Baghdad, Iraq — tyronefreeves
After all the training and rigorous things that led up to our deployment, we were already exhausted by the time we arrived in Kuwait. Camp Buehring, Kuwait is a staging post for US troops in the northwestern region of Kuwait. From its founding in January 2003 to present date, the base is used for military troops heading north into Iraq, as well as the primary location for the Middle Eastern Theater Reserve. The areas surrounding Camp Buehring, known as the Udairi Range Complex, are largely uninhabited, except for a few nomadic Bedouin tribes raising camels, goats, and sheep.
This is when we are fitted with the newest equipment and gear. Now, it was the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle the Department of Defense (DOD) had invested billions into. Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected is a term for United States military vehicles produced as part of the MRAP program that are designed specifically to withstand improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and ambushes. The United States Department of Defense MRAP program began in 2007 as a response to the increased threat of IEDs during the Iraq War. From 2007 until 2012, the MRAP program deployed more than 12,000 vehicles in the Iraq War and War in Afghanistan. The only problem was our mechanics were never trained on them, and the company’s manufacturing them would provide us maintenance at specific sights. Unfortunately, they weren’t very useful when things went wrong outside of the gate.
After finally arriving in Iraq, we saw that there weren’t many provisions made for us. The surge of troops was a sudden action so the logistics had to be worked out as it happened. This meant by the time my Squadron got on ground in country, we didn’t have a building or a bed. We spent the first three days camped out on the helipad that the choppers dropped us off. We didn’t know it was going to be three days; we were told that our transportation was coming. In the army, this could mean anything.
Considering it was the middle of the summer and we were on a black top isolated on the air fired in the middle of the green zone, we were not comfortable with our sleeping arrangements. They did have, one hundred meters away stacked with cases of bottled water, but after the first day, we couldn’t get it to cool down again because everybody wanted to walk in there just to get out of the heat. Remember we were carrying one hundred percent of everything we would need for combat in the next fifteen months. Some people had three to four duffle bags and a ruck sack, so, by the time we made it up to Baghdad, we were drained and ready for some relief.
We decided to have a good party because we were just arriving in the country and conditions were pretty tough for us starting out. This wasn’t a big deal because we had everything that was necessary to make this happen. I had the LMTV which allowed us to pull the fifteen kilowatt generator from the motor pool. I also had the plug at the snack place to get all the Gatorades and refreshments we could possibly need. This time we were picking up cases of Gatorade and the defac was serving steak and crab legs. They fed us like every meal could be your last. So, I picked up all the garbage cans we had and filled them with ice from the defac and put the Gatorades in there. After all, this was still desert. Now, we just had to plan the logistics around getting the equipment that SSG Hoof had packed in the back of a shipping container. This wasn’t going to be easy because we hadn’t opened them to be down loaded. Furthermore, it’s terribly dark at night in the desert, and there are no street lights in the dust pit we call a motor pool. They dropped the containers and we just maneuvered around them. We ended up using the headlights of my FMTV. The Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) is a series of vehicles, based on a common chassis, that vary by payload and mission requirements. The FMTV is derived from the Austrian military Steyr 12 M 18 truck, but substantially modified to meet U.S. Army requirements.
We would also use the FMTV when we went to pick the generator up from the motor pool. This was cool, but it’s one thing to say you want to have a party, but it’s something different when you say you want a lot of people there. One unfortunate thing about 3rd infantry division is the combat zone we only fight. The Cav slogan “If you aint Cav’ You aint shit” spoked volumes. So, this meant we were one of the only divisions in Iraq during the surge to have these types of restrictions. When soldiers die, they cut off all communication with the world via internet, phones or email traffic. They do this until the family of the service member has been contacted. It wasn’t uncommon for soldiers to accidently inform the family about a casualty before the unit has contacted them formally. This meant communication was based on the chance you run into people at the gym, defac, phone or MWR. So, spreading the word about the party would be more complicated than you would think. We also had to find a way to transport all these people. Didn’t I tell you? The party was going to be in an abandoned Iraqi building roughly two miles away from our living quarters. This was a fortunate benefit although it was half blown up ,but it was still standing strong with parts of the roof missing which allowed the moon light in the provide light to the desolate structure. In some rooms, you could still see the Iraqi painting on the walls. I decided to take the bus the squadron used to escort people from the sleep tent to the HQ work buildings. This allowed the officer’s commute to be easy for them. This would be our shuttle to get the soldiers back and forth to the party. Now everything was set, and all we had to do was execute, but we always had the element of getting caught. The next day my supervisor said he heard about the party I threw in the desert. He gave me a nugget of his wisdom like he often would after finding out about me doing something. He said I was the hardest working NCO he knew, but my night life sometimes gets the best of me.
General Raymond T. Odierno
It doesn’t take much for me to reflect on the day I received my coin from the Multi Nation Corp Commander General Raymond T. Odierno who later went on to serve as the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army. This happened while I was at Joint Service Station Adhamiyah. The Adhamiyah district in Baghdad is eighty-five percent Sunni and fifteen percent Shia with a population around 300,000 people. In the summer of 2007, the tensions in Adhamiyah rose to new heights as two Bradley Fighting Vehicles were destroyed by deep buried IED’s (Improvised Explosive Device). This was part of increased tensions within the region that left Adhamiyah as one of the worse parts of Baghdad at the time. My unit 3rd Squadron 7th Calvary Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division was part of the surge of troops sent by President Bush to quiet the violence in the war-torn country. When we took over our sector in Baghdad Iraq, it was one of the worse in the country at the time. We were unofficially the fourth brigade out of the extra five brigades President Bush decided to send over to Iraq as part of the surge in Afghanistan. We were barely settled in before we had some of our worse attacks. The sniper fire in the area was heavy now. But this was nothing compared to the unit we took over from 1st Battalion 26th Infantry Regiment from the 1st Infantry Division. I remember the first time I visited their headquarters building and I couldn’t believe the shrine they had commemorating their fallen soldiers from this deployment alone; it was rather unnerving. This feeling didn’t last long as we were supposed to come in to fix this. We were the famed three through seven Cavalry and our reputation preceded us. After several months of opposition, we quieted the entire city of Adhamiyah to the point it was stable and in our control. This prompted the General Officer to come down to see how we were managing such a task. This was also a big deal for many security reasons. His coming down to such a small outpost in such a hostile region showed his confidence in the men on the ground along with his confidence in the security of the entire area. Of course, we had every form of security to include overhead patrols by apache helicopters, but that does not stop an attack from happening. I remember watching him walk down the street from our Squadron headquarters less than a mile down the road. The squadron headquarters was in a building we occupied on the Euphrates in Sodom Hussein’s second wife’s home that he built for her. It was unusually full of bathrooms. General Raymond T. Odierno flew into there and walked down to us. His entourage was as wide as the whole street as he walked down to us. You couldn’t see an Iraqi anywhere. Once he entered our compound, it became like any other PR event as he started questioning soldiers to find out about morale and what we thought about the war. He was very kind; I didn’t expect to meet him personally until he walked up to me and started speaking. I was in the corner by the radio at the time hoping not to be noticed. As my commander set there and looked like his life was on the line, all I could think about was this whole situation ending as soon as possible. We had spent so much time hearing about how big of a deal this was, that you were just tired and wanted everything just come to an end. He approached and asked me a few questions before leaving. One of the biggest things that stood out to me was the fact he was so tall. I didn’t imagine him to be so tall, but he towered over me as he spoke softly in a tone that made it feel as though I’ve known him for some time. Overall it was a great experience as he gave me a coin after shaking my han donce, he left. They said he was impressed with my conversations.