Christopher Brooks

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Desert Combat Training

July 25, 2005

This is a post from an earlier blog I kept when I was in Iraq.

Mood: 🔫

I have some unfortunate news to tell you… On my way back home from a firing range set up in the middle of nowhere, my convoy was attacked. An IED was set off on the third vehicle in the convoy, it hit the right side. I was in the fifth vehicle when it struck- me along with 2 NCOs and the Convoy Commander. The driver was a female E-5 I sat behind her, the Commander sat shotgun, and an E-6 sat behind him.

The Commander’s job, along with his crew, is to plan the route, navigate it, and during an attack, direct traffic, and decide when and where to deploy his or her troops to set up an offensive. The air was very hot and dry when it happened, so hot that you can’t really smell anything you can only really smell the heat. My M-16 sat propped out the window my hands and arms were covered in sweat where they had been exposed to the sunlight. I was gazing out the window at a herd of camels I saw in the distance. BOOM! The earth-shattering explosion shook me out of my daydreaming and I focused attention ahead. The vehicle had been disabled.

Several other vehicles had stopped right behind it (which was not the right thing to do when something like this happens you are supposed to floor it and get the hell out of there).  All of a sudden I began to hear small arms fire, it sounded like a long-barreled weapon but nothing like an M-16. Had I been doing my job and had still been looking out of my window the insurgent wouldn’t have been able to get off as many rounds as he did. The driver of our Hum-V stopped beside the immobilized truck, I finally found the location of the enemy (who was on the left side, not the right) and engaged him along with the driver. I dunno if it was my shots or hers that took him down but he went down. The commander was now out of the vehicle along with the Staff Sergeant (E-6), he was hooking the broken down Hum-V up to another with chains so they can tow it (the rules are that you do not leave behind any vehicles and if you must, you blow it up with an incendiary grenade).

The aid and litter team picked up the casualties, as the commander called in a 9-Line MEDEVAC to air support. The gun truck arrived (late) and began shooting rounds at lord knows what. Everyone scrambled into their respective vehicles and we took off… About ¾ of a mile down the road, the disabled vehicle became unhitched and ran into a sand dune. We all hopped out like chickens with our heads cut off, trying unsuccessfully to get the thing hitched once again.  After a lot of effort and even more time, we were towing it once again, and by the time we got to the rendezvous point the black hawk had beat us there.

 “Horrible, absolutely horrible!” said Mr. Banks, an ex-Army Ranger who is now a civilian contractor who trains US soldiers. He wasn’t wrong at all. Throughout the whole training exercise, we made mistake after mistake. Had it been real we would have died for sure. He made us run through it over and over again in the blazing heat until we got it right. Which really we didn’t, we just ran out of time.

After that, we spent the night in the middle of the desert in tents, and I must say it is a very spooky sight. At night you can look around you in all directions and all you see is sand… But to be honest with you it’s like that in the daytime.

The next day we went to the firing range and shot at some targets. We were told to forget some of the stuff we learned about marksmanship because this war is fought in close quarters. You don’t have much time to shoot your target so you can’t take all day to aim and fire. We ran back and forth, up and down the range and shot. We learned how to turn around really fast and shoot, shoot while walking whether the targets to your front right or left, we also learned how to be accurate while doing this. We had to hit the chest area of the target 60% of the time which was about the size of an average sheet of paper. We went through an endless supply of bullets.

I somehow excelled at this, much like I excelled before I was deployed when I shot expert at the range. One of the majors, who for some reason or another took a liking to me, let me fire his 9mm pistol. He, along with an ex-marine who’s also a civilian contractor, taught me how to shoot it. They made me do all the things I mentioned above only with the 9-mil. At first, I did horrible but once they showed me some tips and tricks I was bad with it. The ex-marine said, “Son you shot very well, I know a lot of officers who don’t shoot that well and have fired with the same weapon for years. You shot well enough to be a marine.” I chucked and told him I shoot well enough to live in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area. The Major was excited also by my shooting and bragged on me to a couple of other officers who happened to be there (They were all in different units). “My soldiers are proficient in a number of weapons systems” …I dunno about all that, but I do know Imma get me one of these when I get back home!

Later on that evening I did a little bit of wildlife spotting. But first let me tell you why.  Since I have been here I noticed that I don’t hear crickets, birds, frogs, or anything at night. And during the day I don’t have to fight off bugs like I usually do back at home. At first, I figured it was because maybe it was too damn hot for anything sane to be trying to live out here, but then I came to my senses and realized it’s probably because there are few of them and I’m not taking the time to notice. 

When we got back to our little tents a stray dog ran right between the 6 tents. It scared the crap out of me… Who expects a dog to just run by in the middle of the desert??? I also noticed small birds; however, they don’t sing or chirp. They bounce around pecking at each other and the sand. Then I saw a huge yellow lizard laying in the shade of a desert bush. You could barely notice him because he was the same color as the sand, but I left homeboy alone–he was too big and I ain’t Steve Irwin.

Late in the evening, it cooled off and we played cards up until about 11. I had to pull guard duty from 1-3. It was ok, kind of scary. I passed the time by eating an MRE. After that, we came back here to Camp Buehring. We are supposed to convoy back to camp Doha tomorrow and then catch a plane from there into Iraq. I am kinda bummed out though. I met this pretty girl here, her name is REDACTED, and we stayed up talking Thursday night. We ate dinner, chatted and played cards, watched TV then watched the sun come up and after that we had breakfast. She went into her tent and passed out after that. 

Friday afternoon is when I left to go to the range and she must’ve left that day. She left me her e-mail address under a sandbag, but I know I’ll never see her again. You guys should pray for her though, she has the same job as me, but she’s attached to an EOD company, which means she travels with the people who go around blowing up the bombs that insurgents lay on the side of the road to get us. The insurgents know them well and try to attack them as much as possible because of their efficiency.

I am also mad about my sleeping patterns. When it is about 1 o’clock I pass out until the sun goes down, then I stay up all night. It works to my benefit now but sooner or later I’m going to have to stay up past 1… Then what??? Well anyways I’m going to go to bed, I have an early formation at 7:30, and it is now 5. I’m going to try to get 2.5 hours of rest.

Chris Brooks

A hands-on project manager with eight years of experience planning and effecting change for medium and large organizations across the SaaS and multiple industries.

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