19 March: Bubba

Operation Iraqi FreedomI’d like to be able to tell you that the war started for me with a bang, with some significant event that symbolized heading off to war – crossing the berm, lifting off and heading north, firing that first round. It didn’t.

It started with a phone call. It could only have been more comical if the word had come via a PowerPoint slide briefing.

“She’s turning around,” they said, “heading to an immediate target.”

OK, well, that’s unusual. She is, of course, the U2 – the Dragon Lady, my mistress of the night. In the seven or so weeks that The Dragon Lady and I had been seeing each other, she’d not done this too often.

“Need to know if everything is OK,” they told me.

We plotted the grid location they gave us, and found it to be a spot on the Earth, out in the middle of nowhere. Near nothing. And in Iraq.

We had forces inside of Iraq.

I’d like to tell you that my heart leapt. I’d like to tell you that I got excited. I’d like to tell you that it was some climatic moment.

It wasn’t. It actually relaxed me. The game was on.

For all the waiting, all the ultimatums, all the stress and angst, it was actually good to know that it had started.

The rest of the night went very well. After so many weeks of hunting all night, we were a well oiled machine, and we pressed on with our requirements. The day shift, though, was oblivious to what was going on.

For the morning shift change, after the long night, I knew I’d have to give a more in depth brief. I found myself talking about Bubba, instead.

For some, we fight for king or country. For others, like many of the infantry, tankers, and other readying to cross the berm, they fight for the folks to their left and right. For the others in their crew, their team, their squad. They fight to meet their objectives, and to bring everyone home, safe and sound.

For me, I told them, I’m fighting for Bubba. Bubba and I had, at that point, been friends for a few years. I’d just made a drive up to see him only a couple of days before. I worried, I told them, about whether he had all the information he needed to safely strike his targets without loss of his own life or the loss of the lives of his soldiers.

I didn’t want to see Jodi or Kaitlin after the war, and have to face their questions of whether Bubba and his soldiers were as well prepared as possible, I told them.

On the giant map, I even showed them where he and his men were going — the route they would take the targets they would hit. Am I asking you to make an extra effort in watching this area, in keeping my friend safe? No. Do it for all of Iraq; for every soldier crossing the border, there’s someone like we, worried about them, wanting them to succeed but wanting them to come home safely.

I wanted to ensure that our efforts, all that we did, was as usable to the war fighters, the trigger pullers, as possible. Right assessment, at the right time, to the right person.

I’m not one for speeches. I don’t like making them, much less listening to them. But that shift change, that first one of what I knew to be our new war, I made one. My Bubba speech.

My soldiers understood – they got it. The war was on. It was serious.

Bonus: Here, have some eye candy from the war (1, 2, 3)

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