posted on Jul, 5 2012 @ 11:42 PM
It was October in Mesopotamia, the sun was setting but still the heat was abundant throughout the dry desert air. While we were loading and staging
the vehicles, an ominous feeling overcame me. I knew that this mission would not go as planned. I did not know what would happen, but something was to
happen for sure. I refrained from telling my fellow Marines of this feeling because I did not want to put a curse upon the platoon. We sat there,
joking as usual, until the time came to execute our mission. I felt much angst as I loaded into the vehicle to take my place as rear security.
We had been in Iraq for three weeks and had yet to witness any combat or enemy activity while away from the base. We were getting used to the mortars
and rockets that impacted the base on a regular basis, but had yet to meet the enemy face to face. Soon we would depart for what would be the last
mission for two of my fellow Marines. We were headed into enemy territory and they were going to make sure that we understood their presence. Tonight
we would earn our combat pay.
As we left the gates of the F.O.B, the night eerily hung over us. We were all becoming just a little complacent due to the lack of activity over the
last few weeks. It was the fall of 2004 and this night was to be the beginning of our many months of struggles and engagements with the enemy. They
were an enemy that did not play by the rules, and did not accept our presence. An enemy that while disorganized, was effective at times when it
mattered most. We had not grown the proper respect for our enemy and this had given us a feeling of invincibility that was dangerous at the time.
These feelings would soon disappear.
The first couple of hours went by without a hitch. We covered most of our area, and had also conducted some vehicle checkpoints which turned up
nothing. We found ourselves at the southern edge of our AO (Area Of Operations), and on a road parallel to the canal road that we planned to use as
our route back. As usual my vehicle was in the lead as we looked for a path to get through to the canal road. We received an order to halt our
positions and began to sit idle. A dangerous thing to do in enemy territory.
We sat for almost fifteen minutes in the same position while our platoon commander decided which route to take. This gave the insurgents ample
amount of time to set their charges and prepare for us to come. They knew there was only one passable route for us to take and they had it covered.
All they had to do was lay in wait for us to come through. The road that was chosen was behind us, but in front of the vehicle to our rear. For this
reason, that vehicle took the lead while we turned around and followed in behind them. It was just a small road through some fields with an irrigation
swamp on the right side of it.
As we made our way down the road we heard the explosion. We knew what had happened. Immediately my team leader grabbed me and said, ”White four
just got hit, watch the right side for targets”. As we drew closer the gunfire began; burst from the right in the swamp came pouring in and we
could hear the Marines in front of us returning fire. We immediately returned fire into the swamp suppressing the enemy within. We were ordered to
dismount the vehicle and provide security while the next moved forward to care for the Marines who were hit. My vehicle pulled forward onto the canal
road and began to engage targets across the canal that were taking shots at us.
Looking back now, the moment seems surreal to me. I remember fanning out into our security pattern just as I had been trained. I also noticed that the
vehicle had been blown into the irrigation pond on the right side due to the power of the blast. I remember looking over, and seeing three of my
friends lying on the ground motionless. At the time I had no idea if they were dead or alive, but my fear was for the worst. The vehicle looked to be
in bad shape and the crater from the bomb was quite large. I was angry, I was alert, and I was ready for payback.
We began to patrol the area and look for signs of more IEDs or enemy positions. We also searched the few farms that were close by but came up with
nothing. We did find the spot where the two men detonated the bomb. There we found a car battery and speaker wire running to where the crater was. The
men had been waiting in the reeds for us to drive by and then blew up the first vehicle that passed them. They could not have been but just a few feet
off the road when they detonated the bomb.
The mistake those two men made that night was shooting back at us while they fled. They could have just snuck away into the night but that night they
chose to go with Allah, as they were killed while returning fire on us. It took an M88 Tank Recovery vehicle to get our vehicle out of the water and
onto the road where we could tow it back. There was massive damage to the rear of the vehicle and the nose cone of a 155mm artillery round used in the
IED had gone through the fuel cell and into a Marines leg.
Why the fuel cell did not ignite is still a mystery to us all. If it had everyone in that vehicle would have died. As it turns out not a single Marine
in that vehicle died that night. The two who were popped up in the back sustained massive trauma and were evacuated to Germany and then to the States.
They had been banged up too much to continue and both are now disabled veterans living peacefully here in the states. The Marine who took the nose
cone to the leg eventually healed and continued to serve with us. The rest of the vehicle crew just had minor bumps and bruises and for the most part
That was our first real run in with the enemy. It was certainly not our last, nor our worst. This incident was only a blip on the radar of what was to
come. Soon we would be hearing talks of a major operation; the kind that a Marine Corps Infantryman prays for on a regular basis. Little did we know
we were headed for the deadliest battle of the Iraq war. Our actions would soon be written into the history books, and today there are many books
covering our actions during that era of the war.