This is one soldier's view of the Iraqi elections: (by SPC Campbell):
Home on the Horizon (17Aug05)
It has been entirely too long since I last wrote and I apologize for
my absence. It is too easy when you are on the verge of coming home
to let slip the important things in life.
Right now all of us are counting the days. Some people are counting
the number of patrols we have left, while some how many more days we
will spend in Iraq and others when we will arrive on American soil.
It is getting so close that the thought of it is downright
intoxicating. As it stands right now I should be back in the states
late September and be a free man the beginning of October.
The past month has been filled with adventure and boredom.
I won't lie... I was reading the new Harry Potter book when it
happened. We got a call that something was something wrong up the
road with one of our Humvees. My mind was still racing around
Hogwart's School of Magic when I dismounted the Humvee. A quick
survey revealed a smashed up civilian vehicle and a bleeding Iraqi
Local National sitting on the side of the road. I realized that I
was back in the land of muggles and in the middle of a war.
He was bleeding from the ear and nose and his shoulder was grossly
out of place. He couldn't hear a word I was saying... which made
communicating even more difficult. I packaged him up... stopped the
bleeding, checked for head injuries, and put his arm in a sling. The
local Iraqi police evacuated him to the nearest hospital.
One of our gunners was beat up pretty bad in the incident. When the
Humvee stopped suddenly, he was smashed into his gun and was
"Knocked the F*#@ out." He was unconscious for almost a minute and
then spent the next ten minutes throwing up. I made him as
comfortable as possible; I even administered an auto-injector of
morphine. I was careful this time not to stick myself. I was worried
that he might have broken his collar bone or have a serious head
injury, so he was what we call a "priority transport."
We evacuated him back to the base and from there he was medevaced by
a Blackhawk helicopter. He showed up at my door step the next day...
he didn't want to miss a mission and had demanded to be released
from the hospital. He caught a ride back on a Blackhawk. I am happy
to say that all he had was a severely strained shoulder and he only
missed one mission.
I won't lie... the next mission I couldn't wait to finish reading
the new Harry Potter book. For those of you who have read it¡¦ you
know the pace quickens and never lets up. I never heard or saw the
collisions that happened a couple hundred meters in front of us. The
radio traffic brought me back to reality as we sped onto the highway
(aka MSR). Just like the day before I saw a smashed up civilian
vehicle and couple Iraqi Local Nationals injured on the side of the
I took off running and saw a man with a three inch gash above his
eye. All four of the passengers had minor cuts everywhere from the
broken glass. I started grabbing for latex gloves and field
dressings. I wasn't there for more then a minute when I was grabbed
by some more Local Nationals. They pointed further down the road,
where I saw 30 Iraqis prying at what used to be a car. Foolishly, I
took off running. I should have waited for security to come with me,
because I was wide out in the open, but I knew that every moment
There were two men crushed inside the frame of the car. It seemed as
though the entire community had come out and were prying at frame.
Someone even got a car jack out to provide leverage. They both were
unconscious, but had heart beats. We freed the passenger first... I
laid him down as gently as possible. He wasn't breathing. I started
rescue breathing with my pocket mask. An Iraqi doctor appeared out
of the crowd and began assessing him. Not a couple seconds later,
the faint heart beat ceased. The doctor started chest compressions,
while I provided the breaths. The blacktop was almost 140 degrees
and my knees were burning. We did CPR for almost 2 minutes, before
we had to call it quits.
They finally pulled the driver from the wreck. His body was limp and
he had no pulse. I yanked him free and we laid him down. The doctor
and I began CPR immediately. There wasn't an unbroken bone in his
body. It was like doing chest compressions on a bag of jello. A
minute later the doctor called it. They placed torn cloth over the
faces of both the bodies.
Just 20 minutes of work and I was exhausted and dehydrated. Someone
told me that my eyes were blood shot... I realized later that the gas
tank had been torn open and the fumes must have gotten to me. I was
saying a prayer for both the men... when someone came running onto
the highway. His brother was the driver and he wept loudly. I had to
maintain my military bearing, but I also wanted to weep.
An 18-wheeler traveling too fast had struck both vehicles. The
driver had tried to escape but the damage to the truck made him stop
a couple hundred meters down the road. When the Iraqi Police brought
him past the accident, I flipped him the bird. I was filled with
anger and rage.
When we were packing up, I noticed an argument between one of the
guys who had tried to help us and an Iraqi Police officer. They were
speaking in Arabic, but I could sense the jist of the conversation.
He was yelling at the police officer, asking "Why are the Americans
the ones who responded to the accident and not the Iraqi police? Why
were the Americans the ones who were providing medical attention?
Who really provides security for the Iraqi people? The Americans."
In a sad realization, I was thankful to be here, but I was also a
little worried about the future of Iraq.
As soon as everything got cleaned up and traffic was moving again, I
lost myself in the final pages of Harry Potter. Though it was never
I won't lie... we were just bullshitting in the truck when the
rounds flew overhead. We hear rounds all day long, but these were
steady, sustained and very close. We jumped into action and sped
towards the direction of fire. Our gunner thought he observed muzzle
flashes from the roof tops across the way and unleashed a hail storm
of bullets. As we snaked across the highway I could still see the
tracers embedded in the walls burning brightly.
When we got to the service road we observed a four door white pick-
up truck with its doors open. One of the passengers was laying down
on the ground... I thought he was surrendering when SPC Langley, our
driver, said "Hey one of them has got a gun." At that moment, I
felt the change. SPC Mancusco, (aka Manimal), calls what happens to
me "Flipping the Bitch Switch." I jumped out of the Humvee
bristling, flipped the selector switch on my M-16 from safe to semi
and ran to the two passengers in the back of the vehicle.
I was screaming for the two passengers in the back to get out of the
vehicle. I kept yelling and the passenger closest to me kept leaning
away from me on to the other passenger. He turned toward me and was
pleading, but I couldn't hear him over the pounding of my heart. He
kept saying, "Police, Police, Police." As soon as I heard him, my
whole mental picture of the situation changed. I had seen a couple
Iraqi police get ambushed on this road before.
As my eyes widen to take in more information... I realized that the
far passenger had an exit wound the size of a softball coming out
his neck. He was obviously dead. The passenger closest to me was in
a lot of pain. It dawned on me that if these guys weren't the
shooters then who ever tore up this car was still around. I scanned
the rooftops, praying that we had scared away who ever had done
this. In my head I counted two patients, both with multiple gun shot
wounds and one KIA (killed in action). Time was of the essence, so I
switched back to medic mode.
I eased the passenger closest to me out onto the road, under cover
behind the truck. As I laid him down I saw at least three gun shot
wounds to his arm, one of which had gone straight through his elbow.
He was conscious, but disoriented. I had three tasks¡¦ first was to
find all the holes and stop the bleeding, second was to restore
fluid as fast as possible and last was to keep him awake and
conscious. I cut off all his clothes, except for his wife beater and
boxers. Each time I found a new hole, I plugged it up and put a
field dressing on it. He had been hit 8-10 times.
I glanced over the hood of the truck and saw one of my high speed
combat lifesavers (SPC Langley) treating the other patient. I kept
yelling for a status report, but I knew I had my hands full. No news
was good news. What I did not find out till much later was that SPC
Langley skillfully treated two patients with multiple gun shot
wounds, I had never even saw the driver of the truck.
On a Main Service Road (MSR) like the one we patrol there are always
coalition forces moving up and down the road. It wasn¡¯t but a
couple of minutes before more patrols started pulling up and
offering their assistance. Completely oblivious to the circus
forming around me, I sent the other medics who arrived to treat the
other patients. I commandeered a combat lifesaver from another
patrol and our interpreter to assist me.
I told the interpreter that he had to keep the man I was working on
talking. When the interpreter asked him two quick questions and then
stopped... I got furious. I grabbed him by the shirt and yelled, "If
he stops talking he is going to die... I don't care what you talk
about... KEEP HIM TALKING! Say a prayer, ask him about his family...
whatever... understand?" Our interpreter God Bless his soul,
swallowed his fear, and kept that man talking throughout the whole
I had bandages everywhere... I even started an IV with a special IV
fluid called Hextend. Hetastarch was developed by special forces a
couple years back. You can give someone 500 mL (1/2 of a Liter) of
fluid and it will expand in the bloodstream to the equivalent of 3
Liters. After I started the IV in left arm, I realized that I had
not yet checked his back for entry/exit wounds. His right arm was
broken and his left arm had the vitally important IV. I had to turn
him onto one side and the broken arm was the only way to go.
Before I flipped him I administered an auto-injector of morphine in
his thigh. As we turned him over, I found a bleeding hole in his
lower back. I laid out another field dressing and we laid him back
I put my commandeered combat life saver to work trying to start
another IV in his foot. I was screaming about the status of the
medevac. First it was coming and then it wasn't. They wanted us to
ground evacuate this guys to the local Iraqi hospital. First we
didn't have ambulances to ground evac.... so we were going to have
jerry rig something and second the local hospital leaves much to be
desired for emergency medicine.
Uncharacteristically, I yelled at my Lieutenant. I told them that if
we didn't get a bird down here that these men were going to die.
Knowing I am not the type to stand up to him (except during our
political arguments) he got on the horn and a few minutes later the
bird was en route.
After changing the IV bags and administering another dose of
morphine... I took stock of the situation. There were units running
here and there. I was faintly aware of the sporadic gun fire going
on. I saw some medics I recognized and others I did not running back
and forth. When I had sized up the scene... I focused back on my
patient... filled out a field medical card and started talking to him
myself. I kept telling him, "Anta (you)... Amman (safe)" mutasfa
(hospital). Even though he was going into shock, he looked at me
and said, "Thank You."
I had to borrow my combat lifesavers eye protection... when the bird
landed it kicked up a dust cloud that lasted for almost a minute. I
was covering my patient's eyes with my hand. We took off running
toward the Blackhawk. My patient was to go in last because he was
the most critical. The litter team in front of me was running to the
front of the Blackhawk... a potentially deadly mistake. Thankfully
the crew chief redirected them away from the low flying rotors. We
loaded them up into the bird and within seconds they were away.
I was covered in mud... the dirt from the helicopter mixed with the
sweat I had built up over the past twenty minutes was down right
grimy. I had blood stains all over my uniform. I was exhausted and
angry and relieved.
The ambush didn't come from the rooftops. It was part of a string
of drive by shootings that throughout the day left 10 Iraqi Police
dead and 6 injured. By the grace of god we were in the right place
at the right time and we saved the lives of those three Iraqi
Three mass casualty situations in a matter of four patrols... It is
definitely time to go home!
Thankfully things are winding down now that we are in the long
process of turning over our operations to another unit. Even though
it meant that we had to vacate our palatial two-man trailers and
move back into 20-man tents, we are now that much closer to coming
A couple more stories before I sign off...
Operation Soccer Ball:
Since I sent out an email a couple months ago saying that Iraqi kids
go Cuckoo for soccer balls, we have been inundated with soccer
balls. I must have blown up at least 500-600 soccer balls. I divided
them up amongst the 4 companies in our battalion and asked them to
pass them out to the little kids. Aside from the twenty soccer balls
we lost due to one of the company HQs burning down, the whole
project was a resounding success.
A couple of weeks ago, one of the patrols in our company were
sitting and watching the road like we do every other day. We patrol
such a small area, that we pretty much know all the kids in the area
and they know us. One of the kids who we had given a soccer ball to
came up to a soldier and kept saying "Kum-ball-la" which is Arabic
for bomb. He showed the soldiers where a particularly deadly IED had
been planted. We were able to neutralize the IED before it could be
used. Maybe it was the soccer ball or something else, but this kid's
courage shielded us from danger.
Million Dollar Shot/Wound
About a month ago we were on special assignment, pulling gate guard.
I was in a tower and two of my buddies were each in their own tower.
We were each accompanied by a privately contracted security guard
from Nepal. Don't ask me why we were there... we were just told to
be. We started taking rounds from the front of the gate and everyone
scattered. After about 15 minutes the coast seemed cleared.
I heard some radio traffic from one of my buddies in the rear tower.
He reported that supposedly a civilian car had parked right
underneath his tower, the driver had rolled down his window and
threw a rock up at the tower that hit the Nepalese guard square in
the head. The guard was driven to the hospital. None of us could
understand why our buddy hadn't lit the car up or told us about it.
I guess when the Nepalese guard got hit, he would only speak in
Nepalese so it took awhile to discern what had happened.
A couple hours later a report from the hospital came back... the
doctors had just removed a 7.62mm round from the guard's head.
7.62mm rounds are used in AK47's and sniper rifles. The round had
lodged itself beneath the skin, but did not pierce the forehead. The
guard was not seriously injured and actually returned to work a
couple days later. No one heard the shot or a ricochet. We speculate
the shot must have been from over a kilometer away... making it both
a million dollar shot and a million dollar wound.
I have outlined for you all the exciting parts of this past month...
each of which may have lasted for a combined 1 1/2 hours. As you can
imagine the rest of the month (729 hours) has just been sitting and
waiting... Letting the days melt away as we work out, watch movies,
sleep and patrol.
Moving Back to DC
As fate would have it looks like I will be moving back to DC
sometime in early December. I know it is only August, but for those
of you living in the beltway... please keep an eye out for a
reasonably priced apartment... available in December... preferably in
the Dupont/Logan Circle area and with a parking space. Everything is
And yes, I am going to be buying a car when I get home... I think
that I have earned a pair of wheels this year. Plus I would go into
car withdrawals considering how much time I have spent in a HUMVEE
over the past year.
I owe many of you thank you's! I promise I will get to them. But
until then please accept my most heart felt thanks for adopting me
and my guys. Throughout this whole deployment I have always felt
supported and loved and even overwhelmed at times. I just can't
wait till I get home and I can return the favor.
As I stated before please... NO MORE PACKAGES... they are being
returned to sender and I would hate for your goodies to be sent
back. Also all letters must sent by August 31st to arrive here on
time. Lastly, internet access here at our new home (Camp Striker) is
limited, please keep writing... but know it will just take a little
longer then usual to write back.
Thank you for everything... even reading this far down on my email. I
can't wait to see each of you again. Until then take care of each
other and I will promise to do the same!
Shalom my friends,
A Quiet in Amidst in the Storm (July 10, 2005)
Happy Independence Day (belated of course)! I apologize for such a long absence, it was not my intention to make any of you worry… I am just happy to report that as months go here in Iraq, June was a very quiet month for me and my crew. Don’t get me wrong, a lot has been happening, just not while I was on patrol. The most important fact in our lives right now is that is it July and we only have two more months of patrolling before we head home.
We are beginning the long process of packing and shipping our stuff home. This unfortunately means that I need to start getting rid of everything that I am not going to be carrying home. Therefore… No more packages after the 15th of July. Once again:
***NO MORE PACKAGES AFTER JULY 15th***
You can still send letters until the second week of August.
I have been honored and almost overwhelmed by the generous outpouring of goodies, toys, fans and soccer balls that some of you have sent over the past month. I especially want to thank Arthur Bruggeman, GI Joes Sports, and Kat for donating over 200 soccer balls. In addition there are no adequate words of gratitude I can say to Alison Calvert who managed to get over 33 boxes of shoes donated.
Needless to say the battalion mail staff cringe when they hear my name… and I have literally taken over an entire ¾’s of an office in our HQ. But that is small price to pay, when every patrol has been taking a box of shoes and a couple soccer balls to hand out.
Usually when we patrol the streets people keep a keen eye on us where ever we go and when we get out of the trucks (humvees), usually there is a moment of tension because the Iraqis have no idea why we choose to stop. But as soon as people recognize the “Ta’beeb” (doctor) and I open the trunk of the Humvee… kids will appear from no where. The nervous feelings melt away and are replaced by an almost out of control free for all. It is in those moments where we meet each on equal footing… as humans. As we mount up in the trucks, I usually take a second to look around and soak in the smiles. I find hope in those moments.
Unfortunately, our area has been struck by a sharp increase of violence. One night, an hour before we were set to go on patrol, 3 vehicle borne IEDs (VBIEDs) were detonated near a local restaurant killing dozens of civilians. Later that night a near by base was attacked by mortars and there were reports of smalls arms fire through out our battalion area of operations. But in between all these traumatic events… my patrol sat quietly undisturbed guarding the roads. I was even reading the last Harry Potter book during the patrol in anticipation of the release of the 6th book. A quiet in the midst of a storm.
Another prime example of this is when a fellow medics was accompanying the patrol immediately after mine. We had just called it a day and hurried home to try to make morning breakfast. A couple hours later a convoy traveling along the roads we provide security for was hit by an IED. The truck that was hit drifted for awhile and went off the side of the road. When the patrol that relieved us arrived they found the driver and the TC (truck commander) laying on the ground. Both of them were missing both their legs and one of them was missing an arm. The medic who was on the convoy had successfully applied 5 tourniquets, but the scene was too much to handle for the one medic and he kind of lost it.
Both people were fully conscious when my buddy arrived and he immediately took over the scene from the other medic. He initiated IVs and gave them morphine. He did everything he could keep those two alive until the bird (medevac) landed and took them away. When he recounted the story to me, he started to cry… he said one of the soldiers kept asking, “Why can’t I feel my fingers?” not knowing that his arm was missing. My friend has since had trouble sleeping and has been taken off patrols for a couple weeks. These moments will make anyone doubt their skills and I reassured him that those soldiers could not have been blessed with a better medic by their side. While I was worrying about getting my breakfast burrito, my friend was having a life changing experience. Here was sobering example of what I meant by a quiet in amidst the storm.
So what do soldiers do when things are “quiet”… although there are some things I can’t talk about here, they love to challenge each other to do stupid things (like shooting each other with a tazer). After 9 months I finally succumbed to one of those challenges. As most of you know I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs and I waited till I was 21 to drink… Well this was completely unacceptable to this group of Southern bad boys that I patrol with. They have spent the past nine months trying to get me to take a dip of tobacco. I personally think it is one of the most disgusting habits alive, but it is definitely a fixture of Southern culture and one day I agreed to be adventurous.
It was a hot day (110 degrees) and they immediately set me up for failure. They pulled out Copenhagen Long Cut. I guess Copenhagen is the big leagues of dipping, I didn’t know any better. I should have known I was in trouble when everyone pulled out their video cameras and was so excited to watch. I tried in vain to pack the can and failed miserably to pinch my own dip. You are supposed to get a tight pinch of tobacco and stuff it in the pocket of your lip… unfortunately mine got all over my face. So finally Sgt. Hedge pinched the dip for me and stuffed it in my lip.
After a couple minutes of spitting… I started to feel woozy. I had to lean against the truck and I couple feel myself get dehydrated by the minute. It was very reminiscent of “mile 19” during my marathon. I thought for sure I was going to be able to make it through this experience without incident. After 10 minutes and 3 seconds they let me take the dip out. As I leaned over to spit it all out… the heaving began. For the next 4 hours I was puking my guts out. All caught on video. The drive back to base was the worst… I kept praying that we wouldn’t get hit by an IED, because I was out of the fight. I made it till we got in the gate before I started vomiting into an MRE bag. Afterwards I drug my self to the steps in front of my door and sat there for two hours before I could go inside. For a week afterwards even the slightest scent of tobacco made me queasy… It was worse then gas chamber by a power of ten! But at least I was inducted into the Southern manhood club… or whatever that means.
Aside from soccer balls and dip… (I fell asleep writing this part and had to leave early the next morning on the next patrol). Well if you tempt fate long enough… it will reach out and bite you. The quiet we have enjoyed for past few months was shattered.
It was still dark outside when I woke-up. We suited up, got the pre-mission briefing and said our prayers. SSG Willis was the patrol leader that day because our Lt. was testifying in an Iraqi court. The case was against some insurgents who had participated in an IED attack that happened in November. I was more awake then usual as we drove along the MSR (main service road) to our patrol sector… I was trying to figure out how to finish this update… I had just decided it would be called “the quiet in amidst of the storm.”
We got stuck behind a large convoy of Iraqi National Guard (ING) soldiers. INGs are prime terrorist targets because they usually travel in large groups and in the back of unarmored trucks. When we got to the MSR they turned one way and we turned another. About 10 minutes later I heard a muffled explosion and my first thought was that the INGs had been hit by an IED. Then I heard the crack of gun fire. Gun fire is not an unusual occurrence, so at first I didn’t pay it no mind. Then the gunners in each of the Humvees traversed their turrets to the right and unleashed a hail storm of bullets. It was then that I realized that we, not the INGs, were the ones being attacked.
All I could do was watch… Tracers were flying in all directions. I was sitting on the wrong side of the Humvee to see where they were firing at, but I did see two tracers zip over the head of the gunner immediately in front of us. Those tracers had come from the left side, the opposite side of where we were firing at. We were being engaged from both sides.
I should have felt scared or nervous… but instead I watched the light show unfold in front of me. The unique and frightening sound of the “Ma Duece” (M2 - .50caliber machine gun) pumping rounds down range was rather assuring. I have the utmost respect for our gunners. I have heard many stories since I have been over here about gunners who froze in a fire fight. Our gunners dropped it like was hot. They lit the sky red and I could see rounds explode against the ground and the walls. They showed their courage and warrior ethos. The firefight lasted about 3 minutes.
In that moment I was proud to be under the protection of the Alpha Company Killas, 2nd platoon to be precise. This same platoon was the first patrol to be engaged, IED’ed and ambushed. Did I mention that it all happened at once and on their first patrol outside the wire?
When the dust settled we had fired over 500 rounds of ammunition. We suffered no injuries or any damage. We did leave a trail of bullet holes along the side of the road and accidentally hit an American tank with a few ricocheted .50 caliber rounds. We have no idea if we hit any of the insurgent who were firing at us, but I can say for sure the ambushers were not prepared to meet up with the Alpha Company Killas.
A quiet in amidst the storm.
To finish my last thought… “Aside from soccer balls, dip [and firefights]” our patrol spent a week in guard towers around the base protecting Baghdad International Airport (BIAp). Normally a private security firm called “Global Security” would manage these towers. However they were never paid the $12-15 million owed to them, so they staged a walk out. Rumor had it that an Iraqi minister walked off with the money to Syria, but rumors in the ARMY are even more unreliable then those back in the states. I spent a couple days wasting away in a tower. I can’t tell you how bad I wanted to go back on patrol.
After 3 days… I got my wish. Then two days later I was sent to Balad (about 100 miles north of Baghdad) to take a class to renew my EMT license. Myself and Sgt. Richard, another medic, hopped on the public transportation system of the US military in Iraq… Blackhawk Helicopters.
I have never been on a helicopter before. Of course I forgot ear plugs and the noise of the engine was deafening. Taking off and watching the land fall away from you was frightening at first, but soon we were zipping over downtown Baghdad. I was like a little kid. The same kind of little kid who hangs out the side of the trolley cars for the first time, except we were going over 100 mph. I attempted to record everything with my video camera. We stopped at various bases along the way… I was just happy that the ride wasn’t over.
The EMT classes were truly just a refresher course and Sgt. Richard and I spent every free moment we had sunbathing by the Olympic sized pool. Balad also has a full sized theatre where I saw Batman Returns on the big screen. The bootleg version I had seen before had been missing 30 minutes… and I didn’t notice. We ate out for every lunch and dinner (subway, pizza hut and burger king). The whole experience lasted a week. It was a welcome break from patrols and a chance to make a few new friends.
The ride back was completely different then the ride to Balad. A bunch of flights had been cancelled due to weather conditions. Seating was packed but still everyone was avoiding the back right seat. I wanted desperately to be by the window this time, so I quickly volunteered. The crew chief asked me if “dipped” and I replied, “Only once and it will never happen again.” I put in my ear plugs and put on my sun glasses… I was ready.
The Blackhawk crew had taken off the windows to the passenger compartment. I could feel the wash from the rotors hit me as soon as they began to rotate. I thought this going to be fun! As soon as we lifted off I knew why they had asked me if I dipped. I felt like I was in a wind tunnel or I had stuck my head outside a car window going down “The 5” at 90 mph. I couldn’t turn my head either way and I could only breathe through my nose. As we picked up speed I could literally feel my cheeks flapping in the wind. Of course that did not stop me from videoing… I just couldn’t see what I was videoing. If I wanted to breath out my mouth I had to cup my hand and put it over my mouth and nose. When we landed finally back in Baghdad… my face had been pressed into a perma-smile. Just like a little kid on a trolley for the first time.
Once again I am sorry for not writing in such a long time… I can’t wait to see all of you. Thank you for reading this far and for all your support and prayers. I can’t wait to be able to catch with you in person.
I miss you,
Near Life Experiences - 01Jun05
It was a lazy Sunday morning… I had gotten up and rushed to the chow hall to get my favorite breakfast burritos before they closed. I digested my feast through a hurried church service and then meandered to the Caravan to buy some bootleg DVDs. I wandered back home and decided to stop in and see a few friends. There were six of us, just kicking some dirt… laughing about nothing at all. I was thirsty so I walked across the room, grabbed a 1.5L bottle of water and started sucking it down.
I never heard the first mortar whiz overhead, nor did I hear the second one for that matter. I do remember hearing a solid BOOM with an accompanying shaking of the earth that seemed all too familiar to this native Californian. There was just enough time for me to take a deep breath, when the room seemed to explode around us. The dirt came first billowing in like a sand storm, then the walls started to reverberate violently and finally the concussion hit like clap of thunder knocking everything off the walls. The door flung open and the roof momentarily separated from the walls. The image that sticks with me was watching my patrol sergeant’s whole body cringe as the smoke and debris engulfed him.
It took a couple seconds to answer all the questions in my head…
Am I ok? Yes.
Is everyone else ok? Appears so.
What just happened? An explosion.
Am I really ok? Appears so.
What caused the explosion? Probably a mortar.
Am I still in danger? YES!!!!
What do I do? Run for cover… FAST!
We ran out the door and hid behind a large concrete wall. As I ran I must have screwed the lid on the bottle of water before I dropped it… which now seems like such an odd thing to do when you consider the mess that was everywhere. Mortars usually come in twos, but nothing is ever for sure. They had been close… the smoke was coming from across the road. It was then that I realized that I was laughing… not hysterically, more a satisfied chuckling.
All the people in the building were OK… time to be a medic. I ran out into the open and towards the smoke. There were other medics running my way… the smoke was too far away now. I stopped and turned around and saw to my horror that on the opposite side of the concrete wall we were hiding behind was a large impact sight. Shrapnel had peppered the barrier and large chunks of concrete were missing. There didn’t appear to be any immediate causalities… so we surveyed the damage. It was by an act of god that no one was killed.
When I have a "Near Life Experience" I become very giddy, thankful and huggy (imagine that!). The "what ifs" came later, but for a few moments I felt completely alive and awake to all my senses. I could see the faces of the people I love… you know instantly what you need to say to them when you see them next.
"Near Life Experiences" don’t have to be so dramatic. They can take place when you are stepping off the sidewalk and a car whizzes by too close or when you feel like you are falling down and you catch yourself or when you find yourself paying tribute to a fallen friend. Last Monday we had the memorial service for Sgt. Fell and Sgt. Semebly. My heart melted when I read that one left behind a finance and the other a little boy. Reminders of our mortality are also reminders of our vitality.
The days following the deaths of Sgt. Fell and Sgt. Semebly have been some of the most dramatic, but I did not dare write another Campbell Watch out of respect.
The day after our buddies fell, our section went out on patrol. We were out to prove a point; No body messes with the Alpha Company Killas and gets away with it. All of us were aching for vengeance. I found my mine in the oddest way. A large military convoy was traveling along one of our routes when they suddenly stopped. We drove up to investigate… Lt. Reich and I found the closest Humvee, when I heard "two gunshot wounds… in the cab of that truck".
I was running back to the Humvee to grab my aide bag before anyone said anything to me. The truck was a civilian semi-cab… the military typically contracts 3rd country nationals to drive its supply routes with military convoys. I heaved myself up into the cab. Inside I saw a civilian, probably a Pakistani about 35 years old, lying in the sleeping area of the semi-cab and a soldier leaning over him treating him. The soldier asked me if I was a medic. He then began to rattle off his assessment of the patient. I figured this other soldier was a medic too. I was only half listening. I was trying to figure out where I could best help and not be in the way.
I looked the patient up and down; saw a green ARMY field dressing wrapped around his head, two gaping bullet wounds in his chest and no other obvious injuries. As I was scanning the scene I noticed that the other soldier’s aide bag, was half the size of mine and was not a medic’s aide bag at all. He had the compact green Combat Life Saver (CLS) bag. The same type people buy at surplus stores to carry their toiletries in. Combat Life Savers receive two days of medical training and are expected to treat some one until a medic can arrive on the scene. Our entire company is CLS qualified.
I asked him, "Are you a medic?" I could see the answer in his eyes before he said, "No and this is way above my training." This was my patient now and we didn’t have much time.
"Tell me again what you said before!" "He has a gun shot wound to the head, two in the chest, and a broken arm."
"Any exit wounds?" "I don’t know."
"What’s his name?" "I don’t know."
"Hey there… I am here to help… what is your name?"
The man never answered my question, but he did manage to say "hospital." He was conscious and breathing… and remarkably perfectly calm. I told him "we are going to take you to hospital real soon."
I thought to myself… ABCs (Airway, Breathing and Circulation). He had an open airway and was breathing because he was talking to me, but with two gaping holes in his chest that wouldn’t last. He didn’t appear to be bleeding profusely anywhere. If he had really been shot in the head… it was already bandaged and I needed to assume that it was done correctly. So immediately I surmised that his two biggest threats to his life were the sucking chest wounds and loss of blood. I instructed the CLS soldier to initiate an IV to help replace his lost fluid. Both of his arms were bloody and appeared to be broken, so I told the CLS to start it in his feet.
I needed to know if there were any exit wounds… so I cut off his blood soaked shirts (we was wearing 3 layers), lifted the patient which caused him to flinch for the first time and inspected the back… no exit wounds. Thank God! A sucking chest wound, if not sealed, will cause a lung to collapse. I ripped off the outer covering of one of the IV bags and crudely cut it. It was plastic and sterile… and with enough tape it would seal the wound.
At this point our patrol took command of the convoy. I could hear Sgt. Fabacher yelling instructions… moving people here and there. I could hear our gunners "dropping it like it was hot" making sure that nothing was going to get too close. The gunfire was constant… and reassuring. I had set down my weapon and couldn’t pay attention to anything but the person in front of me. I trust my battle buddies with my life and I was in good hands.
The CLS had been struggling to get the IV started… starting an IV is the real test for any CLS. Sgt. Guilliot, one of the guys on my patrol team, climbed up into the cab and asked if we needed any help. At first I didn’t like the idea of another person in such a confined area, but Sgt. Guilliot proved to be a very helpful asset. He watched the CLS attempt to stick the patient in the foot… the CLS’s hand was trembling so much that he missed the vein. Sgt. Guilliot took over and like a pro had the IV dripping in no time.
I needed tape… lots and lots of tape if I wanted to seal this wound. I kept yelling at Sgt. Guilloit and the CLS to tear me more tape. While they were tearing me tape… I placed a high speed pulse oximeter on the patient’s finger. His heart rate was calm, but the amount of oxygen his blood was getting was dangerously low. When I had enough tape, I instructed Sgt. Guilliot to inject the patient with an auto-injector filled with 10mg of morphine. As I was taping away… I noticed that Sgt. Guilliot hadn’t injected the morphine yet. I popped the red top off the auto-injector, firmly placed it against his thigh and pushed. In an instant my folley became painfully clear, I was holding the auto-injector upside down and I just stuck myself in the thumb. I flung the needle away as soon as I felt it pierce the skin… and I saw most of the morphine spray away into the cab.
"Oh Shit… I just stuck myself." I had no idea how it would feel or how much I got… but I had to stay level headed. I carefully instructed Sgt. Guilliot on how to inject the patient with another morphine injector. I went back to trying to seal the wound. I couldn’t feel my thumb… if you have ever tried to tear tape without being able to feel your thumb… it is quite a challenge. I got the first wound sealed… I could see the condensation form on the plastic… which meant I got a good seal. Looking at the second chest wound, I realized that it was too low to have pierced the lung, so I wrapped it with an Israeli bandage (a high speed field dressing that resembles a cross between an old army field dressing and an ace bandage that we adopted from Israel).
I looked at his arms… they were covered with cuts from the flying glass. I found the worst area and wrapped it with a field dressing. Throughout this whole time I was talking to my patient and he was talking back, but not in English. I just wanted him to stay conscious and know that he was breathing. He said, "Water." Someone going into shock feels thirst because their body has lost too much fluid. I wet his lips, but did not dare give him any water. We needed to evacuate him quickly.
I yelled, "When is the medevac getting here?" "3 minutes" someone answered. We didn’t have time anytime to do anything else… we need to extricate him. They brought up a litter and we carefully loaded him up. When I grabbed his arm he flinched… only second time he flinched. The semi-cab was about 5 ft off the ground and getting him out was an acrobatic feat… but by the time we hit the ground the Blackhawk Helicopter had landed in front of us. I toke a breath and thought I was done… but I then I realized that I needed to get him on that bird.
I briefed their medic and we carried the patient to the bird. A Blackhawk helicopter is an impressive site to see flying above, but even more awe inspiring when it is beating right in front of you. I wish CNN could have been there to see the sight of a few soldiers carrying someone to medevac, while others were running with us pulling security. It was textbook.
The bird lifted off… and the convoy went along its way. I thanked the CLS before he left… I told him he probably saved that man’s life. I cleaned up my gear and sat under the A/C in one of the Humvees… I looked at my watch… that whole experience had lasted less then 15 minutes.
The next day we called the CASH… the hospital in the green zone. The patient was in ICU (intensive care unit), but he was still alive. The day after Sgt. Semebly and Sgt Fell were killed I got my vengeance against their killer… I took away one of his kills… we took away one of his kills and probably prevented many more.
I have had a few more "near life experiences" since that day, but they are neither as interesting nor dramatic. The few that are… aren’t ready to be told yet.
I have struggled with how much I should talk about these "near life experiences." As you can imagine mothers never like to hear about their sons being in harms way. Some soldiers never talk to their loved ones about them because it only causes worry and anguish. I err on the side of telling too much… it is my form of therapy.
If you get anything from these stories I have told it should be that your prayers have been working. They have formed a protective shield around us… a couple days ago that shield took the form of a steel reinforced concrete wall Also, don’t wait to tell people who you love that you love them. Because real true living… is about not needing dramatic experiences to know what is really important in life.
I miss you all very much… thank you for reading this far (for those of you who did). Continue to take care of each other and I will promise to do the same. I love and miss you all!
P.S. If you are interested in sending care packages… here is a revised list:
-> Snacks (especially cereal bars, tuna-to-go packets, beef jerky)
-> Fans that mist cool water (especially ones that have room for ice)
-> ****Soccer balls***** (I have a pump)
Soccer balls are the greatest gift you can give a kid here…
Everyone plays soccer
-> Sunscreen / Aloe vera
-> Small toys for the little kids
-> Pictures of yourself!
NO CHOCOLATE! (it is TOO hot)
Fallen Heroes (27May05)
Today is a sad day for the soldiers of 2nd Battalion.
Today we honor the lives and sacrifices made by two of
our own... SPC Fell & SPC Semebly.
Today we mourn the loss of two of our family.
Today we are trying to make sense of it all…
Less then a month ago, our battalion was assigned a
new AO (area of operations). We moved from the sticks
of rural Baghdad into the heart of downtown. Our
patrol area shrank considerably and our mission became
much more focused. Our first couple days in sector
reminded me of a scene out of the sitcom "Beverly Hill
Billies." Here we have some self-proclaimed "rednecks"
from Louisiana driving up and down the urban roads
with guns blaring… it was some sight.
Our mission, simply put, is to guard the major roads.
Our constant presence on these critical routes is
meant to deter insurgents from planting IEDs and
ambushing convoys. It is a very boring and sometimes
tedious assignment, but after watching the number of
convoys that pass along our routes it is clear why we
are there. During our convoy up from Kuwait, I
distinctly remember feeling grateful every time I saw
a patrol watching the roads.
So now we sit for hours on end watching the endless
traffic stream by.
Fours days ago, one of our patrols was attacked with
small arms fire as it drove down the road. Someone was
hiding behind big piles of trash and was shooting an
AK-47 at the Humvees. After months of mounting
frustration, they finally had something to shot back
at. Unlike the passing convoys, the patrol stopped and
engaged the shooter. Since he was alone and out in the
open they unleashed their brutal fury. Needless to
say what was left of the shooter was a gruesome sight.
Two days ago, I watched a convoy of Iraqi Army
soldiers pass along our routes. One of the tanks had
about 40-50 Iraqis sitting on top of it and I thought
to myself, that didn't seem like the smartest idea.
Not a minute later did we hear a loud "whishing"
noise, followed by an explosion and an eruption of
small arms fire. We sped up to try to catch the
convoy, but they had hauled ass out of our area.
As we came back around, we noticed some residents
flagging us down. We initially thought they were
showing us where the shooter was, but instead they
were showing us where the RPG had hit. It had gone
right through the window of someone's house and
completely charred the stair case. It is a miracle
that no one got hurt. Minutes later another group of
residents flagged us down and showed us where the
shooter had fired from. We recovered the RPG launcher
and got a description of the insurgents.
Because of our constant presence in the area, the
insurgents have adopted the hit and run method of
attacking us. They sometimes drive by and throw
grenades or pipe bombs or in true gangster style they
just spray outside the passenger windows with their
AK-47s. They have also detonated a few VBIEDs (Vehicle
Borne IEDs), but the overall number of IEDs compared
to our last patrol area has gone down considerably.
Although reports are sketchy… what I do know is that
one of our patrols was out one of our routes. For one
reason or another they were dismounted, out of their
vehicles, when someone opened fired on them. At least
two soldiers were hit… one died immediately and
another died while being transported on the
These two soldiers are heroes. They lived and died
serving their country. They fought for freedom for an
oppressed people and they paid the ultimate sacrifice
for our security back home. Although their job was
unglamorous, their contribution was complete. No words
that I can say here will ever be able to honor them
After 8 months of patrolling, I was not alone in
thinking that we might make it our whole tour here
without losing someone. Today our battalion suffered
our first KIAs (Killed In Action). Most everyone here
is still in disbelief about what happened, recalling
the conversations they had with these two only hours
earlier. We all deal with grief differently… being
here requires you to bury it and hope that when you
back home that you can unearth it and give its proper
respects. Until then… I am going to keep writing…
because that is how I keep sane.
We have 3 ½ more months of patrols left… and all we
can realistically ask for is that you keep us in your
prayers. I ask that you pray for our fallen brethren
and their families. Lastly, please pray that their
sacrifice will help build a beacon of freedom in the
Until I can see you in person… I want you to know that
I love very much. Please take care of each other and I
will promise to do the same!
Shalom my friends,
P.S. I have made a lot of new friends with the local
kids in our new AO… In the midst of all the madness,
the smile and laughter of a child can be the most
Abu Ghraib Prison - (20Apr05)
A friend asked me, "Are you not writing us real updates because what
you are doing is really that scary?" If she only knew…
Quick Administrative notes:
* I have uploaded bios/pictures of everyone I patrol with to the
platoon website (www.embracethesuck.com/page4.html)
* The HUGS project is a drive to put together cooling strips used by
soldiers during the hot days… Since it has been over 100 degrees
recently I strongly encourage anyone interested to contact Karen
Stark @ ( thehugsproject.com )
I am happy to report that we made it safely home from our special
assignment at Abu Ghraib prison. About a week ago, we got word that
we would be the main effort in a Task Force sized raid to disrupt a
terrorist cell in a nearby AO. The actual term for our mission was
a "cordon and search." "Cordon" means that we shut down all access
in and out of an area and "search" means we only knock once… with a
battering ram or a stiff kick.
This raid would involve 3 battalions and targets were spread out
over a very large area. That much firepower traveling up the road
performing a well rehearsed dance was quite a sight. Out of all the
patrol teams on this raid, our team was selected to have NBC be
embedded with us. That is where I met Richard Engel, a stanfurd
graduate and a NBC war correspondent. Needless to say we chatted the
entire time… until the ramp on our Bradley lowered and it was time
to put on my war face.
No matter how much one rehearses for a raid… as soon as you get
there it becomes utter chaos. When I got out of the Bradley we were
in a field surrounded by houses and we were running around in
circles for about 30 seconds trying to find our target… but as soon
as we got oriented we became a highly efficient raiding unit. We
cleared two houses in a manner of minutes. We completely trashed
both houses looking for any sign of terrorist activity. Much to the
disappointment of the guys from NBC the raid was quiet and
uneventful… just like I them. Overall the task force raid caught and
detained most of their targets. The ride home was spent joking and
discussing how we were going to spend our next two days off… going
to pool was top on that list.
We got to the motor pool at 2330… I was soaked with sweat from the
raid and riding in the back of the Bradley. As soon as we got out…
someone said, "Here is the good news… as soon as you get back to
your room you need to back your stuff and be ready to leave in one
hour for Abu Ghraib (AG) prison for 5 days." We had no explanation
of our mission or why we needed to leave so abruptly. We had just
pulled 4 patrols in a row and a task force sized raid… we were all
pissed that we were going to be missing out on our two days off.
Thankfully our leadership told AG that we were not leaving till the
morning. I needed the sleep but all of us slept a nervous sleep.
Background: As some of you might remember the same night our dear
Pope passed, there was a large scale attack on Abu Ghraib prison…
the scale of which we have not seen since George Bush landed on that
aircraft carrier under the banner "Mission Accomplished." (BTW…
There was no sarcasm in that statement ;) ) The insurgents attacked
the prison from three sides using the terrain features and a full
arsenal of weapons.
They started with mortars fired a couple miles away… and unlike
previous times they had a forward observer, someone who watches the
impacts and gives firing corrections to the mortar teams. They also
fired RPGs and threw grenades at the guard towers and followed each
with intense small arms fire. Because the attack happened on so many
fronts it was impossible to effectively amount a counter attack. The
marines in one of the towers were so badly injured that they
repelled down the back of one of the tower. Just then a suicide
bomber driving a VBIED rocked the outer wall sending up a mushroom
cloud, completely annihilating the tower the marines had just
evacuated. The insurgents advanced on the prison and when the smoked
cleared they realized that they had not breached the outer wall.
This same night… I was sitting in the chow hall watching CNN's
morbid coverage of "Pope Death Watch 2005." I didn't have to be
anywhere so I sat for an hour doing nothing… Afterwards I meandered
back to my room chatting on my cell phone with my friend Erika Boyd.
I told her that I would call her back in 5 minutes… I went to lay my
stuff on my bed when I saw a note saying, "Entire Company… Full
battle Rattle…in front of the TOC…ASAP!!!!...Response to Ambush (sp?)
… on another company"
I threw my gear on and rushed to the TOC… I caught the second LMTV
(big open air truck) down to the motor pool. Our entire company was
scurrying to and fro… I was assigned to the lead Bradley. This was
real combat… and we were about to enter the shit! I told the people
on my patrol team that they better come back safe because we still
had a couple episodes of Smallville season 4 to watch together. I
said it to lighten the mood, to let them know I was counting on them
to be safe and that despite all the craziness swirling around there
was still good and pure things, like Smallville, left in this world!
3rd Platoon, our tank platoon, (with whom I earned the scar on my
lip when I first got here) was limping into the motor pool… They had
been heading home when the attack on AG started. As they rolled down
a service road… a car with no lights pulled out from between two
buildings, striking the back end of the M1 Abram tank and blew up.
It rocked everyone on the patrol, blew 3 tires of the Humvee behind
the tank and parts of the insurgent's body were splattered all over
the tank. They immediately came under attack by small arms fire and
RPGs… it was at that time that the insurgents learned why the tank
is the most deadly ground fighting vehicle. Anything that moved was
quickly smoked by .50 caliber machine guns and 3rd platoon safely
rolled into the motor pool.
It was unconceivable to us that our entire company of Bradleys were
just sitting in the motor pool while the battle was raging outside
of the wire. Even mild mannered Pvt. Warmfuzzy was ready to fight
because we all knew soldiers that we fighting the fight of their
lives. Frustration mounted… still waiting for the green light…
The first two QRF (quick reaction forces) that were sent to
reinforce AG prison were met by tank mines strewn across the major
highway connecting our base and AG prison and a few coordinated
ambushes similar to the one 3rd platoon experienced. Air support
from Blackhawks and Cobras came, but with so much fire and confusion
on the ground the Blackhawks turned around while the Cobras stayed
After two hours of sustained fighting… the insurgents realizing they
had not breached the outer wall to AG prison retreated into the
darkness. They grabbed as many of their dead and their weapons as
possible… they even dragged one rather large insurgent for 20 feet
before giving up. By the grace of god… or I like to think the Pope's
last gift to man… no American soldiers died that night. Over 40
Americans were injured and I think about 10 were so serious that
they will not be returning to duty.
You all received my email that night… I thought for sure they would
have blacked out our communications… so I emailed everyone as fast
as possible. But then the next day one could scarcely find the
coverage of what happened… Although I had been surprised by the lack
of coverage… I would rather them be praising Pope's life then
discussing the deaths of American soldiers (which thankfully didn't
We left for AG prison thinking that our mission was going to be like
our 5-day mission on the bridge during elections. We packed for
sleeping in the Bradleys and you can believe when I say that I
brought my sleeping bag this time. Having delivered prisoners to AG
prison before, we at least knew where we were going.
Abu Ghraib prison was built by the British in the 1970's and was
later used by Saddam Hussien to inflict all kinds of torture on "his
people." AG prison is now one of the largest prisons run by the US
military in Iraq and is definitely the most infamous. The prison is
surrounded by a huge outer wall, lined with fences and guard towers.
Within the outer wall are more walled areas that house each of the
old prisons, with their own fences and guard towers. Up until now we
had only been to the prisoner in-processing center. Sidenote: There
is much dispute on how to spell Abu Ghraib… on at least one map it
was spelled two different ways and the T-shirts at the PX are on
sale for misspelling AG.
We were relieving a company of Marines who had been providing outer
security for the prison for the past 3 months. These Marines had
taken the brunt of the attacks on April 2nd and they were ready to
get the hell out of there. We were moving in as they moved out… and
not much was said between us. The Marines had about 3 times as many
soldiers then we did, but we had Bradleys and in the minds of the
higher ups that made all the difference.
We moved into one of the old prisons… the Marines had slept in every
available room… including the old cells. Thankfully our platoon fit
in one of the administration buildings and I was able to find the
only room with a real bed! The prison we stayed in came complete
with torture chambers, a drowning pool, two incinerators and a stage
for puppet shows decorated with Disney characters. I felt like we
were living in an old concentration camp.
Our mission was to provide the sole outer security to AG prison. We
would patrol the surrounding areas and provide QRF (quick reaction
force) in case the base was attacked. The latest intelligence from
the prisoners suggested that another attack on AG prison
was "imminent." We studied the attack on April 2nd and poured over
various maps. Our patrols would be much shorter then we were used
to, but in exchange we weren't allowed to go anywhere for an
extended period of time because we needed to respond at a moment's
As we left to grab some lunch… we heard an all too
familiar "wizzing" noise followed by a white stream of smoke. Not
one hour after getting to AG prison someone shot an RPG (rocket
propelled grenade) just over our heads. The chow hall was much
smaller then the Tigerland DFAC, but just looking around one could
see the diversity of uniforms. Every branch of the military (except
the coast guard) was represented. The people who stuck out the most
were the Romains, a few of which had bright red hair in pig tails.
The Romains are all volunteers doctors and specialists who work at
the AG hospital.
Our first patrol outside the wire wasn't till Day 2. Immediately to
the North and South of the prison are two MSRs (highways) and just
beyond those MSRs are villages. To the West of the prison is a
densely populated and unfriendly area called the Kandarai market. To
the East are palm groves, fields of tall grass and an aqueduct. As
soon as we entered the market we dismounted from our Humvees and
walked along the sides of the road. So many people were standing on
the sides of the road… that it must have seemed weird for us to be
making tactical movements down the road. This patrol was all
about "presence" and letting the locals know that we are here and we
don't mess around. No matter how hard core we were trying to be… of
course I couldn't help but wave back at the children who were waving
at us and say hi to the shop owners in Arabic.
As we approached one of the intersections Lt. Riech and SPC Langley
saw some flares fired into the air. They were sure that this was a
signal from the insurgents and we moved down that road like we were
about to raid a house. Finally word came down from one of the towers
that there were some people on the roof of one of the houses and the
towers routinely fire flares as a warning to those people to get
down. With the blood still pumping… we finished patrolling the
market area. We had passed fruit stands, barbershops, clothing
shops, mechanic shops and even an Iraqi version of Kinko's. Most
people glared at us… but a few smiled and waved.
The next stop was the palm grove East of the prison. Again we
dismounted and walked up and down the side of the prison looking for
anything suspicious. I was wading through tall grass up to my chest
and needless to say my allergies were kicking my butt. For the rest
of my stay at AG I was known by everyone as "sneezy." I could see
where the insurgents had hidden in the grass two weeks prior… but
thankfully nothing was waiting for us that day.
As we made laps around the prison… one of the guard towers called up
seeing a blue van pulled off the side of the road and that someone
had handed the driver a Motorola radio (which are commonly used to
detonate IEDs). We sped toward their location and of course there
were two blue vans coming our way. We stopped the first one and
right as we were about to search it… the other van pulled a quick u-
turn and "hauled ass" the other way. We left the first van and sped
after the 2nd… only to realize that the 1st van was our target. We
were angry at ourselves. With the help of the tower we then tracked
down the individual who had handed the Motorola radio to the driver.
It was a kid in his teens and it seemed as though this might have
been a case of snipe hunting (AKA a wild goose chase).
Right as we were about to leave… we received word over the radio
that they wanted to detain this individual and bring him in for
questioning. We put him in the back of the Humvee, blindfolded him
and put on Flex-Cuffs (handcuffs made from strong zip-ties). After
getting the colossal run around on where this detainee should be
taken to… we ended up in a trailer with 3 CI (counter-intelligence)
soldiers, an interpreter, and the detainee. The 3 CI guys did not
where any patches at all (not US ARMY, not a name strip or unit
crest or even rank). For the next 2 hours we witnessed a full blown
interrogation… I can't really get into what happened… except that I
stupidly leaned against the wall and turned off all the lights on
accident… opps! After all was said and done… they deemed the kid
a "security risk" and held him for more questioning. Since none of
us on our patrol had seen this exchange gone down… all we could do
was watch… however I did learn a lot by watching the process unfold.
Day 3: We spent most of the day playing cards in the courtyard of
our building. We played Spades, Uno and for those Camarillo High
Alumni… I taught them some Pasoy! Right in the middle of some mad
shit talking… we heard a loud crack immediately followed by
concussion that shook the whole building. 30 seconds later another
mortar landed even closer. It was just another reminder that we were
sitting in the middle of a war zone.
That night on patrol the guard tower had us chasing ghosts all over
the place… until they called up 30-40 military aged men gathering
off the SW corner of the prison. We rushed, worrying that this was
the being of the supposed "imminent attack." As we would come to
find out that the men were camping out over night to get in line
early for visitation hours with the detainees. No one bothered to
tell us that Day 4 was going to be visitation day… thankfully the
ever growing crowd was peaceful and allowed us to search them and
their cars. We sternly warned them that any perceived threat would
be met with force and that they could stay the night at their own
peril. By the time we left there were over 100 men sleeping in their
cars and on the ground.
Later that night we visited one of the villages. We had the prison's
S-2 (intelligence officer) and an interpreter who wanted to ask some
questions. This was the S-2's only second time outside of the wire…
which you could tell immediately because he wore all the gear we
shed months ago (knee pads, throat collars and a dust plug for the
muzzle of his M-16). Like usual… I let the Lt. and interpreter talk
to the Haji (elder men) of the village while I talked with the
children. I think I was the first soldier they had met who knew any
Arabic and I spent about an hour laughing and joking with them.
We learned that during the April 2 attacks Syrian and Egyptian
insurgents had taken over local houses and bound and gagged the
inhabitants. The media reported that there were only about 40
insurgents who mounted the attack… after talking to the locals… it
was more like 200. This tactic of taking over a house, terrorizing
the owners and using it as a staging point/trigger point is not
unusual, but this was on a completely new scale.
Day 4 was supposed to be a relaxed day escorting KBR employees while
they picked up trash… but of course nothing ever stays easy. Our
replacements arrived… and they needed to be shown their new AO. For
some reason they felt it necessary to bring every soldier they had
and thus I ended up giving a tour of the AO to 5 miserable soldiers
from the back of a Bradley. They were cool guys, but being in the
back of a Bradley for any amount of time will suck the life force
right out of you. Mercifully the patrol was limited to just a
Later that night… word was put out that the "imminent attack" was
really "imminent." So we maintained a presence outside of the base
all night along with our replacements. Thankfully… the night came
and went without a peep.
Day 5 consisted of packing and getting the hell out of dodge. As we
drove home… I was struck by the awesome responsibility we had just
been tasked with and how honored I felt to be patrolling with such a
talented group of individuals. We were smelly and tired but each of
us held our head a little bit taller knowing what we had
Thankfully they gave us the next day off which we used to go visit
the pool right outside of one of Saddam's palaces.
I have now rambled for almost 6 pages… and probably most of you have
not read this far… but for those of you who have… thank you… thank
you for sharing this experience with me.
Shalom my friends,
P.S. I neglected to mention in one of my previous emails that when I
treated the Iraqi who was shot by our sniper team that SPC Bellard
was vital in assisting me. He prepped all the equipment and put up
with me barking orders. I am sorry I forgot to mention you ;)!
Patroling - 14Feb05
A couple of days ago, we were conducting TCPs (traffic control points) along a major road. It was the day after my girlfriend broke things off and I was uncharacteristically quiet. I was all business. We were moving to set-up another TCP, when my patrol leader (Lt. Reich AKA Lt.) told the driver to "gun it." We had a rookie driver that had a history of getting us stuck in the mud, so if Lt. wanted him to "gun it" then something serious was going on. We were speeding and slipping down a muddy road, when I heard small arms fire not far in the distance. I braced myself for my first fire fight… we turned off the dirt road onto the hardball (a paved street) and we sure were going to get hit by IED. About 200m past the turn we saw a vehicle with two passengers getting out with their hands on their heads. Both tires had been blown out and the driver’s side windows were smashed. Lt. got to them first and literally dragged them away from the car.
About 5 seconds later, once we knew the scene was safe, I examined the two passengers. One was writhing in pain, while the other was lying perfectly still. I went to work on passenger writhing in pain and just like before when I treated someone, my vision narrowed and all my focus was on the person in front of me. He was holding his knee and I saw blood running down his leg. I slapped on my latex gloves, grabbed the trauma scissors off my vest and hastily cut off his pants leg. I could see two bullet holes, thankfully neither of which were bleeding profusely. I looked for exit wounds, but could not find any which meant either that he had two bullets still in his leg or that one bullet had exited the same direction it came in.
I grabbed a field dressing off my vest and applied it to the wound above the knee. I needed to apply direct pressure to stop bleeding, but I was having trouble tying it off. I got nervous because tying off a bandage is supposed the easy part, but I didn’t have time for doubt. I grabbed an Israeli bandage (a hi-speed field dressing) from my cargo pocket and bandaged the second gun shot hole directly over the knee. I yelled for someone to get my aide bag out of the Humvee and directed Lt. to call in an air medevac. I was tasking everyone around me to help me out… "Grab my IV set out of the bag! Start filling out a field medical card! Go get a litter off the other vehicle!"
I took his heart rate and observed his respirations. He was in serious pain, so I administered him 10mg of morphine in the thigh. He kept saying "No, No, No" before I stuck him and afterwards he was said "Yes, Yes, Yes." Next I had to start an IV line… Successfully starting an IV on the first try is how most soldiers gauge how good their medics are. So in the back of my mind… I just keep thinking… "Don’t F’ this up!" Just to add to the pressure this guy had really small veins and I had a big catheter. However, I was moving so fast that my doubts were like whispers at a concert and before I knew it I had found the vein and got the IV all setup. I had stopped the bleeding, started replenishing lost fluids, and dulled the pain all in matter of 5 minutes. With a bullet possibly lodged in his knee cap I splinted his leg for a fracture and treated him for shock.
Ten minutes after our call, the medevac (a Blackhawk helicopter) landed on the road in front of us. It is one thing to have these helicopters fly over us all the time, but this bird in front of me was a truly magnificent piece of engineering. The crew chief ran to us and I briefed him on the injury and we ran carrying the Iraqi to the helicopter. We loaded him up and ran back to our vehicles. I was so relieved to be done treating him, that I don’t remember the bird ever leaving.
I personally don’t know why someone had opened fire on this vehicle, but it doesn’t really matter to me… a patient is a patient is a patient. It was my first time ever treating a gun shot wound and I hope I did it right. I am just happy I was able to be there to help protect someone’s life (even if they are an insurgent). Please don’t misunderstand me… I hate what these insurgents are willing to do to innocent people and I will do what it takes to protect my fellow soldiers and the people of Iraq, but taking someone’s life is only justified to me when you are protecting someone else’s life. Maybe that is why I am the medic.
Later that day we had to go to the Green Zone to get some information from our patient/detainee. There is a level III hospital there and this was my first time getting to actually see downtown Baghdad. The sidewalks were buzzing with people, the streets were crowded with cars and the stores were busy hawking their wares. I saw some amazing mosques and statutes and I even saw the infamous crossed swords. The Green Zone was a concrete maze of jersey barriers, constantina wire and check points. After getting a little lost, we finally arrived at the CASH (new name for a MASH).
I wanted to see the hospital, so the Lt., the 1st Sergeant and I went to find our patient/detainee. The complex sprawled on and on, and I felt like we were a bunch of farm boys in the big city for the first time. We finally found the front desk, right next to the ER. As Lt. tried to locate where our detainee was, I noticed someone pull a double take. I turned around to find SPC Denman (now Sgt. Denman) dressed in desert camou scrubs. She was a really good friend from Ft. Sam Houston, who went to college with a HS buddy of mine.
At this point… In the last 24 hours my girlfriend had broken up with me and I had treated my first gun shot victim… Sgt. Denman and I hugged, but she will never understand how much I needed that hug at that moment. We were talking a mile a minute and everyone smiled at two friends being reunited in a place like Iraq. I was able to let go of all the shit that had built up over the past day and I knew everything was going to be alright.
Later that day… I sat in Ash Wednesday services and the sermon was about letting going of the temptation to try control our lives. The chaplain even used a Lord of the Rings analogy and might as well have been just talking to me… So I decided for lent to let go of my desire to control what happens in my life. I will be just be me, no matter what the world throws at me or takes away.
On second thought… I will just write about one patrol. The other patrol was about a week ago and was a Division level raid of a high priority target. We missed our objective by a couple of minutes, but I saw him drive away after we raided his house. He was almost 400m away and I couldn’t get the attention of the Bradley gunners. At that moment I should I have shot at the vehicle to try to disable it, but I didn’t. I hesitated, along with a couple of my other buddies. I feel ashamed and relieved that I didn’t shot at anyone, though this target is responsible for many attacks on American soldiers. Hindsight is 20/20.
That is enough for now… Even though this has been rough couple of days, I want you to know I am strengthened by your presence in my life. I am grateful and blessed. Happy Valentine’s Day to you!
Take care of each other!
Shalom my friend,
We survived the elections, Baghdad did not erupt into flames and I
hope the world is now a better place overall. The last 5 days have
been a rough journey physically, mentally and emotionally and need
less to say I am exhausted. It is by the grace of god and with the
help of all your prayers… that I am happy to report that no one in
my battalion was even injured during our 110 hour Election Day
mission. Although I have no idea how voting went, or who won, or
even what happened anywhere else… this is what I saw. (This is a
link to all my election day pictures http://patrickmcampbell.com/v-web/gallery/elections)
Our platoon was specially picked to be attached the 10th Mountain
Division. We were assigned to guard the 14th July Bridge in downtown
Baghdad. This bridge had been the site of numerous VBIED (Vehicle
Borne IEDs) and RPG attacks. It was supposed to be a 4 day mission…
Guard the bridge, search all traffic (vehicle and pedestrian),
provide general support to the 10th Mountain Division (we were the
only Bradley platoon), and shut down the bridge on Election Day.
In our briefing we were told that we were picked because we are the
best platoon in the brigade and this was the most dangerous mission.
Right after that briefing, we all had a gut check… I sent out my
last Campbell Watch (which sounded a little ominous I know), called
my parents and scared my girlfriend, almost away. I was filled with
an ominous feeling about the mission… I heard that we had lost some
soldiers that day and little things kept going wrong. For example,
my laundry wasn't ready, which meant all the sniffle gear I had
turned in would not be available for my mission. I had a restless
sleep on Wednesday night.
Thursday – 27Jan05
Our mission was supposed to start at 0700, but thankfully it was
moved back an hour… which meant that I was able to secure my sniffle
gear from the laundry service. I had no idea how important this
would become… We loaded up 4 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, tanks that
double as a troop transports. We were filled to capacity with ammo,
gear and food and water. We were told only to bring our assault
packs (desert colored backpacks) and sleeping bags only if we could
fit them in our bags. So I brought one change of clothes, 4 pairs of
socks/underwear, my fleece, 2 beanies, 2 pairs of gloves and my
medical aide bag. I couldn't fit the sleeping bag… so I decided to
rough it, BIG MISTAKE!
We first went to Camp Bonzai, in downtown Baghdad and waited to get
our assignments (http://patrickmcampbell.com/v-web/gallery/elections/E_CampBonzai). I found out that our convoy of about 20 vehicles had been hit with an IED along the way and the
Humvees sped away leaving the Bradleys by themselves without any
idea of where were going. No one was hurt… I didn't even know it
happened! At Camp Bonzai, I felt like I was back in HS… the 10th
Mountain soldiers stood together staring at us and we stood together
staring back at them. I was tempted to break the ice… but this was a
big iceberg. Two Bradleys were sent to recon the bridge… needless to
say that tanks were not designed to be driven down crowded busy
streets and we tore up a lot sidewalks and traffic circles.
We arrived on the Bridge at about 2200 and went to work immediately
securing it and preparing it for our 4 day stay. We set up Jersey
barriers, constantina wire (circular barbed wire), warning signs and
our fighting positions. Despite our initial briefing… we found an
Arkansas National Guard unit guarding one side of the bridge so we
set up on the far side.
The 14July Bridge is a suspension bridge over the Tigris river.
(Bridge - http://patrickmcampbell.com/v-web/gallery/elections/E_14July_Bridge) (Tigris River -
It was named by Saddam Hussein after an Iraqi revolution in the
1960s, where the sitting monarchy was toppled and replaced with a
Democracy. It spans almost 550 feet and is elevated in the middle
(meaning we could not see the other side or the other unit). We were
at the foot of the bridge, which was still elevated about 50 feet
above the streets below. We were surrounded by houses on either
side, which meant snipers were a constant worry. There was a small
IP (Iraqi Police) outpost below us and there were 4 concrete mortar
boxes on the sidewalks.
2nd platoon has been divided in two patrol teams since we arrived in
Iraq, so each team took a different side of the bridge (incoming and
outgoing traffic). As soon as all was set, they implemented the
work/rest plan. 6 hours shifts… 6 on and then 6 off. It all started
at midnight on the 28th and I was put to sleep because they wanted
the medic to be up when the action started in the morning. Some
people slept in the back of the Bradleys, while others like myself
bedded down on the sidewalk under the mortar bunkers. I put on all
my sniffle gear and pulled out the casualty litter as a cot
To my dismay, everyone else pulled out their sleeping bags and I
felt like I had been dupped into not bringing my own.
I was asleep quickly… At about 0230 I heard screaming from the
soldiers on duty that a fire fight was breaking out and I saw
tracers shooting through the air. Once I shook off my sleepy daze, I
quickly suited up my IBA (body armor), only to realize that the
fight was somewhere else. It was only when I was fully awake that I
realized how cold it had become. The fog had rolled in and the wind
was whipping across the bridge. My teeth were chattering and I had
trouble feeling my feet. I put on another pair of socks and lay down
to sleep, but my whole body was shivering… it was freaking cold. I
was in and out of sleep all night. At 0530, I was woke up and told
to get ready for my shift. I was miserable and determined to not let
myself be that cold again.
At 0600 we opened the bridge to traffic and began our TCP (Traffic
Control Point) http://patrickmcampbell.com/v-web/gallery/elections/E_TCP).
We searched every car and every person
that went over our bridge (http://patrickmcampbell.com/v-web/gallery/elections/E_SearchingPedestrian).
I didn't expect to find much because once people saw our TCP many of them turned around
and went another way. We searched traffic going and coming. And even
though the Arkansas Guard was searching all the cars coming from
their side… we searched them again just to be sure. If we searched a
car that had blankets in the back I would use my broken Arabic to
offer them money for their blankets. Unfortunately almost everyone
who had blankets was because they were going to be sleeping at their
work during the elections.
When you stand in one spot long enough you usually get to see a
little bit of everything… At one point we stopped a couple of
unmarked vehicles. When we got the occupants to exit the vehicle
they all had AK-47s. Everyone freaked and it turned into a little
bit of a Mexican standoff with everyone pointing weapons at each
other. A man in a suit pointed to himself and said quietly… "prime
minister." I recognized him immediately as the interim Prime
Minister of Iraq and with many apologies we sent them on their way.
At noon it finally started to warm up enough to remove one layer of
sniffle gear. Although it was my time to bed down; I still hadn't
acquired any blankets. The guys with me kept offering to steal them
for me, but I didn't want anything to do with things like that. I
saw some kids off the side of the bridge and with the help of my
handy dandy Arabic phrase book… I told the kids that I was willing
to pay for a blanket. After two hours… one of the kids brought me
out a blanket and I lowered a rope down to him and pulled up the
blanket. The kid would not take my money, despite my protests.
Finally I sent down on the same rope a pair of yellow tinted
sunglasses. Soon I had two more blankets and I knew I would not
freeze that night.
Later in the afternoon some kids came up to the TCP just to hang out
and talk with the soldiers. I was able to convince them they wanted
to go buy us some bread from the local market. They charged $5 for a
bag of 20 and I bought 4 bags for everyone to share. "Hoebez"
and "Seemon" are both types of Iraqi bread that are served
fresh. "Hoebez" is like pizza dough and "Seemon" is more like a
roll. It was our first warm meal in 2 days and it tasted so much
better then MREs.
My shift started again at 1800 and we closed down the bridge to all
types of traffic, supposedly until after the election. So all we did
was pull security. Pulling security, especially at night is an
exercise in focus and staying awake. Just like CG.ing back at
Berkeley… we just sat there and waited for something to happen. At
about 2200 we heard small arms fire down the river about 500 meters
away. We had heard intermittent small arms fire all day, so at first
no one was alarmed or even concerned. That is when the light show
started. All at once tracer rounds erupted from both sides of the
river and I was sure we were about to be attacked. Rounds were
shooting in every direction (except ours) and we had no idea who was
firing whom. So we hunkered down and just watched the show. I wanted
to film it, but I remember my resolution to all of you and thought
better of letting my guard down. It died down about 20 minutes later
and everyone was pretty excited about seeing such a show force. It
was like watching a war movie on TV… except you could feel
vibrations from each round down to the bone.
At 0001 I bed down under my three blankets and got a solid 5 ½ hours
of sleep. I was still really cold, but at least I had protection
from the moisture and the wind.
I was jostled from my sleep at 0530… "CAMPBELL, GET UP!" I was
freezing, shaking and I was still having trouble feeling my toes. I
ate a quick MRE breakfast and I was back at searching pedestrians
crossing the bridge. The transportation ministry had decided that we
needed to open the bridge back up to traffic… so like all good
soldiers we do what we are told. The morning went on much like the
day before, except this time we had a much bigger crowd of kids
hanging around and chatting with us.
I spent the whole morning learning new Arabic phrases and refining
my accent. I met two young adults nick named Rod & Mr. Bean, who
told me that the bread actually cost $1 for a bag of 20 "Hoebez"
(not $5). Mr. Bean worked for the river police below us, spoke
pretty good English and spent the day just chatting with me and
interpreting for us. They started making bread runs, soda runs and
even did a run to purchase an extremely overpriced phone card for my
Iraqi cell phone. Aside from the interpreter back at the unit, they
were my first Iraqi friends.
By noon, I had an almost 15 local kids joking around with me. We
joked that we were going to arrest the little "ali babbas" (thieves)
who had swindled us on the first bread run. One of the original "ali
babba" kids asked me what I though about the Iraqi people
(http://patrickmcampbell.com/v-web/gallery/elections/E_Little_AliBabbas), I said I thought they
were good hearted people… at least most of them. The little kid put
his hand and pointed to 3 of his 5 fingers… meaning 60%... saying
that most Iraqi people are good and then pointed to the other two
saying that the others are bad. It struck me as an insightful and
rather creative way to convey such a thought with such a limited
mutual vocabulary between us.
Due to some poor planning… we realized that both medics were working
the same shifts and that meant someone had to pull a double. I will
give you one guess on who it was! After a twelve hour shift of being
on my feet, shouldering my 50 lbs of body armor, and interacting
with the little kids… I passed out when my shift was over. I slept
from 1800 till 2330.
Sunday – ELECTION DAY – 30Jan05
At midnight the road was closed and all we needed to do was pull
security. We had jerry rigged a shelter from the wind and sat down
and just began talking. First was a round robin of political issues…
For two hours I defended, explained and argued the liberal point of
view on almost every controversial topic to a very conservative
audience. It was one of those great conversations where people knew
they weren't going to offend anyone and people were actually
listening to each other. Then we moved onto playing drinking games
(without the booze of course) that lasted well into the night. When
I felt myself getting sleepy I would just pace up and down the
As I reflected on the elections… I thought how odd it was for me to
be spending all my time here on Iraq on a bridge. Everyone in the
ARMY has a role and although not every role is as glamorous as one
would like it to be, each role is still vital to the success of the
whole. In that same vain, I was having trouble seeing how guarding
one edge of a bridge was going to help prevent the spread of
terrorism and encourage the spread of Democracy in the Middle East.
Right before dawn, it hit me… I couldn't imagine being at a better
place… then guarding a bridge that symbolized the transformation
from a monarchy to a democracy. I also remembered the countless
convoys of Iraqi soldiers that crossed over our bridge, being
escorted by US soldiers so that they could be placed at the various
polling sites. There must have been thousands of them hanging out
the side of their pick up trucks with no armor plating (or seat belt
I might add), wearing a ski mask for fear of reprisal against their
family and carrying an AK-47 rifle. Each of those soldiers were
counting on that bridge being a safe route of passage and I began to
understand my piece in the bigger picture of things.
My shift was supposed to be over at 0600, but our leadership
implemented an old ARMY infantry tactic called a "stand two" which
dates back the earliest origins of the US ARMY. It is a common
tactic to attack a fortified position like ours in the early morning
right before a shift change when everyone is still groggy and not
awake. So the theory is to wake-up everyone a little earlier and
have everyone pulling security… literally standing two people in
every fox hole. So everyone was awake at 0500 and we were bristling
like a porcupine with our weapons preparing for the worst. Dawn came
and I finally got off shift around 0700.
Right before I passed out I had a very emotional and intense phone
conversation with my girlfriend about the challenges we face with
our long distance relationship. I do not want to get into any
specifics, other then afterwards I was sure that our relationship
was going to end. Thus instead of sleeping, my mind was racing at a
thousand miles a minute about what we had talked about. I had so
many phantom conversations with her that morning that I never really
fell asleep before it was my shift again.
At 1000 I admitted to myself that I wasn't going to be able to fall
asleep. I had to distract myself by being busy, so I volunteered to
go on a foot patrol of the surrounding area. I strapped on my aide
bag (another 60 pounds of gear) and set off with 9 other soldiers.
No cars were allowed on the roads, so it seemed as the whole city
was milling about. Kids were playing soccer in the streets, old men
were sitting on their chairs on the sidewalks and families were
walking in the middle of the road. We were all business as we walked
past everyone; it must have seemed an odd sight seeing soldiers
being so serious when everyone else was being so festive.
We marched for about a click and a half, when we pulled off the road
into an abandoned lot on the river. We were about to set up an OP
(observation point), when we heard an eruption of gun fire near the
bridge. I heard one shot and followed by 20-30 shots being fired in
return. We doubled time back to the bridge, preparing ourselves for
a full battle. When we got back to the bridge, we found out that the
shots being fired were further down the river and everyone on the
bridge was just sitting there in awe.
With the bridge closed to everything except foot traffic and the sun
out… there were moments when we were just basking in the heat, like
lizards on a rock, finally thawing out. We searched a few people who
wanted to cross the bridge to go vote, but they soon returned saying
that the Arkansas unit had turned them back. For some reason we had
not been able to raise the other unit on comms (communications)
since we arrived, so Sgt. Hedge and decided that we were going to
personally escort this one voter across the bridge so he could vote.
Although I never saw a polling site or engaged any of the Iraqi
people in a conversation about the historic proportion of this day
or saw dancing in the street… I did escort this one man across the
bridge to go vote. We convinced the Arkansas unit to open their side
up to foot traffic and we searched pedestrians the rest of the day.
You could tell those people who voted because their right index
finger was covered with ink from the finger printing they did with
each ballot. The finger dipped in ink was a cross between an "I
voted" sticker and the ash mark on the forehead on Ash Wednesday.
All we could do as soldiers was to thank those people who had the
courage to vote, in their native language "Shorkran!"
From our bridge we heard numerous fire fights break out and mortars
land throughout the city. But we went the whole day without having a
single shot fired in our direction. It was as though we had a bubble
around us shielding us from the fight. The Arkansas boys were
constantly being engaged while we never once fired our weapons. In
post script, I believe full heartedly that we had been buffeted by
all the prayers said on our behalf over our journey. For that I am
truly, truly thankful! Election Day came and went and we were still
on this god forsaken bridge.
We all had hoped to leave our post at 0600… but word came down that
we had to leave at 1200. However right around 1130, we received word
that we couldn't leave till 1800. We were tired, cranky and
extremely agitated. People were yelling at each other and tempers
flared. It is a wonder that a fist fight did not break out between
All I wanted to do was cry… I hadn't eaten or slept in two days,
because my mind was so preoccupied with thoughts about my
girlfriend. Even the little kids knew something was wrong… They kept
trying to cheer me up… But nothing worked. I was feeling sorry for
myself. I kept thinking about why I would ever leave someone like my
girlfriend to volunteer to come to Iraq and guard a bridge. I had
thought about how much I had already sacrificed to be here and just
lost it when I thought that I would lose my girlfriend on top of it
all. At 1800 we said our goodbyes and loaded the Bradleys… only to
have to wait another 2 hours in belly of the Bradley for our escorts
to link up with us.
Everyone seemed to step on each other's last nerve and after a lot
of yelling, we finally arrived home after being on mission for 116
hours. Although I was starving, filthy and tired I spent the whole
night back working on repairing my relationship with my girlfriend.
Thankfully for both of us, we were able to work it out and I think
we are going to be stronger for the experience.
My good friend Dallas Lawrence likens this election to the collapse
of the Berlin Wall. I am much more reserved in my opinion of what
happened here in Iraq. I believe a free election in any country that
has come out from under the shadow of tyranny is a historic
occasion. However, in my humble opinion, this election did not
signal the collapse of the Iraqi insurgency like the Berlin Wall
signaled the collapse of Communism in Germany.
Our work in Iraq is far from over and although more then anyone I
want to be home with my family and my loved ones, we can't leave
till we ensure this experiment in democracy has been given every
chance to take root. But what do I know… I spent the election
guarding a bridge!
Pictures from the elections:
New Patrol Pictures:
Take care of each other and thank you for reading down this far!
Shalom my friends,
Patrick Campbell Wf