Letters From War
Dear Family and Friends,
Many of you were the recipients of my emails from Iraq… this is my first email posting since my return and what a whirlwind it has been! It goes without saying that it is great to be back. A few days ago I moved back to Chicago. It is nice to be back home where I grew up. I am living downtown and enjoying the hustle bustle of the city. I have accepted an Attending Emergency Physician position at Advocate Christ Medical Center. I am pretty excited about it. It is a level one trauma center for adult and pediatric trauma and currently the busiest trauma center in Chicago. There is also a residency program and I will be heavily involved in teaching medical students, interns, and residents. That is a big part of the reason I sought the position.
June 30, 2005 was my last day as an active duty Army soldier. What a ride it has been since I joined the Army in 1995…from being immersed in the front lines of combat in the ghettos of Baghdad, Najaf, and Fallujah, to treating Saddam Hussein, to being promoted to Major and thankfully returning to gain a new appreciation for life. Now it is time to grow out my hair and enjoy the civilian life that soldiers work so hard to preserve. From here I will be on Inactive Ready Reserves (IRR) in the Army for two more years. After this time I will decide whether to resign my commission and receive an honorable discharge or to continue in the military. This means that it is still theoretically possible for me to get deployed again but it is much less likely. I guess it all kind of depends on the world situation. Peace on Earth!!!
As for the book I am writing, On Call in Iraq…it is currently editing. I hope to publish in the next year or two. You can find details on the progress on future postings on this website.
Yes, things have definitely turned for the better. But returning from nearly 15 months in a combat zone has its challenges as well. Some of these were anticipated and some caught us off guard. We expected to be “free” once our plane landed in the states. We hoped for an instant relief from everything after returning to a peaceful land. But instead we found ourselves “trapped” in the other things that engulf a soldier’s life after a prolonged deployment. Mandatory debriefings took up the first several weeks of our time. Then it was a matter of adjusting back to normal life.
These are a few of the challenges a soldier faces after returning to the States:
- Everyday things seem trivial. For instance, sorting through 15 months of accumulated mail. Unlike Iraq, where survival was the only thing on our minds, here we become bogged down with errands that become a part of everyday life. Many soldiers come back to realize they are different people. It is amazing how life here remains the same despite the atrocities just a plane ride away. It is amazing how unaware some people are of it. It is amazing what people here complain about. It is amazing that these things once again become something we complain about. I guess that is a good thing.
- At times it seems that the United States is the “foreign land.” Shopping malls with escalators and neon lights—weird—very weird. Talking about death, killing, or artillery is not normal dinner conversation. Loud noises are not the result of a mortar round. People are not standing on the top of bridges throwing down grenades. It is a lot more relaxing driving now, but I still find myself looking up while crossing under a bridge. Although, the nice part about Baghdad was no traffic rules! Driving through lawns and bumping vehicles out of the way definitely gets you from point A to point B faster! We were told that most soldiers get in car accidents shortly after returning. My car was totaled within 3 months (thankfully not my fault). Nonetheless, I am now a statistic. Here, we also pig out on good food and take regular showers. Good bye canteens, hello faucets! We appreciate air conditioning and heat. Sleeping bags and layering clothing can only provide so much warmth. Full uniforms, a 45 pound bullet-proof vest and kevlar helmet are not fun in 140 degree temperatures either. In addition we must meet societal norms—no more barking orders!—and reintegrate into society. For some this is no joking matter. We realize that normal infantry vocabulary is not acceptable in most public places. I had to think before speaking during my job interview after hanging out with 18 year old infantry “dudes” all year!
- Personal and relationship changes. Everyday we savor simple moments that we once took for granted. But in the back of our minds we are saddened by those we knew closely who did not make it back. We refocus our goals in life. We experience frequent mood changes for several months, some more than others. Life moves on for our loved ones here….even without us. Some soldiers have young babies who do not even know daddy. Marriages dissolve. The divorce rate amongst military officers after returning is over 70% according to some sources! The soldier may survive but unfortunately at times relationships are killed in the turmoil of a lengthy separation. We recognize the sacrifice that others in previous wars made. It’s much more than a simple sentence in a high school history book now.
I want to end my note to you all with a sincere thank you. I would not have been able to make it through this difficult period of my life without the outpouring of support from my family, friends, and even strangers who have become my friends due to this deployment. Everything – cards, emails, thoughts, prayers, photos, packaged food – made a difference in my life. I will be forever grateful for the support I received from all of you. I saved everything (well, except for the food). Looking back through every scrap of paper makes me smile that there are such caring people in the world. I would like to keep in touch with all of you. If you are ever in Chicago please let me know!
Peace! (and quiet!!),
Just to let everyone know: Sudip is indeed back home again. He flew back on February 21st and spent a few days with family. I believe he now has a couple of weeks of debriefing and such, but he’s back from Iraq.
So now, after nearly fifteen months in Iraq, we are getting ready to go home. As the time draws near, the anticipation of reuniting with loved ones becomes almost unbearable. It is hard to imagine anything more wonderful than the first hugs from family and friends. Over the last several months, we have watched as our normal life passed us by. Soldiers have missed the birth of their first child, first words, and first days of school. They have missed birthdays, graduations, and funerals of family members. We’ve missed good food, quiet, a day off, showers, carpet, and mattresses. We’ve missed everyone and everything in our lives.
Leaving a combat environment to go home will definitely be an adjustment. Our return to Fort Hood, Texas, will be followed by 14 days of mandatory debriefings designed to help soldiers with the adjustment process. “This is not Baghdad”, “Stop at red lights – you will not be ambushed”, “Do not yell when asking for something”, “You may have scary dreams.” Hmmm…
After a grueling front-line tour through the peaks of insurgency in Baghdad, Najaf, and Fallujah, we have seen everything ever shown in a war movie. We have seen the hardest of men break down and cry. We have believed in the cause and at times questioned it. We have been told the truth. And we have been lied to. We have watched and read about “experts” and “officials” sitting in their air-conditioned offices, ordering us to battle, boasting “they know how hard it is.” They will never know.
It is beyond my comprehension that I served in the same battalion that legends such as General Robert E. Lee once led. I marvel at the fact that General George S. Patton was once a Captain like myself in this same unit. These men seem so different from me. I still have trouble grasping that Sudip Bose, a regular guy with a regular upbringing, served in one of the longest tours by a doctor since World War II for a front-line infantry unit, was selected for promotion from Captain to Major, and earned the Bronze Star. Since the time of General Lee, much about combat has changed. Yet the challenges and emotions remain the same:
– Cleaning up brain matter and closing the eyelids of a fellow soldier prior to the command arriving to see his body
– The same shell shocked look in the eyes of a 35-year-old sergeant as in a 19-year-old private
– Feeling a tingle down the spine when hearing the word “Medic!”
– Frantically tying a tourniquet as the patient bleeds onto the sidewalk
– Assuring a soldier gasping from a collapsed lung and open intestinal wounds that his friend is “okay” and promising they will meet again
– Swearing at the radio after hearing we are receiving twenty-four more patients after struggling with the resuscitation of the first four.
– Fighting sleep
– Gaining new appreciation for life as shrapnel whizzes overhead
– Providing care to the enemy who spits, swears, and glares at you as you attempt to listen to his lungs. He recently killed two fellow soldiers. He would have killed us too if we had driven over his explosive device. He hates me.
– Receiving genuine gratefulness from Iraqi civilians, fellow soldiers, and commanders after saving a life. They love me.
– Jumping at the sound of harmless objects
– Hitting the ground looking for patients after an explosion
– Consoling a suicidal soldier who “just can’t take it anymore!” while trying to keep self morale
– Riding in a vehicle with Kevlar helmet, eye protection, flack vest, aid bag in hand, and M16 pointed out the window
– Knowing that kids are trying to kill us
– Staring the enemy in the face and realizing they are ordinary men just like us-not monsters
– Telling a soldier’s wife and kids as a last dying request that he fought hard
Too many brave soldiers lost their lives here. They are the true heroes. Their memories will live on and they will not be forgotten. I am honored to have served with them and all of the heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
It was a privilege to have done my duty for my country.
“The secret of contentment is the realization that life is a gift, not a right”
On Call In Iraq by Sudip Bose, MD & Dean Stulz, Physician Assistant
This nonfiction book about our experiences in Iraq — treating Saddam Hussein, providing medical support while under attack, and enduring the daily hardships in a combat zone — is currently editing. This book will portray the situation in Baghdad, Najaf, and Fallujah through our eyes as opposed to how it is often portrayed by the media. Due to certain “red tape” regulations and confidentiality issues it will (hopefully) publish and hit bookstores near you about one year after my release from the Army in July 2005. Check back periodically to this website for further details about purchasing the book. A portion of any funds generated will go to those we were blessed to treat but who are not fortunate enough to read this book without assistance: the blinded, paralyzed, and severely injured veterans of this war.
On Call In Iraq
In memory of my brothers who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Dedicated to my family and friends, without whom this book would not be possible and for whom I am eternally grateful. Thank you for your support!
Family and Friends,
Through the course of this deployment we depend on the support of our family and friends. In fact, back at Fort Hood, Texas, from where we deployed, the support network is very elaborate. Every week our Battalion commander, Colonel Miyamasu, updates the families back at Fort Hood. Undoubtedly, Colonel Miyamasu will be a prominent General in the Army one day after leading our Battalion through rigorous battle in Baghdad, Najaf, and Fallujah. With his permission, I share with you his last letter to our families.
I thought you may enjoy another person’s perspective of life out here. In the letter he touches on our Thanksgiving meal, our everyday missions in conjunction with the Marines in Fallujah, and our living conditions. As you may have recently heard, our Brigade has been extended and will not likely return until the 16th month after our deployment. The length of our Brigade’s tour is unprecedented and will be the longest one since World War II. In his letter he touches on the ups and downs of our morale.
The letter is more lengthy than my past emails to you, but again, this is written for the families who want all the details. I have added the parentheses to help decode some of the military “lingo.” Enjoy!
Hello everyone! Welcome to another edition of the TF (Task Force) 1-5 weekly update. This week officially starts the holiday season and we hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We were lucky enough to be treated to a special “turkey day” meal ourselves. The food was good, but not as good as home of course. but it was hot, plenty of it..so it was good!
The next thirty days are a special time of year where being with loved ones and friends is most important. Although we will be separated from you this holiday season, know that our love for you is a constant that keeps our morale up and a goal for us to get back home too! Also know that we are not alone out here. We are a very close-knit group who has really taken to caring for each other like brothers. We’ve been together a long time (11 straight months) and truly do care for one another. So think of us, but don’t feel bad for us. We’re doing OK! Now YOU guys go on and have a happy holiday season, enjoy the school break, and enjoy the festivities that only this time of year can bring! With that being said, I know what you came for so. LET’S GET TO IT!
In the last ten days MNC-I (Multinational Corps-Iraq) Forces have made tremendous progress in stabilizing the city of Fallujah. Elements from the 1st Marine Division have been relentless in their attack on the city. Resistance has been reduced from large groups to only small pockets of enemy fighters. The large number of insurgent killed or captured during the retaking of the city has reduced what used to be an insurgent/terrorist sanctuary to a city that has seen war, but is relatively cleaned out of these rogues. Recent offensive operations consisted mostly of clearing buildings and residences on a house-to-house basis. The phase of operations that we are currently in, “shaping and clearing”, is meant to flush out all remaining enemy elements. Not only are we accomplishing that, we have also uncovered several large weapons caches consisting of IED (Improvised Explosive Device) making material, rockets, mortars, artillery rounds, TNT and plastic explosives, and small arms weapons. The capture of these weapons has saved an untold number of U.S. and MNC-I (Multinational Corps-Iraq) Soldiers’ and Marines lives. We will continue to conduct these counter insurgency operations in Fallujah and its smaller surrounding towns where intelligence reports show insurgents may have fled.
Let me give you a brief overview of what happened. On 8 NOV 04, the 1st Marine Division began to employ indirect fires and close air support to reduce known defensive positions as well as clearing routes into Fallujah. Two regimental combat (RCT) teams formed the attack force into Fallujah. Both RCTs would attack from north to south. RCT-1 was on the west and contained 2-7 CAV. RCT-7 was in the east and they contained 2-2 IN, 1ID. On the outer cordon was 2BCT (2nd Brigade Combat Team), 1CD (1st Cavalry Division) containing 1-5 CAV, 1-5 IN (STRYKER, 25ID), 2 Marine Recon Battalion, and the 759th MP Battalion. The 2BCT essentially established the cordon around Fallujah from Baghdad to the Euphrates River on the west. To the west of the Euphrates, 2BCT, 2ID prevented the enemy from crossing the river, and the 3 Marine Light Armored Recon Battalion prevented crossing of the river to the southwest. For our part, 1-5 CAV had the north and northwestern portions of Fallujah, 1-5 IN had the northeast, 759th MP had the east and all roads coming from the east, and 2 MAR RECON had the southeast and south. We also had the 6th Battalion, 3rd Iraqi Army Brigade, which we employed in cordon and search missions around our perimeter. Who best to find a bad guy than an Iraqi, right? Within two days, both RCT’s had pushed to the mid-point of Fallujah and began clearance operations to their rear as the numerous tunnels and basements contained caches and insurgents. There were three Iraqi Army Battalions that also did clearing operations with the RCTs and from all accounts, these units are indeed maturing into regular Army units. The attack continued for about 6 more days when both RCTs were able to break through the southern outskirts of Fallujah and chase the enemy into the kill zones of 2 MAR RECON. The RCTs are pulling some forces out of Fallujah that have cleared their zones, but there are still some Marine and Army units in contact with small enemy elements. Because it’s a built up urban area, the advantage goes to the defender, which is the enemy in this case. However, with our firepower, so long as we can see the enemy, goes to us. They fire an AK-47, we fire 120mm tank or 25mm Bradley cannon. Seems fair to me.
Our mission was to secure Route MOBILE, a six-lane highway that runs from Baghdad to Ramadi, and circumvents Fallujah to the north. In securing this highway, the men had to control both sides of the highway out to 2 kilometers on each side of the highway. By keeping insurgents from leaving, and insurgents from reinforcing the ones caught in Fallujah, this established a cordon for the 1st Marine Division forces entering the inner city of Fallujah. In our zone, Commando was sealing off from the Euphrates River to a position known as the Vehicle Control Point 1 (VCP1). Mad Dogs held the line from the VCP1 to a bridge south along the Euphrates, and the area known as the Joint Coordination Cell (JCC). The Bushmasters held from the JCC to checkpoint 84. All the forces were designed to keep civilians from crossing either out of or into Fallujah across a major highway called Route Mobile. Our sector at that time was 27 kilometers long, or about 16 miles long. When 1-5 IN was called out to move to Mosul to reattach itself to its parent Brigade, we picked up their sector as well. However, we were fortunate to get the Marines of Alpha Company, 2nd Light Armored Recon (LAR) Battalion commanded by Capt John Griffin. The “Apaches” took over defending our east near the town of Kharma and did an exceptional job utilizing a Marine tank platoon (the same one that fought with us in Najaf) and a Bradley Platoon from Bushmasters. This was a superb unit, and they did an outstanding job. This brought our total frontage to about 60 kilometers of area we had to cover, and the men did an outstanding job. In fact, our cordon was so tight, the Marine Division Commander had to order us to loosen it up so that “innocents” could leave the area. The men were slightly upset that we had to do that, but we took solace in the knowledge that our cordon had done its job.
Since the last FRG (Family Readiness Group) letter we have made some great improvements to our living conditions here on Camp Baharia. By hiring trusted Iraqi nationals to make the desired upgrades we were able to improve our standard of living while gaining the trust and respect of some of the honest and hard working people of Iraq. When we first arrived at Camp Baharia we were shown a barren field and instructed to make ourselves at home. After the tents were erected and we took a look around, we immediately started finding ways to improve our new home. We have recently added wooden floors inside each of the living tents so that Soldiers and their gear are not in direct contact with the ground. We also had an electrician install multiple light fixtures in each tent so the Soldiers can see without the use of flashlights. We have brought in several heaters per tent as the night temperature is now beginning to dip into the forties. These changes may sound very basic but believe me they have made a vast improvement on Soldiers’ opinion of the FOB (Forward Operating Base). I should know, I am living in the same tent with thirty other HAWG Soldiers! This gives those Soldiers the opportunity to chill out from the front line living conditions which are still rough. Most guys know how the settlers lived back in the late 1800s on the plains of the Midwest now. The Soldiers have erected huts, lined with sandbags and dirt, wooden floors, and makeshift showers. Aside from naming the mice that run in and out of the shacks, the guys are doing okay. We were able to get some portable heaters that take some of the chill out of the night air. Building up Baharia has helped let them take a break, when they can, which is something they need.
We are all accustomed to eating the standard military MRE (Meal Ready to Eat…ie. Boxed meal), but we have arranged to receive at least one hot contracted KBR meal a day. This meal usually comes as an early dinner and contains a very healthy and delicious variety of food, at least in comparison to an MRE! Our thanksgiving meal consisted of turkey, roast beef, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, waxed beans, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, tomato pasta, stuffing, and gravy. We also had over three types of deserts such as pecan pie, apple pie, and angel layer cake. Gatorade, water, sodas, teas, coffees, and other drinks were also available. We had the meal served during daylight hours instead of our usual night hours so that the food would stay warmer on our plates. I think the men really enjoyed eating their food. Leaders served the chow whether they were out on the front lines or back in Baharia. It brought a bit of civilization back to each of us, and took the sting out of being apart from our families. We were able to sit with a friend or brother and share in the meal. In light of our circumstances, we still have much to be thankful for. We have our families, our health, and each other. Like many of the guys say now, “it could be worse”. I am thankful that I have these men to command, and the families that support their Soldier. With CSM (Command Sergeant Major)Steve Frennier as my battle buddy, we have weathered many events as a unit. There are more things in store, but I am thankful that I have experienced these events with these men.
The improvements have all scored big hits with the Soldiers, but the biggest improvement has to be the Army showers. Showering facilities were not available to us for our first few weeks here and we had to make do with whatever means we had to include baby wipes, soap, shampoo, and a bottle of water! Our supporting Quartermaster Company built and runs our new shower for us. Not only are the showers close and convenient, they are also warm, hot even (most of the time until the generator runs out of gas)! The Quartermaster Company that built us the shower is from a reserve unit and has done an outstanding job of providing support for us while we have been here. They weren’t doing anything back at Camp Fallujah, so an enterprising NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) asked them to come on over to our area and this unit jumped at the chance to do their job. The opportunity to take a hot shower has improved the morale of the men by leaps and bounds. At least that stops us from being creative with using deodorant. We were using it to try and suppress our manly smells, but after awhile, even the deodorant was losing out. We did figure out that you could put a little under your nose at night and you didn’t smell yourself so much before you fell asleep. Heck, Einstein invented the theory of relativity; we invented the relative use of deodorant. I also think during reunion and reintegration training, you all will have to remind us that there is no water shortage in the United States, and taking baths is a normal, everyday event for most people living in the US of A.
Things were relatively quiet for us this week from an operations side. Contact with any hostile elements was almost non- existent. Companies worked in their sectors and everything went smoothly. But we’ve come to expect the unexpected as far as challenges are concerned. With our job, you never know what situation may arise that requires immediate attention in a moments notice. Sure enough, when things were just about too quiet, we got a report from a BUSHMASTER element that one of their HMMWVs (humvee vehicle)) had rolled onto its side. It was immediately assessed that no one was injured in the incident. All we had to do now was deploy a recovery asset to pull the vehicle back onto its wheels. The catch? It had been raining for the last few days and the ground was extremely soft. We couldn’t very well leave the vehicle on its side, so off went the ten-ton “wrecker” to recover the vehicle.
A few hours go by, and we get another call but not the call we expected. You guessed it; the ten-ton is now stuck in the mud! When it was all said and done three days had passed and three recovery vehicles, two Bradleys, one bulldozer, one 10-ton wrecker, and one HMMWV had to be unstuck! The upside to this episode is that no one was injured. Some intel (intelligence) we did find out about the canal system (some very obvious): The canals are deep in some places (at least three guys fell in); there are fresh water eels in the canal; the water is very cold; the banks are very slippery; and the canals are multi-purpose, from irrigation to drinking to pooper mover. In any case, they guys that fell into the canals took a shower when they were done with that mission. The downside is that someone is surely going to be the butt of some ribbing at the next BLACK KNIGHT Ceremony!
The companies have done a great job of being flexible, as usual. They have accomplished all additional tasks assigned to them and continually meet and overcome a variety of challenges along the way. Recently the COMMANDOS have been tasked to conduct a mission with a Marine Corp element. The mission will keep MNC-I (Multinational Corps-Iraq) forces in pursuit of insurgent leadership into the surrounding areas of Fallujah. This is just one of the many ways that the presence of Task Force 1-5 and other 2BCT (2nd Brigade Combat team) elements has added to the overall flexibility and combat effectiveness of MNC-I forces during recent combat operations in Fallujah. All the companies have come under one form or another of enemy contact whether it has been small arms fire or mortar fire. In all instances, the men have done an outstanding job of keeping their composure, and getting their jobs completed. Your Soldiers are battle tested, and there isn’t much that they haven’t seen before. I am very proud of them.
With the heaviest fighting of Fallujah behind us, we are subject to move to another area of operation in support of the disruption missions assigned to the Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC- I). Along with 2BCT, our TF (Task Force) is part of the Operational Reserve force (OPRES) which is subject to the taskings of MNC-I. Essentially, we go to the trouble spots that units in contact are having difficulties suppressing. There are many reasons why units in contact could have this problem, but the 2BCT is the Corps’ answer to filling the shortfall in combat power. There has been an unintended cost of having done well in the past. In many discussions of future operations, our TF comes up as one of the solutions. It has become a badge of honor for the men. We don’t necessarily like the fact that we are subject to moving around Iraq, but we do feel good about being known for our ability to get the tough missions accomplished. There are several areas that we could go to, to include moving back into Baghdad. However, as we get sent to new places, we’ll get word back to where we are located. Currently, both the 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st Marine Division are trying to keep us, or get us, under their control. We’ll see how that works out, and that will determine how much longer we stay in Fallujah, and where we go next. Interestingly enough, the Commanding General and Command Sergeant Major of the 1st Marine Division came by and visited us before the big fight and talked with some of the Soldiers. At the end, they turned to me and CSM (Command Sergeant Major) Frennier and remarked what a pleasure it was to meet our guys. None of them asked for anything, and they were ready to do their mission. They said that so many other units were asking for so many things and stating their challenges. They felt very confident that we would get our mission done, and we did.
I’d like to talk about the recent redeployment news that caught some by surprise, and frustrated many. I can honestly say that all of us, to a man, were extremely disappointed when the announcement was made that we were extended till mid-March 2005. Interestingly enough, the FRGs (Family Readiness Groups) found out about this announcement before the leadership did through a VTC (Video Teleconference), an attempt by the senior chain of command to get the information into the hands of the FRGs as soon as possible. The FRG Leaders then did what they are designed to do, inform the FRG members, by putting out a pretty good notice about the announcement. I commend the FRG Leaders for getting the information out as soon as they did since we’ve always been in the position to put out the information we had, good or bad, as soon as we had it. I in turn made a radio announcement over the Task Force Command net to let the units and Soldiers know what had happened. As disappointing as the news was, what was interesting from my perspective was the fact that the men came up to me and said they felt this was going to happen only because they knew going into this operation that we might be here this long. They weren’t happy, but they were ready to continue their mission. I won’t lie. Some of the men were angry, some were sad, and three guys were happy they were getting an extra $1000 a month (I will send them to psych eval after we redeploy). As the CSM and I get out on the ground with the guys, I think they’ve weathered the storm of the information and are ready to move on with whatever missions come our way. Our role in the elections hasn’t been defined for us yet, but I don’t expect that to be clear until the agency coordinating the elections briefs their plan to the government and to our military leaders. It could take awhile before we hear anything on that. In the meantime, there are probably some moves within Iraq that we will make prior to the elections occurring. Like I mentioned before, we’ll let you know where we are once we get there.
I cannot sugarcoat the news. I tend to be a “glass is half- full” type, but it did take my breath away for a minute. Brenda (Colonel Miyamasu’s wife and head of the Family Readiness Group) told me that the response back at home ran the gamut of emotion, and interestingly enough, some supporters rallied to help those who were angry. I told Brenda that the men probably reflected emotions back home for awhile, but I also know that many of us know that the harder tasks in life are being accomplished back at home. You see, even though it is dangerous here, we are trained to deal with the events that happen here. Our equipment is good, our NCOs (Non Commissioned Officers) are the best, and the officers are doing their best to keep us moving in a positive direction. We don’t have many distractions here in Iraq, even less when we’re on missions like Fallujah and Najaf. We have learned to help one another to get through things, fix things, and accomplish tasks together. But, we know that there are a myriad of tasks that you must complete on a day-to-day basis that challenge you and the kids, and the distractions to your time are plentiful. I think the knowledge that we are not able to fully assist you in getting these things done is the foremost reason that the men were sad. We know that you all are doing your very best to make things work back there, and we are so very, very proud of you. We know that it isn’t easy, and the sacrifices you are making are immeasurable. Yet, when our deployment is over, and we can all look back on what each of us has accomplished, all of us will have become much better people because of it. It is a tough price to pay to become the people we are, but it is something that so many citizens in the United States will be grateful for. Yes, they will be grateful for your actions as well as ours. Only the finest families can deal with this type of adversity, and they reside with us.
So, I ask that all of us hang in there. I gave the men 24 hours to complain about the news. Some took 36 hours; some took 12. I think we’re all focused again on getting the mission done, whatever the mission may be. Your Soldiers have built a reputation on being a no- nonsense unit, ready to fix any problems that may occur. They don’t pound their chest and brag about themselves. They walk with a confidence that only fighters have, ones that have seen the worst that life can throw at them, and win.
EML (Leave to the U.S) has restarted and we’re sending 60 guys home in DEC leaving 19 more that haven’t taken EML or emergency leave. These Soldiers will go back in JAN. I have put in place a policy that prevents officers and senior NCOs from being back on EML over the Christmas Holidays. Those slots are going to the Soldiers. We are looking at putting some guys who arrived to the theater after we arrived, and those that took early emergency leave, as possibly going on EML too. We’ll let you know what that decision is when it is approved. In regards to the extra $1000 per month, we still don’t know how that will be paid to us whether it starts the month that it takes affect or we have to file for this after we redeploy. We will find out and let everyone know as soon as we know. Finally, where we will fly out of back to the states will probably be from Kuwait. There are plans that allow some Soldiers to fly from Baghdad to the states, but most of us will go out of Kuwait. It’s too early to even speculate about the redeployment flights, but once we’re in Kuwait, it’ll become much more clear.
As for me, I look forward to coming home and helping Brenda with raising the kids, maintaining the household, and changing the oil of the cars. Yes, Brenda is trying to set an endurance record for engine oil, so we’ll have to fix that when I get home. I also have the additional duties of cleaning hairbrushes, picking up dog poop, and cleaning the kitty litter. I have much to look forward to when I get home!
Well, that concludes another wrap up of the latest actions and activities of the TF 1-5 BLACK KNIGHTS. Thank you for all that you are doing to keep the home fires burning, and please be safe during this holiday season. Have a great month leading up to Christmas!!!! We’re hoping Santa makes an appearance over here too. Hopefully he will bring us something other than Beef Stew MREs. We love you and are thinking of you all! See you next week.
LTC Myles Miyamasu and CSM Steve Frennier
Colonel Miyamasu briefs us prior to mission.
Colonel Miyamasu and Command Sergeant Major Frennier award the Combat Medical Badge earned for “participating in combat operations under enemy hostile fire to liberate Iraq.” Standing on my right is my partner in crime, physician assistant, Lieutenant Dean Stulz.
Family and Friends,
As Thanksgiving approaches we wish we could be close to family and friends for the holidays. After an especially long year, this is something we were looking forward to. Unfortunately this will not be possible for about 140, 000 troops who will remain in Iraq through the holiday season. This has been an extremely challenging year for us and many more challenges await us. However, this year has been very enlightening as well. In spite of the current situation, I find that this year I am probably more thankful than ever for what I have. I would like to share some of the things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving season:
Life. This nearby cloud of smoke from an explosion reminded me once again that, yes, it could be worse! After a year of avoiding mortar rounds, rocket propelled grenades, machine gun fire, and bombs I am thankful for bad aim!
This piece of shrapnel in my left hand is from an improvised explosive device that hit the window of our humvee. I cared for two soldiers who were injured as a result. Thankfully, they will recover fully. After every convoy on the harsh streets of Baghdad, Najaf, Fallujah, or elsewhere I am thankful for a safe trip.
I am thankful for tents. As pictured above, not every place is equipped with them. It is hard for me to believe that just a few months ago I was roasting in the 140 degree summers. Now I find myself extremely thankful for a warm sleeping bag and any sort of roof over my head as the temperatures drop.
I am thankful for showers, hygiene, and the other daily comforts I once took for granted.
I am thankful for good food (not pictured)-as scarce as it may be!
It is uncertain how long I will remain here. In the next few days we will most likely head out of Fallujah to the next “hot spot” in Iraq. This is part of being a doctor for a front line unit rather than for a support hospital. You will probably find out about the same time I do by watching the news. I have had my share of excitement for this year. Hopefully soon enough I will return to a land of peace and quiet. For that I will be very thankful!
Family and Friends,
I have landed “safely” into Baghdad today after a brief leave to the U.S. My leave was very nice although short. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to contact or see everyone I wanted to. Actually, I did not expect to receive leave and even my parents did not know I was coming until I knocked on their door at 11:30 PM a few days ago! That was definitely a sight to see! After almost giving them a stroke, I realized I probably should avoid doing such things! After standing at the door staring with their jaws dropped to the ground, I politely asked them “can I come in now?”
Much of my time was spent hoarding good food, sleeping on a mattress, and showering. Ahhhh, luxury. It’s amazing how much faster time flies by in the States than out here! After spending a few days in suburbia, I now return to the joyful land of Baghdad….
Lucky for me, here too I get to experience suburbia! In a matter of hours I will fly by Blackhawk to a “suburb” of Baghdad. I have been selected to provide forward medical coverage for ongoing missions in the streets of Fallujah. The fighting remains intense there. Although I will find out more after I arrive, I am told I will be living in tents and out of our vehicles with no showers, limited electricity, and no internet. We will not be able to receive mail from now either. You may not hear from me for some time possibly so please keep in mind at this point, no news is good news!
You are in my thoughts.
Family and Friends,
I write you once again with my latest update from Iraq. As my friends, you have most likely recognized by now that you have become the target of my outlet: writing. It has become more so as I wrap up my book which I hope to publish. At this point it is ready to submit to a publisher (in case any of you have any contacts with publishers please let me know). I never really recognized writing as an outlet for me, but then again I never really pictured myself getting sent to war either. By now an email from me to you about once a month has become somewhat predictable. Life here has been anything but…
In some ways I consider myself extremely unlucky to have our unit quite possibly extended for a longer tour. In other ways I feel extremely blessed. Perhaps the greatest blessing is having the opportunity to care for and associate with the soldiers who are the true heroes of this war. I have been lucky in other ways as well. After dining several times at the “Green Zone Cafe” the cafe as destroyed by a suicide bomber THE DAY AFTER I left the green zone! Some of my friends joke that I am not the most punctual person at times but this timing could not have been better!
On the 14th of October I was told to move out of my room for the arrival of the 10th Mountain Division Army unit as we prepare to move elsewhere. I thought I would be a lot happier seeing this unit arrive. However, the arrival of our “replacement” unit does not mean we are going home anytime soon. I grumbled as I moved all my items to another room. I find moving to be an annoying task and mumbled the whole time as I made multiple trips lugging my belongings. It took all day. I was in a bitter mood. This had been my room from February until October 14th. On the 15th of October a mortar round landed IN MY OLD ROOM! My cot I slept in just one day earlier now lay in rubble and shattered glass. With another example of my stellar punctuality, suddenly my bitter mood changed!
A couple of days ago I was convoying in an armored humvee in the streets of Baghdad returning to our post. Suddenly we arrived to a standstill traffic jam. The streets were crowded. All cars were stopped. Apparently, there was news of an unexploded car bomb up ahead. Instead of turning around and taking another route (which seemed the most logical solution to me), we were radioed by the base and told to “hold security” around the bomb. Yes, “hold security!” The crowds flooded the streets. The Iraqi police sirens screamed around us. And we stood like sitting ducks around our humvees in the vicinity of an unexploded car bomb with our weapons “holding security.” As the doctor what I was securing I don’t exactly know, but nonetheless I was “holding security.” Don’t ask-just execute! What ended up detonating was a harmless smoke grenade. Luckily nothing exploded. Once again, I breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, it could be worse.
Now we stare in the face of yet another challenge. Now approaching our 11th month, we find ourselves possibly traveling to secure yet another city in our grand tour of Iraq. A city that you will definitely hear about as the Iraqi elections approach. This will most likely mean living out of our vehicles once again like we did in Najaf. We are told mail will not be delivered to us if postmarked after the 15th of November. Quite possibly we will have no internet. None of this is certain yet. Like I mentioned in my last email to you our destiny is as clear as mud. However, this appears to be our future.
Let’s shift gears from our future to our past. For a change in pace, I thought I would write more about the history of the unit for which I am the doctor. From what we are told, we are the “heaviest” Brigade in Iraq at this time in terms of armor and weaponry. The Battalion I am the sole doctor for (1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division) included greats such as Robert E. Lee and has fought alongside General Custer and General MacArthur. It has played critical roles in the Civil War, World War, Korean War, Vietnam, etc. This Battalion has earned unit citations from the President of the United States. History repeats itself, and one day Baghdad, Najaf, and our next locations will be added to the unit history. I was never really a history buff, but I found the excerpt that I have attached below interesting. Sometimes I wonder what it must have been like to experience the other adventures encountered by this Battalion. I wonder if their doctor felt the same way I do. Maybe their doctor had a group of good friends like you guys to write letters to!
5th Cavalry Regimental History
The 5th Cavalry Regiment was organized on 03 March 1855 as the 2nd United States Cavalry Regiment at Louisville, Kentucky with officers and troopers from Alabama, Maryland, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia. In September of that same year, the Regiment relocated to Texas. Two years later, LTC Robert E. Lee took command and the Regiment spent four years fighting 13 campaigns against Native American tribes of the American Southwest. In March of 1861, the Regiment moved from Texas to Carlisle, Pennsylvania where the officers and men loyal to the South left the Regiment to serve in the Confederacy. The Regiment was refitted with new troopers and officers, organized under the Army of the Potomac, and fought its first battle of the Civil War at Bull-Run. On 10 August 1861, the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Regiment was re-designated as the 5th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, and went on to fight with distinction in more than 17 campaigns at places like Gaine’s Mill, Fairfax Courthouse, Falling Waters, Martinsburg, the Wilderness, Shenandoah Valley, and Appomattox. It was at Gaine’s Mill on 27 June 1862, that the regiment made a valiant charge and stopped the advance of a Confederate Division commanded by General John Bell Hood, saving the Artillery of the Army of the Potomac from annihilation.
In September 1868, the regiment received orders to prepare for duty against hostile Indians in Kansas and Nebraska. For several years the 5th Cavalry fought many skirmishes and battles with the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Apache Indians. After General Custer and 264 of his men of the 7th Cavalry perished at Little Big Horn, troopers of the 5th Cavalry Regiment rode after the Sioux to avenge their deaths. In 1898, the regiment traveled from San Antonio to the embarkation port of Tampa, Florida to enter the Spanish American War. More than 17,000 troops, including the 5th Cavalry, landed on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico. In 1901, a bloody insurrection broke out on the distant islands of the Philippines. Dismounted, they battled in the jungles of the Pacific to end the Moro Insurrection. In 1913, border threats to the United States brought the regiment back to the deserts of the Southwest. In 1916, the regiment was dispatched to the Mexican border to serve as part of the Mexican Punitive Expedition. Under “BlackJack” Pershing, the 5th Regiment crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico and was successful in stopping the border raids conducted by bandits of Pancho Villa and eliminating the national threat from the Southwest.
On 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. In February 1943, the 5th Cavalry Regiment was alerted for an overseas assignment. Soldiers of the 5th Cavalry Regiment dismounted and moved to the Southwest Pacific Theater. Over the next year and a half, the Regiment distinguished itself in some of the most desperate and bloody battles of the Second World War. The 5th Cavalry battled ashore with General Douglas MacArthur to liberate the Philippine Islands during the invasions of Leyte and Luzon. During the battle for Luzon, troopers from the 5th Cavalry Regiment were among the first soldiers to enter and free the Philippine Capital of Manila.
The Korean War began shortly before dawn on 25 June 1950 and the 5th Cavalry was among the first to deploy to the Korean battlefield. The Regiment was thrown into the desperate battle around the South Korean port city of Pusan. Troopers of 5th Cav held their portions of the perimeter around Pusan for more than 50 days against overwhelming numbers of enemy forces. At one time they defended against more than five North Korean Divisions. Later, during the drive north, the 5th Cavalry Regiment was the first unit to enter and occupy the North Korean capitol of Pyongyang. On 1 July 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was officially activated for combat duty in the Republic of Vietnam. In the Oriental calendar year of the “Horse”, 5th Cavalry Regiment soldiers had returned to war wearing the famous and feared patch of the First Cavalry Division. The newly arrived Sky troopers wasted little time in getting into action, going into battle on 18 September 1965. Fifth Cavalry troopers found themselves fighting against Viet Cong guerillas and determined North Vietnamese regulars for almost 8 years and 16 campaigns. As a result of its gallant actions, the Regiment was awarded two presidential Unit Citations and the Valorous Unit Citation
In August 1990 the BLACK KNIGHTS were alerted for deployment to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Desert Shield. On 24 February 1991 the ground war began and the BLACK KNIGHTS found themselves fighting in the greatest mechanized battle since the Second World War. The Black Knights along with the rest of the 1st Cavalry Division conducted a successful “feint” which froze four Iraqi divisions, allowing the VII Corps to envelop the Iraqi forces from the west virtually unopposed.
The most eventful news I write to inform you about today is that we are staying through the Iraqi elections. Thus the “one year” deployment will likely surpass the 365-day mark since we left the states.
WHAT went into this decision of probable extension of our tour? We are told this decision wasn’t made lightly, and required a significant amount of decisions at the highest levels to keep our Brigade here in Iraq.
The next logical question is WHY? With increasing opposition in Iraq now, we will become part of the Multi-National Corps who will use us as a fire-fighting unit, with the ability to move to risky areas and support the headquarters responsible for that area.
The next big question that remains unanswered is WHERE? Instead of winding down and preparing to return to the States during this 10th month of deployment, we could end up staying in Baghdad, or moving to any of the cities you read about in the papers or see on the news. Uncertain.
Although publicly units are now deployed for “one year,” a longer tour is more on the lines of what we anticipated. The big question is this: “one year from WHEN?” That question remains to be answered. No time soon…
The good news is that this allows for more soldiers, if not all of us, to return to the states for 2 weeks of leave. Wait a minute, “if not all of us?” “Then WHO?”
The other good news is that we can still receive packages and mail through November and maybe have it stop in early December.
With the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, politicians continue to debate the future of Iraq. Besides “WHO?, WHAT?, WHEN?, WHERE?, and WHY?,” our future out here is pretty clear! As far as the question “WHAT NEXT?” – My answer is the same it has been all year – just grin and bear it! It could be worse!
You are in my thoughts,
Family and Friends,
I am now out of Najaf and back in Baghdad after a 10 hour road convoy. It was a very intense month. Still have all my fingers to type this email to you as well as my sanity (I think???!!!). I never thought I’d hear myself say “I can’t wait until I get back to Baghdad!” A paradise by no means, but I guess it’s all relative.
We were returned here to provide security and medical coverage for the upcoming 8-million-man holiday march. The last holiday march resulted in bombings, uncontrollable crowds, flames on the streets, and multiple bruises from thrown stones. This one will hopefully be less eventful. Hmmmm….
Many of you want to know “what is it like out there?” I’m sure there is lots of coverage on the news. I have already shared pictures with you of my living conditions. Here are some more personal shots that I would like to share with you guys. I tried not to make them too gory! Enjoy!
Patient care. Trauma, trauma, and more trauma! We are “on call” 24 hours a day for the whole deployment… ready for whatever whenever.
This unfortunate patient was shot in the chest and required emergent bilateral thoracotomy (needed his chest opened on both sides). We are performing internal cardiac massage in this picture. This was done in the inside of a tent in Najaf.
Patients are evacuated to the Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad by helicopter after we stabilize them. Eventually, if seriously injured, they return to Germany then the States. “Have an extra seat for me?”
Recreation. Exercising during free time. Not much else to do! When I am bored and have time to work out that is a good thing. When the doctor is “bored” we are not taking casualties. Doctor boredom is welcomed! Conveniently located mortar bunkers in the background in case of attack! Workout routine: Pull-ups, hear explosion, run under bunker, duck, do more pull-ups. Joy.
This is the cemetery where much of the fighting took place in Najaf.
Imagine a dense cemetery 3 kilometers x 2 kilometers with countless tombstones, underground tombs, underground stairwells, and tunnel systems. Then imagine Al-Sadr militia fighters popping out and shooting! Boo!
1st Cavalry medic in the streets of Najaf by the Imam Ali mosque. This mosque was occupied by Muqtadr Al-Sadr and his militia for about one year until last month’s activities helped return it to the people of Iraq. Al-Sadr and his militia were forced to put down weapons and evacuate. The date is incorrect on this picture.
Pretty self explanatory! These are the improvised explosive devices (I.E.D s) that are randomly scattered on the roads. Wrong place at the wrong time=game over.
Much of our missions are done at night. This shot is through the night vision goggles we are issued. They are like binoculars and that is why the picture is circular. Yes, everything does look green viewing through them!
Unfortunately funeral ceremonies are a reality out here. Too many brave soldiers have lost their lives.
Soldier formation during funeral ceremony.
Meeting with 4 Star General Casey who is in charge of the multinational forces in Iraq.
Hope you all enjoyed! You are in my thoughts and I look forward to the day I can use my now battered, sand-filled camera to take pictures with you all!
Thank you for your support.
Peace in the middle east (yeah right),
Deployment motto: “It could be worse!”
Family and Friends:
Who Would’ve Thought?
Muktadr Al Sadr. He is a radical Shiite cleric in Iraq stirring up much trouble for the coalition forces. In April alone, he and his militia were responsible for over 100 U.S. solider deaths. He is 30 years old.
Sudip Bose. A regular guy with a fairly normal upbringing stirring up no trouble and minding his own business! I too am 30 years old.
We live on opposite ends of the world. We have totally different lives. I grew up one way. He grew up another. Under ordinary circumstances our paths would have never crossed. Never. But now I wonder how could this man have such an effect on my life? Many people have shaped me into the person I am today. Parents, family, teachers, coaches, professors, neighbors, and friends. All of you. But Muktadr Al Sadr?
I am no longer in Baghdad. I am now heavily immersed as front line medical support and the sole doctor in a series of intense raids aimed at capturing Muktadr Al Sadr. The pursuit of this man and his militia has completely altered my life here. I am coupled with select Marine troops (who do not have their own doctor) and elements of my Army battalion. The fighting is extremely intense. This is not car bombs. This is not explosive devices. This is one force (us) versus another force (the Al Sadr militia) on the battlefield which is a cemetery in Najaf, Iraq. In the thick of things I am immersed. Who would’ve thought?
Since my last letter to you all this trip out of Baghdad was not quite the one I had anticipated. With about 4 hours notice I was emergently pulled from my weekly shift at the Combat Support Hospital and instructed to pack up my items and head “elsewhere.” After several hours of convoy, now I write you from Najaf, Iraq. I have been here for a few days now. Who would’ve thought?
I roll around the streets of Najaf in a tracked vehicle. We stop and set up the canopy. It is here we treat patients. It is my life. I sleep in it. In the afternoon sun I roast in it. I watch blackhawk and apache helicopters flying overhead in it. I hear loud explosions from it. I transport in it. I work out of it. I live in it. Hey, not all of us are lucky enough to work out of our own home!
Life is no longer out of a building once infested with rats. But now I long for that. Who would’ve thought? No longer in Baghdad for now. Now a homeless nomad in Najaf, Iraq. Uncertain where I will be even two weeks from now. Uncertain if I will live out of this vehicle and sleep in the cot pictured on the side of it for the rest of my deployment (March 2005?). Uncertain when and if I will have internet access again. Uncertain if we will accomplish the mission of capturing this man. Uncertain if I will be able to one day look the man who placed me in this intense battle in the face. Uncertain why I do not feel anger or hate towards this man, just awe that his actions can affect my life in such a significant manner. Uncertain how and why things end up the way they do.
I lie on the top of a tracked vehicle staring at the stars in the desert sky. I try to motivate for another intense mission. I ponder the above thoughts. Think? Don’t think! Just execute! This is the life of a deployed soldier in Iraq.
Just wanted to say hi again. I hope everyone had a good 4th of July weekend. Usually I celebrate Independence Day by seeing fireworks. This year the “fireworks” were a little different. Very explosive nonetheless!
Thank you for your emails. I realize I have been delinquent on many replies. Whenever a soldier dies here all communication is cut off until the family is notified. Although there has been progress with internet cafe here I find at times it is several days before I can make it there and when I do the computers often do not work or are very slow. Kind of like the state of this country…in the process of rebuilding but not quite there yet. Nonetheless, thank you for your emails and support. It is so much appreciated!
The Iraq situation is often portrayed negatively. Soldiers dying. 12-15 month deployments often without mid-tour leave (as in my case). Unbearable climate. Many locals taking what we are trying to give them with one hand and attempting to kill us with the other. The media and recent movies have pointed out the explosions, death, and darkness. There is definitely truth in that. But even through the harshest of combat environments some positives do pop up here and there. I thought I’d change the tone of this email and try to point out some of the positives, both on a larger level and for myself. It is the things below that help me through these times.
The Larger Glass is Half Full:
Optimism: Iraq is “free”. The local Iraqis can hopefully shed the cloak of dependency and assume taking more matters in their own hands.
Optimism: Bad Aim. People firing mortars have terrible aim. Worse than a doctor with an M16 machine gun! Their misfires make for fewer casualties (and interesting stories!).
Optimism: Rebuilding of a nation. Millions of dollars have been put into repairing sewer systems, taking trash off the streets, and renovating buildings. We live by a circular road which troops had termed “stinky circle”. It is now a little less stinky. Even our area of Baghdad is more livable. My building is no longer severely rat infested. Painted, shattered windows repaired (until they are shattered again). Plumbing fixed. Fewer power outages. For a while there the electric wires were crossed with showers so we were getting shocked when touching the faucet!
Optimism: Rebuilding of local hospitals and clinics.
Optimism: More children immunized.
Optimism: School textbooks don’t mention Saddam Hussein for the first time in 30 years.
Optimism: Interacting with local physicians. “Emergency Medicine” is not a specialty here yet. MUCH needed.
Optimism: Reaching out to the youth who will hopefully one day like Americans. More smiles, waves, handshakes. Hopefully they will enjoy the life I one day hope to return to once deployment ends.
Optimism: Caring for 2 children with a life threatening blood disease and trying to arrange for their care in the United States.
The Smaller Glass is Half Full:
Optimism: I am still physically and mentally and emotionally healthy. I wish we could all say the same. If I make it home without any injuries and am sane I cannot complain.
Optimism: Knowing this hell is only temporary
Optimism: Recognizing happiness does not come from material goods or money
Optimism: An uneventful day.
Optimism: Watching DVD movies on those uneventful days. Saw “Fahrenheit 9/11” 2 days after it came out in the States! Interesting (and much more relaxing) seeing the raids in Iraq on a computer screen rather than in life. The copies are bootlegged versions taken by someone in the local theaters with a camcorder. You can hear popcorn crunching, people whispering, and often see people walk in front of the screen! It’s like being in a theater!
Optimism: A shower, laundry, and fresh change of clothes. This does not occur for us everyday. Most of us only brought three uniforms for the whole year.
Optimism: Powder-for those other days. (I have more than enough and don’t need anymore-thanks)
Optimism: Getting sleep.
Optimism: Not getting crazy war dreams during that sleep.
Optimism: Life. Saving a life.
Optimism: Killing a nasty bug in my room.
Optimism: Trying the local food
Optimism: No diarrhea after the local food (a.k.a. Saddam’s revenge)
Optimism: Having V.I.P as a patient. (A very famous bearded man now on trial). Now that he is on trial I am allowed to share that I helped take care of him. It was fascinating sitting in the same room over six hours with this man. Cannot say where I cared for him. Cannot say for what. Patient confidentiality.
Optimism: Working out. Now I understand why prisoners lift weights! Much of my free time has been spent doing this.
Optimism: Unbelievable trauma experience.
Optimism: Having my friends reassure me I am not “lanky” and “dorky.” Thanks guys! You’re the best! This is how a recent front-page article chose to describe me. Although, around 6’5″ infantry guys I probably do come off that way! For the record, I did not join the military for purely financial reasons and it was not an “accident.” Nor is Baghdad a “utopia.” Definitely an interesting read…
Optimism: Writing a book and hoping to publish (looking for willing publisher)
Optimism: Getting to appreciate why I really went into medicine.
Optimism: Air conditioning-when it works-to bring the temperature down from 120 degrees to a nice “cool” 90 degrees.
Optimism: Earning several military coins as awards. “I went to Baghdad and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!”
Optimism: Learning Arabic (well not really but I know some words). “Alem” means pain. This is the word I most commonly encounter.
Optimism: Care packages
Optimism: Support from family and friends have been unbelievable. Even from those I have not spoken to in years or have not even met! Childhood, High School, Undergraduate, Med School, Residency, and Work friends! Like a reunion (kind of). Thank you guys!
Optimism: Support for my mom, dad, and sister in the States (in many senses this is much harder for them than for me). Thank you again.
Optimism: Receiving a “thank you”
Optimism: Recognizing life is short and even one year can change the course of life forever.
Optimism: Receiving emails from animal activists questioning why I dislike rats and spoke badly of them on my last email. Made me chuckle. I do not dislike rats. They have their home and I have mine. We just need our space!
Optimism: Realizing “it’s already been a week.” Although it seems to be going a lot faster for the people who email me and say “Six months already? Wow that was fast!” Uh huh…
Optimism: Porcelain toilets – hard to come by.
Yes this is miserable. But at times good can come out of even the worst of situations. The glass is half full not half empty. 6 months down. I will be a happy man when I get to go home! And that is something definitely positive I hold on to!
“It Could be Worse”
Dear Family and Friends,
Once again greetings from Baghdad! Just wanted to send you all another update to let you all know I am still doing okay. Hope things are well for you all too.
I ponder what to write this time. Reminds me of when I would come home from school back in the day and my parents would ask…. “How was your day? What happened in school today?” I would always answer “nothing much.” No matter what happened to me the day seemed uneventful from my perspective. Just the same old routine. “Another normal day.” I guess here too I have fallen into the “same old routine.” My life is so different from that just 5 months ago, yet things seem to be becoming more “normal.” Things that I would never have imagined myself doing are becoming “normal.”
-Blackhawk helicopter whizzing overhead…. “normal.”
-Tanks driving by constantly…. “normal.”
-Providing medical support for daily and nightly missions…. “normal”
-Buzz of army acronyms over our radios…. “normal”
-Saw a porcupine trying to enter my building (lizards, scorpions, rats and other unwanted guests not welcome in this home)…. “normal.”
-Another packaged lunch…. “normal”
-Cross under a bridge while taking a quick glance overhead that there is no one throwing grenades from the top…. “normal.”
-Another window shattered…. “normal.”
-Put on my Kevlar helmet and my 40 lb bullet proof flack vest and protective eyewear to venture out on a convoy…. “normal.” I cannot imagine going anywhere without this gear on me. I wonder if I would recognize myself in my old clothes and longer hair anymore!
-Sweat…. “normal.” It is getting extremely warm out here. July/August reaches 125 degrees in the shade from what I am told! Temperatures as high as 150’s last summer! That’s okay though since it’s a “dry” heat!!!
Getting into the groove of things and realizing the luxuries of home which I missed so much earlier are becoming less and less of a craving. Life out here is becoming “normal.”
As June 30th approaches (the date for “turnover” of Iraq) my schedule seems to remain the same. Unfortunately this upcoming date does not mean a plane trip home anytime soon. I hope this deployment will be one year total (end in January 2005??!!), however I am expecting anything since recent units have been extended. Who knows, maybe one day I will become a permanent Baghdad citizen! (No thanks). From a personal standpoint, my job will be the exact same on June 29th as it will be on July 1st. So will most of ours. If anything, it may become busier for us as more uprisings are anticipated.
From a medical standpoint, things have been steady. My patients encompass a broad spectrum mostly consisting of U.S. troops in Baghdad. With my physician assistant on mid-tour leave, I am pretty much the only front-line provider on this north side of the city. At the Combat Support Hospital I see most of the trauma cases in Baghdad as well as occasional trauma patients from Najaf, Fallujah, and other nearby towns (Army, Marines, etc). I regularly care for Iraqi prisoners of war (treated nobly may I add….sorry to disappoint but won’t see pictures of me with abused prisoners on TVJ), Iraqi civilians, U.S. contractors, and occasional V.I.P. patients…maybe one day I will be allowed to reveal who. Just as thought provoking is taking care of detainees as they glare, spit, and curse at us. Many have routine complaints. However, daily trauma care too is becoming “normal.”
The other day I saw a patient with a shoulder injury. “How did you injure your shoulder?” I asked. This soldier fell asleep on his cot in an awkward position. His left arm fell asleep. In the middle of the night his left arm lay across his chest, heavy without sensation. In a state of grogginess he awakens to feel “a heavy arm” lying across his chest. Frantically he reaches for his knife to stab the arm which he mistakens to be someone else’s limb. Perhaps the enemy’s arm reaching for his weapon? Luckily there is no knife in proximity. He pulls his left arm violently with his right arm and nearly dislocates his own left shoulder! Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Tylenol. Rest, ice. Call me in the morning. “Normal” combat stress.
Another soldier comes to me and hands me his M16 weapon. “You must take this from me doctor, or else I am afraid I will do something I will regret.” His wife had recently informed him she was going to leave him for another man. Many marriages and relationships suffer the rigors of a 15 month deployment. Unfortunately another “normal” patient.
I pronounced Sergeant XXX dead at 0130 in the morning on the concrete. His intestines protruding from his abdomen he lie lifeless after an attack from a rocket propelled grenade to his vehicle. My trembling medic informs me “I was supposed to be in that vehicle!” His mission had been recently changed due to unforeseen circumstances. This was fortunate for the medic or he may have met the same fate. He could barely hold his composure. It is not usually the soldier with the bullet holes that suffers from the combat stress. It is his friend or acquaintance who nearly missed becoming a casualty. A “normal” reaction.
I guess overall not very fun out here… but unlike several others I have seen I still have my arms, legs, and vision. No new holes in me. Hopefully, it will stay this way. Fortunately this is temporary and will end. I cannot complain. One day I will look back at these “normal” days as an abnormal memory.
Take care, thank you for hearing my stories and for your support! As always you are in my thoughts!
Deployment Motto: “It could be worse”
Family and Friends,
3 AM Baghdad time…..
Thought I’d share my uniquely proposed “Bose’s Exit Plan From Iraq before June 30th” with you all today…..I understand the Bush administration and nations are debating the future of this country…..below is my humble solution based on a very eventful day:
The day began caring for an entire bus full of Iraqi civilians who were open fired upon. Yes… a bus full of patients with gunshot wounds!!!
THEN….the day REALLY started….
A prison filled with criminals was mortared in Baghdad today and all of a sudden… “Bose, we are receiving up to 50 patients.” Absolute chaos. Some dead and never even arrived to me. Several others near-fatally injured.
Now here is the irony. This was a prison filled with Iraqis suspected of anticoalition activities….the ones who were firing mortars at us trying to kill Americans but somehow got captured and put in prison. Now the same people who they were working with fired mortars at them! Firing at their own “teammates!” Not only are these select crazy people trying to kill us but now they are succeeding at killing themselves! Insane!
Then it hit me! A brilliant idea! These people are killing everyone! They are even killing themselves now! If they continue to do this maybe all the “bad guys” will take each other out and there will be none left. The other good Iraqis can live happily ever after and we can smoothly exit the country….
At the rate things are going this may all even occur before the proposed June 30th deadline!
Just a thought…..
You are in my thoughts……
Family and Friends,
Thought I’d send out a hello to update everyone about life in Baghdad. 2 months 20 some days into deployment so far. Feels like an eternity yet not even 3 months. The novelty is gone as we settle into our “routines.” Troops struggle to keep morale up. Now we look ahead only to see and endless tunnel of time. Maybe 10 more months (hopefully), maybe 15 more months. Nobody knows. Time just keeps ticking. And ticking. And ticking. And ticking.
Days here seem to just turn like the pages of a book exposed to an unpredictable wind. On one page I take care of several marines. They have been getting hit pretty hard as well. On another page we prepare for missions attempting to arrest an Anti-American leader here who is stirring up much of our troubles. Another page caring for ambushed civilians or prisoners of war and children. Other pages are about preparing for possible convoys into nearby town Fallujah for upcoming operations due to recent events. This morning I ate breakfast and saw a new friend of mine. We exchanged hellos. This evening I pronounced him dead and saw the contents of his breakfast in his ruptured intestines. This book gets uglier and uglier…and the ending does not seem happy.
No new bruises for me thankfully. No more getting pelted with stones. Unfortunately cannot say the same for everyone else. Plenty of injuries. The enemy is faceless and cowardly. They set up explosive devices or fire rocket propelled grenades from a distance and are often never to be found again. Only to leave someone blinded, paralyzed, permanently disabled, or lifeless. Things have been exploding left and right here. Bombs in hotels. Bombs in cars. Bombs in trucks. Bombs in soda cans. Bombs in dead animals. Bombs in tree branches. Bombs in potholes. Bombs in people. Anti-American protests everywhere. Some Iraqis are pro-American. Some are not. Probably more eventful here than the news ever portrays….then again I do not regularly get the news here…
Recently we (the 1st Cavalry) participated in a series of intense raids called Operation Iron Promise aimed at catching people firing mortar rounds at us and seizing their weapons. Raids happen daily and nightly here. Often I accompany. Often I stay back on the street corner in my vehicle waiting for patients. Often I wait in my aid station and patients are evacuated to me. Often I am at the 31st Combat Support Hospital in the Green Zone of Baghdad. All I know is that I am keeping busy…Often….
Few weeks ago we moved into a new building about 1 block away from our last building. It is located about a block west of the Tigris River. This river has a lot of history behind it and was supposedly once one of the origins of human civilization. Our building looks like it has been there since then! It was in a state of shambles. Several days spent sweeping, mopping, cleaning, trying to fix plumbing and electricity, putting hinges on doors, and painting (actually a nice break from seeing patients). The buildings are filled with rats and these are no ordinary rats. These are Darwinian rats… “survival of the fittest” rats. They are nearly a foot long with long tails and they pop out of nowhere! We place mousetraps with peanut butter on them and they lick the peanut butter and walk right over the traps! They climb walls and gnaw through food containers. They can be heard running above our heads on the other side of the ceiling panel and sometimes they fall through and land on our beds. We have been getting used to being attacked by mortar rounds and bombings here in Baghdad….but frankly at times I think the rats freak us out more! In the states you see the movies where people jump on the couch and scream when they see mice. Here the rats jump up there with you. Thrilling….
Experience here is truly enlightening. There are several things I miss….things that I often took for granted.
1) Peace. I cannot imagine life in Israel/ Palestine/ other places in the world where people constantly live in fear of death/explosions/terrorism. For me it is only temporary and the memories will last for life. From personal experience, it is terrifying to be sitting in a room and have the window explode from a mortar round that landed few feet away…especially when I just decided to stick around in the building a few minutes longer and could have been outside right where it landed! Also terrifying examining the bullet holes through our ambulance door by the seat that I was going to sit in but decided not to (the person sitting there was not so lucky). Going to the grocery store or to our jobs without losing a limb is not something to take for granted. I pray that the world does not crumble to terrorism or other evil forces where this is taken away from us. We had a taste of this on September 11, 2001. Some people live it everyday. It is truly miserable.
2) Fast food. I never thought I would crave Pizza Hut and Taco Bell like I do. I think the first month I return will be a dedicated “fast food” month. The local food here is risky at times…several diarrhea cases…we have nicknamed the syndrome “Saddam’s revenge”
3) Porcelain toilets (see Saddam’s revenge above)
4) Showers. Warm showers. Clean showers.
5) Family and Friends…and thus I write this letter to you all. Thank you so much for your support.
On the other hand, there are actually certain things I do not miss so much….
1) The daily “rat race.” Things that I used to find “annoying” are not an issue here. For example, paying bills, filling up the gas tank, sorting through junk mail (all mail is good here), deadlines, routines, commitments, exams, errands around the home, etc… In a weird sense this is an interesting getaway with a whole different set of stresses. Puts an interesting perspective to prior stresses. Instead of worrying about the “rat race” I worry about rats….
2) Not having to prepare my food or figure out what to eat. There is one choice…the chow hall…take it or leave it. Like it or not. If it’s moldy just don’t eat it! Kind of like a college cafeteria (except you are getting shot at)
Everyday we try to find something positive, no matter how small, and try to hang on to it until bedtime. Sometimes it is the grilled steak night at the chow hall (rare) and other times it is the nice email or letter. We savor those moments and use them to drive on?..
Keep in touch (and sorry if I cannot do so very well)! You guys are still in my thoughts.
Hello from Baghdad…..Joy….another mass email from me (sorry for the mass email….internet still fairly limited here:)
What a day today! So I awoke zero-early A.M. in typical Army fashion. In a semi- comatose state managed to down some breakfast (not very tasty)…. feeling a little under the weather. Around 10 AM there was a bombing/Rocket propelled grenade (who knows???) at a mosque in the Kadamiya area of Baghdad about 1/2 mile from where I spent the night. Absolute chaos! Our unit (1-5 Cav of 1st Cavalry Division) rolled out to the site. I was in an armored humvee. The streets were packed with thousands and thousands of people…..celebrating the holiday of Ashovara. This is a holiday in honor of Imam Hussein the grandson prophet of Muhammed. The Shiite Muslims feel he died in vain so mark this holiday by slaying themselves (cutting etc…) as a means of sacrifice. From our perspective this means more suicide bombings….
As we rushed to the site of the bombing the crowds began hurling rocks at us. I was in a humvee with M16 pointed out the window. The women in burkas spit at our vehicles. Hoards pounded on the windows. All there was was glass (windows halfway rolled down so I could have my machine gun out the window) between myself and thousands of angry mobs…..somehow they were under the impression that the bombing was the Americans’ fault??!!?! Angry. Angry.
Security was posted (somewhat) and I exited the vehicle to treat patients (hundreds of patients some severely injured and some mildly). I was the sole doctor with a few medics. Rocks bounced off my kevlar (helmet). I don’t know where the heck all these rocks came from…..as if they brought a dump truck filled with stones!!!??? I didn’t think there were that many rocks in the whole city! AK47 gunfire was heard in the background. Save lives??? I couldn’t even save my own if my life counted on it!!!! It was absolutely terrifying….
So several rock bruises and a slight limp later I write this email to all of you…..extremely thankful that these bruises were my only injuries (although it was painful)…..Sticks and stones can break your bones!!! (Saliva, Arabic swear words, and gunfire overhead is not too pleasant either!)
We turned around and sought shelter behind the walls of the compound before I really had a chance to treat any patients. 6 ft high flames were set around us and people attempted to climb the walls and we warded them off with our weapons…..Needless to say, I really earned my Combat Medical Badge today for providing care in the direct line of fire (and saliva, and rocks, and cussing)….My life would have been just fine without it but hey…….. Absolutely nuts!!!!
I hope this goes down as my most terrifying day in Baghdad and these go down as my only injuries. I will consider myself extremely lucky.
For the most part the Iraqi people are very friendly. There are a small percent who are extremely anti-American. Today the whole mob turned anti-American. It absolutely baffles me how some of the most holy people in the world (praying over 10 times a day) attempt to kill us and injure us out of the same mosques they pray in……with the same hands they pray with…..
I guess, then again, every group of people has their extremists…..
So not everyday has been like this. On the usually calmer (yet still very eventful) days my time is split between shifts at the Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad and providing medical coverage on patrols. Unfortunately still lots of trauma…..everyday.
On a brighter note, I was personally able to meet with the Secretary of Health from George Bush’s Cabinet (Tommy Thompson) when he made his visit to Baghdad. I was also able to converse with Dr. Sanjay Gupta who provides the medical coverage on CNN television. Just conversation….no TV coverage…..no thanks…..not for me…..
Hope this email finds you all well. You are all in my thoughts and thank you for reading through my stories. Thank you for your support.
Take care my friends (and family),
Wow! I cannot even begin to put in one email what I have experienced here in Baghdad since I arrived on the 1st of February.
Anyways….the convoy went decently well….as well as can be expected. Flat tire on one vehicle from an explosive device. Gunfire in the distance…. who knows what they were aiming at. Some Iraqis shoot in the air for celebration so it’s hard to distinguish. One of our medics shot an Iraqi man on a rooftop who was aiming a weapon at an Army vehicle while the tire was being changed. Luckily no major injuries….Probably the most heartbreaking thing was the little 3 year old children in the villages waving to us on the way and begging for food. We were ordered not to give anything because then the kids run in front of the military vehicles and injure themselves. Really hard to say no and tell them to go away…
However, on the way, many camels, sheep and desert miles later… we passed through the quaint villages with villagers in traditional attire….holding a can of Pringles potato chips and Swimsuit Issue of Sports illustrated……truly the Americans had arrived…….kind of humorous.
Then I arrived to BIAP (another happy army acronym for Baghdad international Airport). We then convoyed to the main camp/area we would be staying in. There is absolutely nothing there. No phones, internet, etc… It is a brand new prior unoccupied area. The one good thing is the rooms are trailers with heat (which is an upgrade from the tents we were in prior that I sent a picture of)….or is it an upgrade???? It poured the first night and my room completely flooded! My clothes stayed completely dry the whole trip up from the States and got soaked in my room in Baghdad! Go figure. Wore around wet stuff all day.
Kuwait was freezing. Baghdad is wet. Pick your pain!
Then came the idea that they want me to stay off the main base area in case of an attack there. In that case I would be the treating doctor. So I have been pretty mobile. Almost everyone else stayed on the main base. I moved out of my trailer and have been in different areas. I have been treating patients in the most random places. I saw a patient with a fracture that I treated in the butcher shop of Odai’s (Saddam Hussein’s dead son) palace. Once used to chop chickens and now used to manipulate human bones! I’m sure he would be proud. He has a nice swimming pool where he had all his parties but unfortunately no swimming for me 🙂
Now I am located just off the Tigris River. Myself and a select few were supposed to stay near the Iraqi Intelligence building (like their C.I.A.). There is an nice building that was once the General’s home. Would be a nice place to stay but slight problem…the Americans blew a big hole in it with a missle when the war first began! So I stayed in a room in some building with no electricity, heat, open windows without glass, human excement on the walls, and rats running around. Glad I did this higher education for the finer things in life! Talk about dollar motels…..this was like the ten cent room!!!!
So now I write from a different area. Nice to have internet for the first time. Our area gets hit with mortar round around 8-9 times a day but they dont seem to hit anything since they are aiming from across the Tigris River. But I do get to go on the joyous missions when we attempt to catch the bozos doing this. I basically sit about 1000 meters back waiting for casualties. It is pretty neat to see the home raids though. Sometimes I have to go into the homes with them….M16 machine gun in hand! Absolutely insane! Never pictured myself doing this….Talk about uninvited guests!!!
Today I went to the orphanage and tuberculosis clinic and the university hospital. One of the things our unit is attempting to do is to help these facilities pick up on their own feet again. This involves traveling the streets to get to these areas. The streets remind me very much of India or Mexico City. Similar feel. Similar overcrowdedness. Similar ambience….except for the fact that there are military helicopters constantly flying overhead and people running around in camoflauge with weapons. Sometimes I feel like a sitting duck on the streets. But then again I think I could die in my backyard from a rattlesnake bite or at a busy intersection in the States. How’s that for rationalization? I pray I am not at the wrong place at the wrong time….wherever that may be.
Shortly I will begin shifts at the Combat Support Hospital. They are staffed by a different unit but they overlooked the fact that they are short of emergency room doctors and have mostly family practice doctors. This is the sole trauma center in Baghdad and is located in the heart of downtown. They want me to pull a couple of shifts there a week in addition to the other excitement.
As you can see, the butcher shop and these broken down buildings are not the opportune place for internet access. The homes we raid may have internet but I’m pretty sure I’m not invited to use it:) Please do not get worried if you do not hear from me for a while here and there. I will be out of contact for certain periods of time but will do my best to keep in touch. I do know that I do receive mail….about 3 weeks for letters and 8 weeks for packages. It will go to the main base and from there they will track me down whereever I may be:
Captain Sudip Bose
HHC 1-5 Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division
Operation Iraqi Freedom
People have been receiving mail at this address. All mail needs U.S. postage rate on it (This is an U.S. address) ….from there it gets shipped to me. I think the packages are xrayed before I receive them. I have plenty of food (and shipment takes a while so food may not last) but I could always use soap, toilet paper, old magazines, newspaper clippings etc… ( I have no access to the news as of now) I don’t care….send me a wad of chewed gum in an envelope and I’ll be happy 🙂 You are in my thoughts!
Still in Kuwait. Sorry I have not had a chance to respond to emails….13,000 people at this camp now with about 15 computers. Very limited access. Access should be better from Baghdad. Around end of this month we will convoy into Baghdad. We are very anxiously anticipating this convoy as it will almost inevitably result in the first casualties from our unit. Supposedly a very dangerous hostile convoy due to IED’s (improvised explosive devices) and gunfire. I will be the one doctor for about 150-200 vehicles on the convoy. I will have 2 physician assistants and medics to help me.
On the first day of arrival the outside perimeter of our camp was attacked and exchange of gunfire occurred! A very warm welcome indeed! Since then we have been dressed in full battle gear….a new look for me….some of you may not recognize it 🙂
Also enclosed is a picture of our luxurious tent. Home sweet Kuwait!
Now we have a water shortage as well. Thus showers are rationed. If our weapons do not kill the enemy….our body odor definitely will!!!
Otherwise been busy preparing/training the medics. The assigned trauma surgeon for this camp had to go on emergency leave so I am also carrying the trauma pager for 13,000 people here. Also qualifying on my M16. The other day we went to the firing range but had to cancel because all the camel got in the way. Kind of comical.
Take care everyone!
Will send more pictures from Baghdad….
I arrived safely to Kuwait around 7AM on 1/9/04 Kuwait time (9 hours ahead of Central Standard Time). It has been a crazy past 72 hours! Received my 48 hour (less than 48 hour) notice on Monday of my Wednesday departure. Somehow managed to move out my household goods and tie up loose ends just in nick of time!
Usually plane trips drag…even from Austin to Chicago when I go to visit my family. It is amazing how fast this plane trip went….go figure. Stopped through Gander, Canada; Shannon, Ireland; and Cyprus. Life was a lot better before I knew where Gander was 🙂
So here I am in Kuwait in a secret camp with no lights, electricity or heat. It is pretty cold. Internet access is very sporadic here. It is kind of far with long lines and very very slow. We are limited in usage time so by the time I load up my hotmail screen my time is more or less up! However, I will try to check email as often as possible but may not be able to reply regularly. I will likely be here till Jan 30th after which time we will convoy by tank (although I hear they may fly me) into Baghdad. I do not have an address here ( I do not have much of anything actually). I think my address in Baghdad will be:
CPT Bose, Sudip K.
HHC 1-5 CAV, 1st Cavalry Division
Again, this is not 100% certain and I will notify you if mail actually arrives.
Take care guys!
Family and Friends,
I haven’t talked to many of you in a while…sorry for the mass email. Hope you all are having a great holiday season. I wanted to let everyone know that I’ve been activated to deploy to Iraq (for sure this time). I’ll be leaving in early January 2004, most likely for 15 months and “possibly” up to 18 months, meaning I’ll probably be back around March 2005.
As far as what I’ll be doing, I’ve been assigned as a front line medical provider in downtown Baghdad and pretty much the only U. S. doctor on the west side of the city (close to the Red Cross building that was recently bombed). I’m apparently the sole doctor for about 1200 troops. I’ll be based out of a building that U.S. troops recently ransacked. This will function as more of an “aid station” than a hospital. This aid station will be front line to the hospital. Medically speaking, immediate life saving maneuvers will be all I can perform; I won?t have xray capabilities etc. (that will be in the hospital). I’ll be on call 24/7 for 15-18 months–and I was complaining about residency????
A few times per week I’ll be in a tank (M577) that goes on raids to catch the 12 or so remaining people on the “deck of cards”. My tank follows the front line tanks by about 1000 meters. If there are any injuries the patients are brought to my tank where I stabilize them and arrange evacuation to the hospital. This is probably the most dangerous part of my deployment.
I will be in the 1st Cavalry Division; we are replacing the 1st Armored Division, which has been occupying Baghdad since the start of the war. In a sense my deployment will be easier than for the initial group because I’ll have buildings with electricity, but my friends in Baghdad tell me that now is the worst time to go as far as safety is concerned. (Much of the injuries like amputations, paralysis, blindness, etc. aren’t reported).
The biggest enemy out there is boredom. Moments of sheer boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror when mortar rounds hit too close for comfort. I will be confined in one building for about 15 months. Hopefully I’ll have internet and I will be counting heavily on my friends to keep my sanity!!!
I don’t know exactly when I’m leaving; I’ll be given 48 hours advance warning of the date of my departure. We will fly a military aircraft into Kuwait, where I’ll be for about 1½ months qualifying on my M16, practicing raids, etc. Then we will go by tank into Baghdad. This is supposed to be one of the most dangerous parts since we will take constant enemy fire on the way.
While in Kuwait I should find out my address in Baghdad and will send it to everyone via internet (hopefully). I plan to take a digital camera and will send photos of Baghdad for your viewing pleasure. I will be thinking of you guys daily. Please keep me updated with your lives out here!
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