Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007!!!

Today is Dec 31st, the last day of the year 2007. This year has brought many memories, experiences and friendships and one big event in my life, that will forever be with me. On Jan 3rd of this year, we deployed to Kuwait and then finally up in to Baghdad, Iraq. Most of this year has been spent deployed, running missions, fighting a war within a concrete jungle, and just plain being bored out of my mind. But if theres one thing that this year has brought me, it would be the friends and brothers that I have been with and have come to think of as family. We have been through it all together and Im sure we will remain together for the rest of our lives.

Of all the years in my life, this will be one that I will remeber more than any. The memories I have from this place over the past year will be with me forever, and I will look back with both joy and sorrow. In the past year we have lost 2 great men from our company, men whos families did not get to spend this holiday season with the ones they love. These men made a sacrifice that no one could have asked them to make, and we will always remeber and tell the stories of these great men.

With a little time left, we will continue to make memories in this place through part of 2008, but the experiences of this year have been wide and numerous. In a land, far away from home, in a place much different than anything we have ever experienced before, we had made a life. Not the best of lives that could be lived, but we have made the best of what we have had. We will continue to do so until the day arrives that we are able to leave here, to finish our work in this land, and to head home to be with those that we love that we left behind.

For this New Years I have ended up with a nice suprise. Due to the rotations of our days off, I am ending up getting quite a few days off this time and will enjoy all of it. I plan on using this time to start packing things up and to start sending some boxes home. My goal is to minimize what I have to actually carry back with me, because the experience of carry all the gear at one time on our way here absolutely sucked ass and I will not go through that again if I don't have to. I have quite a bit of stuff that I bought here and I need to really assess what I want to keep and whats just not worth taking back. Probably over the next week I am going to get a bunch of stuff to send back and will buy a tuffbox to mail it back in.

Lastly things around here have been getting gayer and gayer by the day. There are so many stupid rules being put in place and they are enforcing them with vengence. Both of the other platoons in our company in the time that we were at the outpost ended up getting caught for "infractions" and having to post NCOs and infractors in front of the chow hall to check for other infractions. How stupid and what a way to boost the morale of the troops which has already dropped significantly after spending 12 months in this hell hole. There are so many new stupid rules and dumb shit that its not even worth listing, but it makes me wonder what they are thinking. Who in their right mind at this point in the game would want to make things even worse on us. Again I say "And they wonder why no one wants to re-enlist."

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry COLD Christmas!

Just a quick update, I managed to avoid the pink belley and I am offically safe now! :) I know some people wondered why I would post it here when anyone can read it, but the people in my platoon DON'T read my blog, because well, they'd be reading their own lives. So yeah. Also I noticed this is my 100th post!! Wow, I can't believe I have managed that many things to say about this place. Well still should be a few more coming before I head home...

Alright well Christmas is just about finishing up in this part of the world but I wanted to give a quick update. I figured that this Christmas, being that I was in Iraq, was not going to be the best of them, but it has turned out to be much worse than I would have expected.

Our rotation out to the outpost was working out so that I was going to be out here, away from the comforts of the home FOB. I was ok with that. I was also ok with not having a good Christmas meal or anything. I was fine. I was also accepting of the fact that I would usher the transition from Christmas eve to Christmas in a guard tower, probably cold as hell. Again no problems there.

A little divergence here for a minute. Let me tell you how damn cold it has been lately. If theres one thing that I cannot stand it is the cold. I know I had talked about this before and how I was dreading the winter approaching, but now that it is actually getting cold, I realize how much I truly hate it. The thing is, its not really all that cold. Its probably dropping down in to the upper 30's at night, but after going through a 120+ degree summer, thats a huge temperature difference. Add to the fact that this rotation my squads manning the guard positions durring the coldest part of the night. It probably wouldn't be all that bad if it wern't for the simple fact that the Army is great about not allowing you to be warm, despite the fact that they issue you all these different types of cold weather gear. But God forbid that you try and keep warm you know?!?

Me trying to keep warm in the guard towerWell we've managed to make use of what items we are allowed to wear and I guess it hasn't been THAT bad. About a month ago or so I had order some skin tight winter underarmor pants and shirt which are great for keeping you warm. On top of that I wear this thick cotton shirt all under my uniform which together makes it not too bad. Ive got my gloves and a fleece cap that I wear under my helmet and late at night I use my issued poncho liner blanket and half ass wrap up in an attempt to keep warm. Normally our guard towers have these AC/Heater units in there, that last time we were here, they were functional, but somehow in the last 2 weeks that we were gone, they ALL ended up breaking. Fabulous. Also within the places we stay at the outpost, it is cold as shit, and it has been made clear that we must maintain the "standard" appearance, so no wearing jackets around or the fleece cap when not on guard. How retard!?! Theres hardly anyone here of any significance and for Christ sake were living out in the middle of Baghdad. Is this really necessary??

So enough of my bitching and complaining about the cold. Back to Christmas. So we started off on guard, cold, but anyways time passed and finally we were done. Immediately afterwords, our squad drew names for the Secret Santa that we were doing. We all bought gifts in the $10 to $20 range and drew random names and got whatever gift that person bought. Following that, we had our "Christmas Dinner" which conisted of some smoked sausage and pepperoni with some cheese and crackers. It actually wasn't too bad. Following that several of us light up some cigars and celebrate the day of Christ's birth. It wasn't turning out to be all that bad of a Christmas, until we found out that they were planning on having another platoon relieve us for a bit so we could travel to a nearby base and get some real Christmas dinner.

This doesn't sound like a bad idea right? Well you have to figure all the time of getting everything ready, getting the handover going, heading out, getting back blah blah blah. Nobody in our entire platoon wanted to do this, but we were being forced. How joyful! To make it even better for us, the time we were going to be heading out was going to be smack dab in the middle of my squads sleep time. Awesome, now we are giving up sleep to do something that we don't even want to do in the first place.

Well seeing as how we had no choice, we were woken up got ready, and then headed out. Once we got there we receieve a speech that basically stated the time that we had, and that everyone was being forced to go in to the chow hall, to grab a plate of food, sit down and eat it and enjoy it and be Merry. Wow, I'm now being ordered to have a Merry Christmas in a manner in which I don't even want to do. And they wonder why a 26 year old who doesn't like to have his life run like he's 12 doesn't want to re-enlist!! HA! The food was actually pretty good, but all we could think about was how we didn't want to be doing this in the first place. Oh well, its the Army. What can you do? And of course leave it up to them to take something and ruin it. Well thats about all that I have for now. Hope everyone back home has had a good Christmas, or whatever you celebrate!

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

If it ain't broke, don't fix it...

Lately there have been some changes. Some changes from the squad level all the way up to the company. And with all these changes, come new ways of doing things. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. It seems with all of this new stuff, there have been many changes, and the way things are today are much different than how they were just a couple months ago. With all the changes that have been going on, the best phrase that comes to mind and had been said by many people is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Its pretty simple I think. If you come in to a system that has been working and working well, wouldn't it seem best to try and change as little as possible. Thats what you'd think but apparently that doesn't seem to be the case, and as a consequence, we suffer and things in certin ways have made a turn for the worse. I won't mention specifics but its kind of sad to see how things have changed. Several months ago when we got a new platoon leader, the guys working at the batallion headquarters told him he was taking over the best platoon in the batallion. Its just sad to know that the platoon they talked about isn't the same.

So on a lighter note, today is my 26th birthday. Exiciting I know. What a better way to spend your birthday than in a 3rd world war torn country. Awesome. Well at least I ended up having the day off simply by luck. I wasn't about to let anyone know it was my birthday (except those close to me) because my platoon has a tradition of holding down the birthday boy and pulling up their shirt and slapping the shit out of their stomach, giving you what has been referred to as a "pink belly." I don't plan on telling anyone until after New Years so I'm past the official statute of limitations for receiving a pink belly. Its the unwritten rule that if you sneak by for at least a week your officially safe. So far, 1 day down! :)

Well its been a little bit since I've posted and I've been pretty busy to be honest. We've been doing quite a bit and I probably could talk about a lot more but its late and I have to be up early so I'm just going to talk about an incident from the last patrol I went on. It was another long one, and we had our company commander out there with us so we had plenty of things to do.

The 2nd day that we were out, we ended up linking up with this guy at night that they wanted to talk to and see about maybe using him for some information. We ended up linking up with him but there were some people around so we went to move out to a more secluded location. I took my team, which was a total mix matched team. It was me, our medic, a forward observer, and squad leader from Scouts who was out with us. Anyways, we started walking along and all of a sudden these 2 kids took off running away down the alley. I thought to myself "What the hell?!" when all of a sudden 3 more came running out of a side alley I was coming up on and ran the same way the first 2 kids went. I was just coming up on the alley when this happened so I looked down the alley and thats when I saw this huge crowd of 40 people yelling and screaming!

Oh shit, whats going on now. Thats when the sound of what I figured to be a small caliber pistol rang out and some people started scattering. I immediatly stopped in place taking cover slighly behind a wall, shouldered my rifle and turned my night vision laser on to start scanning the people. Without skipping a beat the Scouts squad leader had moved up right next to me behind a car, and did the same thing. At this point people started rushing out of the homes with all sorts of stuff in their hands. Some people had boards, pipes and other things. This was getting bad when all of a sudden the Scout squad leader called out that one of them had an AK-47. This just got worse. This all happened in a matter of seconds and I yell out for everyone to stop as I begin to have my team advance on the crowd.

We were moving fast and I'm not going to lie I was a little worried about running in to a crowd full of angry people with all sorts of weapons ranging up to a pistol and a rifle. As we came running forward the crowd began to desperse and take off running. It was chaotic as we tried chasing people down and find those with weapons. We ended up losing the guys with weapons so we hearded up everyone that was left and began searching and talking to them. I'm not real sure what started this or why, but 2 of the fueding groups were there and even when we had them "contained" they were still arguing and yelling and getting physical. Thats where we had to step in and step up our level of agression to quell the situation and prevent it from getting out of hand. While we were dealing with all of that one of the guys pulling security noticed 2 guys dressed in all black come in to his alleyway and began walking away. Right before they turned off he noticed they had an AK-47 with them. When it was called up over the radio my awareness level went up 1000% anticipating things to go down or at least some pursuit after them, but for some reason still unknown to me now, we did no go after them.

We finally ended up calimg everything down and finsihing up what we were doing so we headed on back to link up with the rest of our guys and began telling the story of the craziness that just happened. It was pretty exciting and crazy to think about how close things had come to being really bad and getting really out of hand. The thing that worried me was if whoever had that AK within the crowd had started shooting at us, it would of been a hell of a time trying to shoot back at them without hitting all the people that were around. So what do you do in that situation?!? Hope I never find out.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Making up for lost time...

In the past few months, I can honesty say that I have not been on any raids. It has been quite a while. Now, this is not saying that raids were not happening, it just worked out to where I didn't end up on any for quite some time. It seemed as if for me there was going to be no more kicking in doors, rushing in to homes/businesses and all the craziness and excitment that comes with them. Since it has been so long since the last time I had engaged a known enemy, raids were the last form of a rush and excitment that was left.

Well that all changed over this last week. In one of my previous posts I talked about the night time raid with the masked and armed local guards. Apparently that was to be the first in a series of raids for me and the others of my squad. The next raid was to go after some guys that we wouldn't mind capturing. These were to be the snap raids, or the ones where we get info at the last minute and head out to the target location without any real plan. This isn't a bad thing because we have been doing these for a while and everyone knows what to do as far as the little stuff. Just the major stuff usually gets hashed out between to squad leader, myself and the other team leader quick like and then we roll from there. We've gotten quite good at this and has allowed our reaction time to such info to be quick. So the first place we ended up going to was a bust so we headed out to our next location.

The next location was located in a "business" type of section and the place we entered was pretty big for the amount of guys we had. Nothing new and we quickly cleared the floors and rooms but no luck again. The roof eaisly connected to many other same level or close to the same level roofs of the adjacent buildings. There was only one occupant but there were some cups of Chai Tea (the typical Iraqi tea drink) that were out that were still warm, leading us to believe they had escaped as we were got there or just before. We wern't going to call this one quits just yet and began searching around to try and find them. While searching the home we found some vests with bodyarmor and ammunition vests. Now we really wanted these guys. At one point while searching adjacent roof tops the other team awoke a family living below and out of fear they fired a couple warning shots from their AK rifle. The sounds of the shots ringing out had us on high alert and they began carefully going in to that home. Like I said tho, it just turned out to be a man trying to protect his big family from unknown invaders. We never ended up finding the guys we were looking for, but it was good to get out there as a squad and to conduct these raids and get back in to the swing of things.

Another day we had some good info on a meeting that was taking place for some of the local militia and we decided to act on this quick. We headed out with a good amount of people for this raid and my team was to be the lead team. We ended up linking up with the leader of the local armed security guys and they went with us to the location. As we started getting close these guys began running and then sprinting around trying to get there as quick as possible and of course we had to keep up with them. The thing is I'm not sure the guys up with me knew where they were going and we began running all around this one neighborhood, but not towards the area we were supposed to go to. It was exhausting and to make matters worse, no one really brought any water because we figured this was going to be quick, in and out. Now we were echausted from sprint around all over the place and had almost no water to replenish. This was begining to suck.

We finally made it to where we were going and it ended up being a HUGE area. With the help of the security guys we secured the area and rounded up all the people that were around there for identification. This was where it got crazy because there had to of been over 100 people there and we hearded them all tightly together and begin the long process of identification. I can't recall how many we ended up getting but it turned out to be a good amount. The crazy thing was how many of these local security guards had showed up to help us out. It had to of been over 30 of them, which in many ways helps make our job easier. Like when we were on the way back with the detainees they had gotten some word from someone along the way about a possible weapons cache, so we stopped real quick and my team along with several of these guys went in to this "yard" thing and immediatly they went to working searching around like crazy and we pretty much just sat back and let them do the work. It was pretty nice, Im not even going to lie. We didn't find anything and so we headed on back finally after many hours of being out. We were all exhausted and thirsty and it was nice to finally chug a good bottle of water.

So that just about covers the major stuff out there. Its been good getting out there and doing these raids again, especially when they yeild the positive results. Hopefully this trend will continue and we can continue to be as proactive as possible until we leave here.

Well yesterday was the memorial ceremony for Reece. We had ourselves looking our best as we prepared to give our final respects to another brother, another great man. The service was done very well and it was good to be able to share in the memories of the guys that got up there to speak. I can tell it was tough for them. Its tough for everyone, even those of us who did not know him too well. Hearning about him I wish I would of had a chance to get to of known him better. In the end the memorial was a good thing, despite the rough feelings that came along with it. I know after attending Tolletts memorial that it had been a good thing to be able to express the feelings and emotions that you can't always express with one another when you are expected to pick up and continue on with your mission. I hope everyone was able to walk away from this memorial with a greater appreciation of the man Kyle Reece was and to be at peace with knowing he is in Heaven now, wathing down Im sure over all of us.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Never forget SPC Matthew Kyle Reece...

SPC Matthew Kyle Reece KIA 1 Dec 2007 Baghdad, Iraq

A soldier based at Fort Bragg has been killed in Iraq. The military confirmed Monday that Army Spc. Matthew K. Reece of Harrison, Ark., died Saturday from wounds sustained when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

Reece was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. He joined the Army in 2005 and arrived at the 82nd Airborne the following year.

The military says Reece is survived by his wife, two children and his parents. A memorial service will be held in Iraq.


It is another trying time for the soldiers of our company as another one of our brothers made the ultimate sacrafice, trying to bring peace and freedom to a nation that has not seen such a thing. His platoon was attacked by a faceless, cowardly enemy who will do anything to prevent such a bright future for their country.

I was a part of the QRF (Quick Reaction Force) that was called up immediatly after the attack. It was chaos getting up, ready and out to do what we could to help our fellow soldiers and friends. There was no hesitation, and the words struck deep in to us as we were told "They've been hit by an IED! They have casulties!"; We were in such a mode that got things happening FAST, despite the chaos, confusion and worries.

By the time we got to the scene, another unit was there and had secured the area. Our guys had already rushed off with the wounded soldiers, so we went to recover the vehicle. Once we had the truck back, myself and a couple other team leaders made sure to keep the soldiers away and began to sort through everything and recover important equipment that was left behind.

From the sight of the vehicle and the way things looked inside, I can only imagine the chaos that had fallen upon the guys in that convoy. One of my friends was the TC (Truck Commander) of that vehcile and he suffered some minor injuries. My heart goes out to him, the other guys in the truck that were hurt, as well as all the guys in that convoy and our company. We learned not too long after we had the vehicle back that SPC Reece had been killed. There was utter disbelief. Another soldier in the truck we were told they wern't sure if he was going to make it or not. Thanks to the great job of the soldiers and their medic that day, he will live.

It seemed things had been going well lately, and with the end of our deployment nearing, a lot of us had felt that we would ride the rest of the deployment out without incident. But just like that everything changed, and once again the true nature of this war and our enemy came back to haunt us. The men of Charlie company would have to endure the pain and emotions of another lost soldier. Although he may no longer be with us here physically, Reece will live on in the hearts and minds of the soldiers who were lucky enough to serve with him. May God watch over you and your family and know we are thinking of you and your sacrifice down here.

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