6 December 2012
Another entry folks, and I apologize up front, it jumps around a little bit. I’m still trying to get the handle on this writing. I want to spend time writing about what is going on here, but really, not much is happening. We are heading into the winter months and for you that are following the war, it’s the end of the fighting season here. I have a feeling a bunch of time is going to be spent writing about my last deployment….
When in a defensive position, as my Army buddies know, you are never truly established. If you have nothing to do, you continue to improve your position. That’s what I have been focusing on the last couple of days. Anything I can do to make the quality of life around here a little better, I am going to do it. Even if it means some Soldiers have to give up some comfort or chill time, in the end it is worth it. When living on a FOB that has been around here for a while, it would be easy to sit around and not do anything, or leave everything “as is”; most everything is already at a livable state.
My last deployment to Iraq I did the same thing. When we arrived into country we initially stayed in large circus tents, on bunk beds, until the outgoing unit was gone. The day that the outgoing unit had finally cleared the barracks, some of my Soldiers were ready to move straight into the barracks the way they were. I wasn’t satisfied with the way it was set up, and to the disappointment of some of my Soldiers, we stayed in the circus tents until I had gathered up a couple of Soldiers and we tore down every partition in the building and started from scratch. It worked out, and thanks to the handy work of Brett Hamilton, we were able to construct individual living spaces that were equal and fair throughout the platoon.
The same theory went for when my Scout Platoon moved into the JSS. We had a fully operational command post and living areas within a couple hours, but as Soldiers we were not satisfied. I stayed back and didn’t go on some patrols so Soldiers and I could build a game room for us to chill out in. After a couple of days we had a room that had video games, computers, a card table, and air conditioning. Looking back, I don’t think we ever quit trying to improve the JSS. From the day we showed up, to the day the Marines came in and relieved us, we were working on something (shower, gym, defensive fighting positions) to make the place better.
We were somewhat lucky when my Squadron moved onto this FOB. Most of the outgoing unit had already left and the rooms are controlled by a civilian contracting company (go figure). We moved straight into our rooms and settled in. It’s our work spaces that needed some work. My project yesterday was changing the lock on our office door. With five of us working in here and only two keys, keeping the office secure –vs- being able to accommodate everyone needing in at various times, I had to install a cipher lock. Today time was spent building installing a lockable door to our mail room. It’s all about making this place better for the next unit that will come in and replace us.
Which is exactly what the unit we replaced in Iraq didn’t do. Now, in their defense, they were initially tapped to be the theater reserve and sit in Kuwait for the 12 month deployment and only come into theater if absolutely needed. This unit spent a majority of those months chilling in Kuwait when they finally got the call to go into Ramadi. It had to be hard; three months from coming home, being told you were going into hell. They didn’t spend much time making their living and working areas better, they focused on survival. And we would soon find out why.
When my Scout platoon arrived in Kuwait in the summer of 2006, we had no idea where we were going either. We spent our days training at ranges and getting accustomed to the heat. We arrived in the dead heat of summer where temperatures would rise to 120 degrees. My Platoon Leader, Jimm Spannagel and I would have the platoon conduct foot patrols wearing full combat load (easily 50lbs of gear) at the hottest point of the day to get acclimatized. These were brutal and probably one of the top three shittiest things I have EVER done. I remember one day walking with Jimm and it was literally too hot to speak. I believe we were conducting a two hour walk and we spoke about three words to each other. At about every 20 minutes I would look at him and without saying a word we would stop, sit down for 5 minutes, and drink some water. The only way I can even come close to explaining the heat: Next summer, during a day that it is supposed to reach mid 90’s, park your car outside in the middle of the sun. Let your car run for an hour, get in, and then turn on the heater full blast. It sucks.
And those three words we spoke during the foot patrol went something like this:
After what seemed like months (which was only really a few weeks), the Battalion Commander had a formation to tell us where we were going. After we were all formed up out in the desert, LTC Johnson told us that our Brigade (higher headquarters) was going to Bagdad and that our Battalion Task Force was headed to Ramadi. Now, to put you in the mood, it wasn’t too long after a Marine General said that the Al Anbar Province of Iraq was lost and that we were basically wasting our time. Ramadi was the capitol. We were heading into hell.
I was confident though, probably a little cocky. And why wouldn’t I be? My organic Command team, CPT Miller and 1SG Gear were some of the best I have ever had and the Company we were going to be attached to (which happened to be the company I came from before I took over the Scout Platoon) had one of the greatest Company Commanders I have ever worked for, Ian Lauer. I was working with the greatest Platoon Leader I have ever had the honor of working with, and a platoon of 35 Scouts that were ready to chew off their mother’s faces if we gave the order. I, along with Jimm, truly believed that we had the best platoon in the Army (and I still believe they were). We were well trained, motivated, had a swagger that was often mistaken for arrogance, and mission ready. We flew out of Kuwait a few days later and headed into Iraq for the 15 months that would forever change my life.