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Posted on Oct 22, 2008 in Stuff We Like

Letters From Iraq 8: Tractors and Laundry

By Russ Vaughn

Night comes quickly. Around the most of the base is a deep orange glow from the natural gas burn off towers (some of the guys call them candles). The city lights go on and off at set times. This on, off, illumination near the perimeter can be aggravating. We also have to be careful of being silhouetted by lights on the base. For good measure throw various amounts of dust and moonlight in to our nocturnal world. What you can’t see can kill you.

Currently all of the equipment we use to see in the dark provides us a significant advantage over the enemy. One thing we use to augment the good old fashioned MARK 1 EYEBALL’s limited abilities at night is the AN/PVS 14 NVG’s (night vision goggles). They turn the night into a weird green daylight. This lopsided advantage is forcing the bad guys to acquire their own night vision equipment. This will make our world a little tougher.


Sound travels better at night. So we listen. We hear the foxes digging in trash, wild dogs howling, and occasional gun fire. The gun fire coming from the city could be celebratory or with hostile intent. You listen to the bursts, for intensity, duration, and watch for tracers. Sometimes it is shots of joy for birthdays, weddings, or births. Other times it is IP’s or the Army shooting at bad guys. It can really get crazy when local gangs shoot at each other. One of my guys listening to a wild fire fight said, “Well the Bloods and Crips are at it again.”

At night we sometimes sit behind a berm on a ramp overlooking the perimeter, watching, listening. We watch for the telltale sign of a rocket launch or mortar being fired. We listen for the sound of bullets, rockets, or mortar shells flying over head. Generally it is peaceful, quiet……….

The radio crackles to life, I hear…… “(MY CALL SIGN), CONTROL”

“GO,” I reply.

“I need you to respond to an intrusion alarm at sensor………….” 



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