Evening prayer has come to an end. Darkness falls silent in the rural outskirts of Baghdad tonight. The moon is only a sickle, a sliver of light. The rooftops are barren. The temperature has cooled off enough to sleep inside again; stiff backs and necks - no longer. Slowly but surely the people begin to doze off in the comfort of their beds. The locals enjoyed their Sunday night relaxing as usual, as work beckons in the morning.
The stillness of the evening is as deceitful as it is pleasant. Nearby, several military vehicles stop at an intersection for their checks. The lights on the front vehicle materialized; as if to let their presence be acknowledged. It was only moments later that the lights disappeared, and the trucks vanished into the darkness of night.
The Iraqi National Police on duty stir restlessly at the intersection, enjoying a content night of cigarettes and sugared hot tea. Curfew keeps their watch mind-numbing at best. To break the monotony, the police examine the vicinity where the American vehicles had just stopped. The policemen are mildly disappointed to walk back fruitless. There’s nothing to see here.
Just another lifeless night.
Finally, all that damned half-assed singing is over. I might actually be able to catch some rack before we take off out of here tonight. We’re all set and ready to go. I’m just waiting on the go ahead for emplacement. The commander says we have about four hours till the fireworks kick off. We’ll be prepared. It is nap time now.
Three hours and some change later.
Alright. It’s time to get spun up folks. It’s time to do our final checks. Devil Company is inserting us tonight. We’ve all got to cram into one vehicle. They’re going to stop at our house for no longer than is necessary. It should be empty. It should be easy. Let’s get piled in the truck.
Lock and load. Let’s make this smooth.
The Truck Commander just said we’re two mikes out from our house.
“Hey you two, we’ve got people behind us. Whatever you do, don’t eat shit jumping out the back of this truck.”
Everyone get ready to jump ship.
Truck one pulls up and throws the headlights on. We’re right behind them in the next truck. The third truck pulls up to screen our exit.
Go! Go! Go!
We filed out to the front of our house like ducks in a row. The breach man kicked the gate in within a few seconds, and we entered in the courtyard. Luckily, the truck engines were growling loud enough to conceal our entry clatter. A broken door window later and we’re in the house.
Looks empty. No lights, no furniture, and not a thing that would make us think anyone is living here. Good. That means no more noise.
The upstairs is clear. The roof is clear. Alright, it’s time to set up security down here. Let’s get that machinegun upstairs in the second story bay window. Don’t silhouette yourself, gunner!
Within a minute the house is clear, and the trucks get a call on the radio to take off.
“You two, good job not eating shit on the way in. Take these stun grenades. Anyone that’s not in a uniform get’s one for a midnight snack. Curfew is in effect. Don’t fuck this up.”
The snipers are getting set up on the roof. We’re watching North, East, and South - religiously.
“What the shit, keep it down!”
“Sergeant, the National Police are looking around outside.”
“Shhh. They’re just looking around where the trucks stopped.. sit still”
“Hey bro, the charges for our loopholes are set. We’re just waiting on the cue from the birds.”
The snipers were going to take advantage of the birds overhead. Their engines roar loud as hell when they fly over, stirring up dust and debris everywhere. With so many Blackhawks, we’ll have at least a bit of a distraction to mask us.
“Alright, give us a heads up down here when you’re gonna blow em. I don’t want joe freakin the fuck out.”
The radio traffic picks up for a minute. Birds are inbound. Five minutes out… we wait.
Two minutes out, the radio sputters.
“They’re two minutes out from the objective. It’s time. Thirty seconds!”
“Thirty seconds, guys.”
As the woof of the choppers grew closer and closer the fuse on the charges became shorter and shorter. The birds were nearly over us, and the timing was precise. The charges ignited, blasting holes in the roof walls, and shaking the building foundation like a small earthquake. Perfect. The holes were just big enough to get our angles.
As covert as our specific mission was that night, we weren’t the important portion at all. Our part was minuscule in comparison to what was actually taking place. This big picture unfolded just a few thousand meters away.
Twelve helicopters flew over in three groups of four. It was combined operations with the Iraqi National Police and the United States Army. It was the first time I’ve seen such amazing cooperation in tactics and in mission between both of our forces. I watched as the Iraqis trained side by side with us to posture, load, and unload from Blackhawk helicopters just like we do. I watched as the Iraqis executed their operations – just like we do.
They’re getting it.
It’s just another solid foothold in this country that the Iraqis have won for themselves. Yeah, sure, big brother is here to help, but we’re not forcing them. Their pride speaks volumes. Progress folks. Solid progress.
Soon the Iraqi birds overhead will be doing their own Air Assault operations. And maybe we’ll be the ones who are none the wiser. It'll just be another lifeless night.
The sun came creeping up hastily this morning. It’s rack time. Tomorrow could have waited just a tiny.. bit... longer....