“A man, well, he'll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the devil can't fool a dog.” -Earl Hamner, Jr.
“It wasn’t the best idea.”
Carlos Cruz was part of a three-vehicle convoy patrolling the scorching, silent Iraqi desert.
Carlos, a Marine lance corporal at the time, was in the rear of the convoy, lying down in the back seat of a Humvee. The only protection he had from outside attack was a Kevlar blanket covering his body, and sandbags pushed against the window. The Humvee itself had no armor.
Carlos and his fellow Marine laid flat in the back of the vehicle as it rumbled along the explosive-laden dirt road, exchanging glances of disbelief. Both felt their lives could end at any moment. It could be that easy.
A small town called Al Qa'im had been Carlos’s home base on this - his second deployment to Iraq. The year was 2004.
Soldiers from Army Psychological Operations, or Psy-Ops, rode along with Carlos and the other Marines in the convoy.
Psy-Ops' job that day was to get the enemy to come out of their hiding places and face the Americans head on. None of this hiding…booby-trapping the road with IEDs…then detonating the explosives when the U.S. troops approached. After all, this was the era of President George W. Bush’s “Bring 'em on” bravado, and the Psy-Ops soldiers had been ordered to put that bravado into practical use.
With a loudspeaker, the Psy-Ops team called out the Iraqi insurgents, as an interpreter with the group of Americans translated the provocative words into Arabic. Show your faces, the Iraqis were told.
Carlos thought taunting the enemy to “come out, come out, wherever you are” - well, it wasn’t the best idea.
The Americans took the same route every time they drove from Al Qa'im to the train station, as was part of their regular routine. They drove on a dirt road with potholes so big on each side that they would swallow a Humvee if given the chance.
On that September day the words of the Army Psy-Ops team did exactly what they were supposed to do. They provoked the enemy to come out of hiding.
As the convoy drove towards the train station, a Marine Sergeant with the group got a bad feeling, one he decided to listen to. “We’re asking for big trouble we’re just not ready for,” he muttered. The sergeant immediately ordered the convoy to turn back toward Al Qa'im.
From the corner of his eye, Carlos could see a glimmer of metal in between the sandbags pressed up against his Humvee’s window. A few yards down the road sat a beat-up old Mercedes with tinted windows.
The first truck in the convoy made the turn to head back to home base. Then the second vehicle in the convoy, another Humvee, completed the same turn.
The third Humvee in which Carlos rode had yet to make the turn. Carlos watched as the Mercedes began to accelerate toward the Humvee in front of him.
For Carlos, the events before him unveiled at hyper-speed, yet in slow motion as well...
Tomorrow - Even the Devil Can't Fool a Dog, Part 2
(Read the previous installment of “Even the Devil Can’t Fool a Dog” by clicking here.)