It was August 2007, and my platoon had been assigned to a reverse schedule for a week. That meant we spent all night, every night, combing the deserts of Anbar province for insurgents and every day trying to sleep in its heat. Finally, one night, we were assigned to park our vehicles in a screen line to stop any traffic from slipping around an Iraqi police checkpoint on the highway. That meant two hours on watch and six glorious hours sleeping under the cool night sky.
I had finished my shift when we heard gunshots at the checkpoint. Our Iraqi interpreter called the Iraqi officers on the radio to find out what was going on. They replied that they were firing warning shots into the desert. We were in the flat expanse of desert about two kilometers south, far enough to be unable to see in what direction they were firing but close enough to be hit by an errant bullet. Despite our protest, they continued the warning shots.
I spent the next hour or so back in my hot, crowded armored vehicle, but finally I had had enough. I wanted some real sleep. I clambered out and found a nice, soft spot in the sand. Using my Kevlar helmet as a support, I lay down and built a little wall around my head with my flak jacket and body armor plates. I was fast asleep in no time.
Mathison Hall, Dumfries
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