Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The start of something big

I am a big advocate for getting information out to the Soldiers. I have been closely watching the news and several social media outlets and each of them have some fantastic stories about the struggles we, as veterans, face every day, whether it is school, trying to find a job, or just dealing with the stresses that with trying to re-integrate after returning from a combat deployment. I hope that this blog will become a source of news, information and an outlet for those who have served. I start with a piece I wrote while serving in Mosul, Iraq 2004 – 2005.

The Raid

                It was 0100 and we knelt by the wall, which surrounds the house; in Iraq walls are far too common. I guess the thieves and terrorists caused these things to have become necessary. By my thought is that after years of oppression these walls tend to give the people who live behind them a false sense of security. The thought of what goes on outside of them is of no concern, what happens within them is all that matters. As long as they stay behind these walls nothing will happen. These walls enclose everything here houses, garages, parking lots, and even vacant lots. After seven months here you become very experienced at climbing over or under these obstacles. Some walls have broken glass cemented into the top, this is to prevent someone from crawling over, and actually I think it is more to show that the owners mean business by taking the time to do it.

The city of Mosul was asleep, the streets were empty, and people were hidden behind there walls. Curfew had been imposed before we came here so any car driving around would be very suspicious; this helps us in the identification of insurgents. We were shrouded in the cloak of darkness and ready to work.

 Through my night vision devices I could see the lamps burning inside the houses, which enclosed our formation. I could see the other squads as the knelt by their breach points. The low hum of the Strykers resonated against the walls I could see the Remote Weapons System (RWS) scanning the rooftops and streets. I saw the flashing of the Infrared (IR) beacon which identified the over watch position, which was, composed of two M240B machineguns and five soldiers:

 “Red seven this is Red four first down.” “Roger four.” The purpose of this position is to watch for “squirters” or individuals that try to escape by jumping from roof to roof, but they also provide over watch on the main avenues of approach into the objective area and over watch our Strykers as they cordon off the area.

My 3rd Squad leader was prepping a breach charge, a quarter stick of C-4, two saline IV bags, 5 knots in the Det cord, all taped together into a neat green ball. Actually it looks a lot like a giant water balloon with a green cord hanging out of it. SSG Johnson moved back and got on the radio. “Breach is set, second down.” Came over my earpiece. The football code words were part of a list used to inform leaders of actions completed without spending a lot of time on the radio it also help in keeping the element of surprise. “Red seven this is Red one, third down.” This told the Platoon Leader (PL) and I that the first Squad was in position at their breach site. “Red seven this is Red two, fourth down.” Everything was in place, and everyone was set. Now came the hard part.

The PL got on the radio, “All Red elements TOUCHDOWN”. That simple word would begin the operation that we had been planning all day, a simultaneous raid on three objectives. A shotgun could be heard blasting open the locks on a door, at the same time a door ram pounded the gate of another house. Then came the BOOM as the demo blew and the gate flew open. The squads entered the house and immediately began to clear and separate. Raids are always risky; one reason is nearly every house has a weapon. The government allows the private citizen one AK-47 and one 30 round magazine for self-protection. Well when the gate of your house is blown up, one accepts the risk of that guy being at home thinks either insurgents or criminals are after him. So the squads always run the risk of getting shot by the owner of the house. This is also true if the individual of the house is in fact a terrorist then one runs the chance of getting shot anyway.

As the squad enters the house we begin to clear all the rooms and separate the men into one area and the women and children into another. Put a guard on both groups and begin to search the rooms for weapons or other sensitive items, which will help in the prosecution of the terrorists. There are many things happening in the house and outside the house. The Strykers are moving into various blocking positions if they need to. The over watch is watching for the breach point markings, these are cyalume lightsticks that are laid at the point of entry of the objective. This helps identify the target house (or in this cases houses) and helps the over watch keep orientation if there are various objectives. Inside the house you have woman and children crying and telling you that there husbands are innocent and they are not bad people. I have even seen them take this so far as to faking heart attacks, fainting, or actually grabbing you and pleading.

We begin to consolidate all items that have been collected around the house into a central location and takes pictures of it on the site. This helps in showing the “higher up’s” what exactly was found on the site and turned over to the Detainment Facility (DETFAC). We also take a picture of all the items with the individual; this helps put a face to all the bad stuff.

I go back outside to ensure all breach marking are set and the Strykers have a clear understanding of where all the dismount positions are. This also helps individuals move between objectives without getting lost in all the side alley’s and streets. Raids are like a dance. Each partner (squad) has to know the moves of the other. This allows for smooth operations and smooth transitions. It allows you to react to each other to know what the other is doing even if you cannot see them. We have done this dance many times in our eight months in Mosul.


  1. Great job Gene, I love how you capture your reader. I look forward to more.

  2. Gene-
    Amazing writting! The way you draw the reader in...well- I could picture it in my head like a movie. I can't wait to read more. Will have to make sure Jim reads this.

  3. Thank you Mom and thank you Aunt Kathy!!!

  4. I think that this is going to be a great story for people to read and get the real inside story of what a soldier goes through in war zones and the effects of the return to safe soils in our country. It is not over for them, it sometimes is just the beginning. It is amazing how so many folks have no clue what it is all about. I really hope that these stories will open some doors. Thank you Gene