Sunday, December 11, 2005

These tracers are from an M-16, and they are a bit like the rounds we saw overhead during the "assault" on Camp Victory. This is just a shot I took off the web, because it was too dark for my camera to work. What we saw was actually red tracers going up into the air and arching back down, lob-style. We saw incoming as well as outgoing rounds, of course, as our guys returned fire on what they thought must be attackers. I wonder how many celebrating Iraqis lost their lives last night. It's a bad idea to scare the Americans when a war is going on!

Last night was the first somewhat frightening night we have had here at Camp Victory.

I was in bed, minding my own business, when I heard unusual gunfire (I say unusual because gunfire is usual here. It was just an odd hour and an odd cadence this time.) through my foamy earplugs. I took the foamy out of my right ear and sat up in bed, eyes open to aid my superhuman hearing powers (do you find you hear better with your eyes open, too?). Less than an hour earlier, I had heard three, three-round bursts from what must have been a .50 caliber machine gun, so I was already a bit wary. Rounds were going off around us like Jiffy Pop. My friend Kristy has been to Iraq before, as an Army officer, and I knew she would recognize the sound of hostile fire.

"Kristy," I said, in a gruff whisper. "Does that sound weird to you?" Her reply was yes.

I got out of bed in my running clothes (I sleep in whatever I plan to wear on my morning run, to save time) and stepped into my flip-flops, aiming through the darkness for the door to our hooch. Outside, a few people were stirring, startled out of bed much like myself. When I looked up, I could see red tracer rounds arching into the sky from all around. All 360 degrees of horizon was covered in tracers. (Tracers are special bullets that are white phosphorus-tipped or contain a powder in their base that burns very brightly during their flight. This enables the shooter to follow the bullets' trajectories. The shooter then, typically, "walks" his cone of fire onto the target by seeing where the tracer is going.)

"Holy crap," I thought as I coolly ambled over to a guy in flak jacket and kevlar (helmet). I asked what was going on, and he said he didn't know, but that whatever goes up must come down. OH YEAH! CRUD! So I went inside my hooch and woke up the others.

We had just had an exercise the day prior to this (or that day, even, maybe) that required everybody going to the dining facility or venturing anywhere outdoors to don flak and kevar, so three of my teammates' gear was still at the Palace where they'd stowed it. I put mine on and went back outside to gawk at the tracers and try to figure out what we should do. I mean, it kind of sounded like we might be under attack, and not one of us was armed.

My friend Maureen and I stood near the tents outside and chatted with a couple of neighbors who acted like they knew what was going on while Kristy called her friend at another base to ask if he knew anything. We were standing there listening to the bravado of a brave knight on a white horse when Kristy came out and said, "I was right!" Right about what?

Before I could ask what she was smirking at, a voice came over the camp loudspeaker. "Attention in the compound, attention in the compound. Camp Victory Base is NOT under attack. I say again, Camp Victory Base is NOT under attack. What you are witnessing is celebratory gunfire from Iraq's victory in soccer. All personnel are directed to stay indoors under cover for the next several hours." IDIOTS!!!! Hahaha. (Nervous laughter.)

The white knight disappeared swiftly into the darkness with his tail between his legs while Boy Wonder (does his mother know he's playing contractor in Iraq?) started ripping off his flak jacket. "Um, those rounds could still come down on your head," I said. His lid went back on in a hurry. "Well, I guess that's it," I said. "Um, yeah, maybe we could meet again's not, like, the middle of the night," said Boy Wonder. (How sweet!) "Yeah, catch you later!" I yelled as I ducked back into the tent. "Catch you later." I guess the sight of a woman in flak, kevlar, and running shorts just does it for some guys!

[Check out Maureen's rendition of this story here: Mr. Authoritative. You should visit Maureen's Blog as often as you visit mine! She's hilarious, and she kicks a$$. She was enlisted in the Air Force before becoming an officer in the Coast Guard and retiring from service. She and I both met wonderful "Daves" on Haha. She married hers. No joke; her husband and my boyfriend are both named Dave, and they are awesome! We joke about making a commercial where we say, "We met our Daves on You could meet your Dave, too!"]

And here's what really happened:

Soccer Win Sparks Celebratory Fusillade in Baghdad
By Jim GaramoneAmerican Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Dec. 11, 2005 – The sky over this city lit up with "celebratory gunfire" as Iraq beat Syria in a soccer match Dec. 10.As time ran out in Iraq's 4-3 victory, many Baghdad citizens ran outside and fired weapons in the air.

"It's typical," an Air Force colonel who was caught outside during the beginning of the celebration said. "This is what happened when Iraq had the success in the Olympics last year. And Eid al Fitr (the celebration of the end of Ramadan) sounds like the Tet Offensive."
An Iraqi linguist at the Ministry of Defense said he believes the match had political overtones. "The Iraqis were pleased we won because Syria is sheltering the 'Saddamists' and helping the terrorists," he said.

When the gunfire broke out, most Americans had no clue why it was happening. Tracer rounds stitched the sky interspersed with actual fireworks. After several minutes, rumor control informed folks that it was "just" celebratory gunfire and not a terrorist attack in the city.
But what goes up must come down. The embassy warning system activated: "Rounds are impacting the embassy grounds. Take cover. Take cover."

The rounds actually falling on the compound sounded like fat drops of rain. "When it first started I thought it was rain," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Scott Graham. "I was in my trailer, and I wondered how it could rain without a cloud in the sky."

Coalition personnel stood under overhangs just as people take cover from a particularly bad thunderstorm. They stood and waited for the rain of bullets to stop. "I know it's a gun culture here, but somebody could get killed," Marine Maj. Timothy Keefe, who watched the "fireworks" from the back entrance to the embassy, said.

The celebratory gunfire lasted approximately 45 minutes. Coalition officials said there were no American casualties.


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