Monday, January 21, 2008


The Night

Aaron had called in the discoveries made in the desert. Any explosive material is usually detonated by the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team in the area where it is found.

Under the circumstances, Aaron thought the mud huts, which were obviously used for making or storing bombs and nothing else, should be destroyed also. He made his recommendation to the 1st Battalion headquarters, and we sat patiently in the trucks awaiting their response.

Everyone was hungry but it did no good to dwell on it because we knew we had a long night ahead of us.The EOD team was being sent out with a convoy from Delta Company, and if any or all of the huts were to be destroyed, that meant waiting for F-16s too, which would drop the bombs.

Finally the EOD team arrived, and sent out a robot to investigate the IEDs made out of oil cans.

Once the team had confirmed that they were in fact IEDs, they proceeded to the next step, the fun part: the explosion. We had a front row seat, and there is something satisfying about a controlled blast.

Meanwhile, we were losing daylight and patience. The fate of the huts was debated. The EOD team made its way to the building that contained the bags of wired explosives. The men back at the Battalion explained over the radio that while they thought it made sense to blow up the handful of empty huts, the Brigade thought it might be better to wait.

Oblivious to this discussion, the robot went about his business of inspection. The EOD team thought rather than setting off this batch of explosives, it would be better to just blow up the hut, so that was one more vote for dropping bombs.

All the while, we sat in the trucks as if at a drive-in movie that had plenty of action but also many frustrating lulls. And no refreshments except hard candy and goldfish crackers.

The F-16s had been summoned, but had not arrived yet, so the EOD team went to take care of the mine George had found. With all of their housekeeping done, all that was left to do was watch a bomb drop.

Hours had managed to pass since Aaron first reported the situation to the Battalion. The trucks huddled in the darkness, full of cranky soldiers who had run out of cigarettes and snacks, and a reporter who was glad she hadn’t drunk a lot of water during the day. Finally, the air above our heads pounded with the sound of the F-16s.

The F-16s had been given the location of the hut to be bombed, but in the darkness, in an area where everything looks like everything else, they couldn’t find it. We watched and waited, the soldiers flashing every sort of light they had in the direction of the hut, but nothing was working. The driver of my vehicle,

Mike Fuemmeler, couldn’t take it anymore, and got out of the humvee, ran to the hut, and threw two chem-lites (small, glowing sticks) on the roof of the building. Moments later, the F-16s signaled that they had spotted the target. Everyone following the action rolled their eyes and breathed a sigh of relief.

We had been granted permission to bomb a second hut, the one where the two IEDs had been found, so it appeared the evening would be ending with a bang, and then another bang.

After several minutes, the first bomb made contact, and it resulted in a nice explosion, but not as big as we had hoped or expected. We left the viewing area and drove down to the site expecting to see a pile of rubble where the hut had been. But somehow only part of the hut had destroyed, so we went back to the viewing area and waited for the sequel.

The second explosion was louder, more convincing, and did enough damage that we didn’t have to worry about the hut or the explosives it contained anymore. The second hut proved somewhat challenging to the F-16s too. One bomb landed on the ground behind the hut, but the second reached its target, and we enjoyed another satisfying explosion.

Nevertheless, the show had gone on long enough, and we were anxious to get home.

It had been a day longer than most. But the soldiers don’t receive a special medal for working fourteen hours plus. They don’t get time and a half. And they don’t get to sleep in the next day like I did.

Most days are not so eventful or so long, but it is gratifying to see the soldiers’ persistence pay off. Maybe the people they spoke with throughout the day did nothing but delay their progress, but when faced with the desolate desert landscape, the soldiers of Bravo Company dug their heels in and found things when it looked like there was nothing to find.

The show we were treated to at the end of the night was a Bravo Company production. With a little help from an interpreter named George.

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