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May 01, 2008
Where in the ... (Update, FOB Loyalty & JSS Babalsheikh)

Posted by Bill

helo02small.jpg
Banking over Baghdad.

The weather cleared and I made it out of the International Zone to Forward Operating Base Loyalty and on to an embed at Joint Security Station (JSS) Babalsheikh with White Platoon, Blackfoot Troop, 3-89 Cavalry, scouts for the 4th Infantry Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division.

The JSS is an Iraqi Police station in southwestern Rusafa District in Central Baghdad. So far, my platoon has conducted one nighttime presence patrol in "a neighborhood (in the relatively calm district) with the most potential to become violent because of the JAM (Jaish al-Mahdi) special groups networks that are known to operate in that area," according to 2nd Lieutenant Mike Hebert. The patrol was uneventful, except for the fact that a shopkeeper's voice dropped to a fearful, glance-punctuated whisper when I asked him what he thought of the Mahdi Army.

In a couple of days I'll push up to embed with another 3-89 Cav platoon in northern Rusafa right along the Southwest border of Sadr City.

Early perspectives from 3-89 leadership are positive. Squadron Commander Col. Craig Collier served in Iraq two years ago and was dissatisfied with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF); he initially viewed his current assignment dealing with the Iraqi National Police and Army with trepidation. After working with them over the past few months, however, the Colonel is convincingly earnest as he describes great improvement in Iraqi leadership. This positive change has translated into huge security gains in the centrally located District, home to some of Baghdad's busiest markets and the scene of significant sectarian violence in 2006. Rusafa is relatively calm these days, especially compared to the conflict taking place just northeast in Sadr City.

3-89 Bravo Troop Company Commander Captain John Thornburg agrees that "everyone (in the Iraqi Security Forces) is doing better," but notes that the greatest results are coming from the Sons of Iraq (the civilian neighborhood watchmen formerly known as the Concerned Local Citizens).

"People trust them, people are glad to see them, and people are proud of them, as they are local folks," said Thornburg.

Prior to leaving the base with the platoon, Collier had me take a (severely abbreviated) combat livesaver course. His two requirements for embeds are to "please report accurately" and to drop the camera and help out with injuries if the unit is attacked. My instructor was a soft-spoken young medic who was polite to a fault. He showed me proper use of a tourniquet, Israeli field dressing, "Kerlex" gauze, and more. As he described the use of each, he went over the scenarios in which he's used the item.

For severed arms and legs, it's important to position the tourniquet far up on the upper leg or arm, as severed arteries retract and the twin bones in the forearm make it hard to properly pinch the artery shut. He told me that the adrenaline in the situation would help me cinch it tight, and asked if I'd been a soldier, or if I'd ever felt that kind of fear. When I explained that I had not been a soldier but had felt that way, he sadly and earnestly said he was "very sorry" that I'd had the experience. For gaping wounds, he explained that you need to tightly stuff the gauze into the hole before applying as much pressure as possible, as he did once by jamming his feet against an injured man's side, pinning him to the door of a humvee during evac back to the aid station. He described in gory detail the deadly effect of Iranian Explosively Formed Penetrator explosives. He said that he would "pray" that I didn't get attacked or injured, but "it happens." He was very competent and the lesson was extremely valuable, but I experienced creeping horror as he continued sadly describing examples of the "hundred-something" traumatic casualties they'd treated. It was an anti-pep talk.

I mentioned to another soldier that the medic seemed kind of displaced and worn out by everything that he'd seen, and he told me that maybe he was affected by the mass casualty event at the base a few days before. Two "lob bombs," or improvised rockets, had landed within Loyalty, injuring 16 and killing two. He said that the young medic and his colleagues had "saved a lot of lives that day." Evidently he's saved a lot of lives before that day as well. The medic had told me, "They may not remember your name, but they'll always be glad you were there to help them."

An hour after my arrival, a 3-89 Cav convoy was hit with a car bomb just outside the base, resulting in one KIA and two minor casualties. Internet was blocked prior to notification of the family, and access remains very spotty now that I'm in the city. More lengthy updates and formal reports to follow.

The general attitude among Iraqi Security Forces, civilians (the few I've spoken to thus far) and Americans alike, is that the current push against militias in Sadr City is an overdue and necessary development. The Sadrist footsoldiers are commonly described as just "mafia thugs." And the campaign against them continues.

JAMhangoutsmall.jpg
A cafe that is a purported "JAM hangout."

Posted by Bill at May 1, 2008 05:51 PM | TrackBack (0)

Comments

Hi Bill, sounds like you are in the middle of "it." I haven't heard you mention much support from ISF, it sounds like our guys are still doing most of the heavy fighting, is that what you see?

Posted by: Rosario at May 1, 2008 08:16 PM

Nah, the "middle of it" is up north. Rusafa has been fairly calm for a while, the incidents described above notwithstanding. It used to be a pretty bad place, pre-surge.

Though imperfect, the ISF is doing plenty of fighting up there in Sadr City, from what I understand, and they carry much of the security load (checkpoints, stopping cars, etc) down here as well. Some units are challenged, some are doing very well.

Posted by: Bill at May 2, 2008 12:38 AM

Thanks for the information Bill, I look forward to your future posts

Posted by: Rosario at May 2, 2008 03:23 AM

That is totally whack!! I know this stuff happens a lot, but my dad is in White Platoon! WOW. Dont get me wrong, I think he did a good job and Im proud of all the soldiers, but my freaking dad was in that platoon!Good article though, very graphic. Its good to be detailed though. Keep us informed

Posted by: robert at May 3, 2008 03:15 PM

Dear Bill, My son is in 3-89 Cav, along with my son in law to be and your article was very hard to read. I felt as though I was in Iraq with you. I tell my son that you guys need some Mothers over there to kick some butt for trying to hurt our boys. All kidding aside, I am a very proud woman and I am honored to have my son and son in lawserve our country. Please remind the soldiers that our prayers are flooding heaven for them.Thank you Bonnie Warman

Posted by: Bonnie Warman at May 3, 2008 05:34 PM

The medic he refers to is my best friend's husband, and the godfather of my children. I hope he gets some kind of award for the magnificent work he is doing over there. I am so proud of him and my husband, and all of our friends over there, they are so brave...heroes all!

Posted by: medicswife at May 4, 2008 01:11 AM

Dear Bill,
Although hard to read, I am thankful for the article. My son is in White Platoon, 3-89 cav.
Any more articles regarding them? I am so proud to be the mother of one of our brave soldiers.

Posted by: Tammy at May 4, 2008 03:41 PM

I read your article and was very saddened by the soliders that lost their lives and the ones that got hurt. I pray it will end soon this war so these young men and women can come home to a normal place. You did a great job in writing this article. My nephew is in the 3/89 cav. A aunt who loves her nephew, Mary

Posted by: Mary at May 4, 2008 04:58 PM

Our son is in the 3/89 cav. We are so proud of him and all of his fellow soldiers for fighting for our Freedom. My prayers are with you all. Thank you so much for this article. It helps us get a small handle of what goes on over there. Victoria Hurd Mother of ;
Sgt. Shaun Strom

Posted by: Victoria Hurd at May 4, 2008 10:13 PM

My nephew is in the 3/89 cav,and I am so proud of the men and women of the armed forces. I wish we can do more to help prevent any more of our men killed. It saddens me to see this happen in a world I am sure that God wanted to be peaceful. Sissy

Posted by: Sissy at May 5, 2008 10:37 AM

So my husband was just home for R&R... hes in white platoon as well... Its very scarry and very sad to hear the stories that he has. To make it worse, I just had a very new born baby...2 weeks old today. He made it back there I wanna say 5 days ago. I'm sure he was in some of that you were talking about. No matter how scared or sad I get, I know hes doing this for our country and for the youth of Iraq. We are so proud of him beyond words and always will be.
Melissa Gall
Proud Wife of Sgt. Jason Gall

Posted by: Melissa at May 5, 2008 12:49 PM

hello. My son is at Loyalty. This is upsetting. I hope that it is not going to be like it was in 2006 when Loyalty was attacked on a fairly regular basis. I won't give any info about my son, just wanted all to know that there are Mom's out here in the U.S. that worry each and every day.

Posted by: Carmen at May 5, 2008 02:26 PM

Loyalty is not frequently attacked, but it was a bad week. And the number of injuries the medic has seen is because he is a medic (working in an aid station), and is necessarily exposed to quite a bit more of them.

The district is relatively/comparatively quiet, as noted above. It's certainly a war zone, but it's not as hot as the conflict up north, and I wouldn't unduly worry.

Posted by: Bill at May 5, 2008 02:43 PM

My brave son is in the 3-89 CAV, red platoon, I am very proud of him and miss him greatly. Praise the Lord for the Medic and Praise the Lord for the soldiers of the 3-89....I too worry, and pray. It is a constant vigil on my peaceful soil, while my son bravely seeks freedom for all in a foreign land. Thank-you for this article, may many more come. I always eagerly seek information about the situation.

It is strawberry time in Tennessee and I am dehydrating Rhea County Tidwell strawberries to send to Red Platoon, Maybe my son will share with you.

Posted by: Charlene at May 5, 2008 05:24 PM

Bill, may God be by your side as you report what is really going on over ther..My step-son is also a medic..God uses things like this to get us to cry out to Him, i cry daily...peace

Posted by: rickislala at May 8, 2008 09:49 AM

Thanks for the article, it's scary and sad, but it's the truth and everyone should know what our soldiers go through day in and day out- my son is also at FOB Loyalty on a route clearing team - I am always looking for as much information as possible, my son doesn't tell me much - I think he doesn't want me to worry - but of course that's impossible. Please pass on our prayers, thoughts and let them know how proud we are of all of them. Hope to find more articles from you soon. Take care..

Posted by: Theresa at May 13, 2008 11:30 PM

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