A Soldier’s Story

First Sgt. Robert Jennings

See also: In the Military

Children, carrying toys made of expended ammunition casings, follow a soldier on patrol.

New trend in roadside
bombing emerges

New destination was surprise

AS we rolled past the seven-month mark, Alpha Company and the rest of the battalion got back to basics. Last week we conducted some live-fire rehearsals outside the city limits on the vast sand plains of northern Iraq.

We concentrated on rehearsing possible scenarios we might encounter. The soldiers seem to enjoy getting out and blowing stuff up, as they usually do.

It seems to be a sure way to get an infantryman out of a rut. Give him a basic load of ammunition, a few machine guns; throw in some mortars firing high-explosive ammunition on the objective in front of him, and "voila" -- happy infantryman.

7 Sept. 1000 hours >> The local police station informed us that they found a roadside bomb in our sector. They had already diffused it and it was at the police station. We notified our higher command and arranged for an ordnance disposal unit to accompany us to the police station.

We make sure we have the Emergency Ordnance Disposal unit with us when we handle any ordnance like this. Most of the time these are manufactured out of very old artillery rounds with a cell phone or some sort of remote detonating device attached.

The police have no fear of these roadside bombs and will walk right up to them.

Children greet you with "Chore-nee," Kurdish for "how are you?" Reply with "Zee-in," which means "I'm fine." You're sure to get a smile.

This particular bomb was a 152 mm artillery round encased in plaster to blend in with the surrounding curb.

8 Sept. 1400 hours >> A patrol from one of our sister battalions was ambushed using a roadside bomb. Four soldiers received minor injuries; all were released back to their units.

This is a danger every time we leave the patrol base. The enemy is cunning. He uses trash, tires, concrete, animal carcasses and anything else around to camouflage these bombs. I just wish people who see this type of device planted would call the police immediately.

8 Sept. 1700 hours >> Another possible roadside bomb was found. The commander went with a squad to investigate along with police and a disposal unit.

Another artillery round encased in concrete. Looks like we have a new trend to deal with until we can bust this guy.

We ended our week with another full trip around our company area of operation. We were able to get out and talk with the people and let them know that we reward information leading to the arrest of persons committing crimes against coalition and police forces.

The new tent city has emptied out a little over the last two weeks. The population out there has diminished by about 40 percent.

On our last trip through the village we asked where everyone had gone. One man said, "We are poor, and we have nothing. Some people have gone back north to be with relatives because there are no jobs here."

One small boy told me, "A rocket landed in the camp so everyone left."

I walked over to the area where he said the rocket had landed. There was a small hole in the ground. He said that it didn't explode; it just stuck there, so they called the police and they took it.

After doing an analysis of the trajectory and direction, we concluded that it was probably aimed at the airbase and fell a few hundred meters short. The camp is located in the flight path of rocket attacks.

Remember America, this week marks the third anniversary of the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

We lost a lot of good people that day, and we have lost a lot since bringing the fight to the enemy.

If you didn't have a moment of silence on the 11th, it's not too late. Say a prayer for all of the people that protect this nation's freedom at home and abroad.

God Bless and Aloha.


New destination
was surprise

This week meet Spc. Omar Jaber, a M-203 grenadier for 3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon. He is from Orange County, Calif., and has been in the Army for three years.

Omar Jaber

Jaber used to work as a security element on all raids and missions with the commander. He is fluent in Arabic, and we used him to guard the women and kids and just listen from the mouths of babes.

Jaber said that he was preparing for a six-month deployment to Afghanistan when he found out it was changed to one year in Iraq. He said, "I was still ready to go, it was just kind of a shock. I started wondering what kind of people we would meet and how they would react to us."

He continued by saying, "I didn't like living in the tents when we first got here, but the houses at the patrol base are OK."

I asked Jaber what has been the most stressful thing he has to deal with here in Iraq. He said, "Time. It has to be the time away from family and friends. It's also stressful when we hear the rockets flying over and striking the airbase. It really bothers me when these guys get away."

I asked Jaber what the most enjoyable thing he's done in Iraq. He said, "Being around the people in my squad. I like the neighbors and the kids, too. When the people praise us for improving their lives, it feels good inside."

He finished his interview by saying hi to all his family back in Orange County and his Uncle Ben in Arcadia. "See you soon, I hope."

1st Sgt. Robert Jennings

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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