We used to get mortared all the time on our base – especially when we first got there. The unit that we relieved never did much about it, so it basically encouraged the insurgents to keep doing. The guys on base just hung out in bunkers and waited for it to pass. To them, Monday was “Mortar Monday.” That didn’t fly with our unit, though. When the insurgents tried mortaring us, we’d fire back with everything we had – almost immediately. Our own 81mm mortars, 120mm mortars, and often howitzers, too. After awhile, it diminished a bit. But they'd still lobbed rounds at us here and there.
A lot of guys never got used to it, so the second they heard some sort of thud or explosion, they’d instinctively grab all their gear and sprint for bunkers. I guess most of them had been close enough to an impact to take it seriously. We found it more annoying than anything else. Compared to the IEDs we were getting hit with, the mortars seemed like firecrackers.
It got bad enough that whenever we started taking incoming, we’d all just slowly set down our books, begrudgingly pause our movies, and head to the bunkers. The only reason we ran at all was because they were yelling at us to. Frankly, we were almost as safe in our buildings as we were in the bunkers. And we had to dash some distance out in the open just to get there. We would have slept through a number of attacks if people hadn’t been beating down our doors and screaming at us. We just got used to it. Things blew up a lot. That’s the way it was…
I remember we’d just arrived back on base after a 24 hour period in and out of “contact.” We’d had a couple guys hit, lost a vehicle to an RPG round, and also got into some pretty serious firefights. When we finally made it back to base, we were tired, cranky, hungry, and all we wanted to do was eat and rack out for a few hours. It was a holiday or something though, so the chow hall was serving halfway edible food – crab legs.
They never thought it through completely, though. We had cheap plastic silverware that broke whenever you tried to pry open the crab legs, so a lot of guys would just bite them, pick at them, or beat them on the table in frustration. I always used my Leatherman, which may or may not have even been clean. But it worked perfectly.
So we’re sitting there, and we start getting mortared again. It wasn’t really close, so while everybody is running for the doors, knocking over chairs and fleeing in terror, I was just sitting there. I wasn’t leaving. I was hungry, the mortars weren’t near enough to bother me, and I wanted to finish my crab legs. As some staff sergeant ran by and said something like, “devildog, you need to get your ass into the bunker; got it?” I just sort of looked at him wearily, Leatherman in one hand, crab parts in the other, butter dribbling off my chin, and then I answered:
“I’m finishing my crab legs. I’m hungry. I don’t even care about the mortars. I just wanna eat.”
Sure enough, I got yelled at for it.
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw, All Rights Reserved