November 2004 Dubai Trip Part I

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

Hey Man, It’s Like A War or Something!

Mosul Palace

Woohoo! Time to get out for a bit again, and go to Dubai for a few days. It’s been in planning for many weeks now. As it turns out, my timing has put it into a very busy time. Oops. It will be nice, since things have been rather active here since the start of Ramadan, whereas before you’d get an attack just at the end of the call to prayer as if to punctuate it with a concussive and shrapnel filled “amen.” I’d comment on the etymology of “amen” but that would be digressing even farther than usual for me. Also, I may have used the word describing the study of bugs instead of word origins there. I don’t feel like looking it up though. Where was I?

Oh yes, anyways, during Ramadan we got hit several times a day. Before, it was just harassment fire. Then I think they started trying to kill people. Very ill-mannered of them.

And then Fallujah kicked off. (more…)

Rockets, Mortars, And You

Saturday, November 6th, 2004

Rockets, Mortars, and You

Since the start of Ramadan, things have been substantially busier around here, as far as enemy attacks go. They seem to like late afternoon attacks, some time soon after the local laborers have gone home for the day. Hmm… Additionally, the evening call to prayer, in the 7 PM vicinity is also quite popular. It’s kind of rude really, since in the beginning, they were shooting in the middle of it. It may not be blasphemous, but it’s certainly disrespectful, especially if it’s your own faith, right? It reminds me of my initial time at the airfield, when they would semi-consistently mark the end of the call to prayer by popping off a round of two of something, as if to punctuate it.

Tuesday, November 2 was Election Day in the states. We were all prepped for something to happen. Around 3:10 PM, it did. Abdul must have been practicing and preparing, because he had his business together this day. #1 came in, not sounding too far away, and as we moved to the door #2 followed. That was a lot quicker than they are ordinarily able to cycle rounds. I suspect they were using multiple tubes. We hauled ass to the bunker. There were 4-5 before we got inside, and more than that after. It felt like about 15ish. They were only 60mms and thus not too loud, but we could tell they were close. None hit our camp. This may have been a different group than our usual guys, because the pacing was much quicker, and they got off a lot more rounds than the others. Usually if we are going to get a salvo going, it’ll be around 4 or so rounds, with 20-30 seconds between, if not more like a minute. Nothing hit our camp, but 8-9 were on the FOB. There was one directly below our camp, in one of the subcontractor camps. They were much more accurate, or at least more precise. “He hates this gate!”

Once we got the all clear, we went out. Don asks who knocked over the plastic chairs that had been in the way. You tend to forget things like that in the spur of the moment, but apparently it was him. I don’t even recall them being in the way, though from their position obviously they must have been.

Later that evening we are standing around BSing by the patio. It’s just gotten dark. Suddenly the dreaded whistling begins. This one’s close. I know that we are dead, it’s so close. It’s unfair, as they have never hit our actual camp while I’ve been here, but did a few days before I arrived the first time, and a couple of days after I left on R&R in August. Jacob drops where he is, and Jeremy and I head to get behind some sandbags surrounding a living container a few feet away. Maybe we can only get some dead from the open side. Jeremy is ahead of me. I am looking up into the sky in the direction it’s coming from: I know I’ll be able to see this one, but I can’t find it. Jeremy stops at the corner of the sandbag wall. This is a mistake on his part, because I don’t. Once we are both behind the wall I can stop, but not before. Somehow we get sorted out, and realize we should be dead by now, but there’s been no horrible hell-noise, nor any bits of me torn off in a violent hail of ripping metal. Maybe it was a dud? There IS a 10-20% dud rate. Good thing for Brian, since he was still standing up straight in the center of the porch like an idiot. I hear a voice, “what are you guys doing?” It’s Mr. Sweet. Heart pounding, I stand up and step off of Jeremy, real slow-like. We look around. Mr. Sweet had decided to whistle. He sounded exactly like a rocket. He had been walking down the container row. We didn’t see him because it was dark, and I know that my eyes definitely snapped up above to the horizon to locate the sound, thus looking up over where he was. It sounded close, because…it was. It just wasn’t a damn rocket making the noise, but a jackass. It’s kind of funny now, but I didn’t stop shaking for quite some time after.

The next day, we have a sort of ho-hum 3-4 PM attack. Not much worthy of note, really. Same as all the rest. Later on that night, we get the 7ish salvos. Man, they are all over the place tonight, totally uncoordinated. They must have all gone down to Ali’s Mortar Rental and are randomly pursuing their own “kill somebody” agenda. They are both getting closer and farther away. I figure it’s prudent time and head to my next-door bunker. It’s about 10 feet from the door of my hooch, so it’s quite convenient. Eventually they quit, but do get a few on the FOB, but none so near to us. We are mostly milling around, half expecting a few more, in which nobody wants to get too comfy back in their rooms just yet. We start to give up when a horrible screeching sounds. We move but halfway through it dawns on us that it’s a car skidding to a halt on the highway, 50m or so away. Since I always look to the sound of the attack, I swing my head back forward while sending my legs the command to stop. I realize I am about to run into a small generator, so I make it a combat stop. It’s successful, though suboptimal, collapsing me into a pile on the gravel. I receive my first injury of the war, and we aren’t even being shot at. No Purple Heart for me. Smile I basically skin my knee, and while it bleeds impressively for a short time, and contrasts nicely with my new coating of dust, it is no big deal. I move around a little stiffly for the next day, and use it as an excuse to skip the gym the next night, though I was lying to myself, and I knew it.

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.

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