Metallic Pea

Frustrating People Since 1971.

There Will Be Peace in the Valley for Me

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‘The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.’  ~ Exodus 14:14

(Continued from Parts One and Two.)

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The Middle of Nowhere, January 1991  (No, I am not wearing gloves; my hands are just that filthy)

As suddenly as the sound and fury had erupted and enveloped me, a strange quiet fell along the insignificant patch of Iraqi desert known in the annals of military history as 73 Easting.  The only sounds to be heard were the periodic pops of ammunition as it ‘cooked off’ in the burning tank hulls.  In addition—and almost as if on cue—the sandstorm lifted, the sun shone, and the wind died. 

As the once-feared Tawakalna Division lay strewn about us, some burning, some smoldering, and most just … gone, we were ordered to set up a hasty defensive perimeter around the battlefield.  Having established our position, we, in turn, refueled and reloaded our vehicles and prepared for our orders to come down from Regiment.  (As an aside, Denzel Washington’s character in ‘Courage Under Fire’ was a veteran of my unit in Desert Storm.)  I drove back into position on the northeastern side of the perimeter, hoping to close my eyes for a few minutes.  Having averaged about four hours of sleep per night over the last few days (and few of those hours in succession), the weight of my eyelids was nearly irresistible.   

But just before I prepared to slumber, I again noticed something on the horizon which appeared to be approaching our perimeter.  Being so utterly exhausted, I was not so much concerned as I was angered.  Sleep was at a premium and I wanted my share.  (I would have been pleased with just half of my share.)  I alerted Sgt. Harris on the radio who, again, passed the information up to the LT.  We were ordered to pull forward to investigate, when I soon noticed that the object was an Iraqi troop truck with several soldiers in the back.  They were driving at a steady speed directly into our perimeter.  ‘They have GOT to see us!’ I breathed incredulously into the intercom.  ‘What are they doing?!’ 

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I was amazed that the truck made no attempt to escape—until it was too late.  How they could not deduce by the smoke billowing from the field that something was awry, I’ll never understand.  Yet, it was not until I could literally see the whites of their eyes that they realised they did not want to be there.  The truck could not have been more than 25 or 30 yards away when the driver made a mad attempt to turn around and flee.  Besides being unwise, it proved utterly fruitless.  ‘FIRE!’ came the command over the intercom to my gunner, Corporal Hensley, who obliged with rapid bursts of 25mm AP (armour piercing) rounds.  Another Bradley that had sidled up beside us undetected did likewise as the driver and the men in the back of the truck flew in all directions amidst the shards of metal sailing through the air. 

As the truck rolled to a stop and caught fire, the Iraqi soldiers (those who were not wounded, at least) took to their feet and stared at us, unable to decide what to do next.  I quickly pressed towards them and dropped the ramp so that my observer/ loaders could dismount and take them into custody.  To ensure they did not try to escape, I flung open my driver’s hatch, stood up and covered them with my pistol.  (‘What is taking them so long?!’ I thought to myself as I waited for my men to appear from the rear of our Bradley?)  As I waited for what seemed like minutes, I employed my best efforts at pantomime in decidedly fruitless attempts to get the Iraqis to lay down on their bellies in the sand.  It is amazing how quickly everyone involved can get visibly frustrated when a language barrier is exacerbated by combat conditions. 

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Finally, my men approached the group; I saw Sgt. Harris descend from the front slope of the Bradley and begin searching them.  As he made his way down the line, I noticed one of the Iraqis make a sudden move with his hand into his jacket.  ‘He is going for a gun,’ I thought to myself, ‘and Sgt. Harris doesn’t see him!’  My finger tightened on the trigger as I prepared to send a .45 calibre ball of lead into his chest.  Yet, just as I had moments before, I assessed the situation at lightning speed with the information I had at hand—coupled with an intuition that I trusted, though I had no idea why.  ‘Can I live with myself if I kill an unarmed man?  No.  I cannot.’

 Sgt. Harris was searching the man in an instant; he had no weapon, he was merely attempting to show me in his frantic state that he posed no threat.  And he almost got himself killed doing it.  But he lived. 

Throughout remainder of the afternoon and into the night we continued in small exchanges of fire with Iraqi infantry who either had a death wish or were certifiably insane.  With superior night vision equipment, we could see every soldier as he ‘hid’ behind a vehicle or walked through what he thought was the cover of dark.  (In some macabre moments of gallows humour, our gunners would purposely fire behind them to watch them run, only to be gunned down with ease like a cat toying with a mouse.) 

Of course, it is usually during these times of reduced threat that your men get killed.  At one point, a somewhat humorous event occurred between the other scout platoon’s leader and our troop’s C.O., Capt. (now Colonel) H. R. McMaster.  As the Bradley returned from a reconnaissance probe to our flank, McMaster’s tank mistook it for an Iraqi counter attack and fired at it as it approached.  ‘Black 6, Black 6!!  Don’t (multiple expletives deleted) shoot—it’s us!!!’ Lt. Petchek screamed frantically across the troop frequency.  ‘Sorry, Red 6,’ came the reply.  Petchek continued his protestations: ‘You almost killed us—you only missed us by 50 meters!’  Following a pregnant pause, Capt. McMaster replied in a dry, even tone: ‘More like 25.  Over.’    

As we settled in for the night (as best as one can in such circumstances) we awaited the 1st Infantry Division to pass through our lines and push the battle further east.  Our job was done.  We had defeated one of the most feared and battle-hardened military units in the world—a unit which had outnumbered us roughly three to one.  My regiment had lost ‘only’ one soldier, Sgt. Nels Moller of Ghost Troop, while the Iraqis lost thousands.  (When the captured Iraqi commander was asked during interrogation how many men he had left, his resigned reply was, ‘I am the only one left.  They are all gone.’) 

And so they were.

(Continue to Conclusion…)

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The men of Eagle Troop, 2d Squadron/ 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment

(I am second from the left atop the Bradley)

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Written by ninepoundhammer

October 10, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. […] About There Will Be Peace in the Valley for Me […]

  2. […] (Continue to Part III…) […]


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