A Soldier’s Story

First Sgt. Robert Jennings

Sunday, May 30, 2004

See also: In the Military


Injured soldiers continue recovery

I received a few e-mails this week from my "information angel" with some great news. Seems like Spc. Juan Hernandez was able to take a few steps without a walker, is talking and in good spirits. His health has improved so much they have transferred him to William Beaumont Army Medical Center, El Paso, Texas. This way, he is closer to home and his mother will not have to continue traveling between New Mexico and Washington, D.C.

Spc. Joseph Salinas and Spc. Charles Woolwine continue their treatment and rehab at Walter Reed. Woolwine is almost infection-free, so he should be fitting for prosthesis in the coming weeks.

Pfc. Cory Ferguson returned to Hawaii this week and will continue his recovery and rehab on outpatient status at Tripler Army Medical Center.

This has been great news and has raised the morale in Alpha Company twofold. For those of you who haven't mailed letters, I will try to have the new addresses next week. I will continue to update the condition of all the soldiers as I receive it.

25 May, 1150 hours >> I just received word that a convoy from Headquarters Company had a close call when one of their convoys was targeted with an improvised explosive device (IED). There were two artillery rounds linked together. Luckily, there were no injuries.

Ever since the ambush we encountered on May 2, IEDs have been a major concern for us.

We have taken steps to help identify them and prevent injuries in case we encounter the same scenario. We have conducted more training on identifying and reacting to these dangers. I am confident we will continue to press the enemy in the city and eventually eliminate him.

Staff Sgt. John Booth stands in a hole that contained more than 200 155 mm artillery rounds. This is the fourth cache of this size Alpha Company has uncovered in the last two and a half months.

27 May, 1400 hours >> We have just been notified that someone came forward to show us a large ammunition cache.

We don't always count on finding anything because while people know we will pay for information, they don't realize we won't pay until we find something.

We dispatched 2nd Platoon to the location to secure the possible cache site. We received good news when they arrived at the site. 1st Lt. Micah Blais, from Wedham, Mass., reported a large number of 155 mm artillery rounds.

These seem to be one of the explosive maker's favorites when planting IEDs. They are a little under 2 feet, over 6 inches in diameter, and packed with explosives. This discovery, matched with our recent operations removing some key people from the city, will hopefully put a damper on our enemy's ability to strike.

I'll close this week with congratulations. Jasmine, even though you didn't win the competition, you're going to be a star. I also congratulate all of you who were able to score tickets to the biggest concert in Hawaii in a long time.

God bless and aloha.


Believing in the mission

Staff Sgt. John Huddleston

This week, I'm introducing Staff Sgt. John Huddleston from Sallisaw, Okla. Huddleston is the squad leader for 2nd Squad, 1st Platoon, and has been in the Army for four years. He also spent six years in the Marine Corps stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He had been in Alpha Company almost four years.

This is the third international deployment he has conducted with Alpha Company. His other two were Sinai, Egypt, for six months and 30 days in Thailand. He believes our purpose here is meaningful.

He said: "I like the fact that about 70 percent of the tasks and missions we do, like patrols, observation posts, ambushes and raids, we are in charge and the main effort. That's what I joined the Army to do. I can manage the other 30 percent because it deals in a supporting role."

He also said the Army has made some comfortable living conditions. "This helps a lot when you come off a patrol or ambush and have a place to relax and clear your mind."

I asked him what his definition of success was. Huddleston said: "The people here are starting to learn to take care of themselves. When we pull our forces out and they continue to take care of their country with little or no help, we were successful."

I asked him what is the strangest thing he's seen in the four months he's been here. He answered: "The electrical wiring. You have wires coming from everywhere going to one backup generator for the neighborhood. These things are strung up with anything that will hold it to the pole. It's like a rat's nest. It's got to be the most unsafe wiring in the world."

Huddleston wants to tell his father, Wayne, and his wife Sandy in Sallisaw, "Now I know why you put ketchup on everything." He also wants to tell his mother, Beth, and her boyfriend Arthur in Searce, Ark., "Camp is not as fun as you said it was gonna be. I'm doing OK. Don't worry, and love you more."

First Sgt. Robert Jennings


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