I know it's been a while since I've last posted but in these last 11 days, a lot has been going on.
My new unit, 3-187 INF, officially took over on 30 October and they have been very active. They've been improving living conditions, facilities, the equipment left over from the previous battalion, and even my involvement in day-to-day activities (which is nice). It's been a very different base since they took over, in a good way. Overall, the attitude on the base was very positive. Things would change that...
On 2 November, I awoke to find a bright blue sky and mild temperatures. All-in-all, it forecasted what should have been a nice day. After my morning routine, I walked out of my room to find noone. Not a soul in sight. I thought, "This is odd" but didn't dwell on it much. I knew an operation was going on and that maybe people were just still out on it.
On my way to work, not even half way there, I ran into the civilian maintenance guy. He comes up to me and tells me that something went wrong the night before. While driving down a road, a HMMWV was hit by an IED. Of the 3 people in the vehicle, one was killed (a 2LT on her first deployment) and one was so severely burned that it was questionable whether he would survive. (He's currently back in the US undergoing treatment.) Other people dismounted in the area were also injured by the blast.
It hadn't been 3 days of working the area and this battalion had its first causualties. The attitude in the battalion changed suddenly. The wind was taken out of their sails. Soldiers who were normally jovial and loud were sullen and distant. Those closest to the blast and not injured physically were clearly hit psychologically. I was back here and after seeing the aftermath, even I have been affected by it.
I keep calling the incident/blast/attack/etc by "it" like it's something mythical. Like saying what it was will cause any more harm and injuries. The real reason is that everyone here has been so affected by it that to call it anything specific tends to bring up memories that most people have been trying to deal with. The same thing happens when we refer to her HMMWV. It's always "the vehicle that was destroyed" or we call it by the bumper number. To call it "her HMMWV" just stirs emotions and inhibits our ability to do our job.
The next couple of days were accomplished purely on force of will. Even though I did not know her, I felt like there was something I could've done to keep it from happening. I know that nothing I did had any impact on what happened. In fact, my equipment was on and working 5x5 in her HMMWV. I have since come to terms with my feelings over the incident and her death but to have someone in your unit die in combat is a permanent scar on your psyche.
My self-realization led to an awakening of sorts. Over the past 3 days, I have devised a plan. This plan is designed to make me obsolete and allow me to feel confident that I have accomplished something over here. Even if I do not get to return home early, hopefully, noone will have to take my place. This will keep one less sailor from spending 9 months in Iraq. A worthy goal, if you ask me. So far, my plan has been well received (in theory) by the battalion leadership and once our op-tempo dies down a little, I hope to implement it.
Today was the memorial ceremony for 2LT Tracy Alger. It was a very emotional experience for everyone. Even in this most macho of units, I saw some very tough guys step away in order to compose themselves. Some of the people were obviously in tears but refused to step back. Regardless, everyone grieved in their own way. Me, I'm heading back to my iTherapist and some sleep.