With the initial attacks dying down after a couple of days, we foot-patrolled back to COP Falcon from Four Story. There we met with the captain of the force, and told him that we wanted to be based out of Falcon rather than having to go all the way back to Camp Ramadi every few days.
He gave us the in-law suite. We were the Army’s in-laws.
We also told him that we would help him clear whatever area he wanted. His job was to clear the city around COP Falcon, and ours was to help him.
“What’s the worst spot you got?” we asked.
He pointed it out.
“That’s where we’re going,” we said.
He shook his head and rolled his eyes.
“You guys are crazy,” he said. “You can have that house, you can outfit it however you want, you can go wherever you want. But I want you to know—I’m not coming to get you if you go out there. There are too many IEDs, I’m going to lose a tank. I can’t do it.”
Like a lot of the Army, I’m sure the captain initially looked at us skeptically. They all assumed we thought we were better than they were, that we had out-sized egos and shot off our mouths without being able to back it up. Once we proved to them that we didn’t think we were better than them—more experienced, yes, but not stuck up, if you know what I mean—then they usually came around. We formed strong working relationships with the units, and even friendships that lasted after the war.
The captain’s unit was doing cordon and search operations, where they would take an entire block and search it. We started working with them. We’d do daylight presence patrols—the idea was to make civilians see troops on a regular basis, gaining more confidence that they were going to be protected, or that at least we were there to stay. We would put half the platoon on an overwatch while the rest patrolled.
A lot of these overwatches would be near Four Story. The guys downstairs would patrol and almost always be contacted. I’d be upstairs with other snipers and nail whoever was trying to attack them.
Or we would bump out five hundred yards, six or eight hundred yards, going deep into Injun territory to look and wait for the bad guys. We’d set up on overwatch ahead of one of his patrols. As soon as his people showed up, they’d draw all sorts of insurgents toward them. We’d take them down. The bad guys would turn and try and fire on us; we’d pick them off. We were protectors, bait, and slayers.
After a few days, the captain came up to us and said, “Y’all are bad-ass. I don’t care where you go, if you need me, I’m comin’ to get you. I’ll drive the tank to the front door.”
And from that moment on, he had our faith and our back.
I was on overwatch at Four Story one morning when some of our guys started doing a patrol nearby. As they moved to cross the street, I spotted some insurgents coming down J Street, which was one of the main roads in that area.
I took down a couple. My guys scattered. Not knowing what was going on, someone asked over the radio why the hell I was shooting at them.
“I’m shooting over your head,” I told him. “Look down the street.”
Insurgents started feeding into the area and a huge firefight erupted. I saw one guy with an RPG; I got him in my crosshairs, squeezed easy on the trigger.
A few minutes later, one of his friends came out to grab the rocket launcher.
This went on for quite a while. Down the block, another insurgent with an AK tried to get a shot on my boys. I took him down—then took down the guy who came to get his gun, and the next one.
Target-rich environment?! Hell, there were piles of insurgents littering the road. They finally gave up and disappeared. Our guys continued to patrol. The jundis saw action that day; two of them died in a firefight.
It was tough to keep track of how many kills I got that day, but I believe the total was the highest I’d ever had in a single day.
We knew we were in good with the Army captain when he came over to us one day and said, “Listen, y’all gotta do one thing for me. Before I get shipped out of here, I want to shoot my main tank gun one time. All right? So call me.”
It wasn’t too long after that we got in a firefight and we got his unit on the radio. We called him over, and he got his tank in and he got his shot.
There were a lot more in the days that followed. By the time he left Ramadi, he’d shot it thirty-seven times.