Keep your weapon within arm’s reach. This axiom is as old as Alexander the Great. To lose your weapon is to make you impotent on the battlefield. Your weapon is a part of you, an extension of the warrior.
The U.S. Army instills this concept by making recruits carry their weapons everywhere. We call it weapon immersion. In the places a weapon can’t or shouldn’t go a buddy can watch your weapon for you. In Iraq you go everywhere with a weapon. Outside the safety of the base you take a weapon and a basic load of ammunition, about 210 rounds. Some people carry two weapons; a pistol and a rifle or machine gun. Inside the wall of the base everyone carries a weapon and one magazine of ammunition.
To lose your weapon is a courts martial offense.
The following story is true as told to me over breakfast from one of the people in the chain of command.
A group of Soldiers were out on patrol. Somehow a Soldier lost his weapon, a M-4 carbine. No one is sure how it was lost; it could have fallen off the truck, it could have been leaning against the wall and in haste forgotten. Whatever the circumstances, it was not with the Soldier upon return to the base. The immediate search of the other vehicles, people, and area didn’t produce the rifle. A U.S. weapon was out among the Iraqi public.
And that’s who found it. A local Iraqi happened across it. Maybe he saw it fall off the truck, maybe he just came across it, regardless of the way it came into his possession, this Iraqi had a $400 dollar semi-automatic rifle; a prized possession in this place called Iraq.
How do we know this? It’s because whoever that unnamed person was they turned it in to the local Iraqi Police. Imagine the surprise from the police having someone turn this rifle stating that it belonged to the Americans. Now the Iraqi Police had the rifle – still a prized possession that easily could have found its way into the trunk of some policeman’s personal vehicle. It didn’t.
How do we know this? It’s because the Iraqi Police contacted the local American unit and asked them to come and get it. The rifle was eventually returned to its owner. Unfortunately, that didn’t save the Soldier from UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) action.
Iraq never ceases to amaze me with its contradictions. Despair and joy. War and peace. Life and death. Corruption and honesty. Little stories like this are what Iraq is about. Iraq is elusive to understand.