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.

Screaming In The Night

Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

So I’m sitting here watching a video, when I hear the screaming in of a thing in the air. Time slows down just like a movie as it gets closer. This rocket is headed right for my container, I can just feel it. As it goes diving down, I idly wonder if I should get under the desk, in the corner with better sandbag protection. The rocket is about 3 feet from my room now, as near as I can tell, so I don’t really bother. I look up, into the blankness of an off-white ceiling. I am vaguely curious what it will look like as it comes through the roof. I decide I probably won’t be able to tell. I start thinking the time has really slowed down, like where the countdown timer goes down to 12 seconds, they cut to somebody making a tough decision for like a minute, and cut back to the timer which now has 15 seconds left on it. Somehow the rocket with Robert written all over it has a change of heart and heads away.

As it turns out, it was just one of Eagl’s buddies making an entrance. Tell those boys to call before they stop by, man! Shocked

We get choppers overhead all the time, I could probably grab a skid or a wheel from the top of my container if I jumped high enough, but they aren’t near as loud, as sudden, or unusual. We probably get overflown by choppers 15-20 times a day, and a lot more if there is something going on. I’m just glad I don’t work the gate.

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.

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