Sunday, November 12, 2006

boots on the ground, a soldiers story of Iraq (part 2)

In February 2004, I arrived in Kuwait headed towards a yearlong rotation in Iraq. I deployed herre with a combat battalion heading to one of the worst provinces in the country. Insurgent violence was fracturing this once prosperous, largely Sunni Muslim province. The Province was crippled by war, fear of insurgency was holding the population captive. The community was crumbling around looting and sectarian violence. Citizens had been placed under a military imposed curfew, but many were still too afraid to leave their homes. Insurgent strongholds in Fallujah, An Najaf, and the small neighborhood outside the "Green Zone" in Bahgdad (dubbed Sadr City by the soldiers) were gaining strength and numbers, digging in for a long fight. Iraq was torn by violence and the people were weary of the promise of a bright future.the dust is the worst part of it all. Kuwait, a desolate, barren, sandy hell. the thing about the dust in kuwait is that it is a finer grade of sand than what you would find on a beach in America. It gets everywhere. you will open books and find dust. your crotch, ears, nose, eyes, nothing is safe from the dust. all of your electronics are trashed. flat, neverending desert is all that you see in kuwait.
the US Military made history in 2004. for the first time since WWII, Military Sealift Command and Air Mobility Command were put to the test with a massive troop and equipment rotation. 130,000 troops were rotated in and out of theater in a matter of months. Sealift command managed the rotation of nearly as many vehicles and other pieces of mission critical equipment. This troop rotation was done in conjunction with the R&R program, and other daily operations supplying troops at the front with supplies needed to fight the battle went on without pause. A Combined Forces effort resulted in a fresh force touching ground and taking the torch from a battle hardened but fatigued force. New camps were built all over the northern desert of Kuwait to support the influx of troops being trained at the Udari Range Complex. Large patches of Kuwait sand were groomed and prepared, tents were setup, dining facilities were built, and communications networks were established. The stage was set.
Enter 1st Infantry Division
February 14th, 2004-Valentines Day-an ideal day to separate husbands and wives, was the day chosen to deploy the 2nd battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment. Wakeup was 0300. First formation was at 0400 for weapons draw. that was the day that my relationship with Janet began-this is my rifle. although there are many others like it, this is my rifle-we moved our baggage to the hilltop gym for weigh in-478 lbs with me and all of my gear. around 0900 we loaded on the busses, said our last goodbyes, shed a few tears, and departed for the Nurnburg Airport where a plane was about to arrive to pick us up. the Flight to Kuwait takes about 14 hours from Germany. by the time we arrived in Kuwait it was dark, near midnight, and was cold. Winter in Kuwait is cold. It almost felt like the Germany that we just left. We inprocessed into theater which took about 2 hours, drank water, used the facilities, then boarded busses for the non-stop ride to Camp New York. Forced Hydration had been the policy since Germany (which meant that we had formations 5 times a day to drink water-kinda like a tea-party only not fun). About 3 hours into the drive i had to go to the bathroom so bad that it hurt. we had so much equipment on and with us that only my right butt-cheek could fit on the seat and that cheek was throbbing and numb by the time we pulled into the barren wasteland known as Camp New York. This was Home for the next three or so weeks.
The first few days at Camp New York were chaos. Lines everywhere. we would wake up at 0400 just to get in line for breakfast ( the doors didnt open until 0800), then after we got done with breakfast we would walk out the door and get in line for lunch (lunch started at 1200), then we would eat lunch and get in line for dinner around 1300 ( dinner didnt start until 1730), finally after dinner we would get in line to use the phones, internet, or Post Exchange. that was an average day at Camp New York until Halliburton built us a larger dining facility (one that could serve the entire camp in 1 hour was built in, literally, 2 days). Things changed after the DFAC was expanded, we now had nothing to do. we were so used to waiting in line that we were all confused when this fun game was over. Spades became a very popular game about that time. a lot of money was either won or lost while engaging in this Army wide pasttime.
Our boat was in an accident leaving the harbor in Antwerp, Belgium. This meant that we were on the extended stay of Kuwait. we had to wait another week for our vehicles to arrive before we could do the manditory Convoy Live Fire Excersize, which ended up being more redneck than any other training i have ever participated in since i joined the army. It consisted in driving down a dusty dirt road and shooting at 55 gallon drums and a couple burnt out cars. Ma and Pa Kettle would be proud...i certainly felt more ready to fight the insurgency because of this training. No seriously, you have no idea how dangerous 55 gallon drums are in Iraq, especially in large numbers. Dispite the lack of resources, the MPRI trainers in Kuwait were worth the time spent at the ranges. the training, although lacking in the reality department, was just what we needed to augment the excersizes and other activities conducted in Germany. We were prepared to fight an enemy that up to this point had been a paper target. Now it was real. from here on in we shoot without a script. The next step was the Convoy North.


Anonymous said...

This is getting good. I like the story from distance--your distance (time). Boredom surely is the enemy of all life. Remember Marie said, "Nothing tastes." God has made all things beautiful and we can ALWAYS enjoy that. ILY


Anonymous said...

I assume MO is keeping these notes for your "Future File" to read and re-print when you come home, so I don't have to (I will, anyhow).



Patricia said...

I remember tea parties at home that weren't that much fun either:-) you can thank Leah for preparing you for that!! Good writing, I am enjoying your story. Cody can't wait to see you. I tell him about you everyday. ILY IMY can't wait to see you. Love Pete

Yegs said...

Andrew, just want you to know that you have been on my mind and in my prayers. Continue to fight the good fight. Continue to serve your King. It is my prayer that you find hope, joy, and peace in His arms. Love you brother. 131922