Friday, July 22, 2005
Clearing An Explosives Dump in Mosul
The temperature down there was at least 20 degrees beyond any measure of hot. The air was filthy with dust, darkness, and the menace that wafted like a stench off all the bombs, bombs, and more bombs. I was sitting on bombs and missiles that I could not identify--there was not enough floor cleared for three men to stand. There were mortar rounds, some with fuses, some without. Some fuses had no safety pins. Some rounds had charges on the fins.
Wow. As Smash says, thank God that there are brave men willing to do this dangerous work.
Soldiering is a dirty, nasty, unpleasant job, and often in ways you wouldn't expect. The confident opinions of pacifists notwithstanding, it's by no means all about killing people. Soldiers spend a lot of time digging ditches, marching with heavy packs that they hope they won't need, and just doing anything that needs doing.
In this case, what needed doing was dealing with an underground explosives cache. Left to itself, it was both a source of munitions for the enemy and a ticking time bomb; throw a grenade inside, and you'd bring down several city blocks. So the cache needed to be emptied, a little at a time, with great care taken:
The soldiers inside the hell hole passed up a green ball, about the size of a large cantaloupe, and handed it over to another soldier who began to walk with it, and he said, “I wonder what this is?” Someone looked and said, “STOP. Don’t move. Don’t put it down. You hear what I say? Don’t move. Wait right here.”
By all means, read the whole thing. You'll be impressed, as I am, with the quality of work American troopers are doing under harrowing circumstances.
And let's offer a vote of thanks to Michael Yon for writing about it!