In retrospect... Homemade bombs at 0-Dark-30.

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March 25th 2013
Published: March 25th 2013
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Originally posted December 2, 2004

An Aggie's letter from Iraq: Homemade bombs at 0-dark-30
<table style="color:� font-family: Times;" width="100%!"(MISSING) border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0"><tbody><tr><td width="72%!"(MISSING)></td><td class="mainTEXT" width="28%!"(MISSING)>Editor's Note: David J. Jenkins is a 1998 graduate of Utah State University's English department. His current home of record is Moses Lake, Wash., but he is serving in Baghdad, Iraq, with the Oregon Army National Guard. Today he presents the first of an occasional series of letters from Iraq to his fellow Aggies.</td></tr></tbody></table>

By David J. Jenkins, USU class of '98

December 2, 2004 � Hello everyone. Greetings from Baghdad . . .

The advent of the Internet has made every soldier a correspondent. With a little luck, hopefully, many of you know more than just me here in Iraq, and are able to receive more than the one simple point of view that I have to offer. (With a little more luck, you don't know anybody here at all, and are completely detached from the happenings in this far-off conflict altogether).

I feel very blessed to be able to share my stories, my daily happenings, with each of you. As we progress in this theater, however, I feel more and more committed to delivering timely and accurate accounts of our situation, but am confronted with the conflict of interest that occurs when a soldier is reporting that of his own unit and being faced with the ever-present notion of OPSEC (OPerational SECurity). As you look . . . over my stories, my accounts of our involvement here, you'll find that I have become quite proficient at omitting dates, names and any future events. My accounts are completely of the past and are so vague they could have happened to anyone. I am afraid that as time passes, I too am going to forget the names of my comrades and the places we've been. This has been a broad sweep of a brush across an empty canvas called Baghdad.

I was speaking to a friend whom I have known most of my life. He and I attended grade school together and eventually went in the Marine Corps together after high school. As we exchanged our "Happy Thanksgivings," he asked me about the many roadside bombs that are going off and what we are doing to combat that. I can't go into great detail, but I will tell you about one of our missions that we were assigned last week.

We were informed one evening that the next morning, at 0-dark-30, we would be conducting route clearances. We were up long before the sunrise and our convoy rolled off post, creating the only sound at that time of morning.

The subtle rumble of the diesel engines broke the silence as we inched through the front gate. As we moved away from the patrol base, the diesel engines began to whine . . . louder . . . louDER . . . LOUDER, until the sound echoed off the buildings like the bass singers in a grand choir. The squawk of birds joined in the chorus, adding the needed tenor sound to balance out the harmony. Eventually, they were followed by the baritone of stray dogs that we passed along the way, until the symphony was in full swing and we were heading down the freeway en route to our assignment.

We finally reached our point of origin and we fell into our standard formation for purposes of route clearance. Our lead vehicle inched its way along with our vehicle close in, providing security. Our remaining vehicles fell into the rear acting like a couple of football linemen, creating a moving roadblock and preventing innocent civilians from bypassing our procession and becoming an unlikely victim of a potential IED (Improvised Explosive Device -- a homemade booby trap).

We hadn't gone very far on this route when the squawk of the radio broke through the hum of the motor and broke the quiet meditation that was going through my head. "Oh my God. . . . That looks like an IED," came the staggered voice of Team 2's leader. They immediately came to a halt and we followed suit. The rear vehicles instinctively broke into a blocking pattern to halt traffic entirely.

"Where is it?" came the expected reply from the L-T.

"Directly ahead on the right . . . about 100 meters."

"Back off. I don't want you that close." retorted the lieutenant

Our entire unit backed off and once again set up our blocking formation. Re-routing traffic and surveying the area, we placed a call in to EOD (explosive ordinance disposal); and . . . we waited. We sat there, watching the IED, watching the surrounding buildings and waiting for . . . anything. As we sat there, I watched the street lamps march down the freeway like a procession of ants; occasionally, taking an unexpected jog to one side or the other, but ultimately disappearing straight ahead into the distant horizon. The freeway narrowing, sliding off like a piece of ribbon that had been batted and toyed with by a playful cat.

EOD arrived, set up its mobile headquarters and prepared to deploy their electronic retrieval device. A cross between Robby the robot and a tank, but small enough to fit in the back of a Humvee, this was the one "expendable" member of their team. Standing behind the armored vehicle, the NCOIC (Non-commissioned officer in charge), took to the controls and approached the roadside bomb with little worry, as he was able to see, touch and manipulate the threat from a safe distance, via the little robot.

We were lucky this time around, as the bomb had not been made ready at that point. It was placed, but not fused. Once again, timing was on our side. We were able to pick up the vacant bomb and EOD was tasked with its demise.

We continued on with our mission and returned to post with no further complications.

The next few days, as some may have heard, were very difficult times for our unit. We have lost yet another soldier. We were faced with three days of intense battles. Each of our companies was tasked with providing elements to aid in the conflict and it was one of our line companies that suffered the loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. Although this unit is from the Portland area, the soldier was a volunteer from New York. Compelled to "do his part." I can only imagine the grief his family is feeling as they think about the fact that he didn't have to be here. We all have our different views on this, and my deep gut feeling is that, for myself, I have to be here.

The thought of not deploying would have haunted me forever. My sense of Duty, Dedication and Honor say that I had to come. I had to do my part for Democracy and for that of Freedom. And, I know that my family understands this about me. And if they didn't, they do now.

I am not a columnist, nor am I a correspondent in the traditional sense. However, with the Internet hard at work, I am certain that many eyes are looking upon this and seeing the world in a different way. My primary goal is to help each of you to see the world through my eyes.

And, I hope that I have been able, at the very least, to succeed in that.

Best wishes,
Cpl. David J. Jenkins
Oregon Army National Guard, 2-162 Infantry


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