...Merry Christmas!!!

So for the few of you who actually follow this, we are still here. The 53rd and myself have made it home before Christmas and currently spending time with our family and friends. I have a bunch of photos that I've yet to edit of the 1-124th handing over responsibilities to the new unit (my apologies for forgetting which one, I will make sure to find out), us getting ready to leave Kuwait then finally arriving and out-processing at Ft. Stewart, Ga. It may be a week or two until anything new goes up due to myself and Giunta being lazy. Hang in there and in a week or so there will be some new photos up to look at...maybe even a new entry from Giunta!

Until then, cheers everyone, it's been one hell of a ride.

The Exodus


...Faces Part XII...

The new studio... SPC. Robert Grieves / SPC. Ronald Farah / PFC. Tovany Fernandez / SSG. Vincent Parker

...and if you haven't read it already, scroll down to the bottom or click the link and read Giunta's latest post Cliff Notes

- The Exodus


...The Count Down...

...soon I will be at home, sitting on that bench, sipping on a scotch or red wine or something with my dog and folks.....feel free to join....

New portraits will be posted up soon and hopefully something from Giunta as well.

- The Exodus


...Light 'em Up Boys & Girls...

...We lit up some cigars in honour of our last mission through Iraq. A small part of me will miss this place and the routine I've grown accustomed to, but a larger part of me is happy that I won't have to fight with a Ugandan in order to eat anymore.

- The Exodus


...Farewell Farewell Iraq...

...A few more photos from my last mission in Iraq. There is also a post below this by Giunta, so go read.

- The Exodus


...Cliff Notes...


rest over night
“Hey Diaz, you want to come to the hookah bar?” Diaz—a six-foot, 230lbs, serial-killer looking kind of man-child—didn’t even look up from his computer, “I would Sarge, but I gotta level-up my Night Elf Princess.” The rest of us moved along to smoke and drink near beer, listening to music and talking about women or the self-destructive behavior we’ll find when we re-deploy state side.

adder to kalsu
There has been progress in this country, sure, and progress is a good thing I’m told. But there is a dark force out there, a force we’ve let slip through our fingers, one for which there is no control, a super-secret, Iraqi-ninja society known as: The Rock Sniper. Receive small arms fire, you gain fire-power superiority; IEDs enter the theater, you armor your trucks and personnel; IEDs are up-graded to armor piercing, you go-go gadget electronic warfare; a teenage, Iraqi national throws a rock, you say, “Hey you little bastard, stop throwing rocks!” Which would you say is the least proportionally adequate method to deter a given action? In 2003, we chased down a kid who threw a rock at our patrol. An hour later, his father came to collect him from our EPW holding cells, spanking him several times before they left our compound. My father spanked me a couple of times when I was a young pup, behavior modification, ineffective. It was a few checkpoints north of Adder when the radio made a sound like, “Be advised, children throwing rocks at the 3 o’clock.” “Roger, did you get pictures?” “Um.” Pictures? I think of FBI data base files on eight year olds, or the future scouting rosters to fill major league bull pins ten years down the road. What the hell people, just give up.

staging yards
X hours prior to movement, the CET drove into the staging yard to mount the heavy weapons and link up with the transportation unit. The yard resembles truck stops along the highways back home, with the long lines of semi-trucks parked just off from the fuel point. There are a few office buildings, for management and food distribution and intelligence briefings. Lots of lights. And armed guards here and there, ushering traffic or supervising the movements of nationals hired for this or that. When we pulled into the yard this night, we saw no trans unit to meet. The gunners made themselves busy with the big guns and the drivers started going through the engine checking for leaks or cracks or tears and so on. The leaders had met in the middle, and shrugged off the worries of the missing convoy members, talked about the task at hand instead. The trip to the offices was a disappointment, finding all the doors were shut up by chains and pad-locks. On the walk back to the trucks and crews we had finally noticed all the lights were out—Zombie Apocalypse? We were alone, ready to roll, staged and waiting, but alone. Twenty minutes later, a humvee comes through, stopping short of us and letting out about a half a dozen passengers from the cargo-bed. The dismounts scattered and set to work on something, and our CET leader strolled over to see what-was-what. When he came back to us he was shaking his head, saying, “There’s a bomb threat on the staging yards.”

kalsu to vbc
Ten, maybe twenty minutes out of the gate, just enough time for our miles of convoy to straighten out into the order of march and get some good spacing, the radio squelched, “IED, IED, IED, push through!” OK. And? I knew it was our lead truck by the sound of the voice in my headset, but, did it detonate—I didn’t hear anything—was someone hurt, where was it? When you receive contact, you want all the information, right then, or you feel like the world might end. But the information never comes right then, it’s a trickling process, and some of those trickles of detail will never get to you, ever. They’re lost in the flood of what really happened.

The fun part is that the information doesn’t stop at your level. You have to report to other elements in the area (immediately), then Sheriff, then the Landowner, and then your own company and battalion. I called Sheriff, “You this is me, be advised, an IED struck this truck at that checkpoint, no injuries, no damage, we’re pulling out of the area to establish a security halt.”
“Sheriff copies all.”
Then I typed away at my keypad to report to the Landowner, thinking, report one—finished. But no, more information trickled into my ears, “Be advised, two Iraqi Army were in the area just before the blast, then they came back, this was at the 9 o’clock.” I called Sheriff back with the amendment.
“Sheriff copies all.”
And I went back to typing. The rear gun truck trickled, “Be advised, small arms fire from the 3 o’clock, 150 meters.” My gunner set to scanning his sector, I called Sheriff.
“Sheriff copies all.”
Now the lead truck called back for the wrecker, there’s damage to his vehicle, flat tires and so on. I called Sheriff, “you this is me,” “you this is me,” sigh, “you this is me!”
“This is Handcuff, send your traffic and we will relay to Sheriff.” Handcuff is an aerial unit, they circle the country from above, monitoring and relaying transmissions when radios are out of range. So I told him the whole story: IED strike, two IAs, small arms fire, security halt, vehicle damaged, self-recovery in progress.
“Roger, will relay.” Wait. “Be advised, Sheriff copies all.”
OK. Now I needed to finish typing, message to Landowner, done, and, sent. And just then I get another squelch, “This is So-and-so X-ray, you are halted in our AO, please respond.” It’s the Landowner, and I wanted to say, check your damn in-box. Instead, I repeated, “IED, x2 IAs, SAF 3 o’clock, halted for maintenance, copy?” Nothing. “Copy?” Damn it, “Handcuff, please relay.”
“So-and-so X-ray copies all.”
Nothing happened for a minute, I checked on my gunner who looked bored. I collected some grids, one for the IED another for the halt and so on. Then I heard, “This is So-and-so X-ray, be advised, we’re sending EOD to clear your site, they’re on this freq.” “Roger.” I had no intention of changing freqs. Then again, “Be advised, we’re sending in aerial support to provide cover, they’re on this freq.” “Roger.” I still had no intention of changing freqs.
“This is Avenger such-and-such, your aerial support, requesting situation report.” Fuck! “IED, x2 IAs, SAF, halted, self-recovery.” “That’s a good copy, requesting you drop to our freq.” “No.”

storyboards and apples
When we pulled into VBC, the three soldiers from the damaged truck were hauled off to medical for observations; a series of memory tests, like remembering a few random words and being able to recall them some time later. The truck was brought off to maintenance for repairs. And our crew was placed on a mandatory ‘stand-down’ for twenty-four hours. The other NCOs and the Convoy Commander, all went to the offices for up-dates and gossip. The storyboard of our ‘encounter with the enemy’ was on the big-screen. It was the collected efforts of amassing trickles of information into a solid body, and it was completely inaccurate. Which is fine, I imagine.

We herded ourselves back out into the lanes to see our three soldiers had returned, in one piece too, which is nice. Bertelli, the leader of that truck, filled us in on all the quack-stuff doctors like to do. And we told them we heard, while we were in the office, that another convoy had been hit, and that they’d be coming through soon. So we loitered around waiting for them, curious to see how they had faired comparatively. When their impacted truck idled past, we saw a softball-sized hole, through and through the armor. And Bertelli said, “apple, bubble, elbow…”

vbc to vbc
Our first attempt to push from VBC to JBB ended up being a six and a half hour push from VBC to VBC. I never lost sight of the FOB. An axle on one of the whites—contracted local nationals—broke off on one side. I had to break apart an Iraqi Police checkpoint to turn us around. There was a man with a suitcase who ranked about a 7 on a scale of ‘1-Shaddy’. Mortars fell in on the rear of our convoy as we re-entered the FOB. It was a long, dull and painful night; I’m grumpy just thinking about it.

corrective training
On the final leg of the trip, we passed southbound past one of our sister units heading north. As my truck met with theirs, my gunner was assaulted by a barrage of chemlites from the opposite truck. “Throw back, throw back,” I said. He missed about a dozen times before we were too close to Kuwait and they were too close to Iraq. He took the opportunity to be a smart-ass, “Sorry, I never went to a chemlite range.” It was a little funny, but even for fun, you can’t take lip from a Joe, so I set him to the corrective training of sniping targets with chemlites all the way home—rocks, tires, dead camels and so on. Good training.

In the event of significant actions, it has become common practice to utilize your windows as a blackboard. They are the Cliff Notes of the what-went-wrongs along your route; a scribbled listing of the order of march, the ten-digit grid of an IED detonation or security halt or small arms fire; a clumsy account of misfortune, recorded in sharpie marker and suspended in air on the glass in front of you. By the end of what I hope is my last mission, my windshield was scared with the crocked information of a bumpy road—like artwork drawn by my little nephew, if he was colorblind and having an epileptic fit.

- The Exodus


...Light Wars...

...photos from what may very well have been my last mission before going home. Chem-light wars always make for a good time.

- The Exodus


...For Your Entertainment...(read below post)

the man...the myth...the legend...the soon to be dictator of Nicaragua...the Luna.


...For Your Entertainment...

...A brief conversation with an Iraqi...

Luna - "Is this made in Iraq"
Iraqi - "Yes"
Luna - "Let me guess, Baghdad?"
Iraqi - "Yes mista, made in Iraq!"
Luna - "Then why does it say made in India?"
Iraqi - *silence*

All other quotes from this mission would probably involve me putting up one of those "enter only if you are 18 and older" type things.....I'm keeping it clean for the children.

Photos to come soon from what was most likely my last mission and more writings from Giunta.

- The Exodus


...On the Road Again...

...photos from my most recent mission. I think I only have one or two more missions left in me before the towel is thrown in...the Ugandans have been brutal lately!

- The Exodus