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Rant #151
(published September 11, 2003)
Operation: Downy Fresh; True Story Of An MP Mission In Iraq
by Luke Bruhns

It was a humid 120 degrees on a summer day in Tikrit. We had to wait for the sun to go down to start our mission, otherwise the heat could kill. We've all been sweating bullets for weeks. None of us have any clean laundry. We take showers from buckets strung up on poles. Sweat covers our bodies just moments after showering; we can never find relief.

We have made a small post for detaining Enemy Prisoners of War (EPW). There are about 200 Americans here. We have about 500 EPWs right now. All we have to contain them is fencing and concertina wire. We're making plans to commandeer one of Saddam's old prisons.

There are nine men in my squad. We have been preparing all day for our mission. This morning three of us went on a recon and found the building was small enough to secure. We've got our eyes on the machine inside. That's the important part: the machine. There wouldn't be a mission without it. We decided to wait until nightfall to avoid conflict and heat.

It only took about a half hour to load our bags with all the necessary equipment on to two dhumvv's (desert hummers). We put on our vests, loaded up seven mags each, attached our NVGs (night vision goggles) to our helmets and we where pulling out of the gate as the sun was going down.

We drove the nine blocks to the site without incident. Pulled one dhumvv to the front and one to the rear blocking all the entrances. The squad had 360-degree security. Each truck had a .50 caliber heavy automatic weapon, a 5.56 mm squad automatic weapon (SAW) and a 203 40mm grenade launcher. No one was getting in there without a fight.

One man from each vehicle grabbed the bags and met at the machine. They emptied the contents of the bags into the 4' by 3' stainless steel box through the Plexiglas door. The writing on the machine was Arabic, so when we turned the knob we could only assume the writing said something like "Permanent Press." We emptied a small one-use bottle of Tide laundry detergent into the machine and pressed what looked like the start button.

After what seemed like an eternity of scanning the street for hostile Iraqi forces we heard the buzzer. The same two men met at the machine and took all of our clothes out and put them in a similar looking, but slightly larger, box and turned the appropriate knobs, a half hour later we were driving the nine blocks back to the compound.

The mission was a success and we all have at least one uniform that smells downy fresh. The guy who remembered the fabric softener got an army accommodation medal.

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