A Tour in Iraq, One Day at a Time

I started this blog several years ago, and I’ve posted things from time to time. I don’t really know how many people actually read what I write, and I suppose it doesn’t matter. I write because I enjoy it, and I occasionally get some positive feedback about things I’ve written. ____________________________________________________________________________________________

I joined the Army in January 2000. I had always been interested in the military, and at the time, nothing was really going my way. I wasn’t happy where I was I came home from work one evening in January, and I spent the entire night on the internet looking at options for military service.

When I walked into the recruiter’s office, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a soldier, a real soldier. I wasn’t interested in driving a truck, cooking, or working in an office.

I thought, what the hell, I’ll do my four years and get out. I’ll have my college paid for, and I’ll have an idea of what I’d like to do by then. Plus, maybe I’ll have the drive and self-discipline to make it happen.

I remember telling my mother and my on-and-off girlfriend, at the time, “It’s not like we are at war or anything. It’s four years. Nothing is going to happen.”

I shipped out for basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia on February 29th, 2000, leap year.

JT and Mom-Leaving for Basic Training

This was taken when my mom and stepfather were dropping me off at the recruiter’s office to leave.

After basic training and Airborne School, I was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division at Ft. Drum, New York.

The terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 made a liar out of me, and our nation prepared for war. While units trained, planned, and waited for deployment orders, my unit packed and left. We provided additional force protection at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD, from September through the end of October, and we were overseas before Christmas.

JT on Homeland Security at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland

Standing security near a storage facility at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD. (Oct. 2001)

After my initial deployment to Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, I would face three more tours in support of the War on Terrorism.

I traveled to the Horn of Africa in 2003, spent parts of 2004 and 2005 in Afghanistan again, and finally went to Iraq in December of 2007.

It’s the Iraq deployment, OIF 07-09, that has made the most lasting impact on my life. Things were different there. Combat, when it happened, was real and at times intense.

As I reflect on my military service, I realize that many things were changing during my career. One thing that really stands out is how far technology came. I’m not only talking about weapons and military equipment, but even personal electronics. During my fist deployment, some guys carried cameras, mostly the disposable ones. There weren’t many pictures from that deployment, and while I still remember some parts of it very clearly, some memories have faded and others have been blended together making it difficult to tell the difference between individual experiences. As the years passed, digital cameras and even video cameras became  more compact and affordable. Email and social media became the norm, and many soldiers traded their spiral notebooks and envelopes for laptop computers and an internet hookup. As a result, I don’t have much of a record of my earlier deployments, but I have hundreds and hundreds of photographs from my tour in Iraq, and I even managed to grab some videos. In addition, I kept a journal throughout my entire deployment. There are times when I missed a few days or when I was busy and simply wrote a few points about what had happened since the last time I had written, but my journal combined with hundreds of photos and videos that are cataloged according to the date they were taken creates a very complete and detailed record of my experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2007-2009. From boredom and frustration to firefights and homesickness, it’s all there.

My unit, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, (B Co. 1-14 INF, 2nd SBCT, 25th ID) left Schofield Barracks, Hawaii on December 7th, 2007, the 66th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was to be a 15-month tour in Iraq, and for me, it would be my fourth and final tour.

While I’m starting out a little behind, my goal here is to get caught up and share the details of my Iraq deployment, one or two days at a time, as I recorded it in my journal and with the help of photos and videos.

For those of you who were there, these are my memories, as I recorded them. You may remember things differently from time to time, and that’s fine. We all have our own memories and perspectives, and it has been my experience that two soldiers standing side by side will not remember the same details about a particular event.

To the men of Bravo Company “Bushmasters”, and more specifically 1st Platoon, the “Maggots,” thanks! The time I served with you was the highlight of my military career.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1st Platoon, the “Maggots,” 1-14 Inf, 2nd SBCT, 25th ID (Camp Taji, Iraq – Early in the deployment) There were some additions and personnel changes later in the tour.

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