7 February, 2005:
While serving a twenty-four hour stint on the Squadron’s quick reaction force (QRF) we were responding to a radio call of small arms fire heard by a patrol in town, when we stopped to check out a suspicious dirt pile on Tal’Afar’s main northerly route ringing the town – route Santa Fe. We had been running around since early in the morning reacting to calls of several IED’s that had either struck platoon’s or were discovered / suspected, and we brought the expert ordnance disposal (EOD) folks there to reduce them. We’d taken some small arms fire sporadically but nothing out of the ordinary.
We spotted the dead giveaway dirt pile just shy of what we called the ‘Swiss cheese’ house because well, it was so riddled with bullet and rocket holes it might as well have been a block of Swiss… it resembling so because it was a popular spot to initiate ambushes from (for some unknown reason) – hence the hate and discontent the building generally received.
We stopped well shy of the pile of dirt in the middle of the road and trained the LRAS on it (our thermal imaging multi-sensor system that is the scout’s real main weapon – used to do everything from determine distance to target, obtain laser-derived grid coordinates of an object, or simply to see what’s hot out in a sea of cold). Well, this pile of dirt was showing up hot. We were beginning to call up Squadron on the radio to say we probably needed to come back for EOD, when a ratty mutt of a dog came trotting up the side of the road; that dog zig-zagged past the Strykers and around the little drainage ditch on the side of the road – sniffing out for something with fervor, like a man on a mission – and then made a b-line directly for the pile of dirt.
No sooner had the dog begun to sniff around the dirt pile the thing blew sky-high. We generally ducked at these types of explosions, but we stood in awe – motionless. There was no follow-on small arms fire, no other movement. Squadron came back on the radio… “QRF, Rattlesnake-main – say again, what is the situation, over?” Rattlesnake-main, QRF – never mind…
Most likely an anti-tank mine with a tilt-rod, or some type of anti-handling device; really a piss poor attempt to catch a vehicle. Must’ve been the B-squad that day… For several days as we drove up and down Santa Fe doing our business we passed the eviscerated carcass of the back half of that dog where it came to rest in the gutter on the side of the road. We saluted that poor mutt. Someone was going to put him in for a Silver Star I think, but we didn’t know the poor bastard’s name – that and they don’t give medals to dogs (well, Iraqi dogs). Sometimes karma works in your favor.
Good for us that day that dog was there. Not so much for the dog, however…