Downtown Ramadi is the meanest piece of real estate in all Iraq, and you get a hint of that pretty quickly when you get here. I heard machine gun fire as soon as I opened the door of the Humvee I drove in that was part of the nighttime convoy from Camp Ramadi.
|A Humvee guards the alley. Photo by Michael Fumento|
Small arms fire here is so common that after awhile you stop hearing it, unless it's the crack of a sniper rifle from some Mooj trying to get lucky. During our in-briefing I also learned that an imbed journalist was shot twice, albeit both times in the legs and because he acted stupidly and left his protective cover to try to try to take a group photo. I might get shot, but not for some idiot reason like that.
I'll write more on the real estate here, called Camp Corregidor, but while it's fresh in my mind I'll describe today's activity.
|Taking enemy fire. SEALs assume fighting positions. I get the hell out of their line of fire. Photo by Michael Fumento|
I'm embedded with 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. Its official moniker and symbol remains the Screaming Eagle, but in a case of life imitating art they now call themselves "The Band of Brothers," after the book and highly-acclaimed HBO series of the same name. They aren't actually paratroopers anymore, but they're still a tough bunch.
Today's patrol would be with Charlie Company, out here less than four months but already badly bloodied. Out of 132 men who arrived in January, 32 or so had been injured enough to be sent back to the rear or had been killed. For this patrol, we were joined by another tough bunch, 19 Navy Seals. Those guys "do war" like a French chef does cooking, as I would soon see.
We started out in a convoy of Humvees and M-2 Bradley fighting vehicles but only traveled a short distance before we were invited to jump out and join the Iraqi Army patrols.
These weren't like near Fallujah, where they were split about 50/50 between "jundi" and Americans, but rather had two Americans attached to each patrol with the Iraqis in charge. This was the toughest bunch of jundi I'd been with, which turned out to be a happy thing.
The purpose of the mission was basically knocking on -- and if need be -- knocking down doors to look for Mooj or Mooj caches. But I think they're also meant to draw out the bad guys into fights and we were told we had a good chance of getting one. They say that it takes the Mooj about 45 minutes to arrange an attack, so we spent our 45 minutes entering houses and poking around.
I feel bad when we do this, but mostly the people seem to understand. Today one woman scolded me like an angry squirrel for violating her home so I just let her vent without telling her "Ma barif Aribi," or "I don't understand Arabic." Anyway, the kids loved us.
|A jundi with a PKC light machine gun. Photo by Michael Fumento|
Sure enough, right at the three-quarters of an hour mark, a white van with a .51 caliber machine gun engaged an Iraqi patrol. Those guns will put a whole through most any wall you might try to take cover behind, but the jundi were lucky. Or maybe not.
The Mooj never hit anything they aim at. At that very moment my camcorder ran out of tape because I'd forgotten to check how much was left and hadn't thought to bring a spare. Aaaaargh! Fortunately the Armed Forces photographer embedded with me advised me to just back up the tape some because whatever I would lose would surely be less important than what was to come.
We broke into a house to observe from the roof and provide covering fire for the Iraqis, then we went back down and all hell broke loose so we went storming back up. The enemy was using four vehicles, one for shooting and three VBIEDs -- vehicle-borne IEDs driven by Mooj wanting looking for their 72 virgins. The VBIEDs posed the greatest threat but our guys quickly dropped 40 millimeter propelled grenades on them.
A SEAL near me had an old M-79 grenade launcher that I think was phased out shortly after Vietnam in favor of the M-203, a tube slung below an M-16. I wondered why he'd chosen to carry it but quickly found out. He fired it like it was just another appendage, taking out a VBIED with a single round. The SEALs fought like machines. T-1 Terminators have nothing on them. In fairly short order, all four vehicles were destroyed.
|SEALs have already begund defensive fire, as can be seen from casings littering the roof. Within seconds of this photo they will take the fight to the enemy with deadly efficiency. Photo by Michael Fumento|
More bad guys were on the way and we called in air support, which arrived in the form of an old Army Huey and a newer Marine Cobra. But as they came in, all of us were extracted us. I was ticked. Why? Unfortunately, in all the excitement I kept using the camcorder and got terrific video but forgot to take still photos. But when I get back I'll try to make stills from my tape. Also, the Army combat photographer whom I bunked with says he can make some good stills from his video camera and will email me them.
Meanwhile I've got at least one more daylight raid before I have to leave on the tortuous route back to the States. Let's see if I can't get some good shots. View more images from this blog.