We'd been hacking away at the beast for months, now. Command says we're making good progress, but mostly it seems like we're treading water.
So, we're given the job of "mopping up" in Shuhada. I've heard bad stories about that district from some of the guys. It's pretty close to base, but seems to have resisted the most stubbornly.
The guys make sure their weapons are in order, I check my counts of medical supplies, and we load up in our HMMWVs. BOOM. Fifteen yards outside the gates of the airbase, an IED whacks Python's HQ HMMWV. I'm not kidding, fifteen yards. These guys are getting more ballsy, not less so. How did they even get up here? Python's yellin' at the guys in the guard towers about opening their eyes, half delirious of course, his ears are probably totally screwed. We gave him some morphine for the pain. Thankfully that was about the extent of the injuries, but this doesn't bode well at all.
After fixing up the damaged HMMWV, we get going. About 45 seconds inside the city proper, we start receiving some pretty distant pot shots from the northwest. Python makes his scheduled turn to the East, and we follow him. Seconds later, the air splits with the sound of gunfire. A dozen or more shooters, north of us. There's pings and ricochets everywhere. Python swings into an alley between some compounds and screeches to a halt. I pull up next to him in the medical HMMWv, giving some pretty good cover in the compound on our west side, then I clear the gate and set up behind the wall.
Dimitrius' HMMWV didn't make it into the alley. I don't know where they are, but he's yelling on the radio they're pinned pretty good. He's somewhere north of us. Axiom's small group is with HQ, suppressing the hell out of the construction site to our north.
Python starts muttering something to me about a wounded civilian. Turns out he drove the poor guy over when we made the blind turn into the alley. I carefully head over and check him out. He seems okay, if a little shaken. I've got a few Arabic phrases, and I find out the guy's name is Omar. I drag him over to the medical HMMWV to give him a better examination. Guy starts going mental, bouncing off the walls. He jumps into the cab and locks the doors. I'm trying to calm him down and get him out, when Python walks over. At this point I'm yelling at Omar, for his own good, he's got to get out. I don't know if it's the delirium from the IED and the morphine, or just the stress of trying to deal with some yahoo in the middle of a firefight. Python turns and looks at me, puts his M4 to the window and puts a bullet in Omar's head. I know he didn't have a choice, for our own safety. It just freaked me the hell out.
All the while, Axiom's having a hard time holding the enemy off, and the enemy are closing in. I can't hear Dimitrius on the radio any more. We're backed into the compound, and I hear more shots coming from the south west. Axiom and Python on the gate. Python takes a hit and slumps to the ground. I see more enemies south east now, too, and light them up. I think I hit one, the rest are tucked behind the wall.
The enemy's crowded all around the compound, now. One of them jumps in the medical HMMWV, but I think someone shot him before he could move it. It's really chaotic now. I can't see Axiom, but I'm pretty sure he's down. It's just Sniping, Boog and I. I don't know what's going on, but we're dropping like flies. Sniping's trying to hold the west side of the compound by himself, and boog's covering me. I found Axiom. I think I can help him.
A grenade goes off inside the walls of the compound. Boog collapses behind me. I'm shouting at sniping, but there's no response. Axiom's slipping away. He's bleeding too heavily. Those guys reappear at the south east wall. I open fire and I'm pretty sure I got them all, but I don't hang around to check. I huddle in the north of the compound, between the building and the wall. I can hear these guys shouting in Arabic, but I can't tell what they're saying. They've literally encircled the entire compound.
I take a quick glance out the west opening, and there are two guys with their back to me. I down them both and retreat. Then I look east again. They don't seem to be concentrating as much over here. Just then I realise boog's still breathing. I drag him back into my nook to the north, and see what I can do. He looks bad, but I get him patched up. He tells me he's okay to hold a rifle, so I prop him against the corner on the east side. I venture back to the west, and see some guys running around the distance. I spray like crazy. It's a little hard to focus.
The radio crackles, and I hear reinforcements trying to get hold of us. I let them know it's just the two of us, and we're in a whole world of crap.
I guess they're out of grenades, or we'd be dead long ago. There are guys are jumping on vehicles and trash cans trying to climb over our wall. We're holding them back with everything we've got. Just then I noticed an enemy on the balcony of the building to our west, trying to get a bead down over our walls. He's got his gun raised. I raise mine as quick as I can, but I'm too late. I killed him, but not before he killed boog.
Now it's just me alone. I'm trying to hold them off with pot shots on both sides. They seem reluctant to just assault the compound. They must think there are more of us. Is that a tracked vehicle?
I get back on the radio and confirm I'm hearing a bradly. Thank god, the reinforcements have a bradley. As it gets closer, it opens up with the bushmaster. It's still pretty far off, though. They're not suppressing my attackers.
Rescue specialist Dimitrius (no relation, apparently) is working the radio to close in on my position. I'm not going easy on my ammo. I've already scrounged what STANAGs I could from boog, and I can't find a damn magazine that has more than a third left.
The bradley is closer now, and the guys around the compound might be distracted. I take a moment try and repack some magazines. I'm shaking, and I cut my fingers up on the edges, but I get a full two magazines sorted out. Time to start conserving.
After what seemed like half an hour, with several more half-hearted assaults, that resulted in several more dead insurgents piled up at the west entrance, I heard Dimitrius' voice to my south. And Wypie too. I start shouting at them, but I'm not sure they hear me. Lt. Python (also no relation) chimes in on the radio, says they're putting smoke out, and have the area covered. I don't need to be told twice. I'm off and sprinting towards the smoke, gunshots still in the distance. I get to the rescue squad, and they bundle me off through some alleys to the south towards the bradley.
We load up in the back, and take off out of town. I don't remember what happened after that, I was shattered. Completely drained.
"intel suggests that only a few and ill equipped insurgents remain" my ***.
** Some of the events portrayed have been modified for dramatic effect **