It is was January 2005, a week before election in Iraq, and we were on patrol in Baghdad. The streets were empty due to a curfew, which made it much easier for us to watch for the enemy when you don’t have hundreds of civilians crowding around you. We had heard gunfire a couple of blocks down, a distinctive AK-47 sound, and we (3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Bat, 162 Regiment) rolled balls to the wall in the direction of the gunfire that had now ceased. We had been chasing spooks all week, as the enemy were firing small arms at Iraqi Security Forces and running, and by the time we get there, though we might be only a few blocks away, we would miss them.
We rolled up to an intersection of two major roads. Iraqi National Guard were in the intersection. They had wounded and they were watching the shadows. I got out of the humvee and walked over to one of the guys at the intersection most in the line of fire and asked what was going on. I managed to get the idea that there was a sniper from the rooftop across the street as well as some small arms down the main road in the distance.
I directed my gunner to watch a primary and secondary field of fire, and I broke out the binos. But while I started to scan, it hit me… a HUGE tactical error was being perpetuated. Behind us, near the intersection, was a corner stand and above the doorway was a large fluorescent light. This light had the effect of turning on a lightbulb in a closet and it bathed the interesection in white light and created a wall of darkness across the street. I shouted to one of the guys in my truch that the light had to go, to get rid of it one way or another. Five seconds was spent looking for a switch before finally a large rock was thrown at it.
Now that the light had been extinquished I could now see better, and my truck’s gunner and myself were not silhouted and made easy targets.
And as usual, when the American Infantry showed up, the enemy wanted nothing to do with us, and they left the area. This is but one example of how our training is better, how our tactics are generally better, and we were ready to take the fight to the enemy. Make no mistake, had we been fired on this night we would have returned fire and assaulted the objective. The enemy talks a big talk about dying for Allah and martyrdom, but they are not really in much of a hurry to die.
I am still having trouble sleeping. I feel okay when I am out in the world, I am not scanning every person I see in a room, nor scanning rooftops as frequent as I was, yet when I lay down to go to sleep my mind thinks of security issues, throwing hypothetical situations like robbers and such around. I couldn’t sleep a couple of nights ago because I was going over different tactical ways to clear the room with nothing but a handgun if there were one, two, three, four or more people, different weapons used, and so on. This morning I vaguely remembered a dream that I had where a guy was holding someone hostage (I think it was Eliza) and he fired at me as I advanced. In the dream I paid no attention and fired at him, killing him.
These are odd. I feel good, I do not feel jumpy, I don’t feel anxious, but the theme persists.