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Posted on May 21, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Red Bulls in Iraq – Pt. 3

By Cpt. Fernando A Franco

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Well, it has been a bit of a rollercoaster here at Camp Crazy, as my Platoon Sergeant likes to call our base. I’ll talk in another article about this outstanding NCO with whom I have worked very closely for the last eight months.

A few days ago, I was escorting a good friend of mine, the PAO (Public Affairs Officer), who came to visit the soldiers in my base. He was accompanied by a reporter. Well, since I’ve always liked to take good care of visitors, I asked the commander if I could borrow his SUV in order to show the PAO and the reporter around the base (it’s a big base).

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As we pulled out of the parking lot, I explained to them that we get mortared on almost a daily basis. The reporter and my friend were talking, laughing and taking all kinds of photos when the bad guys decided to welcome them with a surprise mortar attack. It didn’t take more than two seconds for the PAO to jump out of the car and run for cover and for the reporter to drop off half of his photographic gear on the front seat of the SUV, open the door, and run for the nearest bunker.

Well, you would think that I was running, too, but in the middle of the confusion and the rush, for some reason I decided to park the car, turn off the engine – which I had a hard time doing because I’m used to manuals and forgot that automatic cars needs to be in park first – unbuckled my seat belt, locked the doors… and then ran for cover. So here I am trying to protect the commander’s car from getting a scratch while mortars are exploding and everyone is running for cover. I think the whole episode took about 20 seconds, but from my perspective it seemed like a very long time.

I finally made it to the bunker, and spent the rest of the time in the bunker peaking outside making sure that nobody was going to play tricks and take funny photos with the cameras.

We exited the bunker after a while and continued the tour only to be mortared again twice that same afternoon. It was getting annoying for me, since I am used to the fireworks, but my good friend and the reporter were ready to fly back to a safer base.

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My Unit

When I tell my friends and family back home about this experience and others I’ve had during my deployment — like sleeping with one ear open listening for the bad guys to start their daily celebration and that we are always ready to run for cover — they grow concerned about how hard my life must be and that my nerves must be shattered. But I always explain that what’s going on here is nothing compared to what the soldiers in my brigade are living when they go out of the base on a daily bases. Having gone on patrols with the soldiers and knowing what they experience when the IED goes off, I know how blessed I am to simply have internet access and being able to write this article. My duties don’t require facing IEDs or sniper fire on a daily basis. My gratitude goes to those soldiers who do.

I will be writing soon again, until then see you guys… CPT Franco – out.

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