The Sound of Freedom

Dispatches from the War on Terrorism
By P. T. Brent, 6/25/2004 7:55:02 AM

The Marine choppers, air force C 5's C 17's and C 130's were taking off last night when I recorded this report. The sounds are deafening from a tent alongside the runways at Baghdad International Airport temporary airbase of the "CPA. The" people at the Coalition Provisional Authority military call it "BIAP" (bee - op). As one Marine, a Texan once said: "be happy, that is the sound of freedom you are hearing."

Well, this place has a cacophony of sounds. Last night the 57mm rockets and mortars and their fortunate misses kept us awake about every ninety minutes. One mortar round landed within two hundred meters at the PX (Post Exchange). Early that day Marines spotted local Iraqi workers on the base drawing maps and walking off distances from where last night rounds missed. They were arrested. They, fortunately, are poor shots. Marine Sergeant Bo in our convoy called it "mortars to boredom". They prime time is just after dark; when the Iraqi workers are back off base. Then we snooze until the mosque does their stereo show.

Along with base alarms in all nine air raid sirens, loud sirens like a submarine diving; as one navy corpsman Nick Calvert from Chicago related. The bonus is at 0330 when the nearby Muslim Mosque has its first chant for prayer, which will impedes another attempt to slumber off.

These rocket and mortar shell are often improvised and miss 90 percent of the time. Today on the highway to a northern base an IED stopped us -- the MP's in convoy are getting good at spotting them.

First the radio crackled and we heard Sir: we have a f*c^#@ing IED up here!" for Marine Corporal Stahl.

While a perimeter was established and hundreds of Iraqi motorists were detoured, the home made bomb was exploded in place. ... The "IED" Improvised Explosives Devices are somewhat more alarming. They are on the highways in every imaginable form. Sometimes a string of fifteen or more are place parallel to a US convoy. Last week they used 18 serial bombs which gushed gasoline upon the convoy. They sometimes use fertilizer for explosive, today they used a 152mm artillery round and triggering devices from any hardware store. Door bell remotes, garage remotes, kid's remote car toys are all rigged to detonate the bomb usually on a roadside guard rail. Another option is to have wires leading to a detonator. They use decoy bombs and then blow a real one towards the convoy rear when the convoy halts to call the EOD explosive ordinance people. The military maintains a QRF Quick Reaction Force... an Iraq 911 geared to respond to these crises.

B O O M -- the bomb is detonated 300 meters or more from the convoy with a small C4 plastic charge. Our convoy moves on -- ever on the alert.

We are getting better at stopping them.

Of the scores of U.S. military I have met here in Iraq, there has not been a single one who is not resolved to see this through. They believe in the mission.

P. T. Brent is a Hawaii business man and former U.S. Marine infantry veteran. He has been embedded with the Marines in Iraq and other conflict areas for the past 60 days.

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