There is a gem of a story by James Jenega in the Chicago Tribune today. It is a “You Are There” soldier story — Bradley crew’s shift: 19 hours in Fallujah shooting gallery. Here’s just a taste of the lengthy article:

After nearly 18 hours in the claustrophobic urban canyons that constitute the front lines of the battle for Fallujah, the crew of the lead Bradley Fighting Vehicle was cramped, weary and low on ammunition.

Then they came under heavy enemy fire for the first time all week.

Within 15 minutes, as shooting erupted around them, their radio crackled with the news that their company commander’s vehicle, blocks behind them, had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. The blast killed an interpreter and severed a soldier’s arm. A Bradley that sped to the rescue was hit by another RPG that slipped under its high-tech armor, wounding the driver.

A block away, they heard the boom as a third rocket from insurgents took out the transmission on a huge Abrams tank. The tank’s turret wouldn’t move. Nor could the tank drive in reverse or pivot.

…They fought for a night and much of a day in streets so narrow they couldn’t turn around, cruising devastated roadways that any second could explode in a barrage from rockets and Kalashnikovs.

Inside the troop compartment of Bradley Alpha 2-1–a space hardly larger than two refrigerators–a hulking 17-year-old from Florida crouched across from a skinny 24-year-old team leader, weighed down by 65 pounds of gear. Along with the reporter, two other soldiers crammed in, buried in equipment and juggling two machine guns, a grenade launcher and an anti-tank missile launcher the size of a fence post. The weapons were useless inside the vehicle. But in this neighborhood, getting out and fighting on foot would be too dangerous.

Ames and the Bradley’s commander, Lt. Michael Duran, 24, rode in the turret above the troop compartment. Spec. Clint Hardin, 23, rode up front, steering the 30-ton vehicle using a monitor and periscopes.

The men in back slept uneasily for much of the night, leaning helmets against metal or one another as the Bradley’s 25 mm gun tore apart houses and buildings where insurgents were thought to be hiding.

But at dawn, rifle rounds began pinging off the Bradley’s armor and the RPGs began exploding, rocking the vehicle, raining dust on the men inside and sucking the air from the compartment again and again.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding