Monday, January 21, 2008

The Great Dragunov Jigsaw Puzzle

“Hey, LT.” SSG Boondock’s rapid banter rose above the incessant prattling of four Iraqi women, upset at being shepherded out of their house in the desert orange dawn. “You’ll want to check this out.”

I left the terp Billy the Kid with the locals, and followed SSG Boondock’s lead around the corner of the house – a mud hut, really, only consisting of two small rooms that supposedly housed two military-aged males, one of the men’s mother, three younger women, and four children. We were operating in the farmland outskirts of Anu al-Verona, acting on a tip one of the local Sheiks had provided us about a new family in his area possibly housing insurgents. The information relayed to us had been flimsy at best, and that combined with the unabated exhaustion that comes after an all-night OP immediately transitions into a predawn raid, left the majority of the Gravediggers impatient, annoyed, and eager to get back to the combat outpost. All we had found of note thus far had been a litany of poorly-threaded blankets, some homemade herb the grandmother claimed helped the children with their many illnesses, and a torn Van Halen tee shirt that SPC Big Ern thought he had owned in 1987 when he sported a mullet and drove a pesticide truck for a living.

SGT Axel and PV2 Das Boot awaited our arrival on the backside of the mud hut. They stood next to a well, from which a water pipe emerged, connecting to the residence in question. Through the eyes of a green lieutenant, everything looked about as normal as an Iraqi hellhole can look. They didn’t exactly cover what happened next in ROTC, you know?

“Watch this, Sir,” SSG Boondock said, not breaking stride in his steps. He raised his arms at the center of the water pipe to grasp it, stood up on his tip toes, and tilted the pipe towards PV2 Das Boot. “Reach in there,” he instructed the young private.

The soldier did as he was told. “There’s hay in here, Sergeant,” he said.

“Reach deeper.”

A look of confusion crossed PV2 Das Boot’s face as he strained his reach further into the pipe. Confusion subsequently developed into bewilderment. He pulled out an elongated piece of metal, approximately eight inches long and three inches in diameter, that glinted alluringly in the arriving daylight. It shined with polish and showed no signs of rust or neglect.

SSG Boondock and I spoke concurrently. “Mother fuckers,” I said, while SSG Boondock said, perhaps just as eloquently but definitely more accurately, “a mother fucking bolt.”

The next half-hour passed as a blur. With the discovery of the rifle bolt, I unleashed my platoon’s rejuvenated energy and instinctive hunting skills upon the mud hut. The two men, who had already been separated, simply hung their heads in resignation when I showed them the metal piece. Billy the Kid laughed in their faces and told me that they knew better than to claim ignorance at this point. The rest of the family quietly stood off to the side and gathered around a homemade fire in a barrel as we ransacked – as gently as possible, I may add – through their personal belongings, unearthing a trigger assembly, five ammo magazines, and at least 100 7.62mm rounds in a carefully dug cubby hole found underneath a rug. CPL Spot unwrapped the mother-load that had been buried even deeper in the water pipe – a Russian-made Dragunov sniper rifle, carefully wrapped up in dishtowels and very recently cleaned. SFC Big Country’s brow was still furrowed, though, when I suggested that we were nearing the end of the search. “We’re still missing the stock,” he said, racking his mind for potential hiding spots we had overlooked.

“Damn it,” he continued, stalking over to the barrel where the family huddled around the fire for warmth. He shooed them away, and doused the flames with water from his Camelbak.

“What the hell are you doing?” I asked, walking up behind him.

He smirked, and reached a burly Midwestern paw into the barrel, pulling out a very charred but still recognizable homemade wooden rifle stock. I shook my head in disbelief, as Billy the Kid started grilling the grandmother. She smiled and shrugged her shoulders.

“A mother’s instincts protecting her son?” I asked the terp, when he finished.

“Yes,” he answered. “Crazy female.”

I instructed the Gravediggers to start policing up the hut and blindfold the two detainees while I inventoried our bounty; SFC Big Country walked back to his Stryker to update Headquarters. As SSG Boondock and SGT Axel led the two men away, I snuck a glance towards the family left behind to clean up after our spontaneous foray. The grandmother stared stonily off in the distance, seemingly oblivious to her departing son, his friend, and the incurring Americans. Two of the younger women fought back tears, while the third walked back inside, nursing the youngest of the children. The other three children wept openly, and one of them tried to run after our detainees, before the women collectively scooped him up.

As we walked back to my Stryker, the sniper rifle and accessory parts in hand, I looked over at Billy the Kid. “I feel kind of bad, you know? These guys are probably just stooges, trying to make some money.” I nodded back at the women and the children. “I mean, it’s not like this is their fault. How are they going to support themselves now?”

He looked at me skeptically. “Do not feel bad, LT. They should not have bred with stupid mother fuckers.”

You don’t always have to use big words or utilize profound analogies to articulate a philosophical known.


Anonymous said...

Damn fine work!! Sucks for them....and it should. Bad behavior has to have consequences. Stay sharp!! Bob

Capt said...

God bless the Sheik who provided the tip. God bless SSG Boondock and SFC Big Country. God bless all of the Gravediggers. God bless all of the "women who breed with stupid mother fuckers." God bless their children. And, God bless you, Lt G. Thank you.

Grandpa said...

.....and what award did you put in for SSG Boondock?


Anonymous said...

As Bill Guarnere said, "I don't know whether to slap you, kiss you, or salute you."

Bag Blog said...

Wow, great story! Good job! Your line, "They should not have bred with stupid mother fuckers.”
reminds me of my thoughts when I taught jr. high in NM.

Jebd said...

Excellent reporting!

membrain said...

Great work Gravediggers! Keep it up. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Great story! I second grandpa's question about SSG Boodock's award.

God bless you and your troops.

On another note, now that Black Five has made you famous, you might want to get a more dignified picture for your profile. Posing in yer skivies?

Hardtack said...

Well, this is the first visit on this blog, thx to B5.

Good reporting and a valuable lesson for all.

Stay Frosty

Uncle Jefe said...

Feel sorry for them?
I don't know, but do they give a Dragunov to just any ol' boy lookin' to make a few dinars??

LT G said...

1) No worries, SSG Boondock will be awarded for his dastardly mind. I'll pass along the specifics when it becomes official, in say, six months or so.
2) Big ups to Blackfive for the shout-out. I tried to leave a comment saying the same thing at his site, but it was like navigating the Nile trying to post there. I failed.
3) Also, thanks to everyone else who leaves kind messages and links Kaboom. I barely have time for my posts, so if i don't answer your very valid questions, i apologize. I'll try to get to them when I can. (mid-tour leave?)

Peace up, A-town down, and when in doubt, keep it real

The Lizard said...

Black Five's recommendation of your blog was spot on.

Fire for effect!!

Keep your head on a swivel. Stay safe.

--The Lizard

Chap said...

If you get a free moment, drop me an email, and I'll send a box of random stuff to y'all--couple of things for the kids, or whatever. I'll respond with my email.

sfguy said...

Great operation, you are lucky that you have some sharp guys, reminds me of 40 years ago when I was poking around Vietnamese hooches looking for the same things you are today.

Anonymous said...

let me join the many masses who have found your site recently and say: wow. i haven't been so excited by a milblogger since Colby Buzzell, and in all honesty, i "see" more through your writing, if that makes sense. if the publishers aren't clamoring at your door yet, they will be shortly.

please, take care of yourself and your men. they are all that really matters. write when you can, you clearly have a bright future ahead of you.

Mike said...

Thanks for the writing. As a soon to be Lt. (albeit in the USAF...I know, I know) it's nice to get a junior officer's perspective on things, especially one who can write as well as yourself. Just spent my usual post-PT dance party time instead getting caught up reading your archives. Believe me, that's quite an honor. I don't cancel the post-PT dance party for just anyone.

Keep it real yourself.

CharmQuark said...

LT - I know exactly how you feel. I remember almost the same thing, although it was initially a role of wire we found, buried out back of a large house outside Abu Gahrib. We tore the place apart and ended up with 5 weapons, 5000 rounds of AP 7.62, a bunch of highly questionable electronics (like remote controls, wire, CB's), and a bunch of other paramilitary crap. Of course the MAM's got pucked, and I got to stand there as the whole extended family started breaking down into mass hysteria and wailing grief. You're doing the best you can. It sounds like your NCO's are keeping you straight. Take care.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/23/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

DG said...

This blog is awesome! You should write a book one day; it would sell well, I think.

Be careful out there - and thanks for all that you do!