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At War in Iraq, I Faced One Last Incident Before I Went Home

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by Greg Chabot

The beginning of February 2005 was a busy time in Baqubah. Insurgent activity had picked up considerably, keeping all of us at the Police HQ on our toes. With the end of the deployment coming, I had tried multiple times to extend my tour but was denied. I liked the simplicity of Iraq, and really had nothing to go home to. I had even contemplated going rogue and heading up to Kurdistan and linking up with the Pesh, as I had some contacts there. I wasn’t looking forward to being a nobody again. I was respected by my peers and leadership. Being honest, I was addicted to the action and adrenaline rush, and I didn’t want it to end.

Short timer’s fever was spreading like chlamydia throughout the platoon. Which was not a good thing in
a combat zone. I’d rather go on a patrol with a bunch of motivated boots than short timers. Due to
incompetence by leadership, my platoon didn’t redeploy with the rest of the company. There were
problems with the property book, and some fellas from another platoon also got shafted and sent to
Baqubah to turn over vehicles and gear. Amongst my buddies, there was quite a bit of resentment at being left like animals.

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February 11, 2005
On the evening of the 11 th, one of the OPs observed a car pull up across the street. The driver opened the trunk, and struggled to dump a body out. The soldier got the driver’s attention with a warning shot. A QRF rolled out to secure a perimeter under the command of Captain DS (Dip Shit), a jackass who tended to be reckless in the field.

The deceased was a local police officer, who had been tortured and shot in the head. Captain DS began to question the driver to find out how he came in possession of the body. Traffic had dried up and locals
were closing their shops. Which wasn’t a good sign at 1800 hrs. A request was made for the Iraqi Police
to come out and form an outer perimeter. No joy, they were dragging their feet – not a good sign either.

First Sgt Belanger ordered another squad on the roof of our building to provide overwatch. Calls to the IPs went unanswered. We figured we were being set-up for a VBIED or possible ambush.

READ MORE from Greg Chabot: Inside the Circle of Death

My squad leader had us push out the perimeter with one team covering the other. The occasional vehicle would approach us, and a dismount would try to wave them off.  Some would comply, and others being ignorant would push it, resulting in a warning shot being fired. We weren’t taking chances today.

I was the gunner in the outermost vehicle. I was scanning rooftops and alleys looking for threats. The few vehicles on the road were coming from Buhriz, a village that was a hot bed of insurgent activity with many battles fought there during the deployment.

Buhriz was a hotbed of insurgency, and was the scene of many fights

Today is as good as any other to die, I figured

The motorists were getting bolder, not heeding the warning shots. A quick burst from my M249 managed to get them to turn around. The cowardly IPs still wouldn’t support us, and DS threatened over the radio to have them marched out by bayonet point. 

A green Opel sedan comes rolling up on us. Sergeant Messier tries to wave him off. The driver ignores him and after a warning shot, he guns it.

Not fucking around, I engage, walking my rounds up the fender shattering the windshield, killing the savage behind the wheel. The car continues to roll towards my vehicle. I go cyclic, and out of the corner of my eye I see my teammates scatter. Figuring today is as good as any to die, I stay in the turret and continue to pump rounds into the vehicle.

It finally rolls to a stop; I fire an insurance burst into the driver. Out of the corner of my eye I see Sgt. Legere waving cease fire.

It gets dead quiet. I can see the driver laying across the seat. Legere jumps in and moves my vehicle away from the Opel in case it explodes. He runs back and pulls the drivers body out. He had taken so many rounds that he was smoking – a sight I’ll never unsee in this lifetime.

The radio is going wild with Battalion wanting to know what’s going on. As DS is giving his report a white Toyota Hilux comes racing up. I fire a warning burst, and like a fool he punches it.

Without hesitation I shoot him in the head. The truck keeps coming, and I hear a sound no soldier wants to hear. The dreaded Deadman’s Click.

I do the fastest reload of my life. The truck is now alongside me, and out of frustration I throw the empty ammo can at it.

The team behind me is now engaging, trying their damnedest to keep it out of the perimeter. By this time, I’m reloaded and focusing on my sector. And unbeknownst to me, the Hilux after passing my vehicle veered to the left towards the Police HQ.

With a complete lack of discipline and situational awareness which I blame on being short, some of the idiots on the roof open fire on the Hilux, needlessly endangering my squad.

I hear the snap of rounds going by, and a crack as friendly fire hits my vehicle. In front of the Police HQ is a deep canal, there is no way a Hilux is getting across it, they should have held their fire.

The Hilux hits a light pole and comes to a stop. Out of the back jumps a woman and a child. Miraculously, they survive unscathed by the hate unleashed at them. They are checked for injuries and detained for questioning. The Iraqi police finally find their balls and set up roadblocks to divert traffic. After the close call we do blood wipes on each other and check for major damage on our vehicles from friendly fire. 

Brought in for questioning

Captain DS turns the investigation over to the Police and we are ordered to FOB Gabe for a hot wash. Which was odd as we normally conducted our own.

Arriving at the 1-6 FA TOC we are told to take seats by the battalion CSM. It seemed the relieving unit was more worried about ROE violations than fighting a war.  1-6 FA was investigating the incident to determine if it rated an article 32 investigation for homicide. As the shooter, I knew both kills were legal and figured someone was trying to make a name for themselves.

The Battalion S3 walks in and begins to brief us. DS like a jackass begins to tell “How it Happened.” The S3 tells him to shut the fuck up and get in his office. While waiting our turns to talk to S3, the CO chats with us and has sandwiches and sodas brought over. I overhear him calling his relief a pussy and it was a legit shoot. I knew at that moment, I wasn’t in trouble, and I just had to play the game.

I go in and answer the questions and make my statement, and I’m dismissed. We head back to the Police HQ; I resupply ammo and clean weapons after being congratulated on my kills by platoon mates. The next few days fly by, as we do joint patrols and teach our reliefs about the area.

We get word that the incident followed the ROE and there is nothing to delay us further from redeploying.

I breathe a sigh of relief, and prepare to go home to be a nobody.

Greg Chabot served in Iraq 2004-2005. He is a freelance writer living in New Hampshire. He frequently contributes to Soldier of Fortune.

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