“We want to use you as bait,” Sergeant Eduardo Ojeda told me when I embedded with his unit on what was shaping up to be a night raid.
“Excellent,” I said. “That’s why I’m here.”
This is what passes for black army humor in Baghdad.
“Our TST [time-sensitive target] blew up a vehicle and killed four soldiers and an interpreter in the next AO [area of operations],” he said. “He’s somewhere in our AO now.”
He could tell by the frozen and dubious look on my face that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “These guys hardly ever fight back when we nail them. And they always lose when they do. Come on. Let’s go fuck ‘em up.”
I donned my armor and helmet, slung my Nikon around my neck, and jumped in the back of one of the Humvees.
“I need your full name and blood type,” First Sergeant Ray Fisher said. “In case something happens.”
“Stay close to me,” said Sergeant Ojeda as he plugged his mouth with tobacco. “In the dark just look for the short guy. And call me Eddie.”
The military intelligence officers at the War Eagle outpost knew the target was somewhere in their area, but they didn’t know precisely where or how long he’d be there. My unit’s job was to go out and patrol the neighborhood known as Tunis until they could pinpoint his location.