Thursday, September 30, 2004

Abrupt Awakening

Abrupt Awakening
30 September 2004

After playing Cheat the Sandman and losing yesterday, I was plenty tired last night. I got back into the rack at about 7pm right after dinner and don’t remember anything until I woke up around 3am. Thought for a minute about showering and going into the office to check email, but decided to just lay in bed for awhile longer. I did end up falling back to sleep.

At 450am, both Scott and I got shaken out of bed by a loud ba-boom. I could feel the concussion as it hit the trailer wall and it also shook the window in the frame like it usually does when the helo’s fly overhead. But there we no helo’s flying overhead. Scott and I both rolled out of bed to the floor and found our flak vest and helmet and just stayed put for a few minutes until we thought there were probably no more incoming.

I peeked out the door and around the corner and knew that the mortar or rocket had landed fairly close to us, maybe at or near the TMC (medical clinic around the corner just east of our trailer) but wanted to have a look. As I got around the corner of the trailer, I saw in the full-moon lit night black rolls of smoke rising and flames. At first I was sure it was the TMC on the northeast side that was hit, but as more of us walked closer, we saw that the impact was at the far southeast corner of Dodge North about 200 yards or so east of the TMC.

At least one trailer had taken a direct hit and was engulfed in flames. The TMC personnel were just getting the ambulances to the site just around the corner from them. With the way the trailers at that end are situated, if one trailer gets hit, probably two are going to take damage.

Couldn’t get too close because of the emergency vehicles, but at least one trailer/six occupants were impacted. I heard a group leader trying to account for lost/missing weapons and was hoping that didn’t mean lost people. He rattled off at least three names of occupants whose weapons were confirmed “lost”.

On his way over, Scott had run into someone who took some shrapnel to the foot. So he helped them over to the TMC. Other soldiers were being assisted with burns and getting over to the TMC either by ambulance or by foot, depending on their condition.

By 0530am emergency personnel were trying to get people to go back to their trailers and take precautions as necessary. They were mostly just trying to get the gawkers to go away.

Later in the chow hall when I was eating breakfast, I had heard that out of the six people in the trailer, all go out, but one didn’t make it. Found out later today that another occupant of the hit trailer passed during the day. A female Tech Sgt that was at the table was saying that she heard the “whoosh” go overhead, so it was probably a rocket. I guess that mortars don’t usually make that sound overhead. Could be wrong, but I haven’t been standing around in the middle of the night to compare the differences of either an incoming rocket or mortar.

I hear that a tarp was put over the trailer, but I am not going over there yet. I’m curious, but out of respect for the people impacted, I would rather not gawk over someone else’s misfortune. I guess people go over to see and reassure themselves that they made it through this one and that it could have been them. Saw some of the pictures tonight making the rounds of the hit trailer and the two trailers that burned up. Very little is left. One picture is very touching and has a keychain with a partially charred picture of a girlfriend on it. Next to that, an opened photo album with the edges burned. Very humbling and very sad.

Even just talking with a female civilian at the chow hall this morning, gives you a feel for how each person deals with the uneasiness of the situation. She was pretty freaked out about the situation since she had slept through the whole thing. “Nine more days and I’m going on leave,” was about all she could say.

Scott was a bit quiet about the whole thing. It can make you a bit introspective about your whole purpose here and whether it is actually worth the price that might be paid. I’m still doing alright with things myself. Scott did say one reassuring thing. At least when you work mids, which by the way is when most mortars and rockets come in, we are in block buildings which are further into the base and have more protection. Small reassurance, but better than no reassurances.
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