Today around 1500 a yellow-brown cloud of dust descended on us, turning the sky the strange color you see above. It made no sense to me – how could there be any dust in this goddamn mud pit after raining for two days?
I walked to the DFAC for dinner tonight, slogging through the ankle-deep water and equally-deep sucking mud (thank the maker for Gore-Tex™). I crossed the street into the “parking lot” which is a giant open area between the DFAC and the motor pool; just as I crossed between the rolls of concerntina wire, I heard a distant “whoomp.” The Paladins had been firing all day so I knew it wasn’t them – this came from the opposite direction and was clearly distant, maybe beyond the wall. An instant later I heard the sickening descending whine (well, more like a whoosh) of an incoming mortar round.
I felt a stab of fear as I assessed my situation. First, if I could hear it, it must be close. Second, I was standing in an empty lot, with nothing resembling cover for maybe 100 meters in any direction. Third, I had the strange thought that once that whoosh sound ended there would be an explosion and I could be in the middle of it.
All this thought occurred in the second or two that the round was incoming – I tensed, expecting a blast somewhere, nearby or otherwise, but I heard nothing. I shrugged, looked around, and continued into the DFAC.
What made it frightening was the sense of impending doom, the foreknowledge and inevitability of the round’s trajectory. This was in contrast to yesterday, when I was chatting merrily away until a blast rattled the trailer. My roommate and I dropped to the deck, just before I heard the sound of airborne mud splattering the trailers nearby. I reached for my body armor and slapped it on while my roomie did the same – we looked at each other, agreeing that some shit had just blown up. He said he thought he heard someone call for a medic.
I hastily put on my shoes and dashed outside to see what the situation was (probably stupid given the circumstances, but…). Luckily the only casualty was the pad’s collective dignity and common sense, as a fair crowd of gawkers gathered around the four-foot hole in the road. People on the scene recovered a giant piece of shrapnel, about the size of my forearm; luckily the previous day’s rain had made the ground so soft that the round just burrowed in before exploding.
There was no time or opportunity for fear – it was just “wham” and then “what the fuck?” A little adrenaline, sure, but no real sense of danger. Maybe even a little exhiliration – as in, “that blew up and nothing happened!”
Sure enough, this happens right after I post about how I think we’re not going to get mortared…Murphy’s Law is in full effect, it seems.