Friday, January 02, 2004

Listening to Counting Crows and AC-130 Gunship Fire

2 January 2004 2206

I’m listening to Counting Crows right now, and loud explosions are banging the window in front of me in my room, and you can hear “THUD! THUD!” and “BRRRRR!” “BOOM!” It’s an AC-130 gunship pounding some targets nearby. It’s strange trying to act normal, listening to Counting Crows, and the sounds of guns. You wonder how many enemy will be killed with each “BOOM!” or “GRRRR!” or “THUD!” Hopefully they’ve got good intel on the targets. I’ve seen after ops videos on infrared of target ops. It’s not a pretty thing.
We just talked on the phone too. Your voice sounds so wonderful – it really is the most beautiful sound. You’re in Italy, you feel comfortable and secure – so I feel better. I love you Nora.
Back to the story I left on last time, the Apache IED, it happened on HWY 5. Some kids yelled at the patrol saying there were guns and explosives somewhere. They probably were paid to say this. The Apache patrol went to investigate and then the bomb went off. Sounds like some Vietnam stuff. You could imagine how frustrated the guys were in Apache after getting hit twice.
There are some interesting things I wanted to catch up on. One was about an incident that claimed 14 Iraqi lives. It happened a few miles north of BIAP. (I’m listening to explosions from my window now.) A patrol was going through the town, and was attacked by two men with two grenades. The grenade throwers were sighted and detained. When the patrol arrived at the Iraqi police department, the building came under mortar attack. When the patrol went back into town, they started getting shot at from a building. The M2A2 Bradley traversed and started firing main gun rounds. After the incident, the area was sealed and a house to house search was conducted over a large part of the town. 14 civilians were found dead. A few days later, a CH-47 Chinook was shot down in that same general area. 16 dead U.S. soldiers. They were going home for vacation.
Around the same time some Iraqi mortar men were striking the CPA with mortar rounds. I could hear the explosions and figured it was CPA getting attacked, so I put on one of the radios on the CJTF frequency. Well, our radar acquired the origin of the rounds and that grid location was sent to the Apache helicopters that were providing security. Within two minutes, the helicopters spotted a truck with several men stowing something in the back. The gun helicopters opened fire (this was in the city, north bank of the Tigris) and hit the truck. The accompanying truck also drove away, but the other helicopter chased it into a checkpoint where it was detained. I was listening to the ground unit report their findings.
“We’ve got two mortar tubes, mortars, and mortar equipment. 2 enemy killed. Several wounded – now being detained.”
‘Holy shit,’ I thought. That was fast. In a separate incident during this time period (around October 29, 2003), 2 Iraqis were killed by Alpha Company. They were killed by the same sergeant who’s already shot several other people and is known to be a hothead.
“It’s easier to shoot a whole can of ammo. That way you already know the round count,” Ween said. Each box contains 200 rounds – and that’s exactly how many rounds were fired at the Iraqi car in a neighborhood in A Co. sector. The car drove past a checkpoint and fired a few rounds of AK-47.
[1] A Co. felt threatened and returned fire. 200 rounds.
“200 rounds? That’s bullshit!” CPT Nash said in the TOC (it was at night). “It doesn’t take 200 rounds to disable a vehicle.” One man was killed instantly, and his girlfriend was struck several times and seemed brain dead. She was evacuated to the American hospital where she later died. “How many bullet casings were found?”
“Um, we don’t know, some kids picked them up,” A Co. said on the radio. Well, after a few more minutes passed, all of Baghdad erupted in gunfire. Conroy was out with the major and they actually ran from their Hummer to seek cover. He got pretty scared. There was such a large amount of fire.
“What’s going on?” CPT Nash asked.
“Looks like we’ve got some celebratory fire,” units were reporting. A little while longer, regimental HQs notified us that Iraq beat South Korea in a soccer match.
“Oh shit,” CPT Nash said, “I hope Aggressor (A Co.) didn’t just shoot those people when they were only celebrating.” The problem was ultimately that they shouldn’t have had a gun in their car in the first place. What should you think?
Well, it’s 0100 now, and I need to get some rest. My roommates and I just got back to our rooms. The whole camp had to go search all bags and vehicles for a lost rifle. Some soldier just came back from 2 weeks of leave and needed his weapon back. Well, it couldn’t be found. Well it’s still gone. They’ll probably find it soon. I’ve got to go, but I can’t forget yesterday. That was a total gift from God following these tough times. The day ended with a long flight, very low and fast, across the Iraqi countryside, across the Tigris and Euphrates, and during a spectacular sunset. I haven’t seen a sunset as this one in ages. When the helo dropped me off with my documents, I turned around and watched the Blackhawk climb and hover perfectly for a moment, with the sunset in the background. It was a picture perfect image – and I was aware of how fortunate I was and how perfect that sight symbolized that. I’ll never forget that. New Year’s 2004 – alright by me. Now all I need is to get home to you. I love you, I can’t wait to build 2004 with you!

[1] A story later circulated that they weren’t sure if shots were fired from the car or not. A weapon was produced though, but its origins were questionable.



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