While we were getting ready to leave out of Fallujah and head south, they always put us transient troops as far away from everything as they could. It was like a two kilometer walk from our tents – and yes, we had tents while everybody else had nice trailers – so they issued us one of those dinky Nissan buses to operate our own bus service.
It’s freakin’ hard to do with one bus, and like only two guys in the whole battalion who could drive a stick. My section leader was one of them, and I volunteered to drive, too, just because it was better than rotting away on radio watch or getting yelled at for wearing my boots in the rack (bed/cot). That thing was almost dead. I could shift from third to fourth without pushing in the clutch, and I think the shocks were gone. IF it even had shocks. Every time we went over those tank tread speed bumps, everybody’s spine would get depressed and they’d scream at me.
Basically, all we did was drive from our end of base back and forth from mainside and pick up any guy that waved us down. We had a dumpy cardboard sign in the window that had our unit on it, so we knew they knew where they were going.
We had pretty good fun, driving like idiots, driving too fast, ripping through gears and trying to get it airborne when we went over the speed bumps – unless we had like an officer or staff NCO on there, then we’d drive like old people and nobody talked at all. It’s like having your parents chaperone you. No matter what you say, it’s wrong and they yell at you.
We picked up one of my buddies one day and we headed back towards our side of the base. We were driving like jackasses, as usual, but he said, “man, you can’t drive for shit. You drive slow.” It pissed me off so bad, I said, okay. Fine. How’s this; and I took off.
I tore through first and second, and then I hit a straight stretch, so I push it into third and fourth. I was getting ready to shift again, but then I saw a tank tread ahead, so I had to slam on the brakes. I wasn’t slowing down enough, so I sort of went onto the shoulder to try to get around it – maybe hit it with only two wheels.
I started skidding when the wheels hit the dirt, so I ended up going completely off the road and grinding to a stop. But then it started to slide sideways down the hill. It was almost a 45% angle, so we were afraid it would roll over. We all jumped out the windows on the high side and watched it slide down a little farther in the sand. We’re a million miles away from mainside and now we’re stuck on the side of the road with our stupid bongo bus about to roll down a hill sideways.
We walked to our motorpool nearby and told them we needed to get a wrecker to pull us out. They just looked at us like we’re stupid, so we told them to go to hell and we left.
There was another motorpool nearby, but it belonged to some artillery guys we didn’t know. I was wearing my boonie cover (floppy jungle-style hat), so I asked my buddy to give me his 8-point cover. They’re what officers usually wear for some reason, even in Iraq. “What are you doing,” he asked me. I said just don’t worry about it. You guys stay with the bus.
I went to these guys’ tent and ripped back the flap. There were a bunch of guys sliming around looking useless inside and it was dark, which worked out well. They couldn’t see that I was a PFC (Private First Class).
“Hey, somebody get me an NCO up here. Where are your NCOs? Hurry up, Marines.” They all jumped up and started stumbling over each other to get over to me. They still couldn’t see I was a PFC.
“Hey, some Marines got their bus stuck up the road a little way. You need to get a wrecker out to them, understand? You devildogs watch out for each other, got it? Go pull them back onto the road and help them out”
A couple of them stammered, “Yes sir,” and went running out the back while the rest just stood there staring at me. “Thanks, Marines. Oorah.” I walked out. I heard a few “oorahs” behind me as I walked away.
I ran back to the bus and got my boonie back from my buddy and we waited. They didn’t send a wrecker, actually. They sent a 7-ton (heavy combat truck – triple axles) and a humvee. Then they pulled us out, telling me that some officer stopped by their tent and yelled at them to get out there and help us. We said we didn’t know who it was, but thanks. Appreciate the help.
It was great, nobody yelled at us and we didn’t get in trouble. I was like 19 years old and they thought I was an officer. The whole military is like this, man. All you have to do is act like you know what you’re doing and everybody just assumes you do. It’s great. I hated that stupid bus though.
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw
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