One lieutenant forced me to wear Marine-issue body armor-which weighs almost 80 pounds-before he would let me go out on patrol with him. I felt like Godzilla lumbering around with all the extra bulk and weight, and I didn’t really feel safer. Running while carrying those extra pounds all of a sudden wasn’t much of an option. Sacrificing most of my speed and agility to make myself a little more bullet-proof might not be worth it. But perhaps that’s just what I told myself so I could justify wearing lighter and more comfortable armor. It’s hard to say. What I do know for certain is that Fallujah at the end of 2007 was neither scary nor stressful. No one can go there right now without feeling what is perhaps a dangerous sense of complacency.
But complacency kills. The Marines are reminded of this fact every day, as was I when I traveled and worked with them.
The day I arrived at India Company’s Forward Operating Base, which had been converted from an old train station, all the Marines had to attend readiness training classes designed to offset complacency.
“Too many Marines are getting complacent and lax,” Captain Glenn said. “Complacency is as potentially deadly as an IED at this point.”
The Marines couldn’t help it, and neither could I. Combat operations in Fallujah are over. It wasn’t possible to work myself up into feeling nervous in that city. I just knew I wouldn’t be shot. Of course, I could have been wrong, and I knew that, too.
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