48 hours before this picture was taken he was ambushed in Haditha where three of his expat mates and about 15 Iraqis were wiped out. His team were pinned down for over an hour fighting upwards of 100 insurgents. He ran out of ammunition and hid in a ditch not before taking a bullet fragment in the face and one in his leg (you can just make out a piece of dressing on the left side of his face). He told me that if he hadn't ran out of ammunition he would be dead now, as he kept fighting with the AK's that people who were killed around him had dropped. The other expat survivor hijacked a car and drove to the nearest US checkpoint, just a few klicks up the road. That's how death visits you in Iraq, a few hundred metres from safety and a nice cooked meal in an air-conditioned DFAC.
After the bad guys thought they had neutralised the threat they set about ransacking the convoy, dragging out the wounded and shooting them in the head. The Yanks then called in an airstrike, and half an hour later a QRF/recovery team went in to secure the scene. My non-tactical friend heard US voices and came out of his hiding place whereupon he nearly got shot by the Americans as they couldn't understand his thick Cork accent and the fact he was covered in mud and blood (his own and others) shit them up too, they thought he was an insurgent at first.
His team leader was my best friend in my whole time in Iraq, he got shot square in the face early in the contact. I had to scrub his name off my wedding invitation list, his wife still has not received a body. He was the nicest, funniest and easily the most popular guy in that whole company at that time in Iraq, and when he died lots of guys lost heart in the job.
You can forgive my pal in the picture for not wanting to wear "tactical" kit at this point, and he kept me awake for two nights in Kuwait re-living his own personal nightmare on our way home. He was "ambushed" again by the Irish press as he got off the plane in Cork, and now has a book out about his time in Iraq and other places. And good luck to him, a brave and lucky man. He even mentions the trip this picture was taken on in his book.
It is not that "tactical" to keep magazines, first field dressings, satphones and a good GPS on your person, because on that particular contract you were using the lot every day, so it was more like "common sense". That chest rig was not for show, it helped keep me alive. My friend's mind was elsewhere as we drove south from Baghdad, but as we had to drive through the "triangle of death" and I was team leader, one of us still had to be on top of his game, hence why I'm in full battle rig and my mate was just keen to get as far from Abu Ghraib (where we were based) and Haditha as he could. And who could blame him?
Next sneering, smart-arse question please?
Patriots always talk of dying for their country, and never of killing for their country - Bertrand Russell