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In and Out of the Mulaab

By Michael Fumento

Well, my big exciting mission just kept getting shorter and less purposeful all the way up until it began. Originally it was supposed to be two days with Charlie Company going from OP to OP within the Mulaab. Ultimately it turned out to be a mounted excursion to a single spot in the Mulaab to guard a psyops truck with a loudspeaker attempting to recruit for the Iraq Army.

Photo by Michael Fumento
Charlie Company mural
Yes, we took fire. You almost always get hit when you go outside the wire here during the day (I'm three for three) and it's almost always 45 minutes on-the-dot after you take up positions. But this comprised nothing more than two guys popping out with AKs and shooting wildly at our Humvee, while the Humvee returned fire with 30 rounds of .50 caliber. Not exactly a fair fight and the bad guys knew it.

Of course, major firefights often begin just this way and Charlie Co. Cpt. Nathan Guthrie, whom I sat behind, checked to see if we had CAS (close air support) available if needed. But it wasn't. Since our job wasn't to engage the enemy but to recruit, we left pretty quickly after that. Certainly nothing to write home about -- although that's exactly what I'm doing.

I assume that in the hands of an MSM reporter this account would have been much more exciting. We would have been attacked by a dozen or so men, a few would be shouldering rocket-propelled-grenades, and the ensuing firefight would be "proof again that Ramadi is far from a pacified city" -- as if anybody had ever claimed otherwise.

Photo by Michael Fumento
Military shotgun, with a soldier who means business
Still, I did get some good insights on the way to taking up our position and while we were sitting there. Guthrie wasn't exactly the shy, retiring type. He barked orders and opinions on about an equal basis and did so often. Before we left he told the man in the turret behind the .50 caliber Browning, "When we're going down Easy Street if you see that sniper you smoke his fucking ass! I'm not dealing with his ass anymore." Nor the rest of him, I presumed.

I was confused. If you know where a sniper is, you always "smoke his ass." Guthrie explained that, "It's like the D.C. area snipers," meaning Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad. Snipers in the area like Malvo and Mohammed were cutting holes in the trunks of cars and shooting out of them. Guthrie was saying that if we saw a car with a hole in the back, we were going to fire it up.

Guthrie also offered, "This place has gotten a lot better but it's still a shit hole." (Hmm... Is that one word or two?)

Guthrie kept uttering things that anywhere else would have made him a certified paranoid, but not here. We saw two men on a moped carrying a shovel. There are many uses for a shovel around here. From the awful smell of the place we'd just driven through, I'd say tossing the excrement off your front lawn would be one of them. But my first thought was they were off to bury IEDs. Sure enough, Guthrie commented, "They probably going to bury IEDs."

We also saw an empty dump truck twice. If it's not hauling something, it's suspect. If it has special windows over the regular ones, it's an S-VBIED: a suicide vehicle-borne IED . "If that dump truck turns down this way and has welded plates on the window, you shoot that motherfucker you hear me!" Guthrie barked to his gunner. But no motherfuckers died that day; at least not there.

It appears my next trip outside the wire will be same thing. This isn't looking good for combat or combat photos.

You can't really shoot pictures from inside a Humvee and anyway the Mooj don't usually mount a concerted attack unless you're on foot. I was told the violence would probably really ramp up for Ramadan, but if we don't do foot patrols I won't see real combat.

Unfortunately, people are still getting hurt around here. An unconfirmed but probably correct report is that last night a soldier from 1/506th saw an opening in some concertina wire so he got out of his Humvee to fix it. It was a trap. He detonated an IED and may lose his foot.

Photo by Michael Fumento
Sunrise over Corregidor
Well, I've just decided. I'm going to try to spend the time I have left with another unit.

I knew 1/506th would be winding down soon for redeployment back to the States but I didn't know it would be this soon. Perhaps I can find a Marine unit or one of the many First Armored Division units to link up with.

Unfortunately, it's not entirely my decision and does involve some hassle but that's going to be my only chance to see a fight or two before I redeploy back to the States myself. It was certainly great to revisit this place and I talked with a bunch of great guys from A Company whom I saw combat near OP Hotel.

It was good to go over old times. But I need to try to make some new times.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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October 9, 2006 12:18 PM  ·  Iraq