Bumping along in a Casspir, a South African armored personnel carrier, on our way to Anbar Province, western Iraq. The year was 2007 and we were under attack.
Perfect? Yes. For you see, if you decide to get shot at in Iraq in 2007, the best venue for that is inside a Casspir. A Casspir is a big, white, heavily armored vehicle. During Apartheid, the South Africans needed such a vehicle; well, the White South Africans did anyway.
The first time I heard of “Casspir” I was somewhere close to Camp Speicher, northern Iraq and this was to be my “commute car.” I thought instantly, after seeing my first Casspir, that it was so moniker-ed because it was this big white thing and, being an American, immediately thought of “Casper the Friendly Ghost.” I was wrong. There is nothing friendly about a Casspir, aside from the fact that he (it) will save your ass.
Riding in a Casspir is probably one of the most uncomfortable things one can experience.
The seats are small. The quarters cramped. The air conditioning nonexistent. The suspension sans shock absorbers. The windows, smallish, which open up just enough to point a rifle through, or perhaps allow a round to one’s head. The driver, usually a Wanna-be Rambo with poor grammar and a poorer sense of direction.
No fun riding in a Casspir.
But on that day, back in ’07, just outside Fallujah there was no better place to be. Casspirs were often called the ‘Best Bug-Out Vehicles’ in Iraq.
First they shot at us with RPG’s (rocket propelled grenades). They fell somewhat short. Following up, they hit us with AK47 rounds. (Those didn’t fall short) Our PLS truck (Pallet-loading system) lost a windshield. Some of our “light-skinned” vehicles lost windshields and windows as well. “Casper” got hit, but the rounds barely scratched the paint (Thank you South Africa). No one lost his life, but we were somewhat shaken and more than a little pissed off.
While the attack was in earnest, I was strapped into one of the ‘comfortable’ seats in the Casspir. The Sri Lankan Security Guy was in the ‘turret.’ We were taking fire. He was frozen. I yelled at him:
“Fuckin’ shoot back! Goddamn it!”
He did nothing.
I unbuckled me from Casspir and knocking him aside, grabbed his SAW and was about to try to return fire (an act which would most assuredly get me fired, but at a time such as this, who cares about job security?)
All to no avail, for the “Bad Guys” had vaporized.
We were left with some shot up windshields, one crippled vehicle, and too much adrenaline.
We assessed the state of our convoy and limped on into the USMC base in Fallujah, hoping the Marines would patch us up so we could continue our journey…
They did and we did.
While on the road to Al Assad, Anbar Province, I began to reflect on the journey: my current and my “larger” journey conveying me to this shit-hole I found me in.
While bumping along in a patched-up convoy, one has too much time to reflect on such matters, and I, being a reflective kind of guy, did some prospectin’ into my past. And most specifically, into the events which transpired to get me into this Casspir on about 300 miles of Bad Iraqi Road.