Operation Iraqi Escort
“I’m ready to do my part in OIE IV,” one of our guys from legal said the other day.
It was a play on words from our Operation Iraqi Freedom IV mission to what he termed “Operation Iraqi Escort.” Talking with several soldiers who deployed with 4ID before, playing escort was a major part of many soldiers’ lives.
Since many jobs have been taken over by contractors, every day several Soldiers are tasked with walking around with the LNs (local nationals) that come on camp, ensuring the Iraqi workers don’t engage in anything clandestine. The escorts don their armor, helmets, load their magazines, and generally put on a quintessential American “fuck ‘em” attitude to get them through the hot day.
Meanwhile the LNs go here and there, working on everything from laying phone lines, to welding, to emptying garbage bins, washing down toilets, or even just picking up trash on the roads.
My latest turn came a few days ago when some Iraqi guys were laying network lines through our living areas, hooking up some trailers to the Internet. Only one guy spoke any sort of English, so communication consisted of pointing and nodding. Things went pretty smoothly, albeit a bit awkwardly, since I felt like one of those mounted policemen watching over a convict highway cleanup crew. Nothing says “We’re here to liberate you” than a loaded assault rifle tracking your every move.
There came a part when a small ditch was needed to bury the wire across the span between the latrines and the other half of the trailers.
Of course the Iraqis couldn’t bring any tools with them, so they looked to me, mimicking a pick to break through the hard-packed gravel.
All I could come up with was a small shovel that we used to dig foxholes with. It could be unfolded in such a way to serve as a sort of pick, so I handed it to the shlep charged with digging the thing.
He continued to make the pick mimic, but seeing as how I kept shrugging my shoulders, he took his meager implement and began chipping away at the rocks.
Bits and chunks shot everywhere as he tried to work through the inches and inches of packed gravel. Having to stop every couple of minutes for water, he would look up at me every so often with the sort of stare that said, “This would have been a whole lot easier with a damn pick, jerk.”
It was lunchtime and soldiers would pass by every so often, asking what we were doing. Sometimes I would say “digging a ditch” but found “looking for weapons of mass destruction” to sound more exciting. Either explanation would get a “Oh, okay” as they continued to their trailers.
About an hour and one banged-up entrenching tool later, the small ditch was ready for the wire. My guard relief came to let me get some lunch as the Iraqi who had been digging began to bandage up a gash on his hand. All the poor bastard had was a napkin and electrical tape, but it was better than nothing, I guess.
After lunch I was waylaid by other duties, so that ended my first critical mission of OIE IV.