There was one night where somehow we got some intel [intelligence reports] that said something was going down in the town near us, so they sent us out to basically drive around and see what we could see – or get exploded.
I don’t remember what time it was, but another unit was actually told to go out first, but they dragged their asses so much that the COC [command center] got annoyed and sent us out instead. We always got out here fast, even though the other guys didn’t.
When we get into town, we start driving slow, just looking around – and we didn’t see a thing. But then, an RPG [rocket propelled grenade] goes flying right in front of truck in front of me and explodes on the far side of the road. For some reason, we just sort of ignored it and kept driving along. I have NO idea why. But they didn’t fire anymore from that alley as I drove by – thankfully.
About ten seconds later, the front humvee in the column gets hit badly and everybody starts shooting – at anything that moved, and didn’t move, actually. There were a bunch of street and porch lights on all over the place, so we took them out too, since they were illuminating our position. My gunner didn’t warn me or anything, but heaved a grenade into one of the nearby courtyards – what a friggin’ racket. They startle us just as much as anybody else.
People started running up to help the front truck and the gunner is fine, but he’s hopped out and he’s wandering around like an idiot – giddy. I guess he was giddy just to be alive, but they were yelling at him to get back on the gun – so he did – and started rocking the .50 on the dead truck. I’m not sure if he did it or getting hit by an RPG did it, but the trees and building next to them were on fire. I thought it was pretty funny.
Anyway, we took a few small arms and shot everything up, but as usual, they wouldn’t let us pursue. It’s the stupidest thing in the world. Whenever we get hit, they tell us to just defend, shoot any enemies we see, and pack up the casualties and leave. It’s retarded. There’s no way in hell we’ll kill off the insurgents if we have a defensive stance – but they were afraid we’d just run through the city shooting things up. Well, we might have, but we would have been careful about it. I didn’t want to blow up the city. Just the hajis [insurgents].
The front truck was completely messed up. They got a direct hit on it with an RPG. It went right at the base of the front passenger’s door and then RIGHT under the seat – like inches under the guy’s ass, and then it detonated in the transmission, blowing a fireball back out the entrance hole and charring the passenger. The driver - he didn’t get charred, but he got shaken so badly that I think it dislocated his shoulder. Three years later, the Marine Corps still wouldn’t let him go because his shoulder was so messed up.
Days later, I accidentally walked up to him and clapped him on the shoulder. He glared at me and said, “don’t ever touch me again.” I didn’t. I felt badly.
So our sister unit gets spun up to come help us out (again), but they took their sweet time. Meanwhile, we’re sitting in the middle of the city, at night, just waiting to get hit again, especially since they wouldn’t let us pursue whoever it was that shot the RPGs at us. Eventually they get out there, and then we hear them on the radio complaining that they have to help us out and loan us one of their gun trucks to replace ours. I couldn’t believe it. Either they were afraid that they were going to get hit, or they were just lazy. I’d say they were afraid. It wasn’t the first time we’ve had that problem with them – or at least their commander. He was terrified of getting hit. I heard a rumor he spent almost all of his first tour hiding in hole just to stay safe. Everybody knew he was a wimp. So what did they do? They promoted him.
We got back that night without any more problems, though I think some other units pushed through the city to pursue the guys – who were, of course, by this time long gone. We would have gotten them if they let us. But no…of course not. They’d send the other guys. Nevermind we had the most weapons of any unit in our battalion. I remember the day for once – November 10th, the Marine Corps birthday. We got into a bunch of firefights the next day, too, which sucked.
Here’s what really burns me about that firefight. We found out later that our sister unit were the ones that got called out before us, but their commander took his sweet time getting the unit ready to go. I have a hunch that he thought it was dangerous and dragged ass on purpose. So then they called us and WE get blown up. And then they got called out anyway as backup right after we left.
But you know what he did? He drove the guys about halfway there and just parked on the side of the road. One of my buddies in his truck said that when we got hit he could hear it clearly. They weren’t more than a couple clicks [kilometers] away. But he just sat there, hands folded in his lap, while he heard heavy machinegun fire, grenades, and RPGs. Then, when it all gets silent again, he gets on the radio and asks if we need any help. My friend watched him do it. He was a combat coward, and he ruined the reputation of his whole unit. Everybody hated him. He was the one that got promoted. I know at least one person that swung his helmet at him, but missed – barely. I wish he hadn’t.
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw
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