A Soldier’s Story

First Sgt. Robert Jennings

Monday, August 9, 2004

See also: In the Military

Iraqi forces carry out
operation with minimal
help from coalition forces

Aug. 2, 0345 hours » A large force from Alpha Company was mounted and rolling out the front gate. We were en route to assist the first large-scale operation planned, coordinated and executed by the Kirkuk police headquarters.

The plan: The police and Iraqi National Guard work together cordoning and searching an entire neighborhood in the north sector of the city. The National Guard conducted the cordon, surrounding the neighborhood and blocking off all traffic in and out, and the police were to conduct house searches.

Our role was to assign a fire team of four soldiers to each set of 50 police officers. They were there to ensure that search techniques that were taught were being practiced. The neighborhood consists of about 800 homes.

After the National Guard is in place, the police moved in. With the go-ahead given by the police chief, the operation kicked off. The searches continued as the sun comes up, until about 0800.

After the operation concluded, comments concerning sustainments and improvements were forwarded to assist the police on the next operation. We did gain a few pieces of information, and a few bad guys were rounded up. All in all, I think this operation is considered successful because it was planned and executed by the Iraqis with minimal help from coalition forces. This is one of our goals, that they will be able to execute these operations on their own by the time we depart.

Sgt. 1st Class Richard Woodruff was offered morning tea during a joint operation last Monday.

Aug. 4, 1430 hours » Just received multiple reports from our observation posts of an explosion about 1,500 meters from the patrol base. 2nd Platoon was dispatched along with police to investigate.

After an initial assessment, the platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Woodruff, sent back his initial report. An unknown man was pushing a cart containing ice down the middle of the road. Local residents said he left the cart in the middle of the road and ran away, jumped in a cab and left the area. About two minutes later, the ice cart exploded.

After investigation, we determined that the ice cart was being used as a firing platform and contained four rockets that were probably intended for the air base. The direction of the street aimed directly into the base. Something went wrong with the launch, and the rockets exploded on site instead of launching.

The rest of the week, Alpha Company was preparing for its change of command on Aug. 10. We will say goodbye to our current commander, Capt. Todd Moe, and welcome Capt. Derek Bird, from Lynchburg, Va.

God bless and aloha.


Commander credits Troops’

As we prepare for our new commander, I only find it fitting to put our outgoing commander in this week's spotlight.

mug Meet Capt. Todd Moe, company commander for Alpha Company since March 2003. He is from San Diego and has been in the Army for 14 years.

Capt. Moe said that when they first were alerted for Afghanistan, he understood exactly what the mission was going to be. "When they changed the mission to Iraq, everyone thought we were going into a much more dangerous environment."

"There is no manual in any school that I've been to that could have prepared us for the different types of situations and problems that we have faced here. The only reason we have been as successful is our ability to adapt. This has been most attributable to our most junior leaders in the company, who have been able to problem-solve in all the situations they've faced. All of them are an outstanding group of young men."

I asked Capt. Moe to describe his most satisfying moment as a commander. "When 1st Lt. Hollis, 3rd platoon leader, thanked me for putting his platoon on a combat mission just two days after he lost Staff Sgt. Nunes in an ambush. I think he realized I still had the confidence in his soldiers even after this traumatic incident."

Asked to sum up progress here in Kirkuk in one sentence, he said, "Even though it may seem slow, we are making a huge difference throughout the city."

He finished his interview by saying hi to his mom, dad, wife and son. "To my wife Naomi and son Michael, please be patient with me. I'll be home soon." He also wanted to say thanks to all the families and friends who have sent packages and letters.

"Even though they may not have expressed it in a timely manner, it was definitely a huge morale booster and greatly appreciated. If the soldiers couldn't use the items, they were distributed to the many needy families and children throughout the city."

1st Sgt. Robert Jennings is deployed in Iraq with 4,000 25 Infantry Division (Light) soldiers from Schofield Barracks. He writes a Sunday column for the Star-Bulletin that began Feb. 1, 2004. Jennings, a 20-year Army veteran, has been assigned to Fort Riley, Kan., Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Lewis, Wash., and Camp Casey in South Korea. He is now on his second tour at Schofield Barracks. He has been deployed to Panama, Japan, Germany, Egypt and Thailand. As the first sergeant of Alpha Company, Jennings is in charge of 135 soldiers.

See the Columnists section for Jennings' earlier dispatches.



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