Had my fill
There’s a certain thrill that comes with strapping yourself to the front of a 4,800 gallon fuel tank and taking off down the roads in Iraq.
“Those things armored?” I asked my driver.
“What, the trailer? Naw, but diesel doesn’t blow up, so we’re good,” he responded.
“You’d think a big thing like this would be a good target,” I went on, thinking about the 20 fuel tankers that had been taken out in an Iraqi civilian fuel convoy in December. Granted, they were carrying gasoline and did blow up. Still, I figured a fuel carrier was an inviting mark, regardless.
“Well, we’ve done okay so far. No accidents in 100 days. How about that, eh?”
I wasn’t superstitious; and neither was this guy, apparently.
I was with an Army Reserve unit out of California, about to go on a fuel-delivery mission. They made the run about every other day, alternating between different bases.
Being a logistical unit, we had nothing but these sorts of units under us, ready to deliver all the needed supplies to keep the war machine going.
Most, if not all, of what we do everyday is to maintain the status quo. There is no ground to be gained, no measurable aspect of the war to gauge ourselves off of. Just the “standard” of “projected usage” for things like fuel, water, and food. Meaning we had to run convoys everyday just to stay alive.
Running convoys to support the running of convoys elsewhere to support the running of convoys elsewhere.
Two hours south, through the web of main supply routes around Baghdad and we’d be there – FOB Falcon, nestled in a dark mud field south of the city. I had been there before during a mail run I went on sometime back – the one where I nearly became a killer. Not that I remembered much of Falcon aside from the darkened vehicle staging area.
“We’ll be going through Irish, watch your intervals,” the convoy commander reminded us during the mission briefing earlier. Irish was a tricky stretch of road, full of peaceful, happy people who would love to show you the way to Allah. My only beef was with their explosive convictions.
Going through the routine, I was on the road before long. Ammo? Check. Night-vision goggles? Check. Riding in the truck commander’s seat, I began to scan my sectors, going through the motions, finally an oiled machine of war.
‘Complacency is the enemy,’ we’re told constantly. Immense efforts are made to try to shake soldiers awake enough so they don’t ‘settle in’ to routines and ruts. ‘Growing complacent kills,’ they always say.
And I know what they’re talking about. I remember my first convoy – jittery, nervous, eyes peeled in vigilant observation, gasping at every pile of rocks and tossed-aside bottles that might contain the explosives that would be the end of us. I remember the sharpness to my senses, adrift in the sea of ‘outside,’ pushed on the winds of ‘what if…’ It was exciting.
Now, slowing down for a vehicle breakdown, the drivers blacked out their vehicle lights and I didn’t even notice. Putting the NVGs to my eyes, I entered the green, illuminated dark without so much as a quickening of breath.
The roads themselves were becoming familiar. There was the overpass with the blown out cross beams, the huge masque before MSR Pluto (or was it Vernon, I could never remember all the road names)…it was all still there.
There and back, all safe. Is this complacency? I’d like to think it’s confidence, but I suppose there’s a fine line there. In fact, it may be that the only difference between the confident and the complacent is luck.
When you do battle, even if you are winning, if you continue for a long time it will dull your forces and blunt your edge – Sun Tzu