Dodgebomb

Dodgebomb: Outside the Wire in the Second Iraq War

Darin Pepple

A powerful, compelling account of modern military life that is vividly told and utterly gripping!
During the height of the Global War on Terrorism, Lieutenant Eddie Fitzgerald (Fitz) is sent straight from West Point to the front line in Iraq. He is immediately thrown into combat and has to quickly overcome his naivety to earn the trust of other soldiers. However, if hunting Al Qaeda isn’t enough he’s pulled into Arab tribal politics and army officer rivalries. As Fitz gets accustomed to living a spartan, foreign life-style his confidence grows and over time he becomes one with his unit. At first, he is detached from the brutal reality of the results of war, but there will come a time when he will have to question his idealism, allow dread to replace numbness, and face his emotions.

For those who seek realistic books on war that are impossible to put down, this is the book for you. It is compelling and entertaining as well as educational and honest. The author has a deft hand and a keen eye for detail, bringing understanding to 21st century combat. Book includes illustrations and Professional Military Education section in the appendix.

Book Excerpt or Article

ACT I
Chapter 1
(FOB Talon, Iraq)

It was the heat and the smell. They were inescapable. People would look at pictures of this backward, foreign land and go, “That’s not so bad,” as if it were a vacation getaway, an exotic dry wine country. But it was bad. This place was the reeking armpit of the world. Here, the environment dripped with hostility. The leeching temperatures and dirty atmosphere saturated a person and clung to his very being. Was that smoke or diesel fumes in the air? Burning garbage or choking dust? To a new arrival this foul place flashed foreboding, like reliving a bad dream, and it made him question why he’d volunteered to come here in the first place.

That was Iraq in 2008. Somewhere close to Baghdad during The Surge in the war. Here he was. Forward Operating Base Talon. 2nd Lieutenant Eddie Fitzgerald, U.S. Cavalry, U.S. Army, had been dropped here last night by a Chinook helicopter after flying across the world in a Boeing 747; Georgia, Germany, Kuwait, and now here. And he still wasn’t there yet.

All he knew of the FOB and this country so far consisted of a blacked out two-story brick barracks with sandbags over the windows. He remembered being herded in the pitch-dark across a field of crunching gravel to his room, pulling out his sleeping bag on a metal bunk bed and soiled mattress, and trying to crash for a few hours. Oddly enough, the single noteworthy thing in his room was an old, Soviet vehicle part discarded in the corner. He deliberately remembered turning off the lights and crawling into his bag, but that serene, restful moment ended as soon as it began.

Fitz was roused from his dark unconscious by a shrill electronic voice bleating, "INCOMING! INCOMING! INCOMING! --- GET TO YOUR SHELTER!" Its cry seemed to emanate from the hallways and penetrate his skull. He spilled out of his bed and threw on his boots, no time to tie them properly. He grabbed his uniform shirt top and helmet and fell into the hall.

The pain-in-the-ass robotic voice insisted, "INCOMING! INCOMING! --- Get to YOUR shelter!" He ran down the hall to the only room open and alight and stood in the entryway. Inside was a desk, radios, and three soldiers sitting on a couch, playing XBOX on a flat screen TV, their backs to him.

"What the hell are you doing, guys!?" He twitchingly squeaked, "We've got to get to the bunker!"

A protracted, awkward pause occurred as the three men turned around to gawk at the interruption. They were two specialists and one staff sergeant and in that agonizing moment he could see their faces comprehend who he was and what he was saying. Another millisecond went by and their faces twisted into side-splitting laughter.

"Get to the bunker!" they mimicked in a squeaky voice similar to his own. They'd all now forgotten the game and were rolling over themselves giggling.

A child's hatred of being ignored and belittled welled up in him, and Fitz stood up straight, addressing the SSG in a more commanding voice: "Sergeant - you guys do as I say, grab your gear, and take me out to the nearest indirect bunker."

The sergeant remained unfazed but had an older man's gleam in his eyes of playing by the proper rules. He stood up from the couch and walked smoothly over to the lieutenant. He reassuringly touched him on the arm and guided him back down the hall to Fitz's room. "Sir," he spoke softly, deferentially now, "We get rocketed all the time. The worst thing you can do when you get indirect is to run all over the place trying to find ‘proper’ shelter. You hunker down where you're at and if your number’s up then it's up. And besides, you're in a brick barracks right now."

The logic of that and the sergeant’s calming demeanor sapped Fitz's panic level. The SSG guided him back to his room as if he were a child raving of monsters under his bed. "Get some sleep, sir," he reassuringly cooed and Fitz closed his door and sat down on his bunk. The adrenaline still throbbed in his veins, but he was flushed red from his ridiculous antic. It hurt that they hadn’t taken him more seriously. He was a lieutenant, dammit! He sat there for the longest time feeling helpless, angry, scared, but mostly stupid. The “incoming" klaxon had ceased and he strained his ears to hear anything outside the barracks. Any whistles and detonations. Any monsters. He finally took his boots off and turned out the lights.

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Darin Pepple is a veteran of fifteen years' service in the U.S. Army, advancing from private to captain. He enlisted in 2000, graduated West Point in 2007, served two tours in Iraq, and led soldiers on hundreds of combat patrols. His debut novel, Dodgebomb, was inspired by his transition out of the military in 2015 and his attempts to explain his Iraq War experience to average Americans. Originally from Lancaster, PA, he currently works and resides near Washington, DC.

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