Saturday, November 25, 2006

Shrapnel and Stones

A new klaxon stared to blare last night, just as Oz, Brooks, and myself were walking over to the laundry point.

There are two types of alarms here on on-post, the first of course being the Alert Status Siren, which I've mentioned before. This indicates some kind of imminent security threat, and is the most commonly-heard alarm in theater. The second, much more rare, only sounds in the moments before an impending mortar strike. I don't think most of us have ever even heard this warning. Not surprisingly, we all froze. Brooks was the first to speak.

"The hell is that?"

The grating noise was harsh in the cold evening air. I found myself reaching for my rifle.

"Incoming rounds," I replied. "Find a bunker. Now." To which Oz replied:

"Where, dude? There's nothing--"

"INCOMING INCOMING INCOMING!"

The prerecorded voice cut him off. We all ducked, running like hell in the direction from whence we came. Three seconds later, a pop, flash, and metallic boom. The very ground shook beneath our boots. A mortar round, and close. I don't know where it hit, but by that time it didn't matter. Our only thought was to find cover. The night air became filled with the clamor of distant MP sirens. We all started shouting at once:

"Shit! Move! MOVE!"

"Go, go, go!"

"Freeman, this way! There's a hardened building!"

"Roger!"

I followed Brooks' voice toward a nearby battalion headquarters, bursting in through the door as Oz slammed it shut behind us. A crowd of young soldiers loitering near the CQ desk fell silent, and stared at us a moment before going back to their conversations. We grounded our weapons and laundry bags, squatting against the walls in the hallway, hearts still thumping in our chests.

Several moments passed. I was still high from the adrenaline rush. I couldn't bear the waiting, so I got up, and as I often do, starting pacing. Brooks complained, of course; said it made him nervous. Though I've already had a few missions under my belt, as well as a few bunker runs, it seemed to me that this was my first "real" taste of war. It was the first time that I was honestly afraid for any reason, and as strange as it may sound, I can't help but remember the high, the rush of those few brief seconds. I'm no cowboy, and I'm barely an escapee from the dubious title of "pogue," but still, this was the first real experience I've had that made me understand that yes, this is a combat zone, and people die here. The surreality of all of it goes beyond my abilities to describe.

More surreal yet, before we'd even heard the "All Clear", we got right up and walked out the door, laundry bags in hand.

Shrapnel and stones may break our bones, but jacked-up uniforms will smoke us.

2 Comments:

Blogger BionicBuddha said...

I really enjoyed your last post and felt very touched by your actions. I can't appreciate how difficult your job must be, and regardless of my personal opinion of the war, I wish that I could display as many admirable qualitities as you have.

1:21 AM  
Blogger Marty said...

..."I'm no cowboy, and I'm barely an escapee from the dubious title of "pogue," ....

LOL...POG...Persons Other than Grunts...

It doesn't matter what your MOS is, you are still on the front lines over there. The front lines are everywhere.

I'm glad you're safe.

6:42 PM  

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