Ready For Anything

(3/7 story) Previously - "Patrolling With Palehorse"

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michael j penney american flag

“Detail, Atten-hut!” the 7 Marines snapped to attention with their rifles straight along their right leg.

“Present arms – Make Ready” each shouldered their rifle and racked the charging handle, chambering a round.

“Ready – Aim – Fire!” in three successive volleys the Marines shot, charged & chambered a new round, then fired again. Twenty-one shots in total for those who pay the ultimate sacrifice.

With tears on my cheeks I said goodbye to my friend and walked through the dusted filled air over to my HMMWV. Only minutes after memorializing him, I had to go out on a day patrol.

This was only my second week in combat. I never knew what to expect but I did know that, as a Marine, I must always be prepared for anything the enemy throws my way. 

0900 I was ready for mission. My truck in tip-top shape. Fluids checked and topped off. Ammunition, rockets, chow and water all stocked in the trunk. Last week’s ‘sweep &clear’ of the water treatment center was a debrief in the past. I was ready for anything…so I thought.

I was driving lead truck with the team of Marines I’d be working with over the next several months. The mission that day was to go over to the ‘Government Center’ so the leadership could sip chai and discuss the future of the area.

Leaders from around the area assembled in the Gov Center. I had to position my truck near the entrance then sit and wait for the meetings to get over. Heat, smoke, dust, energy drinks in quantity and hours past baking in the sun. When the meetings finished I started my truck along with all the other drivers. The team mounted up and we left the rear gate to make our way home, with the sun setting in the distance.


---- flash, a white strip across the road – STOP-    I stood on the brakes with both feet screeching to a halt then slammed the transmission in reverse and started backing up.

“What are you doing boot?!?!”, asked my vehicle commander.

“There is a pressure switch running across the road and what looks like an IED: improvised explosive device on your side.” I replied and pointed to the pile of trash with what appeared to be a 155 mm artillery shell poking out.

“Drive up there.” He said, I think half joking.

“NO.” I said, and fully committed to not moving an inch. “That’s an IED, we have the EOD: explosive ordinance disposal team with us. Let’s check it out.” I said.

“Better to be safe than sorry.” Lieutenant chimed in from the seat behind me.

My VC got on his radio and spoke the FRAGO into the handset, “Alright, listen up. Penney thinks there is an IED up here. So, EOD is checking it out. Standby and keep your eyes peeled.”

EOD sent a robot up there to check out the pressure switch, only to find a stack of three 160 mm artillery shells on the VC side of the road. It was a massive IED. A truck killer.

A close call with a very big explosive but more traffic was coming across the radio. The Governor needed an escort and a guard detail. My team just go “volun-told” to sit out on the street all night…. Yea.

Time for another fragmentary order.



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