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The Lieutenant Don't Know Excerpt

The Lieutenant Don't Know Excerpt

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Published by WAMU885news
A selection from "The Lieutenant Don't Know" by Marine Lt. Jeff Clement.
A selection from "The Lieutenant Don't Know" by Marine Lt. Jeff Clement.

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Published by: WAMU885news on Mar 20, 2014
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05/28/2014

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Never According to Plan
 An Excerpt from
The Lieutenant Don’t Know
by Jeff Clement
After deploying, one of the reasons that it took so long to
relax,
to not be on edge, was that nothing in Afghanistan ever went according to plan. We always had to ready for anything. May 23, 2010 was supposed to be a routine day.
“Alright, guys, another recovery mission. 3
rd
 Battalion, 7
th
 Marines is up north of us. They hit
a couple IEDs last night, but they’ve pulled the
two trucks and one mineroller back to a relatively secure area.
A mineroller was a
9000 pound sled with wheels that would be attached to the front of our trucks to limit the damage from IEDs
the IED would go off under the mineroller instead of under the truck with Marines inside. I was five months into my deployment as a truck platoon commander with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, a Marine Logistics unit. We had the cranes, trailers, and wreckers needed to recover vehicles that were damaged by IED strikes.
I continued briefing. “The idea is that we’re going to move fast. This isn’t a resupply, so we’ve only got 15 trucks. We know that the insurgents will try to target us with
IEDs on the Tabletop, this ridge in the middle of the route. So we are going to try to run up to the objective, load up and get back. Mission time, six to eight hours.
 I looked up. Calm, dirty faces stared back at me. Dirty was good. It meant they had spent time on maintenance. Calm was good too. They knew what they were doing. My routine mission was disrupted right from the start. At the last minute, we had to bring some supplies up to 3/7, so we left about six hours late. Still, the trip up to the recovery site was smooth, and I thought we were back in a groove. I found the officer in charge and asked him where the equipment for us to
recover was. “Alright, so we got three MRAPs,” he said, “and one mineroller.”
 
“Three?” I cut him off. “The request was only for two.”
 Another change.
Can
you show me where this mineroller is?”
 I asked
Jeff Clement with his armored MATV, May 2010.
 
“Yeah,” he pointed to the map “it’s a ways down
here by itself 
.”
 
“You left it?” I was incredulous.
 
“Well yeah. It’s pretty heavy,” he laughed. “I don’t think anybody
can
take it.”
 
“I’m not worried somebody
could take
it. I’m worried that somebody
could booby-trap
it!”
 
“Hadn’t thought of that. Well, can you still get it?”
 
“Don’t 
 have a choice, do I?
The risk went up.
 My driver drove in a circle around it with our mineroller. It would be much better for our mineroller to be destroyed by a booby-trap than to damage one of our wreckers, which were in very short supply.
Bump that
mineroller with ours. Don’t crash into it, but hit it hard enough that any
hair triggers or pressure-
release switches will trip.”
 No explosion, but my adrenaline was still pumping. Once we got everything loaded up on the wreckers, we headed back down south.
WHUMP.
 
“IED!”
 my gunner called down. Our first vehicle had struck an IED. The Marines in the truck had concussions, but could go on. The only mineroller left was on my truck. My platoon sergeant demanded that we switch places, that he ride in my truck since it would be in the front of the convoy.
“Sir, you shouldn’t be up front. You know that.”
 
Our tactics didn’t allow platoon
commanders in the first vehicle.
“You’re right, but I can’t switch trucks with you. It might be right by the textbook but
how
could I ask you to ride up front if I’m not willing to do it myself?”
A few hundred meters after we started moving, the ground under us erupted.
WHUMP.
In slow motion, the air filled with brown moondust and the front of the truck was lifted off the ground.
“Lepinski!”
 
I grabbed at the gunner’s leg. He had been in the turret 
, exposed to shrapnel.
“I’m okay!”
 

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