Rockets Can Be Boring – Episode 2

Ah ha – here it is … it took three months in Iraq until I was sleeping through rockets, not two months …

November 2006

 I slept through five rockets last night. I’d have slept through the entire barrage had the Ghurka guard not scared the living crap out of me by beating on the door of my trailer.

 Here in the new camp, as I’ve mentioned, we haven’t any bunkers, hallelujah. Instead, our trailers have single layers of deteriorating sandbags stacked against them. We giggle at the total inadequacy of that illusory protection. Shrapnel has been known to zip through meter-thick sand-filled Hesco barriers; the stacked sandbags are half a meter thick. When we touch them the burlap disintegrates, sending a small cascade of sand falling to the ground. Some of us have taken to poking at them as we walk by in order to hasten the deterioration, as we’ve been promised they’ll be replaced. (A new single layer of sandbags would not be any more effective than an old single layer of sandbags, but we’ve cheerfully adopted the cause in order to harass LTC Slasher with indignant demands … any opportunity to make his life uncomfortable is a welcome addition to any day.)

In lieu of bunkers, we’re required to hunker down wherever we happen to be during a barrage of incoming. As we’ve no central security office to enforce the rule that people take cover, and no camp siren (as if we can’t hear everyone else’s …), and no central method of making sure all souls are accounted for, reactions to incoming now vary. Some people take cover immediately, while others saunter off toward a more comfortable location. Some claim not to have heard the sirens, and stay where they are doing whatever they were doing. As for the head checks … well, there are none. Some intricate and totally unworkable solution is in the planning stages, having to do with everyone carrying radios at all times and checking in with their supervisors via radio immediately after a barrage. The camp doesn’t own enough workable radios and ninety people keying a mic at approximately the same time would be monkey chatter, but that is not, apparently, considered a serious roadblock to implementation.

 For the time being, in place of a siren and in order to attempt to enforce the rule that we all take cover, the Ghurka guards are required to run around camp shouting Take cover! Take cover! Their thick accents cause the phrase to come out sounding more like, Tay cuvvaaaaa! Tay cuvvaaaaa!  – a cry we now all imitate at the first hint of a rocket, just for fun.

 After dark the Ghurkas must not only shout, Tay cuvvaaaa! Tay cuvvaaaa! They must also run around to all the hooches (ninety!) banging on each door. That banging on the flimsy doors of flimsy trailers is frankly far more startling than the rounds going off. Two good thumps with a fist and the entire hooch is jumping and rattling like a 240mm landed next door.

 This new door beating custom is the only reason I didn’t sleep through the entire eight rockets last night. The first fist against the door launched me from deep sleep to a precariously adrenaline packed spread-eagle sprawl against the ceiling, fingernails clawing into the cheap plastic.

 For a few minutes as I sweat in the dark, Jake and I quietly discuss the general nonchalance of the people around us, wondering how explosions that rock camp could become mundane enough for some to sleep through. (Aug 2006)

 Now I know … combine repeated explosions with work-induced sleep deprivation and even rockets can be boring.


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