Hands stretch across the desert in Iraq

345th Public Affairs Detachment
Courtesy Story

Date: 03.04.2006
Posted: 03.04.2006 13:55
News ID: 5597
Desert Recon

RAWAH, Iraq - Sometimes missions are completed no matter how great the obstacle. For Military Transition Team 327 (Marine), Troop A, 4th Battalion, 14th Cavalry and Iraqi Army Soldiers from the 3rd Bn, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Infantry Division, in Rawah, it's all just part of the job.

A joint force of Marines, U.S. Soldiers and Iraqi Soldiers, drove Strykers across the barren desert looking for signs of anti-Iraqi forces operating in the area.

They set out early on a Monday morning making quick progress across the Anbar desert. They met people living in remote places along their route and asked them if they saw or heard anything out of the ordinary.

It was all going so smoothly. Then a Stryker got stuck in the mud. Another Stryker came to assist, but that one, too, got stuck. A third Stryker came to rescue the rescuer and it bogged down as it neared the second vehicle. They were immobilized. Another group that had taken a different road radioed to the group: their vehicles were also trapped in the mud.

At first, the group laughed it off, confident that their tow ropes and rugged vehicles would simply pull through the sticky mud. But it was not happening.

"We're gonna need Chuck Norris to roundhouse kick the Strykers out of the mud," someone joked on the radio.

Headquarters came over the net and told the Soldiers to abandon self-rescue operations until morning.

Realizing their plight, Soldiers tried to find a warm place to stay and be patient. However, a warm, comfortable place was not too easy to find. The Iraqi Army Soldiers were in trucks that provided no shelter from the rain and cold, so 14th Soldiers invited them into the Strykers. It was a tight fit. Earlier in the day, a cavalry squad detained men suspected of making bombs. These men were also inside the Stryker.

After a few hours, condensation formed on the ceiling of the Stryker and started to drip on the heads of the weary inhabitants. One Soldier got out of the vehicle after trying unsuccessfully to sleep on a narrow ledge. He walked around the vehicles for hours before seeing what the Iraqi Army Soldiers were doing.

Some of the Iraqi Army Soldiers decided to make a campfire. However, there's no firewood in the desert. No problem: they burned cardboard and old sandbags doused in benzene. It smelled, but it put out heat and the night was very cold.

After the night had had passed, the Soldiers awoke to Strykers still stuck in the mud. They saw their comrades in the distance also stuck. They radioed to another group of cavalry troops to come and pull them out of the mud.

As soon as these vehicles showed up, the troops scouted out the driest, firmest ground for the rescue effort. They could not risk getting more vehicles stuck. If they didn't get themselves out, no one would be coming to their rescue for quite some time. It was up to them.

And they managed, slowly, because as soon as one vehicle was extricated, another would get bogged down further ahead. They slowly leapfrogged each other, taking turns getting stuck and helping each other out until they got to dry ground.

It took the whole day to get back, but they knew that they had a mission to complete, and they did it.