Just another day at the office for me…
OK, not really. Today was my first trip outside the wire (on the ground, that is); I went to FOB Justice to visit JoKur in his place of exile.
Not only was it my first time out, but it was also my first time as gunner – LT needed an M249 so I stepped up. I have to admit – before we left, I was nervous, since the gunner has the most important (well, the driver is pretty important I guess…) and most dangerous job in the truck. The gunner provides observation, directs traffic when necessary, is responsible for most of the vehicle’s firepower, and is the most exposed member of the crew.
Climbing into the turret, I had a minor moment of concern: the turret was sticky and would hardly rotate. I moved it with great effort, but if the shit hit the fan, I’d be hard pressed to spin it around quickly. Luckily I also had an M16 so I figured I’d use that if something developed in the direction opposite my facing. (Our truck was a hand-me-down from the 1st Cavalry Division, and I don’t think it’d been used since we rehabilitated it.)
We rolled out the gate, locked and loaded, and I proceeded to hunker down behind the armored “bathtub” of the turret. I was watching Baghdad fly by through the slice of open space between the “bathtub” and the shield attached to the weapon mount; I had to trust SFC We’re-All-Gonna-Die (the driver) and LT to alert me to any threats to the front, since I was angled at about the 10 o’clock position.
The impression one gets from the news is that the city of Baghdad is a post-apocalyptic wasteland with no inhabitants other than slavering Al-Qaeda terrorists and sack-of-bones old men leading around flocks of harried sheep. But the traffic is unbelievable; there are six-lane highways, with vehicles of every description (even a Ford Probe…!). At one point the traffic became so dense that we jumped the median and drove into the oncoming lane. At some intersections, Iraqi Police stopped traffic for us as we rolled by; at others, our drivers just honked our pathetic little horns (my Probe has a better sounding horn than a Humvee) and slammed the gas down.
Make no mistake, though – the place is classic Third World, a mix of old and new, but mostly old, with giant billboards advertising cell phones looming over barefoot men in rusted Toyotas selling vegetables on the side of the road.
We arrived at Justice without incident – only about a 30 minute drive – to deliver our precious cargo: Mountain Dew, charcoal, frozen hamburgers, and toilet paper. We stayed for a couple of hours, then departed, having acquired one new party member from the Justice team.
The return trip was uneventful, too, except maybe for when my ass was in LT’s face while he was trying to use the radio. It’s amazing how small a Humvee gets when you wear all the shit that we do.
Mom, I know you’re going to kill me now for leaving the cocoon of Camp Liberty…