It was early in the tour, nine weeks in or so when we were on patrol in Tal’Afar; Al Suria; the neighborhood we’d later call ‘the Gaza strip’ because anytime you went it, you took contact. That is, got shot at. Blown up. Pick your form of hatred and that is what the Hajji threw at us but, I digress
My commander at the time chose to tag along. He bore a striking resemblance to Napoleon in both stature and facial composition; temperament too. I put his Stryker in the middle of the platoon, behind my own. And as we turned left on route corvette not one, but six – six RKG-3’s popped up over a courtyard wall- and started to do their job in the order they were thrown, with staggered crack-like thud’s and clouds of smoke. Now for those not familiar with the RKG-3, it is a hand grenade; A sort of can on a stick (thing ‘potato-masher’), with a parachute that deploys when thrown, gently correcting the grenade’s descent so it slowly arcs. And then it points to the top of your vehicle; then it detonates. A shaped-charge does the rest – effective against tanks and Strykers; pokes a molten hole right through your roof. I hated getting RKG-3’d; it frightened me much ( I could do without a molten-copper piercing in the head thank you).
‘Contact Left!’ I call into the radio, taking a little cover as my Stryker speeds up a bit and I see three men run. I draw a bead and lay one down; head-shot (my first two missed, though). I am about to key the mic and order my Bravo section to break left down the alley and give chase when across my net came a bellowing “STOP!” I turn and look behind me. My commander is stopped, waving his arms frantically. He is waving his arms and pointing behind his truck; behind him in the street, one RKG-3 – it did not blow. “We need to secure this” he says while I stand confused, I look around but we’ve rolled too far and I can’t see the men that most likely threw them. And they’ve probably drug the body off by now, they do that – and if that haven’t they will, perhaps concoct a hasty ambush as well. I hear my commander calling on our higher-net call for EOD. Explosive Ordinance Disposal; they reduce the bombs we find. That is, the ones we find through skill – not the old fashioned way. There’s nothing for them to destroy once the bomb hits you
EOD takes their time so here we are, alone and bored in Al Sarai, not chasing the enemy but waiting for EOD, twiddling our thumbs. My thumb is gently feeling the safety on my rifle as I look around. And after a bit it still is quiet and gray, early December so it’s chilly and damp – When out of the urban landscape that contains absolutely nobody comes this man in a dirty yellow jumpsuit. Clubbed-foot, huge smile, dragging a broom and casually hobbling his way into the street from the alley where he just came, bobbing his head to and fro. Not a care in the world. ‘What the fuck is this’ I say to my crew, who essentially echoes the same. The commander’s on the radio again “Blue One, this is Charger six! Dismount!” Before I can drop our ramp I hear the metallic ping of the commander’s, and the rest of my platoon follows suit as half of us dismount into the street. By the time I reach my commander’s Stryker fifty feet behind he is fervently interrogating the man via his ‘terp – demanding to know ‘Who threw the hand grenades?’ The man stammers out “I love Bush!” It doesn’t take an interpreter for me to tell this man does not know. He is mentally retarded; handicapped; simple; down syndrome – call it whatever you want but he’s in a smelly city worker’s jumper with a broom, and very clearly a janitor. Aside from the fact he came from the wrong side of the street!
But my commander won’t relent; I cannot talk reason into the guy. “We have to detain this guy – Lieutenant, roll him up” For real? “yes real” holy shit, motherfuck; he has no intelligence value whatsoever. He’s committed no crime, he doesn’t understand – we all protest. “LT” he scowls, so gently we frisk him down and roll him up. He goes in your truck, too” gee thanks Sir you’re such a rock star. Crying like a child and pissing his pants my men take him off (we left his broom, though) as EOD rounds the bend with another Platoon, whose men stare and gawk – the queerest looks on their faces, not understanding one bit this sight. ‘Don’t ask’ I say as I shake my head, literally disgusted. The commander’s a fucking idiot – I’ve now confirmed this (suspected, but now a fact). Holy Fucking Christ, this is going to be a long year…
[Epilogue: for those curious, the man was released two days later and returned to his neighborhood once Squadron realized ‘Charger 6 detained a retard’, and not only did he have no value as a detainee whatsoever, it was probably against some sort of Geneva accord. I hope that fine gentleman is alive and well today and enjoying life wherever he may be. And yes – Uncle Andy was an idiot – and he was replaced one month later with a real leader, and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief]