BAGHDAD—The war in Iraq came to a sudden, complete, and ultimately heartwarming end after the U.S. Army's hapless 115th Regiment defeated the insurgent forces in what military observers are terming a startling victory for the war's most notorious underdog unit.
"I hereby announce the cessation of hostilities in the country of Iraq," said the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid, grudgingly singling out the ragtag bunch of misfits at a press conference Monday. "In all my years of military experience, I've never seen a sorrier group of bumbling, no-good, dangerously incompetent yahoos as the 115th. But, against my better judgment, and in recognition of their valor, courage, hijinks, and hilarity, I'm nominating each of these lovable bastards for the Congressional Medal of Honor."
Despite a record of egregious tactical errors, a high rate of friendly-fire deaths, and an official classification as "dishonorable dingbats," the 115th Light Infantry Regiment—or "Walters' Wombats," as they were known throughout southern Iraq—sent troop morale soaring in the occupied territories after they wiped out a group of enemy combatants in the insurgent-controlled suburbs of Baghdad last week.
"These were the last kids anybody expected to win the U.S. military mission in Iraq, or anything else, for that matter," said Sgt. Matthew Walters, the regiment's commanding officer. "[Spc. Charlie] Bartowsky ate so many hot dogs, he couldn't even fit inside his Hummer, [Lance Cpl.] Novak's thick glasses kept falling off whenever he had to disarm a mine, and of course, wisecracking [Pfc. Albert] Peterman was killed by sniper fire."
"All I know is I had to finally put down the booze and get my career back on track, because, sorry as I was, I happened to be the only one who believed in them," Walters added. "Otherwise, they were all going back in body bags, for sure."
Low on fuel, ammunition, and self-respect, the Wombats had lost any hope of survival after being pinned down outside a bombed-out elementary school Friday afternoon.
"Gosh, we were so down in the dumps after seeing our friends maimed or killed, we were just about ready to call it quits," Cpl. Ben Tanner, an awkward beanpole, said. "Things looked so rotten for us, [Pfc. Larry] LaRue and I had devised a harebrained mutual-suicide scheme. But then Joey showed up."
Gum-cracking Georgia peach Spc. Jolene "Joey" Saunders was sent to the 115th as a last-minute reinforcement. Though her arrival was met with more jeers than cheers, she provided the turning point in last week's battle after single-handedly killing three truckloads of enemy troops from 500 meters away with her rocket-propelled grenade launcher—without breaking a sweat.
"Sarge told us that if Joey could do it, so could we," Tanner said. "We decided to win this stupid war for the Sarge once and for all."
Though they are now credited with solving an intractable regional conflict many thought would end in retreat, the Wombats' only previous victory came against a British mobile military hospital they destroyed in a tragically wacky barrage of mortar fire.
Throughout their tour of duty, they were repeatedly reprimanded for fumbling grenades, getting lost after reading GPS-generated satellite maps upside down, and stranding fellow soldiers in the middle of pitched urban firefights in order to flirt with sassy Iraqi civilians.
After a series of unorthodox operations—including binding and gagging Iraqi guards, stealing their uniforms, and leaving them naked and freezing—the Wombats finally took the upper hand when bookworm Spc. Saul Falbaum's secret ability to read Arabic led the regiment to a hidden cache of the chemical agent white phosphorus.
"Boy, you should have seen the looks on those crazy Iraqis' faces when we let that stuff loose," Sgt. Walters said. "We were all scrambling to find impenetrable metal barriers and trying to get our gas masks on, but I'd bet dollars to donuts it was priceless."
Satellite footage shows that the victorious goofball maneuver prompted a moment of stunned silence, then wild applause by rival units and scarred Iraqi civilians, who swarmed the unlikely heroes and carried them off the battlefield. Within hours, diplomatic relations were established with a new, democratically united Iraq.
"Let's hear it for Walters' Wombats!" said President George W. Bush in a special televised awards ceremony for the vindicated oddballs, all of whom now have girlfriends for the first time in their lives. "The war is over. Now let's party!"
Funeral services for Pfc. Booker T. Roosevelt, the regiment's token African American and medic, will be held Thursday at St. Paul Baptist Church in Harlem.