Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Taji, Part I

I was finally situated in SFC Jameson's Humvee, when he informed Meiers and I that he wanted us "full-auto."

I heard Meiers sigh. We looked over at each other. She knew what this meant as well as I did. Gunners.

Problem is, Meiers only carry M-16s. This meant we would have to wrestle our way back out of the Humvee and try to track down someone to trade with us. Far be it from us, however, to gripe openly at the orders of our platoon sergeant. So straining a bit under the cramping and weight of our gear, we climbed out and rushed quickly back inside.

We were down in Taji, north of Baghdad, working with the Iraqi army. We'd already been there for about three days, and with plans to convoy back to Balad set for that evening, the sudden rise of an emergency out at the job site made my peers and I more than a little irritable. If I had just stepped out back for a smoke, I found myself thinking, I'd still be chilling on my cot. Then again, such is life. I was happy to be making myself useful for a change, so I moved with at least a semblance of purpose when I burst back into the warehouse where we'd been quartered. I scanned the rows of cots.

Meiers was already switching out with Grabach; that ruled him out. The place was nearly empty, and for a moment I despaired. Then my eyes fell upon my squadmate, Pfc. Stein. He looked to be playing Spades with Ahote and Colton.

"Stein!" His head, hook-nosed and a bit too large for his body, wobbled up on his skinny neck. He finally saw me, and I beckoned him over, shifting under my vest as I waited. His voice, rendered soft by shyness, was slurred worse by his usual Kentucky drawl.

"Yea, wassup?"

I pointed to his weapon. "Gimme your SAW." In addition to describing in slang a proficiency in dispensing high volumes of lead, "SAW" is also the official designation for the Army's M249 light machine gun, or Squad Automatic Weapon. Stein complied, and I handed over my M-16. He looked at me, puzzled, as I ducked my head through the sling.

"Whas' goinown?"

I shook my head. "Some bullshit down at the river. I'm starting to feel like Sar'n Jameson's bitch." I opened the feed tray, peering inside. Stein's weapon is always spotless. I can't understand how he does it. I looked back up.

"Got a drum for this thing?"

He nodded. "Yea."

"Alright, hook me up." We moved over to Stein's cot, where he produced a 200-round drum of ammunition. Ideally, I'd have asked for another, but I had no space for it among my gear, and besides, in a pinch the M-249 will take a 30-round mag. Double feeds are more likely, but hey. I took a second to heft the thing in an exploratory fashion--Christ, these things are heavy--before going to affix it to the weapon. I struggled for a second, before Stein interrupted me.

"Got it in backwards."

"Shit, my bad." I corrected myself, making sure my links faced up, rather than down and into the bolt. "Red's safety, right?"


"Good." I hefted the thing over my shoulder. Even now, I don't envy Stein the weight of that thing. I made sure the drum was secure one more time, and then got up to leave. "'Ey," Stein asked me:

"Yewever fahred a SAW?"

I shook my head as I adjusted my shooters' gloves. I turned to go.

"Not since Basic."


Blogger iamcoyote said...

Shit, Milo. Just shit.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Marty said...

That was exactly what I was going to say. Shit. Keep your guard up Milo.

My son was in Taji from Dec05 to Nov06.

I've got a lot of people down here in Texas praying for you and Anne.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck Milo. Hope you all get back safe.

12:34 AM  

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