There is a certain location in Iraq that many in the SOF community know. This particular place has a pool in every backyard and marble floors. The three story complex that housed up to 50 Rangers also had other amenities, such as a sand volleyball court, horseshoes, diving board, and yes, a zip-line that went from the top of the third story into the pool.
Let’s just say someone came for a visit and didn’t appreciate the risk factor due to the 15 feet of tile between the house and pool. They shut that ruckus down.
That was a summer and a locale that would almost make you forget that you were in Iraq. We would run missions all night and be “home” by morning. The mornings usually consisted of a group of us going down the street to get some breakfast, well actually dinner.
After a nice big plate of brenner (breakfast for dinner) consisting of runny eggs and grits, we would cruise on over to the Baskin Robbins freezer for ice cream. Lying by the pool and eating a root-beer float after breakfast was an event that, for some, became a daily ritual.
Sometime during the morning the men would break off and go workout, lift in the gym, run, or roll in the backyard (combatives). Some would hit their rack and prepare for the next day, others would stay up to enjoy the scorching hot mornings. I could fall asleep by the pool in the 115 degree heat then awake in a daze, staring at the palm trees, the mighty Tigris a stone’s throw away.
One game that was played was catch the turtle. It is unbelievable how fast a turtle can swim in a pool. The guys and I gave it a shot; we would spend hours trying to catch the Caspian Turtle with a scroll and tab painted on its shell.
Volleyball was a regular morning event. We would get into bloodthirsty games rocking Ranger panties as the Apaches flew overhead on their daily route clearance, as 80’s music blasted from the balcony speakers. As one would expect, Top Gun cliches were the norm by the end of the summer.
The compound was large enough to enable us to run a mile long loop that wrapped around next to the river. On a normally hot morning there was a firefight at the northern gate of the Green Zone. At the moment of the firefight one of the assault team leaders was on a run, when he was suddenly struck by an Ak-47, 7.62 round. It had flown nearly 3/4 of a mile, ricocheted off the ground and key-holed him in the leg. Thankfully the round had lost enough velocity that it did not penetrate the skin, but did leave a hell of a welt on his upper thigh.
The games that we played and the time spent by the pool allowed the men to wind down after night long missions of offset in-fils and walking countless kilometers across Iraqi farm fields. That was a deployment that I heard many of men say they would have enjoyed if it were extended.
Overall that was a very entertaining and productive summer that will stay ingrained in my memory for the foreseeable future, remaining the most surreal of all my six deployments. We would religiously watch Eric Pyrdz’s ‘Call On Me’ music video prior to loading the birds or Strykers, the task-force eliminated the long standing target Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and I also got the fortune to shake hands with old “W” on his first surprise visit to Iraq.
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