Teflon Don http://acutepolitics.blogspot.com/ and I are swapping stories around the BBQ in front of Charlie Medical. Missions have been completed, and within days we begin the long journey home to friends and family and pick up the pieces we left off 8-12 months ago. The Army medical staff are throwing one last BBQ before the old surgical team gets replaced and heads out later this week.
A civilian walks out from the dark where TD and I are standing, and asks "Hey guys, what's going on. How much are you charging for some steak?"
"Well, it's only 10 bucks a plate. These are really good steaks! Been marinating them all afternoon."
"Uh, right then. I was walking by and was just curious." As he starts walking away.
"Whoa, wait a minute. Just kidding on the entry fee. Who are you with?"
"I'm a journalist."
"Really? With who?"
Teflon Don and I look at each other at the same time and think "Wait a minute, we know this guy!"
"As in The Weekly Standard?" I start coaxing him back with the promise of mouthwatering steak. Right now, Teflon Don and I know a lot more about him than he does of us. "What's your name?"
"Yo, man. You were the one sending out emails to the milbloggers about the notorious Baghdad Diarist, right."
"That was me." As he gives us the oddest look.
I point to TD "Your talking to Acute Politics, and I'm Desert Flier. You emailed us!"
Matthew, just shaking his head, quips "Again and again: what a small world it is."
I never mentioned the Baghdad Diarist before. Didn't want to give the soldier any more exposure, since he deserved none. His name is Scott Beauchamp, and he was submitting some disturbing and far-fetched stories to the New Republic several months ago. Matthew Sanchez with The Weekly Standard was one of the first to contact the New Republic and openly question the authenticity of the stories being published. After getting the run-around, Matt went to Camp Falcon, where supposedly Scott was operating out of, and contacted the public affairs officer and other base officials. It was Matt's inquiries that lead to a full blown investigation, CNN and Fox news coverage of the Baghdad Diarist, and exposing the outlandish stories for what they were: lies that directly affect public perception of our professional organization.
Read about it here:
We spent the evening talking about the state of Anbar, the EFP threat in and around Baghdad, and IED hunting (TD's specialty) in Ramadi and Fallujah.
You may have heard EFPs (explosively formed penetrators) mentioned in the media over the past few months as the newest armor-penetrating weapons used by the insurgents. They have a specific design that allows maximum armor penetration of molten copper upon impact, and can be fired from a stand-off distance, or be placed in IED's. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Explosively_formed_penetrator
Also discussed at length were the casualty rates from IED blasts. Matt was under the impression the rates were around 30%, and said general perception back in the U.S. is that vehicles hit with IED's usually result in fatalities. TD and I both dispute the statistic, and I would like to dispel the misperception. It's a highly variable and ever changing number depending on tactics, type of vehicle, exact location of the IED (underneath vs. offset on the roadside).
Here is a typical scenario: route clearing engineers are the ones who find the IED's. They are driving heavily up-armored vehicles that have V-shaped bodies specifically designed to deflect undercarriage blasts. The blast, more often than not, is going to disable the vehicle. However, having said that, most of the time the riders escape with only concussions and feeling a little banged up. Armor penetration and fatalities usually result if 1) the vehicle is a humvee (even the up-armored humvees are highly vulnerable), or 2) a secondary IED is hidden next to the first, detonated as the disabled vehicle's occupants spill out. Standard procedure is for them to stay in place until the entire scene has been secured by the rest of the combat engineers.
Time marches to the beat of a slower drummer the closer we get to home. I leave you with Teflon Don's memorable quote of the night: "None of the fun of missions; all of the suck of Iraq." My sentiments exactly.