It was June of 2006 in a small village southwest of Baghdad. I was a Psychological Operations Specialist assigned to support the “Black Heart,” 2BCT-101st. STRIKE! Our mission was to provide higher with “atmospherics.” For those unfamiliar with this term, this was the catch phrase of its day, encompassing just about anything related to the locals, and gathering atmospherics became justification for any mission. For us, though, this particular mission had nothing to do with “gaining an understanding of the people” and had everything to do with being in the fight.

It was early afternoon when we completed our daily patrol of the village and it was blisteringly hot out. The patrol itself was uneventful. We knocked on some doors and spoke to some people. But something was missing: a firefight. This village was known for contact each and every time we stepped out of our safe house, which was nothing more than a local’s house that we “rented.” With everyone’s gear lying outside to dry, we began to relax inside and enjoy the sweet sensation of our homemade swamp cooler. Everyone felt it was a bit odd that the mission was so quiet but no one knew why.

I had two teammates with me, Mark and Matt. All three of us had prior deployments and had seen our fair share of combat. Matt and Mark had developed a humorous bond about combat over the movie Predator and would recite lines from it constantly. They even went so far as to make it a sort of required viewing for anyone that would be working with them. So while Matt and Mark continued on reciting lines from the movie verbatim, I took the time to get to know our interpreter better. Suddenly, we began taking heavy machine gun fire. Here was the firefight we missed earlier. This went on for a few minutes, and then came the boom. I awoke in a dusty haze with no clue as to what just happened. I looked down at my hand, yanked out a hunk of metal and grabbed my weapon.

Matt, Mark and I were all trained on the door waiting what we were certain would be a suicide bomber and our pending demise. I glanced over at Matt and noticed he was bleeding from his shoulder. ”Hey man, you’re hit,” I said, and pointed to his shoulder. He looked down at it and then back at me, and replied in his best Jesse Ventura impersonation, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” While under heavy fire and what we perceived as our imminent demise, he looked over at Mark and told him what just happened. The two of them giggled like schoolgirls.

War is a strange, strange place….


Corey Thompson is an Iraq veteran and a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army Reserve.

War on the Rocks