The War Tapes Blog

The War Tapes: Neighborhood Watch

Neighborhood Watch

I shot this photo from the mini digital video camera I used everyday to capture our daily lives.

In this photo I'm looking down from a gun position on the roof of the Iraqi Highway Patrol Headquarters in Downtown Bagdad. My squad was tasked out to perform PSD (Personal Security Detail)for the week in Bagdad. We provided security for the Battalion Commander of the 95th MPs and others while they performed training excersizes and daily operations with the new Iraqi Police. They also were issued new sidearms, radio equipt and other gear by the 95th MPs.

Our role was to transport the VIPs and provide a secured perimeter while they conducted their operations inside the compound. This was a tense,yet interesting change to our normal run of the gauntlet everyday either on patrol or escorting convoys. This was a facility where some of the worst prisoners were interrogated and held. I remember hearing the blood curdling screams of prisoners being interrogated by the Iraqi Police. I thought, Holy Cow! These guys don't mess around.

They would bring them in with rags tide over their eyes and their hands tied behind their backs with rope. It was a strange situation being there as we scattered throughout and around the compound as well as on the roof. We were to protect the compound while at the same time keep close watch on each and every person inside.

Another "Trust no one" scenario in Iraq. This was possibly the best most valuable advice we could have gotten through all the mobilization training we received prior to shipping out to Iraq.

As one of the gunners I can tell you it was a busy week scanning every single window, rooftop , and vehicle within site in the very tightly settled neighborhood that engulfed this police compound. We were constantly looking through our binoculars and anticipating some sort of hostile activity. This was not only a prime target for the insurgents,but it was in the midst of the Abu Graib coverage and we were just a few miles away. It was just another thing for the insurgents to lock on to that they could blame for their eternal outrage and uprising. The bottom line was that things were bad enough and this certainly wasn't providing much in the way of calming the enemy.It was a bad situation in an already bad situation. Police stations all over were being overrun and looted etc. I remember as I sat up on that insanely HOT rooftop throughout the week that all you heard were intermittent distant as well as not so distant IED detonations and automatic weapons fire across the city. You would hear the explosion and someone would come on the radio and ask me which direction it came from.

After a minute or 2 you would see the smoke column and maybe a few Apaches head to the location of each incident. It wasn't often our missions left us so stationary at such a central elevated vantage point. It was then that I realized how often soldiers were being hit as they passed through Bagdad. One thing I will certainly never forget as we monitored the net was one particular huge explosion followed by the usual 9-Line Medevac request. This was a common request on the radio in Iraq and you got use to hearing them, but this one was a bit frantic, more so than most. As we listened to the radio traffic for a while we finally figured out the details of the soldiers injuries. A Humvee was struck by a platter charge or some sort of aimed shape charge which had recently become rather popular just weeks prior. One soldier lost both arms and both legs and was still alive.

As common as injuries can be in Iraq this one just struck me. I was in a stationary location,idle for hours on end with nothing but time to think about it all. I felt so terrible for that soldier and prayed for him and his family.

In the photo here you see some locals I zoomed in on that were just walking back and forth eye balling me letting me know that they are aware of our location and presence. Just below me was literally the back yard of a little boy approx 3 years old. I watched him putter around the yard thinking to myself that he has no idea there is a soldier above him with a machine gun. He would talk to himself allot like my son would do when he played in our yard. He had a long stick he would chase this chicken around with and hit it. At one point I wanted to yell down to him to stop it,but then realized, who the hell am I to tell this kid to stop it. I'm suppose to be here to address worse things than some 3 year old tormenting a chicken. I wasn't his parent. I cant yell at someone else's kid I thought. I became a bit interested in my thinking and almost giggled to myself. Here I was ready to possibly open fire if needed in this very populated neighborhood filled with kids and many people. I was prepared to kill anyone at any time that attacked our perimeter yet I was challenged by the thought of reprimanding this 3 year old kid. Strange I know, but when you sit still in 120 degree heat for hours on end living off of the Cliff Bars you looted from your Squad Leader you start losing it. Cliff Bars are gross!! and will make anyone crazy.

Anyway, this little boy reminded me so much of my son Matthew who was close in age. I could not ever imagine him in this same situation. It is a horrible thought. Luckily for this little boy the soldiers around his residence and sitting directly above him are good people. These soldiers are US Soldiers who operated under strict standards and guidelines, soldiers trained to help and defend the innocent. We were there to help this boy and hopefully secure a better future for him.

The pressure I felt being in such close proximity to this child was different than the pressure I normally felt. Normally I would welcome enemy fire for the sake of a good fight (even though it scared the crap out of me).

In this case I was so concerned and hopeful nothing would happen in fear this little boy may be harmed. Thankfully the week went smooth for us for a change and we had no engagements.

As I sit here writing this I'm wondering where the little boy is today. I hope he is ok. I'm not sure,but I thought I heard a few months back that this Police building was destroyed by a suicide bomber disguised as a police officer. I hope I'm wrong.

On a lighter note, one of those days the RedSox won the World Series and we taught the Iraq Officers on the neighboring roof top to yell "GO REDSOX"! I did film it too! Not sure what happened to that footage. It is somewhere in the collection of tapes I turned in.

Also, my son now has a chicken and 2 ducks. He is 7 now and has gotten over the novelty of beating them with sticks.