Sunday 8 August 2004

War is Hell

Here's a first-hand account that will tell you what lies behind the bald reports you see in the newspapers. It's by a US soldier in Mosul, who was recently caught in an ambush on Thursday, just a few days ago.

Some subtitles for those readers not au fait with military jargon:

AK, AK-47: The standard ex-Soviet pattern rifle, used by nearly everyone. Slightly underpowered, but very reliable, and insanely cheap.
RPG, RPG7: Rocket-Propelled Grenade : A "bazooka' like anti-tank weapon, often used against trucks and buildings (not just tanks). Again, an ex-Soviet design.
AT4 : What the US Army uses instead of RPGs. Better but much more expensive.
TOW : Tube-launched Optically-Tracked Weapon, a large anti-tank missile, fired from a vehicle. An RPG may make a small hole in a tank, a TOW can rip it apart.
240, M240 : A small machine gun, used for spraying areas. Fires bullets a *lot* more powerful than an AK-47. Bullets will penetrate a layer of bricks, sheet steel, and are similar to the old .303 and .300 rounds of WW2.
.50, 50cal : A large, usually vehicle-mounted machine gun. Bullets will easily penetrate multiple layers of bricks, and even light armoured vehicles.
Stryker: The newest US light armoured vehicle, 8-wheel, with a turret-mounted weapon. Often mistaken for a wheeled tank. Being tested in combat for the first time.
Beretta : A pistol, fires a weaker round than an AK-47, but quite enough to kill at short range.

T.C. : Turret Commander - the guy who shoots the weapons in the turret.
FOB : Forward Operating Base - essentially, "HQ"
Plt : Platoon - a unit of about 30 men, or 3-5 vehicles.
Sgt : Sergeant, hence Plt Sgt is a Platoon sergeant, the 2nd in command of the platoon.

First, here's what CNN had to say about the incident :
Mosul clashes leave 12 dead
Clashes between police and insurgents in the northern city of Mosul left 12 Iraqis dead and 26 wounded, hospital and police sources said Wednesday.
Rifle and rocket-propelled grenade fire as well as explosions were heard in the streets of the city.

Now the reality. Some extracts:
I was the T.C. for our vehicle, my job is to be behind the .50 cal, and operate the system, which allows me to fire it, which down in the hatch, it is this little black and white TV screen with red cross hairs in the middle of the screen. On the right of my seat I have a little joystick type thing, kinda like what fighter pilots have, that has a trigger on it which allows he to fire the 50 when I'm down in the hatch. This was only my second day as a T.C. Sitting right next to me out the hatch was my Plt Sgt.. Shortly as we were driving down the main street leaving our FOB, a man, dressed in all black, jumped out from the side corner of a building, pointed his AK47 right at me. Right at my fucking head and all I saw was the fire from his muzzle flash leaving the end of his barrel as he was shooting at me. I heard and felt the bullets whiz literally inches from my head, hitting all around my hatch and 50 cal mount making a "Ping" "Ping" "Ping" sound. I ducked the fucked down in the hatch. I yelled "We're taking fire! 3 O'clock!!! Turned the gun around towards where the guy was and fired a burst. I fired a burst right over our back air guard hatch where our First Sgt was sticking out of and shooting. He yelled "Tell him to stop fucking shooting over my head!!!" Shit. My bad. I looked over and my PLT Sgt who was sticking out the hatch next to me a couple seconds ago was now dropped down from the hatch and now on his back. He was yelling, "I'm Hit! I'm hit!" I looked at his helmet and a bullet went right through his helmet and exited through the other side. Holy shit! I didn't see any blood on him. He looked completely dazed though. He took his Helmet off and observed the holes in his helmet. No fucking shit, the bullet entered his helmet, and exited through the other side, missing his upper forehead by like 1-100th of an inch. A fuckin miricale. He was standing right next to me, that's how close the bullets were from hitting us. We continued driving. We had to drive to the Mosul Bridge that was right next to the Mosul hotel about a couple miles away. There was reports of a buncha people, wearing all black armed with AK's hanging out there. Our job was to locate and kill them. We were driving there on that main street, when all of the sudden all hell came down all around on us, all these guys wearing all black (Black pants, and a black t-shirts tucked in), a couple dozen on each side of the street, on rooftops, alleys, edge of buildings, out of windows, everywhere just came out of fucking nowhere and started firing RPG's and AK47's at us. I freaked the fuck out and ducked down in the hatch. I yelled "WE GOT FUCKIN HAJI'S ALL OVER THE FUCKIN PLACE!!! THERE ALL OVER GOD DAMNIT!!!" Bullets were pinging off our armor all over our vehicle, and you could hear multiple RPG's being fired and flying through the air and impacting all around us. All sorts of crazy insane Hollywood explosions bullshit going on all around us. I've never felt fear like this. I was like, this is it, I'm going to die. I cannot put into words how scared I was. The vehicle in front of us got hit 3 times by RPG's. I kind of lost it and I was yelling and screaming all sorts of things. (mostly cuss words) I fired the .50 cal over the place, shooting everything. My driver was helping me out and pointing out targets to me over the radio. He helped me a lot that day. They were all over shooting at us. My PLT was stuck right smack dab in the middle of the ambush and we were in the kill zone. We shot our way out of it and drove right through the ambush. The street we were driving down to escape, had 3 to 4 story high buildings all along each side, as we were driving away all you could see were 100's and 100's of bullets impacting all over these buildings.
There's a lot more. You see, he has to go back and do it all again...

All quotes from MY WAR : Fear and Loathing in Iraq

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