“Incoming! Incoming! Incoming!”
I leap to my feet and quickly settle my advanced combat uniform helmet onto my head. Despite the explosions and yelling coming from outside, somehow my mind registers the inconsequential thought that the helmet pads lining the inside of the helmet feel tacky from days of sweat and grime and will need to be washed.
Grabbing my rifle, I move to the sandbagged window and get down on my knees to minimize my silhouette. I am in the safest possible place, inside, behind sandbags.
My soldiers however, are not.
Thru a crack in the layered sandbags I can see them scattering in all directions. The soldiers drop their shovels and half filled sandbags and run to the nearest HMMWV clad only in their shirt sleeves.
With another shattering crack, a dirt cloud erupts from outside the Chicane protecting the entrance to the TAC. Black smoke mingles with cracked earth and the mortar round shreds itself into fragments of hot shrapnel. The explosion is only 15 meters from the HMMWV guarding the entrance, and I can see the soldiers inside the vehicle struggling to close the gunners hatch.
With a thud, the hatch falls shut, and glancing around, I can see that all of the soldiers have made it behind some level of armored protection, their shovels and half filled sandbags lying forgotten on the dusty ground.
I don’t think I have ever seen them move so fast.
To my rear, there is a muffled explosion, and I hear the brittle sound of wood snapping and something falling. It sounds as if a mortar has hit an electrical pole, and has cut it in half.
The thought occurs that we are being bracketed. Somewhere out in the fields and farms surrounding the isolated TAC is an insurgent watching where the rounds land, and calling adjustments back to the mortar team.
Ignoring the next explosion, I do another visual check of the area. I can see no soldiers outside cover. Finally satisfied, I edge away from the window and sit down on the marble floors with my back against the tan stucco wall.
I begin to count the sharp, quick, explosions in my head. They come rapidly, one after the other. One… Two… Three… Four…
With a thunderous roar, the fifth round hits the other side of the wall I have taken cover behind. The wall shakes and the dirty glass window rattles in its frame and threatens to crack. The sandbags lining the windows shift, and a cloud of choking dust rises from the neatly stacked green burlap bags.
That was close.
The silence outside is deafening.
Glancing at my watch, I realize that it was all over within a few seconds- from start to finish.
It felt like an eternity.
Silently counting another ten heartbeats, I can hear the soldiers outside begin to shout at one another. Team leaders are getting accountability of their teams, and Squad leaders are getting accountability of their squads.
Clambering to my feet, I grab my rifle and walk outside into the heat to check on my platoon.
It is a good day. No casualties.