Every Monday for a few months, I've been bringing you tales of battlefield excitement, from ducking machine gun fire to uncovering mass graves. While these stories are intense and need to be told, they really don't show for you the true realities one experiences in war: infinite, soul crushing boredom.
Behind every firefight, every raid, every huge clearing mission, lies hours and hours of downtime, plan changes, reconfiguration of plan changes, cancellations, earlier start times and later start times. After the intensity of knocking down gates and dragging away a boogeyman, we'd sit on couches - or in Strykers - for hours, waiting on 'the word,' the ubiquitous order from above, to pack up and head back. Exfiltration, a fine art it seemed, would take at least an hour if everything went perfectly.
If you've been a reader for awhile, you probably guessed that is never the case.
L-R: Dozer, Payday, Killa Kimes and The Dude With No Nickname
Gearing up for a move to our outpost in the Tahrir neighborhood of Baqubah. Notice only one man in a vest. If we were leaving at nine, we'd be out there at eight, and leave around 9:45 after getting radio problems taken care of. Most of us knew this all too well and waited for the last minute.
Payday and Matt in Mosul
A staple of mounted patrols at the beginning of our deployment: dropping down and having a nap. Standing all day in the hatch will get your head blown off, which is all the more reason to relax.
Hey kid, shouldn't you be at school?
Some moments were dull when action was happening only feet away. As members of my squad fired on an IED emplacer and a helicopter blew up his car with a missile, I was downstairs keeping an eye on the front door - and the kid who lived in the house. Along with Payday, we chuckled at the hijinks of Sylvester.
Ten seconds!.....I mean one minute. Sorry.
We spent untold hours waiting for explosive ordanance disposal teams to get to the IEDS we found. Not to take away from them, but there was a lot for them to do in Baqubah. This particular day, we waited so long that some guys took off their tops to get some relief from the heat.
From bottom to top: Bill, Cooter, and Brian Chevalier
The most common cure for boredom during a deployment: gambling! For hours we'd sit around, gathered around a cot and play Texas Hold 'Em. In Mosul we had our own poker table and played almost every night. Later on in the deployment we didn't play as much, but every gambler has fond memories of those times. My favorite: going all in with three-of-a-kind threes, only to lose my stack, and the game - to Dozer's three-of-a-kind fours.
These are among countless war stories we have but never get told. Like sitting on cots with sweat pouring down our faces, debating the war, evolution and if NASCAR really is a sport, or crowding around to see the newest Hollywood release on a bootleg DVD. Those are the moments soldiers revere the most; the stories you've never heard.