Flashback: After a week in Iraq, my team of 9 were ordered to move from Taji to a small FOB in the center of Baghdad, Iraq. We were still green and untested. Our team chief had not yet arrived and I was in charge. Nothing like an aviator doing the job of an infantryman.
We did our weapons checks, lined up our convoy and headed out of the gate. It was 0200.
We passed through the city of Taji and made our way from village to village.
Suddenly the sound of machine gun fire brought everyone to life. The radios exploded with chatter.
I got on the radio, “Where the fuck is that coming from?!?” I yelled.
My answer came quickly…it was ours. A runaway machine gun. The gunner broke the link of ammunition and the gun fires until it ran out of rounds.
The bad news was that we fired rounds by accident and we didn’t know who or what the rounds may have hit. We had to report it.
The next morning a called my boss, a Colonel I never met, who happened to be with the Colonel who was replacing him.
“Let me put you on speaker phone, Major.” the old Colonel said. I explained what happened and proceeded to get may ass chewed about why the weapon wasn’t on safe.
My answer was simple,”We are in a combat zone, sir.”
He continued in with the mostly one way conversation.
It was beyond me why it made sense to put a weapon on safe in a combat zone when you are actively looking for the enemy. In fact I began to question my own judgment.
After the conversation, I started to do my research and found, that in all reality, that Colonel was wrong.
The next time we spoke, I mustered up as much tact as possible and corrected him.
His answer, “Well anytime my guys rolled out we kept our weapons on safe. I suggest you do the same.”
Why is this important? In the world of IEDs and VBIEDs, that 1 second can make the difference between life and death when a bomb is driving at you at 40 MPH.
Lesson learned: Know the rules and know them well because even though someone is the boss, they just might be wrong.