A Soldier’s Story

First Sgt. Robert Jennings

See also: In the Military


Similar to swap meets and craft fairs, The Market Street offers anything from hardware to produce. This was taken during a Shia demonstration that U.S. troops were dispatched to protect.

Heavy military presence
keeps Kurdish holiday safe

21 March 0700 >> News has come that a police traffic control point had come under attack the night before. It's not one of the police stations that Alpha Company works with, but it's still one of the peacekeepers. We find out later that morning we knew two of the police officers that were killed -- twin brothers we had run into one night when we were conducting a raid. It's a shame that we are losing these guys like this. Being a police officer has got to be the most dangerous job in Kirkuk.

The Kurdish New Year went off without a hitch. We flooded the city with coalition and police presence. We were expecting ethnic clashes, but I think everyone knew from the get-go that it wasn't going to be tolerated. For four straight days and evenings we showed our presence. People for the most part accepted the fact that we were there to protect and prevent. It was a successful mission for the company and the battalion.

We have also been devoting a lot of manpower toward beefing up the force protection measures on our new house. We were able to rent the house that separated 2nd and 3rd platoons, and 1st platoon will start to move in soon.

Before we could move them, some repairs and modifications had to be made. First and foremost, new toilets. The toilets here are basically porcelain bowls in the floor. That could be a challenge for some of us in the middle of the night.

We had to upgrade the wiring in the house to handle the electricity for an entire platoon, sandbag the 2nd floor windows for direct fire protection, build an observation post on the roof, and put protective barriers made of concrete and 4-by-4-by-4 baskets of dirt stacked two high.

Talking with the soldiers from 1st platoon, they seem excited to move into a bigger place. They will gain 2 more rooms and 1 more shower.

26 March 1947 >> One of our observation posts in the city has come under fire from three to four men in a taxi.

Unlike the last time we came under fire, the enemy wasn't as lucky. By the time a squad was there to reinforce, the wounded men were taken to the hospital by a passer by. They did not expect the accurate barrage of fire they received tonight.

After an in-depth investigation, it was determined that our young leader on the building made the right call. I later talked to the fire team leader and he explained, "When I heard the rounds wizzin' over our heads, it was them or us. I'm going back home with all my guys, 1st sergeant."

27 March 0630 >> The company is rolling with extra support from Bravo and Charlie companies, and eight different police stations.

A very large amount of soldiers and police officers are going back to the neighborhood where we had contact the night before. We need to look for other potential problems in the neighborhood and reassure the Good Samaritans that live there that they are safe and we are here to protect them.

The huge majority wants the troublemakers gone so they can continue to improve their lives.

Some Iraqi boys, referred to as the Rat Pack by 1st Sgt. Robert Jennings, try to hustle for money in the streets. They are just a few members of the Iraqi public that soldiers encounter near their patrol base.

Local landlord helps
deliver goods to make
troops’ lives easier


This week I thought I would try something new. As I have mentioned in previous articles, we live in the middle of the city in fortified houses that we call our patrol base. We live among the Iraqi public and I thought I would introduce a few of them.

The first is Salah. He plays many roles in the day-to-day business of Alpha Company. He is the landlord for one of the platoon houses. He also runs a small general store on the road along with his younger sister and family. At lunchtime you can bet he is coming over to take orders for lunch. It's a little dangerous for us to go sit in the café and eat lunch. Not to mention he charges for delivery.

If there is anything we need, Salah can find it. He was able to get a deal on weight equipment for the platoons so they could continue to exercise and stay in shape. Not saying we couldn't manage without him, but he makes daily life a little more convenient.


The next is Dar. That's his nickname because the real one is too hard to pronounce. He is 16 and seems to be a pretty good kid with his head on straight. He has a unique gift of freehand portraits.

A lot of the soldiers have given him a picture of their family or girlfriends, and he turns it into a pretty good color or black and white drawing. You walk through the patrol base and you see a lot of Dar originals.

He says the money he makes from drawing is for his tuition when he goes to college. He speaks pretty good English and wants to study in the United states.

Then there are the regular jokers I refer to as the Rat Pack. The faces change from time to time, but the motive is always the same. Trying to hustle a dollar for a fake Cuban cigar, a stale carton of smokes, or a burned DVD. They seem to multiply if you dare purchase anything. Every once in a while they'll run an errand for a minor fee.

That's just a few of the people around us. Hopefully, I will be able to introduce more of them along with the Alpha Company soldiers. The upcoming week's appointment book is full. Hopefully, I will be able to talk about all our adventures. Until then, aloha.

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.


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