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Monday, July 16, 2007

Superman...Michael Yon Reports


Route Tampa is the major supply route for Coalition forces in Iraq. Billions of dollars’ worth of gear and supplies are pumped up the northbound artery, while rumbling down the southbound vein back to Kuwait are damaged vehicles, units returning from a year or longer at war and convoys of empty trucks. Along the way, thousands of blue, black and clear plastic bags twirl, swirl and skitter in the hot dusty winds. The bags ramble about like so much plastic tumbleweed; aligning along the wind, drifting along the desert currents until they catch on nettles, concertina or the shards of wreckage. On those summer days so hot machines and bodies begin to falter, the air inside the bags is heated just a few degrees more, enough that some bags spontaneously buoy and drift away.

The convoys, sometimes hundreds of semi-trucks long, are guarded by gun trucks, but they have no real safety, apart from numbers. Down near Kuwait, Route Tampa is mostly safe, except for normal driving hazards such as crazy drivers rocketing around in their BMWs and Mercedeses. A couple years back, I saw a spray-painted warning on a concrete barrier that said something like “Watch out for dumbass camels.Only a combat soldier could have written that, I thought, or maybe a Marine. After he and his buddies had just crawled out of a flipped-over Humvee, its wheels still spinning, maybe one of them stepped over a couple of dead camels on the searing pavement, picked up a can of paint and sprayed that caution for all who followed.
Once inside Iraq, although there are relatively few bombs down by the Kuwaiti border, convoys have to watch for the lunatic local drivers, slicing through at 120mph, practically ripping the paint off trucks that more typically travel along at about 40 mph. I remember my first journey down Tampa from Mosul to Kuwait in a Humvee back in 2005. I was tagging along with CSM Jeffrey Mellinger, who seemed to be checking under every bush in Iraq to see how the troops were doing. The CSM could have flown in helicopters or whatever, but I’ve got photos of him on two separate occasions changing his own Humvee tires on Route Tampa—in extremely dangerous areas.

Of the enemy, Mellinger would say things like, “We’ve already killed all the stupid ones. Stay on your game. You can relax when you get home to momma, but not when you’re with me.” CSM Mellinger would tell his crew, “If there is the slightest notion in your head that something is not right, listen to it. Call it up on the radio. Tell everyone. If you make a mistake and call up something that’s nothing, that’s okay. But if you make a mistake and don’t call up something that is something, your Iraq tour might end under a flag. And that’s not okay.” He was very direct like that. His patrols were eventually hit a total of about 30 times.

To read the rest, please click the link. Thanks.

Michael Yon does not receive funding or financial support from Fox News, movie, book or television deals at this time. He is entirely reader supported. He relies on his readers to help him replace his equipment and cover his expenses so that he may remain in Iraq and bring you the stories of our soldiers. If you value his work, please consider supporting his mission.