A Soldier’s Story

First Sgt. Robert Jennings

Sunday, October 31, 2004

See also: In the Military

Enemy activity rises
during holy month

AS October comes to an end, enemy activity seems to be on the rise. This seems to be a trend at this time of the year.

Last year, there was also a spike in activity during the Ramadan period. As we move into the middle of Ramadan, we are keeping our eyes peeled and ears to the ground.

Even though Halloween is not recognized in Iraq, Spc. Roland Garza handed out plastic pumpkins with candy. The pumpkins were sent by Sherrie Cummings, mother of Spc. Jacob Baggett.

24 Oct. 2050 hours » An explosion is heard in the distance south of the patrol base. Initial reports are confusing, but the police are dispatched to investigate. The initial report is that one police officer had received minor injuries.

After an investigation was completed, it was determined that a liquor store was the target of a homemade bomb. The officer just happened to be in the wrong place when the explosion went off. Liquor stores seem to be a popular target of late. It is against the Muslim religion to drink alcohol, but some Iraqis tend to ignore this in view of new freedoms that come with democracy.

25 Oct. 0030 hours » Gunshots are reported in the direction of one of the police stations. After getting the interpreters to contact them, they report that they were attacked by gunmen while guarding a future election center. One police officer was shot in the arm but was treated and released from the hospital.

As we get closer to the elections, we expect more of these types of attacks. As I have reported before, most of the people here want democracy. They want to continue enjoying the freedoms that they have been afforded.

Another tactic we're battling lately in the city is graffiti. Our enemy is trying to cast fear in the hearts of civilians by threatening the populace.

Our latest message was found in a girl's school. It was translated to read: "You will agree not to teach Latin and Kurdish. We will give you one week. The principal and vice principal will be treated badly. No other languages except Arabic are allowed. Arab resistance and life for Fallujah."

The message was signed by the same group that is trying to control Fallujah. We are unsure if this is a valid threat, or if someone using their name to sound more powerful. Like any threat, we treat them with validity and have increased police patrols in the area.

26 Oct. 1200 hours » An explosion is heard from the front of the patrol base. We dispatched a patrol after the police had reported a roadside bomb had exploded. The patrol leader returned to the patrol base after getting the details from the investigating officers. The target was a police official in a convoy. The only injury was an innocent truck driver who was caught in the blast zone. He was treated and released from the hospital.

28 Oct. 0600 hours » The Boston Red Sox just swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. There are two particularly happy soldiers in the patrol base: 1st Lt. Micah Blais and Spc. Michael Mullen, both from Massachusetts and both die-hard Red Sox fans.

28 Oct. » After receiving intelligence on a new terrorist group in our sector, company leadership has developed a plan, and squad leaders are conducting precombat checks, precombat inspections and rehearsals.

29 Oct. » A Company begins movement to stage for an upcoming mission. It's been awhile since the company has had a mission like this, so the soldiers are pumped up.

29 Oct. » Hit time! I was located about halfway back in the convoy as we hit the release point. Through my night-vision goggles, I could see the different pieces of the puzzle coming together as one. There were four houses to be hit simultaneously. Four minutes after we reached the edge of the village, all target houses were secure and clear, and the police were called in to conduct searches of the houses. In the end, more than a dozen suspects were in custody, and the terrorist cell was crippled from the top.

This was a very successful mission, and the soldiers had grins on their faces as they processed their suspects at the detainee collection point. All the evidence was marked, bagged and processed.

God bless and aloha.


Deployment fulfills
a personal mission


Roland Garza

This week meet Spc. Roland Garza. He is from San Antonio, Texas, and has been in the Army for almost three years.

Before he found out he was deploying to Iraq, he "really hated my job," Garza said. "We trained all the time and didn't seem we were ever going to deploy. I felt like I was wasting years of my life."

He added, "When we were told we were deploying to Iraq, I felt like I was finally fulfilling my obligation."

I asked Garza what his thoughts were now that he has been deployed for the last 10 months. He said: "When you're here and see the way people live, it really makes you appreciate what you have. I've seen some areas here that are lower than low when it comes to living standards. I couldn't imagine these places before I came here."

He added: "I'm really glad I have spent this time here. A year seems like a long time, but I really think this is what I needed. I've been able to think about things in my life that I wasn't able to before. I've been able to sort some things out, and I'm ready to continue on with the military when we return."

I asked Garza what has been the funniest thing he has seen in Iraq. He said: "The kids here like to dress their bikes up with stereos and car alarms. We were on a patrol in a Kurdish neighborhood talking with people and handing out candy. I asked this kid if I could ride his bike. I start riding around with the stereo on and beeping the alarm. That got a laugh out of everyone."

He says hi to all his loved ones back in the states and his daughter in Hawaii. When asked about his thoughts upon returning, he said, "Girls, look out. I'm 21 now, single, and hopefully I'll be back in January."

1st Sgt. Robert Jennings
Special to the Star-Bulletin

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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