This is where I apologize profusely for my inability to bring timely updates to the table. I could go on and on about busy this or busy that, but in all reality I basked in the glory of each break we received from the rapid idiocies of operational tempo. All in all, you didn’t miss much more than an over-hyped, underappreciated amount of work from your United States Soldiers over here in the sandbox. Your boys and girls now have war stories filling up their “drunken bar stupor” reserves. They’ll be ready to tell ‘em to anyone willing to listen, anyone willing to sit through stories vaguely familiar to the action in “Black Hawk Down.” I'll spare you the specifics for now. All hyperbole aside, your men and women here remained steadfast, vigilant, and above all – proud.
Next on the list.
You have been informed daily by the news in some shape or form about the unrest mustering around Sadr City. You have heard, time and time again, the “Green Zone” is constantly being barraged by insurgent indirect fire. You have also heard the idle threats and empty promises being strewn about haphazardly from different government officials; to include ALL factions.
The Missing Link
Eastern Baghdad – US forces, in coordinating effort with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), have secured Highway 5 to facilitate the safety of the local populace, and reinforced resupply routes to several Iraqi and American bases.
Did you hear about this? No, because I’m about to update you from first hand information. Reporting live, or we’ll call it semi-semi-live from Baghdad, this is Anthony Vaccariello – your “no bullshit” informant on Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During the course of this “show of force,” a convoy of nearly 100 vehicles, to include Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, the newer MRAPs, and other ground forces, traveled the highway to help reinforce security, as well as resupply ISF and coalition forces. Apache Longbows hovered above in patterns to keep a vigilant eye on the event. Iraqi National Police patrolled along side of American troops on the ground, as well as integrated themselves into the convoy with their lightly armored pick-ups and SUVs.
What really happened?
I sat idle in my damn humvee for nearly 22 hours next to the highway, baking my ass off in the heat.
The real events worthy of reporting to follow:
During the hottest part of the day, my section secured the highway by an industrial town manufacturing mainly marble and granite. As the day progressed, I could tell we had been hindering traffic in and out of this town, but the locals helped with management. They seemed unfazed by the outside presence, and almost enjoyed our company, albeit an impediment to their daily business.
The sun had been hammering down in unrelenting fashion and many of the workers were taking a break outside the offices in the factories. After my contortionist skills wore thin having been in the truck for several hours, I took the liberty of stepping outside to stretch my legs a bit. I saw the workers trying to beat the heat, gathered around a table outside in the shade. At that point I decided to grab a case of bottled water, and I carried it to them. They needed it much more than we did. After the limited conversation that took place between the Iraqis and I, it seemed that they were well pleased. I meandered back to the truck knowing at least something meaningful occurred today.
later that day...
The sun was retreating inch by inch, and the temperature was cooling off little by little. My gunner yelled down to let me know a man was trying to get our attention. I tried to look back through the window, but had a hard time getting a visual. I dismounted from the truck and walked over to the man motioning for us.
He was one of the men sitting around the break table earlier in the day. He did a quick look around the area to make sure he wasn’t being seen by other locals (most likely Mahdi militiamen) and handed me a plate. Dinner. Hot sandwiches. They radiated warmth and had an appetizing aroma. I took them to my truck, and handed them out amongst my crew. They were the best thing we had eaten since we’ve been to this country; hands down.
A couple minutes had passed and my gunner yelled down to me again. Face half full of bread, I dismounted the vehicle again, and I visited our friend at the factory. He was holding a tray with five teas on it. Sweet Chai Tea. I looked at him with an expression of extreme gratitude and said “Chukran” or thank you. I brought them back to the truck, and my crew and I commenced enjoying sandwiches and tea for dinner.
It definitely beat the prepackaged meals, ready to eat. It was motivational, and definitely made us feel like our presence was appreciated. We took care of them, and they in return took care of us.
So, mark this up as a small victory for both sides. We’ll call it the Battle of breaking the ice. You’ll find this article dusted, lying midst a paperweight and a cluttered desk. These are the nights that I sleep easy knowing that not a penny spent, nor a bullet fired, accomplished much more than the news will ever state.
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.