Sunday, June 05, 2005

Anaconda

Just spent the last 3 days convoying to Anaconda. Again, I filmed about 60 minutes worth of the trip. Look for upcoming videos. We had some intel the morning we left Caldwell that there was a hot zone we'd be driving through right near Anaconda. There had been increased IED attacks on a short stretch of road lined by cypress trees, tall grass, and mud huts. We've driven that route before and it can make you more than paranoid if you allow yourself to picture all the places Haji could jump out at you, fire an RPG from, or plant an IED. After a while, you become numb to that noise and are able to focus on scanning for real threats. This stretch of road starts at a Sapper Bridge that spans the Tigris River. A few IEDs had been found there in recent times, in attempts to take out the bridge and slow down the supply route.

As we passed through the corridor of trees and grass, we came upon a group of vehicles blocking the road. This was an EOD team (the bomb squad) at work. They found a 60mm ordnance along the road and were going to detonate it. So, I filmed as they had the remote control robot go inspect the ordnance.

While doing so, we put our HMMWVs into a box formation and stayed in the trucks. Our leadership is (overly) careful about us getting out of the vehicles or getting into harms way. Our gunner, SGT Weatherbee, yelled to me that there was some Haji creeping up from behind. We did pass some stopped vehicles along the roadside and I thought he meant that one of them was rolling up on our truck. I told him to follow the Rules Of Engagement and use escalation of force; start by waving them off, shouting, showing them your weapon, then shooting them if they continue to pose a threat. SGT Weatherbee said something else right after I spoke but I couldn't hear what he said. So I opened my door to lean around and talk to him. Instead, there I saw a Haji walking up on us. He had a smile on his face, trying to be as friendly as possible, while making some weird hand motions. Fine, he was apparently trying to tell me something or it was a ruse to get me off-guard. I stayed seated in the truck, M249 still wedged between the middle hump and the door frame. I motioned for him to stop. He briefly did then kept walking right toward me. I made clear gestures to stop and go back. He extended his hand like he wanted to shake hands. Believe it or not, I really like to bridge gaps of misunderstandings and all, but the scenario playing through my head kept me a bit more cautious. I motioned to stop and yelled "Qif!" (pronounced 'cough'), he didn't stop. Now he is about 10 feet from me with hand extended. I can't tell if he's trying to trick me to grab me or just show he means no harm. Either way, he refused to stop. I elevated. I grabbed my M249 and stepped out of the truck. He understood this time, so did I. He stopped, made the hand motions once more before I motioned for him to get back in his truck and turn back toward the other road. It seems he had a pick up truck bed full of live fish that he didn't want to die in the sun and heat.



Then came the controlled detonation. The EOD brought their robot back to the truck then sent some soldier out in a safety suit. Couldn't help thinking that he must be the lowest ranking. He went to inspect the device for a few minutes before returning to the trucks. So, after a robot and the guy with the shortest straw we done inspecting, a team of 4 stepped up to do the deed. These guys didn't even bother with body armor. They just walked up and put some C4 explosive on it. A small blast came moments later which I captured on tape. Must be a fun job.


After all that excitement, we made it to Anaconda to do our business. Business done, we spent the next afternoon at the pool. I just can't understand how Anaconda works. It is nicer than many permanent Army bases in Europe and the U.S., people always seems to be off duty since they walk around in PT's all the time, they get mortar attacks but still walk around with a soft capin when in uniform. Deep down I feel that if there are so many people at Anaconda with such a high quality of life, we could and should be saving money and troops. If so many people have so much free time to enjoy the free Surround Sound theatre, the new olympic sized pool, and the many MWR (Morale Welfare Recreation) facilities, then send troops home. I would gladly work a little harder so others wouldn't have to come here for a year.

6 Comments:

Anonymous leeann said...

LOVE YOUR BLOG...i told you before, carol and i wait to read it. interesting three days...wondered where you were..more than that, glad you are ok. also agree with sending some people home...daughter is cute!

17:33  
Blogger mattandriver said...

Morale Welfare Recreation. This is your answer. Keep the troops as happy and healthy as possible because happy workers are good workers. If you lived in a bug ridden forest for a year, seeing nothing but your pals and gunfire, life is changed forever. At least for most.

Odd situation you were in. The guy with the 'truck-o-fish' may have went away from there kind of pissed, but you have to cover your ass. How were you to know what his intention was? I don't envy your job.

Keep your boots on!

Wings!

20:17  
Blogger Crystal said...

i was hoping someone else would ask some questions so i wouldnt have to chance sounding unintelligent, but they haven't so i must.

were they blowing up a bomb that was on the road you were driving on??!!?? if you had come across that road an hour earlier is there a chance it might have detonated on you and your convoy, or the fish man? did his fish die? does that kind of situation happen a lot, where a person just walks up at you and you have to point your weapon at him or possibly shoot him? and since you were not supposed to get out of the car, did you get in trouble for getting out of the car, or was that just part of the rules except when under some kind of duress?

ok, i know, too many questions. i just have so many, that was only a handful

about anaconda: although it may seem wasteful and inappropriate in your setting i think that kind of oasis is comforting for some people. it makes the situation less brutal, or atleast gives some kind of peace offering or reward for the endurance of the brutality. i dont think everyone would agree to work a little harder in order to help others, though i admire those who would. i am glad you have a place like that to go to.

00:30  
Blogger Dorman said...

Ok, I will try to answer everything if I can. It may take a while though.

The bomb, yes, EOD was there right before us, so if they wouldn't have found it laying about 6 feet from the road, it quite possibly could have blown up as we drove by. Or even the fish guy. This situation happens a lot Iraq-wide. To us, occaisionally. Like my previous entry, when we were fixing the flat and I saw one go off in the distance. That time it was not EOD. Most American casualties are a resultof these IEDs.

The fish man. Let me surprise you here Crys. Most Iraqi people are nice, humble, unassuming, and docile. Unfortunately there are many who are not. I actually am trying to get on some missions with my friend Lt. Hancock so I can 'interact' with the locals more. My company's mission is to not engage enemy, so that leaves us a bit ignorant of the locals. That ignorance can be dangerous as I will explain in the next blog entry. But the shorter answer is that many Iraqis view us as noble, right, and understanding, so they have little fear if they have a pure intention.
Fish man turned around and drove to an alternate road, hopefully his fish were ok, he wasn't stopped that long.
I didn't point my weapon at him, that was the next step. I just took my weapon from its perch in the HMMWV and held it at the ready.

We were not supposed to exit the vehicles because they are armored and out convoy leader didn't know the risk level at the time. With someone approachin g my truck, I knew the risk level and took appropriate action to protect myself and my fellow soldiers. People getting too close can drop grenades or other explosives in our gun truck, like that scene from Apocalypse Now when the female throws the grenade in the copter near the kindergarten.

Fish Man may have been irritated that he couldn't get through our road block, but at least he didn't get blown up.

Anaconda, we have 2 resorts here in theatre for R&R...Qatar and Man Lake. Anaconda is a FOB, a duty station run by the Air Force. It is not intended to be an R&R spot. It should be, I guess that is part of why it doesn't sit well with me. Our convoy team uses it as such, though. WE go there every month for supplies. To me it is 3 days off, but my conscience tells me that it is an example of misappropriation.

00:58  
Blogger Crystal said...

Thank you for taking the time to explain. Next set:)

Is EOD Explosive Ordinance Disposal?

What does FOB stand for?

And why is not engaging the enemy the same as not interacting with all Iraqis? Are the chances for danger/violence so great that it is a risk to interact at all in your position? And why does this apply to your group and not others? I hope you get to interact with the people more in the future. Because let me surprise you Dorman, I think most people are nice and docile in general no matter if they are Iraqi or any other "nationality".

09:35  
Blogger Dorman said...

FOB is Forward Operating Base. Typically that term is used for the bases along the front lines of battle but since there is no traditional front line in Iraq, we are all FOBs.

You are correct about EOD.

My batallion did not have a single casualty during the last rotation, OIF 1. IMHO, we are overly careful without the application of Intel to the situation. I try to explain that in the next entry a little better. Signalfolk are fairly stationary at this point. During OIF 1 all the communication assets had to be able to pull up stakes and roll within 20-30 minutes then setup again in 20. They were not on FOBs then, just out in the boonies. I understand our focus on just being signal, because infantry are intended to be the death-facing guys. We are also not intended to do humanitarian or propaganda missions like the Civil Engineers or PsyOps.
The problem is that I want to take part, get the whole experience. I am spending the time, I might as well partake. So, we are not geared, nor interested, in interacting with the natives as a unit / batallion. I believe the bottom line is that the people in command do not want to risk being responsible for a casualty, so they become ultra protective and focused. That is why I want to do missions with Hancock. I think my next entry will help you make more sense of your questions. Thanks for asking them too, that is why I love blogging.

13:07  

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