “Monday quarterback” their actions after it all took place. MOUT is an ugly business at best as you have to clear the ground block by bloody block, building by bloody building, and room by bloody room. When I did the training at OBC (Officer Basic Course) it was an “expensive” fight every time we into a building and/or room. After that, I watched the fight in Fallujah on TV from KFOR and anybody that says the Soldiers involved in that fight didn’t deserve medals is full of crap plain and simple. I remember reading in the paper some so called PHD from some college said the fight didn’t compare to battles in WWII and that guy is full of crap in my opinion.
The training buildings are pretty solid. They have steel walls and are designed so live fire drills can be conducted while trainers stand on cat walks above it all. We call them quite appropriately “shoot houses.” So I stood above on the cat walk and watched/supervised as Iraqi Training NCO’s walked the IA (Iraqi Army) Soldiers through the drills. They would form up wearing body armor, helmet, and carrying AK47’s into what we call a four (4) man stack. Each four (4) man stack would then move up as a team just outside the door to the room and go in with AK47s “at the ready.” “At the ready” is a way of carrying a rifle so the muzzle is pointed down and yet the weapon is ready to be quickly brought up into a shooting stance for instant action. It’s relatively safe as you don’t accidentally shoot your buddy in the back this way. Needless to say, not shooting your buddy is a good thing. Once the stack forms up at the door, the stack leader taps the Soldier behind him and asks him if he is ready. This process is repeated to the end of the stack and then the rear Soldier repeats the process forward to let everybody know that he is ready and the stack leader finds out his stack is ready to enter the room. Then the lead Soldier opens the door via a kick or a pull and the next (3) Soldiers enter the room. The Soldier who opened the door follows his stack into the room as part of the process. Via this method he is given time to get out of the way of the rest of the stack, reform, and head into the fray at the end of his stick. The stack then splits up into buddy pairs. Each pair takes a corner opposite the door and then turns into the room. There each pair covers the other pair’s front as it is easier this way because of the walls being in the way of swinging the weapons back and forth as the room is covered. Any targets in the room are to receive a quick double tap from the Soldiers weapons as part of the room clearing action.
Needless to say, that is how it’s supposed to happen. Keep in mind during these actions you are facing a thinking enemy that is doing every thing he can to disrupt, survive, and win himself. So it’s never as easy as it may sound especially when all of this is taking at point blank range. Take a look at your own house. The rooms are relatively small and any shooting inside would be quite close and make for pretty easy targets when we are talking about full grown people. And then there is stuff like furniture in the way as well so you can’t just take a straight walk from one side to the other. And then there is usually stairs as well. Stairs are gravity’s and a grenades best friend. And the only easy way down stairs is down them never up. That’s why it’s best to clear a building from the top down rather than enter from the bottom if you can make it happen. Plus a cornered enemy fights harder why an enemy that has an escape route is more likely to use it.
During all of this, as I stated I stood on the cat walks and would talk to the IA training NCO’s via the translators should any pointers or corrections need to be addressed that they may not have seen. Let’s face it no one can be every where at once. I only really had to make two (2) corrections while watching. The lead Soldiers were taking “short cuts” to their positions in the room they would enter. This is a natural thing as most people want to take that shortest point between two (2) points. But this action leaves the corners initially uncovered as the room is entered and that is not good to say the least. And I caught one (1) IA Soldier using his rifle on full automatic fire when entering the room. Full automatic may look “sexy” in Hollywood films, but it’s wasteful, goes through bullets fast (the average AK47 armed Soldier carries six (6) magazines), and it makes for poor marksmanship as the weapon is hard to control. (Keep in mind, when I qualified with machine guns it was with short controlled bursts. I never just “rock and rolled” no matter how tempting the fun was at the time.) This being the case, we had to correct that Soldier and make sure he understood he was wrong for his actions.
All of the live fire took place while I was wearing “full battle rattle” up on the cat walks above the “shoot house.” Not once was I worried as the bullets fired below us. It’s just part of the job.
I was talking to the interpreters as we stood there. One (Simon) was an English major in Baghdad before the war. Simon had to agree with me that his college English had set him up for a good job after it all started, but he would have never have seen that “twist of fate” coming as well. But heck, I can relate because when I enlisted in the Army, we all thought we were going to face the “Soviet Empire” in the Fulda Gap and nobody was coming back from that one till it was over. You know, civilization was on the line, life as we know it was coming to an end, yadda, yadda, yadda. And now here we are in Iraq after several attacks by people that we didn’t even know we were at war till we finally got slugged hard in the process. But I digress and back to our interpreters. Simon was pretty good natured and laughed about being an English major. He stated he really hated trying to figure out English grammar. And anybody who has studied foreign language knows that “word sequence’s” change in different languages so you literally have to relearn how to speak in more than just words.
Our other interpreter (Mezzine) was very verbal with his opinions. He was glad that we took care of Saddam finally. His main complaint was that the Coalition took so long to finally do the job. He stated we should have finished Saddam in 1991 when he was at his weakest at the end of “Gulf War One.” This was not an easy conversation for me because I try to remain good natured and be an “ambassador” for our country at all times when engaging foreign nationals. After all, I want them to walk away with a positive impression of Americans not a negative one. And Mezzine was pretty worked up about the Iraqi people having to suffer under UN sanctions for twelve (12) years while Saddam never suffered and did what he wanted. He cursed the politicians responsible for such madness and was quite adamant about how that in his opinion, those same politicians should have the back bone to do the right thing and stay the course. As far as Mezzine is concerned, sanctions don’t do anything to dictatorships other than make the “common man” suffer while the dictatorship does what it wants any way. And it’s hard to be anything but sympathetic with people like Mezzine as they had to live the life during that period thanks to decisions such as that. All I can say to that is that we are here now and it’s time to do the right thing for the Iraqi people no matter what till the bloody end. Any man of honor wouldn’t want anything less after a talk like that with Mezzine.
Finally my flight came and I was able to get back to the IZ. The flight was interesting this time. It wasn’t the usual smooth flight and it left my stomach feeling queasy at times. I really hate military flying and I never eat before hand as I simply don’t want to end up using my helmet as a “barf bag.” After all, I have to wear my helmet afterwards so needless to say I would like to keep it clean. I did see the helicopter beside us drop some flares and since they don’t drop those just any reason, I am going to assume it the flight had some rough moments for the pilots. That being the case, I can easily forgive them this time. I never did get a chance to ask what happened but I am just glad to be on “mother earth” once again.
Once on the ground, I came back to the MilVan. There I unpacked and went to work. There I found out that there had been some changes and I would be working night shift. I didn’t know whether to be happy or mad about this one. Days well are days but are fraught with “good idea fairy’s” who should be “shot on sight!” Nights are difficult to adjust to but are quiet and in Iraq relatively cool (80’s instead of 100’s). And I have to put together a nightly “Death by Power point” in the new MS 2007 version which I hate even more than the 2003 version. (I had just gotten “Power Point for Dummies 2003” from my beautiful wife too! Aaggh!) So now I spend my days sleeping and my nights going through and consolidating reports from the field. It’s interesting in some ways as I get to see more of the “big picture” but I can’t talk about it either thanks to it all being “shop stuff” so to speak. And that is pretty boring stuff to talk about via letters even if I could discuss it. I can see it now:
“Grandpa what did you do during the GWOT when you were in Iraq?”
“Well, there I was working on “IBM Computers” and I had to fight “Death by Power Point” every night, grandpa.”
“Wow! You had to work with IBMs! That had to have been horrible! Now a days we have MAC’s in our classrooms thanks to the “Obi Wan Jobs Apple Initiative” and “Bill Skywalker” finally taking over Darth Gates “evil empire.” Gosh, you must have had it hard then, Grandpa! Thank goodness for the “computer rebellion!”
“Why yes, Grandson but we made due with what we had and that’s why we won the GWOT. Never forget to make the most of your computer time as you study for school. Now let’s go practice some more with that “Red Ryder BB Gun” I bought you.
“Mom said “I would shoot my eye out with that thing, Grandpa!”
“Don’t worry, Grandson. Proper gun control is something every American should know when they exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
“Okay, Grandpa. This sure beats the heck out of HALO XVI!”
“Well, just remember even “Master Chief” had to start some where, Grandson.”
All I can say, is “oh brother!” At this rate, I may go and find a junked out computer and use it as a target when I get back. And converting from days to nights was hard at first. This time it literally hurt. I usually don’t have a problem with making a time change given the time to make the conversion, but this time it has been rough.
I am really grateful that leave is coming soon as I simply cannot wait.
Stay in touch,
Hrolf "the Harasser" Jameson
Or in mundane terms:
(Address available upon request)
My front is pushed back. My right gives way. Situation excellent! I am attacking!
- Ferdinand Foch, c.1916
Armed Force Press
1. Iraqi Flight Teams Protect Date Palm Crop
2. Iraqi Military Medical System Makes Progress
3. U.S. Airmen Teach Iraqis Western-Style Command, Control
4. Improved Iraqi Security Leads to Reconstruction, Jobs
5. Troops in Iraq Get Front-Row Seats at Children’s Graduations
6. Coalition Efforts in Northern Iraq Reduce Number of Roadside Bombs
7. Iraq Detention Centers Give Glimpse Into al-Qaida, General Says
8. Coalition Forces in Iraq Capture ‘Special Groups,’ al-Qaida Leaders
9. Coalition Forces in Iraq Capture al-Qaida Leader in Mosul
10. Iraqi, U.S. Forces Kill Three al-Qaida Terrorists
11. Hundreds of Former Iraqi Insurgents Reconcile With Government
12. Five Attackers Killed, Seven Detained in Iraq Operations
13. Forces in Iraq Kill Eight, Detain 24
14. Forces in Iraq Kill Nine, Capture 24, Seize Weapons