Monday, January 09, 2006
Back Into the Goo
Marines have started to call being out in the field close to the fight the "goo". Jarheads stuck inside the wire in support activities are chided by those outside as "leaf eaters"; the guys out in the "goo" being "meat eaters". Well, I'm sharpening my canines and packing up my gear for a trip out to the sticky parts. Later tonight the dark figure of an embark Marine, with a blue chem stick in hand and night vision goggles, will lead myself and a few others into the back of a darkened helicopter "turning and burning" on the camp's makeshift airstrip. The helo's crewchief will quickly take note of the final destination penned with an indelible marker on the back of our left hands, and point us to our seats. We'll carefully move up the back ramp slick from hydraulic fluid and engine oil, drop our packs, insure our rifles are muzzle down and strap ourselves in. The air in the cabin will be dense with engine exhaust, the seats and rough non-skid deck vibrating beneath us, and our ears, despite hearing protection, will be overwhelmed by the high frequency whine of the engines and transmission. There is a dull sense of implosion from the fumes, weight of your gear, and the pressure created by foam plugs pushed deep into ear canals. Reaching into an invisible recess the crewchief throws the toggle switch that triggers the back ramp to raise up and signal our imminent departure. The two aircrew (crewchief and first mechanic), their passenger and stowage duties complete, segue seamlessly into their inflight role of door gunners with choreographed precision. They coil up their intercom's long cord with nonchalanced grace, stand over respective .50 calibre machine guns, and chamber the inital round with a forceful double pull of the charging handle. The interior of the bird goes completely dark, the crewchief turns towards us one last time, the eerie chartreuse glow of his NVGs pointed momentarily in our direction. The roar of the engines and the fwapping of the rotor blades rises suddenly as the aircraft shudders into the air. Ascending into the night you hope you've picked a seat that's not directly in the path of the icy air that floods into the cabin from the open gun positions. Next stop.....Ramadi.