A Suicide Bombing Sure Does Ruin Your Day

Official disclaimer: nothing in this post reflects the views of the Department of Defense, the Army, the Marines, etc. This is only the unofficially terrible, wrong and poorly written opinion of one person who happened to have served at some point since 9/11. This is a work of fiction, but still, better to throw this disclaimer in here. You have been warned.

Beele was not pleased with the deployment. He had joined the Army, specifically the infantry, so that he could prove himself in combat. To get right down to it and quit fucking around, he joined up so he could have the chance to kill someone. But the deployment so far was a joke. The unit had deployed in December. In November, most of the tribes fighting the U.S. decided to switch sides and were now our allies, which coincided with an 85 percent drop in enemy contact. Can’t fight the enemy when they’re your pals now.

It was now February, and only one platoon in the entire battalion had even had a chance to fire their weapons. Three months in, and that was it? That was bullshit, Beele thought; a waste of his time. His platoon spent most of its time on patrol – driving out to some hillbilly, dusty Iraqi village of 30 people to ask them if they’d “seen the enemy.” Yeah right, like they weren’t still the enemy and like they wouldn’t be again if the U.S. money dried up. The platoon leader and one of the squad leaders would meet up with the local sheik and find out if anything was needed in the area. The usual answers were water, electricity and more weapons for security. The exact three things the unit had zero ability (or authorization, in the case of weapons) to provide.

Beele carried the squad-level machine gun, the SAW. As the junior guy on his fire team, he was given the heaviest weapon to carry, as was infantry custom. It was also the squad’s most casualty-producing weapon system, of which the squad leader had two, so he was always being called to the front to set up security whenever the squad moved anywhere in the open. He couldn’t wait to open up with this bad-boy, if given the chance.

When the platoon wasn’t on patrol, it was on security detail at the base it shared with an Iraqi Army unit. For Beele, security consisted of humping his SAW up into one of the six towers on the perimeter of the base. The only good thing about security was since he was a SAW gunner, and the SAW had to be on a tower at all times, he was always given the first shift, which started at five in the morning. He preferred it because it coincided with the start time of an infantryman’s usual day, so he had a basically normal day while on security. He woke up when he usually did at home, worked his shift, and then had the afternoon and night free to do whatever, not that there was much to do. Still, it was the best shift available, so he had that going for him. He also didn’t have to bring his SAW down; he just traded it for an M-4 assault rifle with whoever was relieving him on guard duty.

His existence was boring and he was pissed off about it. He had gotten into an argument with one of the other soldiers in his squad, Metzger, about this. Beele was running his mouth about killing Hajis, about fucking shit up, about how he didn’t join the infantry after the invasion of Iraq to come over here and babysit former terrorists who were pretending to be our friends -he came to get some trigger-time. Metzger, one of the senior guys in the squad besides the sergeants and on his second deployment, told Beele to shut the fuck up because as Metzger saw it, they were lucky. No one had to watch their friends get shot, or pick up the body parts of the man that was just walking next to him – shit he had to deal with during his last deployment. They only had to go to one memorial service for the entire brigade so far, which was a huge improvement over Metzger’s last deployment, and it could stay that way as far as he was concerned, he told Beele.

On this particular morning, Beele was assigned to the tower that overlooked the base’s vehicle entrance, a 200 meter-long path lined with concrete walls, consisting of concrete barriers and barbed-wire placed in a serpentine pattern to slow down traffic as it entered. This helped keep the Strykers slow enough that they wouldn’t hit any vehicles trying to leave, but the real reason was to slow down a suicide car-bomber enough that Beele, or whoever else happened to be manning that tower, would have enough time to shoot them dead before they could get inside the base and explode.

At the end of the base’s entrance sat a small, two-stall roadside shop. The stall nearest the base entrance had been taken over by the Sons of Iraq, which was what we were calling the tribal fighters that we were now paying to provide local security (and to not kill us). The guards manning this particular stall were essentially the first line of defense for the base – U.S. troops didn’t man the position with them, but provided them over-watch from the tower and walked out there periodically to see how they were doing. The stall next to the guard’s was a small convenience store of sorts – it had cell phone minute cards, soda, cigarettes, candy bars, that kind of shit. The guys would stop there to pick up cigarettes on their way back from a patrol – Miami’s or Galloises, depending on your preference. Galloises are the French version of Marlboro Lights, so not too bad. Miami’s are actually an American brand that is made solely for export, and you could tell they wouldn’t sell those fuckers in the States, because they were rough – a cowboy-killer, but without any of the redeeming qualities.

It was around eight a.m. The platoon had just returned from a patrol very early that morning. Beele had to tough out this guard shift after a night of no sleep, but after that there was 12 hours of blissful fuck-all to look forward to. He was looking down the 3x magnified sight on his SAW, watching a guy in a man-dress typical for this rural area approach the convenience store at the end of the entrance. Nothing appeared out of place – he typically saw 10-20 people enter the store during a shift at this tower to buy useless garbage or to chat with the owner, another Sons of Iraq member.

Beele drew his sights onto the man and pretended to shoot him. It was a game he played with himself while on guard duty – sight in on someone walking and think about firing. It was also what he was supposed to do – use his optics to scan for threats to the base, and that meant looking for people dressed like civilians with bombs strapped to them. He was fairly certain most of the guys fantasized about shooting those they were looking at, like he did, but the topic hadn’t come up in conversation. The man seemed normal, and Beele was about to move on to scan another part of his sector when the man exploded.

He saw it a split second before he felt it. There was no discernible fire or anything that indicated a person just blew themselves up – it was just a guy there in the store entrance one moment, huge cloud of smoke and debris everywhere the next. Beele was knocked on his ass by the blast, more from surprise than the shockwave, though he definitely felt it. Before he could get on the radio to tell HQ, he heard his squad leader, Staff Sergeant Overling, who was currently in charge of the base’s guard operations, calling for him.

Beele! Beele! Are you alright? What the fuck just happened? Give me a SITREP!”

Beele responded and said he was fine and that a suicide bomber just blew himself up at the vehicle entrance. All he could see was smoke, but it was starting to clear. Locals were starting to make their way to the bomb site, but he couldn’t tell how many people had been killed or injured.

“Holy shit. I just talked to the PL, he’s on his way out there to secure the site with second and third squads. I want you to make sure his ass is covered with that SAW. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Overling signed off. Beele looked down to his right and saw his platoon leader running, leading two of the squads not on guard duty down the serpentine vehicle entrance towards the bombing. Even though their platoon had just returned from a patrol and was on guard duty, and second platoon was fresh and wasn’t doing shit, his platoon was still the first out the gate to see what the fuck was going on. It made Beele proud, because fuck those lazy pricks in second platoon. He was a little upset he couldn’t be on the ground with them when something was finally fucking happening, but from his tower he had a great view of the chaos. It would have to do.

He saw the PL directing Staff Sergeants Janes and Hanratty, assigning each of them half of a circle around the shops. Each took their squads and put them out in position, keeping the locals from fucking with the evidence. By this point, the U.S. military in Iraq had the capabilities of CSI, so they needed the scene free of locals to see if they could get a fingerprint or DNA off anything left by the bomber, or whoever helped him build the bomb, if anything was left.

The smoke was almost clear. Beele could see the torso of the bomber lying about 20 feet back from the door of the shop, where he had detonated his suicide bomb. The walls on either side and above the doorway were pocked with large holes that looked like black marbles from the distance Beele was. Once he looked at them through his scope, he realized they were from whatever the bomber had glued to his vest to act as shrapnel and cause more damage. He would find out later they were industrial-grade ball bearings used in railcar construction.

He noticed a strange smell in the air, sweet and burny, like a backyard barbecue, but acrid at the same time, sort of like the way milk smells right before it goes bad. After it was all said and done, he mentioned this smell to SSG Overling, who informed him that this was the smell of burning human flesh. It was a smell that he would never forget as long as he lived. Nothing else smelled like it. For the next four months that the unit occupied this base, every time his Stryker passed these shops he would smell it.

There was movement in the entrance. He looked right and saw the company commander and his little entourage hustling down the serpentine, the way his platoon had come, since it was the only way to get to the bombing site. The commander and the platoon leader met up, and he could see the commander pointing to the perimeter. The platoon leader then moved to where the commander had pointed and repositioned the men there.

Locals were starting to gather. The men on the perimeter had to stand and physically restrain them from entering the bomb site. Beele noticed one older man, short and skinny, with a well-kept beard, glasses and a headdress, approach the perimeter. He was being escorted by three younger men. Beele recognized the older man as Sheik Najim, the senior tribal leader in the town and the Sons of Iraq leader for most of the area. He was a big deal; even the brigade commander came out here and kissed his ass, which he knew because his platoon was often ordered to go the sheik’s house early to secure it for the senior officer’s arrival. It actually wasn’t that bad because the sheik’s crew always brought out the very sweet Iraqi tea that the guys all loved, called “chai.” Not the chai that hippies drink in the States – it was probably just the Arabic word for “tea,” but Beele wasn’t sure and didn’t care enough to ask anyone. It was just good shit.

Beele recognized one of the younger men with Sheik Najim as his son, Karim. Karim ran the day-to-day operations of the Sons of Iraq that his father controlled, and was very proactive. The general consensus in the unit was that Karim was a straight player who would do what he said and was motivated to make the area better. They often ran into him visiting his checkpoints throughout the area, seeing how his men were doing, like any good commander would. Word around the unit was that Karim had also been the most effective insurgent leader in the area before coming over to the American’s side, and the men could see why.

As Beele watched through his 3x sight, the commander waived the sheik and his entourage through the perimeter of soldiers around the bombing site. They quickly shook hands, and he could see the interpreter’s hands moving up and down as he translated the conversation between English and Arabic. Karim had moved about ten feet away, bent over and picked something up, and walked it back to where his father and the commander were speaking.

It was the bomber’s head. The face was bruised and puffy and was sliding off the skull, showing hints of red meat underneath. It wasn’t bleeding, as the heat from the blast had caused whatever blood was left to congeal like barbecue sauce on a rack of ribs fresh off the grill. Karim walked with the head up into the middle of the conversation and attempted to hold the pieces of dripping face onto the skull and head-meat, to try and get some sort of recognition as to who this bomber was. The commander took a startled step back, but did not leave the close circle of conversing men. The sheik and his crew all leaned in to see if they could get an idea who this guy was, if he was a local, but it appeared that they weren’t able to make an I.D. because Karim spat on the ground and flung the head into the ditch on the side of the road.

Beele thought that was pretty gnarly, to say the least. He already knew Karim was a no-bullshit fighter who could be counted on for tough work, but goddamn, that was raw. He didn’t use any gloves, a palm tree leaf, nothing – just grabbed the head, tried to put it together, flung it into the ditch and then wiped his hands off on his jeans, like he was just throwing a football back to a couple of kids at the local park. Fuck.

SSG Overling’s voice crackled over the radio. Beele, you’re going to be relieved by someone from second platoon. Since our guys are already responding, the commander wants second to replace us on guard, so we can get the whole platoon out there.”

Oh, thank god, Beele thought. He was finally going to get some action, or at least the possibility of some action. A minute later, one of the SAW gunners from second platoon ran out to the tower and he and Beele switched off. SSG Overling was already out front of the company command post with the rest of the squad, and as soon as Beele got to them Overling told them to follow him and they set off for the bombing.

When they reached the rest of the platoon the sickly-sweet smell of burning human flesh was overpowering, and Beele had to consciously focus on not gagging so he wouldn’t look like a pussy, which he would never hear the end of. Parts of the bomber’s body were strewn about the road and shop area and into the reeds across from the shops. He had trouble making out what each part was as they were all mangled, but he could see where the reeds had been tamped down by Karim when he launched the bomber’s head into the ditch. The blood wasn’t splattered as much as it was clumped in semi-solid piles of goo in-between body parts. The torso was still there where the bomber had detonated his vest – it was strange, as the torso didn’t seem that damaged. It looked like somebody had only taken a blow torch to it a couple times, not that a bomb strapped to it just exploded. The awning in front of the little shop complex was blown to shit, the doors were blown in and all the glass in the windows was blown out. Sheik Najim’s crew was beginning to drag out the bodies of the two SOI men killed in the attack.

One of the men didn’t even have any visible wounds. The commander would later tell the men that this guy had died from the explosion’s concussive force, not from shrapnel like his buddy. The dead bodies looked bizarre, like they were bodies in a horror movie. Beele always assumed that real dead bodies would look, say, more real, but these looked like props. There was still a crowd trying to get through the perimeter, so SSG Overling started placing his men out with Janes and Hanratty’s guys as reinforcements to try and keep them back…pleasantly, of course.

Beele, I want you to stay here in the middle with the PL in case he has to move. We’ve got enough gun on the perimeter already, and I’d feel better if he had a SAW with him.”

Then SSG Overling walked over to SSG Janes and began to discuss the particulars of the perimeter. As they were speaking, SGT Arias, one of Janes’ team leaders, left his position and came up to the two squad leaders. He had a funny look on his face, like he had seen a ghost. Arias was one of the platoon’s up-and-comers: he was a newly minted sergeant who got promoted as he had earned his Ranger Tab right before the unit deployed. He too had often joined Beele in griping about the lack of action so far in the deployment, but now it looked like he had seen enough. Beele wasn’t going to say this to anyone else, but it was nice to see Arias taken down a notch on the tough-guy scale. Awesome, dude, you finished Ranger School; can we stop hearing about it already? The PL and squad leaders bought into that shit, but the rest of the guys had enough of the hard talk. Janes sent Arias back to his position on the perimeter.

Down the road, past the village, Beele could see a convoy of Strykers moving their way. When they pulled up, a bunch of soldiers got out and started setting up security, which was confusing because Beele’s entire platoon was already there, securing the area. Once the brigade commander and his sergeant major exited the middle Stryker and strolled into the perimeter, it made sense. The brigade commander’s personal security detail often did stupid shit like securing an already secure area because they took themselves so seriously that they didn’t trust anyone else to protect the brigade commander, even though everyone ultimately worked for him anyway and would go out of their way to ensure his safety. The PSD were all line-infantrymen pulled from the battalions, but they got to wear commercial plate-carrier body armor instead of the clunky issued armor, and had neat Glocks instead of the basic Beretta, so they acted like they were Special Forces….which they were not. Far from it. In fact, the PSD was comprised of rejects from the battalions. No infantry commander in his right mind would give up a good soldier to babysitter duty for the brigade commander right before a combat deployment, and the only people in the brigade who didn’t realize this was the brigade staff itself.

With the brigade commander and his entourage was a Weapons Intelligence Team. The WIT was comprised of soldiers whose entire mission was to collect forensic evidence from IEDs, dead bodies, bullet casings and the like, in the hope that they could match the data to a profile they already had on file. They were actually quite successful and had put away some bigwig insurgent leaders through fingerprints alone. They were the reason the platoon couldn’t let any locals in to fuck with scene.

As the WIT started gathering evidence, SSG Hanratty came over to the platoon headquarters area in the middle of the perimeter to confer with the platoon leader. With the PL were Beele, the radio telephone operator Penfield, and the forward observer Landsman. As the weapons squad leader, Hanratty was the senior squad leader and was the de facto third man in charge of the platoon, and as such he often acted as the senior sergeant while dismounted as the platoon sergeant stayed with the Strykers.

“Sir, we’ve got way too many men in a small space here now that the brigade commander and his dream team showed up,” stated Hanratty. “We should send some of our guys back inside the base in case one of these locals is packing another bomb. Let the PSD supersoldiers deal with this; we’ve got other shit to worry about.”

“You’re right on that one,” the platoon leader agreed. “I already brought that up to the CO, and he shot it down. Apparently the battalion commander is on his way out here, and they’ve cooked up some follow-on mission for us, so he wants us to stand fast and get ready for that. Second platoon will stay on guard for the rest of our shift, so there’s that.”

“Shit, Sir, you really are starting to learn, aren’t you?” joked Hanratty. “You’ve come a long way since you were that young, green officer that showed up at the company a year ago. I’m even starting to agree with most of your decisions before I even have a chance to give them to you.”

“Thank you, SSG Hanratty, you have no idea how much your seal of approval means to me as an officer and a leader,” the platoon leader joked back. “I’m not sure how I would do this job without your seasoned counsel and vast expertise.”

Hanratty laughed. “Well, if we’re going to be sitting here as perfect suicide bombing targets, we might as well have a little fun. I think I found this asshole’s crank over here. Beele, come and take a look and see if I’m right.”

Beele moved a few feet to Hanratty’s position and took a knee. Sure enough, about eight or so feet out from them on the edge of the street, was the bomber’s penis. It was oddly intact for a small and delicate piece of the human anatomy that had just been blown off of its owner’s body by a bomb large enough to kill three people and destroy two buildings. Beele found himself looking for an analogy, or something meaningful, that revealed an insight about the nature of humanity as it related to war, but if there was anything there it did not present itself.

As the men contemplated the frailty of the human condition, or cracked jokes about the dead insurgent’s dick lying near them in the dust, the brigade command sergeant major made his way over to their postion.

“Hey men, just thought I’d see what you hard working infantrymen were up to here on this fine Iraqi morning,” the CSM said as he strolled up to the platoon headquarters. “Hell of a situation we got here, eh?”

Being the senior sergeant present, Hanratty took it upon himself to entertain the CSM until he lost interest and wandered off to distract someone else from their duties. “Hey sergeant major, you want to see this guy’s crank over here?”

The CSM considered Hanratty’s offer for a few moments before responding. “Ha-ha-ha, Hanratty, you

crazy asshole, I think I do want to see this motherfucker’s crank, if you don’t mind!”

Though the rest of the soldiers were taking a knee in the basic tactical consideration that the enemy often employed suicide bombers like this as the opening salvo to a larger, complex attack, the CSM had yet to take up any position besides standing tall with his hands on his hips, and continued with that choice as he walked over to where Hanratty had pointed out the bomber’s penis.

“Well goddamn, if that ain’t his crank after all!” exclaimed the CSM. “I don’t know about you boys, but it looks to me like Humpty Dumpty ain’t gonna be puttin‘ himself back together again, am I right, or am I right? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

The junior men all nodded in agreement as they were weary of contradicting the most-senior NCO any of them had ever met, even though it was apparently lost on the CSM that the suicide bomber obviously cared little for his own safety or how his body would be treated after death, hence the term “suicide.” For his own part, Beele could only answer “HOOAH” and force a laugh. He looked over at the platoon leader, who was shaking his head in disappointment.

The CSM abruptly stopped laughing and looked at Penfield, the RTO, who was kneeling next to the platoon leader, like he had noticed something interesting. He crouched a little to get a better look at Penfield’s face, which was shaded by his helmet. As he did this, Penfield was slowing spinning on his knee, trying to keep the CSM from seeing his face. After a moment, Beele knew why – in the frantic rush to respond to the explosion, Penfield, who was asleep at the time, had apparently forgotten to grab his protective sunglasses. To the CSM, not wearing your eye protection outside a building, let alone outside the base, was the moral equivalent of telling him to go fuck himself. He could not let it stand without a speech, and Penfield knew this. He had been so close to avoiding admonishment from the CSM for being out of uniform, but his luck had run out.

“Hey there, soldier,” the CSM said. “Where’s your eye-pro?”

Penfield hesitated, then answered. “Uhh, sergeant major, I think I left it on my bunk by mistake.”

“On your bunk! Well, goddamn son, don’t you know eye-pro is part of the uniform? You’re supposed to wear them all times when you’re outside, especially outside the wire.”

Penfield tried to talk himself out of this one, but an E-4 was going to lose this battle ten times out of ten, no matter how good his reasoning was. “I know sergeant major, it’s just that we were all sleeping when the attack came, and we got here within minutes, I just forgot to grab my eye-pro because -”

The platoon leader cut him off. “It’s alright, Penfield, take it easy. Sergeant major, thanks for pointing this out. We’ll make sure next time we’re attacked while asleep, in our base that we secure ourselves, that we’re all in the proscribed duty uniform before we respond,” he said sarcastically. “It’s on me – he’s my RTO and I should’ve checked him before we left the wire.”

“Hell, Sir, no worries. Just making sure these fine young soldiers stick to the standards, you know? No other way we can grow these men into excellent NCOs like SSG Hanratty over here. Anyway, I’m going to go check on the rest of the soldiers and see how they’re doing. Don’t waste too much time now trying to put ol’ Humpty back together again, har-har-har!” the CSM joked again as he strolled across the position to harass someone else.

“That fucking guy,” griped the platoon leader. “I shouldn’t be saying this, but I don’t give a shit if you junior soldiers hear this or not. The fucking brigade staff lives on the FOB with their four hot, catered meals a day, air-conditioned everything, and a fucking pool, and then roll out here to our dump of a base and break our balls for being out of uniform after getting attacked? It’s insane.”

Beele didn’t understand it himself. He understood the importance of standards like eye protection on the battlefield, but he couldn’t understand why some senior NCOs in the Army insisted on going out of their way to remind everyone of the standard, regardless of if there was a perfectly sound reason for why something was out of line. It was like the more senior you became in the Army, the more impervious to common sense and reality you got.

As Beele was contemplating the likelihood of his ever reaching within even four ranks of command sergeant major, the battalion commander and his entourage arrived. Like the brigade commander, the battalion commander had his own little PSD made up of guys from the mortar platoon, so he could move about the battlefield as he pleased. He used the mortar platoon because the unit was effectively, if not officially, banned from using indirect fire, so the mortar platoon had no job if they weren’t driving the BC around.

The BC stopped to speak with the brigade commander and the CO. They conferred for about ten minutes, and then the brigade commander and his crew headed back to their Strykers and left the scene, along with the weapons intelligence team. The BC and the CO then spoke briefly with Sheik Najim and his guys. Najim waived his arms a few times, pointing up the road away from the village. After he was done, the BC called the PL over with a finger wag. The PL, Beele, Penfield and Landsman all got up and walked over to the BC’s position.

“Gunslinger 3-6, ah, I want you to escort Sheik Najim here, ah, and his people when they bring their dead to the cemetery,” said the BC, using the PL’s call-sign as he always did. “I’m concerned, ah, that he might have been the, ah, target of the attack, and want to make sure he’s safe until he gets home.”

“Understood, Sir,” answered the PL. “I’ll give Sheik Najim an escort wherever he wants to go. But do you think he was really the target? He lives blocks from here, and given how senior he is in his tribe, the bomber likely knew where he lived, if he wanted to kill him.”

“Got it, Gunslinger 3-6, noted. Please get moving. I know Najim, ah, wants to get his people to the cemetery A-S-A-P,” the BC responded, enunciating each letter. “You know the Muslim, ah, tradition calls for immediate burial, and he told me he wants to get his men up their soon.”

Beele could tell the PL was getting frustrated speaking to the battalion commander. It was a poorly kept secret among the men that the BC was not well respected by his subordinate officers due to his overly political nature and inability to give clear and concise guidance to save his life. If the BC could win favor with a local sheik or one of his superiors he would spare no expense, no matter how fucked of an operation it took or if it even made sense in consideration of the most basic military principles or the mission. This was not the best way to gain the loyalty of your men.

“Yes, Sir, I understand that Muslim tradition calls for immediate burial, thank you,” The PL answered. “I’ll get Sheik Najim up to the cemetery safely. Beele, Landsman, Penfield, let’s grab the terp and go arrange the details with Najim. Penfield, let the squad leaders and vehicles know what we’re doing.”

As Penfield got on his radio and began to relay the new mission to the squad leaders and the vehicle crews waiting inside the base, the men walked over to Sheik Najim and his men, who were still inside the perimeter speaking to the CO.

Using the CO‘s interpreter, the PL told Najim he was there to escort him safely to the cemetery. Najim appeared to not understand what the PL was saying, and shook his head. The PL had the interpreter repeat what he had said. Again, Najim shook his head.

Frustrated, the PL asked the interpreter, “Then what does he want? I thought he and the BC had already spoken about this.”

“Sir, he does not want an escort to the cemetery,” answered the interpreter. “He said it would just make him a target. He can protect himself with his men.”

“Fair enough,” said the PL. “Tell him I‘m sorry for his loss and if he needs anything, to give us a call.”

With that, Najim and his men got into some pickup trucks that were waiting right outside the perimeter. In the back, under white sheets, were the bodies of Najim’s men who were killed in the attack. They had already been prepared for burial by their families and the party was just waiting for Najim to finish up with the Americans before they could be brought to the cemetery.

Beele wondered what the BC and Najim had been talking about if Najim did not want an escort. Didn’t he tell the BC that? This was exactly the sort of thing that garnered the BC so much ill will from his troops – not only had he wasted their time, but he had wasted Najim’s time when he had two friends, if not family, to bury.

“What a shit-show,” Beele heard the PL mutter under his breath. “Alright, you guys stand fast. I’ll go talk to the commander and see what he wants us to do now that we’re all spun up.”

With that, the PL walked over to the CO and spoke for a few minutes. Beele took a knee and faced out, as he was trained. By kneeling he couldn’t see anything past the tall grass and reeds sprouting out of the roadside ditch, but he knew he would get yelled at by a sergeant if he didn’t. Surrounded by the bomber’s gore and the destruction wrought by his attack, Beele couldn’t help but think he had finally seen the action he had been craving, but was left wanting. He deployed expecting to fight the enemy face to face, not sit around babysitting most of them while others tried to sneakily blow them all up. He had seen the bomber before the attack but nothing about the man stood out in any way. Was the whole deployment going to be like this? Another year of backslapping with ex-insurgents while doing village assessments whose recommendations they had no possible way of fulfilling, punctuated by a bomb blast every three months? At least he didn’t have to help clean up the bomber’s giblets; the headquarters guys got stuck with that. He didn’t know what was more dangerous to an infantryman – the boredom, or the enemy.

The PL finished speaking with the commander and had made his way back to the men. “Alright guys, get ready to mount up. We’ve got a mission. Penfield, relay this to the platoon – we’re going to head north to al Borgaybi and see if Sheik Nimur there needs anything. Well, besides water, electricity or weapons, of course.”

By Dennis Hatherly

(Politics and Military)

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