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 A View of the Bridge

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Posts : 142
Join date : 2008-04-29
Age : 40
Location : West Des Moines, Ia

PostSubject: A View of the Bridge   Mon May 05, 2008 12:09 pm

Sitting on my M1A1 Abrams main battle tank overlooking the Euphrates River in Iraq, I removed my glasses for the thousandth time that day. The heat was intense, somewhere in the 130 to 140 degree range, a range no human should have to endure. It was made worse by the fact I was covered in 50 pounds of gear, a combat vehicle crewmanís helmet, and sitting on a 70 ton metal killing machine. The soft pads of my helmet were crushed against my forehead forcing all the sweat accumulating down into my eyes, stinging with salt and fogging over my glasses. With my glasses removed I did my best to wipe the sweat from my face using the right sleeve of my Desert Combat Uniform (DCUs). My sleeve, being already covered in a thin layer of slime from the previous swipes and the steady flow of sweat all over my arm as well as the rest of my body, did little but move the sweat around on my face. Repositioning my glasses on my face was a small battle in itself; too close and the sweat rolls over the lenses, too far and they slip right off. Finding the perfect compromise I turned my attention to my surroundings.
The Euphrates River pumped its contents swiftly down the river bed. Surrounding the river on both sides is something of an oasis. By and large Iraq is a sea of dust, dirt, and trash. All along the river runs a rare swath of plant life, within a quarter mile the life stops and the dirt begins again. Palm trees, bushes and wild weeds dominate the landscape here. There is no grass in this God forsaken country. Even the dirt here can be strange, in random places it can be crushed down to such a fine powder that it billows up from underneath your boot, like walking on brown powdered sugar.
The two bridges on the river sway back and forth, raising and lowering inches at a time with the weight of passing vehicles. The first bridge to bear the force of the river is a civilian monstrosity, the only bridge Iíve seen in my life thatís more crooked than a politician during elections. The civilian bridge looks as if it was built by an ambitious sixth grade shop class. Both bridges are floating bridges, their weight being supported by a series of pontoons. The civilian bridge meanders back and forth, making it impossible to drive in a straight line. The second bridge, a mere 20 meters further down the river is a US Army built, straight, bridge. This bridge will allow for a Tanks passing though Iím sure it doesnít appreciate it much as it groans and dips severely with each passing. Each of these bridges are wide enough for only one way traffic with soldiers, both Iraqi, and US, directing traffic for each bridge. On each side of the bridge stands the massive form of a US Army tank, an oppressive reminder to all would be trouble-makers, a silent sentinel armed to the teeth.
With a 120mm canon, two 7.62mm coaxial guns, one .50 caliber gun, three angry soldiers with at least an M9 Pistol or an M4 Carbine Rifle each, I feel safer here on my Tank in Iraq then I would walking the downtown streets of Chicago at three in the afternoon. The main gun rounds weigh somewhere near 40 pounds and stand approximately three feet tall with a diameter nearly twice as wide as a mans fist. There are several different rounds the tank fires, though the most common are the Sabot and the HEAT. Ironically it is the HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) that arenít used on tanks but on Armored Personnel Carriers and other vehicles while the Sabot is used to penetrate the tough skin of a tank. The HEAT round will explode on impact whereas the Sabot is made to bore through. As large as the round is it is mostly made of gun-powder to be used as a propellant, this propellant certainly gets job done though, as a Tank with an accurate gunner can destroy an enemy tank moving at 40 miles an hour from nearly four miles away before they have a chance to say ďOh ShÖĒ. The gunner; however; cannot take full credit for this as the M1 has a state of the art computer to help guide the canon to its placement for leading the target. When shooting at a target traveling 40 miles an hour, even if you are only one mile away if you donít lead it youíre going to miss, missing can be deadly, generally to the tank that just fired. I again turn my attention back to my surroundings. Standing in the Tank Commanders hatch I turn to my left, standing there in the Loaders hatch, about a foot away, is a man Iíve come to call a brother.
Ben is about as southern redneck as you can get. At about 5 foot 10 and 160 pounds Ben is nearly my equal. This is where the similarities run out, between the receding hair line and the missing upper two front teeth and the matching southern accent, Ben screams redneck from all the way back to the farm in Alabama. Ben is the platoon medic and one of the only medics in the company if not battalion with real world experience. There is no other man I would rather have with me in a fight, be it here at the Balad bridge guns blazing or back home fists flying. Our shift together this time around is another four hours, baking in the sun. The time passes by with conversation, ranging from Politics, Sex, Sports, Movies, and Music through Video games and back home. The Iraqi children come by to peddle their wares, most of which is knives, lighters, bootleg movies, and Ďmovies-sexí otherwise known as porn. The children here are not children at all but un-matured men. Some go to school but most just sell things for vendors down the road, keeping 25 cents out of every dollar they get from an American. With as many movies as my platoon alone buys, not too mention the endless military convoys passing through itís a wonder these children donít have palaces of their own already.
The hours go by faster than normal today and its none too soon that we are relieved of guard duty. Ben, myself, and another soldier head back to the tent, within our small compound on the ĎNearí side of the bridge. It is here that we will relax as best we can, the power generator is out again and it falls to Ben and I to fix it, lest we only get to play Diablo II for two hours before our laptop batteries die.
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Posts : 126
Join date : 2008-04-30
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PostSubject: Re: A View of the Bridge   Mon May 05, 2008 12:28 pm

Keep this stuff coming man, I really love reading about this.

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