A Soldier’s Story

First Sgt. Robert Jennings

See also: In the Military


Little touches of home like this sign keep popping up at Kirkuk Airbase.

Relative quiet
allows for rebuilding

This week has been rather quiet for Alpha Company. Yes, there have been the nightly shootings throughout the city, and the rocket and mortar attacks continue, but Alpha was not involved in any this week.

We began the week with a battalion-wide operation to prepare for the religious attacks that never completely formed in Kirkuk. Again, we flooded the city with coalition and police presence to let everyone here know that we would not tolerate the goings-on down south.

At its completion, I can honestly say it was a success. There were a few demonstrations, but that's all a part of freedom. Nothing got out of hand and I believe that was the original intention of the demonstrators.

April 10 >> A call came over the net that Bravo Company was in a firefight at one of their observation positions in the city. After last week, I think everyone who heard this on the radio held their breath. I know I did. Three unidentified men were seen walking near the river when one of the Bravo Company soldiers noticed one was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher.

Immediately, the enemy was engaged. During the firefight, an RPG was launched toward the soldiers and exploded above them, injuring one. He is stable and has been evacuated for higher care. Three enemies will not be engaging coalition forces anymore.

Other than the previous event, it's been about as quiet as Palolo Valley on a Sunday morning. Because things have been quiet in our sector this week, we were able to concentrate on the other reasons we are here in Iraq: stabilizing, improving and promoting economic growth.

We spent a few days in a small village called Amu Shabi. I have mentioned this village in a previous article as being one of the poorer areas in Alpha Company's sector. Our executive officer, Capt. Brad Hartz, and 1st Platoon spent time there inspecting an ongoing project restoring their water tower. It's almost complete and we are making progress up there.

We also conducted an inspection of the three schools and had contractors producing estimates. Let the bidding wars begin; capitalism at its finest. This gave us time to mingle with some of the local people in hopes they would produce information leading to the detainment of people responsible for recent attacks on coalition forces.

I'll finish by saying good luck to Jasmine from Mililani. We're pulling for you.

God bless and aloha.

Some middle school kids at Amu Shabi show off new supplies.


A ray of hope
for one woman

Israa Talib smiles as she takes a picture with CPT Brad Hartz San Antonio, TX, after finding out she will receive a small business grant.

My personal interview this week is a little different than normal. We finished the week with a significant event. We were able to sponsor our first small business grant for a local Iraqi woman. Her story is quite interesting.

Her husband was imprisoned by the Saddam regime for 5 years and was killed just 2 months before the fall of the country. She is a seamstress and house mom to four children. One is bound to a wheelchair which has prevented her from finding work outside her home. We have employed her for cleaning and laundry service so she could pay bills.

We were able to get her sponsored with a small business grant to open her own seamstress shop. Needless to say when she heard the news, she was overwhelmed with joy.

This is the kind of story you probably won’t hear on CNN, because it isn’t "good news". But the look on her face when she found out was good enough for us.

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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