Troops at new outpost hope fight pauses long enough for celebration
November 24, 2006
TA’MEEM, Iraq — Inside the rings of concrete barriers, sandbags and concertina wire, and protected by guards with guns pointed outward, a group of soldiers planned to take time out for Thanksgiving.
There’d be no Macy’s parade because there was no TV, and no football games either. Instead, there was the screeching of a circular saw and pounding of a hammer as some soldiers built tables out of plywood and two-by-fours.
In a few hours, the soldiers hoped, there would be something to put on the tables. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes. Maybe even pie. They’d be thankful for it.
“Some guys are going to be thankful they’re with good friends, some will be thankful they didn’t get IED’d today,” said 1st Sgt. Jerry Almario. “Some are thankful they have a girlfriend or wife sending them a care package.”
“I’m thankful I still got my friggin’ legs," said Spc. Adam Moore. His Humvee was hit last week by an armor-piercing, rocket-propelled grenade. Moore’s lower leg and ankle were dinged up. The Humvee was ruined.
Combat Outpost Steel is a makeshift fortress in Ta’meem, a violent enclave on the outskirts of Ramadi. It isn’t like one of the fancy forward operating bases, or FOBs, where most U.S. troops stay while in occupied-Iraq.
Food at the FOBs is piled high four times a day, including the midnight meal. It’s all you can eat, all the time.
On the other hand, COP Steel’s inhabitants — soldiers from 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, as well as an Iraqi battalion — waited for their grub.
It would be brought by a truck, escorted by a small convoy of armored-plated Humvees with mounted machine guns. The convoy would run a two-mile gantlet from Camp Ramadi.
The compound was established six weeks ago to start reining in the insurgency in the restive neighborhood.
On Wednesday night, three blocks away, Iraqi and U.S. troops from the fortress raided a house and confiscated six RPGs and 11 60mm mortar rounds, along with other paraphernalia of death.
On Thanksgiving Day, about a mile away, an Iraqi police car was hit by a roadside bomb, wounding two policemen.
So Thanksgiving at COP Steel was mostly business as usual.
Inside the compound, Spc. Jeremy Holster and Private 1st Class Todd Strickland rigged up wireless Internet. Maybe the troops would be able to send home an e-mail for Thanksgiving.
“We’ll find out here in the next couple hours,” Strickland said.
Holster and Strickland, who are both on their second deployments to Iraq, said they were thankful for little things back home: Savannah Holster, 6 months, and Max Strickland, 10 months, the first child for each.
Some cigars were at the ready, and even a “HAPPY THANKSGIVING” cutout to be stretched out and hung on the wall. But it was pretty austere: There was no paper turkey that unfolded like an accordion, and no centerpiece for the plywood table.
Because of the earlier raid, when the enemy had some of its ammo taken away, there was a chance the party could be spoiled.
“You know,” Almario said, “there’s going to be retaliation for what happened.”
Maybe it would wait until after the pie.