A former soldier's daily experiences while living and fighting in Iraq.
Monday, November 13, 2006
The Crew of Alpha 3/2
On Oct. 15 of last year five men from our company were killed by an IED. This Veteran’s Day weekend I thought of them as well as the other two men from Able Company killed last year.
The following words were spoken by our Battalion Commander, Col. Roggeman, at a memorial service honoring their lives.
Combat Outpost, Ramadi Iraq
“Today we mourn the loss of five or our own, SSG Summers, Spc. Byrd, Spc. Hardy, Spc. Corban, and Spc. Watkins, heroes, one and all. They were killed on 15 October fighting for freedom, here around a city called Ramadi. They died patrolling the streets on Iraq’s historic election day, allowing the citizens to vote for peace. They died so others could live free and today we collectively mourn their loss. We lost some or our nation’s greatest resources, young men who had the courage to serve their country, young men who answered our nations call to duty. Yes, today we mourn the loss of some of our nation’s greatest resources, young infantrymen, the crew of Alpha 3/2.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers, for he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother. These famous William Shakespeare words from Henry V so accurately describe the camaraderie and brotherly love that is evident in our formation. It’s clearly evident here in Able Company and especially in Alpha 3/2. SSG Summers, Spc. Byrd, Corban, Hardy, and Watkins were indeed a band of brothers. The ultimate bunch, for they lived, slept, worked, fought, and died together as a band of brothers, never hesitating, never doubting, always full of courage, always full of hope. Alpha 3/2 was always up front, always leading by example, and always leading their platoon.
I will always remember the heroic words of SSG Summers of the Alpha 3/2 crew during the 3 October enemy attack on ECP 5. Alpha 3/2 was called upon to lead the Blue platoon on a casevac mission up what turned out to be a heavily IED’d, enemy guarded Rt. Apple. Driving in, around, among, and through 4 IED’s, and an SVBIED, fighting and defeating the terrorists the whole way up.
Able Blue platoon led by Alpha 3/2 accomplished their mission bringing relief and hope to fellow wounded soldiers, all the while defeating the terrorists. Yes Alpha 3/2 accomplished their mission that day like they always did, without much fanfare and bravado but with the quiet confidence of true professionals.
Their Bradley survived hits of over 30 enemy rounds, even lost turret power, but once they returned their only concern was to get back into the fight, to re-arm to re-fit, so they would be ready to go again when called upon. Yes Alpha 3/2 never hesitated nor ever wavered to answer their call to duty. This band of brothers gave selflessly and on 15 October they paid the ultimate sacrifice.
They were true American heroes. SSG Summers, Specialists Byrd, Corban, Hardy, and Watkins, you lived the life of selfless service to the fullest. You touched all of us here today with your undaunted courage and quiet words. You led by example, you fought the good fight, you ran a good race. Well done and be thou at peace.
We, Able Company and the entire Panther Battalion will carry on your fight so that your death will not be in vain. We will continue to take the fight to the enemy. We will continue to close with and destroy our nation’s enemies so that your memory will live on forever, in the Able Company scrolls as well as the Panther Battalion scrolls. That’s our mission, and we will be Victorious, for the memory of SSG Summers, Specialists Byrd, Corban, Hardy, and Watkins, but also for Spc. Mathew Bohling, SSG Jason Benford, those other Strikeforce Able Company soldiers, as well as the rest of the Panther Battalion soldiers who have given their all to this conflict.
Today we mourn the loss of some of our nation’s greatest resources, American Infantrymen. Their families mourn the loss of the most loving and devoted husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers. Collectively we are saddened by their loss, but collectively we know that without Alpha 3/2 we must go on, for that’s what they would want us to do.
I don’t know why they were taken from us on 15 October, but I do know that Heaven rejoices with the addition of the crew of Alpha 3/2, five courageous soldiers, five brave infantrymen, and five, most importantly, beautiful young men. May God bless you and keep you, you few, you happy few, you band of brothers.”
Military blogs have transformed the way we look at war and the military, says U.S. Army veteran and military blogger (“Blackfive”) Mathew Currier Burden, author of THE BLOG OF WAR: Front-line Dispatches from Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan (Simon and Schuster; September 12, 2006; $15.00). Military blogs—milblogs, for short—give readers an uncensored, intimate, and immediate view of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Military blogs”, says Burden, “have been an experiment in putting lives that are on the line online.”
The first milblogs came after the invasion of Afghanistan, when the U.S. military gave soldiers internet access. Blogging became the perfect way for soldiers to stay in touch with and to tell their stories to their comrades-in-arms, their friends and families, and even the public at large. Milblogs were ideal for filling in the gaps that both the media and the military left out of the war. For the first time in the history of warfare, the public had access to an immediate, uncensored bird’s-eye view of what was really happening on the ground.
Unfortunately, the U.S. government is now trying to shut down these blogs and otherwise censor them. THE BLOG OF WAR could very well be one of the last real-time records of the war told by our troops as they risk their lives.
After the death of a friend in Iraq, Burden started his own blog, Blackfive.net, in mid-2003 to support the troops fighting the War on Terror and tell their stories. Blackfive.net quickly became one of the most visited and linked blogs and has won consecutive “Best Military Blog” honors in the Weblog Awards. Now, Matt Burden has collected some of the most riveting and insightful work by other bloggers in THE BLOG OF WAR.
In it you will meet:
* The Warriors. Each day they must go into battle “to fight the dragons.” Readers who have never heard a shot fired in anger will come closer to knowing what it’s like to enter a known terrorist safe house or patrol the streets of Baghdad. * The Leaders. Combat leadership can be the toughest and loneliest job in the world. “Seldom is the average American subjected to decisions of right and wrong where consequences result in death,” says one soldier. * The Healers. The medics who staunch the blood and patch the wounds of their fellow soldiers on the wretched expanses of the battlefield, working feverishly between the next bullet and the nearest hospital to keep their buddies alive. * Heroes from the Homefront. Having a loved one in harm’s way is a very stressful and trying experience. Some relatives get help from friends, family, and neighbors. Many others, however, especially those on bases or in neighborhoods where everyone is deployed, can find themselves struggling alone. * The Fallen. Not everyone makes it back home: bloggers pay tribute to those who have fallen in defense of their country – spouses mourn their husbands, soldiers mourn not only their comrades but their Iraqi friends as well, and heartbreaking last letters home are shared. * Homecoming. Soldiers share their poignant accounts of homecoming. Some soldiers have been injured and others have wounds that can’t be seen. Words can’t really describe what it is for them to come back in one piece and be reunited with their loved ones, but THE BLOG OF WAR conveys these emotionally charged moments as few books ever have.
Military bloggers offer the public unfettered access to the War on Terror. The public does not have to wait weeks or months to hear what’s happened, nor settle for the government’s approved messages. In the past, there were only three sources from which the public could learn about a war: Combat correspondents, who sometimes wrote in the midst of action but just as often did not; government reports, which were often a mix of truth, propaganda and even disinformation; and soldiers who gave their own accounts of what they witnessed in letters to friends and family, accounts sometimes censored by the military, and always written and received well after the fighting had subsided.
THE BLOG OF WAR is a remarkable account of men and women as they actually experience the trials and tribulations of war on the battlefield, where our soldiers must daily test their humanity against harrowing episodes of the horror and fear. Readers are certain to have a better understanding and a greater respect for those who risk their lives for their country in these most turbulent times.
About the Author
Matthew Currier Burden enlisted in the military when he was seventeen. He left the military as a major in the U.S. Army Reserve in July 2001. He has a Master of Science degree in computer science from the University of Chicago and works as an IT executive in Chicago.
During bad or uncertain times, time itself doesn’t stand still or slow down, it’s more like it spreads out, like each minute has its own personality and some of those personalities really want you to get to know them. That happened with me today, probably with a few of us. We were out in the city, the filth evident in the open sewage flowing into the streets, creating small puddles and ponds of shit water. Trash, wet decaying trash, with vehicle parts thrown in, form little islands in these puddles. It’s not uncommon to see dogs, cats, and even cattle feasting on these piles of filth and lapping up the black liquid surrounding them. It was just another hot day in the cradle of this uncivilized world. A couple of trucks full of Iraqi soldiers were with us as well, putting a local face on this global war. We'd been out about three hours with no contact, a somewhat noteworthy achievement given the experiences of the past week or so.
After sitting in one place for a while, letting the IA soldiers search the area and pass out some leaflets, we began to move again. The humvee I was gunning in brought up the rear, with me facing our six, looking back over the area from which we came. I was busy moving around in my seat, looking left and right and to our rear, smelling the black shit water and trash, scanning windows and rooftops, trying to consume as much water as the amount that was quickly leaving my body, and BOOM!
The sound of the explosion doesn’t affect me so much as the thought of what produced it. It was another IED, and a cloud of smoke and dust began rising over some buildings around the corner.
I immediately realized that some of our humvees were around that corner, the same corner from which the smoke cloud now floated over like some evil spirit. That's when time started spreading out, forcing me to come to know it intimately. I needed a ticket for the train that would take me to the next station, the next minute, to get back to the present that was leaving me behind. The radio became my ticket.
"Red 3, this is Red 4 over" "This is Red 3" "Is everyone okay?" Short pause, "Roger, it was in front of us, over" I knew there was another humvee in front of Red 3. Our platoon sergeant called over the radio again, "Red 2, this is Red 4, is everyone okay?" Silence. I've now stopped chewing my gum. Silence. Silence. "Red 2, this is Red 4, is everyone okay?" Silence. I do a mental list of who all was in that humvee. Sgt. B, Ray, Farrell, Rob, and Hogan. Ray is going home on leave soon to see his wife. They’re going on a cruise somewhere in the Caribbean. Silence. Before we left, Rob and I were acting like we were getting pumped up by the loud music coming from someone’s computer. It was ACDC, and everyone in our room was mockingly throwing fists in the air like we were about to run out onto the field before the biggest game of our life. Someone joked that the terrorists were probably listening to some music as well, preparing themselves to meet us on the battlefield. Silence. This minute is spreading thin. I borrowed a movie from Hogan the other day and need to return it. Silence. Farrell couldn’t stop smiling the other day after getting a letter from a girl back home. Silence. Sgt. B has a son that looks just like him.
I'm now looking down at the radio as if looking at it will make them answer. Answer the damn radio. Out of the corner of my eye I can see little beads of sweat running down the cheek of Sgt. P. "Red 2, this is Red 4, is everyone okay?" Still staring at the radio, the run down, slum-like buildings, trash, car parts, car frames, cats, dogs, goats, people, shit smell, sewage puddles, heat, and the sun no longer exist, only this green radio that looks like a brick.
In his high pitched, one of a kind, can only be Sgt. B voice, Sgt. B brings the little brick to life. "This is Red 2, roger, we're fine, the IA truck took most of the blast!" My train has safely reached the next station and I’m reunited with the present. I turn away from the radio and continue looking back to our rear, my mouth again chewing the spearmint gum. I became aware of the hot sun, the shit smell, and the feasting felines lapping up sewage water.
The radio speaks again, but I barely hear it, something about a medevac for some of the IA soldiers. I later felt bad for my relief in knowing that it wasn't any of our guys that got hurt. It's not that I don't care about the Iraqi soldiers, I do, but they aren't family. Three or four of them got loaded on the back of the meat wagon, and our humvee and another escorted them back to our outpost. Able to stand up now that we were back in a safe area, with no threat of snipers, I could see the wounded getting out of the back of the truck. The most serious, the one with a bandage over his head, got off the truck without any help and walked inside with the others. All of them are walking wounded, and I again feel relieved, just not as relieved as I did before. The fact that no one was seriously injured is no mystery to me. I attribute it to God’s presence and protection, even on these shitty streets.