By lex, on August 19, 2010
Take a ride along with the Strykers of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division – the last dedicated US combat force in Iraq – as they leave for Kuwait two weeks ahead of “deadline”:
For these soldiers, the road out is marked with blood and regret for the years spent away from family. Sometimes the Iraqis welcomed them, sometimes they wished them dead. The sides remain unfathomable to each other even today; frustration and anger creep into the soldiers’ tone, much as it did when troops first arrived years ago.
At 1 a.m., a dozen sergeants and lieutenants gather in a semicircle for their briefing about the route. “It’s just another roll,” a lieutenant says as one man packs a wad of tobacco into his mouth. He spits and the musty smell fills the air. “Take everything slow. It’s the last mission. There’s no reason for anyone to get hurt.”
These men deserve a victory parade, all of them do. And maybe if the Iraqi parliament could have un-assed themselves long enough to select a government they might just have gotten one. Perhaps cutting off one’s own nose to spite crusader faces is considered a form of art in that part of the world.
Or maybe it’s just not about us, any more.
Meanwhile, over in Sangin Province, Afghanistan, the Marines are hunting a man with a certain, lethal skill set:
The sniper struck first on Aug. 13, the day after Lima Company arrived. A Marine stepped out of his armored vehicle just 100 yards or so from a secure U.S.-British patrol base. He threw away some trash and exchanged a few words with another Marine. The sniper fired a single, lethal shot.
On the same day, a British army engineer—20-year-old Darren Foster from Carlisle, England—was in a guard post in front of the same patrol base. British troops have built a covered, bunkered pathway so the guards aren’t exposed to enemy fire as they walk down from the hilltop base. The post is protected by bulletproof glass, except for small gaps through which the guards fire their weapons. The sniper timed his single shot and killed the engineer as he walked past the opening.
“He hit a moving target in a space this big,” said Capt. Jim Nolan, Lima Company’s commander, holding his hands about nine inches apart.
On Aug. 14, a U.S. tank mechanic took a round in the torso as he carried sandbags across a small bridge. The protective plate in his body armor stopped the round.
“We think it’s the same guy,” said Gunnery Sgt. Edward Rivera, 39, of Poway, Calif.
There will be no victory parade for them, either. Such is the nature of war in the 21st Century.