A Visit To Barrett Firearms, Part 1
Cowboy Colonels and Imperial Stormtroopers

VFF Guest Authors- Is my stuff still there?

I can only echo their concern.

Kate Norley

Iraq? I was there-no shit. After weaving through the maze of sandbagged barricades in order to reach the gate of the FOB, I did my usual routine… took in a deep breath to slowly exhale, kissed the underside of my fingers before placing my hand over my heart as both a personal prayer to show courage under fire as well as give love to the laminated picture of my family nestled always within the inner flap of my OTV. Lastly, I performed the ceremonial lips to fingers then tap the ceiling of the vehicle just as I peeled out amidst the haze of dust (something I’d been told to do for “good luck” when running a yellow light back stateside).

Regardless, I was officially locked, cocked, and ready to rock. But this trip outside of the wire was to be different-my first night patrol. Up until this point, I had dealt only with the crippling heat while patrolling during the daytime- no huge deal, right? Tonight was new though, as best as I can describe, imagine playing hide and go seek in the dark…raises the bar of difficulty just a tad, right? Despite already knowing the route and every turn from memory-tonight was going to be different. So as we approached a more developed part of town and noticed increased congestion in the streets, we remained indifferent. Shortly after, we received calls over the radio from our scout vehicle telling us that despite their effort to break traffic for our passing, an obstacle of several Iraqi cars had been positioned at the entrance of the neighborhood to bar our patrol.

Nevertheless, this was manageable, so to plan B we went. Of course for me, plan B consisted of another tweak to my expertise…in turning to plan B we were to stage our vehicles to maintain 360 security to proceed with patrol on foot. First it was a night patrol, but now a night patrol on foot? There was no time for any of my superstitious luck rituals; this time I had to put on my big girl pants and gets it done. Just as soon as I dropped my M-16 to the ready position while walking and scanning, in came the first “POP!” immediately followed by many more. Without hesitation this cape of fearlessness I had heard others mention snapped on my shoulders and I took cover. Behind remnants of what could only have once been a statue or figure blown to pieces, I checked my weapon, and my aid bag to make sure they had made it with me considering I had just dove within one blink of an eye. Another “POP,” then a vicious “BUZZ!” That “buzz” is all too familiar still-not many are quick to forget the exact sound or breeze of a bullet shooting past your head. Yes, I have reason to believe that one was meant for me. Just as soon as I repositioned myself, I recall hearing that night’s first cry for “MEDIC!”

Shit, that’s me! Shit! I can’t see anything-its dark! But as I mentioned previously, that magic cape was on-the one that instantly puts you into numbness and allows you to forge ahead. Yeah well thankfully I did, needless to say all while in midst of the most death-defying version of Marco Polo I have ever had to play. Got to my guy that was hit-he’s talking, so far so good. Shit another one, hit too. As I’m down beside my injured battle buddy trying to help him as best as possible considering the urgency to move him to a better protected area, he belts out,” Doc! Just tell me! Tell me- is my stuff still there?” I’m thinking stuff? What? Sure enough the gesturing to the area of his groin made by his arm on the side of his body not shot was plenty for me figure out what he had meant…my dear injured battle buddy was inquiring the status of his “manhood,” first and foremost. I admit, my immediate reaction was mixed with both surprise and disappointment for not automatically assuming that he would be preoccupied with the potential loss of his mister. Ironically, that would not be the last time that exact concern would be voiced. In fact, rain or shine, night or day, my wounded men left me with no surprise thereafter, as that later helped assess the priority of treatment. Nine times out of ten, if a wounded man is still coherent enough to check the status of his “stuff,” he’s going to be ok after all.

We eventually received added support to control the area of patrol that night, and despite the many firsts I may have encountered in just one trip-thankfully the entire convoy manifest made it back to the FOB alive...bits and pieces and all.