Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Ballad of Catholicgauze

My first Humvee convoy ride is going smoothly. Knife 7 is composed of four Humvees doing a routine trip from our base to headquarters. My job is a chimera of things. Man the radio, do the geospatial data, and be map reader. I am right next to our commander.

Over the radio there is chatter here and there.

Voodoo 7 to Blackjack 6, we are passed checkpoint one, over
Voodoo 2 to Blackjack 6, holding up for resupply, over


All is well. The sun is out and it is not as hot as yesterday. I am setting in back with the commander, John. He had my position in the past. We also talk about his experience during the start of the Iraq War. He fought at Saddam's presidential palace and described the combat to me. Too many good men were wounded. When he was done he turned to the stories of captured Sudanese, Yemenis, and even a French jihadist who Saddam invited over to defend Baathist Iraq against the Coalition invasion.

Voodoo 7 to Blackjack 6, we are crossing checkpoint two, over

I go on the radio and say:

Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, passing Voodoo 2, over.

As I finish the radio loading static comes through. In between the digital sounds I hear gunfire and Voodoo 7 announcing an ambush. The word I dread is announced: causalities. Then silence.

Blackjack 6 to Knife 7, over
Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, over
Blackjack 6 to Knife 7, over

Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, over
Blackjack 6 to Knife 7, if you can hear me respond, over


Blackjack 6 does not hear me. I bang the radio and jam the buttons. They hear me now as I yell the response.

Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, I read you, over
Blackjack 6 to Knife 7. Knife 7, go to WB 1234 4321 and provide cover and aid for Voodoo 7, over.
Wilco!

A quick adjustment and we are on our way. John tells me to stay close to him. All I can think of are the stories of how insurgents aim for medics then radio guys. Dang.

The convoy roles up to a burnt Humvee with fortunately no one in it. John and I jump out and begin assessing the causalities. Five total and with us running around there is much confusion. Blood, guts, and bones are everywhere. I get out the list of codes and listen to John give the orders. I prepare my list so I can just yell out the medivac instructions. Our convoy badges people up and prepares them for evac.

Blackjack 6 repeatedly calls for more information on the scene. I have to yell "Wait out!" to be me time to get an accurate read. All the sudden another convoy jumps in our frequency with the most banal chatter about breakfast.

BREAK BREAK BREAK! I tell them to shut up. Lives our in our, my, hands.

Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, over
Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, over
Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, over
Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, over

Blackjack 6 cannot receive.

Knife 7 to any listening station, over!
Knife 7 to any listening station, over!


Silence.

Voodoo 2 to Knife 7, we hear you. Give use your list and we will relay to Blackjack 6, over.

A stream of Whiskey Bravos, alphas, charlies, five, six, 1, deltas come streaming out.

Voodoo 2 to Knife 7, we received your communication and will relay, over.

John orders me to begin policing the area to make sure we leave nothing behind. We cannot let equipment be used against us or the civilian population. What a day for a geographer!

Voodoo 2 to Knife 7, Blackjack 6 has received. Get to point WB 2345 5432 and await chopper.

John is standing away from me on the other side of the area the order to leave. Our Humvee begins to pull off before I can reach it. Fortunately they spot me running and let me get in. We leave the area and head out.

Blackjack 6 to Knife 7. Good job. Training is over. Head back to base to be debriefed, out.

The day is ending where we are in Maryland. I am sick in my stomach.

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