Postcards from Tradocia


[This is a long one…click “Read more” to continue]

5 APR, 1245 – The sun was already hot over the vast broken asphalt of the assembly area. We joked alongside the unused vehicles, waiting for Group 2 to return with our rides, rifles stacked against HMMWV grilles, helmets resting on the hoods.

Before long they returned, lining the vehicles up as they pulled in – one…two…three…four they stopped and group two dismounted, grinning. “Group three, mount up!” came the call, and like clockwork we switched, swapping magazines and victory signs. C, dismounting from good ol’ Four Wheels and a Prayer, slapped our SAW gunner on the arm, flashing her white-toothed grin: “I left you a little present there – enjoy!” The present – another full drum of blanks, unused…200 more rounds. I hopped in, slammed the door, racked the charging handle of my M16, stuck it out the window. Go time.

Into the woods our four vehicles rolled, big diesels growling in the heat. As we moved, every so often, the roof gunners would howl a contact and we would echo it, while the pop-pop-pop of their firing and the clang-clang-clang of the brass and links rolling off the steely back of the truck interrupted the throaty engine music.

Our vehicles pulled into the entrance of Al-McKenna village. It looked nothing like the sand table rehearsal we had done. My hand was sweaty and sore on the grip of my rifle from the deathgrip I had on it during the convoy. As we approached, some locals approached our stopped trucks and the LT called for the QRF (quick reaction force) to dismount. I popped the door and made for the group of civilians – I was the point man – but the LT waved us off and told us to go around the fence.

What seemed like minutes passed with the 8 QRF members crouched against the fence while the LT talked to the mayor. Our position was unfortunate because I couldn’t see the vehicles and thus didn’t know what was happening, but I heard the convoy moving into the town, so I knew we were going to move forward as planned. As the trucks rolled past we dashed to the side of the first building.

So far, all was well. No shooting yet. No one was dead. No bombs had gone off. My chest was already straining against my LBV as I drew heavy breaths. I scanned the rooftops and windows since I knew no sniper would hide at ground level. SSG P told me to stack on the next building to clear it. I looked over to SGT Post on the second SAW, poking out of the Hummer to my left, and he gave me a thumbs up. I ran, fully expecting to get picked off, but I survived. We paused, then I led the charge into the building, sweeping the corners of the room with my rifle. All clear.

Still no shooting. There was a mob just behind our building but they hadn’t done anything crazy yet. When would the sniper appear?

Seconds later – pop pop pop the shots rang out. There was screaming. I could hear our SAWs firing. More shots – brass was raining down from the floor above us, directly into the rear doorway. The sniper was right above us, one floor up! There was a period of indecision – I don’t know how long – until SSG P decided we were going to roll out of the building, around the corner to the stairs that led up. I didn’t want to leave the security of the building, but there was nothing else to do. I took a deep breath, rolled the corner and ran like hell, virtually skidding into the stairs. I led the way up; slowly I “sliced the pie” at the top, moving around the corner to my left, scanning the room a little bit at a time.

As soon as I was visible I heard bam bam bam and I ducked back – the sniper was right there! I wiped the safety, counted to three, and broke around the corner – the sniper was in the left corner by the window and as soon as I saw him I fired three or four shots into the floor, yelling “safety kill!” (too close to actually shoot at him, even with blanks.) One down but no time to celebrate – we didn’t know the situation of the rest of the team – for all we knew they were all dead by now.

We cleared the top floor and prepared to go downstairs. SSG P was against the wall and I was covering the windows behind him – I saw movement across the street, on the second floor – sniper 2 – I raised my rifle and the MILES emitter on the end of my rifle dominated my vision while I fired 5 or 6 times, the red “firing” light glowing each time – I screamed something but don’t remember what. The sniper ducked back, clearly surprised – he was expecting contact from his left my right, not from across the street.

Downstairs again. Straight across to the stairs up to the next building – with the sniper. One, two, three, go. I didn’t stop, just slowed down to a stealthy creep up the stairs, rifle leading. I whipped around the corner at the top – right this time – no one there but a stack of magazines and empty brass. He was right here. There was another door to the left. We stacked for a moment, then I rolled the corner again – bam! I literally ran into the sniper, slapping him in the leg with my rifle as I screamed “kill! kill!” He screamed too, commenting, “you guys scared the shit out of me! I’m dead.” Two down.

I could still hear firing outside, so I assumed some of us were still alive. No idea who, or where they were, or how many. All we knew was that we still had a mission to complete.

We cleared another building, by which time I was panting with exertion. Luckily, the OCs called ENDEX (end of exercise).

All told, 8 or 10 of us were killed, but none from my team. We cleared the buildings and killed the snipers, so it was a pretty successful mission.

And there I was, in 2004, at Al-McKenna village…

(A side note – this is more of a “story”-style post, rather than a usual “sardonic humor”-style one – which do you prefer? Should I edit it to add more humor? Or leave it serious?)

1 Comment

  1. Mom and Dad

    NHL and NCAA hockey playoffs start today.

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