A Soldier’s Story
First Sgt. Robert Jennings

1st Lt. Micah Blais of Winningham, Mass., joked around with some boys during a patrol. Members of 3rd Platoon delivered heaters to schools last week.

Attacks rise as
elections approach

We had a spike in enemy activity this week, and it's been busier than Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving.

With the fall of Fallujah and the success of coalition forces in Mosul, we knew it might be our turn. As we head into the final six weeks before the country's long-awaited elections, we expect the activity to increase.

Dec. 5, 4 p.m. » Police informed one of our interpreters that a man was in the hospital with wounds from an explosion. They had reports that a man was injured while placing a roadside bomb. After staking the hospital room out, they arrested a man that visited the wounded man. On his cell phone he had numbers from Fallujah and phone wallpaper with the words "Viva Fallujah."

This is proof to everyone here that the mess is about to get worse. Those fighters that did escape Fallujah and others sympathetic to their cause are in our area. Now we just need to figure out which few thousand they are out of the 900,000 people in the city.

Dec. 6, 2 a.m. >> Explosion south of the patrol base. Immediately police were dispatched and reported that a rocket impacted about 100 meters from a Coalition-Iraqi Affairs building. No one was hurt.

Dec. 6 » Alpha Company moves through the city to assist in apprehending a known high-value target. Four minutes after execution, all objectives are secure, and the suspect is in custody.

This last mission was successful in that we apprehended a known trained sniper who had caused a few casualties in our area, the type of enemy that bothers us the most. Marksmanship is not one of the quality traits we face, so removing a highly trained one off the streets is a huge relief.

Dec. 7, 9 a.m. >> I and members of 3rd Platoon delivered 52 kerosene heaters to five schools in our area. The weather is starting to turn cold, and many of these schools don't have electricity. We were greeted with open arms and smiles from the principals and teachers. Every classroom and principal's office will have heat as the weather turns.

Dec. 7, 11:05 a.m. >> A large explosion to the south is reported by the roof observation posts. Immediately reports came from the coalition convoy caught in the blast.

By the call sign, everyone knew it was the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mark Dewhurst. The ready squad was immediately dispatched, and reported that one of his escort vehicles was damaged, with no casualties.

Dec. 7, 4:18 p.m. >> Police reported that a construction worker saw two men attempting to place a roadside bomb. The Iraqi bomb squad was dispatched.

We wish all the people of the city would take this kind of action. Because he wasn't afraid to come forward, a roadside bomb consisting of an 82 mm mortar round, probably targeting coalition or police convoys, was removed. After thanking the man, he was rewarded for his citizen duty.

Dec. 10, 5:40 a.m. >> A small explosion southeast of the patrol base was reported. Police were dispatched to find someone had rigged an explosive device to a cell phone tower. A second device was discovered and disarmed.

We have been seeing a lot of these types of attacks lately. It seems they are targeting their own infrastructure to strike fear in citizens. This has been one of the more difficult things we try to deter. We just need to continue to patrol and talk with the people to reassure them.

Dec. 11, 2:18 p.m. » A huge rumble was heard from the patrol base. You could see the large black plume of smoke to the south. Reports immediately came across the radio. One of our battalion convoys was stuck by an explosive device, taking fire from a rooftop, and had casualties.

Bravo Company was on patrol in the area and began moving to the location. I alerted the ready squad and the ambulance. Once the location was confirmed, the squad moved out to evacuate the casualties.

After all reports had been filed, it was determined that this was a vehicle packed with explosives parked on the side of the road. When the convoy passed, it was detonated. One soldier received minor shrapnel wounds to the face and one has a possible leg fracture. One interpreter was treated for concussion.

As I explained a few weeks ago, this is one of the tougher explosive devices to detect. There are so many cars parked on the side or near roads that it is very difficult to detect which one will blow up. We have put in protective measures and are training our police on them. Hopefully in the near future this type of bomb will be eliminated.

We expect the coming weeks to be similar to this one because the elections are growing near. This is why the think tank in Washington decided to keep us on the ground through February.

Wives, husbands, children, moms and dads of 2nd Brigade soldiers, be patient; we have a job to do for just a little while longer, and then we'll be home for good.

God bless and aloha.


Soldier finds it tough
to know the enemy


Spc. Blake Vaught

This week, meet Spc. Blake Vaught from Timmonsville, S.C. He is a rifleman in 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, and has been in the Army for three years.

Vaught says that he was shocked when he found out the deployment had changed from Afghanistan to Iraq. "I had my mind set on the mission there. We would be walking in open terrain, and then I had to change my whole mindset."

He added, "I've been in some type of military structure since the seventh grade. After military high school, I spent two years at the Citadel. I left my third year and enlisted in the Army to fight terrorism."

I asked Vaught what he thought about Iraq now that he has spent the last 11 months in Kirkuk. He said, "I wish I could have experienced what some others have, further south of here. Here in Kirkuk we have people that are willing to try and learn a new way of life. But I think Iraqis in general have a problem with a lot of the ways we do things."

He went on to say, "When their religious beliefs clash with Western ways, something has to give. Each side is going to have to learn to bend a little."

I asked what was one of the frustrating things he deals with. He said, "The enemy is so difficult to detect. When you're on a patrol and a roadside bomb goes off, it's difficult to determine who the enemy really is."

Vaught finished the interview by saying hi to his family and his girlfriend, Shelley, back in Conway, S.C. "I've filled a million sandbags and I'm ready to come home."

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.

See also: In the Military

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