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Timothy Rickey

Ohio History Connection
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00:00:07 - INTRODUCTION

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Segment Synopsis: Interview introduction for Timothy Rickey.

00:01:04 - EARLY LIFE & CHILDHOOD

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Segment Synopsis: - Born Nov. 6, 1971

- Mother worked for AT&T

- Strong legacy of military service in the family. His grandfather served in WWII in the 3rd Infantry Division; grew up seeing relatives in uniform

00:03:50 - LIFE UNTIL ENLISTMENT; 9/11

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Segment Synopsis: - Joined the military in September of 2001: joining up seemed like the right thing to do

- Had been working at Bob Evans taking care of a food truck shipment during 9/11; remembers experiencing shock and anger, and thinking through the enlistment decision. 9/11 was a “defining moment”: “now or never”

- In high school: had been involved in marching band; graduated 1990; military had a pull and had talked with a recruiter, but, as an only child, Rickey worried about upsetting his parents. Went into civilian work after this

- Worked at Bob Evans while pursuing school in parks & wildlife management; goal was to manage a Civil War battlefield

- From 1990-2001: got married and started a family; still thought back frequently on the pull to join the service; more of a calling, but worried about the decision’s impact on civilian pursuits

00:09:18 - POST-9/11 and ENLISTMENT DECISION

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Segment Synopsis: -Post 9/11: saw Bush on TV — felt like the moment was this generation’s Pearl Harbor; thought of his three children and decided he needed to step up

- Saw a recruit and was pushed to the Reserve (because of family); sought and received a waiver

- May 2002: received papers for the delayed entry program; entered Ft. Knox in July

- Wasn’t initially thinking of military as a career; signed up for a 2-year term

- Wanted the wider range of experiences available as a full-time soldier; was available to serve

- Wife’s father had served in Vietnam and his father had also been in Vietnam; unwavering family support for service

- Rickey’s parents were “not so into it”; but warmed uo eventually

- Rickey and wife bought they house he’d grown up in; kept Rickey’s deployment a secret until closer to the date

- Ended up signing up for a 4-year term of service; proud to take the oath of service, but also nervous — doubt, expectations

00:19:23 - EXPECTATIONS; BASIC + ADVANCED INDIVIDUAL TRAINING

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Segment Synopsis: - 2002: there was not too much happening in Iraq yet; prepared to go to Afghanistan

- Took basic training very seriously; one of the older recruits, at 30 y.o; committed his full resources to the tasks at hand

- Bootcamp was “rough”; received MOS of 91-W: combat medic; added focus was on taking care of other people

- Rickey chose the combat medic MOS: enjoyed helping other people

- Trained at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, then to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, where he trained with the U.S. Army medics

- Other MOS possibilities were joining up with the tankers; but combat medic was his #1 choice

- Made close connections with other guys in his platoon; 3 of them trained together; there was an age gap, but same goal

- After Ft. Sam Houston, visited Texas; took a 16-week-long course. First half of the training was getting a civilian EMT card; CPR for healthcare providers, memorization and anatomy and physiology — written exam, which Rickey passed the first time around

- More advanced training was for military medical techniques: dealing with taking vitals, avoiding self-engagement; adding to the knowledge from basic

- “Doc”: best compliment a combat medic can receive

- The next day: shipped from Ohio to Texas to Georgia (Ft. Stewart); had 3-4 days to figure out his assignment

- Assigned to the 3rd Squad of the 7th U.S. Cavalry (“3-7 Cav”)

- Feb. 2003: most of the unit was already in Iraq (2nd Battalion); folks at Ft. Stewart were primarily rear installation

- Arrived, and was almost immediately called to Kuwait

- Had a strong faith; but wife was nervous — final phone conversation before Kuwait spent reassuring his mother, who was even more anxious

00:32:03 - DEPLOYMENT TO IRAQ

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Segment Synopsis: - Missed the start date of the invasion; brought aboard for ehe beginning of the push into Souther Iraq — mission was crossing over the border from Kuwait into Iraq

- Stationed at Camp New York (active since 1991)

- Arrived 18th/19th March 2003; took a while to get acclimated to the heat

- Listened to Voice of America and BBC; very informed on what was happened

- Brought UNO card cards; once, during a massive thunderstorm early on in the deployment, the tent blew away; all that remained was a green “7” UNO card. Rickey kept that card as a good luck charm

- Not much sense, initially, of the media reception; seemed like folks back home were supported; “band of brothers” idea

- In-country, primary work was taking care of and training troops — no matter the injury

- At Camp New York, ran “sick call,” along with Army doctors

00:44:42 - ENTERING IRAQ

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Segment Synopsis: - Received orders to move North and push into Iraq

- Went along with the 3rd division kept moving

- U.S. forces moved very quickly, and pushed all the way to Baghdad — pushed into his unit with armed escort and humvee, along with 3-4 medics; took forever to join the unit — switching drivers every couple hundred miles

- Southern Iraq: civilian populace; interactions with kids, poverty; passing out water bottles and MRE kits — no enemy encounters

- Very cold nights; 90’s during the day, but could get hypothermia at night in 60-degree weather because of acclimation

- Finally joined unit for final fight at the airport — much of the fight had already happened. Helped to secure Southern part of Baghdad.

- Seemed peaceful; but could still see fighting on the horizon — “getting ready to do stuff”

- Set up at Camp Liberty (one of Saddam’s palaces) — lots of palm trees, but lots of destruction; difficult to contemplate the splendor compared to the poverty of most of the surrounding populace

- Settling in to work screening patients for sick call, rehydration. Both regular medic duty and combat injuries

- Baghdad was relatively quiet; set to head out to Balad in the spring

- Some goofy work: making latrine facilities — resolved to get promoted!

00:56:58 - COMMUNICATIONS HOME FROM IRAQ

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Segment Synopsis: - Networks were just being set up at the time; barely established

- Camp Liberty had one land-line phone; March to may, no contact

- Grandpa had passed away; Red Cross, at the time, worked to track soldiers down in the field — didn’t get message for 12 hours; ultimately not able to go home for funeral, and given one phone call by unit chaplain

01:00:31 - NORTH TO BALAD

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Segment Synopsis: - Force-on-force combat seems over; but lops of trouble still afoot

- Troops sent to old Soviet-Iraqi airfield at Balad

- Stayed in tents in the field; spray-painted names on them

- Assigned as the platoon leader’s driver; command for the medic unit

- Balad was 40 miles North; exposure to combat trauma

- 2-3 days in mortars into the camp; called “Mortaritaville”; mortars came in several times a day

- Lots of casualties; sending folks out on raids

- July of 2003: IED’s; started out being the size of pop cans, put inside roadkill, etc.; some roadside bombs

- 1st casualty in dismount vehicles: unit stationed a huge, massive aircraft hangar; streams of medics treated this, radio in for more care; victim lost his leg

- First casualty came back to visit the medics later

- Also treated “stupid stuff”: soldiers getting bored and staging fightings between scorpions and camel spiders, etc. - Had time to show his capabilities

- Able to go out on a few “house visits” or raids; these were largely uneventful

- Served as military police; conditions were relatively peaceful

- Nervous conditions: constantly armed; had to treat anyone you’d meet as potentially hostile

- 3rd IED attack came through; Rickey led the way with the medic team, but things calmed down afterwards

- Then: call to head to Fallujah, south to Baghdad and then further West

01:15:49 - REST OF TOUR; FALLUJAH

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Segment Synopsis: - More hostility; people were grateful, but also wanted the U.S. army to leave

- Base was outside city

- Remained at Fallujah only three days; got the word that the unit was invited to go home, and began packing up to go home; headed back through Southern Iraq

- Everyone overjoyed to go back home, cleaned up vehicles and drove them to Sabiba Port

- 10-12 days before the troops could head back home

- No fatalities; but rest of division was not so lucky

01:20:00 - EXITING IRAQ

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Segment Synopsis: - Headed back to Camp New York, then to Camp Wolfe, by Kuwait City

- Received an overjoyed reception in Kuwait, 12-years post First Gulf War

- Left Kuwait in waves; stopped in Frankfurt first, then on to Savannah and Ft. Stewart

- Homecoming ceremony was in Ft. Stewart; wife and kids came out

- Came home in August; son born September 2003

01:26:11 - TRANSITION TO HOME LIFE

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Segment Synopsis: - Adjusting to civilian life: found it easy to get reintegrated, especially with block leave. Getting used to life back home in Thornville, Ohio not as difficult as Rickey had expected.

- Told, on vacation at the Tybee Island beach, that he had a “1,000-mile stare”

- Still based in Ft. Stewart, but family remained in Thornville

- December 2003: received word that they’d be going back

- Late 2003: insurgency began o pick up; wife had support system — parents lived nearby

- Rickey had to launch into a volley of trainings: 1 month in Ft. Irwin; then to Ft. Polk, Louisiana; “there, but not really there”

- Meanwhile, bought a house in Ohio — had a stable home, but was a “geographic bachelor”; made it work with letters and phone calls

- Hadn’t yet settled on a career path, but kept option open; excited about work in the non-combat side of the army

01:34:58 - NEWS OF SECOND DEPLOYMENT

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Segment Synopsis: - News came down that second deployment was on for December 2005

- Rickey was “not so into it”; hadn’t expected to go back so soon

- 2004: full of lots of trainings; finally got some 3-4 day weekends to spend back with families in Ohio, in recognition of the impending deployment

- Rickey wasn’t aware of any negativity in media portrayal of the U.S. involvement abroad at the time; soldiers took care of each other

- 2004: people still were euphoric; expecting a “quick victory”; but the year saw an enormous scaling-up of the insurgency; hallmark year for fire fights

- New type of enemy: ex-army officials, etc.

- IEDs also presented new challenge: on 2003, few had heard of IEDs; by 2004, things had gotten “lots nastier”; aircraft shells, etc., were being turned into IEDs

- more horrific casualties; much of the effort was on counter-IED operations and spotting IEDs from afar; soldiers were trained to adapt to this tactical situation

01:42:14 - SECOND DEPLOYMENT: TRAINING & MOBILIZATION PROCESS

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Segment Synopsis: - Training changed to focus more on IEDs and human anatomy, body armor; treatment remained the same

- Mobilized through Fts. Irwin and Polk; Irwin provided a more realistic training grounds; more emphasis on “house-to-house” work, reflecting actual conditions in Iraq/rules of engagement in this climate

- Deployed Jan. 6th, 2005, along with bulk of the unit, into Kuwait (after a Christmas leave); then right back to Camp New York for an acclimation period

- With the unit for 2 weeks of rifle training; then shipped off to Iraq in the middle of the night

- Jan. 25th, 2005: Deployed to Camp Rustamiyah AKA “Camp Rusty,” in a Southeast suburb of Baghdad — very small FOB, situated in a branch of the Tigris; located in a very impoverish neighborhood; across the road from a water treatment plant w/ the infrastructure knocked down

01:53:58 - CAMP RUSTAMIYAH

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Segment Synopsis: - Lots and lots of FOBS in 2005; “green zone,” with lots of people — fortified T-Walls and a post-exchange; grocery and a hardware store

- Small, but “had everything you need”

- Former Iraqi military base; equipped with barracks

- 1/2 occupied by the U.S., 1/2 by the new Iraqi Army; some units dispatched to train the Iraqi Army — including teaching them medical essentials

- Counterinsurgency efforts were strong; Rickey was dispatched to help train the Iraqi Army’s medics in counter-IED treatment; going out on the roads, including Route Pluto, commonly known as “IED Alley.”

- Served in a unit with some fatalities; casualties ultimately came to them

- Equipped as a QRF — “Quick Reaction Force”; following whatever happened close by

- Each unit had medics; Rustimiyah had been Saddam’s personal hospital; had beds. Conducted sick call in the mornings; worked a 12-hour shift — everyone wanted to take a medic with them, wherever they went — casualties come in day or night; sometimes took on mass casualties

- Around 4,000 soldiers on site; 4 battalions, with one diverted elsewhere

- Sick call had 2 medics from each unit; just enough to run sick call

02:02:29 - SECOND DEPLOYMENT: FORMATIVE EXPERIENCES

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Segment Synopsis: - Experiencing first casualties

- Working with doctors: each unit has its own doctor

- Dealing with casualties didn’t get any easier; lots of IED’s and soldiers KIA

- Danger of the combat circumstances inspired Rickey to try to do a better job

- Doctors supported that; encouraged folks to learn from other medics and from each others’ practices, even skills picked up outside the army

- Medics decompressed through video games; “blue humor”; purchasing bootlegged DVDs

- Attended chapel services on base — including a Christmas Eve service

02:13:22 - CULTURAL EXCHANGE/INTERACTION WITH IRAQIS

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Segment Synopsis: - Cultural concerns: female medics had to attend to female patients; careful not to upset local population; avoided disturbing mosques

- Old Iraqi Army had no medics; trained up the new Iraqi Army in the same things the U.S. trained in

- Often difficult to explain complex medical terminology across interpreters; but tried to train to U.S. standards

- Local populace seemed split in feelings on U.S. presence (“50/50”); Rickey observed some resistance

- “Fence sitting”: Iraqis, with all the political upheaval, may not have known what side to root for; weren’t sure which way things were going to go, and may have felt caught in the middle

- Set up “MedCAPs”: Medical Civic Action Programs — grabbing supplies and setting up free local clinics; running out of supplied before patients; Rickey enjoyed the experience of doing some good in the local community

- Uruguayan contractor choosing to see the American medics

- Got to take care of a baby and help save its life during a sick call; came into the aid station across the wire with an escort

02:29:00 - END OF DEPLOYMENT; HOMECOMING

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Segment Synopsis: - Communication was much easier; laptops made things more possible — internet, phone operating center; lots of care packages, but things arrived much faster

- 5th child born during deployment; “didn’t wait long enough” — scheduled R&R tour when he was scheduled to be born; just missed his birth

- Loved the two weeks at home; but difficult to return back to Iraq after the time with family. Hard to leave newborn son behind; but able to get family photo in the airport

- Last days: faced “short-timer syndrome” — another unit coming to replace; did a “right-seat ride” and trained up the folks taking their place.

- New unit took over Jan. 1st, 2006; had to repack supplies, wash vehicles, get everything into Conex shipping containers — almost a week of packing!

- “GTFOI” Day: Jan. 6th

- Back to Hunter Airfield; took buses back to Ft. Stewart; reunited with the family there

- Protocol: couldn’t drive for 48 hours; mandatory post-deployment briefings

- February: month-long block leave

- July 2006: active duty contract was up

02:38:00 - TRANSITION TO THE GUARD

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Segment Synopsis: - Wanted to stay in the active duty Army; but didn’t want to be separated from wife and kids anymore

- Wanted another duty station closer to Ohio (Ft. Knox, Kentucky or Ft. Drumm, New York); when you reenlist, given a choice of what is open. Ft. Riley, Kansas was offered. Wouldn’t work for the family — too far away. Would have remained in the active duty army otherwise.

- Enlisted in the Ohio National Guard instead; after a year in the Guard, offered an active-duty Guard slot (AGR). Have been on AGR anyway — medic instructor

- Now: transition Guard soldiers in how to save lives; train non-medical soldiers basic battle first-aid; CPR instructor

- Had previously perceived the Guard as being more of a “weekend warrior” model

- Worked at Ohio University Medical Center before AGR; similar to medic work with the Army

02:43:35 - REFLECTIONS ON SERVICE

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Segment Synopsis: - Grateful; wider perspective on the world; meeting amazing people — local nationals, coalition forces, &c.

- “It’s changed me; 99.9% is for the better”

- Reflecting back on initial moments of doubt

- Service has impacted his self-confidence; completing mission; maturity

- All in all, would “sign up all over again”

- Goal of servicemen and -women is following a higher calling or higher purpose; defending the country is an “honor and a sacred obligation” — something that service people are passionate about, and take very seriously

- Combat medics are a “special breed”; medic’s job is to make sure that all brothers- and sisters-in-arms go home alive; getting satisfaction out of helping people and making their lives better

- Medics job first person a wounded soldier calls for is a medic

- Guided both by scientific perspective but also by strong faith; influences his dedication to the work and to battle buddies

- Closing anecdote: accidentally stole his Lieutenant’s pants