BAGHDAD — Steel Company, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment had been in Iraq for about four months and hadn’t seen much action. Until Tuesday rolled around.

Some of the unit’s older soldiers faced stiff battles during the unit’s previous deployment to Diyala province, and the younger ones got a bitter taste of death last week when two of their soldiers died in a roadside bomb attack.

But for the most part, they had been patrolling the bustling, largely safe streets in the Adhamiyah area of Baghdad.

Tuesday looked to be more of the same when it began. Blue Platoon circulated through “Sons of Iraq” checkpoints, passing out lists of suspicious cars and listening to complaints from shopkeepers who don’t like the walls around the area.

The soldiers returned to their base at Combat Outpost Ford by lunchtime, took off their uniform tops and relaxed by reading, watching TV or throwing some steaks on the grill.

A few hours later, though, commanders got reports of attacks on an Iraqi army checkpoint near the southwest corner of Sadr City, a no-go zone for coalition forces despite the self-enforced cease-fire declared by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Blue Platoon suited up and rushed to the checkpoint to “bolster the Iraqis’ courage.”

“The second we hit that checkpoint, [rocket-propelled grenades] started coming,” said 1st Lt. Galen Peterson, the platoon leader.

One of those RPGs slammed into an Iraqi guard tower, another hit just short of a U.S. Humvee. The Iraqis were shaken, but were holding fast and returning fire, if a bit liberally.

“Last time, if they were there when you showed up, it was a miracle,” Peterson said, referring to the Diyala deployment. “These guys, they were fighting.”

Steel Company leaders could hear the gunfire over the radios in their headquarters and dispatched Red Platoon to help. The convoy rolled up to the checkpoint to find fire coming from both sides of a road that ran within sight of Sadr City. But the same concrete walls that prevent attackers from placing bombs also made it harder to maneuver.

In the heat of the fight, the platoon managed to move a handful of vehicles through a gap between the walls where the firing seemed to be originating. The soldiers found the source of the firing as soon as they drove through.

At distances close enough for an easy touchdown pass, the soldiers and the attackers blasted away at one another. American .50 caliber machine guns and grenade launchers suppressed the attackers, then chased them away for good when the insurgents fired more shots after a short lull.

When the fight was over, water poured from broken pipes in the apartment building where the shots had come from. None of the attackers had been killed or captured, but the soldiers considered the mission a success.

“To me, it was a successful mission because no one got hurt,” said 1st Lt. Todd Allison, Red Platoon leader.

But the soldiers didn’t have long to enjoy their success. As night closed in, insurgents attacked a neighboring squadron; a soldier in a Stryker was reportedly killed.

Blue Platoon and Gold Platoon again went out to provide support, and again they ran into small arms fire and RPGs.

This time, though, their job was to provide security, not chase down the attackers.

About an hour before midnight, though, Red Platoon got the order to guard a route clearance team moving along a road that parallels Sadr City. Commanders worried that the team would be an attractive target.

Red Platoon moved in behind the convoy as it passed their position, and the predictions soon proved accurate. Attackers all along several blocks popped away at the convoy with automatic weapons while the convoy creeped along like steel ducks in a shooting gallery.

About halfway through the drive, one of the clearance teams hit a roadside bomb. Seconds later, the team took a hit from an RPG. But the convoy was still able to move along, bullets continuing to rain on the convoy.

The soldiers had been judicious with bullets until this point, but Staff Sgt. Josh Everett, a 25-year-old section sergeant in the trailing Humvee, got frustrated when his vehicle started taking fire from a large field.

“Light up that [expletive] woodline!” he ordered his gunner, Cpl. Mario Rivera, 21.

Rivera let loose a salvo of bullets, silencing the firing in the area. The second fight of the day was over.

“If we hadn’t already gotten our [Combat Action Badge] this morning, we’d have gotten it tonight,” Rivera said.

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