A Soldier’s Story

First Sgt. Robert Jennings

See also: In the Military


Troops get accustomed
to new surroundings in Kirkuk

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. 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.

1-21 Infantry Battalion is now in charge of the Kirkuk Province. The relief-in-place ceremony took place this week. I can't thank the leaders and soldiers from Able Company 2-503 Infantry enough for their patience during our transition here. They truly set us up for success, giving us a 90 percent solution. Now it is our job to continue to learn and refine our new skills to gain that last 10 percent.

This week has been a big transition for the soldiers of Alpha Company. Our predecessors have all gone back to Italy. It has been a week of lessons learned already.

Our patrol base has needed some work on the protective walls and fences due to our soldiers learning how to drive new equipment. Water pumps, generators, welding, plumbing, electric work and anything that comes with maintaining the base is contracted out to the Iraqi public.

It has been a struggle learning the funding system. Luckily, 1st Sgt. Tim Watson from Able Company purchased a year warranty on all of our outlets and lights. This helped when we had a few burn out this week.

The soldiers have started to get accustomed to their new surroundings by conducted numerous mounted and dismounted patrols throughout the city. We have numerous Humvees in the company, and we try to send them out on patrols throughout the day. This gets the soldiers used to navigating through a city that mirrors the size and population of San Jose, Calif. We use these patrols to show the local population our presence here.

At night, we use dismounted patrols in the local area around our patrol base. This is used for our security against the bad guy. It also reassures our neighbors that we are out there and they can approach us with information on people in the area that may not have an interest in the new Iraq.

These are the people we like to keep our eyes on. They seem to be the ones that have been trying to deter coalition forces through attacks. They just don't understand that we are here until the objective is met: a free and democratic Iraq, run by the Iraqi people.

Feb. 18 >> We have received intelligence from an informant on a man accused of conducting mortar attacks against coalition forces. He is also wanted for murdering an Iraqi citizen for helping coalition forces. We have his possible location and begin to plan a raid. After a few hours of planning and rehearsals, we load our vehicles and move out to the other side of town. We have located his suspected residence and begin to clear the house. It's early in the morning, and we catch everyone sleeping. After waking everyone and taking them to the front yard, 1st Squad 2nd Platoon begins a thorough search of the residence. The house is clean, and we begin to interview the personnel in the front yard. Bad information, no bad guys here.

This is a common occurrence because we are dealing with informants that are sometimes not correct. We apologize to the residents and explain this is actually for their security that we do these raids.

One item we received from the 2-503rd Infantry we didn't expect was Zena. She's a year-old Doberman afraid of every loud noise around. You can imagine how spooked she gets every night when the gunfire rings out in the city. She is very loving and takes your mind off the chaos outside our walls, if just a few moments. The best thing is that the locals are petrified of Dobermans. This is a nice thing to keep unwanted people off the premises.


Feb. 20, 2030 hours >> I just received a radio message from one of our dismounted patrols. They have come upon a man and women with injuries. I told them to bring them to the front gate and secure the area. Through an interpreter, they told me that four men who live next door to them assaulted them in their house. The man had a stab wound to his leg and the women had been struck in the head. Our medic, Staff Sgt. Mendoza, cleaned and dressed the wounds on the spot. He said they would both need stitches. I notified the local police, and they arrested the four men and transported the couple to the hospital. Later, the police notified us that the couple and the neighbors have made up. This occurs quite often here. Sometimes I just don't understand the mentality.

I would like to thank 1st Lt. Jeremiah Oligario for setting up our Web site, Oligario used to be a platoon leader in Alpha Company but is still in Hawaii completing his degree so he can compete for promotion to captain. If you would like to visit this site, there are more pictures and a link to past articles.


Soldier oversees security
of government building

Editor's Note: With this week's journal entry, 1st Sgt. Jennings is including a short profile of and interview with a fellow soldier.

Michael Smiley: Lieutenant says he hopes to raise the initiative level among Iraqis

Lt. Michael Smiley is normally the fire support officer for Alpha Company, planning and directing mortar and artillery fire for the company.

In Iraq, he has a very different responsibility -- security projects manager for the Kirkuk government building, which is similar to a city hall. Smiley oversees security, building maintenance and policy enforcement. His main project is the 800-meter security wall around the building. As everyone has read, government buildings have been a major target for people who do not want change here in Iraq. He, along with 1st Platoon, ensure the security forces around the building are doing their job.

Smiley's main objective in Iraq is to train the security forces and police to run on their own, he says. "One thing I see here is a huge culture difference than what I'm used to. If we see something that needs to be fixed, we fix it. It seems that the former regime has made a lot of the guys skittish about taking initiative. I hope to have these guys utilizing an initiative level close to ours so they can manage security and maintenance without coalition help."

Any message for back home?: "There is someone special back in Hawaii and I want her to know that I am doing fine. Daisey Bosque, I miss you and love you very much."

1st. Sgt. Robert Jennings


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