Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Day 8 a life defining moment for me...and my friends

Cpl I. Garza
PFC R. Parker
PFC N. Crombie

(This s two journal entries I typed up when I was in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. I don't necessarily feel the exact same way as I did back then. I was fairly disgruntled..and stressed out. But up until these two days I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life at all. I was aimlessly wondering from place to place.... Figuratively in my own mind. I was lost. I hadn't proven myself yet. These two days really brought life up close and personal. I didn't appreciate much before then. Up until these moments...The Army for me was something different. Something alittle more or less like a kid playing war. I knew bad things happened. I knew war wasn't something to laugh at. But the ultimate cost hadn't ever really hit home. I had many tours of duty in a vastly different world. On june 5th 2006..when the first bullet slammed into the side of the track near my left ear....I woke up...COMPLETELY! I witnessed young boys become men. I witnessed my best friends become my heros. )

5 June 2006
Scrappy said I was a hero yesterday. I have never been called that before. It feels odd.
I was on QRF yesterday with Parker. Our gunner was SGT. Maroquin. At 7am Parker said “We are probably going to roll out today!” I figured he was right, but I didn’t take it too serious. Right in the middle of our 2nd game of spades (14:00) SPC Darlington came running up to us and said it was time for us to spin up; there was a large explosion at check point #3. For about a half a second we glanced at each other and then we bolted for our track. Three minutes later with all of our gear on, rounds in the chamber, we were sitting at Ogden Gate waiting on our security elements.
We had to wait for about 30 minutes for these assholes to pull their heads out.
Sgt. Elliot finally came off the gate and told Parker we had to roll out the gate and meet up at the abandoned gas station, at the same time I gathered the same info off the Dealer Main net. Charlie rock was our escort out to ECP #3 (Entry Control Point), an overpass about 2 miles east
Of Ogden Gate.
During the 8-9 minute ride to ECP #3 I was alone with my thoughts in the back of the vehicle. I prepped it to receive casualties, continually listening to the radio for anymore directions or clue on how many casualties we might receive, and oddly enough I said a prayer. I prayed for my safety, and for guidance. This was out of character for me.
As we pulled up on the scene it didn’t appear to be really dangerous from appearances, a lot of soldiers were just sitting around a couple were taking cover. The vehicle stopped, I grabbed a trauma bag, the ramp lowered and immediately we started taking sniper fire!
An injured group of Iraqi soldiers rushed inside the vehicle as I jumped out to look for other injured. The first one I saw was a complete shock to my system. Garza was about 10 meters away; his face was all bloody, clothes in tatters. He didn’t have his IBA on…although I remember seeing it vaguely (a bloody mess). Parker jumped out of the driver’s hatch and was on the ground with me in seconds. Garza ran up to the track and started yelling at the wounded Iraqis to clear their weapons. These assholes started discharging rounds a foot away from me into the bottom of my M113. Bullets ricocheted around the inside.
Then it happened!
One of the Iraqi soldiers on the back ramp, directly in front of me (as I was checking him out on my knees), to the right of parker was hit by the sniper(s) in his upper left thigh. He went down like a ton of bricks. He started crawling down the back ramp leaving crimson streaking my ramp. Parker and I immediately pulled him off the ramp onto the ground and started treating him. I grabbed the trauma shears; parker grabbed the kerlix and 6inch ace and started to wrap the wound while I held pressure. Explosions started going off to the left side of the track, I am not sure where or at what distance. Parker and I moved this guy around to the right side of the track. The sniper fire kept coming in. About 25 meters away the Lieutenant(of QRF) opened his door and stepped out. As soon as his right foot touched ground METAL HIT FLESH!! A bullet tore his calf muscle apart. We didn’t realize it at first… CPL Garza, taking cover in front of the track, screamed “HE NEEDS A MEDIC NOW!!” . Parker jumped up with his aid bag and headed off. I stayed with my patient and was trying to start an IV. CRACK!!! Another explosion! Large shrapnel landed right where Parker was previously standing seconds before. TING, TING, SNAP!
Sniper bullets hitting near me on the right side of the track now. I heard one whiz right past my left ear. I grabbed the Iraqi soldier under his armpits and moved him around the front side of the track, next to Garza and some other soldiers. The guy’s leg was continuing to bleed. Anderson, a medic from 2-6, saw that I didn’t have any supplies and rushed from his safe haven to mine. He tossed me an ETD (Emergency trauma dressing), he tore off the previous bandage, and together we bandaged this guy’s leg. At this point it gets a little hazy for me. For the first time since we arrived I took a look around at my surroundings. To my right I had about 4-6 soldiers hiding behind a humvee, what ever exploded around the barriers was still having secondary explosions, and black smoke was billowing up from it. The soldiers who I initially thought were just sitting on the barrier were taking cover behind a humvee on their knees. Most of which were already wounded. To my left I saw two Humvees returning fire to an unseen enemy. To the rear of the track, my front, a Bradley pulled up and was returning fire with the 25 mike mike (25 mm gun). We passed around a bottle of water. Casualties were beginning to pile up at my location. Within a couple minutes I had about 15. With Doc Anderson we did a quick triage for critically injured. Called in additional medical support, took a quick glance around and decided it was time to move….(more than likely it was because I saw Parker come charging back to the track escorted by a SEAL). With the help of Garza, SSG Rinehart, and DOC Anderson we carried the wounded Iraqi into the track and put him on a litter. From there I had to do a quick triage. I made sure all the American soldiers got into the vehicle I had to literally kick some of the wounded out so I would have room for the more critically wounded and my American counterparts. I will never let a wounded Iraqi take the place of a wounded American. Maybe it’s cruel, but I know who is on my side, with the Iraqis we have no idea who actually plays for both teams.
Getting back to what was going on. We raised the ramp….at that point we had two Americans and three Iraqis. The SEAL who helped Parker, directed a Bradley to cover our rear as we backed up to the downed LT, simultaneously providing cover for a litter team. I could still hear rounds whizzing by the vehicle, although I am not sure on if they were ours or theirs at this point.
The track pulled up near the humvee and once again dropped the ramp, Cpl. Garza and SSG Rinehart jumped out to aid in loading the LT…I pulled him in the already cluttered and track…Now I had to literally kick the two Iraqi wounded off, due to lack of space. Garza and Rinehart got back on the track, Parker raised the ramp and with a security escort we proceeded to evac our casualties. Inside the track now, I had to check my casualties for secondary injuries, make sure they weren’t going into shock, and continuously check their wounds. I looked up out of the rear hatch for a brief instant just in time to see an RPG whoosh over! The explosion was kind of distant so I doubt that anyone was injured. It was maybe 3-5 feet above our track… My head started to spin and I fought the urge to vomit. Telling myself I don’t have time for that shit I continued checking soldiers. I also tried to call up Conquer Main to give a report of what I had coming in, but my radio was out. Pissed off I tossed my hand mike. The LT(lieutenant) had a GSW in his left shin that was fairly bad, and was in a lot of pain. I was keeping it elevated with my own legs. I administered oxygen attempted an IV to no avail, and gave morphine. He was stable and doing well. Parker patched him up pretty good. Garza was sitting in the rear left corner of the track with shrapnel wounds to his forehead, right cheek, right arm, upper back and right hip was stable and alert (but very much in shock). SSG Rinehart was sitting opposite of Garza, had a good size piece of shrapnel in his left shoulder, and some other minor bleeding. The most critically injured was the Iraqi soldier. This guy had sustained a GSW to his left upper thigh (no exit wound). The bullet track was more than likely down through his knee. He had severe bleeding into his thigh muscle. I watched his leg swell considerably (on the way back to FOB Ramadi). While I was getting tossed around in the back of the track I almost laid flat upon him to put a CAT tourniquet on his upper thigh. This was very difficult. The tourniquet was almost too small. He was thrashing around, I think because he knew if he was getting a tourniquet he was probably going to lose his leg. Not only that but tourniquets fucking hurt!!! I would freak out too. He started crying I assume for his mother, wife or girlfriend as I couldn’t understand him. This was tough watching him cry. I felt so helpless. I didn’t know what else I could do for this man. I just tried to keep him cool, I gave him a small amount of water and I tried to keep the dust and sun out of his eyes. I tried to tell him he would be okay.
The ride back took only a few minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. I was completely dehydrated when Garza again looking out for his soldiers when he should have been worried about himself, passed around another bottle of cool water. It felt like heaven. This gift truly out gift giving in perspective. Truly the most wonderful thing anyone had ever given me. I made sure my gunner and Parker got a swallow of it. Parker says it was great too. It’s amazing how something so simple can make you feel so good.
Approximately 58 minutes after we received the call, we pulled into Charlie Med, Parker dropped the ramp, and their litter crews started pulling my patients off the vehicle. I helped getting them off as best I could, but I was pretty well spent of all energy. I must reiterate how completely dehydrated I was. My uniform was drenched with sweat. I had sweat all the way from my head to my knees. I was soaked. I was at the point of passing out. I could barely speak initially. Standing outside the track I looked into it. There was blood on the floor, on the litters; there were the remnants of some pants and a bloody boot. I felt increasingly dizzy, so I started to stagger away from the vehicle. A couple of people from the aid station walked up to me and asked me what I saw officially. How many more wounded? Who? Marines? Army? Iraqi? What kind of wounds? What happened? How long did it take to get back? ECT….I stumbled towards some shade and collapsed. My head was spinning. One of the soldiers walked up and gave me a bottle of water; I made sure they gave one to Parker and Sgt. Maroquin. I drank that bottle fairly quick.
I also finally took my gloves off. My hands were pruned with sweat, skin was peeling off.
I took my IBA off and sat on the ground. Some female SGT came to watch over me, and told me to go sit on a bench. She tried to help me take off my top, but being the asshole I am I declined help and did it myself. I must have looked terrible when I stepped off the track, because everyone tried to take care of me too. I sat on that bench for a good long while. Parker moved the track and came back over to me. Remembering now, he was the one that had the SGT come over to watch me. Thank god. He really looked out for me. We looked out for each other yesterday. It was a horrible event, but I think Parker and I will be better friends for it.
A lot of people have talked to me about what we did. What did we do...? We did our job.
7 June 2006
Last night Parker and I again had QRF. Our shift started at 6:45pm on 6/6/06.
I don’t usually believe in stupid shit like jinxes, but our shift was doomed from the start.
At 17:30 Camp Ramadi was under mortar attack. Parker, Schroeder and I were on our way to chow…about a hundred meters from our tent. The sirens went off and the automated “INCOMING, INCOMING, INCOMING….TAKE COVER”. We dove between two Humvees. Seconds later the rounds started impacting pretty close to our position, or so we thought. Schroeder finally used that big head of his for something other than whining, he opened the door yelled; “GET THE FUCK INSIDE THE HUMVEES!!!” We jumped inside. Within seconds the attack was over. We all got out and started to look around to see where they hit. Some where between 3-6 rounds hit the FOB. About 200 meters from where we were at there was a building on fire. We all took off immediately to get aid bags/ trauma bags. I jumped in the FLA with SGTs Monk and Lewis. We drove straight to the fire. We didn’t incur any injured. Although Parker and some of the guys ran to assist the soldier who were hit it was a futile attempt. One soldier had been ripped in two, the other passed away as Myers carried his limp body in the door. In all total the mortar attack killed 2 soldiers and wounded 1. We were very lucky if we would have left and 5 minutes earlier we might not be here.
At 0300 last night PV2 Crombie was not so lucky. We lost the first soldier in 1-35, a medic. Parker and I rolled up on the scene. We initially thought we would be transporting live soldiers, when we dropped the ramp, we found out the live ones left five minutes before we got there. The ramped dropped and I followed a soldier in B 2-6 to a pile of flesh, bone and blood that used to be their platoon leader. It was horrifying. He was completely mangled, I don’t even remember seeing a face or head. He was on the ground next to a destroyed humvee. His legs were missing, as was an arm…his intestines were gone. There is no way anyone could recognize this young man. I felt awful picking him up to put him on the litter. He had a piece of metal stuck to him, through him. We tried to pry it loose but it just wouldn’t give. We put what was left of him on the litter. We slowly walked to the vehicle and put him inside. I had Parker and Sgt Wilson cover him with a blanket. His soldiers were watching us, I assumed through nvgs. I wanted them to know we treated him with respect. (Before I move on, I want to say that parker and I also walked the perimeter and picked up any body parts we could find.)
We walked back to the vehicle, because our job wasn’t over yet. I, with Parker’s help, tried to pry the next soldier out of the vehicle. I couldn’t get him out no matter how hard I pulled, he was stuck on the wires, and inner workings. I looked at this soldiers face and initially I thought he was a young black soldier. His face was ashen. His lips were pursed and swollen. I completely didn’t think it was anyone I knew. I was in a way relieved. Parker came over to aid me in this gruesome task. We decided we would have to cut off the IBA. That’s when it went from bad, to fucking horrible. The IBA came off, and we both saw his name tag. It was Crombie. Then I looked at the face. It WAS Crombie. My heart sank, my stomach turned and I felt totally flush…We both did the right thing. Parker had to cut wires before we could pull him out. His legs were mush, but we had to cut them off with medical shears, he had a massive gaping wound below his chin, the back of his head was blown out, and he had a huge gash on his back, gashed on his buttocks. He felt like 200 pounds of rubber mush. His pants were torn off exposing his genitals. All I could think of was “why?” Why did he have to be there? Why was he so damned determined to join the army, rushing off to war? For what a fucking Combat Medical Badge? Honor? Save lives? Hero status? Well, he is a hero now.
Unfortunately, someone else will tell his mother this when they hand her his flag. Fuck this stupid ass war!!! I regret every day re-enlisting. When this tour is over I will never look back.
After we loaded the vehicle, I got in the back. I rode the entire way back a foot a way from my dead buddy. I could smell the oil and blood mixture, it was nauseating at best. I choked back tears, and fought the urge to shoot rounds randomly into windows of houses as we passed by them. I tried to tell myself they were just soldiers sleeping under the blankets. Unfortunately, soldiers don’t usually bleed when they sleep. My uniform is a fucking mess. I have blood all over my IBA, my sleeves…I smell of death. Even after a shower I can’t get rid of that smell. I can’t get rid of the picture in my head. This awesome young guy, this drummer guy, always smiling, always positive. He didn’t even get the chance to hate this shitty unit as much as I do. What a fucked up world this is.
I just want to go home to my wife and live out our plan.
Tonight at 22:00, there will be an Angel Flight. I will go. I will say goodbye to another hero….to my friend.