I’m as guilty as most folks in this business because I’ve dug through the Wikileaks archives. Being the overzealous dick I am, I’ve continuously gone through the archive, as I’m keen on understanding a conflict that I dedicated and sacrificed more than three years of my life to: the Iraq War.
In the archives, I found myself, in a sense, on a quest: a rather terrible mission in the greater sense of things. The few reports within the Wikileaks archive are short, abbreviated, and are missing all sense of human involvement. The archives contain simple reports that were passed from one higher headquarters to another—they lack more than a few detailed reports, and offer very little sense of the reality of the war.
I can’t help but to think of how many smug, self-entitled subject-matter experts have emerged after reading those single-side and often vague reports found within the Wikileaks archive. Yet, they know it all and are clearly legion within the conclave of typical pompous asses that are shoved down our throats via select media outlets, or as online crusaders, and even the loud-mouthed misinformed miscreants whom roam the street like hordes of zombies – seeking out brains as they lack their own to process independent opinions with.
Iraq, that place still irks me, as it’s all such a waste. It is a nation trapped in a constant state of turmoil via gun hand corruption and religious fervor -the results of what a faith-based government and poor education will do to a place. In retrospect, though, and quite honestly, I’d be much happier if we went in to do what all the whiny war protestors claimed that we were out to do – trade blood for oil.
Meh, call me whatever but resource based conflict is what war has always been. War takes many forms: in actual combat, commodities trading, daily transactions, subverting details, undermining co-workers, self-justified theft, bypassing laws thought unimportant, underpaying employees, passing up friends and family for monetary and/or personal gain, stealing media, misdirection in human interaction, and so on. Peacenik all you like, but we’re all guilty of taking what we want in one way or another – there is conflict, and there is your blood for oil in but another form. It’s just a damned shame that we have to sugar-coat reality; all thanks to a social system that buries its head in the sand in regards to the reality of humanity. We are all wretched and despicable beasts at the end of the day – it is just a matter of how one lies to their self to sleep at night.
On to the matter at hand, with organizations omitted and replaced with the word “Unit” – I present the first report, from the publicly referenceable Wikileaks archive:
(EXPLOSIVE HAZARD) IED EXPLOSION RPT (Improvised Explosive Device (IED)) Unit IVO (ROUTE 08): 1 CF WIA
WHAT: IED STRIKE
HOW: While conducting RTE Clearance operations on RTE 08 Unit (HUSKY) struck an IED at 38S NB 0773 9681. There were no casualties in this event. The IED was assessed to be a pressure plate HME–IED. Unit requested unit to escort the HUSKY back to Tahwilla Patrol Base. Once unit handed off recovery operations to Unit, they continued to clear South on RTE 08.
UPDATE: 050948APR09: unit reported a second IED strike at NB 0871 9599 on the third vehicle in the convoy, bumper number (CAIMAN). There were no casualties in the second IED strike. Unit returned to unit continued route clearance North on RTE 47.
UPDATE: 051021APR09: Third IED struck bumper number (ACE) Grid NB 0897 9634.
UPDATE: unit reported 1x casualty, the ACE driver (######).
UPDATE: The casualty was assessed as urgent surgical with shrapnel and trauma to his right leg.
UPDATE: 051035APR09: A 9-line MEDEVAC was submitted to the Normandy AIR MEDEVAC Base (Alamo Dust-off).
UPDATE: 051106APR09: Dust-off was wheels down on the LZ
UPDATE: 051109APR09: Wheels up from LZ. The casualty was taken to 10th CSH in Baghdad.
UPDATE: 051220APR09: 1x CFWIA arrives at Baghdad CSH in the International Zone, Baghdad.
1x CFWIA Urgent Surgical
1x ACE (destroyed)
1x Caimin (none)
1x Husky (none)
S2 ASSESSMENT: HME pressure plate IED‘s are a common TTP among insurgents in our AO. This IED is being assessed as a reseed due to its composition and the recent clearing operations along RTE08.
///CLOSED/// 05 2317C Apr 09
Strangely, the first thing that comes to mind is if someone is not or was not in the military – just how in the hell do they even know what 90% of that report means.
The day was creeping, and it had begun oddly enough. Our mission was a movement to contact as the ground element to support and clear in conjunction with an air assault operation to eradicate an insurgent bunker complex in Eastern, Iraq. For me, it was just another day – rolling around the desert looking for bombs and trouble. It’s 2009, and this was how the counter-insurgency in Iraq was going at the time. We had already killed all the brave and stupid insurgents. The living bad guys, at least those out East were not looking to get into a gunfight with us; they now planted bombs and then got the hell out of there. The insurgents had nowhere to hide or blend into out there, and if by chance they did fight – it was because they were out of options.
We went forth all the same, but the odd part of this operation was the massive convoy of armor behind my platoon: Abrahams Tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, more MRAP gun trucks that you can shake a stick at, an Iraqi Army element, some support folks, and steady Apache gunship coverage. Good god, it felt like 2003 as we invaded Iraq. Yet here we were, in what was once farmland – turned desert, thanks to some haphazard irrigation and migration concerns which are articles within themselves.
The first IED we encountered was a find. The Husky picked it up on a careful scan of one of the bad guys known favorite spots, a small mud-forged, man-made road and irrigation bridge in the midst of what was once farmland. The find was good. I hopped out of my MRAP gun truck with one of my team leaders in support with an AN/PSS 14 mine detector, which featured ground penetrating radar. He marked an outline of the best possibilities as to where the device was buried, and I went to work – stabbing as lightly as I could into the hard packed soil with an M9 bayonet in an attempt to outline and work my way inward towards the device.
This place didn’t allow for immediate mine probe use; the ground laughed at them, and you had to dig a bit to use one. As for the maneuver of mechanical clearance devices, this was frequently out of the question – lest you risk blowing the damned thing up or rolling it over. Robots can’t dig, and you can’t set off site-exploration charges on every suspected device – despite how much fun that may be. So, again and believe it or not I dug with what I could and based on estimates.
I knew what I would find, another 9-volt battery wired up to a pressure contact switch, which would be set to initiate a large jug of homemade explosives within a plastic jug. These things were always buried, and when the bad guys placed them they would cover up their digging by smoothing the area over with mud. In this landscape, there were no secondary indicators, no animals, no people, and no rock piles – just some hard learning in hard soil.
In this dig, I found what I was looking; my handy bayonet punctured the plastic HME container, missing the pressure plate by a few inches – we laughed. Meanwhile, Task Force command was hooting impatiently for me to hurry-up. Infantry and tankers can be so impatient, and it isn’t as if I’m EOD who screws everyone around for hours on end. I find it, document it, blow it up, and run a post-blast analysis. That’s it, in a one stop shop.
Even so, the howls of impatience traveled from the maneuver commander to EOD, who was chilling somewhere in that line of vehicles with their Iraqi counterparts. I’m not a fan of the over-dramatic characters which most typically fill the Army’s EOD ranks – at least those I had to deal with. On a side-note, Navy EOD was always no-shit and super-cool, I’d work with those folks any day of the week.
Anyway, it’s just explosives – as deadly as a bus in the street at home. Don’t play in traffic; it’s no different.
Army EOD was announced over my handheld by the maneuver commander, who now wanted me to standby as Army and Iraqi EOD made their way to me. My soldier and I were still laughing at our latest near-death escapade while at the normal far-flung front of all of it – well outside of security perimeters and other such crutches. Sitting in the dirt, we mocked at the radio and waited for them to eventually show up; so that Iraqi EOD could place a charge under Army EOD supervision. The stage was set for this operation to be a complete shit show.
We moved forward to the next similar bridge, and there we lost the Husky. That piece of equipment was done, and I was out a different Team Leader. He was fine; we get blown up all the time. Yet the vehicle was completely disabled. A security element and recovery team was pulled from the convoy to get him and the Husky to the closest patrol base – miles back. The rest of us moved on without out the detection vehicle.
My vehicle had mine rollers on the front, so we opted for a hit it to quit it principle via my truck. We were cooking for a few miles as well, no strikes- good for me and my soldiers manning the truck as I played stupid FIPR and radio updates from the front with a line of anxious folks. That would end soon enough.
My driver rounded a bend amidst the dirt farm roads; we were along a visible berm line, and the village that intersected with the bunker complex was just entering my visual line of sight – Bat Country. It welcomed us, and its own way.
The next IED strike missed the first two vehicles and hit the third in the convoy, an MRAP gun truck. Inside, a few headaches, but no real injuries. Again, the vehicle was totally disabled. The crew with the vehicle, a security element, and recovery team were sent away.
We were now starting to thin out, as we didn’t wait around for the break-off elements to sort themselves out – it was go time. As for the IED, these things are finicky – it wasn’t command detonation, it just required hitting the buried piece of crap in the right way.
It Gets Real – Fast
We kept the pace, and it swiftly happened again – another IED strike, this time on the ACE. This strike was to be the worse, so far. One of our own was down, but not out. We got him patched up as best as we could, Doc was on it, and we had a swift MEDEVAC response thanks to size and nature of the operation. The ACE with a security element and recovery team were again dispatched away.
Our big boss man, Six over the radio said, “We’re pushing through.” Good, because fuck anyone waiting on us ahead.
A reality, no report can offer. Video courtesy of Buck Clay.
Although, they were not waiting, and by the time we got finally got to the objective the air assault element, which cleared part of the complex had dipped out. They were on foot and chose not to venture further into the wilds. They had also expected us to be on their schedule, but we were held up.
The air assault elements’ fears were justified and made clear as I entered the objective. On point, my truck with the mine rollers made several passes through town and around the holes that led into the bunkers – attempting to clear as much ground as possible. Better the damned rollers or truck than anyone, but impatience sat back in with maneuver command. They wanted their action.
I got a call for all clear, but it wasn’t and I sent back that the houses and holes were not clear -only the ground where the roller tracks are, and at best. In reply was their movement onto the objective. It was now their tasks to clear the place, and my truck took security at village center to wait for them to move into place. They moved in with such ferocity that the operation was now determined to be over before it really got started.
Almost immediately at the first house, there was one friendly KIA to an IED at the front door. I placed a VS-17 panel to mark the helicopter landing zone for a second CASEVAC that day and popped a smoke grenade for its approach.
The fallen soldier was taken onto a Blackhawk, and maneuver command returned to base with the bulk of the element. Our few remaining trucks were then left to finish the damned thing with airstrikes.
Air Superiority – Not On a Cloudy Day
We pulled back and waited as Six got on the net to start calling it in. While we waited, the weather shifted from the burning overhead sun to the kind of murky storm that only exists in that part of Iraq. The sky was dark with storm clouds, by also a high-rise of dust which lingered heavily like humidity. It refused to rain; it was simply dark.
The airstrikes soon followed, and they smoked the bunker holes off-rip. Air was then directed onto the village, but the low visibility was slowing the program. A pair of F-16s went shot for shot, JDAM after JDAM to completely miss their targets within the village. For a while, we were calculating the cost of the bombs – $21,000 a bomb at that time. We were around one hundred thousand dollars when we got sidetracked on fuel and maintenance costs, and eventually, the pilots gave up.
The successful airstrikes on the bunkers. Video courtesy of Buck Clay.
We were next allotted a pair of Apaches, and it must’ve been pilot training day. We watched impatiently as the gunships continuously circled around the village and then took Grandpa on the golf course time to set-up for the primary target request. An orange tractor-trailer tanker – seems easy enough. That is until a Hellfire missile whizzes right over it and into sights unseen across the desert. The Apache that took the shot was also wicked close to the target tanker, within M4 range. If that tanker was loaded with something explosive and there was missile contact – the Apache would have been downed.
On the second shot, the Apache pilot nailed it, but the rocket ripped through the tanker without detonating. I can still hear the metal tearing, followed by the simultaneous creak of it tipping over as we all in chorus said, “Oh fuck.” The missile impacted into the berm line. The Apaches, uninterrupted, then turned and managed to blast the hell out of the remaining buildings with their guns.
After the Apaches had reported the target buildings destroyed. Six called off the air, and we went forward to sweep the area. All clear.
We then rallied around for a short moment after that; we were in a kind of a daze of the day for a moment, and we then returned to base. During our return, and over platoon net we took turns at shit-talking and trying to nail the Jay and Silent Bob song word-for-word, “Fuck, fuck, mother-mother-fuck.” All of this to reset and do similar things for the remainder of our time on that trip to Iraq.
The second report for these events via the Wikileaks archive, from the above listed:
(EXPLOSIVE HAZARD) IED EXPLOSION RPT (Improvised Explosive Device (IED)) Unit IVO (ROUTE 47): 1 CF KIA
2009-04-05 13:14:001/25 04:031
WHAT: Booby-Trapped House TIC
On 05 APR 09, Unit was conducting route clearance of RTE 47, to conduct TSE IVO a bunker that AWT and Pathfinders reported receiving SAF from the day prior. While conducting clearance/exploitation operations in the area to the north of the bunker, Unit reported a booby-trapped house had detonated at 38S NB 10085 97647 and declared a TIC at 1514. Unit, a Warrior A, was diverted to the TIC location. At 1516, the TF BTL CPT informed Unit that a TIC had been declared by Unit. Unit reported that a soldier detonated an HME IED that was wired to the doors frame (NFI at this time). At 1524, Unit reported 1 X CF (US) KIA, battle roster # #####. Unit determined that the compound, consisting of 6 buildings, at NB 10085 97647 was booby-trapped. Unit reported that the compound would not be able to be cleared because all of the structures were booby-trapped. At 1558, Unit reported that an LZ was set up at NB 1014 9750 and marked with VS-17 panels. At 1613, CAS checked on station with the TF JTAC. At 1644, the UH-60s reported wheels down at hasty LZ and wheels up at 1648. At 1701, the UH-60s landed at Warhorse due to weather and it was reported that the Unit Soldier would be ground evacuated to Balad. At 1710, Unit 6 confirmed all CF, IA, and civilians were at least 1000m away from the target area for CAS engagement. At 1727, CAS engaged the first section of the booby-trapped compound with 2 X GBU-38s and 1 X GBU-12 with successful results. At 1731, CAS engaged the second portion of the booby-trapped compound with 1 X GBU-38, and at 1732 with 1 X GBU-12. All CAS attacks were successful and effective. There was still a fuel tank in the compound that posed a threat, and at 1748 AWT engaged the fuel tank with 2 X Hellfire rockets. After the engagement was complete, at 1750 aerial BDA was conducted by the AWT. At 1911, with no further threat to CF, the TIC was closed. At 05 1955 APR 09, the TAC/B for Unit arrived at Balad with the 1 X CF KIA.
BDA: 6 X Booby-trapped Buildings destroyed
1 X Fuel tank destroyed
1 X CF KIA (BRN: ######)
EOD assessed the lethal booby-trapped house to be approximately 35 lbs. of HME.
PAO: No impact to the mission
SIGACT MEETS MNC-I CCIR #6
S2 ASSESSMENT: Booby trapping bunkers or caches is a common TTP for AQI/ISI. 2x IED making facilities were booby trapped as well as numerous bunkers in the South of the AO. Additionally, 1x building in Nafasha and 1x building in the Hussein Jabara was booby trapped to target dismounted patrols clearing the village. It is unclear at this time whether this location was a location of high value or a trap specifically to target dismounted patrols performing clearing operations. Further SSE is required to assess that. Expect additional IED’s to be discovered along RTE 47 as it has never been completely cleared and is the only RTE IVO the bunkers that CF was engaged from on 04 APR 09.
I’m fairly certain that they are calling us EOD in that report as I did not see any of them on the objective, and they most defiantly did not depart with us . . . We get no respect; I tell you.
In conclusion, does Wikileaks, or anyone have all the answers – no. Yet things go deeper and stranger than a simple report or even my own account.