Medicine Soldier

A View from Iraq


1.26.2005

Leaving Kuwait, Finally

I am just checking in before I leave Kuwait, finally. In summation the highlights for reasons to leave in the top ten format.

    10. 2 helicopter crashes.
    9. 18 hours of rain in one day and a whole lot of mud.
    8. 20 gal of water per day per soldier for personal hygiene (not hot).
    7. A 45 min wait in line for food and 5 min to eat it.
    6. Living out of one backpack for ten days, but the back pack had to include our chemical gear, night vision device, GPS, wet and cold weather gear maps...leaving enough room for a razor, toothbrush some socks and underwear.
    5. A great 3 day laundry service, but we have been on stand by to leave in an hour for the last 10 days. (Note basic uniform allotment is 4 per soldier.)
    4. 20,000 people occupying a space designed for 12,000.
    3. Porta-Johns everywhere. Good thing it has only been 70 degrees and not 130.
    2. 70 people sharing the same tent (and cough) for sleeping.
    1. Stowing away on the back of a personnel carrier heading north by ground. The other alternative is Marine aviation (note recent crash in the news).

See you in Iraq... I will send my Kuwait pictures when I get set up.

Miss you all.

posted by Scott | 23:41 Baghdad time | © 1.26.2005
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1.20.2005

Covert Operations

I am sneaking into the Brigade office "tent" to write... One of the Majors in the Battalion just busted me though. He says it's okay. I just wanted to write in person and let everyone know I am OK. We were training at a fast pace in MS and now we have hit a brick wall. We did have a long flight and went right into training to confirm the sight alignment on our weapons, two more mandatory training videos and we are waiting on logistics. We are upgrading the armor on our vehicles and sorting out the equipment as it comes off the boats. We were supposed to head north Tuesday, however there were complications and now we have to wait indefinitely. I am not sure if it is just a coordination issue or if there are other issues preventing us from landing.

The camp we are at is barely big enough to hold the volume of troops here. Everything is a line including meal time and portajohns. We are still living out of our backpacks and the desert is not as exotic as one may think. Blue sky and tan sand, not too colorful. The guys are great and despite some frustration and anticipation everyone is doing well.

I miss you all and encourage pictures from "home."

Take Care and miss you.

posted by Scott | 13:28 Baghdad time | © 1.20.2005
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1.13.2005

My Pictures

I had the opportunity to do laundry in between turning in vehicles, and one of the guys from the Mississippi unit showed me some clouds as they passed by. They were tornado clouds swirling. It was interesting to see. I had one of the guys take my pictures in my desert uniform. Other than that now much else going on today. We should be finishing packing this afternoon and have one last change to go back out in civilization.

Take Care and talk to you on the other side of the ocean.

posted by Scott | 13:13 Baghdad time | © 1.13.2005
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1.09.2005

Playing Army

It is a beautiful day here, 73 degrees and sunny. Although this is the calm before the storm, it is a very peaceful day. We got up at 5am today and went to the rifle range one last time to verify our sight alignment on our rifles, then the platoons were practicing the different tasks we learned how to do in the past month. Partly to refresh their memory because we trained at such a fast pace, but they got a chance to practice the skills they chose and wanted to do as opposed to the tasks they were told to learn for the day. It was fun--they went into the mock town and took turns being civilians and bad guys, then they did a convoy back to our command post and were going to assault our building but I saw and heard them coming. I grabbed one of the other lieutenants and we barricaded the doors quickly and I got a few of them before they saw me, but my buddy did not have my back so one of the platoon guys got behind me from a different door before I turned around. I think this is one of the few times that "playing army" actually is fitting for the training we did today. They guys are practicing things they need to but are having fun and making it creative.

Now we are packing and preparing to leave beautiful Camp S. We still do not know what flight we are leaving on but it will most likely be Friday or Saturday. We have three days of training for the guys while I run around and turn in equipment and get supplies. I was also selected to be the authorized classified document currier. I thought I was cool at first and then I went to get the paperwork done. I have to carry a flash "thumb" drive around my neck all the time and see secret documents. When I left the office with my additional assignment, I ran into the chaplain who was handing out lotion, baby powder, and tic tacs. I handed me a tube of petroleum jelly. I do not know if that was a coincidence or not but suddenly I had the feeling that there may be some more "extra duties" for this job.

We are giving the guys the afternoon off to pack clean weapons and we are switching over do the desert uniforms tomorrow. We are also sitting outside enjoying the day and stenciling our roster number and blood type on all our T Shirts. I hope everyone else is enjoying the weekend. I'm not too sure if we will pack our electronics up and send them ahead, but I will make some phone calls before I fly.

posted by Scott | 17:28 Baghdad time | © 1.09.2005
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1.07.2005

HMMWVS

I did not get to finish my email this morning. I had wanted to go into some more detail about out training mission on the urban training lane. They had a mock town set up with marked buildings that included burned out cars, Arabic writing, and animals running around. There was also Iraqi and Arabic Refugees along with other paid civilians to interact and cause confusion and interrupt the battle. The whole training focus is on being prepared to be lethal yet use every effort to resolve the situation by other means. This has been a hard concept for our hard core tankers from Vermont who are used to blowing things up on contact or otherwise running over them with the tracks. We are forced to be less lethal and more exposed.

Our mission was to secure five suspected insurgent leaders from a fictional town in Iraq. The idea is the town was trying to have a democracy with the use of a mayor but the local Sheik had more sway over the population. We had to negotiate with the mayor to allow use to enter his town armed and search the town for suspected terrorists and solicit the use of the local police to go knocking door to door. Our secondary goal was to capture intelligence or weapons present in the town.

Things started off well we had one platoon with vehicles block roads and set up check points to control entry and exit from the towns. They also had roving patrols on foot to flush out snipers. The second platoon was going to negotiate and conduct the search. The third platoon over watched the town from far and had the machine guns and the reinforcements. I was with part of a platoon that was to enter the town from the wood line and hang out in the sewer tunnels and reinforce and assist the search teams. The negotiations ended up breaking down and the crowd started to become hostile. We ended up having to pass the reserves through the tunnels to support the platoon that still was trying to make the negotiations work. Finally, the tide turned and the platoon started to split up and forcibly occupy and clear the buildings. I was still hanging out in the sewer tunnels getting bitten by ants. After clearing four buildings and detaining several town people I found myself supervising the enemy prisoner handling point. Initially this was in the sewer tunnel and we eventually consolidated in one of the buildings. Our intelligence was not accurate and we were unsure who was just unruly townsfolk and who were the guys and girls we were looking for. So I found myself pushing forward running from building to building in the smoke and confusion of the town trying not to run over or shoot the civilians. We ended up flushing out some more of the insurgents and pockets of battle were taking place in different locations. I ended up setting up a operations center in one of the taller buildings and was trying to push information from the platoons and commander to keep everything organized. This was not an easy task. We ended up taking sniper fire, and having spontaneous pockets of fire fights while people were milling about the streets selling trinkets, asking for cigarettes, wanting to have tea with us or just otherwise trying to confuse and disrupt our tempo. We ended up capturing four people that made the list and killing one of them. Finally we leapfrogged all our squads our of the town and cleared our of the city.

It made for a long day but it put many things together that we were doing. The trainers really try to crank things up and throw a lot at us and make us think and react. The idea is that it will be unlikely for all these things to happen at once, but if we can handle the level of difficulty in a training environment, the real thing should not be as bad. If you want more of a feel for what we were going through try watching the movie "Blackhawk Down."

Today we did close combat training will live rounds. We had plastic targets with painted shapes on them and we had to move down lanes with and without cover firing into the plastic silhouettes when someone randomly called out a shape. All our targets were 25 meters away or less and we were moving in pairs and groups of four.

They kicked up the level of difficulty by making us ground our weapon and run back to the ammo point, get the magazines and then run back to the round and had 15 seconds to lock and fire. (Mind you, we have about 45lbs of helmet, body armor, and other crap on.) They made it more fun for the officers and leaders. We had to chase the guy with our ammo. I was running against another Lieutenant and the ammo guy ran up the hill and we chased him and the other LT pushed me in front of my commander and first Sergeant. I had to leap over them. Coming down the hill he grabbed my vest and I lost my balance. I managed to grab the magazines and on the way down I completely lost my balance and had to employ my "John Woo Combat Roll" (refer to Samuel Jackson in the movie SWAT). So yeah, I pretty much tripped in front of the whole company, but I managed to recover with the combat roll and save my pride and cool points to make it back to the firing point. We finished the lane and I was applauded by the guys. I wonder how sore I will be tomorrow.

We also had our first intel brief from our battalion commander. Things are starting to get really focused as we prepare for our move. He showed us pictures of the area we will be going and we discussed the impact of the elections and that the town will be celebrating a religious holiday for the first time that was outlawed during Saddam's rule.

I am still feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Most of my frustrations have been equipment issues. We are hearing that all the good equipment is already deployed and there isn't enough stuff here to train on. We are not the best army in the world because we always have the best equipment; we are the best army in the world because our soldiers have the freedom and ingenuity to make things work.

God Bless America.

P.S. For all the cool toys we have (lasers, scopes, night vision, radios), the enemy is using dogs to do a better job detecting us. The dogs know we smell different and keep us from sneaking up on the insurgents in the dark.

posted by Scott | 00:30 Baghdad time | © 1.07.2005
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1.06.2005

Kuwait Update

We just finished our urban training exercises. More fun with Iraqi refugees, civilians on the battlefield, and insurgent activities. This time we were operating in a small town rather than our base. I did not get killed this time. My position dictated that I supervise the handling of enemy prisoners and disgruntle civilians and set up as an overwatch to listen and report activity in the city. I still had to run tactically from building to building and ended up getting muddy, harassed, and shot at, but the most damage I incurred was the ant bites. It is still warm down here but it has been humid and rainy.

The big news, however, is we will be on stand by to leave anywhere from the 9th-15th to go to Kuwait. We will not be able to receive any regular mail until we get established in Iraq. On or about Valentines day. They will not forward any mail from the base; it will be returned. We will not know our final address and confirm our location until we are ready to leave Kuwait. I read the movement order last night and I know where we are going, but it is still classified, sorry. I will be happy to leave the base behind and hopefully overcome some of the uncertainty, anxiety, and anticipation we have been dealing with.

Got to run, time to go back in the field and shoot some more bullets.

posted by Scott | 09:23 Baghdad time | © 1.06.2005
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