Wednesday, November 30, 2005

From Bombs to Bean, The Last Blog Post!

Our last days on Barbarian Base were spent packing up. We thought they'd be as quiet as the rest of the year.

Unfortunately, just as our replacements from the 101st Air Assault started to take over, insurgent activity jumped. We started getting a lot of IED's. (We think the insurgents were trying to send a little notice to the active duty guys, who are younger, more gung-ho, and perhaps – just perhaps – not quite as respectful of the locals than us older National Guard types.)

Then, on our second-to-last patrol, our guys from second squad got hit bit a VBIED (a car bomb). Posted by Picasa
Here's a Spc Henson shot of what happened to the truck (which a few months earlier, while I was on leave, was also hit by another large IED , the blast from which actually picked up the rear end and swung the vehicle around a bit and caused some minor damage).

Now, this up-armored M1114 was hit right on the fender by a car bomb, a taxi that swerved at them from oncoming traffic and was filled supposedly with three 155mm, two 135mm, and one 80mm artillery shells. All that happened (to the truck) was three of the tires were blown out, some minor fender/engine damage, and the trunk was somehow blown open, along with two of the doors. After the blast, the truck actually drove out of the 'kill zone' for a few hundred meters. (You gotta love that 'run flat' system on the tires, which is nothing more than a solid rubber donut inside the air-inflated tire.) Some mechanic's time, about $10,000 worth of parts, and this truck was actually patrolling again within a week.

The series of images to follow are all Spc Hensen's. Posted by Picasa
Here's a shot of the truck, number B36, while it's still out in sector, awaiting a tow back to the KRAB (note that a gunner is still manning the turret machine gun). These things might cost a quarter-million dollars per, but for the four out of five crew inside that walked away without a scratch, it was certainly money well spent.

Unfortunately the fifth guy, my buddy 'Scarface', was the original guy in the gun turret and was hit, but even he had only minor wounds, including a burned hand (from the blast) and cuts on his face. He may have been hit by the blast itself, by some small shrapnel, something blown around by the blast, or the 80+ pound .50 cal machine gun, which was blown off its mount (all for lack of a simple coder pin that probably costs $2) and into the vehicle. Posted by Picasa
Some of 'Scarface's' cuts were near his tear duct though, so he was flown out of the KRAB on a medivac to a larger base, just in case. It turned out the duct will be okay but he'll have to wait and see if he has any problems with it tearing or not in the future. Posted by Picasa
He rejoined us a few days later and is fine. (When most guys saw these past few photos, some thought that the photos shouldn't have even been taken – much less, I assume, posted on a blog. But I wanted to post them so that you can see the real affects of what's going on over there. Meanwhile many other guys who saw this photo only commented on how cute the stretcher bearer to the left rear was.)

Worst of all, a few innocent civilians were killed in the blast. The civilians didn't have our Interceptor body armor on and certainly weren't in a M1114 armored truck. One guy was wearing only a 'man dress' and riding a bike. Posted by Picasa
Here you see some damage to a taxi further from the blast. Posted by Picasa
Here's a shot of what's left of the car bomb. Posted by Picasa
As another truck returned with the ammo and weapons taken off the damaged Humvee and we started unloading it, I noticed something sticky on the ammo cans. It was Scarface's blood.

Wilson and I got some baby wipes and started cleaning them off. This was definitely a 'reality check' for me. So much of the year had been so quiet and we were so near leaving, that I don't think I was completely mentally prepared for something like this (then again, how could you be, unless having been through it before). I can't imagine what it would have been like to actually lose someone… Posted by Picasa
Here's a close up of vehicle B31, which was right behind B36. This is where some of the car bomb's shrapnel hit it, peeling back a thumb-sized piece of the armor but, obviously, coming nowhere near penetrating it. Posted by Picasa
Here's B31 again. The small gouge in the armor is barely visible near the bottom center of the door.

You might be wondering what are the oil stains on the vehicle. Well, remember that poor guy on the bike? That's him. Posted by Picasa
After all this, we had to keep on packing up. Scarface's squad members, shown here, had to pack all his stuff up for him as he recovered in a distant hospital.

He was constantly on all our minds for the next few days. Even if we knew he was fine, we still kept thinking about him. Posted by Picasa
In between thoughts of Scarface, I started to get a little excited, finally starting to believe that we were actually leaving! Posted by Picasa
Our last day, we started throwing all our remaining duffle bags in the LMTV (cargo truck), Posted by Picasa
and then finally, blissfully, happily, drove the heck out of Barbarian Base for once and for all (or so we thought). Note that the two guys in the cargo truck in front of me are taking pictures of me taking pictures of them. It was a momentous moment and worthy of all the shots we could take. Posted by Picasa
And then, at last, finally moved onto the KRAB. Posted by Picasa
Our new home. Posted by Picasa
Inside our new bachelor pad, the lads got settled. Posted by Picasa
We unloaded the truck full of our duffle bags and then reloaded it with duffles from the 101st guys. Posted by Picasa
While we thought we were done with Barbarian Base for good, we did later that night drop back in and say hello to some of the new guys in our bay. The rest of our company was on one, last, final raid, that we thankfully (somehow) missed out on. So we sat and watched Armed Forces Network TV for a few hours until their return, as they were our ride back to our new home at the KRAB. Posted by Picasa
We also turned in most of our ammo (keeping just a magazine per guy, just in case), Posted by Picasa
I said a bittersweet farewell to my SAW, Posted by Picasa
and then I put her on the pile with all her brethren. Goodbye 'Sawz-All', good ole' number 111087. I knew ye well (but not too well, thankfully). Posted by Picasa
On the KRAB, those of us who weren't helping the 101st learn the city (namely us lower enlisted guys) spent the next few days loafin', Posted by Picasa
watching yet more movies on laptop computers, Posted by Picasa
eating delicious, HOT, good KRAB food (like these lightly fried scallops that somehow never seemed to make it out to our patrol base… hmmm….), Posted by Picasa

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