• E-mail Steve
Oct. 18, 2004 3:47 PM
There are two ways to get out of the Marine base at Fallujah: you can fly out in a helicopter, or drive out. The Marine advising me there, 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert, prefers to drive. That way, he says, if you get hit at least you can get out and fight. You have your fate in your own hands. In the air, he said, if you get hit you're probably dead.
I figured flying was a lot safer, but there were sandstorms in the West so nothing was flying. I stood out with a bunch of other guys at a post in the sand until 4 a.m., then got a bus back to my tent. To avoid the same thing the next day, I got a place booked on a ground convoy out.
The ground convoys are something some guys do almost every day. This one was to shuttle food back to the base from Baghdad, so there would be military Humvees escorting about a dozen big container trucks, with air support overhead in case the convoy got attacked.
There was an 8 p.m. briefing for the convoy departure. There were about 100 Marines in the briefing. I stood in the back of the tent with 1st. Lt. Gilbert. An officer was in the front with a slide projector. One of the slides showed the ground route from Fallujah to Baghdad. A red star meant that a convoy had been attacked at that spot on the route during the past two weeks. There were a lot of red stars. In two areas it was just a blur of red. I looked at 1st Lt. Gilbert and thought about asking if it was too late to try to get on a helicopter.
There were questions and answers. A common Marine answer was "hoo-rah" or just "rah" or sometimes just "rrrrr." I saw a female Marine walk into the tent and a male Marine said something to her and she just growled "rrrrr."
My seat was in the back right of a Humvee. It was not a fully armored Humvee, just armored doors. 1st Lt. Gilbert said if they started shooting just to get low behind the door. I am tall so a good part of my body was above the metal door. I tried slouching or sitting in different ways to reduce the amount of my body exposed. Then I practiced my duck, lowering my head and body inside the vehicle, but my side was still fairly exposed. In the end we went over a bump on the road and the door lock broke, so I had to lean back and hang on to the door for the rest of the ride.
It was a dark ride and I waited for it to be over. I kept thinking along the ride that I was not playing enough golf. I ought to play more golf.
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As I read your story about lending your cell phone to some of our Marines, I was able to remember a time when I was in a similar situation in the military. Had you lent me your cell phone in those dark hours, my son's name would probably be Steven Harrington instead of Joshua Brian. I wish you safety and joy.
— Ronald Navy Veteran, '86-'90
Steve, you are just an amazing reporter, going where no one in their right mind should go! You first caught my attention when you were in northern Afghanistan LONG before there was a “war.” You seem to thrive on sharing the stories of what’s really going on with the men and women in the wars, and I really appreciate and actually enjoy your war reporting. War is hell and you bring it home to us in a positive way, which is the way I see it. You make it their story, which is the way it should be, but your own reporting is also memorable. Hope you never quit.
— Nita (Milford, CT)
My son is a Soldier. Thank you for that story.
— Julie (Kentucky)
Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.