Same As It Ever Was Part II

Friday, December 3rd, 2004

We had several close ones yesterday. I recall on the first one, which was not very far away, hearing the boom, grabbing the radio and starting to move, saying “that didn’t sound like outgoing…” and when #2 hit in the same general not very far away “twasn’t!” and sprinting for the bunker. #3 hit with an odd extra something to it as we slid into the bunker. We kind of looked around at each other, wondering what that was. Whatever it was, it was really close. I don’t recall anything interesting about #4 though it was still in the vicinity. While Opsguy was taking accountability, I responded for him on one of the subcontractor radios. The subcontractor guy is someone that no one likes, on account of he’s a major weasel. No offense to any weasels, of course. It doesn’t help that his last name is Anal. No, that just doesn’t work out to his benefit at all.

Anyway, he babbles out that one hit the t-wall production area, which is 30m away from the office, and maybe 25ish meters from my container. Thank Jeebus for the t-walls between us and there, huh? I told him to try and get accountability for his people but stay hunkered down. He was a little panicked at the time, but that’s forgivable. Luckily, maybe even amazingly, no one was hurt in this. (more…)

Same As It Ever Was

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

Same As It Ever Was

Well, things have gone back to normal here. After a week and a half of things being quiet on the FOB, we’ve started getting incoming again. For some reason they have more or less turned off the outgoing, too. They’re a lot harder to hear, since it now is more windy and rainy than it used to be, though they don’t seem to want to attack in the rain. On one of the last iterations, our security guy called the all clear just as the heavens opened up and poured a heavy rain on us. I raced out of the bunker, and only had a smidgen of key trouble before I realized I hadn’t locked the door in the first place.

One day I was taking care of an issue whilst reading up on my Russian grammar, since I have not really gone back over the rules in some time. I was engrossed in the rules for the accusative case, which defines your direct objects. It’s pretty basic for what it’s worth, but I’m trying to be thorough. It was approximately 2:19 PM. That old familiar whistling cranks up, with the accompanying vaguely sick feeling. This simply isn’t fair. How can this happen twice? Anyway, this one is headed right for me, I can just tell. It gets louder and louder. It must be a laser guided rocket, it’s heading straight for the container. I struggle to accomplish my basic objective – must get the pants back up. That’s all I hope for; all that I want out of my last bit of luck. Dignity in small doses. You ever try to crouch and pull your pants up at the same time? It ain’t easy, I can tell you, but I made it look good!

(Nah, kinda doubt that. I bet I looked more so than my usual idiot.)

This one is going to hit right outside, and the sandbags aren’t going to help, and some of me is going to end up in the shower, I’m quite sure of that. That will be kind of convenient I guess, but there’s gonna be drain problems I bet. As success moves up to waist level, I feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that in my final milliseconds I made it. For some unknown reason I feel a final cringe may help, so I execute that with precision. (more…)

Muhammed’s Busy Day

Friday, October 22nd, 2004

Muhammed got up early today. He was going to be busy, and wanted an early start.

At around 4:15 we got some incoming. Can’t say I heard it.

At 5:50, down near the gate we got around 14 or so. 1-8 were pretty consistent, but then I guess somebody got excited and messed up the rhythm. They stayed quiet, but even so I was unhappy to find them expending that number of rounds. Usually it’s just 1, maybe 2 so that we don’t forget they are out there. 5 or 6 makes a busy day for them. Apparently they coordinated with a hit on the airfield, who got 7 rounds of their own.

At 10:43 they gave the airfield some more loving, another 10 rounds, off the FOB.

At 2:55 PM it happened again. It was rather more interesting.

At #1, we look at it each other across the office, pretty sure it was no slamming container door. #s 2 and 3 confirm that, since nobody slams the doors quite that way, particularly that close together. #4 and 5 find us heading to the bunker. #6 finds us moving quickly there. #7 and 8 is when we run. I never run. They’re getting closer. On #9, Jeremy drops one of the radios. He stops and stares at it somewhat dumbly. He’s not dumb of course, it’s just that sometimes when you are distracted like that decisions take on a whole other level of necessary concentration. I focus in on it really hard, and I think if I make a superhuman effort I can snag it on the way past. It’s green, while the other radios are all black. I don’t know why this occurs to me. I can only imagine the idiotic look of deliberation that must be on my face. Jeremy realizes he should go, since I have focused on the radio and will probably simply run into him if he is still there. Somehow I manage to successfully acquire 1 each Turkish subcontractor radio without falling down. #10 is real close. #11, 12, and a few others we are too distracted to count are pretty damn close too. Apparently they are still sticking to the deal* – they only hit our camp within a camp when I am not there. That doesn’t mean they can’t hit next door I guess. I feel better in the bunker. Usually I find it an annoyance.

(* Ok, there’s no deal, but they have managed to miss our mini-camp so far while I have been here. They hit with a mortar round a few days before I got here the first time, and about two days after I went on R&R they got a rocket airburst in the backyard.)

There’s a big fire at one of the Turkish subcontractor camps. The shelling stops. We sit in the bunker, helping the Ops guy with accountability. Sometimes people call in too quickly, it can be hard to find the call signs on the paper. We come together as a team. We make the “that was scary, but I’m being cool about it” jokes. Nervous tension burns out. It’s usually obvious when the jackasses have stopped and run away, but we still need to finish the accountability. We are significantly more squared away than our Turkish subcontractors, of which there are three. Three companies that is, not 3 guys. They take significantly longer to account for their people, but at the same time you can be assured that they do not in fact know where everyone is, and that they are ok. In the end, they are, but it takes a while to verify that.

Can you identify where the rounds came from?

Check your answer!

Our security guy says 5 rounds hit the FOB. I don’t know how the hell Muhammed could have possibly missed with any rounds from that distance, much less the vast majority of them. I’m glad he’s not real good at this. I hope that he’s done for the day. I hope he’s done forever, really. I hear they “detained” a few guys over there. I doubt it’s all of them. They’ve been quite active since Ramadan started. I can’t remember if chucking 120mm mortar rounds at the invader is prohibited during the daylight time or not.

Of course, this closes the gate for a while. I stand up near our camp and just look around for a long time. Here you can see how a little ant kept people away from the gate. To separate him in your minds from Red Ant, and since he’s an Iraqi…I will call him Green Ant. Generally, Green Ant was able to get his point across without getting cranky, as near as I can tell. There was a time or two where a second car maybe couldn’t see as a first car was in the way. They’d get all honky, and Mr. Green Ant would gesture with his boomstick, and the point would get across. You can see a Stryker platoon in the background coming up the road, if you look closely. Farther up the left, out of this picture is a strange section of road that emits loud, scary rumbling noises on occasion.

Of course they weren’t done for the day. We get another 4 or 5 going to the DFAC. We were driving along, and I didn’t hear a thing, but Jeremy pulls over, pulls out his radio and we hear “seek hard shelter.” We both give the “didn’t hear anything” look but follow orders. A short bit later we hear a few. No biggie. Jeremy has to go back to send up a report. I go on to chow. I walk back. I take the back way, just in case.

Just now had a controlled blast. They warned us over the radio, it was going in 5 minutes. Jeez. They forgot to mention it was under my freaking container. At least that’s where it felt like it was, when my damn heart leapt out of my chest. The first and / or only one is scary if loud (therefore close, usually) because it’s like “hey, that’s one I certainly couldn’t have dodged.” We get a decent percentage of duds that have to be got rid of. Sometimes they let us know, sometimes they don’t. Like Ivanova says, there’s always a boom.

I’m getting tired of this.

Originally posted over at AGW.

Decisions and Value Judgements

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

I decided something today, and there is something associated with that that I am as of yet undecided on.

I was in my container this morning, and heard a whistling whirring noise. This is when I decided to check out my floor. I think I need to clean it. It’s getting to be just like home, I am spreading clothes out all over the place. Primarily that’s just because I only got the damn footlockers here two days ago, and I am still in “put this here, or there” phase. Still, with my new container-home, and my stuff finally arriving, it’s almost like living in a real place.

So anyway, when nothing came through the walls I stepped outside and meandered to the bunker. We started doing the accountability thing over the radio. I was standing just outside the entrance to the bunker with two other guys. BANG WHOOSH WHIRRRRRRRRR “oops! IN! IN!” WHIIRRRR BOOM! Shocked We developed a united sense of purpose. That was the first time I’d ever actually heard the launch before. They tossed another two at us a couple of minutes apart. The fourth one went whir but not boom, and I think they may have felt discouraged, because they stopped firing after that. I’m all for stomping on some aggressive shithead’s sense of self-esteem. I mean, I’d rather have large (or small, that works pretty good too) holes poked in them to let their anger drain out onto the sidewalk with all the crap that makes them dangerous, but sometimes those little small victories are all you get.

The part I can’t really decide about is whether I prefer rockets over mortars. Rockets give you some kind of lead time, since they make noise coming in. With mortars, shit just blows up, and you don’t get much chance to do anything about that first one, or warning on follow up rounds. On the other hand, mortars tend to be a bit smaller. I’m on the fence on this one. On the whole of course, I’d rather they just knocked that crap off.

When Not To Run Outside, and Candlelit Dinners

Monday, June 28th, 2004

The other day we were in the operations office. There was a bang outside Shocked, and myself and two other sensible people went to the floor while Hans the Blind Turkish Guy runs like hell outside for the bunker at the combat lightning speed. Good reflexes, because he was the first to react, but a bad decision. In this case however, he got lucky, since there was only the one noise…which upon further investigation, since it just sounded wrong somehow, ended up being an exploding tire, not an exploding rocket or mortar shell. You don’t want to go running outside, since maybe there’s more than one on the way. We have sandbags about 5 or 6 feet high outside the containers, so on the floor you are relatively safe as long as one doesn’t come through the roof. Basically, there’s nothing you can do about the first one since it’s random, but in case of several rounds or secondaries, you can be flat. Then, if there’s a break, you can run for the bunker. I don’t really see the point in that, since mostly we aren’t seeing any sustained barrages anyway.

Anyway, it’s weird since there’s all sorts of thumping noises. You just have to learn to filter it out. It boils down to the fact that the not-very-loud dull noises don’t matter. It if isn’t a container or vehicle door closing and thumping from pressure, it could be an actual explosion. However, if it isn’t painfully and scarily loud, it’s too far away to hurt you, and you don’t really need to worry about it. Even the really loud ones can be far away, but given that it could be a close RPG, not as close mortar round, not to far away big mortar, safely ranged BF Rocket, or quite far away car bomb you really can’t tell, so making friends with the floor or your favorite concrete barrier isn’t a bad idea. Our camp is up on top of a hill, so it’s better, because anything not impacting the top of the hill isn’t much of a concern. There was an IED and a couple of secondaries down on the road yesterday morning at about 5:10 AM. I could tell it was downhill somewhere, so I merely prepared to unass the bed. It stopped, and I turned on the radio, but no one called for accountability, so I went back to sleep after a while, in time of course for the other guy’s watch alarm to go off. He sleeps through the first iteration, and wakes up at the end of the second. Can’t wait to get my own container, a room of my own, my own chitter and chower!

They did something odd in the DFac last night. I think their hearts were in the right place, but their brains had not joined the party. It was a candlelit dinner night. Most of the lights were off, and candles had been placed on the tables and lit. On some speakers, smooth jazzy R&B music was playing. You know, the stuff that makes you think of your beloved, or beliked, and how much you miss them and want to be up close and personal with them? WTF? That’s just horrible. Hey, it’s Think of Your Special One 8000 Miles Away Night! It’s ok, don’t cry, you’ll be together again soon…schmucks. Rolling Eyes

PS – they caught a couple of “Got Mortar?” jackasses. Go team! Only one of the two had fired, and luckily it was a dud. For some reason they arrested them instead of smearing them all over the nearest convenient backstop.

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