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OBJ Lynx, Haditha Dam, (Day 02), 01 Apr 2003
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will SOAR on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will run and not be faint.” IS 40:31
This is the scripture that Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CWO4) Gregory “Gravy” Coker had written in his journal for this day after some two hours of sleep. He has always felt this was written for all Night Stalkers.
On this day the organizational strength of American combat forces at the dam was as follows:
* Company B of the 3rd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment
* Delta Reconnaissance/Sniper Team of C Squadron of the Delta Force
* TF-160 SOAR — Night Stalkers — 2 x AH-6 Attack Helo, 1 x MH-6 Scout Helo with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera.
Attack helo Team Gravy had a bit of “care-worn” hardware after the first day’s fighting at the Haditha Dam; they sent back to the rear for replacement rotor blade sets to cover for those that were riddle with 7.62 x 39mm Auvtomat Kalishnikova assault rifle bullets. The holes were expected. They were detected at the Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) by listening for tell-tale whistling noises coming from the rotors at idle speed.
The immediate remedy was to pull out the field-expedient, general-purpose repair kit panacea that all (serious) soldiers carried out in the field:
* Duct Tape, 100 Miles Per Hour, Roll, one each, Olive Drab in color
* Parachute Suspension Line, 550-lbs Tinsel Test, Tangled Wad, one each, Olive Drab in color
Chief held up the wad of 550 cord to his copilot, Pete. Pete shook his head with a brow furl.
Chief then held up the roll of 100 mile-an-hour tape. Pete nodded with a savvy grin — they had a winner. Chief spun a couple of wraps of duct tape over the holes and jumped down. He was satisfied that they were ready to turn the screws again and “go bowling” for Iraqi Republican Guard and Fedayeen just as soon as those decided to again get pissy.
Chief had earlier taken advantage of a sudden boom in bandwidth to place an order on Amazon.com for another attack helo. In that he had updated his account to Amazon Prime, the helo was out priority mail, and was scheduled to arrive by C-17 transport in the next few hours. Chief Coker wanted to spend those waiting hours bashing Iraqi heads in with a lead pipe on foot, but his copilot, Pete, convinced him to roll under his helo to cut Zs and off-gas some adrenal excretion.
Greg cast one last hateful glance toward the general direction of objective Lynx — Haditha Dam. Satisfied that he had expressed all the disdain that he could for the enemy at the moment, he rolled up in his poncho liner — the garment that misdirected Millenials today call a “woobie“, and fell asleep with visions of retreating Fedayeen dancing in his head. Pete fell asleep with a bent-in-half preflight checklist over his face.
They were all the way back at the infiltration airfield, objective Serpent, for this short stand-down awaiting the delivery of the replacement AH-6 to arrive by C-17. The enlisted men had turned the hovel into the usual accommodations; that is, a maintenance area, a sleeping area, and a Tactical Operations Center (TOC).
While Greg and Pete inspected the sleeping area for form and function, Greg’s MH-6 Scout Bird pilot Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Tony Ely decided to scout (no pun) around the pump station just to treat his curiosity. Most of the wood in the structures had been long since been stripped away by leaching Bedouins. What was left of the premises looked essentially like an old west backdrop out of a Clint Eastwood movie. Chiefs Greg and Tony took a few frames in front of an old photo of Saddam… and then blew it up with some TNT as a gesture to Allah and country.
With the sun down the flying conditions that the night offered were appalling; strong wind and near-zero illumination grounded most aircraft, but were Chief Coker’s job easy then monkeys could do it, and if monkeys could do it then EVERYBODY could do it. So Team Gravy spun rotors and lifted off yet again into the ink. Chief Tony’s FLIR headed east to find a fight… or start one — that’s just how Team Gravy rolled.
Chief was still incensed that an intermediary FARP could not be placed closer to the dam. As it was, he had to fly all the way to Serpent to rearm and refuel. That forced a 34-minute turn-around time on him — not acceptable when considering the beleaguered Rangers on the dam — oh hell no!
Just around mid-transit, some disrespectful local boys started firing at the noise of Team Gravy with an S-60 Anti-Aircraft Artillery(AAA) piece. Team Gravy could hear the report and see the flashes… they just didn’t have time to loop it and inflict a Hydra enema on the miscreants.
“We’ll smoke their bags on the flip side!” Pete (probably) consoled the pouty-faced Chief Coker, “we can’t kill the whole world in just one sortie!”
Greg radioed his Ranger fire control liaison — Mo — to report that he was fully loaded and three minutes from Objective Lynx. Mo reported that mostly calm prevailed on the dam for the day. Yet it was expected that a night assault from the enemy was close at hand. Tony broke formation and swept up behind the gunships for security in his MH-6 with FLIR. Not having to watch one’s back was a blessing for task-saturated AH pilots during gun runs; what’s more, in the event of a shoot down the MH could recover the stricken crew.
Just as Team Gravy crested the dam the scene went hot with gunfire and mortars started landing again on the dam — Team Gravy was on the clock! Greg’s goons rocked the valley south of the dam with fire missions which led to the annihilation of two Iraqi mortar installations. They then broke station and headed back to FARP at 10 percent ammunition remaining; it was bad practice to try and fly a 17-minute transit completely Winchester in case they ran into trouble on the way back — like that S-60 AAA that Greg hated so much!
Back at the FARP, the load dawgs turned Greg’s team around in just 3:46 m/s. They loaded a full contingent of the “house” ammunition for the cockpit — M4 Carbine magazines and fragmentation grenades to drop on those bastards’ heads! Saint Peter himself took time off his post at the Pearlies to deliver the drivers each a hot cup of Saint Joseph.
The FARP was alarmed as three mortar rounds fell very close by. Chief watched in horror as a thing that looked like a telephone pole impacted to the NW rocking the FARP’s back teeth. A SCUD! Wasn’t that just dandy?! Team Gravy lifted the fuck away from Dodge as a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) sped on in Hummers to find and kill the crew who were trying to mortar their FARP.
TF-160 Night Stalker load dawgs were going to demonstrate to the Iraqis that you could hump a mortar battery all the way to one of their FARPs, but you would just die tired!
Chief Tony’s scout bird peeled off to do a quick hunt for the mortar crews with the understanding that he would link up again with the gunships at the dam ASAP. Meanwhile, visibility was dropping off from 300 meters to as little as 100 meters at times. The S-60 once again opened fire on them midway into their transit to the dam. Chief craned his neck hard out and down from his pilot’s seat straining to fix the gun position.
“Keep your eyes on the road, Greg!” Pete (likely) shouted from the copilot’s seat.
Reporting back to Mo at the dam, Greg’s team went to work responding to fire missions hunting and killing enemy after enemy, all the while dodging the spiderweb of power lines that crisscrossed the dam. Tony called in from his scout bird that he had spotted two armed combatants in a boat on the lake to the north trying to sneak their way to the dam. Tony shot both men right out of the boat with his M4 Carbine and the “house” ammunition.
Armed RECCE best described how Team Gravy kept themselves engaged when not responding to a specific fire mission. It served exquisitely to keep the hun off of the backs of the Rangers on the dam. There somehow lingered a measure of calm in the storm of things, which lent an opportunity to switch frequency bands and listen in on the progress of the daring raid to rescue Army Private Jessica Lynch from where she was held prisoner.
The helos made three trips from the Serpent to the Lynx that night keeping an airborne vigil of eyes in the sky for the besieged Rangers on the dam, now 50 hours into their proposed 25-hour mission — with no relief in sight.
Back at Serpent, the helo zoomies rolled in under their choppers in their poncho liners — not woobies! — and tried to entice essential rapid eye movements while the sun made a weak gesture of rising.
The thought crossed Greg Coker’s mind as the semblance of dancing Fedayeen hinted at taking over his faculties, had these local maniacs still not come to the understanding that the U.S. was at Objective Lynx to protect the asset rather than destroy it? Well, you can show your watch to a pig, he reckoned, but that doesn’t mean it knows what time it is… and the Fedayeen fighters danced on in his dreams.
And the good Chief Coker had just drifted off long enough to point and laugh at the silly Fedayeen when one of them stopped his Cotton-Eyed Joe jig and tapped Chief on the head in such an animated manner that woke him up. In fact, an amped-up load dawg had awakened him with the startling news that a large force of about 200 fighters was heading their way.
Greg grabbed his rifle and NODs and the two scrambled off to the security position. Rather than entertain his grump from having just being awakened, Greg marveled at his men who not only performed their FARP duties superbly but maintained a secure perimeter for the flight crews to sleep in.
The guard marked the position, where he had last seen the advancing enemy force, with the PEQ LASER on his rifle. Greg strained his vision in the ink of the night at the large mass moving toward them. He realized that the guards might be a little tacked out from their very presence in Indian country so he looked again to just make certain what lay ahead…
“Yep, by golly your estimate is right on the money — 200 hundred of them at least!” Chief relayed in a calm voice to the four other men that lay there with him staring out into the ebony scape. “Unless they are dressed up in goat costumes the ‘enemy’ does not have a chance!” There to their front were, in fact, five herders and a couple of hundred goats headed their way.
The whole affair put Chief Greg “Gravy” Coker squarely in mind of Wile E. Coyote and his doggie Sam, as they rolled on their backs and howled at the moon with laughter — like coyotes. Such was another day in the office for the six-gunners of the Night Stalkers.
Stay tuned for the next part.
By Almighty God, with honor, and on behalf of CWO Gregory “Gravy” Coker,
Interested in flying with Greg and other Spec Ops veterans? Join them for their annual helo hog hunt.
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