Local People Help Prevent Disaster in Iraq

The dust from the day had yet to settle, so the air was thick as the night was growing into one of total darkness.

No matter the conditions my squad readied itself for our upcoming patrol through the city.

The squad was not my normal squad, but rather a hodgepodge of individuals from several different platoons and military operational skills.

We had cavalry scouts, infantrymen, tankers, mechanics, military police, a supply specialist and a medic to fill a 10-man patrol that was going to conduct a dismounted sweep through a small city south of Baghdad.

I was somewhat uncomfortable with the situation, but over the past week the men had performed well and gained experience in the area, which would help to make my job easier.

Things had been tense all week, at least for me, because I had firsthand experience of how bad this city was and how quickly your normal day could turn deadly.

I conducted checks on the guys in my fire team of five to ensure each person had the right amount of everything to inflict as much pain as possible if we needed it.

We were already on an island about 30 minutes away from any major U.S. forces as we occupied the only patrol base in the city.

Things were heating up again in this area, so the patrol base was nearly tripled in numbers of U.S. troops, allowing for more flexibility in the type and amount of patrols we could perform without running every soldier into the ground.

We still only had a small number of troops, but it was more than the little building we were staying in could hold.

During the week between day and night patrols when we werent sleeping we were cleaning weapons and playing around.

Soldiers from the roof would throw rocks or water at the ones in the courtyard and vice versa until they got bored with that.

Then we would sit around and meet the soldiers we didnt know or hadnt spoken to very much because of our high operation tempo, which prevented us from interacting with the other platoons.

By nightfall, though, it was back to business again for us as one patrol after the other prepped up and moved out along their predetermined routes through the business and housing districts of the city. I got the word and I started to head out toward the gate as point man in front of the patrol.

The staff sergeant in charge of me had already briefed me on where to go, so I moved with a purpose to get my distance to prevent any explosion or attack taking more than just myself out. I heard my radio squawk at me to hold my position just inside the front gate.

What would follow is one of the biggest reasons I am alive to write this today.

An Iraqi civilian had informed us of an ambush waiting for us along our path that night.

His little boy had found a bomb hidden along one of their neighbors walls in some weeds. The boy also told his father of men moving around on the roofs, possibly with weapons.

I took command of one of the three humvees we took out to respond to the tip.

My humvee was made up of soldier from my scout platoon, with the other two made up of the military police platoon and another scout platoon.

The Iraqi police led the charge out the gate with their white Nissan pick-up truck with blue doors and flashing lights.

We pulled up into the neighborhood and got out in a sewage-laden soccer field as the Iraqi police were moving quickly on foot with only the lights of our headlights to guide them.

I saw about three of them start pulling on a tarp or something about 200 meters away from me.

Then they started running, and my words to describe the situation to my men could not be printed in this paper.

Thankfully for my Iraqi friends it did not blow, so I was given the order to detach from the other humvees and find a way around the city to secure the far side of the site.

I somehow found a way without getting lost and pulled up to the far side with an Iraqi police truck with me.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal, or EOD, was on the way, but the fun was not quite over yet.

We started seeing movement on the roof tops, but before we could get too excited about any of it, the Iraqi police stormed the houses and investigated the situation.

They cleared house after house before finally determining it was safe for us.

One of the police officers got a phone call from his wife. Madame baby, madame baby, he kept saying. Apparently his wife was having their first child, so I let them go.

The night would end shortly later once EOD arrived and neutralized the bomb with its robot.

I am positive that if not my life, then several people in my squads lives were spared because of the bravery of one Iraqi civilian who was tired of terrorists working in his city.

The Iraqi police proved to me once again that they were a capable force that had courage no matter what they faced or what was going on in their personal lives.