It was January 1991. I was stationed west of Safaniya, an oil field in Northern Saudi Arabia 10 miles south of the Kuwaiti border. I was a Ground Radio repairman with the United States Marines but it was our unit's turn to man the .50 cal on the perimeter. There was three of us in the bunker so we split the time into three 4 hour shifts. One was the trigger man. Two watched the opposite direction of the gunner and Three was listening to the radio.
I'd already rode the trigger and stood watch so now I was sitting on the floor, leaned up against sandbags and reading a book. I mean I was listening to the radio and looking at the mosque about a ¼ mile north of our position. It was the only building for miles. We were waiting for the prayers to begin at noon and then our watch would be over.
The reservists, from what state I don't remember, were just arriving to relieve us. It was ten till and we had to be under cover by noon. You never knew who would be in camp so to avoid an international incident no one moved when the Imam started to sing.
It sounded beautiful echoing across the desert. It had a melody that was timeless and a language that was foreign. I always thought it sounded longing, as if to mourn the loss of empires past.
The mosque went silent. We passed on to the reservists that there was nothing to pass on and left the bunker. A few seconds later, about 100 yards out, we heard a low pitched “thump” followed by a kaboom. There was three guys in a Toyota pickup truck. They had bolted a mortar to the bed of the truck and one of them was in the back firing it.
The thing about mortars is that you aim them in mills- .001 of an inch. They are not meant to be mounted in the back of a truck and bounced along a dirt road. They totally missed our camp and ended up hitting the Moroccans who were behind us.
We hit the deck and waited for the shooting to start. Nothing from our bunker. We looked out and saw a Humvee with a .50 cal chasing the Toyota. No fire from it either. Later that night we heard that the reservists didn't shoot because they didn't know if they were authorized to or not. Let's see. They issued you 250 rounds of live ammunition. Were you supposed to pick your ass with it or shoot back?