After the truck commander (TC) carried the wounded Iraqi Police Officer (IP) to the medic, we were ordered to back up to a safe distance so the tanks could fire into the building the insurgents were in. We piled back into the Humvee and waited for the “show” to begin. Each tank round that hit, blew off big chunks of the building exterior and continued until all movement stopped. Once the area was secure it was time to survey the damage. I opened the door, got out and started shooting. I had to tell the story of what happened that day and the aftermath.
Stepping into Hell
Getting out of the Humvee was like stepping into hell. It took me a second to process the scene and decide where to begin. Two IPs backed up a truck to the casualties lying outside the mud hut. One spread a blanket on the ground while the other came to get the body to the blanket and up into truck bed. Then they would take it to the casualty collection point (CCP). That was the first time I’d seen a body that wasn’t in a casket and it wouldn’t be last.
It was painful to watch the them struggling to get the body into the truck. As soon as they lifted it they put it down because one man would start uncontrollably crying and wailing. It felt like an intrusion shooting video of them in that state, but it was my job to stand there shooting video of them crying and trying to get their dead friend into the truck.
Million Dollar Wound
Before I could process the scene in front of me, a wounded IP ran to me while screaming in Arabic. I had no idea what he wanted or if I could help him until he started using hand gestures. He kept pointing down to his ass and screaming. Then I saw what he was screaming about, he’d been shot in the ass. It was a “million dollar wound,” and he was damn lucky, though I’m sure it hurt like hell.
It was difficult to find the wound initially because the dark color made it difficult to see blood. Then I spotted a small hole with fatty flesh poking out. It looked like what I imagined a bullet hole to the butt would look like. Fortunately for him it wasn’t a life threatening wound and the only thing I could do was get him to the medic.
Just as I started to shoot again, a pickup truck screeched up in front of me with more wounded IPs. One was screaming bloody murder while pointing to his bleeding foot. He’d been fortunate to only be shot in the foot and was screaming and gesturing for water. It seemed like an unusual request because he’d been shot and was obviously in pain. He needed to get to the medic ASAP, but the driver and I got the trunk open and handed over a few bottles of water.
Any time I tried to go back to shooting, another wounded IP would run to me for help. I couldn’t figure out why they kept coming to me until I thought about it. I was the only female on the mission, the only military wearing the old desert camouflage uniform (DCUs). The only other person wearing the same uniform was the Iraqi interpreter. Then it clicked, “They think I speak Arabic and that I’m an interpreter of some sort!” This was bad. It was very bad because interpreters were at the top of the target list. Insurgents viewed them as traitors for helping the U.S. and the last thing I wanted was a bigger target on my back.
To be continued tomorrow….