The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


June 02, 2008

Name: Eddie
Posting date: 6/2/08
Stationed in: Iraq
Milblog url
: Eighty Deuce on the Loose

It is over. The words I have been waiting to say for so long: I AM DONE!

I know back in the day when President Bush made his whole Mission Accomplished speech from the Navy aircraft carrier, the mission that most Americans assumed he was talking about was the Iraq War, which at the time was nowhere near done. There was and still is much controversy over his decision to make such a statement. My statement is a little less bold. I don't refer to "accomplished" as in "the war is over, send the troops home." I am referring to the work that we have done, ourselves, and the job we have done and done well. Our mission is accomplished.

We received word of our deployment a few days after Christmas 2006. We were on the deployment ready cycle at Ft Bragg, where we could potentially deploy anywhere in the world on a moment's notice, so it was no real surprise. When murmurs about a possible troop surge began rumbling, I knew we were probably going to be caught up in it. Sure enough, we were.

We learned that we would be heading for Kuwait just two days after New Years. We hurried to rush out of there and get going on what was to be a six-month deployment as the Iraq Theater's strategic reserve. By the time we were wheels up, it had been six days since we had received notification of our deployment. Soon after arriving in Kuwait, the decision was finalized to mobilize tens of thousands of troops and flood them into Baghdad and other parts of Iraq as a part of a new change in strategy. When the boots of our unit touched the dirty ground of Iraq, the "Surge" had begun.

It was a volatile time for Baghdad and Iraq when we began. Sectarian killing between Shiites and Sunnis was spiraling out of control. Sadr's militia was terrorizing and killing Sunnis, while Sunni snipers and bomb makers mutilated Shiites in ungodly numbers. They hated each other, but they both hated us.The Spring of 2007 brought some of the bloodiest months of this war. May 2007 was the 2nd bloodiest month, followed by April and June as the 5th and 6th. The year 2007 would turn out to be the single deadliest year for US troops since the beginning of the War.

The initial push of the Surge was into Baghdad, and the fighting between Sadr's militia, the Sunni Militia and Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the US Military was fierce. But our resolve and will did not falter and our advantage in warfighting proved once again that they stood no chance. They began to flee the Baghdad area and push to the outskirts, where the new Surge troops would soon follow and continue to give them the crushing defeat they were sustaining in Baghdad.

With the focus no longer on gun battles and firefights, we began going after the leaders of the militias that operated in our sector and began rolling them up one after another after another, until the picture became clear to them: Quit, leave or get caught. Our final task was to protect the economically important markets which were in our area, and were constantly the target of massive car bombs, killing hundreds of people with some of the blasts. The most economically important and largest market in Baghdad was in our sector, but between our constant presence and pressure on the militias, the attacks dwindled in size and frequency.

With the militias weakened, the civilian casualties at an all time low due to a lack of car bombs and sniper attacks, the confidence of the people began to rise and their trust and appreciation of us did as well. The last vital step was to get the Iraqis to begin to take over for themselves, and our assistance in the creation of the CLC (Concerned Local Citizen) groups have done just that.

The situation in our area had taken a complete 180 from where it was when we began. The Sunnis and the Shiites began to trust one another. Killings were almost non-existent. Attacks in the markets were so rare and weak, that the resolve of the Iraqi civilians was not shaken. People were no long so fearful of working with the Americans and giving us intel. And in some areas, you could tell the people really loved us being there. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's completely safe in our area, but it's getting damn close.

It's amazing to think how much of a difference 15 months has made. And it shows in the level of attacks on our troops. December 2007 was the 2nd lowest death toll since the start of the war, with the 3rd lowest being February 2008. Sadr, the leader of the Jeish Al Mehdi Army, has even noticed the change, and no longer feels the need for his militia to fight. He has stated himself that what the Americans have done has been good.

As tough as it was for us to deploy here on six days' notice, and deal with our deployment getting extended from six months to a year and then from a year to 15 months, I believe it has been worthwhile. It has had a profound impact on this area, one that only time can truly show. I hope the trend continues with the new units that are beginning to replace the Surge troops, and I hope peace will one day take over in this land. I want to be able to come back when I'm 50 and 60 and walk the same streets with my kids and grandchildren. I pray that this may one day be possible.

So for now my time is done. I am done with missions and very shortly will be heading out of this place I have called home for so long. The next time I post I will be back in the United States. Thank you to all who have read my blog, offered advice, support or just an encouraging word through the comments and emails. I appreciated it all, and I hope that you were able to get a little better picture of what life was like here in Iraq for an average American ground soldier in the middle of the Surge. I will continue to blog once I return, so don't think this is the end. It's just the end of a long long long long loooooong chapter.  :)



a very fitting title. congrats on returning home safely. i cannot thank you enough for assuming this burden voluntarily.

From an old Vietnam vet to a new vet: Welcome home, Eddie, with many thanks to you and your fellow vets who have given so much and done so well.

Another Vvet says welcome home and thanks for your service. I hope you can visit a peaceful Iraq someday. My family's visit to Vietnam in 2001 was one of the great events of my life; it's wonderful to see peace in a place that you once knew only as war.

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