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Posted on Dec 7, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Letters From Iraq 5: Sand, Pools, and RPGs

By Russ Vaughn

When the engineers in this story first arrived they went out with the old team on a patrol to get to know the neighborhood. While driving through village X they ran into an ambush. A vehicle caught in the kill zone had one of the new guys as a driver and the one of the old engineers as the TC (Truck Commander). The gunner was blasting back at the insurgents. The bad guys fired an RPG rocket at the M1114 HUMVEE. The rocket hit the driver’s window and did not explode. The driver looked over at the TC and asked “Are they supposed to do that?”

“No,” replied the TC, “we are supposed to be dead right now!” Last month they had another RPG hit another one of their vehicle doors, fortunately it also failed to detonate until after it bounced off and hit the ground.


Another engineer from this particular unit has a prosthetic leg. He lost his foot and part of his lower leg in a motorcycle accident. He has several inches of leg left below his knee. This particular engineer drives an RG31 on patrol. On patrol one night the engineers dismounted to do some work. The driver and gunner provided over watch from the vehicle. The troops started taking fire. The gunner provided covering fire for the dismounted troops. The gunner yelled for more ammo. The driver got out of his seat to get the ammo. As he started to take a step, he realized he couldn’t move. His prosthetic foot was stuck between the center console and the seat. He desperately tried to yank his leg free and after several quick attempts his leg remained stuck. Thinking fast he pressed the quick release on his artificial leg setting himself free. He hopped to the back of the truck grabbed some ammo and brought it back to the gunner, freed his foot, reattached it, and continued the mission.

A US Army (USA) RG-31 Mine Protected Armored Personnel Carrier (MPAPC) prepares to move through an Iraqi Army (IA) Traffic Control Point (TCP) on the road to Mahmudiyah, Baghdad Province, Iraq (IRQ), during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Location: MAHMUDIYAH, BAGHDAD IRAQ (IRQ) [SFC David D Isakson]

The RG31 and Buffalo engineer vehicles are great crew savers. They take a lot of damage and do a lot of hard dangerous work, mostly dealing with IEDs. The big beastie Buffalo takes a good hit and keeps the crew safe. One was hit by a VBED (vehicle borne explosive device). The guys following the Buffalo watched the VBED explode. A huge wall of flame and debris engulfed the vehicle. The crew inside the truck felt the flash of heat, but survived without injury. We are definitely getting our money’s worth out of these two vehicle types.

One more story before I go. I had heard this through the grapevine and then it showed up in the STARS AND STRIPES. A Marine patrol ran into an ambush. The bad guys fired mortars at them. One of the shells hit a HUMVEE tearing through the armor. It passed completely through the vehicle. The round exploded after it cleared the vehicle. The crew survived with minor injuries. Somedays are just good.

Take care,


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