In this week’s edition of Pages From My Pocket: QRF
And from my leaders notebook circa 2005, here is one.
From 23 / 24 July 2005, this page details initial notes I took as platoon leader of Charger Troop, 3rd Platoon (Blue) 2-14 Cav; detailed to Squadron as QRF for the initial cordon and search of Rawah, Iraq. It was a three day operation to enter and clear the entire town. I recall a little bit about day one – as my platoon was on QRF in the lead up to the operation, and for the first day of the operation. We typically were on QRF for four or five days; anything after that tends to drain the men, as QRF tends to get used a lot (depending on your leadership, that is).
You can see by my chicken-scratch above that we were to stage with a lot of the Squadron assets in Area of Activity Kiowa (AA Kiowa). AA Kiowa was selected because it was an old elementary school (surely now defunct) less than a block from an old Iraqi Police Station (also defunct). AA Kiowa would serve as a forward-area for any of the Squadron support functions; medical support, the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) folks, maintenance folks, intelligence and civil affairs, and whatever else was needed – like where to take detainees. We were packing some engineers to fortify the area, some intelligence folks, and the civil affairs guys.
“Push to all EOD calls in town.” That was probably 75 to 90% of QRF’s real purpose; escort EOD to the various calls for located IED’s, car bombs, explosives, and weapons caches. We took EOD everywhere when we were on QRF (all of the times we rotated onto QRF, not just this once). EOD escort could be pretty fun because the EOD guys were batshit crazy. And because they lived on the edge they were cool as hell. I remember one of our main EOD guys in Tal’Afar would say ‘I’m going to have to put the bomb suit on for this one and go have a look – if you see me running, it’s because it’s a real IED and I just put a thirty second pop-fuse on it.’ He was speaking about manually inspecting a device if the robot couldn’t really get a good view on it; and by ‘pop fuse’ he meant he just dropped a block of C4 explosive on it, with a 30 second-timed fuse. So if he was running – get the fuck down!!
Well, make room for him to haul ass back to your position and hide, then get the fuck down. Anyways, I digress. For this operation we were to wait for the initial wave to clear Rawah up to AA Kiowa, and then depart to the objective there.
Here’s a rough sketch of the route into AA Kiowa.
The Infantry and Scouts taking part in the initial push early in the morning encountered resistance. Several homes along the only main ingress route were rigged as ‘HB-IEDs’, or house-born improvised explosive devices – basically IED’s built into the walls of the homes, but we had a solution for that. The Joint-Tactical Air Controllers (JTAC) from the Air Force with us were there to guide in bombs; this came in handy often- in this case they called in several strikes, and I think we pancaked something like three or four buildings along that main ingress route. All just to eliminate the HBIED threat. I remember watching as some of the other munitions inside the buildings would go off after the initial bomb strike. ‘Secondaries’ is what we called that.
You could tell when a bomb hit something that was just concrete and dirt/mud. You could also tell when there was added-value – artillery shells or homemade explosives, as the explosion would be bigger and have more blackish-gray smoke. Sometimes more fire.
You can see I had annotated out the numbers of vehicles, by type, and the number of personnel in them. Accurate accountability was paramount – there had been enough instances of soldiers in remote areas or at smaller bases getting overrun and kidnapped by Al Qaeda. We also had a guy go AWOL out of the wire once, so we always had proper accountability of who had who, and where everybody was.
Note: I also annotated that I had room for 5 more personnel in my platoon – because there is always someone that needs to go, or be added last minute. In this case we could take 5. I don’t think we needed all of those spaces, though.
Other notes from the page:
– Threats: The main threats that intelligence had told us to expect in this area: indirect-fire (IDF); IED’s; suicide-car bombs (SVBIED’s); and accurate sniper fire. Read more on our experiences with snipers and sniping here if you like.
– Primary and alternate radio frequencies, to include tactical-satellite communications if needed (TACSAT). Rawah was out in the middle of nowhere, after all. Having a good communications plan is key.
And then there was the obligatory ‘this sux’ scribbled on the side of the page, no doubt while I was listening to the briefing for this operation, waiting to hear more pertinent info. I guess also I was doodling, recognizing and anticipating that after we cleared Rawah, we all had to actually live out in the middle of the desert – for the remaining THREE or FOUR MONTHS of our tour!!
There are a few other scribbles here and there.
I don’t remember too much more about day one on QRF. After that first day I got released by our Red Platoon and I returned to Charger to join them for day two of the clearing operation. That experience, my friends, is an entirely different story for another time! Two things I do remember distinctly from this operation, though:
One – our JTAC, Air Force Technical Sergeant Moody. The entire tour, we’d been picking through weapons caches everywhere. Occasionally we would find things we could actually keep as souvenirs. Bayonets fell into this category; I had a pretty sweet Russian bayonet that I had snatched from a raid one day that I was keeping for myself. A lot of the men had acquired bayonets of their own, so I felt good calling this one mine. Well, turns out good old TSgt Moody was rotating out of theater in a week – so essentially right after this operation.
And TSgt Moody was a cool dude. To show off how effective the F-15’s flying high above us were, he radioed the lead pilot for the F-15’s we had on duty that day and said ‘hey check my position, over.’ He then put his left hand up to the sky and gave them the finger. He held it there for about fifteen seconds, and back over the radio came a hearty “Ha- yeah Fuck you too, man.” We were pretty impressed. We could hardly hear the jets overhead yet they could see good detail – to the gnats ass. That reinforced my confidence in our JTACs and the Air Force, and I’m thankful for all the bombs that they dropped for us.
Well TSgt Moody really wanted a bayonet to take home with him and he never had run across one. ‘Well, shit, Sergeant Moody – I have one. Here. Take this one.’
“Oh really, Sir? Are you sure?” Yeah absolutely. This guy was an awesome asset and he did us good, so I was happy to give him my bayonet.
‘Yeah honestly, we find them all the time. I’ll find like, ten more. Trust me.’
I never found another AK-47 bayonet after that; not even the crappy Chinese ones…
TSgt Moody – wherever you might be, appreciate and cherish that bayonet!!!
Two – EOD. We took EOD to a number of calls that day. One of them was for a weapons cache down near the waterline in Rawah. We had to dismount and walk a good way to get down the cliff-like area that led down to the beach. I don’t remember much, but what I do remember was the end result.
EOD was going to reduce the found artillery shells and munitions in place. Usually, back in Tal’Afar we would use our little digital cameras to record that shit – it was cool! Well, dumbass me, tired and laying down behind a sand berm where EOD told us to take cover, I decided ‘hey I have enough videos of shit blowing up.’
“This one is close! Real close!” they said. Yeah, whatever. We have two more calls to go to after this. I figured, the hell with it. I left my camera in its pouch on my vest. When that explosion went off – holy shit! It literally was right there just near the other side of the beach past the sand berm we had taken cover behind. The ground thumped beneath us; the sand berm we were laying on shuddered and gave way some; the loudness rung in our ears as the concussion from the blast echoed in our chests, rattling our bones.
And shit flew sky-high. I remember laying there, turning on my side and looking skyward at this huge cloud of matter, wondering what was shrapnel and debris that would come back down on us. And then wondering why I didn’t video tape that! It was all sand and it rained down on us heavily. That was one of the coolest things I had ever seen, and probably the closest I had been to an explosion (not counting eating several IED’s; at least EOD blasts were caused by us! Not them!)
Oh. And we also cleared this wrecked car. From which I stole the tape deck.
Hey – people still do steal car stereos you know…