Michael Yon is an independent journalist and former Green Beret who was embedded in Iraq for nine months in 2005. He has returned to Iraq for 2007 to continue reporting on the war. Here is a portion of his latest dispatch exclusively for FOXNews.com.
The intended target in an ambush never really knows when it's over until its long over. Yesterday's ambush, which killed two soldiers and wounded three others, is a case in point. Once the Brits had dealt with the immediate aftermath of the ambush—calling in air support, setting up security, tending to the wounded and getting EOD in to deal with the 38 remaining and presumably live bombs—our convoy still had its mission objective. So we put the disabled vehicles in tow and continued our journey deeper into the desert. Knowing that another attack was imminent, those of us positioned in front as a small recon element in unarmored Land Rovers knew we were the trip wire. We’d probably get whatever was coming first and that would be the end of it even though we'd driven through the first ambush without a scratch.
I wondered how the soldiers back in the convoy were doing. After an attack that killed two of their friends, they spent hours in the hot sun cleaning up the wreckage and then hauling it into the night. They had to be exhausted; since we hadn't had time to stop for a meal, they must be hungry to boot. Their spirits showed no sign of wavering. The worse it got, the better they got.
Ash had been standing at that machinegun in the back of the Land Rover since 8:30 the morning before, and except for normal nature breaks, he'd been nearly continuously manning that weapon as we drove in the sun on dusty, bumpy roads, or he was standing in the sun (and later under starlight) for what must have been 16 or 18 hours straight. I'd gone mostly numb on my seating parts, but at least once an hour, like clockwork, Ash would manage to check in on me.
“How ya doin’ Michael?" he'd say. "Need any wata?” (Ash didn’t use the letter “r” much.) “Drink lots of wata Michael. We got plenty o’ wata and ya bein’ a civvy an all, I gotta look afta ya.”
I wasn’t always sure if he was still joking, but I liked him better by the hour. Along the way, he asked about American soldiers, those in Baghdad in particular.
“How ya mates doin’ in Baghdad?" he asked. "Heard they gotta rough time in Baghdad.”
“Our guys are doing great,” I would say.
“Yea, but lots ‘o ca bombs and that, yea? And what do they think about spendin’ 15 months in Iraq?” (British tours of duty are six months in duration.)
“They ain’t gonna be happy,” I said, “But they can handle it.” (Big words from a writer unless he can handle it too.)
It must have been around midnight when the road suddenly gave way, trapping a vehicle. Apparently, severe water erosion caused micro-canyons that were simple for man or camel to traverse, but impassable for large convoys. Driving heavy vehicles in this treacherous terrain without lights was begging for disaster, and now the road collapse had effectively split the convoy. But fatigue was becoming by far our biggest threat. So the Battle Group Commander, Lt. Col. Richard B. Nixon-Eckersall made a wise call that we'd stop here and move out again before daybreak. Unit commanders put out security and set out to get their soldiers some rest in the form of a few hours of sleep.
Independent journalist Michael Yon’s dispatches from Iraq appear exclusively on FOXNews.com. Click to read Yon's online magazine MichaelYon-online.com