General Mattis was on Blue Diamond as well and used to go to many of the same meetings that we did. Surprisingly, he often showed up late, sweaty, and dusty and I always wondered why until I talked to his PSD crew. He would roll around Al Anbar Province in half a dozen or so LAV 25s (Light Armored Vehicles). The 25 stood for the 25 mm cannon in the turret. Those guys were always getting into some shit. This is just what I heard from talking to the guys on his detail, so I don’t know if it’s true or not, but they had no reason to bullshit me. Apparently the General’s standing rules of engagement were, if they took fire, to stop whatever it was that they were doing, locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver. No matter what. They always had Cobra Gunships and F-18s on call as well, so his crew rolled heavy. They would take fire and just decimate whoever it was that was fucking with them before moving on, which, in turn, made General Mattis late for many of his meetings. One of the Marine armorers told me that every time he would roll out, the General would check out his own M-249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon - light machine gun) and an M-16 as well as a full complement of ammo, and would always turn the weapons in filthy and with all the ammo used up. Apparently he didn’t leave the shooting to the enlisted guys. Again, that’s just what I heard, but it was word-of-mouth.
Ramadi was the backdrop to Fallujah. Zarqawi, the boss of the baddies in Iraq, ran operations out of Ramadi. One day when we were on a route recon I remember seeing a redheaded guy with a beard looking incredulously at us as we brazenly drove through his turf deep into bad guy territory. There were parts of town that the Marines and others just didn’t roll through, so we liked to pop in and say hi sometimes. At first they didn’t notice us, but then they’d do a double take and haul ass back to get their guns and RPGs out, but it was too late, they only ever got afew shots off at us and we made sure they hurt worse than we did by the end of it. I later remember reading a book on Zarqawi and seeing that same red headed guy in the book. It was one of Zarqawi’s lieutenants. I wish I’d known it then because there was a nice bounty on his head at the time.
There was a lot of sniper activity in Ramadi. Some of their best snipers were working in that area so we had our own. We had a shitload. But Pappy was a retired Marine Master Sergeant and Scout Sniper instructor extraordinaire. One of the most knowledgeable snipers out of the Marine Corps (read: in the world) at the time, and he was on our team. The bad guys had a habit of launching indirect fire attacks on the base during lunchtime hoping to get a lucky hit on the chow hall or hit people on their way there. It was like running the gauntlet some days just to get lunch. One day I was walking to lunch and a mortar round blew up in the air almost directly over my head but just off to my right. Fortunately for me, there was a large concrete barrier about 15-20 feet tall just to my right and it blew up afew feet on the other side of that. Unfortunately, it killed a Marine out on his smoke break, not 5 feet from me on the other side of the wall. I felt bad that I was so lucky, but fucking elated that I was still alive. It was weird hearing indirect fire come in. It’s a totally helpless feeling, and as soon as you hear the explosion, you’re relieved as fuck because it wasn’t you and yet you feel guilty at the same time for being such a selfish bastard. Sounds fucked up. But that’s the first thing that went through my mind every time I heard an explosion: “Thank God I’m not hit.” It was almost a relief to hear it because you knew that one had missed you… unfortunately it didn’t do shit for all the other ones hanging in the air right about that time.
At first, the bad guys were using a lot of RPGs as indirect fire weapons against the base. An RPG will self-detonate 900 meters from launch, so they built contraptions that could launch four RPGs, simultaneously, set to washing machine timers and stashed them within range of the base perimeter, set the timers, and viola! 30 minutes later, once they were well away from the launch sites, the RPGs would come blasting in and blow up over our heads or smack into something and blow up. Eventually the Marines started patrolling the area and found afew of their launchers, so they switched to mortars.
The mortars were more dangerous because they could sit 2-3 km away in a built-up area (where our counter battery artillery couldn’t return fire due to collateral damage), and drop them in on top of us. We really had no way of getting back at them until Pappy set up a Night Force scope on an M2 .50 Cal machine gun in one of the guard towers which allowed us to lob rounds out into the areas where they were launching from. It was always back and forth. We would counter their moves and they would counter ours. But really, all that shit was more of a deadly inconvenience than anything else. Just one more way you could die there. Downtown is where all the magic happened. I wrote this awhile back. It’s in my first book: The Perfect Fucking Life. You’ll get the idea…
What War Feels Like
My mouth is so dry. I can feel my heart beating, especially in my ears against the sweaty radio earpiece that I keep checking to make sure it’s in tight, but the sweat won’t let it be. I take a quick look around, then take my left glove off and roll a foamy piece of ear protection as tight as I can so it will fill up the ear canal and occlude as much sound as possible. The sweat and dirt on my fingers make it slippery as I roll it. I put it in my right ear and hold it there as it expands and makes the world sound dull and flat. Now I can’t hear as well but once the shooting starts I won’t hear anything at all if I don’t put it in. It’s a tradeoff. I put my glove back on then swear to myself and take it back off. I forgot I was going to put a dip in. The tobacco tastes cold and sweet between my gum and lip.
It’s so hot you can smell it. Something is about to go down, everyone can feel it. The shops started to close a few minutes ago, the proprietors pulling down the garage doors that open to the dirty street. My back hurts from leaning back to counter the heavy ammo and grenades on the front of my ballistic plate carrier. I have 12 magazines on me and one in the gun totaling 390 rounds, and several types of grenades.
I’m aware that I am scared and it pisses me off. I’m not scared of dying. I’m not scared of pain. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that nothing will happen to me and I’m terrified of the shock and feeling of incredulity I will feel when it does. And I’m mad that I believe so strongly that nothing will kill me. It makes me feel like I’m not ready for something very big that I have to be ready for. It is insanely irritating. I feel daft. I keep trying to picture myself dead, or imagine the feeling of the explosion or bullet, so I’ll be ready, but I can’t. I’m not ready for death and it is infuriating.
I block it all out. But I’m still livid. I decide to take it for granted that I’m invincible. It’s the best I can do. The Marine Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) guys are out on route Michigan getting ready to blow a mortar round that failed to detonate upon impact of the street to my front. I’m in a reviewing stand about 10 feet off the ground and 10 feet from the road. 10 foot concrete Jersey barriers line the street in front of the Government Center compound where we are and continue around its border. Sandbags are stacked two wide and about 3 feet high around the circumference of the 20 X 10 foot reviewing stand floor. It has a tin roof and tin walls on three sides.
The Detail Leader, a former Delta Force guy named Pigpen, is sitting down in a folding metal chair with the PRC-119F radio handset jammed against his ear. “They’re going to blow it in 30 seconds.” Pigpen says. I take a hard look around before I get down behind the sandbags on a knee.
“CRACK” The explosion is right next to us on the other side of the Jersey Barriers. “Damn bro, that was a lot closer than I thought it was going to be.” Pigpen laughs. The explosion has a catalytic effect on the tension that has been mounting and now it breaks like a dam. We’ve all been waiting. Thank God, here we go.
Instantly rounds start snapping through the air by us. Sounds like maybe a PKM and some AK fire. The Marine Up-gunner’s .50 cal is already answering. Pigpen aims across my front and takes three shots. I see nothing to my front and down the alleyway that I’m covering.
Suddenly it’s dead quiet. “Got that motherfucker.” Pigpen says smiling. “He was in that one little window we were looking at yesterday.” I smile not taking my eyes off of my sector of fire. I know it’s going to kick off again in a second. I feel a lot better now.
NOTE: Finally Somehow Home is a separate book from The Perfect Fucking Life, and is not yet in publication at the time of this post.
All this shit is written and created by Jason Lee Morrison © 2022