Baghdad Blues: Chuwa Gal of the Ugandan High Forest

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short fiction story about the trials and tribulations of being a good combat soldier in the midst of devils, demons and unrecognized guardian angels, good luck and bad luck and immigrants in America.

Submitted: May 05, 2016

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Submitted: May 05, 2016

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First Lieutenant Chuwa, United States Army Logistics Corps, sits upright and almost at attention, in the Brigade Commanders office waiting area at Camp Anaconda, near Tikrit, Iraq.  Her Army Combat Uniform is impeccable but not quite regulation.  She starches and presses it with very noticeable creases and has had it tailored so as to look trim and fit, but not form fitting.  Army regulations prohibit pressing much less starching the combat uniform.  This prohibited practice is mandatory at Combat Arms posts such as Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but the prohibition is strictly enforced at most others.  Her long black hair is pulled straight back and tied in a tight bun at the nape of her neck.  Her patrol cap with the starched and curved bill, fits low on her head and just above the eyebrows. 

She has a pleasant, attractive face and an energizing smile, but the most striking aspect of it is her age.  At thirty-one years she is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, Lieutenants in the United States Army.  Even though she has been selected for promotion to captain, she will still look old for her age.

She has been waiting more than thirty minutes for the Commander to call her into his office for what she anticipates will be a severe dressing down. 

She suspects that he is intentionally making her wait.

She is resigned to her fate.  Her Battalion Commander and his Executive Officer disapproved of her actions and told her so.  She imagines that the Brigade Commander has received an earful.

She doesn’t complain.

It is what it is.

She did what she did.

Inside his office, the commander is much gentler than she had expected.

“So, explain all of this to me.  What did you expect to accomplish in this fight?”

She speaks with matter of fact voice.  She is not pleading, not cajoling and not whining.  “Sir, the best response to an ambush is to counter attack into the enemy positions.  Our lead vehicle was killed by a land mine, casualties were unknown, and we couldn’t go around it.  Plus, we were taking small arms and automatic weapons fire from our right flank.  We had to stop to extract the dead and wounded from the disabled gun truck but that was going to expose other soldiers to enemy fire.  So, I had our rear security elements move to the right flank and advance as far as the enemy firing line, and I had our lead scouts return and open fire while a couple of utility trucks from the interior of the convoy went off road and maneuvered into the enemy formation.  When our rear elements turned north along the axis of the enemy positions and attacked I had the lead scout elements and the interior elements lift their fires.  We killed 17 insurgents.”

“No prisoners?”

“No prisoners, sir.  Those fifty calibers on the gun trucks don’t leave much when they go through a human body.” 

He sits back in his chair, touches his finger and thumb tips together in front of his face, and stares at her with a dead pan expression. 

“Where does your last name come from?”

“Uganda.  My mother and I immigrated as refugees when I was four.”

“What about your Dad?”

“Idi Amin’s people killed him.”

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t know.”

“That’s okay.  It’s history.” 

She is looking out the window.  “We had been living in a gated compound with guards.  My father was successful in his business, whatever that was.  Amin’s soldiers attacked it one night and started rounding people up.  They dismembered a lot of people and threw them in the Nile.  I think that is what happened to my father.  We got out ahead of them and started walking toward Kenya.  I wasn’t very old.  Mostly I remember my mother carrying me and being very scared.  I still dream about it…sometimes.  We lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for a few years before we were immigrated to the U.S.” 

“How did you come to join the Army?”

“I graduated from high school, there in D.C., and walked into the local recruiter’s office.  Same day, actually.”

“Where was that?”

“Washington, D.C.  Southeast.”

He nods his head a few times, and seems to be pondering something, “How do you feel about the Army.”

“The Army saved me.  Being a soldier is something I am proud of.  In Uganda, I would never be an officer.  Living in D.C., even if I were going to college and graduating, I would never be trusted with responsibilities like I have here.  I graduated from the North Carolina State extension campus on Fort Bragg and the Army paid for most of that. The Army has had faith in me.  I have opportunities here.”

She looks him directly in the eye.  Her gaze is steady and relaxed.  “I am a soldier.”

He returns her gaze, “Do you ever have doubts about what we are doing here?”

“Sometimes.  Sometimes, in the past, I used to think about killing Idi Amin.  Sometimes, I think that if he were alive, and I had the chance, I would blow myself up like these suicide bombers if it would kill him.  Sometimes, I think that that would be worth it even if I killed a lot of innocent people.  Then, I think of all the pain a misery that I’ve seen here, when that happens here, and I question whether it would be worth it.”

The Colonel sits silent.  Looking but not speaking.  Wondering if he heard what he just heard.

She continues, “Sometimes, I think we do more harm than good.”

“I think we all have those doubts from time to time.  But, doubts or not, you are doing a good job.”

“Thank you.”

“Keep in mind, though, that you’re not leading a platoon of combat soldiers.”

“They’re still soldiers, and good soldiers.”

“Yes they are.”

He stands, walks around his desk and extends his hand, “I thank you for your time, keep up the good work, Soldier.  Don’t worry about the Battalion Commander or the XO, but don’t forget that your primary purpose is transport.”

She stands, “Yes, sir.”

A few weeks later, Lieutenant Chuwa’s Battalion Commander and his XO are in the Brigade Commander’s office.

“Well, Chuwa has done it again.”

“What did she do?”

“She took half of her platoon off road and counter-attacked into an ambush instead of continuing to roll down the road.”

“I heard they killed seven insurgents and captured three.  The only U.S. casualties were the driver and passenger of the vehicle that ran over the IED.  Not a bad day’s work.”

The Battalion officers grimace and look at each other.

“Well, you’re not going to have to deal with her much longer.” 

“What are you going to do?”

“Nothing.  She’s being transferred to the MPs.  She will be the commander of the company that provides convoy security.”

 “How did she swing that?  She’s not qualified and she’s not MP Branch.  That’s a Captains slot, too.”

“She’s being transferred to MP Branch.”

“How?  She’s not qualified.”

“She completed the MP Officer Career Course by correspondence and applied for the branch transfer.”

“What?”

“The Branch manager called me and I recommended her.  The Division G-1 called and I said I thought she’d be a great company commander.”

“Sir, she is stubborn and she isn’t doing her job.  How can you recommend her for that position?”

“I had her in here a little over a month ago and talked to her about her duty assignment and the army.  Got a little bit on her personal history.  She seems to be pretty well grounded.  Her unit maintenance record is excellent.  Her personnel all pass the weigh ins.  They all pass the physical fitness tests.  They all score marksman or better at the range.  She trains constantly when not on a mission.  She has zero discipline problems with her troops.  And, when her unit is attacked it reacts like trained soldiers and kills or captures the enemy.  Sounds to me like she is doing something right.”

“She is a rebel.  Did you look at her uniform?  She had it tailored and she starches and presses it.  She just can’t conform.”

“You mean she starches and presses her uniform like my uniform?”

The two officers’ focus on the Colonel’s starched, pressed and tailored uniform.  His sleeves are carefully rolled up per regulation and his badges, a Master Parachutist badge and a Combat Infantryman’s Badge with a single star are carefully positioned above his left breast pocket and over his heart.

“That’s not the way I wrote her OER (Officer’s Evaluation Report).”

The Colonel opens his desk and takes out a thin sheaf of papers with sensitive cover sheet.  “We need to talk about this.  You know, part of your OER depends on how accurately you evaluate your subordinates and develop their careers.”  He hands the sheaf to the Battalion Commander.

“Sir?”

“Please review the fitness report you have written for Lieutenant Chuwa.  I think it contains inaccuracies.”


© Copyright 2017 Eddie C Morton. All rights reserved.

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