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My Experience In Baghdad 2004-2005
"A Baghdad MP shares his experiences in Iraq and his thoughts about the Iraq War."
Veterans Against the Iraq War
Hello, my name is Bill. I'm 24 years old and live in NJ. I fought in Sadr City, Baghdad Iraq from Feb. 2004 to Feb. 2005. I served in C. Co 759th MP Bn 89th MP Brigade. I still wholeheartedly support the decision to remove Saddam from power, however I am completely against the continued occupation of Iraq.
When I landed in Baghdad, the US had roughly 350 deaths. When I left the number was close to 1300. I had 4 of my friends killed and another 27 in my company wounded, which gave us a 1 in 3 rate of being a casualty. I saw a good friend of mine have half of his face blown off when a RPG blew up on our windshield. Another friend of my was wounded twice in separate IED attacks and still wasnt allowed home. I killed 4 people during an 18 hour firefight, one of whom was a little girl that got caught by the burst of a 203 round.
I think about Iraq every day even though I've been home 6 months. And I still cannot figure out why I was there or why americans died over there. I'm all for war, but only "right" wars. I was decorated for valor and congratulated by Colonels, and it's all hollow because it is for nothing. That's why I'm against the war in Iraq.
I can definetly say nothing in suburban America ever EVER prepared me for anything I saw over there. Besides the actual combat, the simple fact that instead of just watching one of those UNICEF commercials with the babies with flies all over them, I was actually in one.
I can't tell you how dirty and malnourished the small children were. Begging for food and eating whatever we threw out of our MRE's. I'll never forget this girl probably like 8 years old came up to me with probably a 2 month old asking me to help the baby because it had some sort of nasty looking scabby rash. I told here I didn't have anything. It's not like I was a medic or like we even had one with us, but she was so insistent and so upset, and the baby was just motionless, flies all over her face. It was probably the most heartwrenching thing I ever saw over there. So just to make here feel better I gave her some alchohol pads, just so she thought she had something. When i went back to base I hit the medics for some sort of antibacterial cream which they gave me, but I never ended up going back to that area.
There was also this family of 3 girls that lived next to a police station, which their father happened to work at. All the guys in my unit would give them candy when they stopped by on their way home from school. We knew these kids for like 3 months. Then we left and about 2 weeks later a car bomb blew up their father when he was at a checkpoint. A mother and 3 girls dont have much to look forward to in Iraq when they are alone. That bothered me and the guys alot.
It just amazes me now that I'm home that for the most part (except families affected by the war), people don't even pay attention to it anymore. It's like we come home get a pat on the back and a smile and then poof, that's it. You're just supposed to get on with your life.
I just don't understand America anymore. People spending $100 on shoes, that's what the average Iraqi makes a month. People worrying about stupid stuff like their clothes or cars. They need to see a woman throw out a chamber pot into the street at 6am and then 2 hours later her kids are playing in it naked. Or for example the inordinate amount of birth defects I saw in Sadr City. I have never seen more physical deformities, not even on television in my entire life, than I saw in Iraq. There were people with chicken wing arms, people that were basically just a torso and a head. It amazed me.
I dont know, America just isn't what I wanted to come home to.
I was stationed at Camp Cuervo (was Camp Muleskinner when I first arrived) in Baghdad Iraq. My primary area of patrol was Sadr City, which is North of the green zone. Basically a square shaped set of a couple hundred blocks in which Saddam shoved roughly 2 million Shiites, in a sort of modern ghetto.
We arrived when the invasion was at its ending point, and we were starting to build up the Iraqi police force. (I was an MP) At first my friends and I were all full of &*@!# and vinegar to go out and kill haji's (comparable to charlie in the Vietnam war). It was about 3 weeks before we got in our first firefight.
It was an odd thing because when someone shoots at you for the first time you can't really believe that you just go "Oh Sh*t!!" and return fire. My first firefight consisted of roughly 15 other MP's at a police station in Sadr City under seige by approximately 50 Iraqis of Muqtada Al Sadr Mahdi army milita. It lasted 3 hours and was ended by the arrival of bradleys from the 1st Cav division. During the course of the firefight, I killed a man shooting at me from an apartment window with an AK47, and 3 other of my friends saw that they had hit and killed people, although with all the rounds we expended, between regular 5.56, .50 cal and MK19 grenades, I'm sure the Iraqi toll was much higher.
Our only casualty was one of the gunners in a humvee was shot in the arm. We had 11 RPG's shot at us and 3 mortars, none really came to close. The Iraqi police we were protecting (the ones that didn't leave minutes before the firefight, thus obviously knowing something was up) refused to go out and fight. That was my first glimpse of how ruined Iraq was.
For the next 3 months other platoons had firefights. We were mortared almost every night, and had suffered some wounded through IED attacks. That all changed in June when we were at the same police station I had previously been in a firefight at. Roughly 2 hours after we arrived all hell broke loose. I was driving an ASV when a RPG exploded on the passenger side window horribly wounding my friend in the passenger seat. In addition to the vehicle being on fire, he was unconcious with blood pouring from his face from the shrapnel he recieved (I later found out his left lung was deflated from shrapnel going through it, and he had a broken collar bone.) My gunner was hit in the rear by shrapnel. I miraculously wasn't injured at all, even though it exploded only 6 inches to the right of my head.
After what seemed like 15 minutes (I was later told it was nearly instant) I reversed the vehicle back to our perimeter, My gunner jumped out the side hatch and ran to our lines. I popped out the top hatch and yelled for a medic and then dragged my friend out of the still burning vehicle and started administering first aid into what I then realized was a raging firefight. The medics arrived soon after I got my friend out and bandaged him up all around his head and evac'd him.
I then stayed there for another 16 hours getting shot at. During the course of the firefight 20 MP's were attacked by over100 Mahdi army soldiers. More RPGs were fired than I could count. One of my friends who was previously wounded in an IED attack was hit by shrapnel when an RPG exploded on the side of his Hummvee. Another soldier was shot in the foot.
We were basically leveling buildings shooting back. One store exploded when the propane in side caught fire. I killed 3 people during that fire fight. 2 men with an RPG with a M203 grenade and a little girl that was in the area of the blast. Because whenever the Iraqis attacked, they made sure they had plenty of women and children around them in order to discourage us from firing back. I could care less about the men I killed, but I almost daily think about the girl. I received the Army Commendation Medal with Valor device for my actions that day, although I could care less. ( I found out I did not receive the bronze star because I was only an E-4 Specialist)
2 of our men were killed transporting supplies to us by an IED on the 2nd day of the battle and another 2 were killed the 3rd day (by which time I was relieved and back on base). The total of that firefight was 4 dead, 12 wounded from my company. It really struck me during the firefight though was when 2 apaches were circling overhead and left. I later found out that they couldnt receive permission to fire because it would cause too many civilian casualties.
For the most part the Iraqi's are glad america is there, but they are the silent majority. They are too scared that if they speak out for us they would be kidnapped or murdered. One Iraqi asked me why America doesn't build schools or donate cars like the Japanese did. I told him it's because every time we try to build something either the workers get scared and don't show up because they are working for Americans and scared of retribution or because it is constantly attacked by one of the various militias.
I was never once in my entire year in iraq, attacked by Saddam loyalists or Al Qaeda, I was attacked by shiite milita that was sick of the American military bullying its way through traffic, never delivering on any promises it said it would keep, and just generally sick of a foreign military presence. Yes they were also religious extremists, but most were just disillusioned with America's presence.
Just imagine if George W. was a dictator and all of a sudden Canada invaded. We would be happy at first, but after almost 2 years of them still hanging around and nothing getting done, I'm fairly certain we would rise up against them too.
Another thing is that Iraq has been ruled by a dictatorship for basically its entire history, from Hammurabi to King Faisal to Saddam Hussein. All they know is ruling by fear, that is why either someone in the the new government is going to become another Saddam only with US backing, or some Iraqi General will stage a coup. It will take at least 2 generations for any sort of democracy to come to iraq, and it won't help when they direct all their energy into killing Americans.
I'm glad we ousted Saddam, but we should not still be in Iraq. I, to this day, have no clue why I fought over there, have no clue what I fought for, and am upset because my friends were maimed and killed for nothing.
The one of the biggest problems I deal with is the fact that even though we fought a three day battle to secure an IP station and we won. We abandoned it the next day and within a week the Mahdi army bullied all the Iraqi police out of it, placed demo charges and blew it up. And our leadership didn't even bat an eye. Can't figure out why we would fight so hard for something that had 4 guys killed and 12 wounded just so we can let it get blown up.
And it happened all the time, we'd go somewhere, hang out long enough for stuff to quiet down, move on and then the place we left would be just the same as before we showed up. I think the only people that had any sort of morale were the officers and higher NCO's (E-8 and up) that didn't have to go out and face the possiblity of getting blown up every day. We had guys breaking down left and right and had to go see psychiatrists because they couldn't deal with being out in the city for 7 days straight in a shot with 12 hours up and 4 hours down. Towards the end of our deployment if we didn't go home in about another month or two there would have been a rebellion.
I tried to explain it to people at work and they pretty much nod and say well that sucked and then when i showed them pictures of what was done over there and then they realize its not just some little 3 minute spot on the nightly news.
That's another thing that I think most americans dont understand, when you hear about a bombing or attack in Iraq on the news, there are about 20 other bombings or firefights that you don't hear about. I would call or email home about a carbombing or shooting to see if they heard anything about it on the news and until our 4 guys were killed the answer was always no. So it astounds me as to how little information really filters down to the american people. There is sometimes days that go by now that I'm home that I wont hear anything about Iraq, and I can promise you something happens every day. My camp was mortared so frequently during one week it was as if we were underseige, like 20 mortars a day for 5 days straight, and when your camp is only about 1square mile those booms sound awfullly close.
And you never hear about how many Iraqi civilians are killed just because they work for Americans and are trying to provide for their families. We had a restaurant on our FOB run by haji's that we used to go to whenever we were either sick of the chow hall food or if we came in too late to get dinner. One night a bunch of us went there to get dinner and we ordered french fries. The guy that took the order, who was also the owner said he didnt have any french fries, so we started ribbing him about how we could give some kid that lives under a bridge $2 to get us fries but yet here he is with a restaurant without a fairly basic item, so after about 2 minutes of busting this guy a little he gets red and says, " I will tell you why we have no fries, man that delivers fries was killed because he works with americans". When he said that it just floored us. We couldnt imagine some one who delivers french fries would be killed just because he delivers food to a guy that works for americans.
We had interpretors' relatives killed, let alone interpretors themselves for working with us. Our interpretor whom i still talk to through email on occasion (badly wants to come to the US) only told his immediate family who he works for, his neighbors all think that he does construction work.
Whatever you do, don't take what you have here for granted.