Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student
Last year I spent 421 days, 300 Raids, and 81 Sniper combat missions in Iraq fighting for my life. My last six months in the country were spent in the ancient city of Mosul located in the northern half of Iraq next to the Tigress River. During my time there I experienced true life changing horrors, but nothing could have prepared me for my last day in Iraq.
It was warm that morning, for I could feel the sweat beading on my forehead. The day had come that at first seemed liked a distant dream. The idea of freedom was overwhelming with the chance to sink my teeth into a Whopper, to taste the fatty juices in my mouth, almost too good to be true. As I looked around at my comrades, I saw eyes begin to cry, while others were filled with joy and had big Kool-Aid smiles on their faces. When I turned my gaze upward towards the sky, out of the clouds came a shadow that looked like a Giant Crow. The C 130 airplane was landing on the runway and life in Iraq was just about over.
Boom! The sound of thunder crashed down to my left. We were in the middle of a mortar attack. The explosion caused the concrete ground around us to fly up as rocks and white powder shot out and stung my face. My lungs and eyes began to burn as the dust swirled around and formed a black cloud of smoke. This smoke surrounded me, making it impossible to see further than an arm's length away. Boom! An explosion to my right. This explosion was so close it vibrated my feet up off the ground. I looked around and out of the smoke there was a little concrete, shack-like building. Without hesitation, I ran to the shack as fast as my legs could, carrying 130 pounds of gear. When I finally made it inside I saw all sixty other grunts heading for my tiny safe haven. Somehow, by dog piling and squeezing together, and having my foot stuck in someone's face, all sixty of us packed into the shack like sardines. The only thought running through my mind at this time was: How in the hell are we to make it to the plane alive? Just then, two more mortars crashed around the plane damming every hope I was beginning to have.
Waiting there for an airman to come for us seemed to be the longest minutes of my life. Finally, after five minutes the airman, wearing a Cavlar helmet and big earphones, came running towards us. He was short and reminded me of a manly Princess Leah. "Follow me!" He instructed us to not stray from his specific running path because the "engines on the plane will melt you they are so hot." So the plan was we had ten minutes to run to the plane and raise the ramp, all the while hoping that the enemy did not have the plane zeroed in on their mortar sights. In one rush we all ran in a straight line across the airfield and onto the plane. As I squeezed in, I noticed that there was only one round window the size of a standard school clock, and as we gathered speed, I watched the runway disappear through that window. All of a sudden the plane made a grinding sound as if the gears were working double time, and we took a sharp right with the wing only a few feet from the ground. Quiet confusion tidal waved through the plane. What was going on? Quickly another gear grinding sound vibrated the plane and we shot straight up at an eighty-five degree angle. In the back of the C 130 airplanes there are no seat belts, only cold metal benches to grab onto. So soldiers were flying all over the plane while the rest of us held white-knuckled onto the benches. The cabin pressure changed so fast and we sped upwards so quickly that men around me began to vomit everywhere and on everyone. Finally, after two life-threatening maneuvers, the plane straightened out and we were safely on our way back home.
When we arrived home, the report came out that a young man used a satellite phone to call his wife. He told her when he was leaving as well as the location. This information was not to be told. Everybody at our base knew that terrorists could, and would, tap into our phone calls. The terrorists were able to tap into that specific phone call the guy made to his wife. They were able to find out when we were leaving for the States and where from. This resulted in the terrorists attacking our location with mortars and launching two anti-surface-to-air missiles at our plane. One man's carelessness almost got us killed. So after the stress of such a day a bunch of us headed out to a bar. We raised our glasses to being home and to better times. As we drank we sat and wondered to ourselves: Who was that guy?