POP. POP POP POP. BRRRRRRPPP. POP. POPPOPPOPPOPPOPPOP. BOOM!! BOOM!! POP POP POPPOPPOP. BRRRRRRRRRP. BRRRRRRPP.
Automatic gunfire pierces the spring morning, sending the birds of southern Kirkuk skyward with a start, and my crew to a bit higher alert level. My squad had just dropped some medics off at a training location so they could educate the Iraqi Army. It was mid morning, but the mercury was already becoming unkind. We were swigging water and having a smoke break before returning to the FOB.
That day, I was in the vehicle commander's seat, for my squad leader was home on leave.
"Whoa, that sounds close.", says 'Little Man', my 5'3" driver.
"That sounds like Aidalla Police station.", says Jones, my gunner.
"Yep, sounds like rifle, machinegun fire, and maybe RPG's," I said. "Sounds like a firefight."
"Yo, Renegade Three Bravo, this is Three Alfa.", sqwaks the platoon net.
"Three Bravo.", I reply.
"Three Bravo, since you are the only one who seems to be able to talk to company, call that up, will ya?? Over."
"Wilco." The sound of the firefight continued in the not so distant distance.
As I switched handmikes, another NCO from the platoon a SSG, who, in my honest opinion, is a coward, and never should have made it to the position in which he was occupying at the time, walked over to the open door of my HMMWV.
"Animal House, this is Renegade Three Bravo...", and I reported what we had heard.
"Renegade Three Bravo, this is Animal House, Uhh...Roger." 'Uhh' is one of the things I HATE to hear on the radio. It is one of my pet peeves. In a big way.
"Animal House, this is R3B...sounds like the IP at Aidalla are getting their asses shot up over there...what is your guidance, Over?"
"Dammit Bautista, don't ask that, they might want us to go over there. I ain't driving over there with people shooting. Anyways, we have to escort the BC (batallion commander) at 1000.", says SSG Coward. "It's not our job to handle that".
"The old man will wait for us," I say to him, "especially if we catch or kill some bad guys, and we have a bunch of medics with us, in case they need some medical attention.", and I told him that with as much disdain as my voice could carry, and my facial expression echoed the sentiment. If looks could kill, I tell you.
Meanwhile, the firefight continued, with intervals of light and heavy fire. Men were dying as I fingered the coils of the radio handmike. How time seems to drag in those situations.
Have you ever been in a position where you are waiting for a decision that is being made somewhere else from your present location, and it is serious, and still you wait...knowing what you should do, but are waiting to be told to do it??
"Renegade Three Bravo, this is Animal House...we are rolling QRF from the FOB, Over." My blood pressure instantly skyrocketed, for the FOB was 10 minutes drive time away, and that was pushing the HMWWV's to maximum speed. I was less than 3 KM from the shooting, straight down the road.
"Animal House, this is Renegade Three Bravo, it is gonna take too long for them to get there, I am 90 seconds away, Over"
"Uhhh......(whoever was manning the CP at the time actually un-keyed the radio and then re-keyed it in this space).........Roger, over."
As I waited, the A team leader and acting squad leader came to my truck. "What did they say?? I told him, as the gunfire tapered in the distance. At that time, SSG Coward joined us, and told us that we better get back to the FOB.
Unable to convince SSG Coward that we should go over and investigate, we loaded our HMMWV's and left to return to the FOB.
We passed the QRF heading towards the IP station only 1/4 mile from the gate.
Five Iraqi Policemen died that morning. Three others were seriously wounded. The terrorists got away. Somewhere, somehow, someone made a decision to let them die.
Later, reports stated that it was four terrorists in a sedan, with 2 AK47s, a PKC, and an RPG. I had 3 HMMWV's, 2 .50 cal heavy MG's, a M240B, and fifteen soldiers with which to greet the enemy.
I have never felt such frustration in my life. I felt so angry, because we could have done something. Killed a few bad guys. Bandaged up a few good guys. Who knows. Communications broke somewhere that day, and information never got to the decision makers.
That was one of the worst days of my time in Iraq...we were so close, yet were kept so far away...too short of a leash, I guess.