Friday, March 30, 2007
Fear and Combat [W. Thomas Smith Jr.]
BAGHDAD (1:24 am EDT—8:24 am Iraq Time): Heard an explosion in the distance last night around 10:00 pm, then quite a bit of helicopter activity this morning between midnight and 2:00 am; the latter prompting me to get out of bed (I'm staying in a very nice villa that once belonged to one of Saddam's generals) and jot down a few notes for later posting.
A friend had emailed me with a question about personal fear in combat or in a combat zone (the two being different, as U.S. Marine Col. John Ripley told me here.)
Lots of things are a sort of "gut check" over here — some things more so for different people.
I remember covering the Bosnian War back in 1995, and feeling so unafraid — even during the times when I thought I should, that I didn't really want to admit to it for fear no one would believe me.
That's not to say I wasn't sometimes afraid then or now.
Fear is always there. For instance, an American soldier on the plane with me a couple days ago told me about being afraid every time he mans a machinegun on a humvee and heads out somewhere on one of the main supply routes. But, he added, "that fear keeps me focused."
And it does: Just like yesterday when we were putting on helmets and body armor — and everyone was "locking and loading" weapons — at the airport before heading out on Route Irish, and the task-force commander (who was younger than me) was telling us things like what to do if we get ambushed, which vehicles would "punch through the contact [ambush]," which would "provide fire support," etc.
Later, I asked ArmorGroup manager Bill Shaw if he was ever afraid out on the highway.
"No mate," he said, "I trust the vehicles, and I trust the boys we're with, emphatically. That's no BS line either. That's fact."
As I told Kathryn in an email yesterday, I'm actually more afraid of losing my Internet signal here than I am incoming (or the airplane doing evasive action coming in for a landing, or my racing down Route Irish in a Chevy Suburban). I can't explain why I feel that way, but I do.
Editor’s note: Please see this note.
03/30 12:24 AMShare