Not long after we arrived in Kharmah, we were enjoying another blistering Iraqi summer night at the OP. The company had been conducting dwell operations and patrolling throughout the area as well as manning blocking positions in order to limit access to the local neighborhoods by evil doers. One of our squads was preparing to mount up in a 7-ton truck at the motor pool in order to set up a blocking position that night.
The squad leader, we will refer to him as Cpl K, climbed up the back of the 7 ton because the folding ladder was stuck. The stubborn ladder refused to function as designed and would not budge. Taking a cue from the historical Marine response to the disobedience of inanimate objects, Cpl K began to kick the ladder in an attempt to force it open. It worked. Of course, the momentum of the suddenly unfolding ladder sent Cpl K sprawling nearly 10 feet into the deck injuring him severely.
We quickly got him to our Corpsman’s office and reported the incident to the Battalion COC over the radio. You can imagine the watch officer back at battalion was justifiably concerned as to the nature of the Marine’s injuries and what condition he might have been in. If you imagined that you would be dead wrong though. The Battalion COC’s response wasn’t concern for the Marine, their question: “Was he wearing his PPE?”
PPE is personal protective equipment; body armor, gloves, helmet, etc. At the time America had grown so spastic about PPE we could hardly function as we operated with 80 to 100lbs of gear designed to “protect” us. Never mind concepts like “the best defense is a good offense” or any historical evidence proving swords more effective than shields, we needed more PPE designed by engineers who never had to wear it.
Suffice it to say my initial response to: “Was he wearing his PPE?” was not polite. If memory serves my Company Commander had to physically restrain me from ripping the handset from the radio operator. It is quite possible everyone back at Camp Fallujah could actually hear me bellowing across the AO. Of course he was wearing his PPE. How did I know? Because the extra weight of his armor caused his wrist to fracture from a fall he would otherwise have taken without major harm. I know he was wearing his PPE because his helmet smashed down into his eye protection breaking his nose and splitting his septum. But let’s not worry about the Marine’s actual injuries.
Despite my tantrum we were able to get him to Fallujah Medical. Cpl K was eventually evac’d to Kuwait where medical ninjas operated on his nose and wrist.
During his stay in Kuwait doctors speculated they would end up sending him to Landstuhl to continue his recovery. As most of us know, once you were sent to Germany for a medical issue, you were not coming back to Iraq. With some vigor, Cpl K began to explain to the medical officers the difficulty they would have putting him on any aircraft not headed back to his Company in Iraq. The conversation became so tumultuous medical personnel had to go find a Marine Master Sergeant from somewhere just to restore some order. At one point Cpl K announced he would find a car and drive himself north to Kharmah if they didn’t send him. Not long after Cpl K was back with Kilo Company.
At first, SgtMaj Kent showed some concern when he heard about a Marine Cpl being belligerent to medical officers. When our battalion SgtMaj related the whole story SgtMaj Kent smiled saying: “Oh, well that’s a good kind of belligerent!” He immediately presented Cpl K with a coin.
Being the kind of Marine Cpl K was, I had to remind him on a few occasions he would not be participating on any missions while his wrist was in a cast. Once I even had to threaten to break his other arm if he didn’t stop trying to slip out with a patrol. We eventually meritoriously promoted him to sergeant.