Dispatches - D-Day +7
April 2003

by Warren Zinn

March 27, 2003

I have been embedded with the seventh cavalry regiment for a little more than two weeks now. For the past five days we have had made contact with the enemy every single day, and since the war began we have been moving non stop. Sleep is at a minimum out here and getting photos back to the home front and keeping gear working is an extremely large challenge.

I spent a good amount of time last year in Afghanistan with the troops and was embedded (yes they have done this embedding thing before) on the largest combat mission of that war, Operation Anaconda. But nothing could prepare me for what the last seven days has been like. Our living conditions have been poor, communication has been rough and the weather, well lets just say dust sucks. I am writing this on little sleep so the “fog of war” might fog this dispatch, but I hope it makes sense.

48 hours ago we saddled up and left in a convoy to move to our new location further north. The Colonel told us he was 99% sure that we would see contact that night, but nothing would prepare us for what would happen. I was riding in the back of a Bradley Armored Personnel Carrier. The convoy pulled out a little before dark and I thought I would use the ride as a good time to get some rest. I lay down on the floor in the back and the Bradley rattled me to sleep. It’s amazing how you can sleep anywhere when you are tired. I was startled awake by the popping sound of gunfire. I jumped up and looked out through the little port holes on the Bradley and watched the tracer rounds fly in every direction. Our convoy had been ambushed from both sides of the road.

As we drove along we continued to get shot at from both sides. I watched as an RPG exploded on our Bradley. The Army called in airstrikes on the area around us and I continued to watch the fireworks all around. I had mixed feelings about being in the back of the Bradley, on one hand I knew I was relatively safe as I heard the bullets ping off the armor and fall to the ground outside, on the other hand I was frustrated that here I was in combat and could not take a picture, why was I even there risking my life? I would be better sitting on my couch drinking a cold beer and eating pizza.

The night continued as we moved through a town and continued to get ambushed along the way. Eventually the adrenaline settled down and I did what anyone in that situation would do, I laid back down in the Bradley and went back to sleep to the gentle sounds of gunfire. A few hours later(or maybe a few minutes I have lost track of time) I was awoken by a large explosion and the shockwave rocking the Bradley I was in, as the bomb of an A-10 hit 1000 meters from us. The convoy had come under attack again while I was sleeping from fighters hiding amongst farm houses on the side of the road. The fighting grew fiercer and the army brought in air to help suppress the fighting. The convoy then stopped to regroup and make a new plan.

As I was standing outside the Bradley, stretching I saw the sunrise above the palm trees, which were smoking from the bomb strike. I then saw a man walk down the 800 meter path from his house to the road with a white flag
on a stick. He was met by troops and an interpreter.

The medic took the boy from the man's arms turned and began running with
the boy in his arms back towards the mini hospital that was being set up.

As the medics treated the boy I watched as one soldier held his hand and rubbed his head as the doctors removed shrapnel from an open wound in his leg. More soldiers than came running up with a woman on a strecher and the troops began to treat her. As they were doing that, a red crescent ambulance arrived and they loaded the wounded in the ambulance. I looked in the back and saw a bare white van with one oxygen bottle and blood and people on the floor. The doors shut, the troops packed up their gear and the moment was over. All I could think about was that I wish that ambulance had never shown up, knowing that the best thing for that young boy would be to be treated at a U.S. hospital. But there was no time to think we mounted our vehicles and were gone again.

Within one hour being ambushed from both sides of the road, in what is now nicknamed ambush alley. We spent another 24 hours in combat, until the Third Infantry Division sent reinforcements to relieve the Cav., which has seen more combat than any other army unit. We are now back at an assembly area in a semi secure area for 48 hours of rest and refitting of gear. For me 48 hours of rest, cleaning dust out of every electronic item I brought with me, and time to charge all of my batteries both literally and figuratively. We will see what the coming days bring.

© Warren Zinn

Also Read: Defining Pictures, by Robert Hodierne, Military Times Staff Writer

Warren Zinn is a staff photographer for Army Times, an independent (civilian) newspaper that covers the U.S. Army. The Army Times Publishing Company, a Gannett subsidiary, coordinates and shares coverage with USA Today and the Gannett News Service.


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