10 May 2008 (Sadr City, Iraq)

I didn’t write anything on the 9th. The last several entries in my journal were written every few days. Unfortunately, it’s been 12 years, and I don’t remember exactly how things went down. Sometimes my journal was very clear. Other times, it was like I was just trying to get everything down on paper, and it may not be in any particular order. Fortunately, I saved my photos in folders according to the date they were taken, so I have a folder for each day. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos every day. Having the dated photos and the journal does help me piece things together, and surprisingly, I do still remember a lot of it, especially after looking at the photos and reading a little of what I wrote.

We’re supposed to leave Sadr City around 1430 today. They’re telling us we’ll go and meet with some colonel or lieutenant colonel at some point, and then we’re going to head out. I’m not sure I believe it. I’m also not sure I want to leave. This is where the war is, not up north of Taji in the countryside. Time goes by fast here; we’re busy, and it can be exciting. On the flip side, showers, hot food sometimes, and a cot might be a nice change.

I overheard Captain Veath asking LTC Barnett about the possibility of Silver Star Medals for some of the soldiers in Leo’s squad. I didn’t hear what LTC Barnett had to say, but I doubt that they’ll do it.

After my last guard shift, we left the OP and headed to JSS Sadr City for fuel and then back to the patrol base. A few minutes later, we were told to go back to the OP to photograph the houses. They wanted to avoid any false claims of damage we caused. Of course, we’d left the houses unattended, so who knew what might be waiting for us.

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When we returned to the house we’d been staying in, the family was already there cleaning up and putting things back together. We explained that we needed to take photographs of their home so that we could compensate them for anything that was damaged, and they let us in. We had caused some damage, but it wasn’t malicious. We didn’t break windows or dishes or anything. Much of it was from being in contact, the fact that we’re bigger and carrying a lot of weight and gear, and partly from carelessness. We got our photos, handed them a claim card with contact information, and left.

We stopped to grab Captain Veath at the patrol base then headed back to JSS Sadr City. I went in with him to upload our photos to someone’s computer. MG Hammond was there, so we got held up some.

We had first left the OP at 1130. It was 1600 when we finally reach the old Ministry of Defense, where LTC Barnett’s HQ was.

As we waited for the word to get into a formation, 1SG was making a huge deal about uniforms and damage to our vehicles. Suddenly, it was very important that everyone was in full kit, cleanly shaven, etc. We’d been wearing our combat gear pretty much nonstop, and now we’re here in a protected zone, but we have to wear our full kit for appearances. He was also telling us that we needed to photograph every mark on our trucks. I’m sure LTC Barnett and CSM Boom dished out their fair share of typical army bullshit, but sometimes I wished I worked for them. They seemed like common sense leaders.

LTC Barnett came out and spoke for a bit, passed out some coins, and talked about combat patches. Some guys were wondering if we’d be able to wear the 2nd Cavalry patch as a “combat patch.” The proper terminology is shoulder sleeve insignia, former wartime service. It’s a unit patch worn on the right sleeve, and it signifies that the wearer served with that particular unit, usually a division, during wartime service. It doesn’t necessarily mean the soldier was in combat; it just means the troop was deployed to a hostile area, and the unit participated in, or supported, ground combat operations. There is also a time period. It’s usually 30 days in-country.

At this particular time, a lot of guys were frustrated. There were a lot of grumblings about not wanting to wear a 25th ID combat patch for whatever randoms reasons. Many complained about a lack of support from higher up. They felt like LTC Barnett and CSM Boom were there on the ground with us, supporting us, and backing us. I think they appreciated the common sense leadership that I already mentioned. Looking back, I think those of us on the ground struggled to see that while we were attached to 1-2 SCR, our own company, battalion, and brigade still had their own areas of responsibility to take care of. On the ground with bullets flying, it was easy to overlook the bigger picture. It was a frustrating time; we had our own battalion calling some shots from a distance, and a cavalry unit there calling the shots on the ground. The cavalry unit leaders were there in the streets, dodging bullets and hitting IEDs right there with us. It seemed like our own unit leaders would show up, walk through, and bitch about what they saw. Then they’d return to Camp Taji’s hot chow, hot showers, air conditioning, and wifi. It certainly generated some resentment.

As far as combat patches, I already had a 10th Mountain Division Combat patch from all the way back in 2001-2002, and I would’ve been qualified again in 2003. After my 2004-2005 deployment, I was also eligible to wear the 25th ID patch. I preferred to wear my 10th Mountain patch though. At one point, I had a sorry-ass command sergeant major who insisted that soldiers in his battalion only wear the 25th ID combat patch, regardless of others they had earned. The army regulation states that soldiers may elect not to wear a combat patch, and it also says that those who are authorized more than one may choose which they wear. Here’s a middle finger to you, Command Sergeant Major Arthur Lee Coleman Junior. His decree about combat patches was the least of my complaints about that guy.

We left for Taji around 1645. When we reached the base, we drove past our battalion headquarters, and there was a formation of soldiers standing out front. They saluted as we passed by, and I think someone was recording video of it. After that, we circled around to our company area to unload our equipment.

Our fighting in Sadr City was done.


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