21 days. Sometimes it seems as if the day just drags on and some days zip by when the training is good. Our first major hurdle or step to our dance in Iraq has been fulfilled. That last big test that I mentioned the other day was an interesting one. The day before, a soldier from the other unit that trains with us was the convoy commander and one of our soldiers was the assistant.
The next one was our CULMEX. Guess who was chosen to be the convoy commander? Yep. Once I found out I grabbed the assistant and we chose our TCs(troop commanders for each vehicle), we pulled those guys in and put together a plan. Our mission was to enter the city of 'Balad' to meet with an Iraqi Police chief who was on our side.
The next morning we received more intel, mapped our routes, geared up and headed out. Before the first vehicle entered the city we hear gunfire and rolled in hard. All our vehicles established their positions to cover our movement and the members of the cordon team ran to clear the house of the Iraqi policeman. After their okay, I met with him, received intel on the 'bad guys' and what the policeman wanted as far as assistance. Once the meeting was over, we exited the house and then all hell broke loose. By the time I reached my humvee three explosions rocked the 5-point intersection where we established our position.
Members of our team that were on the ground (QRF quick reaction force) were trying to fire on insurgents who were dashing around and provide cover for the cordon team who were trying to get back to their vehicles. The gunners on top of the humvees were letting loose also. M249 and .50 cal. brass arced through the air as the gunners worked to surpress the movement and/or 'kill' the 'bad guys'. Yellow smoke began to fill up the streets, obscuring our line of sight and the net(radios) was filled with shouts. I was scrambling to get accountability of the vehicles so we could get the heck out of there (VERY difficult when the poop hits the fan).
Once everyone was in the vehicles, we began to roll out and got stuck behind one humvee that sideswiped a CONEX. It backed up and hauled butt and the rest of the convoy rounded the corner amid grenade and RPG fire. After that, the OC called endex (end exercise) and we rolled back in to complete an after action review. I was surprised to see the amount of OPFOR(opposing force...the bad guys) standing in front of us who worked to screw up our mission and 'kill' our soldiers.
Overall, it was said that our planning was well done due to our staging and execution of our mission. Once that meeting was over between me and the police chief, it fell apart and we found that practice was needed in communication and contingency planning. I learned quite a bit and I know that we're not an infantry unit or an MP(military police) unit, but we did pretty good considering. I'm very thankful that I had some NCOs(noncommissioned officers) who had strengths in certain areas and was able to use their strengths to accomplish our mission.
Normally, a public affairs detachment doesn't go breaking down doors to hunt down high value targets....the cool thing we do is one of us goes with that high-speed infantry squad who is going after that HVT and we get to cover what they're doing and show the world how they're kickin' butt.
So, overall, our training here was great. Combatives, M16 and M9 qual, live fire with the big guns, urban operations and an assault on a bldg., humvee rollover scenarios (yes we rolled over!), and some cool new toys and gear all wrapped up in 21 days. I'm to be heading home to Texas....but not for too long. We'll be back. That will be another story altogether....and pictures from our adventures here will be posted soon.