When I was stationed in Illesheim, Germany in 2003, my unit had to go to Grafenwoehr Training Area to train in early January right after everyone got back from Christmas leave. We started setting up for the one-month training exercise. We were told late at night that we had to turn back around because of the “weather.” We turned around the next day to head back to Storck Barracks. We found out the real reason for turning back around. We spent the next 30 days packing containers and setting them on rail cars, getting anthrax shots, getting legal briefs, and filling out wills and powers of attorney.
We were issued Desert Combat Uniforms the day before we deployed to Kuwait. There was no time to get name tags sewn on our uniforms. We loaded onto buses to head to the airport. We arrived in Kuwait on 12 Feb 03. We spent the next month maintaining the Apaches while the pilots trained. On 17 Mar 03, we were told that there was to be no more outgoing mail, no phone calls, and no internet. We were told that it would be explained to us by our troop commander that night. Our troop commander told us that we had an invitation from Saddam, It was an invitation that we could not refuse. It would have been impolite to refuse Saddam’s invitation. At the end of the speech, he asked if there were any questions. I raised my hand and said, “Sir, after we kick Saddam’s ass, who is going to be the occupying force?” My troop commander didn’t know. One of the guys handed us each a cigar. We were going to smoke the cigar when we won.
We loaded our vehicles the morning of the 21st. Our five-ton truck beds were lined with sandbags. We put our rucks in the center. The sandbags were supposed to protect us if we hit a landmine. We were in MOPP (Mission-Oriented Protective Posture) level II just in case we were hit with chemical weapons. We left in the early morning and zig-zagged to the Iraqi border. At dusk, we reached the berm at the Iraqi border. The berm had been breached. At that moment, non-smokers became smokers. We weren’t supposed to smoke in the back, but one of the guys said, “What’s the worst that they could do? Send us to Iraq?” We all had a belly laugh at that joke. We crossed the berm shortly after.
The convoy speed picked up. Our driver seemed like he hit every bump in Iraq that night. When our driver hit each bump, our rucksacks and sandbags launched violently into the air. We wound up underneath the sandbags and rucks each time. It wasn’t exactly a comfortable ride. I saw Apaches and an A-10 hitting multiple targets along the route, MLRS (Multiple-Launch Rocket System) overhead, and multiple checkpoints.
One of the towns that we drove through, Iraqis were chanting, “Bush good! Kill Saddam!” while making throat slashing gestures. I saw piles of garbage that were about 30’ high. Even Camden, NJ looked like a kingdom compared to the poverty that I saw along the way to Objective RAMS.
We arrived at Objective RAMS on 23 Mar 03 early in the morning. We saw a crashed Apache on the way into our AO (Area of operations). We found out that both of the pilots were OK. It had crashed in a brown-out on takeoff. One of the guys from my squad had a three day build up of MREs. He decided to take care of business. As soon as he was taking care of business, there were three blasts of a horn. We had to quickly don our protective masks. The Soldier that was taking care of business wound up having to throw that pair of boxers into the poo barrel to be burned.
I found out later that we were the occupying force. We did not get back home until Groundhog Day 2004. I foresee bumps in the road over the next four years. I always try to have cautious optimism. Things never go as planned. You just take care of your buddies. The one person in Trump’s cabinet that I have a really good feeling about is the Secretary of Defense, retired USMC General James Mattis. The government sometimes tells you that it is “because of the weather” even though you know that it has nothing to do with the weather. Gen Mattis will tell President Trump the best plans of action for taking out our nation’s enemies. Gen Mattis will always remember his military bearing. I am sure that I will be filled with pride the first time I see Gen Mattis running with Soldiers. Gen Mattis doesn’t need the job. He is doing it because he cares. The next four years will turn out fine. There may be some bumps in the road, and some days that you have to throw your boxers in the poo barrel, but there will be an improvement over the last eight years.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.