This morning Killer Company was sitting down for a round table meeting when the flat, low crunch of a distant explosion rumbled over the command post. The ugly sound stripped the air of any sonic rival - leaving a grim stillness in its wake. There followed a pregnant pause, as if some stranger had intruded into a private conversation between friends and suddenly silenced the group. The conversation finally sputtered back to life like a doddering car lurching into gear. And not a word was spoken about our ill favored guest.
But just a few kilometers away, on the molten rivers of asphalt that bisect our Battalions AO there was no ignoring that crushing wave of concussion. To the soldiers of our sister company the bone cracking sound wasn’t simply an uninvited guest – it was a murderous intruder bent on rending muscle and bone. But I am getting a little ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning.
This morning about the same time my company was gathering in the CP (command post) our brothers in arms, Demon Company, was setting up blocking positions around an IED. As the EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) worked to disable the IED the Demon soldiers manning the positions kept a watchful eye on the area. Their mission was to provide security for the EOD team and to keep curious Iraqis from wandering into the kill zone.
Blocking positions aren’t exciting missions, they are as monotonous as they are important. The danger with these positions is fighting complacency; it takes a great deal of discipline to remain in one place watching a patch of real estate while you melt under thick layers of body armor. But the Demons aren’t a complacent bunch, and when a car whirled around a corner and started to accelerate towards their position they proved just how alert they really were.
The moment the car turned its nose towards the patrol and started to pick up speed the troops recognized that this wasn’t a confused driver trying to find a shortcut to work. This was a VBIED. Weapons slewed into position and as the car continued to pick up speed the soldiers engaged with their rifles. A split second later the harsh crack of rifle fire was eclipsed by the unholy thump of a heavy machine gun engaging the target. The windshield blossomed into a spider web of broken glass, and the driver slumped over from the impact of a dozen rounds. Unfortunately there was no stopping the ironclad laws of inertia, the vehicle continued to lurch forward until it fluoresced into a shrieking high explosive fireball. The hard wave of concussion slammed into the troops like a sledgehammer, a welter of metal and meat following an instant behind. The vehicles engine block rocketed forward and slammed into the armored HMMWV, glancing off the thick steel with a metallic hiss. The soldiers who had dismounted the vehicle managed to take a knee a split second before the powerful explosion, leaving them mercifully free of almost all of the screeching fragments.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the sound we heard in the CP wasn’t a mournful cry - it was the sound of victory. Thanks to the alert soldiers in Demon Company the only life that ended that day was the suicide bombers. All that will mark the bombers bitter existence is a scorch mark on a worthless piece of road. A scorch mark that will forever recount his dismal failure.