First of all, I’d like to offer a special thank you to Spc. Chris Erickson with the CENTCOM Public Affairs Office for setting up this interview, I’d also like to offer a special thank you to Sgt. Kane for taking part in the interview.
I have been looking for a chance to interview a soldier that’s serving in Iraq. I believe that it’s important to get their opinion on not only how things are going in Iraq, but also their ideas on how to move forward in Iraq. Sgt. Kane has a blog that he posts on often, it’s linked further down in the post, and yes, I forgive him for being a Nebraska fan. So, without futher delay I offer you an interview with the boots on the ground unedited.
I wanted to give you a little background before I got to the questions. I am a National Guard soldier from Nebraska, so this is quite a different experience from my civilian career. I am a Legal NCO, so I spend my time on base mostly doing paperwork. Not quite as exciting as the tv show, but my job keeps me pretty busy. So, I don’t have hardly any interaction with the Iraqis. I can share what it is like to serve in a combat zone, albeit from a large and well protected base.
*Tell me about some good things that are happening there… hospitals, schools, Iraqi troops, etc.
Our unit has already completed over 15 Civil/Military missions worth over 1.6 million, with another 72 planned for over 8.6 million. We are working very diligently on improving the quality of life for the local population and they appreciate the effort.
*What’s a typical day like for you?
I am fortunate to work in an office so I have a fairly decent schedule. I usually get up around 0600 and get into the office by 0700. I spend the majority of my day working with our commanders and first sergeants on their various legal issues, from military justice to administrative investigations. My job involves a lot of coordination between different departments, and it wouldn’t be the Army without lots of paperwork to do. We usually take a break in the late afternoon to hit the gym and get dinner, and then wrap up the day with any business we need to take of with our contacts back in the states. Most days I’m out of the office by 2000 and head back to my room to either watch a movie or read a book.
*If you could get one care package from someone in the states what would it have in it?
Well, if it could be anything I would want a fresh 20 oz Ribeye from Leon’s Grocer in Lincoln, NE. Unfortunately you can’t send meat to Iraq. The folks back home do a great job of supporting us, especially now that we are around the holidays we’ve gotten a ton of packages. Every one is appreciated.
*What can the American public do to help you… to support both the troops and the mission?
Read up on what is going on. Check out what the people on the ground are saying. Milblogs.com has a comprehensive list of military bloggers, with views from different soldiers doing all kinds of different missions. Understand that there is much more to this effort than the daily casualty counts.
As soldiers, we have a great support channel with our fellow soldiers and unit members. Perhaps what is most important is to know that our families are being taken care of back home. Do you know somebody that has a spouse/loved one deployed? Give them a call just to chat, ask if they need anything. Maybe offer to mow the lawn, change the oil on the car, babysit, or invite them over for dinner. Basically let them know that the American people know that they are sacrificing right along with the soldiers and appreciate all that they have given up.
Also, we can never get enough prayer. Pray for the leaders of our country to make good decisions. Pray for the military commanders to have wisdom and understanding. Pray for the safety of the soldiers, and also for their families.
*What can the American public do to better support those that are coming home?
Honestly, I think this is one thing that America has down pretty well. When I got to Dallas on the way home for my 2 week leave, there were people lined up in the airport, clapping, shaking our hands, and welcoming us home. The people in the airport waiting for the plane stood up and applauded as well. The gentlemen behind me bought me a Mocha at Starbucks, and another gentlemen gave up his tickets to a professional football game for the soldier that was traveling with me. We truly felt appreciated. Feel free to say thanks to a soldier if you see them, you may not get much more than a nod and a smile, but they will appreciate it.
*What is Iraq like… weather, sights, sounds, smells, the people, etc.
Iraqi is flatter and browner that I could have imagined. We are fortunate to be North of Baghdad, and are in the Tigris river valley, so we actually have a few trees and some shrubbery, so it is much nicer here than in other areas. The weather lately has been phenomenal. Highs in the 60s, very little breeze, sunny every day. The summer it was brutal. We had about 3 months where it was over 110. What I wasn’t expecting was how it got hot early and stayed that way (over 100 by 1000 and some days it didn’t drop under 100 until midnight). I’ve only been to Baghdad once. The most striking thing I will always remember is that every house appeared to have some sort of damage from a bomb, small arms fire, or some other weapon of war.
*What are your thoughts on the ISG report and the call by some on the left for an immediate pull out.
I honestly haven’t had a lot of time to get into the details. I did see the executive summary and got a general feel for it. I did notice that it didn’t look like they had any troops with recent combat experience over here, or any of the so called troops on the ground. Mid level NCOs (Staff Sergeants and Sergeants) and lieutenants are the ones running things over here, and it seems like you would want to get their input.
I wrote about the call for a pull out on my blog recently:
In my opinion the issue lies in the getting the timing right. We do need to step back at some point and force the Iraqis to step up, take the training wheels off so to speak. But the risk here is more than just the numbers not adding up at the end of the month. What do you think happens if we leave too early and the country disintegrates? Thousands (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of innocent Iraqis die due to widespread sectarian violence and extrajudicial killings. Or someone else Iran swoops in and fills the power void. Would that be better for America? I don’t think so. Now, if we can set up Iraq to govern themselves we lessen the more radical nation’s influence on the Middle East which I believe is a good thing. Which of course is the challenge in front of us. I don’t think you can say we are stepping back in 4 months and have this thing work. The Commanders on the ground need to make that decision.
*What do you think the results on the ground would be if we pulled out or re-deployed right now.
I don’t think that is the right move to make at this point. I would love to get on a plane today and get back to my wife, my son, and my career. There isn’t a day go by that I don’t wish I was at home. But, I think the only thing that would solve is less dead Americans and many more dead Iraqis. I don’t understand how we as Americans can be for a solution that while saving our lives, we allow for the killing of many more innocent Iraqis. It goes against everything America stands for. Are we not the land of the free and the home of the brave? Or is that just when it is convenient? How many other times have we gone overseas on peacekeeping missions to stop genocide? Why is this different? Regardless of your views on how we got here, I haven’t heard one argument that our leaving will not result in a humanitarian crisis. For that reason alone I think we need to ensure that the Iraqi government has a fighting shot at stability.
*What else do you want to tell me about your mission there in Iraq.
I appreciate your reaching out to get a soldier’s view on the war. I am proud to serve with the finest Armed Forces in the world in defense of the greatest country in the world.
Once again, thank you to both Spc. Erickson and Sgt. Kane for making this interview possible. I hope you all have enjoyed this special feature, I hope to do more of these interviews in the future.