It was a godsend in ways. All the units outside our surrounding area of operations have all had something to talk about. Snipers, IED’s, ambushes, and mortars, and all we had to talk about was the occasional rock thrown at our six ton up-armored humvees. It was another holiday to spend away from our families – or at least that’s how I categorized New Year’s Eve. We had just finished up our evening patrol, and then moved out to pick up our one hot chow for the day from FOB Loyalty.
Day had receded to an almost serene evening. The echoes of gunfire can always be heard in the distance, but even now I could hear the distinct sound of firecrackers as the Iraqis celebrated the New Year. It almost made us feel – normal again.
We pulled up to the dining facility ramp to load up our chow. We knew the night was almost at an end. All that had to be done was finish loading and then we’d be on our way back to the combat outpost for a well deserved full night’s sleep.
The flash in the horizon was inconspicuous, but what was about to ensue couldn’t be ignored. Mortars, fired from the back of a pick-up truck a few thousand meters away, were being zeroed in on the dining facility. The thunderous cracks and deafening booms had caught us off guard.
“Get in the trucks! Get in the fucking trucks!” I yelled as it seemed a seeming eternity before anyone reacted.
The third or fourth mortar had hit off the top of the aluminum building only fifty meters from us, sending marvelous sparks in all directions. As we were moving at a snail’s pace to close ourselves up in the trucks, I noticed some of the guys hit the deck trying to squeeze under the trucks. The platoon leader had been one of them.
I was running to my truck, the closest cover we had, and the platoon leader was just a few steps to my front. I couldn’t understand at first why the following took place, but I found it humorous afterwards. My platoon leader took a dive to wriggle and squeeze under the truck in full gear. I stepped over him and got in the truck then closed the door. I looked down to see his legs still sticking out.
“Sir, get in the damn truck!” I yelled in utter bewilderment.
Our trucks had enough armor to take a direct hit from a 155mm artillery shell used as an improvised explosive device. A 60mm mortar would tickle a little. Live and learn I guess. It only took five seconds for all eight rounds to impact near our position, and it’s amazing how time slows down for us to react.
As the sparks flew through the air I imagined in the back of my head that I was spending New Year’s Eve at home in Cincinnati. I imagined the mortars as fireworks, and felt more excited than worried. I peeked my head outside the truck, opened the door fully, and then resumed running chow to the trucks. We loaded up, and took off back to the combat outpost. The resolution we came up with was a simple one; quit getting mortared.
Goodnight. A new day brings a new year.
The views expressed within this journal are my own, and in no way represent the views or policies of the United States Army, Department of Defense, or any other official agency.