This is what it looks like when ISIS traps an Iraqi army unit for 20 hours

Whatever criticism is leveled at CNN, some of the network’s international reporters are as badass as they come. They may wield a pen, pad, and camera instead of an M4 rifle, but they face danger just like many troops on the frontline — and keep going back despite the risk.

One of those war journos is Arwa Damon, a fluent Arab speaker and a senior international correspondent for CNN based in Istanbul. She’s covered the bloody civil war in Syria — a fight that’s taken the life of over 100 journalists since 2011 — and was recently embedded with Iraqi troops during their assault on the ISIS stronghold in Mosul.

It’s one thing to embed with U.S. troops in a combat zone — with its professionalism, training and sheer firepower embedding with American forces offers a lot of extra protection when the sh*t hits the fan. But when you’re staking your life on the effectiveness of a rebuilt military like the Iraqi army, it’s an entirely different danger equation.

During a patrol in Mosul late last year, Damon finds herself in the nightmare scenario many American troops knew well to avoid. A slow-moving convoy of up armored Humvees weaving through ever-tightening streets and alleys with bad guys maneuvering on all sides. An explosion disables the lead vehicle, another targets the trailing one. Grenades and rockets hit the MRAP, VBIDs stream in from the sides.

A veteran of many hairy combat situations herself, Damon can sense things are about to go pear shaped and when they do, it’s the CNN reporter who has to tell the Iraqis to take a strong point and get the hell off the “X.”

What follows is a nerve-wracking 20 hours of waiting for backup. No call for fire, no QRF, no gun runs are going to un-as$ this cluster. The only respite comes at daybreak when, under fire, the crew makes a break for it and barely maneuvers it out of the kill zone.

What she brought home, however, is a harrowing look at what it’s like to be at the mercy of ISIS in an enemy-controlled city relying on a military that’s got a long way to go before it can hold its own in a complex urban fight.

TOP ARTICLES
Enlisted pilots could fly in combat for the first time since WWII

A number of reasons for pilot shortage include quality-of-life issues, recruitment by private airlines, and the strain of three decades of combat.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

The United States Merchant Marine is not a military service, but without it, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps couldn't go anywhere.

That time 'Fighting Dick' fought 'Fightin' Dick' at Antietam

Rarely will a moniker be used for two military leader at the same time. Even more rare is if the two meet on opposite ends of the battlefield.

6 ways you can tell a troop isn't an infantryman

Enter any base you may wonder which one of the troops fight in combat vs. those who ship off to support the war effort Well; we've got you covered. 

British Paratroopers and Gurkhas got into a huge battle royale in Kenya

A force-on-force exercise is under investigation for "descending into chaos" as some of the UK's best troops fought each other with fists and clubs.

This insane anti-aircraft gun chased the Israelis out of the sky

With four radar-guided 23mm cannon, the ZSU-23-4 Shilka could hit an aircraft almost two miles away hard with up to 1,000 rounds a minute.

7 military nicknames that are definitely not compliments

If you've got a nickname, you're either high enough rank to have earned one, you're a pilot, or you did something dumb enough to earn one of these.

8 Things your civilian resume needs to have right now

Checklists make life easier. This checklist will help you avoid some common pitfalls veterans make when trying to land that first job when they get out.

Why so many in the military are getting STDs

Cases of sexually transmitted diseases areon the rise across the U.S., but it's three to six times more common among troops. Let's talk about why.

This is why Yemen is a constant war zone

The situation in Yemen is more dire than previously understood, with a child dying every 10 minutes from hunger after Saudi Arabia enforced a blockade.