Today we have a guest post from friend of the website Max writing about his experience in Iraq.
Engagement in BaQubah, Iraq
Nov, 14, 2004
We were rabbits. That was our job. Every morning we would travel the MSR (Main Supply Routes) and try and get AIF (Anti Iraqi Forces) to detonate IEDs on our HMMWV convoy. If they waste their munitions on us in the morning, then the supply trucks had a better chance to make it to their destinations. Plus, if they engaged us, we were prepared for engagement with a QRF Bradley platoon at the ready if we need them.
Our Lieutenant was new to our platoon. He was a finance officer just transferred in from Kirkuk so he can get the ever coveted ‘combat experience’ that can really make or break an officer’s career.
We had been in country for 10 months and today was the final day of Ramadan. Earlier that morning we had already had an engagement. A few IEDs exploded as we travelled down a highway that I can’t recall the arbitrary name we assigned to it. One of our vehicles had taken a bit of damage to a tire, but we closed the distance and engaged the enemy. Which meant we had to wait around for another platoon to take the wounded enemy fighters to FOB Warhorse. After releasing the wounded people that were only minutes earlier trying to kill us we receive a radio call notifying us that someone had called in to the hotline saying that a large group of men were carrying RPGs and AK-47s.
This is a call we received often. Occasionally, you would engage the enemy, but most of the time you just drove around looking and finding nothing. With one vehicle down (we dropped the damaged vehicle off at the Iraqi Police station to repair the damage to the tire) we took three vehicles and headed to the location given to us.
This time was different. As soon as we rounded the corner the women in their black robes all started running. I was in the gunner’s hatch manning the 240b. I lightly tapped the Lieutenant with my foot and told him, “Here it comes, sir!”
The only thing I heard him say was “Here comes what?”. After that I gazed down the street and identified an individual turning around and lifting an RPG. He fired the weapon and I could hear the RPG round skip across the pavement. The rocket propelled grenade skipped under all three of our vehicles, finally popping up behind us before detonating. Being in the lead vehicle, I spun the 240b around and began firing controlled bursts of 3-5 rounds at the individual that fired the RPG. He dropped quickly.
This is the moment when time started to slow down. As the driver hammered the gas and we began to pick up speed I started looking down the alleys. They were all full of cars with the trunks open. I could see the RPG launchers, RPG rounds, RPKs, and AK-47s spilling forth from the open trunks of the standard orange fender taxi cabs that are all over Iraq. These guys meant business.
It was our luck that we came up from behind the ambush that was being prepared. Another individual with an AK-47 raced across the street. I fired and missed. Out of ammunition. I scream for the AG to feed me more ammunition for the 240b as the vehicle slides around the corner. We are face to face with a guy holding an AK-47. His face covered by the red and white checkered head scarves typical of the area. His AK-47 was jammed. He was slamming the charging handle back and forth trying to clear the jam. I called for ammunition once again. Still nothing. I scream at the driver, “Hit this motherfucker!” Hit him we did. The vehicle lurched forward toward the man before us. I remember his eyes were green, and I thought that was a bit odd for an Iraqi. I could see his eyes clearly because they widened to the size of saucers when he realized that we were just going to run him down with the vehicle. The driver slammed directly into the man before us, sending him and the HMMWV through a wall. The driver backed up, and ran him down again.
Finally fed the ammunition I desperately needed, I reloaded the 240b and the HMMWV was maneuvered around back to the original road we traveled down. We arrived at the first intersection and stopped, all three trucks taking defensive positions and we quickly set up a 360-degree security.
Another individual wearing what was lovingly referred to as a ‘man dress’ popped around the corner and fired his AK-47 directly at me. Honestly, I have no idea how he missed me, he was only about 25 meters away from our position. I didn’t waste any time pulling the trigger and dropping him, dumping a few extra bursts into the body to ensure the threat was removed.
At this time my squad leader called for me to exit the vehicle, and the AG and myself switched places. I handed two cans of ammunition to the AG in the gunner’s hatch and headed over to my squad leader. I was the grenadier of the squad, which meant I had the m203 attached to my M-16 (yes, we still used the long musket M-16s at this time). I was instructed to destroy the vehicles in the alley before us with HE 40mm grenades.
This was where I made my mistake. My first shot landed directly in the trunk. No detonation. We were too close. A 40mm grenade must travel about 50 meters before it would arm the round to explode. So, I backed up, fired again. Still to close. This round bounced off the wall, off the car, and down the street (unknowingly, the round landed and exploded at the feet of a couple of AIF members severely injuring them.
Also, unknowingly, I had positioned myself directly in the intersection. I had zero cover. It was at this moment when I felt the impact to my chest. The best way I can describe it is this: take a 6’7” 320lb professional baseball pinch hitter and let him swing full force into your chest. One moment I was kneeling in the intersection and the next I was laying on my back, bleeding from my neck. The next thing I knew, I was being dragged behind a wall by my own personal lord and savior, SPC Grive (thanks, man… you really save my ass). The medic looked at my neck and said I had bullet fragments and plate fragments in my neck. Honestly, I couldn’t feel any pain, but I could see the blood that covered my IBA and the hole that was now in my IBA.
I quickly got my head back in the game and ran back to my HMMWV to meet up with the driver who was outside the door of the HMMWV engaging the enemy across the street.
“Phil, I don’t want to be here anymore.” I said louder than I wanted to.
“I don’t want to be here anymore, either man.” SPC Philips said.
We now began to engage the enemy with as much firepower as we could. Everything was so hectic I didn’t even hear the Bradley’s roll up directly behind us. SPC Philips and myself dropped back a bit and let the Bradley through. The Bradley placed itself between the HMMWV and the enemy. Giving us perfect cover.
As the Bradley’s fired, we began to check our magazines, grabbing a few out of the HMMWV to refill the ones that were empty. It was at this time that the mortars started to fall. They had already set up a mortar team to engage us – because they knew exactly what we would do. Stop and make a 360-degree circle to defend. Worse yet, they were perfectly aimed to air burst above us. One of the mortars exploded and my left leg felt like it was on fire. A piece of shrapnel had pierced my calf and sank itself deep. I fell to the pavement. SPC Philips pulled my Israeli bandage from my cargo pocket and wrapped my leg up at the point of entry and called for the medic.
The medic didn’t arrive. He was engaged, so I drug myself across the ground and began to fire from behind the Bradley. Honestly, at this point I was only firing randomly down the alleyway towards the sound of incoming fire. I cannot say exactly how long we were engaged by the enemy, but after the Bradley’s arrived, the enemy all quickly exfiltrated.
For the next four hours we kicked in doors and questioned the people that lived in the area. I turned out that the mosque right across the street had been allowing jihadis to store weapons inside of it. Not only that, but the jihadis had been recruiting locals to attack us. We discovered this from one of the women in a rather large house. She told me that her son was one of the people that had agreed to take up arms against us for the ambush. I remember telling her, “Lady, your son is probably dead.” Her response?
“Good. Kill them all.”