Day 3: That one time in Iraq

Story: I was in Iraq 10 years ago doing security patrols and what-not. Somehow I’d made it to my final year (of my 4 years) of service in the Marine Corps with only having to go over seas this one time. 

One afternoon at the Al-Taqaddum Air Base in Iraq, myself and my patrol team were “sweeping” a bridge which just means looking for suspicious stuff. We did this 3 times a day during our 8 hour shift.

Because we were going off base so often we had to change up how we did things just to keep the bad guys on their toes. 

This afternoon for some reason the guy who was leading the patrol that day wanting one person stationed at the intersection of the bridge and another bridge that crossed over the Euphrates River. I was that person that day.

 Everyone else patrolled in the armored hum-vees as usual while I stood there alone in open air. We had never done this before nor had I ever seen this done. 

I did have a radio which I had access to the rest of the patrol and our “command station” with. 

As I stood there I saw a short man in a perfectly white robe in the distance across the bridge. I thought “oh shit” because that bridge actually comes from Habbaniya which was know for a lot of terrorist activity including daily mortars at U.S. bases near by-us.

So the guy got about halfway across the bridge where I knew he would hear me if I yelled. I said “hey! stop!” and waved my hands over my head. I probably said some other stuff. It was 10 years ago. 

He didn’t stop and I had a gun which at this point in my training I was supposed to start paying attention to in a situation like this.

I pointed it at the ground and gave him several warnings and kept asking him to “stop”. During all this he was pointing to the sky, murmuring something in arabic and got close enough for me to realize that he was barefoot. I was not feeling good about this situation. 

I had already called it in on the radio so my team was on their way back but there was plenty of time for this guy to get to me. 

I was supposed to shoot this guy according to what I had been taught but I didn’t. Every time I thought about what was happening in that moment I knew that it didn’t feel right. 

It turned out that he had chronic seizures and was wanting medicine. 

Lesson: Sometimes trusting (and responding from) your gut is more important than the rules and procedures that we’re expected to abide by.

Action Step: The next time that you’re in a dilemma where you “feel” something isn’t right try to be aware of that and respond the best way you know how to but the main thing is respond. Don’t do nothing.