Page 44 — almost done!
Another platoon from our company would occasionally switch out with us while we were working on this project, so we could go back to COS Marez and repair a vehicle / shower or whatever. They got pissed at us for paying the Iraqis to do things, because of course every Iraqi for miles would be offering to do shit for money, and also because it was technically against regulations. The way I saw it, this guy did way more than $10 worth of work and this was just a small token of appreciation, but it definitely increased the level of begging by about 750,000%.
Later, the Crocs company gave us two cases of Crocs to hand out — probably about 100 pair. If we’d gotten them before the road was done, we could have just grilled some steaks and paid the Iraqis via shoes to do the work. I posted this picture before, but I don’t think it does justice to what a surreal night it was.
This was the last night that we were working on the road that we had been building, and we’d been hammering in road signs and stuff like that– the things you save for the last minute. After the actual work was done we literally grilled some meat and had some near beer to celebrate. The very last step was handing out the Crocs to the Iraqi kids, after all the vehicle gunners got their hands (feet?) on the adult-sized ones. We loaded up the construction equipment, got everything ready to roll out, and then made one last pass through the village, where we’d been for about six weeks: breaking their water main, bringing down power lines, and drawing extremely inaccurate mortar/machine gun fire and a much more accurate IED from the local teenagers. For good measure, we ran a grader over their main road as the Crocs Patrol went by, because a General (25th ID DCG Ops) had come by like two weeks before and remarked on how many potholes there were, and could we do something about it — hearts and minds.
Anyway, this was eleven months into a deployment, and we were rapidly running out of fucks to give, with fewer still to spare on the Crocs mission, which was the Good Idea Fairy’s crowning achievement of the whole deployment and which I regarded as more a gesture of revenge (in the form of gauche fashion) than anything else. We rolled up to the first house on the road, on the outskirts of town, and pounded on the front door, M-4s in hand and cigarettes in mouths. When the owner came to the door, probably scared half to death, we were just like, “here, fucker, have some Crocs,” and off we went.
Of course, the news of the free Crocs spread like wildfire, and before long the two MRAPs and grader were the center of a parade of about 40 children, rolling though town, with a couple of Privates tossing out Crocs like candy from Santa’s float, and me and a couple of the NCOs walking down the road shining Surefire lights into every back yard and chicken coop, half convinced that some idiot was going to throw a grenade into the center of the whole mess. Of course, that didn’t happen, and the teenagers in town stuck to giving us the stink eye from mom’s stoop while their little brothers went to collect free shoes. The shops opened up, selling cigarettes and Chinese Coca Cola to everyone present, and it turned into quite a block party.
As soon as we ran out of shoes to throw out, we booked it over to where the rest of the vehicles were parked. The commander of the Iraqi Army garrison across the river in Munirah wanted to talk to me — could he have some Night Vision Goggles, and flood lights, and could we build him a second HESCO fort in a slightly different location. Of course, of course, all in good time, I said; stalling for time while the guys tied down the grader and ditched all of the extra building materials in an empty field. We sure as hell weren’t coming back there, and I would have probably promised him his own Space Shuttle if it would have shut him up. As soon as we were ready to go, I told him it was nice talking to him and off we went.
Two weeks later the Iraqis buried a bomb under the road we’d built, which killed an NCO from 3ABCT/1st CD. Two weeks after that, we were back in Hawaii.