5 years in Iraq
Well yesterday marked the 5 year anniversary of Iraq, and one day that will always be in my memory. This is the day that would change everything in my life, this one day would make me the man that I am today. Now I was not in Iraq when the war started, I was in a hotel room, outside of Ft. Hood, TX watching the war start with my ex-wife and daughter. I was suppose to be there, my unit was suppose to be the “tip of the spear” heading to Baghdad, from the north. We were suppose to come from Turkey, but at the last moment, the Turkish government would not allow troops into their country, so that threw a wrench into the plan.
It was 3 weeks later before I was on a plane going over the pond on my way to Kuwait, then another 3 weeks before we actually got into country. Talk about a long time to site and wait! Being in the middle of the desert in Kuwait, waiting to get into country and to do my job was the worse thing ever!! Once we got the word we were heading north, the nervousness that was there at the end of Feb, in Ft Hood started to set in again. Not knowing what to expect, not knowing what has happened over the weeks that we waited to head north, not knowing if I would ever see my daughter again, these things were the worse. I have had people ask me was I scared to die, or scared of being shot while I was there, and I would be an idiot if I said I wasn’t, bu the fact is the biggest thing that scared me was the one thing I nor anyone could see…GAS!
While at Ft. Hood we trained over and over and over to put or protective masks on within the 9 seconds. Having to carry your mask everywhere you went. From the chow hall, the PX, even to the latrine! This is the one thing that scared me the most, would Saddam use the gas he was know to have on us while we moved north? Would I be able to get my mask on in time? What would happen if I didn’t?? Talk about stress!!!! Well as we all no this did not happen, thank goodness.
After moving north my unit ended up on an Iraqi air force base in Balad, better known as FOB Anaconda. We spent a month at this lovely s**t box of a place, dealing with sand storms and boredom. As a combat engineer we train to be in front of the infantry or with the infantry depending on the mission, We are trained to take the fight to the enemy, destroy their obstacles, and place our own obstacles as well. Well this war was not like that, their were obstacles for us to destroy, there weren’t infantry units that needed us, we were left in Bald to go and inspect UXO (un-exploded ordinance), which is boring and stress full! Nothing like looking at a 500lb bomb that hasn’t blown up, hoping it doesn’t blow up while you are staring at it taking pictures of it for some sort of record!! Luckily I was tasked to go a security detail. Now for some this doesn’t sound like fun, and i would normally agree, but this one was different!
I was tasked along 6 others from my unit to go to Baghdad, and be a security detail for some Corps of Engineers folks from the states. They were tasked to inspect all of the waterway systems in Iraq. What this means is we drove the entire country going from one dam to the next seeing if they worked, and if not why. While on this mission, I got to see Iraq for a distance, Syria from a distance, and Jordan from a distance. This was an experience I would never forget!! But there were some events during this mission that I would never forget as well. There were a few time that we were lucky to have missed a few attacks by bear minutes! There was an attack on a convoy that happened minutes before we got there, there was another attack on a convoy literally 1/4 mile in front of us that we missed by 2 or 3 minutes..and all of this was on the same day!! During this mission I got to live in one of the palaces for a week, talk about crazy! t o be in this palace with all of its glory and beauty and look out to see Iraqi’s living in shacks was nuts! At that moment it became clear.. we did the right thing!
The right thing was to get rid of Saddam! Now alot of people out there think other wise, and that fine that is their opinion and that’s the great thing about this country, you can have your own opinion. But after seeing how those people lived while that asshat was living it up, my mission was clear! We went there not just to look for WMD’s, but we went there to liberate people-men, women, and children- people like you and me that did not have the freedoms we all take for granted!
Once I arrived back to Balad, we were moving again this time to Fallujah, were i would spend the rest of my time in country. From here I would do what we refer to as “trash missions”. These were mission where as engineers we would go into the city and help re-build. We would go into the city, set up security and proceed to clean an area all day, once that area was clean would turn the open area into a soccer field. Having kids around us all day while we worked, and once we were done to go and play soccer against them was amazing. I would bet money that most people did not know this was happening due to the fact the main stream media did not report these kinds of things. We did these types of mission for a month and half, in the middle of Falljuah, with out incident! We had religious leaders of the city buying us ice cream, we had locals providing trucks and heavy equipment to move the trash (for a nice fee–$5), and we had kids all around us, it was an experience. This was not the only thin we were doing, we were also picking up UXO and destroying it, so civilians would not get hurt. Then one in July would change that forever.
In late July an insurgent fore attacked one of my unit’s conveys on the way back from Baghdad. the official report says it was a RPG attack, but in reality it was one he first IED attacks in country. This attack kid the youngest person in my unit, he was 19. It also wounded several others, one enough to send him to Germany. From there he was suppose to go home for treatment, but he had a different idea. He left the hospital, got a plane leaving for Kuwait and came back. He wasn’t done yet, he was mad and wanted to find the person or person that did this to him and to our friend that died! From that point our lives would change forever as would our mission.
Our mission was now to be IED hunters! We were mostly a security force for EOD teams that responded to IED’s pre and post blast. From this we would see just how the insurgents were going to fight this war, we saw that they were going to hide like rats, mix themselves with in the crowd and attack us no matte what. they did not care if their own people around, they one one thing in mind..Kill Americans!! Now fast forward to Nov.04, the second push into Fallujah, the battle that would change that city!
I could go on and on and on about the events over the last 5 years, from Iraqis hold a true election fort eh first time in over 30 years, the counter-insurgency mission being put into place, and even the countless attacks that were going on up until a recently. But I won’t, what I will do is leave you with this:
For those who think this war is a farce, we should not be there, we need to leave now I saw thank you for your opinion! But it is time to step back into the real world and open your eyes! Iraq is on its way to be a better country then it was 5 years ago, people are rising up against the insurgents, US deaths are down, the government is in place! Now is it perfect? Of course not, is our government perfect? Did the US as we now it today become this way in 5 years? NO! It took time, money, and blood to get this country to were it is now, and it will continue to be that way! Freedom is not free one bit! The cost of freedom is the blood, sweat, and tears that the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen have given to make this country free! It the pain and suffering of love ones being gone for extend periods of time, or the pain of losing a love one in battle that families have done for 200 plus years that makes this country free. Just remember one thing the next time you go out to protest the war or recruiting stations in your city; You would not be able to do that if it weren’t for the people you are protesting! If it weren’t for the military fighting the fight that the “left” is to afraid to fight, we would be living in a dictatorship! You would not have the freedom to speak out against the government!!
So today, the 5 year and 1 day after the start of the war I would like to ask all of you, left, right, middle, vet, non-vet, war protester, war supported, and all people of this country- put yourselevs in the shoes og an Iraqi for one minute and ask youesefl this: Was the war worth the freedoms you now have or would you rather have the tyrannt Saddam back??