View Full Version : Thought I would share a story ...

06-15-09, 11:51 PM
... with my brothers and sisters. Before I share it, though, I want to explain who's who. I won't break every vehicle down, just my section.

1st Section AAVs
201 - Driver: Hack Turret: SSgt Arellano (Casanova) Crewman:Wiggins
202 - Driver: Me Turret: Gastelum (G) Crewman: Ellis
203 - Driver: Funes Turret: Hightower Crewman: Can't remember

Now, this is an entry from my memoir that I want to pass down sometime after I die. I wrote it in a story format so that it would hopefully be more entertaining to read instead of a chronological order that I thought would even bore me. This is EXACTLY what happened from my point of view (I think everyone has a different point of view of the war, even if they are right next to each other. If I decide to post some more of my experiences, you will see that I even put in the times when I screwed up). It's based off of my journal entries and memory. I am pretty happy with how accurate it was and I honestly think that everyone who was with us would agree on the events.

PLEASE understand that I am not trying to brag or boast or embellish. I just wanted to share a story with everyone. This is towards the beginning of the invasion so maybe I will share the rest if everyone doesn't get bored to death. Also, I apologize in advance for the lack of visual discription (keep in mind, too, that it is written for my kids' kids' kids who will probably not know this information, so I tried to elaborate on some areas that might be common knowledge to you and me).

March 22, 2003

The march toward Basrah International Airport continued. I had been mostly driving since the start of the war and I was exhausted, but my adrenaline was still pumping into my body like crazy. It seemed like the days were flying by. I thought to myself, If the days keep going by this fast, we’ll be back in the United States in no time! It was a nice thought.

If I had been given the opportunity to let Ellis drive so that I could sleep, I would not have taken it. I was tired, but I did not want to miss anything. I felt that if I took a nap when it was not absolutely necessary, I would miss something and everyone would talk about it later while I wished I had stayed up. I had never been in war and I was not willing to sleep it away.

Several kilometers before Basrah International Airport, we crossed over a few railroad tracks. It was still dark enough for NVGs and I proceeded across the tracks, still driving behind Casanova. As he crossed, his track caught on one of the railroad bars and sent sparks flying everywhere. It was a pretty sight in the NVGs. It looked like hundreds of tiny, green fireworks going off. The railroad tracks buckled and lifted under the superior strength of the Amphibious Assault Vehicle.

A few hours after crossing the railroad tracks, we came up to the chain link fence that ran the perimeter of Basrah International Airport. By this time, the sun was barely sending light across the horizon, but it was blinding in the NVGs. I was eager to take them off because they were giving me a headache, plus they do not give any depth perception - they make a huge hole in the ground look like a shadow.

My natural night vision was temporarily gone as I took the bright green lenses from the NVGs off of my face. I blinked a few times and then rubbed my eyes. After a few minutes, I readjusted to the extremely faint hint of morning light enough to follow the vehicle in front of me again without worrying about hitting them should they come to a sudden stop. Stopping a 26-ton vehicle on a dime is not an easy thing to do at 40 mph, and hitting something at that speed will injure or kill a lot of Marines.

Multiple Iraqi vehicles and infantry were scattered throughout the airport. MTLBs and BMPs were everywhere, with a few T-55s dug in around the perimeter. To us, it looked like an armored division sitting in the middle of the airport. A suppression mission was called in, and before long rounds were falling inside the perimeter of Basrah International Airport. We watched from outside the aiport as the rounds exploded, kicking dirt and smoke into the air. Iraqi soldiers ran for cover, abandoning some of their vehicles - we held our fire and let them run.

When the suppression mission had ceased, Staff Sergeant Arellano ran straight through the chain link fence on the southwest side of the airport and proceeded onto the flat terrain of the airport. Dead ahead was the airport terminal, hotel, hangars, runways, control tower, aircraft, and a bunch of Iraqi vehicles with some soldiers running around nearby. We quickly set into a support by fire position, covering India Company’s advance into the airfield behind us.

India Company entered the inside perimeter of Basrah International Airport, moving in an echelon formation. When both companies had linked up and were set in an “L” formation, with Kilo on the left and India on the right, we all advanced towards the buildings near the airfield. The sun was above the horizon now as we engaged the armored vehicles scattered throughout the airport. The plan was to sweep from south to north inside of the chain link fence perimeter as the infantry cleared the buildings.

As we pushed towards the airfield, Staff Sergeant Arellano’s vehicle fell behind.
“202, this is Casanova. My vehicle is down. Continue the push and I’ll join you when I get it up again.” Staff Sergeant Arellano’s AAV had somehow lost power and he could not keep up with the rest of the advance. He dropped back for several minutes as my vehicle took the lead. Corporal Hightower followed, and the AAVs in third section did as well. After we had pulled up to our positions next to a taxiway that ran west to east, Casanova finally fell back into his place and regained control of the three vehicles in first section.

India dismounted their infantry and began clearing the buildings while Alpha Company’s AAVs, supporting Kilo Companys infantry, stood their ground, firing on anything we could identify. Sporadic small arms fire came from a Sheraton Hotel near the terminal and was extinguished with a tank round. Some of the infantry also fired a Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) into the building, which started a fire. Some stray rounds hit an empty passenger jet sitting near the hangers and started another minor fire. Sergeant Casaneda, the squad leader riding in the troop commander’s seat directly behind me, got on the intercom.

“Hey, there’s a cami-net set up right there. Shoot it!”

“Where?” asked G, traversing the turret. I spotted it about thirty meters to my front and right. From what I could see, it was empty.

“Hold on,” I said. “I’m turning the vehicle towards it.” I pushed down on the accelerator while standing on the brakes, and turned the vehicle slightly to the right. “It should be right in front of you.”

“I see it.” Gastelum fired a burst into the camouflage netting. He then fired another.

By this time the tanks, AAVs, and a few of the infantry that had dismounted with AT-4s were engaging every vehicle they could spot, sometimes the ones that were already destroyed. The sound of machine gun fire and 40mm grenade rounds exploding, mixed with the blast from the tanks’ main cannon, filled the air. It was deafening, but motivating. It reminded me of the movie ‘Platoon’ during the last firefight scene. Everything was in a beautiful state of chaos.

A handful of Iraqi soldiers were still running from the assault that was decimating their vehicles and equipment rapidly, pausing every now and then to fire a few rounds with their AKs. They were close to 500 meters out, and some Marines were able to score hits with their M-16s or M-249 SAW. I held my fire, knowing that I would just be wasting ammo since I was not able to get a good view down the sights of my M-16 from the driver station.

I heard someone come over the radio talking about the grunts using one of the Javelins. A Javelin is a shoulder-launched anti-tank missile that is supposed to penetrate all types of armor. No one had fired one before nor seen one fired in real life, and everyone watched as the infantry performed their safety check on it. When they were finished with the check, Lance-Corporal Seeley aimed in at a BMP-1 and fired.

“What the ****?” I said to myself. “The missile is going up into the air.” Other shoulder-launched weapons, like the AT-4 and the SMAW, are fired in a direct line of sight toward the target. “They missed! Holy ****, they missed! That was the worst shot in the history of the Marine Corps! That ****er’s trying to shoot down a crow or something!”

The missile continued on its course, slightly gaining more and more altitude. Then, right as it was about to fly over the target, it nosed down and slammed into the top of the vehicle.

Usually, when Marines use something for the first time as far as weaponry, they want to be impressed, especially when that something is a Javelin missile that has a reputation of its own. A reputation that said it would suck a goat out of a tank through a hole the size of a quarter. Everyone watched, waiting for the hit, picturing the huge atomic mushroom cloud that was sure to follow. Waiting for the ground to open up and Satan to reach up from the depth of Hell to grab the vehicle and carry it under to its inevitable demise. Waiting for the vehicle to explode into tiny metal fragments of dust with all the ferocity of a watermelon filled with dynamite.

Poof! A small cloud of dust exploded up from around the vehicle. Everyone watched, waiting for the BMP to implode or do something extremely cool.


I turned to Gastelum, confused at what I had just witnessed.

“What the **** was that?” I asked. He looked back at me and shook his head. Everyone who had been watching shook their heads with disbelief. I could hear Marines “boo” from the inside of the amtracs. In fact, the “boo-ing” that was now echoing throughout the defense line was drowning out the sounds of combat. It was a definite disappointment, a true let down. Now, I am not saying that the missile did not kill every living being inside that BMP, but everyone was waiting for the “Hollywood” explosion that was supposed to follow. Instead, it was a puff of dust and that was it. We felt robbed.

Everyone turned their attention back to the war. The firing had began dying down and it was not long before the airport was silent, minus the sounds of the vehicle’s diesel engines rumbling at an idle. Gastelum was done shooting, being as the Iraqi vehicles were all destroyed, and I hung out of the driver hatch, enjoying some crackers and cheese from an MRE I had one of the grunts in the back pass up to me. As I spread cheese on part of the cracker, something exploded about thirty meters in front of my AAV. I jumped back into the hatch, checking my face, neck, arms, and hands - I was not hit.

“Holy ****! Did you see that?!” I yelled to G over the intercom. He immediately got onto the net and informed Casanova that we were either taking mortar fire, or we were sitting on a mine field.

“I’m going to pull closer to the runway and take a look.” G told Casanova over the net. He switched back to intercom. “Pull up.” I eased the vehicle forward, putting my crackers and cheese down on the front of the AAV outside the hatch for the time being. As we got closer to the runway, we noticed debris strung along the length of it. The runway was covered with concrete, reinforcing bar, and wrecked vehicle hulls, preventing aircraft from landing. The idea was that the Iraqis would litter the runways and prevent or delay the American aircraft from using the airfield.

“I think there are mines on the runway!” G reported to Casanova. I used the binoculars to get a closer look and found out that the mines were actually chunks of concrete.

“Those are rocks,” I told Gastelum. That meant that we were taking mortar fire from somewhere, which also meant that an Iraqi observer was somewhere close. Sergeant Casaneda stood out of the TC hatch and scanned the surroundings for enemies.

“What’s that on top of the control tower?” He asked. I looked up and saw what appeared to be a man standing on the top of the control tower. Gastelum aimed in with the turret and prepared to fire. Using the binoculars, I found out that it was a couple of antennas that formed the outline of a man from the distance. Sure fooled us, though.

BOOM! Another mortar landed behind me, between my vehicle and Corporal Hightower’s.

“**** this! I’m backing up and finding cover,” I said. I did not want to be sitting in the open while the Iraqis zeroed their mortars in on me. Two close calls like that were enough for me. It ****ed me off that out of the whole Regimental Combat Team, they had to target my vehicle - that made it personal.

I threw the gears into reverse and backed up. As I was doing this, Casanova told everyone to find cover, which was fine with me. The AAVs of first and third section dispersed, and I set up again behind a dirt berm that covered an oil line of some sort. It was just tall enough to allow hull defilade and long enough for one vehicle. Everyone else was now sitting in the open, although in different spots, and I finally had cover. It let me go back to my crackers and cheese without much more worry.

As I ate my meal, G continued to scan the buildings and aircraft around the complex from the turret, hoping to find an observer. Another mortar landed by where we used to be parked and exploded without hitting anybody. I was getting really tired by now and wished I had a nice cool glass of water. The water in the water jugs we carried on the vehicle was too hot to be refreshing. The average temperature outside was around 120 degrees, and was even hotter inside the AAV with a diesel engine running. The water jugs sat next to the engine compartment. I do not know how hot the water was in degrees, but I know it was painful to drink it. Even after drinking it, I felt more dehydrated because of the temperature of the water, but I had to drink it unless I wanted to become a heat casualty.

Two AH-1 Cobras flew overhead. They were beautiful. The most beautiful thing in the world to ground forces is the sight of air support. Every time I saw them fly over, I felt like I had an angel watching over me.

The Cobras circled the airfield, looking for targets. Every now and then, they would fire a burst from their chin-mounted machine gun and it sounded like they were tearing a hole in the sky. Suddenly they vectored towards the bridge that was on the northeast side of the airport, just passed the perimeter fence, and fired a cluster of rockets into an enemy mortar position. It was awesome. Needless to say, the mortars stopped falling and everyone was happy.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading this. As I posted before, writing helps me vent and rationalize things in my head. It helps me with my PTSD because I don't like talking to the VA counselors. If I write it down, I can confess everything to a piece of paper and not have to worry about it calling me a psychotic *******, or judging me. I like to write about my experiences because I want someone to know who I was after I die. I don't get into too much detail when it shouldn't be told (like when I lost my friends), but I can honestly say that I stayed true to my feelings in my writing. I like to tell a story, without telling stories if you know what I mean.

Thanks again for reading this. I'd like to share more with you guys eventually if you guys don't mind.

Gunner 0313
06-16-09, 12:13 AM
:flag:Very cool brother ! I need to do the same for my experiences in the Gulf. Very well written.


06-16-09, 12:21 AM
Good post Fievel !

06-16-09, 01:24 PM
... I could hear Marines “boo” from the inside of the amtracs. In fact, the “boo-ing” that was now echoing throughout the defense line was drowning out the sounds of combat. It was a definite disappointment, a true let down. Now, I am not saying that the missile did not kill every living being inside that BMP, but everyone was waiting for the “Hollywood” explosion that was supposed to follow. Instead, it was a puff of dust and that was it. We felt robbed.

That just made my day, I can imagine this happening, hearing the boo-birds, Marines have a sense of humor that's priceless.

Nice story. Thanks for your service, Marine.:usmc:

06-17-09, 11:04 PM
Thanks, brothers. I'm reading through what I have written down so far to see what else I can post that is appropriate to read. Most of it isn't, at least I don't want poolees and non-Marines going over what I have written. There is a lot of personal stuff that I don't think others would understand unless they've become a Marine.

I've got some stuff in here from Diwaniya, Al Kut, Diyala, Baghdad, and stuff in between. Problem is I can't find anything that would be "appropriate" for a non-Marine crowd.

This would be considered history, wouldn't it? I think everything is accurate, from my perspective anyway.

Robert Pidgeon
08-15-10, 06:09 PM
This is great, and I am enlisting in late Oct, 2010. It gives me an aspect, or at least a view of things to come. I plan on getting deployed of course. Hopefully, with the MOS-0331

Thanks for posting, and I hope for more. Its exciting, and its a once in a life time experience.

08-15-10, 08:38 PM
Good read. Thanks for your service.

08-15-10, 09:04 PM
You are on your way to writing a book. Get in touch with a publisher and show them what you got thus far.

08-19-11, 06:36 PM
Wonderful story, thank you for sharing and for your service Sir

Any updates as far as more stories are coming?

Thank you

01-19-12, 01:32 PM
I know this is an older thread, but I agree with what was said previously..

Talk to a publisher about compiling your writings into a book of some sort. If all of your writing is similar to the story you told here, I'd be more than happy to read it! Especially since it can be hard to find more current stories on what's happening now.

Thanks again for the story and for your service.