Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wrong Place Wrong Time

            We pulled up below the military crest of the small hillock and dismounted our vehicles as quietly as possible. It was just before end evening nautical twilight (EENT) and we were switching out split teams at our hide location. My half of the Special Forces team had arrived to relieve our compadres who had been on site the last 24 hours harassing Iraqi armored forces with airstrikes and relaying back intelligence to the Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF). Once our in-brief was over and we took over security, my junior Weapons Sergeant relayed to me a funny story about how earlier in the day a B2 bomber had requested to deploy some unexpended ordinance (bombs) and was wondering if anyone in the area had a target of opportunity. The Air Force Combat Controller that was attached to our team had already plotted the coordinates of one of the larger bunkers that were occupying the ridgeline across the valley from our location. He gave the coordinates to the aircraft and told them to have at it. To everyone’s surprise and amusement shortly after that, what looked like an entire platoon of Iraqi soldiers exited the bunker and lined up dress right dress on the hillside beside the bunker. Well it wasn’t to long before that hillside was lit up like the Fourth of July with the ground shaking concussions and shrapnel of some 1000 pound bombs. After the dust cleared my junior Weapon’s Sergeant told me all they could see was a red stain on the side of the hill. Bad day to take a smoke break!!! Morbid but still funny.

He also told me that they had observed what appeared to be a small pickup truck moving around the valley and in and out of the Iraqi lines unimpeded all day. At one point the guys thought the occupants of this vehicle might have taken a few shots at them but they couldn’t confirm as it was too far away for effective fire. Just as the other half of the team was loading their gear into the vehicle to head back to our patrol base one of the guys whispered that they had spotted the pickup again and it was heading our way. We watched through our optics for awhile to see if it would turn but it was obvious that its current route would take it right directly through our location. Instantly a hasty plan was formulated, the split team members that had been leaving would conduct a hasty ambush while I and the other half of the team would remain where we were and support by fire.
Quickly they grabbed the squad automatic weapon and their rifles and moved perpendicular to the projected route of the pickup. Watching through binoculars in the fading light I saw them emplace the ambush and as the truck drew nearer I trained my own M4 on the cab. Everyone was at a high state of alertness when the vehicle suddenly stopped and one of the occupants got out to relieve himself. He was followed shortly by two of his buddies. They about shit themselves when our senior Weapons Sergeant and our interpreter popped up from the side of  the road and told them to drop their weapons and get face down on the ground. They were quickly flex cuffed using the flex cuffs we all carried in our gear and frog marched over to my position. The three were dressed in typical Iraqi Kurd garments and where armed with AK-47 rifles. After a few questions from our interpreter that mainly resulted in denials from the prisoners we blindfolded them with cravats from the M5 medical bag and loaded them in one of our vehicles. It was decided I would take them back to base camp and one of the Peshmerga that was accompanying us would drive their vehicle.
Myself and the split team we had relieved made the bumpy ten kilometer trip back to Klaw Kut with the prisoners in the back of our vehicle, blindfolded and eating the dust kicked up by the back tires. Once we arrived at the patrol base about midnight we rousted our Team Leader and briefed him on the situation. Our Communications Sergeant sent a situation report back to the AOB (Company HQ) informing them we had captured some prisoners, meanwhile our Team Leader conducted a hasty field interrogation with the help of our interpreter. He individually brought the prisoners into a small room, unblind folded them, and gave them food and water as he asked them what they had been doing. They were obviously scared shitless and once the blind folds were off they gave one word answers and kept their eyes glued to the M4 rifles we carried loosely in our hands.
Not getting much out of them the decision was made to transport them back to the AOB and eventually to turn them over to the Military Police. Unfortunately the closest MP was somewhere south close to Baghdad but that wasn’t our problem. As we exited the small room we heard a commotion and some yelling. We saw that in the darkness a small crowd had gathered around our team and the other two prisoners who had been standing outside. Word travels fast, (telephone, telegraph, tell a Kurd) and what looked like all the village elders had surrounded our prisoners and were yelling at them and shaking their fists and shoes in their faces. My guys were trying to calm them down but not speaking much Kurdish they were having no luck.
Our interpreter finally figured out that these individuals were known to the villagers, and in fact in it was alleged they were former Peshmerga that had defected a few weeks before. Peshmerga or not we were very suspicious at their ability to drive freely through the Iraqi lines. The prisoners claimed it was all a mistake and they were just some poor Peshmerga that had gotten separated from their unit in no man’s land. Discretion the better part of valor we replaced the blindfolds and loaded them in the vehicles once again. The last I saw of them as our Team Leader drove them away to the AOB, they were sitting in the back of the Land Rover being chased by children who were hurling small rocks and shoes at them. Deserters,defectors, or just plain bad navigators these guys had definitely showed up at the wrong place at the wrong time.

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