Every war is different in its own way. Naturally, the fighting in Iraq has created some uniquely surreal moments, but one of the more surreal occurred when a young captain ran out of minutes on his cell phone while calling in an air strike. Say what? Let us explain.
In some parts of Iraq, the standard army radios have reliability problems, so satellite phones were issued to get around this. There was one minor draw back. Rather than given unlimited time for the phone, users were given a wallet card containing codes to enter to "fill up" the phone with more air time minutes. The codes were of the scratch off type.
Then, a captain with one of these satellite phones was driving along in bandit country one night and begins to take sniper fire. There were apparently two snipers, but a lot of other civilians wandering around. His units solution for problems like this was to call in an Apache gunship, which could use its superior night vision equipment to spot the bad guys, and help kill them.
There was a problem, as the captain had left on this trip without checking his satellite phone to make sure it was charged with minutes. It wasnt. The card with the refill codes was in his BDU blouse pocket, which, of course, was underneath his protective vest. With the snipers popping away, he shed his bulletproof vest, got out the card, scratched if to get the numbers, entered the numbers to recharge the cell phone, called in for the Apache gunship, got his protective vest back on, made sure where all his troops were, and awaited the gunship. Soon the gunship showed up, found the snipers, and began taking care of them. At this point, a few hummers full of heavily armed troops from a nearby unit showed up and their leader announced; "we heard you were in a fight, can we join in?" The captain immediately thought, "I haven't heard that kind of talk since high school." There were no American casualties.