Monday, February 18, 2008

Photo Story Monday - Be Right Back

"Dude, I gotta shit. Find me something to wipe with around here."

Matt was direct and to the point. He was shitting all right, in a corner room of a makeshift hospital deep in the heart of Chibernot, the more rural and wooded neighborhood of Baqubah. Bill, the unremitting carrier of toilet paper, was on the other side of the building. He'd have to use whatever I could find him as he squat in the corner over the dust covered floor.

Just a day earlier, we were making our way through the abandoned neighborhoods fulfilling our raison d’être: cache and insurgent locating. After turning up nil for the first few hours of sunlight, we entered a courtyard with two pick up trucks and a modest yard that fed into a grass field surrounding three sides of a house. Immediately after searching through the house, we found what we had been looking for: ammo magazines, bags full of huge anti aircraft rounds, bulletproof vests and bundles of wire, rigged with sensors that sent a charge when run over by the wheels of our Strykers. The wire that is hooked to the IED requires no manual operation to be set off, just the weight of one of our vehicles. They were called victim operated IEDs, and we found bundles of wire that made them possible.

By then we learned to burn mostly anything we found. There was a hole in the back already dug, and we threw the vests, wire and many documents found throughout the house into it. One of the many smokers lit a first aid bandage on fire and threw it on top of everything.

But then there was the house. And the trucks.

A good portion of the platoon was in the courtyard already, including my friend Bryan. He was a college graduate who enlisted a little after me, and we got along well due to our sense of humor and because we both called north Texas home. He was a machine gunner in weapons squad, but we got to talk during these lulls in activity when we're sitting around wondering what to do next.

Destroy the vehicles, we were ordered. Finally, something that made sense!

I slipped off my vest and helmet and began my search of some type of blunt object. In a back room I found a hammer and a small pole. I walked out to the first truck and made small work of the windows, mirrors and headlights, smashing glass and breaking bulbs. I popped the engine to find a tangled mess of wires and tubes. I slash, cut and broke everything that wasn't part of the engine and put a brick through the windshield. Bill came by with his knife and slashed the tires. We did all we could, but there was still the other truck.

It was being smashed to bits by others, but this one had room to be flipped. The other was parked right next to a tree, yet this truck was ripe for turning over.

Better call Macco

Men lined one side of the truck to give it the heave-ho onto its side, causing a real big headache for the insurgent who owned it.

God dammit, I had only two payments left!

You guys got it!

One thing Bryan and I had in common was that our names ended in -ton. We created the name Team Destructon for ourselves, forever pledging that together we would destroy any insurgent property (and have fun doing it). Lamps, bowls, tea sets, everything in that house that was capable of being smashed was shattered with the attention to detail and precision only we offered. Our goal was to be the least hospitable guests possible.

Two safes in the house drew our eyes and they were drug out into the yard, next to the only truck still on its tires. We didn't have any C4 with us, so we called another platoon in to rig up the doors to see what was inside. Along the way, they found stuff to put on top of it to see how far in the air they would go. A rock, a boombox, a curious pole and some leftover rounds were thrown on top.

And a partridge in a pear tree

More was added that I didn't see (or document), namely a wheelbarrow. We all moved to another courtyard to stay away from the big blast. Once the dust settled, the guys who rigged up the explosives took a peek into the insides of the safes. Not a damn thing.

We soon left and continued our patrol, going for about thirty minutes before the other platoon clearing on the right side of the street found something. It was a dungeon-esque torture chamber, filled with handcuffed civilians and a few bodies. When asked how long it was since they saw their captors, they replied, "just before you got here."

We held at the house across from the chamber and ransacked it. It was too close for its occupants not to know what was going on at their neighbor's house. A bulletproof vest was found, along with two AK-47s, ammo and a camera tripod (used to film IED attacks, giving them a more professional, cinematic feel). There were mats and blankets on the floor in the living room, and I peeled back a layer to find a full length sword and scabbard. It was all added to the pile I was arranging, along with a radio, two American grenades used for a MK-19 grenade launcher and a couple of bayonets.

Insurgent starter kit

The sword had dried blood on it, giving it an orange tint from the handle to the tip from where it was wiped away. I thought it was a unique souvenir and stuck it into the bag I was using to carry a fold out stretcher (a Skedco for all you military folks). Another fan of cameras quickly grabbed the tripod to use for his own equipment. He still has it, and I still have my sword in my room today.

The tortured Iraqis were being treated and cared for, and it was going to be awhile until the situation was resolved. My platoon sergeant said we'd be there for a couple hours, so we all took off our vests and crammed into one of the rooms. I left my vest and helmet in the shade outside. Others watched the gate and talked lazily about this and that. Most of us fell asleep for those two hours until we got the word to move on.

By then the sun had shifted and my vest and helmet were sitting under the blazing heat for some time, absorbing all the warmth an Iraqi summer sun has to offer. Grabbing it to put on, I almost burned myself on the metal hook bolted onto my helmet that was used for night vision goggles. Well, this is going to get interesting. I slung one of the AKs on my back and pressed on.

In a few steps I was pouring sweat like I just finished a marathon. The heat from the vest and helmet had nowhere to go except into my skin. At every house, I took everything off and doused them with water. I wasn't about to be carried out of there. After an hour, the heat went back to its usual intolerable level, but I was out of water for the rest of the afternoon.

Toward the end of the next day, Matt really had a case of the shits. We had just found an insurgent hospital after a tip from a local, and he wasn't interested in finding buried weapons, just simple bowel relief. Since Bill wasn't around, I went to go look for anything appropriate to wipe with. When times were tough and we had to go in the corner of an abandoned house, we'd use curtains, clothes, anything. But this building was a few rooms with dirt floors and bloody towels. The cleanest thing I could find was an abdominal wrap tinged with crusty blood. Not good enough for Matt (so stubborn with his selection of wipes). In between my mission to find rolls of Charmin, I was collecting the medical supplies and weapons we found so we could document everything before we destroyed all of it.

Matt was still in the corner, waiting. I chanced upon Bill and got his TP to deliver to Matt, held hostage by his own pants. If he had waited, he would have known we were on our way back to the base soon, with plenty of sinks, toilets and yes, rolls upon rolls of toilet paper.



Unknown said...

Too bad Geraldo wasn't in the vicinity. He could have covered the safecracking like it was Al Capone's safe redux.



Anonymous said...

Great piece bro!Those hits just keep coming.


David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front 02/19/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

Renee & Mike said...

come on over and check out and lets stop letting Zionist Israel our troops for their wars...

Wek said...

Just had a Fast Times at Ridgemont High flashback...."My ole man is a television repairman. He's got an ultimate set of tools. I can fix it!"

Alex Horton said...

Renee, you're in-fucking-sane.

membrain said...

An excellent piece of writing. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you'll find this funny.

Prothink said...

I would have to agree with Renee. Why do you think this is still such a secret over 40 years later to the American Public
We would have bombed the living daylights out of any other country for murdering 34 of our soldiers like this. Also this kidnapped investigative report pretty much telling lays out whats up here:

Anonymous said...

Gotta love my husband! I've heard so much about ya'lls "Team Distructon"!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your service. I was in Baghdad and Balad during OIF III. I experienced many of the things you write about.

It scares me to see that Information Operations is being carried out against the American people (watch FOX News--all of the advanced principles and techniques of IO are being used). Nothing but pro-war, pro-Neo-con shaping operations being conducted on that channel. What has America come to?

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

remember in world war 2 II when the nazi regime were performing atrocious murderous acts on other human beings? When being charged as war criminals particularly at the Neuremberg trials, do you know what their justification for being murderers was???????? I will tell you. they all said the same thing "we were only soldiers and just doing to the enemy what we were instructed to do"

It didnt clear their conscience. It didnt make them any less guilty of murder.

Anonymous said...

murder is murder no matter how you try to candy coat it. "I am a soldier and only doing what I have been instructed to do by my superior officer"

Bull shit. and dont try to pass your post traumatic stress disorder counseling bills off onto the American taxpayers. any excuse you try to convince yourself makes it ok to kill people is just wrong.
you have to have a great deal of mental pre-war disorders to carry out a mission for a bunch of self serving policticians using you to carry out their selfish goals. and you just play right into the game. and guess what, they knew for a fact that you would. Good luck in prison.

Alex Horton said...

Thanks for your muddied history anonymous, but you've got 'the enemy' and 'innocent civilians' mixed up. When someone walked down the street without a care in the world, they're an innocent civilian. When they point a gun at you, they become 'the enemy,' and their death does not equate murder. We don't round up people and kill them en masse either, but when someone innocent dies, it's usually an accident, not a nefarious genocidal mission like you allude to with your tired Nazi connection. Now I'm saying that's alright. I didn't want anyone to die, but it happens. Should it happen? No. But it does. We're past the point of shoulda/coulda/woulda.

When murder happens, you'll probably go to jail. It's not something you can get away with often, not even in Iraq.

Regarding your next post, I don't have PTSD, but your taxes will be helping to play my GI Bill. Thanks, citizen! I'll be using your money to buy beer as you troll anonymously on the internet.

Anonymous said...

if the following response even crosses a soldier's mind then he is an idiot of epic proportions:
"I am over here in iraq fighting and killing to keep them from coming on to american soil and blowing us up"

If you are so weak minded that you truly believe that hideous lie that has been told to you and all of the american people, you are way too stupid and mentally unbalanced to be carrying a weapon. takes an extremely ill informed, undereducated, underachiever to be so stupid to believe that statement is accurate. it only resignates with warmongers. simple minds are so easily manipulated. You are only in iraq to pave the way for a much bigger agenda. you set the stage under the guise of a humanitarian mission.

You're not there to keep them off our soil,

you're there to distract them when we steal their oil!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Nnnnnnooooooooooooo problem pal!! we will gladly pay you just enough to keep you broke and pay for all the beer you want; just enough to keep you stupid.

Anonymous said...

Nnnnnnooooooooooooo problem pal!! we will gladly pay you just enough to keep you broke and pay for all the beer you want; just enough to keep you stupid.

Alex Horton said...

Thanks! By the way, as a constituent who pays taxes, you're just as 'guilty' as me for funding the war. So unless you stopped filing around 2001, you're a war profiteer, paying money to the government in exchange for low oil prices. Oil that we uh, stole. That's why it's so cheap right now right?

If you had any principles, you'd be out of the country by now. You wouldn't be paying for 'war crimes,' but you have been. Without fail. You played right into their hands, alright.

I won't bother to respond to whatever inane, disjointed and cliche comment you spew forth next. This has already been a waste of my time.

Anonymous said...

the only reason the bush administration targeted these young guys to be expendable is because they are. can only hope that some of them make it home and have children that are expendable as well. will help the next generation of "haves" deal with the next generation of "have nots". Works out extraordinarily well for us.

Anonymous said...

we might briefly breeze through these soldier sob stories while you are in the middle east. bottom line is that these guys choose to do what they do. and we wont pay one single solitary bit of attention to your stories when this conflict is over. don't have to. you will be rewarded for the kind of service you provided by whatever means we deem appropriate to accomodate you for your service. there's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow here. and don't even bother coming out your mouth that its all about integrity. what a laugh. there is not way to peace, my dear, peace is the way. you are amongst 2 groups of people, 1. the brainwashed and 2. the soon to be brainwashed. I hope you guys keep in touch with eachother for the next 50+ years. and i absolutely guarantee that you wont be able to count on one hand the number of guys that have lived out there post war lives in the lap of luxury. you're not getting a boat, you're not getting a bmw, you're not getting a house with a tile roof on the intracoastal waterway, you're not going to cut a $17,000 check to join the golf club. doesnt happen. you're getting a few bucks and a couple of medals that cost $3 bucks a piece. and you know why? because that's all it takes to make guys like you happy, oh and we'll throw in a v.a. hospital, cuz you're not taking your problems to the mayo clinic. you wont be able to afford it and i am under no obligation to afford it for you. Oh and the "good luck in prison" comment was not because you are likely to get convicted for murdering iraqi citizens, its because statistically you can count on the warmongers to commit good ole regular crimes after their "service" to the military. Generally begat out of their drug habits, beer drinking, wife beating, antics; you know - good ole fashioned post soldier crimes. We can provide housing for you them as well. And no I do not check gas prices, that's what poor people do. I see the light come on and I generally send my assistant to drive the bmw to the shell station and fill it up, and she forwards the receipt together with the other receipts collected from the hired help, to my accountant. And such is life. Now mind you i am well aware of the price of oil. I have stock in every single publicly traded oil company on the NYSS.
Poor alex, poor poor idiotic alex.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to Lou Dobbs for bringing this site to light.

Alex Horton said...

I said I wouldn't be back, but your most recent comment was one for the ages. You revealed yourself as an internet tough guy, too rich to care about oil prices but not distracted enough by your stocks to write incoherent rants anonymously on a website. Bravo, anon. I really don't understand how anyone could get wealthy and be duped by every stereotype under the sun. Blood for oil, soldiers are stupid/drunk/violent rednecks and everything else you were spoon fed by some anti-reason jerkoff, because I know such bizarre and disconnected beliefs don't just land in your head. Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, Dwight Eisenhower, Mario Puzo, Johnny Cash, Joseph Heller, Steve McQueen and Gene Hackman didn't quite turn out so poor as you suspect many of us will. I wouldn't want to join a golf club; they're infested with bottom feeders and empty lives.

Besides, you're so full of shit I don't know where to start. For one, the New York Stock Exchange acronym is NYSE, not NYSS. Second, if your assistant pumps your gas, I would assume he would write these inane comments as you dictated to him with a huge Cuban cigar hanging from your lips. Third, rich people don't drive BMWs. I could buy a BMW if I wanted to.

"You're going to be poor! You were in the military!"

With that kind of mind, it's no wonder you're rich from picking stocks on the NYSS! Er, NYSE.

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Anonymous said...

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