Segment Synopsis: Timothy A. Rickey was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1971. He had a strong legacy of military service in the family because his grandfather served in WWII in the 3rd Infantry Division. He joined the military in September of 2001 because it seemed like the right thing to do. Rickey talks about his experience of 9/11, what he had been doing up until the time of his enlistment, and the pull the military had for him. He discusses his family's reaction to his enlistment, his choice of programs, and a secret surprise from his wife.
Keywords: Columbus (Ohio); Fort Knox (Ky.); September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.
Subjects: Childhood; Enlsitment; Military heritage; September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.
Segment Synopsis: Rickey found his training tough but he was happy to be there. He was chose the specialty of 91-W or combat medic and was assigned to the 3rd Squad of the 7th U.S. Cavalry. He discusses his basic training, his instruction to be a combat medic, his deployment to Iraq in 2003, catching up with the front line, his daily duties, and seeing his first action at Balad Air Base. Rickey describes moving to Fallujah, his return to Fort Stewart, his perception of how the war was seen back in the United States, and the change in his training based on the introduction of Improvised explosive devices.
Keywords: Balad Air Base (Iraq); Camp Liberty (Iraq); Camp New York (Kuwait); Fallujah (Iraq); Fort Knox (Ky.); Fort Stewart (Ga.); Improvised explosive devices; Military police; United States. Army. Cavalry Regiment, 7th; United States. Army. Division, 3rd
Subjects: Basic training; Deployment; Life on the ground; Moving into Iraq
Segment Synopsis: Rickey shipped out through Kuwait, Frankfurt, Savannah, and finally to Fort Stewart where he was reunited with his wife and children. He found it easier to readjust to civilian life than some but still had some issues. While on vacation he found out that he would be re-deploying in 2005. He talks about his process of coming home, transitioning to being in the states, and his family's support system for his second deployment. He discusses his feelings about his second deployment, the training, and the new dangers they would all be facing.
Keywords: Camp New York (Kuwait); Camp Wolf (Kuwait); Frankfurt an der Oder (Germany); Savannah (Ga.); Thornville (Ohio); Tybee Island (Ga.)
Subjects: Coming home
Segment Synopsis: Rickey's training for his second deployment was different than for his first in that it focused more heavily on IEDs. He deployed January 6th, 2005, along with bulk of the unit, into Kuwait and then right back to Camp New York. Rickey explains his second deployment in 2005 to Camp Rustamiyah, helping train the Iraqi Army’s medics in counter-IED treatment, and his first experience dealing with American fatalities. He described working with doctors, setting up MedCAPs, Medical Civic Action Programs, and the support the medical staff gave to each other. He discusses the ease of communicating home on this deployment, missing his 5th child's birth by days, coming home, and finisjing his time with the Army.
Keywords: Camp New York (Kuwait); Camp Rustamiyah (Iraq); Fort Irwin (Calif.); Fort Polk (La.); Improvised explosive devices; Military Training
Subjects: Casualties; Deployment; Training; Training Iraqi Medics
Map Coordinates: 33.2800001,44.5195802
Segment Synopsis: Rickey wanted to stay in the active duty Army, but didn’t want to be separated from wife and kids anymore. He tried to find a duty station closer to Ohio but they were all too far away other wise he would have remained with the Army. Instead he enlisted in the Ohio National Guard and after a year in the Guard he was offered an active-duty slot as a medic instructor. Rickey explains his choice to leave the Army, his work with the Guard, and his reflections on his service. He closes with a story about stealing his lieutenant's pants.
Keywords: Military training; Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center; Ohio. Army National Guard
Subjects: Joining the National Guard; Leaving the Army; Reflections on service
TP: Today is the 27th of October 2015. My name is Ty Pierce and I'm here withJess Holler. We're interviewing Timothy Rickey about his service in the Ohio National Guard in the United States Armed Forces. This interview is part of the Standing together: Ohio veterans and the war on terror initiative and it's being recorded at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, Ohio. Mr. Rickey, for the record, could you please say and spell your full name?
TR: Timothy Allan Rickey, T-I-M-O-T-H-Y A-L-L-A-N R-I-C-K-E-Y.
TP: You can just speak directly to us, you don't have to speak directly to thecamera either, so we can just get on the conversation and--
TR: I am so good with that. The camera is rather intimidating.
TP: I thought you might be all right with that.
JH: All right, Sergeant Rickey, could you tell us a little bit about when andwhere you were born?
TR: Yes. I was born right here in the capital city 6th November 1971.
JH: Where did you grow up?
TR: I grew up abut 30 miles east of here, a little town called Thornville, PerryCounty Ohio, northern Perry County.
JH: What was your childhood like?
TR: Well, actually I was an only child, so I could probably say spoilt for themost part, I had free range, but that being said I was a good kid, no criminal records, stayed below the police radar. Good kid. Joined the high school band, was elected band president. Highlight of my life up to that time. Good childhood I have to say.
JH: What did your parents do for a living?
TR: My mother worked for AT&T here in Columbus and retired from there. My fatherwas in the air force for a long time and then after that he currently runs his own landscape business.
JH: It sounds like there was a traditional military service in your immediate family.00:02:00
TR: Yes and further back from it.
JH: Can you speak a little bit to what that tradition was like and how itaffected you growing up?
TR: Of course. Actually in recent years I've gotten into a little bit ofgenealogy and I've officially traced my ancestry on the Rickey side back to the French and Indian war, so the Rickey's have been in North America for quite a while. I had a great, great, times five, grandfather that fought with the New Jersey and New York Militia Forces in the revolution. I had an ancestor who was killed in the civil war and both my grandfathers fought in World War II. My maternal grandmother, my mom's dad, he actually served in the third infantry division which is who I served with in Iraq. I did not know that until quite a while later.
JH: Did this legacy of service impact you as a young boy growing up?
TR: Oh, absolutely, probably because maybe seeing my uncles and aunts in uniformand such it really inspired me to be in the military. I had kind of a strong patriot streak, however I really didn't get the urge to join until after a certain day in September of 2001 and I kind of consider that day, I'd always had that feeling that joining the military was the right thing to do. After September 11, I talked with my wife and it's like, this is my generation's Pearl Harbor and people need to stand up and defend the country and that's when I enlisted and my military career begun.
JH: Can you tell us a little bit about what you remember of where you were onSeptember 11?
TR: Yes. At that time I was actually working at Bob Evans in Newark area and Iwas actually taking care of a food truck shipment and then things just started 00:04:00getting quiet there. We had the radio on and everything all of a sudden, the radio started interrupting the music, started talking about first one aircraft hit the World Trade Center. All my fellow employees were like, "Wow, that's unfortunate. A big jetliner, wow, how does that happen?" Then a little while later we heard a second one and by then the alarms are ringing, it's like this is no accident. Then my wife called, she was very panicked. She was very fear stricken and I tried to reassure her. I remember saying, "Honey, I think we're at war now." Again that night we talked and a few months later I enlisted into the United States Army.
JH: What was your thought process like that day as you were processing this andreflecting on some of the things you were feeling about your own call to serve?
TR: I think probably with the rest of the country which was shocking, this wasjust one of those things that no one would ever dream had happened. It was of course shock and then shock turned to anger. Then right about then I started thinking this is not right, we are at war now and I'm old, but I'm not too old to serve the country. I'd always felt that pull before and I think this was just the defining moment that finally convinced me it's now or never anyway. I'm not getting any younger if I want to serve now is the time and now is the reason.
JH: I want to back up a little bit to life before this call September 11. Whatwas your high school like?
TR: My high school was a rural high school. We had a nickname in the surroundingarea, the Perry Licking county, we were called children of the corn. It was Sheradin High School. Northern Perry County were called children of the corn 00:06:00because on all four sides of our high school was nothing but acres and acres and miles of corn field. High school was wonderful. I really enjoyed it and it went too fast. Now many years later I firmly believe it went way too fast for me to appreciate it. The bigger thing that I really enjoyed was band. I was in marching band, concert band, jazz ensemble, played the trombone. From those high school days I still have lifelong friends that I still talk to.
JH: What year did you graduate from high school?
JH: Your senior year and you're thinking about your future and what you might bedoing with your life, what were you thinking at that point in time in terms of your career and what you wanted with your life?
TR: Well, at that time I still hadn't decided. The military of course had thatpull on me and I actually did solicit a couple of recruiters and they called back. However I did not pursue it back then and in retrospect I'm kicking myself, I could be retired by now from the military. However being an only child this did not sit well with my parents, joining the military. Of course six months after I graduated was the first gulf war when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. I really wanted to join then, but especially my mother she's like, you're my only child, you really shouldn't do this. You're pretty much the last of your line. I kind of felt guilt trips, so I went ahead and went into civilian work after that.
TP: What type of work? What did you pursue?
TR: Well, I actually was working at Bob Evans, like I had previously mentionedand also I was going to college down in Zanesville. I kind of have an outdoor streak. I was actually pursuing parks recreational wildlife. I had intentions of 00:08:00becoming a park ranger on not just any park, but I'm a huge civil war enthusiast, my dream job would have been and maybe one day after I retire from the Army, I would be a park ranger on the civil war battlefield. That day would just be a perfect paradise on earth job for me.
JH: Where are some places your life journey took you from that moment to almost10 years later on September 11?
TR: Okay, after September 11?
JH: In between, what happened in between graduation and following this path incollege and your decision to enlist?
TR: Well, the big thing was I met my wife of now 20 years. We celebrated our20th wedding anniversary this past July. Big thing was meeting her and falling in love. We married in 1995 and since then we've had five kids. We are a legion now. That was quite a big significant event in those intervening years between high school and 9/11.
JH: Throughout that period in time getting married and starting to raise afamily, did you ever think back on that original pull for military service that you felt in high school?
TR: Oh, absolutely I did. Absolutely I did. It was always there. It never reallyleft. It's kind of hard for me to describe it a pull, an itch, kind of a little bit of a calling, but again I had other considerations at that time. I had a wife. I had a family. I had to think about leaving them, who knows, I might join today and we go to war tomorrow. It wouldn't have been fair to leave my wife and children and things like that behind. That kind of kept me a little bit more focused on family and civilian pursuits.
JH: Then as you said September 11 hit and changed that for you.00:10:00
TR: Radically so.
JH: What was the process like from that first conversation the night ofSeptember 11 you had with your wife to enlisting? What steps did you follow?
TR: Okay, well, that night I remember just lying there in bed and we watchedlive as President Bush came and addressed congress and I remember him saying we're not going to be defeated. We're not going to let this down, we're going to track down and bring people to justice that did that. Those words really resonated with me. Just that very night, that very night, my wife and I started talking about I just feel this is a defining moment in our generation, this is our Pearl Harbor. We've been attacked. We as a people have to step up and defend us. That was in September.
I stayed working at my job for a few more months in the meantime I startedseeing a recruiter over in Newark and of course those things take time because at that time I had three children, three of the five were born by 2001, going into 2002, so I did meet a few roadblocks trying to enlist because at that time the Army was like, "You have too many kids. You're going to have to get a waiver. How about you join the reserves or the guard?" my goal was to be active duty military which I actually ended up doing so, because it's just in all who you talk to in the Army. If someone says, "Yeah, not going to do it" someone else is going to say, "You know what? We can get you wavered and we'll get you in" which is what happened.
By May of 2002 I signed the enlistment papers and then they had what's calledthe delayed entry program. I had a few more weeks to get my affairs in order and let my civilian employer know, hey, I'm leaving. I'd been at Bob Evans for going on a decade, so wanted to give them time to find a replacement. Then in early July I shipped off to basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. 00:12:00
JH: I'm going to back up for one moment and ask what led you to enter the activeduty Army and what were your thoughts about the role of the Ohio national guard and other reserves at the time, now that you were being pushed in that direction because of your family situation?
TR: Yeah, absolutely. I actually originally hadn't thought of the Army as acareer, it was just we were at war. I wanted to serve my part at war. Initially I had only planned on signing up for a two year term and then after that go back to the civilian world. It turns out that I actually talked to the recruiter and we talked about the additional benefits of staying in longer, maybe making it a career and the National Guard and Reserves came up, but A, I wanted to be able to get a little bit more experience. I wanted to be active duty as opposed to the guard.
Of course I eventually did come under the guard a few years later, but I wantedthe active duty experience. I wanted to be a full time soldier. I wanted to be available to serve my country at the slightest notification. It was a long process to get it done to come into the Army, but I think I made the wise choice. Again it was only going to be two years and now it's been thirteen and a half almost.
TP: It sounds like you very quickly there was a resolve that kind of cemented inyour mind, but also sounds like your wife had a similar resolve. I'm interested to know, what was her view of military service at the extent you can speak for her, what was her view of military service? Did her family have a strong tradition of military service? It sounds to me like you guys made this decision very much in partnership and were both very resolved to do, so I'm curious to 00:14:00know her side of it.
TR: You'd be absolutely correct stating of her unwavering support. My wife'sfather did serve in the Army during Vietnam. He was actually stationed at Vicenza, Italy. He didn't go to Vietnam. My father went to Vietnam and served, so again there's that family connection on both sides with military service. That night, the night of 9/11, again my wife and I are just watching the president addressing congress and I said, I just feel that I need to step up to the plate because I'm feeling if not me then who? She never once said, well, I don't think that's a good idea or what about this or what about that, no, she put 100% of her support behind me and she never looked back.
Yes, she is an American patriot that's for sure. She's always had a positiveview of the military, continues to do so and I can tell you straight out I could not have done what I did with my military career without her guidance and her support.
JH: How did your parents react to the decision?
TR: Well, not so well, but they both warmed up. My father of course havingmilitary service in his own background, he warmed up a little bit quicker than my mother. To my mother, even at the age of 30, which I was back then, I was still her baby and she just was worried, but again she came to support the decision just as earnestly as my wife. She has never wavered from her support either, even though it took a little bit of convincing to tell her it's the right thing. Yeah, actually a little side note there, I did not tell my mother that I had joined the Army until the day I bought the house from her, the house that I grew up in. I bought the house from her.
Just after I had signed the papers I said, "By the way mom it's going to be kind00:16:00of a higher mortgage payment and I have a new job opportunity that's going to help me pay for this." "Oh, yes, really? What?" "I joined the Army." You could have dropped a pin. I had kind of kept it kind of a secret there until my wife and I finally decided, yes, this is the route we're going to take, the military service. Yeah, it took her a little bit of time to A, get used to it and then B, took her time to forgive me for kind of dropping that bombshell just like that. My family has always been behind me, my whole family, from day one.
JH: When you said that you had discussed several different types of terms ofservice with the recruiter, how long did you end up signing aboard for?
TR: Four years. It was originally going to be two, but he convinced me that fourwould open up more opportunities for me and help better facilitate my experience and maybe have more time to translate my Army skills into civilian credentials. I placed a phone call to my wife, she's like, "Yeah, do it. Go for it." I was actually there the day I decided to go from two years to four years, that was the day that I actually raised my right hand. I went in that day, that morning only planning to do two, came out of there and on my way to Fort Knox doing four.
TP: Can you tell us a little bit about, you said the raising of your right hand,taking that oath of service. You made this decision based on as you said, this was our generations Pearl Harbor, can you describe that moment, the moment of you're doing paperwork and you get the permits and you've got quite a bit of process to get to that point. Can you describe this moment of raising your right hand and taking this oath of service for your country?
TR: Yes, I remember it was actually a very young lieutenant that looked barelyout of high school and she gave us, you put your left hand behind your back 00:18:00because you're kind of at ease. You take your right hand, you raise that and recite the oath of service. Part of me was proud and an equal part nervous as all get out because I'm thinking, okay, do I really, really know what I'm getting into? Do I really know what the future is going to hold for me making this momentous decision? I don't think I ever really had a moment of doubt, it's just a moment of now I kind of belong to uncle Sam so things are going to start being a little bit more out of my control than when I was a civilian.
I was kind of nervous about that and of course in the military service you don'tknow where you're going to get stationed, you don't know if you're going to go to war tomorrow, which we were already at war officially by then. There is a lot of intangibles in military service. I was kind of nervous, kind of proud and then there is that little part of me that said it took you about enough time to get this done, because again there is always that pull there and it's like, okay, I listen to my inner voice, got it done.
JH: I was wondering if you could speak a little bit more to what yourexpectations were around your service at that moment in time. This is soon after 9/11 and as you mentioned we were recently at war, so what did you expect you would be called to do?
TR: Well, I figures that this was war time and I was pretty much a realist, Ihad a pretty good idea that I might be called to go to Afghanistan because at that time we really ... This is 2002, we really hadn't had too much to do with the Iraq conflict yet, that was kind of trouble brewing. I figured there was a possibility I'd go to Afghanistan and I was preparing for that. I took my basic training very seriously and of course I had to anyway because I was one of the 00:20:00older folks in my basic training platoon. The average age of probably 90% of those guys in there was probably 19, 20 and here I am 30 years old, brand new private, brand new to the military, so I knew I had to push myself and prove that this old guy still had it in him too.
I had expectations that I'm in the military now, I have to commit my fullresources, my full mental focus and everything into this because tomorrow I could be heading overseas. Yeah, basic training was rough for a 30 year old, more physically than psychologically, but I made it through and I realized this is the real deal. This is not going to be something I see on CNN anymore, I might be on the other end of that camera downrange, so I took my job training seriously especially given the job that I signed up for. My MOS Military Occupational Specialty, that's your job, back then it was 91 Whiskey, which is combat medic.
There was that added focus that not only do I have to watch out for my own hindend, but I also have to take care of people who weren't so lucky as me and didn't dodge that bullet. I chose that MOS because I've always had that pull just like the pull of military service that I want to help folks. I want to be helpful to them. I want to assist them. Basic training it was wild, it was crazy, but I graduated, that was Fort Knox Kentucky and then upon graduation from basic training then I was shipped down to Fort Sam Houston Texas San Antonio. That Army post is right in the middle of San Antonio and that's where 00:22:00US Army medics go to get their actual job training as medics.
TP: You mentioned a little bit of why you made the decision to go with combatmedic, were there other options, other MOS's you were looking at? Was that something that was brought to you? How did that come about on your possible list?
TR: There were other options. I always have a big fascination with tanks, so Iwas thinking about being a tanker and then I realized I'm kind of a little bit too tall to fit inside a tank, but number one, right off the bat, I always knew I wanted to do something medical and combat medic just fit the bill for me. I always wanted to have medical training and to be able to lend a hand if things went crazy and people got hurt, so pretty much combat medic was always a number one choice. I always had those possible options there tanker, what else did I think of, maybe PSYOPs or something, but medic is what I wanted and that's what I got.
JH: I was wondering if you could describe a little bit more your experiences atboot camp especially in terms of, as you said being one of the older new privates coming to boot camp. How did you relate with other recruits and what was that like, being aware that you were maybe coming into this at a little bit different place in life than some of the other folks who had joined up?
TR: Well, actually I got along great with the younger guys, part of it was wewere like fish in a barrel, so we were all under the evil gaze of the drill sergeants, so we had no choice, but to cooperate and get along, work as a group to get all the basic tasks done and everything. All in all I really liked the platoon that I was with, a lot of great guys. Three of them actually went to Fort Sam Houston with me, so three of them were also medics. I really enjoyed my, not so much the drill sergeants, but I really enjoyed the guys that I was 00:24:00with in my basic training platoon. Never had any problems, I mean, yes there was the age gap, but really, we were all facing the same goal, get out of basic training alive and we all worked together and I wish I knew where some of those guys have gone in the intervening years between then and now. I really had a good time with the guys. The whole age gap between myself and the younger folks wasn't even there.
JH: Can you tell us a little bit more about what your advanced Army medicstraining in San Antonio was like?
TR: Sure, all right. It's called AIT, Advanced Individual Training. We shippedout to Fort Sam Houston and I'd never been to Texas before, so that was kind of a neat adventure just seeing what Texas looked like. AIT was a 16 week course. It's a pretty intensive training because probably the first half of your time down there going through combat medic training is you need to get your civilian EMT card, which is like the same card paramedics and such utilizes, National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. Of course that was the first time I'd been exposed to that particular kind of course and of course we also had to take CPR for healthcare providers, so that was a nice thing to have anyway being a father and being a husband, good thing to take home.
That was eight weeks of very intensive training both physically and mentally. Alot of memorization, a lot of anatomy and physiology, things that I hadn't necessarily been exposed to or really thought about, the way the human system works, the many medical things and trauma things that could happen to folks. That was the first half and then of course you had to take the actual written exam for your EMT card, it's called the National Registry Exam. I will tell you 00:26:00that's probably one of the most difficult written exams I have ever had in my entire life, because with that exam there is not just one right answer, you've got to pick the most right answer. Hey, that's just one of those tests.
Now, I passed it with flying colors first time, some folks failed it and had totake it again, so I was just mighty happy and mighty relieved that I passed that exam. That was pretty much the first eight weeks of that sixteen. Then the remaining eight weeks because military medics can do things that the civilian EMT cannot do, so we learned about some more advanced combat medic life saving techniques such as starting IV's in folks, such as assessing major traumas and proper assessments, Taking good vitals.
Also remembering that in the context of the battlefield you need to make surethat you do not get your own self injured, because let's face it the enemies that we face then and face now, they really don't care if you're a medical person. In fact they prefer to try to kill a medical person because they know that that might demoralize our forces, "Oh, my, gosh, they killed doc." By the way doc is the most wonderful compliment you can get as a combat medic. If your guys call you doc, you know that they trust you, that they trust your abilities and that you're an all right guy. If they don't trust you or your abilities or you did the wrong thing as a medic then you get known as that blip medic. I'll leave the middle word up to your imagination. I'm going to try to keep this interview PG rated.
That was the second half and of course a lot of incredible tasks to learn, some00:28:00risks to added to my overall knowledge base and graduated Fort Sam Houston and became an official 91 Whiskey healthcare specialist. That's the actual official Army terminology is, healthcare specialist, but in reality you're a combat medic, especially once you actually go to war and earn the badge.
JH: What happened for you after AIT?
TR: Well, things went very quickly from there. The next day I took a plane toFort Stewart, Georgia. Fort Stewart is about twenty, twenty five miles below Savannah. Went from Ohio to Texas, which is kind of hot and dry and then ended up going to Georgia, southeast Georgia, which is subtropical for Ohio boy. I didn't stay at Fort Stewart very long. I was there maybe three or four days in process and then of course during that in process time, that's where they figure out what individual military unit you're going to be assigned to. I ended up being assigned to the third squadron, seventh United States Cavalry, Custer's own. I got assigned to 3-7 Cav.
At that time, this is February of 2003 and most of my unit was already in Kuwaitpreparing for the invasion because by then we had a pretty good idea that Iraq was going to be the focal point for at least a while. The only folks at Fort Stewart were what I call rear dets or rear detachment folks, folks that are staying behind basically to run the installation while the bulk of the division was at war. 3-7 Cav was part of the second brigade of the third entry division. I was there maybe the second day after I got assigned to 3-7 Cav and the senior 00:30:00non commissioned officer said, "Okay, so Private Rickey, did you bring your family down here with you yet?" "Negative, sir." "Good, leave them in Ohio because in a week or so you're going to Kuwait, because we need you over there."
It was me and a couple other medics. Then, yeah, true to their word they shippedme over there probably two and a half, three weeks later. They were there in Kuwait waiting for the war to begin.
JH: What is your family thinking at this time?
TR: Well, my wife obviously she was a nervous little Chihuahua, but she knew,she was expecting this. My family, we have a pretty strong faith and she knew I was in good hands and I told her, "Don't worry honey, these are good folks I'm with." She said, "I know, I know. I can't help it, but I know I'm going to worry." Of course that was that final phone conversation because we actually took the plane overseas to Kuwait.
My mom, she probably took it a little harder. She was really super, superworried, kept asking, "Hey, are you okay. Are these good folks that you're with? Are they going to take good care of you?" "Yes, mom. Yes, okay? I'm fine. Remember I'm the medic. I have to take care of them, so you know they're going to take care of me, because they know that they have me to rely on if something bad happens to them." She was even more anxious than my wife, but again they were nervous, but very supportive.
TP: Can you describe your deployment to Kuwait? You went first to Kuwait becausethey had not crossed over into Iraq yet or how is this timing out? 00:32:00
TR: This is timing out I missed. I actually missed except the other three medicsthat were assigned to 3-7 Cav. We actually missed the actual invasion or the actual start date of the invasion, because we had just gotten down to southern Kuwait and we got the word filtering down to us that the third division had started to push into southern Iraq. I didn't actually get to go on day one. We did catch up, but yeah, we missed it, myself and my other guys that were there were kind of almost like a let down. We got here, we're going to be here anyway and we missed the invasion, are you kidding me? Then of course there is that little bit of relief like, okay, well the butterflies inside my stomach can sit for a little while.
Yeah, we missed it, but we ended up catching up after a week, so we actuallycrossed ... It's what's known as crossing the LD. What that means is the line of departure. In this case the LD was the actual border between Kuwait and Iraq. While we were waiting to cross, we were actually staged up in Camp New York which is very close to the Iraq border, big, massive sprawling installation. It had been there I think since the first war in 1991, so it had been well maintained. Camp New York, what really struck me is it's out in the middle of nowhere. You think of the Middle East and it ... It was so barren it might as well have been the Sahara. Just like you think of when you think of the Middle East or you think of a desert, big, high sand dunes and little bits of vegetation here and there.
Other than that Camp New York was pretty well outfitted. It had a very largedining facility and I think every Thursday maybe or every Friday was surf and turf, so they would serve lobster and steak, so that was kind of a cool thing 00:34:00about being there while we were waiting to head north.
JH: This is really early on like days after the official invasion--
TR: Yeah, the invasion was, depending on what time zone you're talking about itwas either 18th March or 19 March 2003 and we had gotten there on the 19th so of course we moved up to Kuwait about that time, so it was like the 20th. Obviously we had to kind of get acclimated because when you talk about the climate differences between the United States and the Middle East, it's literally is almost like going from here to another planet, so we had to kind of get acclimated. We weren't getting to strenuous with our duties and stuff because you have to have ... The official time for the human body to get acclimated is 14 days, just to the temperature, just to the effect on your body, the physiological stress from one major change of climate to another.
It was a pretty boring time while we were waiting, but we did have one morething that kind of helped this keep pace of things and that's we listened to Voice of America and I think the BBC. We could actually hear the BBC talking about what our individual unit was doing, so that was kind of neat that we were able to hear that on BBC and Voice of America. We were far from ill informed what was going on north of us. I remember we would all kind of gather around the center of the tent and they'd turn on the radio and we'd listen like, "Oh, wow, that's our unit, holy cow!" "Oh, wow, they fought through an ambush, holy cow, man!"
In the meantime we brought out little games and stuff, like little portable like00:36:00UNO games, we'd play that. Actually I guess I should have brought it ... Prior a week in and this was shortly before we actually went north into Iraq there was a massive storm, massive storm, huge thunderstorm. You don't think of those things in Kuwait, but, yeah, just a massive thunderstorm. I think it was kind of aided because we're so close to the gulf there. Our tent which was solidly anchored into the ground, blew over, we lost half our stuff. My UNO deck and I still have this, I should frame it, I still have it sitting in my China cabinet, the only UNO card I was able to find after the storm was a green seven.
I kept that green seven and I carried it through both my tours in Iraq, becauselucky seven and hey it must have worked because I never got hurt, never got in a vehicle accident and didn't get blown up, didn't get shot. I got shot at, but I didn't get shot, so that lucky seven that'll be a valued, treasured part of my recollection there, I ought to put it in like a little picture frame. It's one of those funny things there. I actually did get kind of dinged on the head by a flying peg from the tent because we were trying to establish the tent and pull it back down. I actually got a big, old, nasty cut. My platoon sergeant was joking with me and saying, "Hey, you know what, we can almost make this like a purple heart." "Serge, unless that was an enemy that threw that tent peg at me, purple heart is when a bad guy does to you." I got a little bit of teasing for that. That was my single war wound and it wasn't even in Iraq and it wasn't even a bad guy.
JH: Sitting around and talking with fellow soldiers kind of waiting to go intoIraq and listening to the media as well, what was your sense of the political climate in the US and globally around the invasion? 00:38:00
TR: Well, as far as the climate from the US, we really weren't getting a senseof what the American people were felling about it. A great majority of information was coming from BBC, the British folks and they were all business, so we didn't get a sense for the political climate, the whole geopolitical climate, what the world was thinking, what the American people were thinking. The Brits were just spitting out the third infantry division has moved this far, they're at this place now. The first marine expeditionary forces is getting closer to Baghdad. They really didn't say too much.
I don't think any of us had a sense for how folks were feeling back home, but Ithink just from when we were leaving, I remember the buses going down to Hunter Army Airfield, which is in the middle of Savannah because that's where Army people take off on the plane, there were a lot of folks just honking their horns and people saying go get them and stuff like that. I think we went in the country with the impression that the people back here had our backs and were in support of what we were doing.
TP: We talk a lot about comradely and that's something we've heard a couple oftimes, now you went through AIT for specifically for the MOS of medic of 91 Whiskey and then you got a small group of medics went over. What kind of connections are you making maybe with medics or with other soldiers as well? Can you describe that a little bit?
TR: Well, all the medics, like there was like, let me think, I think there wasfive of us, yes, including myself there was five of us that were from 3-7 and we were all post AIT. None of us had a few years and we were all brand new to the Army and everything, so we kind of banded together and hang around each other, 00:40:00got to know each other. All these folks are still good friends. I still try to keep in contact via social media, what not. We talked about our experiences in AIT and hey this instructor down at AIT, he was such a total blip.
We had a pretty good comradely going and maybe not so much during my first tourin 03, but my second in 05, that's where I'd really established strong bonds and that's where I really started to feel that huge, huge brotherhood, that band of brothers that they talked about from Veterans from World War II and such. That's where I really started to feel it. Those guys will be my best friends until the day I die. During the invasion in 03, you're still kind of feeling things out, trying to understand what this Army life is still like, most of us have only been in for maybe five, six months maximum, now here we are, we're in a foreign country and we're at war. We kind of banded together, hey, we're medics, we need to make sure that we know our stuff so the manure hits the oscillator that we're able to do our job. I'm trying to be PC here and not throw nasty words in here for posterity.
JH: What was your sense of your mission at that time going into Kuwait?
TR: My mission was easy. It was take care of my troops. Pretty much I needed tobe ready to treat the most horrific injuries that I saw. I needed to be able to be competent with that professional with that. I knew what my individual mission was, is take care of the troops. That's what I signed on for, take care of them whether it'd be giving them their flue shot or trying to put a tourniquet on a 00:42:00destroyed leg or something like that. I devoted my time to being ready. When we are at Camp New York, we had a few training aids like old tourniquets and stuff, so we'd practice and we ran sick call. Sick call, being basically, a good way of saying a sick call is like going to the doctor.
That's one of the functions of a medic here in the states as well as over thereis that we have like a daily sick call, so people coming in with everything from the sniffles to some worse things. I had a case of appendicitis right there in Camp New York that we had to treat, so we had to get this soldier rushed back to a ... I think she probably ended up going back to Germany because that's where we had a big surgical unit launched I believe. Basically sick call is just like a daily coming to see the medics because we also have an Army doctor there and so New York we do the whole, "Come on in, okay, what's going on with you. All right, how long has this been going on? Can you tell me how your pain is? What else is going on?" Write up the notes and then send it over to the doctor and then the doctor gives them medication or what not.
Even in Camp New York we were being medics whether in combat or whether it'sjust the day to day more mundane so to say sick call. We were still doing the job. Even while we were waiting to go north, I at least felt like I was still making a difference right there for my soldiers. Again, hey, that's what it's all about. That's what being a medic is, being there for your soldiers.
JH: Did that day to day experience change over the course of your first tour?
TR: Well, at Camp New York, no. Once we crossed into Iraq, yes, medically so. InNew York it was a good way of getting our feet wet and starting to understand what it is to actually be a medic. We trained for six months up to this point 00:44:00and now we actually get to do this cool stuff with real patients, with real problems. Getting my feet wet would be a good way to describe that. Kind of getting the gist of what we do as Army medics. Once we crossed the border and we started rejoining our unit, we started taking actual casualties, that's where things took a radical change.
TP: Can you describe a little bit? You said you weren't at Fort New York verylong and then you got caught up with the rest of the unit. Can you describe the process of finally joining with this unit you've been assigned to, of meeting these guys and meeting them in theater and on the move?
TR: Okay, well, finally, I don't know how many days later, we actually finallygot our orders to move north and push into Iraq. Essentially the wait was because the third division kept moving. No one expected ... I'm not saying that the Iraqi Army was a pushover mind you, because they did give stiff resistance from what I understand, but no one expected the US forces to move so darn quick all the way to Baghdad. That was part of the reason why we had to wait so long in New York and then finally when they were resting in place for a couple of days south of Baghdad, that's when we kind of a rest and refit and refuel type of thing, that's when my unit got to push in there. It took, golly jeepers, I'm going to say a day and a half, something like that and obviously we had an armed escort with us.
I actually drove a Humvee and it was actually me and three of the other fourmedics, we actually took turns because Iraq is huge. It is a massive country. It 00:46:00looks small on a map, but it's actually a big country. It took us forever to join the unit at least it felt like, it's only like thirty six hours, something like that. Every couple of hours we'd get out and pull security M16, by the roadside, which is our main military rifle that we use, making sure there's no one sneaking up on us and we'd stretch our legs and then we'd switch drivers and then we'd continue on for another hundred miles.
Thankfully there were no incidences. This is only a couple, gosh, not even twoweeks into the war and we were taught you know what, yeah, we kind of kicked butt in this area of Iraq, but you never know, there might still be strugglers, so you need to stay awake, stay alert. Ironically enough it was uneventful. The one thing I do remember especially in southern Iraq as we were pushing through was just subduing and populace. Southern Iraq is very, very impoverished in more ways than one, just the terrain again is just more desert, not a whole lot of greenery there.
Yeah, the civilians there it just struck me especially kids because I'm comingfrom this as a father of three kids at the time and just seeing the little kids by the road side and seeing the ribs and stuff, you can tell Saddam Hussein really didn't care that much about that part of Iraq because I don't think he had a whole lot of political support down there, so you can tell the civilians were suffering. Every once in a while if we had time, we had spare stuff I passed out like water bottles to them, spring water and stuff like that and if we were able to maybe the odd MRE, which is Meal Ready to Eat, those are kind of the whole prepackaged rations. We'd pass one or two of those out if we were able to, but as far as enemy type stuff, never saw them. 00:48:00
Didn't really have any encounters with bad guys until a couple of days after wejoined the unit, but on the way up there uneventful. I do remember the night was cold. The nights were cold and the day time, this is March going into April in the Middle East, you're still talking nineties, eighties, maybe going into the odd one hundred, but the nights would drop down into like the sixties. Sixties here state side no big deal, that's still t-shirt weather and short weather, but again when you are acclimated to that climate there, you could easily get hypothermia in sixty degree weather because that's the standard your body is used to. I remember the nights were just ... it just shocked me like its sixty degrees? It feels more like thirty.
We actually had to sleep. We pulled into this little village, our convoy did,that's a little itty-bitty village and of course it was secured first and we slept next to a garbage dump and well, let's just say that was not really friendly to the olfactory senses. It was so cold that night and then by nightfall or mid afternoon, maybe nightfall, I can't remember now, we actually joined our unit south of Baghdad. We finally caught up to them. It was a lot more uneventful than I thought it would be actually going through almost half of the country to join the rest of our unit.
JH: What was your work and day to day experience like once you joined up withthe rest of your unit?
TR: Well, by then, we're talking going into late March going into April, by thetime we got up there, most of the major fighting had stopped. My unit was actually in place for a while and then there was actually a couple of other brigades of the third ID, that actually went to the airport and that's where the 00:50:00final fight was for the Army was Saddam International Airport. My understanding was that was a horrific fight. That's where the first Medal of Honor was earned there posthumously by a third ID soldier. My unit kind of missed that because we were pretty much in the holding path and we were kind of securing part of the southern flank of Baghdad. Even then we really weren't in the process of actually settling down just yet, because there were still bad guys nearby.
I remember the first night there it was peaceful in our area, but if you lookedto the sky in the north you could see tracer rounds flying, red tracer rounds, green and you're thinking, okay, it's peaceful here, but the crap's hitting the fan up north, we've got to be ready. Really the emphasis for a brand new spanking medic, myself and the other guys wasn't on doing medical stuff, it was getting ready to defend yourself. We really didn't get to do a whole lot more medical stuff until we actually finally settled down into what would eventually be called Camp Liberty. Of course by this time this was only a couple of days after that firefight for the airport.
The place that we finally landed in Baghdad eventually, was called Camp Libertya few months later, not at the time that we started occupying it and breaking it down. Basically Camp Liberty, a good chunk of it was one of Saddam's little palace areas and I'm talking fancy buildings, crystal chandeliers. I couldn't believe that I walk into this building, crystal chandeliers. There is a big fishing lake right in the middle of this cluster of buildings as part of his palace, really pretty, proverbial palm trees that you think of when you think of 00:52:00the Middle East, yeah, I was just kind of struck by it.
Of course those were the buildings that weren't destroyed by the aircraft strikeand such, because a lot of those building were just pummeled, but the buildings we were able to go in it was just the opulence there because this was one of Saddam's personal getaways for him and all his little political buddies and all the people that he actually liked, very fancy, beautiful marble interiors, gold, I don't know what the word is, like an inlaid gold in the walls. It was just incredible, what he spent on himself and his family. Then you go a couple of hundred miles south and people look like they're literally starving to death, so there was that kind of weird compare and contrast.
Then once we finally got settled in there, that's where we actually startedconducting operations and well, stabilizing operations. When was this? Yeah, this was going into April, maybe starting into mid April, about a week or so went by. By then the major fighting had stopped. It was just a matter or mopping up operations, little pockets of bad guys here and there, but by then the war was over even though the president didn't declare the war over until 1st May. The war was pretty much over after the airport got taken and I want to believe that was, oh, goodness, 4th April, 5th April.
I'm probably wrong on those dates because back then when you're in country daysstart to go by, they really do, I mean you're lucky if you know what month it is. By the time you are in country for a couple of months, you have no idea what day it is, what the date is, what the day of the week is, it's just another day. It's just one of those common things that people who deploy, you just loose track of time. By early April the war was over as far as the major fighting goes, so by then were actually doing the signing up the A station, starting to 00:54:00screen patients for the sick call, "Okay, come over here. All right, you cut your finger while you were fixing a vehicle, okay, come on over here, we'll patch you up." "The heat's getting to you. Okay, come on over here we'll stick you with an IV and get you re-hydrated."
That's where things started to stabilize a little bit as far as just regularmedic stuff, A station medic stuff. Although we did have a few crazy things happen here and there with bad guys.
TP: How so?
TR: Well, ironically enough, you'd think Baghdad being the capital of Iraq wasfull of bad guys and stuff, no, they'd all fled. Baghdad was quiet. We were there April going into ... We were probably there about seven or eight weeks. It wasn't until early June that we actually went north and we actually went to a place called Balad, B-A-L-A-D Iraq and that's where we really started meeting up with bad guys and having a few odd issues, but the six or seven weeks or so that we were in Baghdad peaceful. The big thing being a brand new private and obviously if you're a private in the Army you're really low on the totem pole, so if they need some goopy work done, "Hey, you need to go out there and guard that fence for about four hours." That was me.
Other things too, back in the early days you didn't have porter johns there sowe made latrine facilities. There was no way to dispose the latrine facilities, so there was a detail to where all the stuff, all the waste was in the big buckets below these wooden improvised potty's, so we'd take that big bucket out 00:56:00and we'd have to have the poop burning detail. What you would do was you'd take some fuel from your vehicles, toss it in that bucket full of stuff and then you'd stir and stir and stir until all this icky-ness was reduced to ash. Yeah, that was a definite introduction to Army life there and that's why I definitely needed to make sure, that's why I definitely resolved to get promoted as soon as possible, because privates they get all the dirty work literally and figuratively.
During those few weeks it was guard detail, guarding that fence of our littleperimeter that we had set up around Liberty and then doing the poop burning details and then that's an addition to doing our medical stuff, so that was interesting.
JH: At this time, what kind of communication are you keeping up with friends andfamily back at home?
TR: Very little. Communication was just getting set up. They did the commandfolks, the higher up's, were able to establish lines of communication usually by the way of satellite phones and such. Even then of course the reception was really spotty. Sometimes you can get communication with the states and sometimes you couldn't. I was able, this was in May, this was again before our ride up to Balad where the real fun begun. Early May and I finally had access to the phone, the one lone phone that we had in the whole area, the whole area that we were operating, we had one little landline phone and again reception was spotty at best.
I finally got a hold of my wife for the first time since March, since earlyMarch, so I hadn't talked to her well over two months and it was so weird because I called her and the first words out of her mouth was, "Oh, the Red 00:58:00Cross got a hold of you after all." I'm like, "No. The Red Cross, what do you mean?" She's like, "Oh, honey, I'm so sorry to tell you this but your grandfather passed away a couple of days ago." That's the one who was in the third infantry division or same division in World War II. He had actually passed away and I had no idea and because it was kind of fluid there, we're moving here and there, little jumps here and there, the Red Cross didn't know where I was for like 48 hours.
It was my wife that told me and not the Red Cross messages, which is how usuallyit's supposed to work if you're deployed or you're far away from family you're doing military duty, the family member if it's an emergency they call the Red Cross and the Red Cross tracks you down and delivers the message. No, they hadn't gotten to me yet. As a matter of fact I don't think the Red Cross message got to my command until I think probably twelve hours later or something. That was a heck of a way to find out that he had passed away. They were thinking about getting me home and I actually had to sit down with my commander the lieutenant colonel and talk with him and they were debating on whether or not to send me home for his funeral.
Unfortunately because things were still very, very unstable where we were at,unfortunately I was not able. I was not allowed to go home. I wasn't able to attend the funeral. I was hurt, but I understood why. My unit chaplain, he sat with me and talked to me and we prayed about it and everything, so that kind of helped. Gosh, I had forgotten all about that till now, yeah, that's how I found out my grandfather passed away. It wasn't the Red Cross, it was the one phone call I'd been able to make since March and it was early, going into Mid May. That was tough, but I understood. I didn't hold it against anyone or anything. 01:00:00Of course when I finally came home late that summer I just went to his grave and said my goodbyes.
TP: That sounds like to me you said the situation was very fluid, things hadmoved a lot faster in the overall operation and the president, at this point you were moving into June, you said had or had not declared it over, but you guys moved north into Balad.
TR: Yes, I think it was like 1st May or something that President Bush got on TVand said mission complete or ... I can't remember what that famous quote was, I think it was mission complete or something like that. Well, yes, he was right for the most part. The actual combat operations, the actual force on force us versus the Iraqi Army, that was over, but there were a lot of folks that were holed out and because there was trouble brewing north because Saddam fled north, he went to his home town of I believe Tikrit, so we stayed in Baghdad like I said for a few weeks from April to June, probably about six, seven weeks, from mid April to early June and then because things were starting to get hot up north we actually got sent to the city of Balad and we were sent to an old Iraqi airfield.
This Iraqi airfield had been bombed extensively and actually when we got there,there were still MiGs, Iraqi soviet MiG fighters, there were still MiG's sitting out in the field. Of course being young soldiers there wasn't a whole lot to do, we had some down time, like my platoon leader, my lieutenant, he and I actually went out to one of the MiG's and we spray painted our loved ones names on the tail of this MiG. I have a photograph of that still somewhere. I have to dig that up one of these days, but yeah. I ended up being assigned as the platoon 01:02:00leader's driver. He was a second lieutenant and I was his personal driver and of course our vehicle was the command vehicle for the medical platoon.
He and I went everywhere that he wanted and we saw those MiG's out there in thefield, so we had to claim ownership of the MiG. We kind of spray painted our names, we put 3-7 Cavalry on there and good photo op, I guess. Balad, it was not very long after we got to Balad. By the way Balad is about forty miles north or so of Baghdad just to give you kind of a geographical idea of where were talking about in Iraq. Iraq is where we, myself an my four other guys I'd gone to fort Stewart and then came over here with, this is where we really got exposure to violence, to actual combat trauma, people actually being hurt by bad guys.
Probably it was maybe two or three days in and I guess the bad guys wanted togive us a welcoming ceremony, because they started sending mortars from outside the perimeter into the camp and it was so bad that our little area got a nickname. I don't know who came with the nickname, but it was appropriate. It was nicknamed Mortaritaville, because we were getting mortared at least three times a day. It was like these knuckleheads, these bad guys, it was almost like a clock because they'd mortar us a couple of times in the morning around breakfast, mortar us around lunch time and about one or two more times around dinner time. If they were really feisty, they'd send us one down like at 2am or 3am just to wake everyone up and get everyone all ticked off. 01:04:00
We named it Mortaritaville and that's where we really started seeing actualcasualties come, was when we were stationed at Balad, because we would send folks out on raids and then a couple of guys got shot up and then, holy cow, it was in July I'm sure you probably have heard if you watch the news and stuff about the wars and everything, you've heard the acronym IED, right? Improvised explosive device? Well, the very first ones that military forces encountered at least in our sector was in July of 03. The very first ones were like the size of pop cans. They were very tiny and they really hadn't got into ... I guess they were kind of perfecting their craft.
Again they were tucking in stuff down, they put one inside a road kill or againthe pop can size because these were itty bitty ones. Some of them were the road side bombs and then I guess a couple of times, I wasn't on there, but a couple of times these knuckle heads would stand on like a bridge that we were passing under and try to throw them on to the vehicles and stuff, so we started taking a few casualties from that. Let's see, what else. My first casualty that I treated actually was on a dismount patrol, a dismount meaning they're not in vehicles, they're just walking along the side of the road. He actually, I remember things were quiet and then the radio started just blasting, military radio, hey, we've got incoming casualties and then I see this Humvee come flying up into our area.
Our unit was actually in a huge, massive aircraft hangar. Of course it was01:06:00empty, but yeah, it was massive. It was like a big concrete, fortified aircraft hangar, that's where we stayed, that's where we lay down our heads at night because it's sheltered and all that. I remember the vehicle coming up and all I heard was were these ungodly screams of "Medic! Medic!" and then they brought this poor soul in there and I just watched him being carried by me and there is like nothing left of his foot below his knee, his right knee, just gone, just gone. I was running the radio that time, so I'm chattering back and forth with the other nearby units stating our issue, how many casualties we had. They actually did get him stabilized, he did survive. He did survive.
We saw him, well, I want to say maybe 2004, this is well after we'd come homeand he actually came to visit us, because with that he was medically discharged from the Army. It was really great to see him because at the time we weren't really sure he was going to make it. He lost a good chunk of his leg below the knee. It was just shredded. Yeah, we did our part. I can't claim hands on, on that one, I had plenty of others though, but that was my first exposure to combat trauma and it just really brought it home. It was like, oh, my God, wow, wow! This is what I trained for, but trained for in Texas and all that good stuff, but at the same time it just hits you, that's not Hollywood special effects right there. That's not makeup. That's not fake. That's real. This guy is bleeding out his life blood there, just leaving a trail of blood, he's dying. Our guy saved him and he survived, so it's a win there.
Of course we saw other traumas as well, a few people getting shot, what else,oh, goodness, other things, oh, stupid stuff as far as trauma goes. Soldiers 01:08:00will be soldiers, all right, now, bear in mind I'm in my thirties. I've got all the young and stupid out of me by now, but of course we had soldiers who were young and not so wise and on the downtime soldiers get bored and when soldiers get bored, stupid, crazy stuff happens. We had a few folks that were reporting to us with camel spider bites and basically a camel spider, is kind of a misnomer, a camel spider is not a tree spider, it's what's known as a solpugid I think is the word. It's kind of a cross between a spider and a scorpion, but these things are massive. You might have seen pictures of them on social media and stuff from the military memes.
These things really are huge. The small size is like the size of my hand andthey get bigger and of course there are scorpions around and of course soldiers when they're bored, "Hey, you caught a scorpion over there. Hey, we've got this camel spider. Want to make a wager?" Then of course we'd have the time honored spider and scorpion fights and the loser obviously had to pay up to the winners. Obviously catching spiders and scorpions is not without it's hazards, so they treated a couple of people with spider bites. Thank goodness no one got tagged by a scorpion because that's going to require a little bit more aggressive intervention.
Camel spiders are not venomous, so it's not a big deal, it was just a matter ofwashing the bite and patching it up and making sure they don't get infected. Soldiers will be soldiers and it doesn't matter the era, soldiers were goofy in the civil war, soldiers were knuckleheads in World War II and they were back in my day too during in 03. That's where I really got to hone my craft as a medic. That's where I really started to get that experience with combat trauma and run 01:10:00of the mill stupid stuff.
JH: What did the rest of your tour look like once you guys went up north to Balad?
TR: Well, this is where things got more interesting for me personally becauseagain by that time my unit was able to feel me out and they realized that ... Hopefully they kind of realized that I was fairly reliable, I'm older and a little less rambunctious and a little less impulsive, so I actually got to go on a few raids. Basically the idea was anytime that we got word or intel, intelligence that there were some people that we were on the look out for like Iraqi Army officers that were trying to still cause any trouble we got to go on raids. This is the proverbial kick in the door and say hello and fighting bad guys, so I got to go on a couple of those. What else?
Those were uneventful actually during the raids that I went on, none of our guysever got shot and basically those all ended peacefully. We got the guys out, our military police helped take them into custody and stuff like that. What else? I'm trying to think. It was pretty uneventful, as far as going into Iraq expecting to be shot at, I did get shot at a couple of times, but as far as actual bang, bang, bang, boom, boom, boom on both sides, I really did not encounter a whole lot of that. Yeah, I got shot at, returned fire once, I don't think I hit a darn thing, but the raids were pretty nifty.
I remember one time I was actually kind of really praised by my comrades and mycommander because I was looking in a direction that no one else was and I saw a nearby rooftop that's probably I don't know a hundred feet away, a roof top that 01:12:00no one's looking at and I see some shadows moving on the rooftop and then here I am swinging my M16 there I get everyone else's attention and I go ... They go in there and nab those guys. I don't know if they were wanted guys or they were just being nosey or what not, but at that particular time we had to treat anyone who is kind of looking at us under the cover of darkness as potentially hostile. They went and apprehended those guys. I don't know if they were ever really bad guys or they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I think that was kind of one of those times when I was able to really get alittle bit more respect from my guys because I knew I was going to keep an eyeball on everything literally and figuratively.
TP: You go from, first you're stationed kind of in this hangar and casuals comein, to you moving out into crossing that line again and getting out into these neighborhoods and the door to door type stuff. Can you describe what that transition from kind of inside the fence to outside the fence feels like? Did you think about that much at that time? Did you not think about the first thing heading home in a certain way. I'm curious to know what your thoughts were on moving outside that fence line.
TR: Well, the very first time, I know for a fact I was nervous as a pack ofDachshund, little wiener dogs, but at the same time we weren't going out Wednesday or Tuesday, when we left the wire to go out, going outside the wire means you're leaving your area. Anytime we went outside the wire we were fully armed and ready for bear. I was nervous. I know I was nervous. If anyone tells you they're not afraid in a combat situation they're probably pulling your leg 01:14:00because everyone is a little bit nervous because you never know what's out there. I was nervous, but at the same time I had a bunch of guys that were well armed.
Most of the time my Cavalry unit were not only ground folks with tanks andBradleys and Humvee's, but we also had air Cav. Those were folks in the black hawk's helicopters. They were actually attached to us too. Those were all the pilots and such. Most of the time when we went out we had at least one if not two black hawk's kind of circling above. We called them angels on our shoulders. I was nervous because you never know what's out there, because this is not your place, this is the bad guy's place. They have the home field advantage, though we always had good folks on our shoulders there watching out for us and letting us know, "Hey, about fifty clicks ahead of you, you might have bad guys ahead of you up in there." "Hey, we're going to fly up a few miles and make sure there is nothing ahead of you."
Yeah, it was nervous. It was nervousness, I'll admit to that, but in the endwhen you got everyone else that's relying on you and you're jumping out of the vehicle, they're jumping out of the vehicle, "Hey, you cover that right there." "Hey, you cover here." You do your job and then nervousness kind of takes a back door because you've got to watch out and make sure you do your job, make sure your battle buddy does his job and that way you've got each other covered.
JH: Towards the end of the tour, did your sense of your unit or the widerAmerican mission in this part of Iraq change at all? Were you doing different work than you had been before?
TR: Not too much, towards the end of my first tour, because our tour thirdinfantry division tour ended in August, initially we were ready reserve, because 01:16:00the third ID did most of the actual combat as far as US Army forces. The Third ID led the way. Balad, we were there at Balad fro another few weeks and we got used to the mortars. It was almost you hear it school-boom, I wonder what it hit this time? By then we were used to that. Of course you still kind of do the whole duck and cover thing. We were used to that. The casualties had started to slow down a little bit because by then we had secured a big part of that area of operations that we were a part of, so things started to get ... Probably terrible for me to say this, but things got boring.
Then after a few weeks in Balad, we got word that we were going to go to anotherhot spot a little bit further to the southwest. You might have heard this one on the news here in Fallujah really rotten place. We went south to Baghdad and then we took the main highway west. Actually the highways were nice. I was really surprised by that, going through the different marks of Iraq, northern and central Iraq because their interstate system is just as good as ours. They have nice interstates comparable to I70 or what not with the nice bridges and the paved roads. We had to go south to Baghdad and then do west on one of the interstates out to, I guess interstate is probably not the word, but one of the big interstate type roads out to Fallujah.
Up to that time most of the populace had treated us well. At that particulartime the populace was grateful for us getting rid of Saddam, but at the same time they wanted us to leave. That's just kind of the broad impression that I got was, thank you for removing Saddam, now you can go ahead and go home, we've 01:18:00got it from here. By the time June going into July most of the populace was supportive, but a few of them were just kind of ... I guess maybe some of the populace was thinking we were never going to leave, so we got a little bit more hostility, nothing crazy, they didn't fire at us, they would just sometimes throw rocks at us as we're going by or something like that. Going towards Fallujah, that's where I started to see a little kind of angry folks and hostile gestures and hostile throwing rocks and stuff.
Fallujah itself we weren't in the city. We established another operating baseoutside of the city, out in this desert area, started getting a few odd casualties, nothing too crazy there. We were only there for I think seventy two hours. I think we were only there for three or four days. We were supposed to start getting operations. The only casualties that we really had was heat injuries, heat stroke and stuff not really combat casualties, but we were only there for I want to say three days because we were supposed to be theater reserve and then we were just set up, we had just had our A station set up in this small little out building and we got the word, you're going home. No, we mean you're going home.
Obviously you can imagine most of the division had been there since Januarywaiting for us, for them it had been six months or more. Even for me having only been there since March that was just like best news you could hear. That was a major shot in the arm. From that time on, we had just barely set up, then we had to pack back up, but there was no complaints of packing up. There was nothing, but grins and some high fives and yeah, right, going home, we did our job, great. We packed up and shoot it probably wasn't anymore than a few hours after 01:20:00we got everything packed up that we took the long road back to southern Iraq, down to Nasiriyah.
Then boy the moment that we crossed the border back into Kuwait you know it's agood day when a full bird colonel, we're talking high, high folks are sitting there going Yeehaa into the radio for everyone to hear, that was great. The cross, we went right back into good old Camp New York and then from there it was just a matter of, obviously we had to clean up our vehicles, because they don't want us to ship too much nasty sand and soil from overseas there, so we had to wash them up and drive them down to the boat, because that's where the vehicles came from. I believe the name of the port was Shubaiba. Shubaiba port. We drove the vehicles back down there lined them up and then another unit came and got us and brought us back.
That was the hardest part was just waiting, because even then it was probablyten or twelve days before we were actually able to get on the plane and head on back home to Georgia. Something I'm really proud of, I can't say I took a major role in any of these guys living was that we were at the forefront 3-7 Cav was the forefront. They did what was called the thunder run, which is known now in military history as the longest and largest Cavalry charge in history. Our unit was mighty proud. We had a motto 1171 in 1171 out. That was the number of soldiers that went in and the number that came home alive, so we suffered no fatalities and that was an amazing thing because the rest of the division wasn't 01:22:00so lucky.
It was an eye opener. That's the first time I'd ever been out. Probably the mostexotic place I'd been before there was Iowa, but that's the first time I'd ever been out of the US, so it was kind of an eye opener. I can't say I enjoyed my tour. There are some good times and bad times, but all in all it was pretty eventful and I'm glad I went. I'm glad I did my part, small part mind you.
JH: How did you guys return home?
TR: Well, we went from Camp New York because Camp New York is right there on thenorthernmost part of Kuwait. Only a couple of miles, like two or three miles from the Iraqi border, so we had to go down to Camp Wolf I think was the name and it's more towards Kuwait City. Oh, and Kuwait City, you'd think that we had just liberated them that day instead of twelve years earlier. Kuwait never saw a mean expression on anyone. Every single person I saw, every man, woman or child that we'd be passing on the road and stuff in Kuwait City just smiles, just waves, just grins, never saw a mean look in our direction. The first gulf war ended in 91 and twelve years later they were still happy to be liberated I guess, because they were always nice. Kuwaitis were always such really generous and nice people. That really struck with me.
We went down to Kuwait and Camp Wolf, which is a little bit outside of KuwaitCity ... Camp Wolf also had an airstrip and that's where we finally got on a ... Basically we're a large unit, so we had to go in waves twelve hours, twenty four hours apart. I can't remember which wave I was on, but we'd fly out of there and 01:24:00we stopped in Frankfurt, Germany and then finally back to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. Then we got bused back to Fort Stewart because again it's like twenty something miles between Savannah and Fort Stewart. I wasn't sure, but I remember we got off the buses there, we parked in front of one of the big auditoriums there on Fort Stewart and they marched us in.
This was like in the middle of the night and we'd go inside there and just oh,man it's amazing it was like a New York ticker tape parade there, all the families are there and best of all my wife and my kids were there and gosh, I should have said this before, but I left my wife a little gift should I say before I left for Fort Stewart, because between Fort Sam Houston and AIT and Fort Stewart we had a Christmas break, so I left her a gift so to speak, so when I come back there was number four on the way and yeah, this was August and then he was born, get this, he was born on September 11 of 2003. September 11 2003 he was born.
I wasn't sure I was going to make it home in time for his birth, but I wasbecause after we got back, after we finished reintegrating, we had to fill out post deployment questionnaires and get some shots and stuff like that, they let us go on like a three or four weeks block leave, which was just like a whole month of no Army stuff, go home. That's when number four was born. I got to see him born, so that was pretty cool, September 11 of all days. 01:26:00
JH: What was it like adjusting back to life stateside and did you know what wasnext for you in terms of your Army service and your next move?
TR: Readjusting to civilian life it wasn't too difficult. I guess probably maybethe hardest part was when you are in country you had the ability to, if there was a civilian car in your way, you were able to kind of move them out of the way, yell at them, threaten them with a rifle. You can't do that on I-70 at least without the authorities being called. Other than that it was pretty easy to get reintegrated back into stateside life. After block leave it was great. It was a great time to decompress because I was here home in Ohio, my little town of Thornville there. I was there and of course my next to youngest, number four, Andrew he was born. It really wasn't the whole difficulty that you might think of as far as trying to get back into stateside life.
My father in-law he had actually gone down to Fort Stewart as well to see mecome home and I remember we had a couple of days that they were down there with me and we went out to the beach Tybee Island Beach which is outside of Savannah. We went down there, chilled out on the beach and we ate at this nice little place on the beach, a little restaurant there and I didn't think anything of it, but he remarked that I had that thousand mile stare, but other than that I didn't really ... I didn't feel that there was any major adjustment. It was pretty easy to go back in to stateside, being back in the United States garrison life, it wasn't too difficult.
Obviously there is tons and tons of briefings and AAR's. AAR's is what's known01:28:00as After Action Review in other words, it's something that we do after everything whether it's a training event ... We trained on how to do this, we'd have an AAR. What went well? What didn't go so well? What do we need to change this training and what not? It was just a bunch of briefs and reviews. It was a pretty easy transition back to the stateside life, even though my father in-law, I don't know he was thinking part of my mind was over there. I don't think so, but that's what he was thinking because he served overseas as well. It was easy. I didn't really have too much of a problem transitioning back to being back in the good old US of A.
TP: For clarification you have your block leave and then you're in garrison, butyou're stationed where?
TR: Fort Stewart.
TP: You're stationed at Fort Stewart.
TR: Fort Stewart, yeah, because I'd signed up for a four year term. All foryears you're at Fort Stewart and then at the end of your term of your term of service you can either get out and go back into good old civilian life or you can reenlist and go to another duty station or you can go guard reserve. I ended up going guard after the four years, but yeah, still at Fort Stewart.
TP: Your family is here though or did your family move? You originally beforeyou deployed they told you hey, if you haven't brought your family down yet, don't.
TP: Is your wife and kids still living here in Thornville?
TR: They are.
TR: They never came down. No one told us to do that. It was a choice that sheand I made together and the reason is because half of the town I live in I'm related to or related to her and I can't tell you exactly when, but fairly early on it was probably December of 2003 ...
Around Christmas time, we'd gotten word that we were probably going to be going01:30:00back and because by this time, by late 2003, this is where the insurgency really started gaining steam and where folks started to realize the military situation was still very unstable and we really couldn't leave the situation as it was. We got word that we'd be going back. We didn't have any idea when. Again, my wife and I, again, she had a little baby in addition to 3 other small children.
If she came out to Fort Stewart, she would lose that support system, because hermother in law ... Or her mother in law, my mom was there in town too, but her parents lived only a mile outside of Thornville. They still do. She had a support system help her out, emotional support, physical support. Hey mom, can you come and grab the kids, give her rest or anything, she wouldn't have had that down there at Fort Stewart.
Even while I was there, not overseas, we were constantly training and out in thefield, outside of Fort Stewart in the pine woods. We had a month long deployment to a National Training Center in DC. That's Fort Irwin in California, out in the middle of the bloody Mojave. We had another month long training tour in Fort Polk Louisiana. More swamps, go figure. Between all that, even when I was there at Fort Stewart, I wasn't really there.
We talked about that, it's like, even when I'm there, I'm not going to be therethat often at home ... On base with you. For all those reasons, we decided that she's going to stay in Ohio, because we bought our house, we got our own stable home, you got everyone around you to help take care of you. You're going to feel better; I'm going to feel better knowing that you've got people watching out for you there. For those 4 years, I was what they used to call and I think they still call it, geographical bachelor. 01:32:00
Yes I'm married, but my wife is 725 miles north of me, but we made it work. Wemade it work. I don't know how. We exchanged lots of letters, phone calls and things like that, while I was down at Fort Stewart preparing to go on my next tour and we made it work. I have no idea how. I guess we just... I think I know how, just from the first date we had, we knew it was going to work. It's like one of those love at first sight, so clichd, but it really was almost that quick. Like I said earlier, I'm celebrating 20 years of marriage with her in July, so we did something right. We decided to work it that way and we stayed strong.
JH: Late 2003, how many years of your 4 years term do you have left?
TR: My first official day in the Army was July 10th, 2002, so we're talkingwhat, about a year and a half in of my 4 years.
JH: What were you thinking at that point in time? You'd just completed the firsttour. You'd signed up for 4 years, up to 2002, we're thinking possibly career so what does it look like right then?
TR: Was this before or after we got notification of our second tour? Late 2003,finally it's not combat because I went right out of training into combat for all intents and purposes. By late 2003, we'd been home for about 4 months. Now I was actually settling into what, okay, this is what non-war Army is. This is what the Army does when they're not fighting. This is the whole sick off thing, going and making sure our vehicles are running, going down to the motor pool and making sure everything's still going good down there. Doing our PT, which is our physical training.
Making sure we stay in tip top physical shape for the next war. I was getting a01:34:00sense of, okay, so this is how the Army is usually run when we're not fighting other countries and other folks. I was getting unused to that and I was thinking, okay, I could probably do this for 20 years. I was going to keep my options open. I was going to keep my options open. I hadn't settled on, I'm staying in the Army forever.
I hadn't settled on, okay, 4 years are done, that's it. Uncle Sam, he's onlygoing to have me that long and I'm going to go out and do my own thing for the rest of my life. I was just keeping my options open, even combat really hadn't swallowed me on military life. You think it would and I think some people did, but no, I wasn't one of them, because again, just felt like what I should be doing.
TP: Then in December you said you received word you guys would be deploying andyou didn't know when.
TR: No, but we knew it was going to be for a year. I'll be honest, first gotword of that and now it's disheartening. It's like, oh my God, we just did 6 months over there not too long ago and now we're going to have to do a whole year of our lives in that rat place, not ready place. There was a little bit of, shall we say consternation among the ranks. I wasn't really immune, I was thinking, oh my God, a year, that seems so long in a combat zone. What in the name of heaven did I get into?
I was prepared for that possibility. I didn't like it; I thought a year was toolong, I could do maybe another 6 months, I could do that, but a whole year? Holy cats are you kidding. We got the news and obviously it was a shock as we really hadn't expected we'd have to go back ever, let alone go back again so soon after we got back. It took some getting sed to, but then again, but at the end, the 01:36:00focus, these are the facts.
We're going back, we're needed over there again, so the shift throughout all of2004 was just training, training, more training and between breaks in training, we were training. Just getting ready for that second tour. Then of course, we got lots of time, they gave us tons and tons of 3 and 4 day weekends. Mostly for holidays, but sometimes just for the heck of it. You know what, you guys have been working really hard the past month, so you know what, it's going to be a 4 day.
You're going to take Friday -- All right, Thursday night we're going to give yousafety debriefs, all right. Then go home, spend Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday with your family. They were really nice about that and trying to give us time with our family, I think in recognition of the impending yearlong deployment. I can't even count how many 3 and 4 day weekends we got off. It was very pleasant, but I was surprised.
They were really nice. Groundhog Day, sure take a 3 day, so it was pretty cool.Getting that extra family time, I know a lot of folks appreciated that. It's not like the Army didn't have a heart, but the mission had to come.
TP: To that point, I know you said that when you guys were deployed for yourfirst 6 months, really you were getting news from BBC and a lot of it was very factual. You didn't have a good sense of what the political climate back here at home may or may not have been. Now that you're back at home, were you more aware of that and did that -- Because at the same time as you guys are realizing you're getting deployed again and you didn't think that was really going to happen.
You're now where you're able to get information about what's here and about howpeople at home feel. I'm just curious to know what that was like, what your perception of that was.
TR: To be honest with you, I did not really perceive any negativity, at least01:38:00from my family and from watching the news. I didn't really perceive any negativity, like this is wrong, we shouldn't send the troops back. At least not in that point in time. You know what, even if I did perceive that, hey the support for this conflict is wining; I wouldn't have cared because I know what I'm here to do. I don't want to sound like GI Joe or anything like that, but I know what I'm here to do, I know what needs to be done.
In the end, the soldier respects popular opinion. We do because our job is toserve the American people. We serve the American people, we're aware of that. At the same time, I'm not going to speak out of turn for the people I was with, but from my own personal viewpoint, in the end, it's not about what someone else ... What the civilian mindset is, it's more about, we're doing this for each other. We're taking care of each other down range.
It's all about making sure that each of us gets back home alive. We respect thepolitics and we respect the views of the American people, but even then, we're talking '04. I think a lot of folks are still fairly euphoric about the quick victory. The war was still new, so the sense like, I think what I can remember from then is, I still perceived a largely positive viewpoint as far as the typical American person.
TP: Militarily, what are you guys seeing? Did you hear or did you sense a shiftin how the fight was going? As you said before you left, things were really -- You were getting heat stroke casualties and you come back. What's going on with 01:40:00that that has you guys going back over?
TR: Well again, 2004 was probably the landmark year for the rise of theinsurgency. This is where they really started getting organized and getting very, very efficient with their tactics. This is where we really started seeing massive roadside bombs being utilized against US and coalition forces. This is where we really started getting into bitter, bitter fire fights. For example, 2004 the city of Fallujah, and again, we're watching this back at Fort Stewart. We're paying attention on the news, we're reading about the firefights in Fallujah.
There are 2 nasty battles that retake that whole city from the insurgents. Werealized, well, I don't like it, but I understand why we need to go back. The mindset was there, okay, this is what's going on. I understand the military necessity of going back. We took the training in earnest, because the more training we had, the more efficient we were going to be with our jobs. We knew what was coming, but that was probably the main thing that made sense to us, is because we had a whole new type of enemy.
We kicked Saddam's keister and his Army's keister, in '03. They were no longer afactor in this, but we still had all these folks like ex-Army officers that were really embittered because we didn't include them in the new military stuff that we're trying to help them build up. These guys were forming insurgencies and utilizing tactics against us.
Pretty much a rising insurgency really, we understood that's why we're goingback because we have to nip this in the bud before they take over the whole darn country. All that we accomplished in '03 would be forgotten or it would be for not. We knew why, at least I knew why, that we had to go back. It made sense 01:42:00because these bad guys were really starting to get pretty rowdy and they were getting, they were growing. They're getting bigger to get more organized.
TP: Did your training evolve?
TR: Yes, it did. Absolutely. Specifically, again in '03, IEDs, these improvisedexplosive devices. We never heard of them. It was at the very end of our tour, like in August and stuff, where they started using these little itty bitty ones. Again, like I said, the pop cans. Sticking them in these little itty bitty bits of TNT or whatever they were using and home explosives and animal carcasses. Going into 2004, they were becoming a lot nastier with these things.
They were bigger, they were larger. They were using old Iraq anti-aircraftshells and things. They were turning those, like these big aircraft shells, mortars, bombs, things like that. They were turning those into IEDs and those were causing just horrendous, I guess horrendous casualties. The training had to be adapted to that. One of the big things that was trained on extensively that year that we were prepping, 2004 was just a year of training. The entire year.
The big focus was counter IED operations and then how to spot them. Look forwires sticking out of animal carcasses on the road or look for a piece of asphalt that looks new in the road, because sometimes these idiots would, these bad guys, they would bury IEDs and then cover it up with asphalt. Looking like it was just a patched up road. We got trained on how to identify potential IED hazards and we were trained to do what we called 5 and 25s.
What I mean by that is, we were trained to look for potential IEDs 5 meters out01:44:00from where you were and then 20 meters out from where you were. Because they would actually daisy chain these together. Daisy chain means that these 2 bombs are far apart, but they're wired to explode at the same time, causing maximum carnage. The training reflected the tactics that the bad guys were utilizing in theater. The folks in very high places were recognizing that the training needed to be evolved, to adapt to the tactical situation.
TP: What does that mean for your training as a medic? What type of medicspecific training are you undergoing at this time and did that also adapt?
TR: The medical training didn't really evolve too much and the reason is, isthat, holes in the body, it doesn't matter what causes the holes in the body or the massive trauma. The emphasis is on how to treat it and keep the soldier or the personnel alive. We got different little briefs by people who'd gone over before and they brought folks in from other places that talk about, okay, this is what the IEDs are doing to the human anatomy.
All right, you need to be able to look at this all right because most of theseIEDs are shooting people's legs, so you need to be aware that the legs and arms are most likely to be hit and not the torso. Why not the torso? Because we had better body armor, by the time 2000 came along. All right, to really counter the fragments from those IEDs.
As far as adapting the training, yeah, it was a medical training, emergencymedical training that was adapted as well. Although the main focus was, no matter what's causing the issues, no matter what the cause of the trauma is, trauma is still trauma. As far as how we treat, remained the same. It's just a matter of focusing on different causes of that trauma. 01:46:00
JH: What did your mobilization process or getting ready to deploy look like thistime around?
TR: Again, the main focus of '04 was just training. There's lots of training andI mentioned 2 month long tours at Fort Irwin and Fort Polk. Fort Irwin was very realistic because the Mojave Desert is a pretty good likeness for southern and mid Iraq. In Fort Irwin we focused more on the actual tactics of sneaking up on bad guys, evade and can maneuver and all that good stuff.
It's all about and operating on convoy patrols and looking out for IEDs andshooting out your window while trying to move on and things like that. That was basically still centered for the traditional tactical operations. Like force on force, like one Army to get another. Because we didn't want those skills to degrade, because you never know. You never know. Fort Polk seemed to me, it was more of adapting to what we might see nowadays, because that was more on, all right, you're going into that house.
There's wounded in that house, but you need to make sure that the doors aren'tbooby trapped with these little IEDs. That's just an example and then make sure that you don't let yourself get crowded by the civilian populous, because one of those guys might be wearing a suicide vest. The bad guys there, the insurgents, they didn't wear uniforms. We didn't know who they were, so we're talking about basic, common sense stuff like crowd control, anyone that looks like they have 01:48:00big bulky -- Like a man has a big bulky clothing or a big bulge here, maybe it's a suicide bomber, so hey, we need to tell him to get the heck away and practice our rules of engagement.
If they continued to advance or something like that, warn them even more. Or ifthey continue advancing on us, we'd now be authorized to use deadly force. The training at Polk, Louisiana was more tailored toward what we were seeing happening during 2004.
JH: At what point did you all actually head over back into country?
TR: This would have been very early January, 2005. They gave us a pretty decentChristmas leave, because they realized that at the end of Christmas leave, I think it was January 6th, of '05 is when I got on a plane along with the bulk of my unit and we went over to Kuwait. Because then again, we didn't go directly to Baghdad, because we needed that acclimation period. We actually went back, after we landed in Kuwait and got vehicles, we actually went back to New York again for the second darn time in a year and half.
Then we had that 2 week acclimation period so our bodies can get readjusted tothe climate and the heat and the overall dust and the dirt. Another reason that we had the mandatory 2 week period is, not always the climate you got get used to, but the bugs. I don't mean insects, I mean like little pathogens, little microbes and sure enough, within probably 4, 5 days of getting back to New York, the great majority of us came down with the camp crow and I was one of them. It knocked me well.
It's almost like a flu, the body aches and your nose is just going crazy,running like a sieve, headaches. Basically pretty much it was just a little bit of antibiotic therapy and maybe some IVs and they let you sleep for a day or so 01:50:00and it actually left pretty quick, but yeah. I think part of that is just because, this is just coming from my viewpoint as a medic, probably it's because your immune system is depressed a little bit, because again, going from one planet, so to speak, to another, places your body under stress and if your body is under physical stress, you're not able to fight bugs as well. Yeah, the camp crow, that was fun.
JH: Like not only being deployed again, but coming back to the exact same placeyou'd started out not so long ago.
TR: I know. I think Yogi Bear said it best. It was Dj vu all over again. Ihadn't changed a whole lot. Food was still pretty decent for out in the middle of nowhere. We didn't spend nearly as long. I always, I didn't, because now I was with the unit, so it wasn't going to be another days and days and days right before I rejoin them. As I said we were there for 2 weeks, maybe take another couple of days to do some riffle training, marksmanship, because we want were able to put some paper targets out and some far away sand dunes and practice our marksmanship and then we're off crossing the OD again, heading into Iraq.
It was the middle of the night. Again, I feel blessed, uneventful. It took us 2days to get back up to Camp Rustamiyah, was where this place was or as I learned to call it, I call it camp rusty. The rustiest, crustiest, dustiest place on earth. Rustamiyah was southern of Baghdad, in the whole southeast area of the city. The Rustamiyah that was going to be our home for the next year.
It took us a couple of days to get there and surprisingly, we were warned. "Younever know, you need to be prepared to expect an ambush on your way up that main route to Baghdad. Be prepared at any time they ambush on IED." Nope, nothing, 01:52:00just a nice little drive in the country for 2 days, which again was rather surprising. I didn't have any issues at all, so we got there, shoot January 25th maybe, something like that, is when my unit got there 25th 26th. I cannot remember. I should have consulted my journal a little more. I actually did bring it with me.
I kept a journal of both experiences, just about things, so when I get old andmy brain starts not working as well, I can remember what happened and pass it down to the kids or what not or maybe, even hear it to the strikers on it. I want to say it's February 20, oh not February. January 25th and 26th that we made it to Rustamiyah and started setting up -- Rustamiyah was kind of a really small FOB. Forward Operating Base, FOB, but it's clear it was sited in a little branch off of the Tigris River, so not much to look at. You look over the walls and it's an impoverished neighborhood that's surrounding us.
Oh, my favorite part. We were directly across the road from the main watertreatment plants of Baghdad and guess what? It didn't work. Another place that wasn't very easy on the nose, but believe it or not, you got used to it. Oh again I forgot about that. Right across from the sewage plants that wasn't functioning because the infrastructure was still knocked out from a year and a half before. Oh my goodness, 2 years before.
TP: On the camp, was there a difference between these types of fortificationsand FOBs from when you return from what you remember being there when you left?
TR: Oh yeah. By '05, we had many, many FOBs. Some were smaller, some were01:54:00bigger. The biggest one was the Green Zone and that was the whole diplomatic area, of Baghdad where all the political stuff was going on. That was actually a massive FOB. I was at Rustamiyah, like I said. It's a much smaller, very tiny little place, very tiny. I think there was may be half brigades were the people there, not very many.
The actual FOB had been there probably since I don't know maybe sometime in 04and within fortified, big monster concrete walls, we call them t-walls. It's a big monster walls all around, so it's pretty secure. We had a pretty decent PX there, Post Exchange. When I say PX, think like a little grocery store/hardware store, so you could get anything from batteries or a computer to snacks and stuff there. All the decent sites of FOBs had PX's.
You can pick up Magazines, what else there? Some of the nicer ones, you couldactually buy a computer or a TV there, video games, what else? Munchies, cigarettes what not. Rustamiyah was pretty well set up. It was small, but we pretty much had everything we needed. It was prety well. Start contrast, letting out of an aircraft hangar in 2003. We actually had an -- and Rustamiyah was actually already set up even before we got there, because it was one of the Iraqi military training bases, so we actually had barracks there.
We were actually able to stay in 2 main rooms. We had air conditioning, whichthat was nice. We didn't have AC back in 03, because they already -- because we took that over, so they were barracks ready made for us just to move into. Then one of the side missions there -- Rustamiyah was actually divided in half. Half 01:56:00of it was the American side and then there was like a big wall and then the other half was still occupied by the new Iraqi Army that we were helping train.
That was one of our side by side missions, co-conducting operations and at thesame time some units were dedicated to helping train up the new Iraqi Army, so they can defend their own nation, so that was kind of the thing. I went over a couple of times and tried to teach the medical stuff. I think that's the first time they've ever had medical training, because they were clueless. Not stupid, they just really didn't have an idea about life saving.
JH: Can you say more about the missions of your unit in particular, that youknew about that at the time?
TR: Yeah. Again, being a medic, I wasn't really apprised so much of tactics, butI had a pretty good idea. The great majority of that tour and again, it went from January 05 to January 06, so it was a full year. It was Counterinsurgency. That was the name of the game. Then also, some of us were detached some of my fellow medics, we would be detached from time to time to help train the Iraqi Army soldiers with medical skills.
We'd give them aid bags and had them run through practices and how to asses apatient and how to fix that bleed and how to open that air way. We had more than one mission, but the main focus was Counterinsurgency and also Counter IEDs. We would go outside the main road and at this time, all the roads had military nicknames, so that road outside of our FOB and it was literally right outside, it's one of the big ones.
It was route Pluto. Route Pluto it like a planet, but I guess they finallydecided it was a planet again, I don't know. Route Pluto and AKA is one of those known as IED Alley, because there was a ton of those darn things. Every day we 01:58:00had to send people out to clear the IEDs and regrettably, some went off before we found them, so this is where my unit actually incurred some fatalities. I cannot say that our 2nd tour was as fortunate as our first. Counterinsurgency and counter IED was the big thing. That was our main focus and then our side mission was training up the Iraqi Army.
TP: Addressed to this, you can address them separately. Your previous tour, youended up out on some of these raids.
TP: Was that? Did that happen again or you -- were you more in based andcausalities would come to you. How was your day to day be like in that regard?
TR: The causality would come to us more often than not. Now, I also was assignedto what's called a QRF. A QRF stands for Quick Reaction Force. Now, the QRF's mission was if something bad happened within range of our area, of our FOB. Maybe it's only a mile out and something went boom, then we would get in our vehicles, like our ambulances and stuff and we'd go out there, retrieve the causalities, bring them back and treat, but that's only if it happened real close by.
Most of the time, air patrols went far and wide, so they'd have to be taken tous and we'd be on standby. We actually had our aid station. Again, we had most of our brigade, which is like 4 or 5 units. Each unit had medics, so we had a really nice wealth aid station, which makes sense, because the building on Rustamiyah was actually one of Saddam's personal hospitals, for him and his family and his political friends.
It was pretty big, it was like 4, 5 storeys, but the bottom storey was where wehad our aid station. If we had 8 beds, 8 readers ready and standing by. We would 02:00:00conduct sit call in the morning and we would 12-hour shifts. If were assigned at sick call or not assigned to going out and helping look for IEDs, because anytime a unit went out, you had to take a medic with you. That's just an SOP, you take a medic with you.
It doesn't matter where you going. It doesn't matter if you're going on a supplyrun. It doesn't matter if you're going to look for bad guys. It doesn't matter if you're looking for things that go boom and bang, you took a medic with you. When you weren't on that you were running sick call and you were waiting casualties. Casualties came in any time of the day or night. It was unpredictable. You never knew when they're going to come in, so we work 12 hour shifts and then we're on call.
Even when we're back in our barracks, when the sirens go off and you would tookcasualties, all the medics in the FOB were to go there and help out. In case we had a mass cau. Mass cau is mass casualty incident in other words, lots and lots of patients and not maybe not enough people to help fix them up.
JH: Just for contest, around how many soldiers are being stationed atRustamiyah? How many medics?
TR: For brigades, probably 4000 maybe, so there was quite a few people in thesmall FOB, but again there were tons and tons of barracks. There's probably not, it's probably not that many, because I think one of the units was diverted to another FOB for a while to help things up there. You would have -- when you ran sick call, just the sick call operations. The daily "Come on in. Hey you got a cold. You got a boo boo, okay."
There would be at least 2 medics from each brigade. For each brigade sorry, foreach unit of the brigade. You're talking, 4 brigades or be like 8 or 10 of us medics, from all the different units of the brigade that are standing by. Running sick call, screening patients, giving IVs if necessary, so generally we 02:02:00had enough people to run sick call when things went really bad, like Mass cau would happen and they did. Then they would send out a call to get all the other medics in here and help out and try to make -- try to reorganize order out of chaos.
JH: Can you tell us about any particularly formative experiences working as amedic on the 2nd tour?
TR: Yeah. Probably my first fatality probably was a formative one, because in03, the only people who died under my care were folks that were enemy or local civilians. I never, never had the treat dead Americans or never had a dead American soldier come into my treatment area in 03. 05 that changed. It was only a couple weeks that we gotten there, it was February and they brought in this kid. He was -- I think he's mid late 20s. I thought, he was old because he was like into late 20s.
They brought him in and he had a gunshot wound in the lower left abdomen. It wasa very, very tiny entry wound, very tiny. We started doing CPR on him, but it was already too late. He was ashen. He was pale. The doctor that was attending, the Army doctor he was actually our units doctor, because each unit had its own Army doctor as well as a bunch of medics, because any medic had to operate under a doctor's license and knowledge and stuff.
The doctor pronounced him -- he came in dead is pretty much what they said,because he had all the signs. His pupils were fixed and dilated. He wasn't moving. No heartbeat. No blood pressure. I tried to get an IV in, couldn't get an IV in because you have to have a blood pressure for the IV fluid to flow in. 02:04:00The doc pronounced him and he said "You know, guys you did what you could as medics. Okay, don't let this get you down. You did everything that was within your power to do. All right we're done for the night go on back to your barracks, okay."
He was a really good guy. A really good guy, this doc that I was operatingunder. Why not? I'm not ashamed. It struck me. It hit me very, very hard. I went back to my room, just expressionless. No one knew what was going on and I was sharing with a roommate and this roommate was another medic. He was a medic that had been there for the invasion. He wasn't one of the new guys that I'm with he was a medic that was already there. He and I had become very good friends and since 03.
He and I shared a room, so I locked the door. I started to get something out ofmy locker. Actually, I was opening the locker as we had metal lockers we could store stuff in and I had I lost it. I broke down, I cried. I actually cried. He's like "Dude, it's okay. It's okay." He called the chaplain in. The chaplain and he said "You know what? You know you're not God. This is out of your hands. You're going to have this. The best you can do and for the ones who don't make, it's just do your job and influence those that might make it and might not make it through," but that was rough.
Do you want to talk about a formative experience? That was it because I hadnever ever dealt with a dead soldier before. Dead bad guys, yeah and I'm not saying that I was compassionless for them, but it's when one of your own, one of 02:06:00these right here, that's a whole different story, it really is. I wish I could say he was the only, he wasn't. I'm not going to say it got any easier, it didn't. In a weird way, you kind of got used to it. I want to say ... In my journal, I actually kind of kept a tally.
I think in that whole year, I think it was 9 fatalities that I directly dealtwith. As far as what the brigade suffered, it was higher than that, because that we were not in a nice neighborhood, so we had lots of IEDs and a lot of KIA. Most of those KIA were just cured instantly. Then the rest of those folks ended up dying. They were just so badly messed up by the explosion that they wouldn't have made it regardless.
It never got any easier. They really didn't, but the take away for that for mewas those folks that I was able to help. The gunshot wounds and the things that were recoverable. We sent them home and they went home back, they went back home to their family alive, not in a flag draped casket, the Dover Delaware, so it was rough. That was formative, I'll tell you. Did it influence my decision to be a medic? No. What it did do was it made me angry and it made me want to do a better job for those that I could save.
There's upsides and downsides to that experience, but in the end it wanted me tobe better. It made me want to do everything I could for those I could save. Being mindful that I'm not God and I can't save everyone.
JH: I wanted to ask you, you guys as Army medics are seeing the front line of somany casualties and you'd mentioned a couple of times speaking with chaplains shorter length. I was curious if you could talk about the support network medic 02:08:00side for processing these experiences and what you did to handle your emotions as you were seeing what you did while in theater?
TR: I'm one of those folks and I'd like to say where my heart and my sleeve. I'mgetting older, I'm getting a little more careless now, so now when a soldier comes and I think it's fake and it's like, "Really? Move on. Move on before I give you a monster IV that you don't need and it's going to hurt." I wear my heart on my sleeves. Each death I took personally. I didn't break down in tears like I did with that first one, but we did have a good support system and if it was a really bad day and we had lots of casualties and some didn't make it.
The doc would gather us around and we would talk about. It's like "Guys, guys,you know you're not Superman. You're not God. All right. Just know that you did the ... You were professional and you did the best job that you could and just make yourself more ... Just steel yourself more and more... Learn from this and just do the best you can next time, all right? Just don't let this demoralize you. As long as you know that you did everything that you could do."
We had lots of good pep talks from our docs, because our doctor there with us.It wasn't just us treating patients. I had the doctor there to make the final call. The docs were there with us and I was privileged to service with some good, good Army docs. Every last one of them and it's amazing because one of them was -- we had some folks that had the practices outside the Army. One of them was a chiropractor who had some chiropractic skills.
Boy, he was good at fixing your back. I love that guy. One was a OBGYN, so we02:10:00had lots of good folks with good backgrounds and the medics ourselves, we would decompress by doing things that got our minds off it. Video games. Huge, huge video games. We had a bad day at the Aid station. You know what? Let's go back and put in some Mario or something like that. Maybe even a little Call of Duty or something like that and just get the stress out. We would sit there.
It would be like 2 or 3 or 4 of us in this 2 man room. Had the X Box system setup or PlayStation or whatever the heck it was we had and of course, oh my goodness, that part was it kept breaking down because it was so darn dusty over there. There'll be 4 or 5 medics in this room playing Call of Duty or whatever and then Oh man, oh come on. Can't you shoot any better than that?" Just get that camaraderie going and that helped. That helped.
Anywhere to burn off, burn off that anxiety and decompress a little bit, thatwas helpful. I think that kept us all a little bit more sane. Then of course it was always the blue humor. Always the blue humor. Oh my goodness. This may sound bad oppression to say this, but we have a motto in the United States Army Medical Corps. You know what it is? We bury our mistakes. What else? The guy who lost a foot, the doctor says, "Hey, you lost your foot in that explosion, but I got some good news and bad news. Bad news is you lost your foot and we couldn't reattach it."
The patient's saying, "Oh my God, terrible, horrible. Well what could possiblybe the good news?" "Well, the guy in the next bed wants to buy your shoes." Stuff like that. Just blew humor. Just blew humor. These are just ways that he used to decompensate and just goofy stuff like that. Oh, another great one was 02:12:00bootleg DVDs. Star Wars Episode 3. It came out here in the theaters; I want to say May 19th or something like that. I was watching it on my laptop on the 24th on a DVD. A bootleg DVD. That was awesome.
Some of us watching it on DVD before some people had even seen it in thetheaters. Yeah I don't know how, these folks, they must be have a thriving black market of anything you want. In '03, I'm a coin collector. In '03 me and one of my sergeants went out and did a little bit of a horse, southern horse trading and stuff like that. The guy came back the next day with Euro coins and coins from all over the Middle East and south west Asia, it's like how do they get these stuff? Yeah, the DVDs were great.
That way we kind of felt a little bit more connected to home, because we werewatching stuff on DVD that people couldn't see here except in a theater in the United States. That was pretty sweet. Again that's just -- It's those things that help keep us human, keep us sane and help us get through the hard times.
JH: Were there are other ways in which the culture on base this tour was similarto or different from what culture at bases and that on your first tour?
TR: The overall culture is pretty much the same. Just an example was in '03, wedidn't have a little chapel or anything to do or worship or anything like that even though our Chaplain, I remember this guy that we had. He was the most unlikely Chaplain you ever thought. Cowboy hat, this guy smoked a cigar. Every time you saw our chaplain, he had a big old monster freaking look like a Cuban cigar. We do a little in '03 we're out in the middle of nowhere; we do a little service for those who wanted to come.
When we actually were in '05, we actually had a little chapel on base that they02:14:00built and we actually have actual services at such and such time on Sunday. Christmas was hard obviously for a lot of us because we couldn't be home for Christmas. We were home for Christmas in '03. Not this time. That was rough especially with me and 4 kids at home now. The wife was pregnant again.
Anyway, one thing that the chaplain person did because each unit had their ownchaplains as well, they had a Christmas Eve service and then someone got a DVD of a Charlie Brown Christmas and they popped it in the DVD and they have a projector up on the wall and here you'd have to see in your mind's eye, you'd have to see gosh there were probably 25, 30 soldiers in here, big, tough soldiers staring spellbound at it watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on the screen there.
It was pretty cool because it was those kind of things. The whole trying to keepit close to home and trying to keep some normalcy, as far as being here versus being at home, but as far as cultural considerations, as far as us, among our troops here on the fog No, it was like a little mini town. Really was. Again because we had the PX to grab smokes and even little smoke or DVDs or video games.
Cultural considerations when we're dealing with the populous, that was differentbecause we had to respect their culture. For example if we had a female Iraqi that was injured, maybe she was what we call collateral damage. She was an unintended victim of a bomb, they had to bring her in, but we'd have to have female medics attend to them. Then of course there's the cultural 02:16:00considerations. We always had to keep that in mind because the worst thing we want to do is offend the culture like that. We did keep that.
We did try to do the right thing at all times. We didn't go barging into mosquesor anything like that unless it was absolutely necessary. We did our very best. We didn't try to do the right thing by that, but as far as our culture on post, as far as our American soldiers, just think of a small town with lots of people turning guns inside.
JH: You said you got to share the base and the base was split between--
TR: Yeah. There was a big wall between us and the Iraqi Army. Yeah. We didn'tintermingle. They stayed on their side and we'd only go on their side to train them up. Other than that it was like the -- The town was subdivided a little bit.
TP: I'm interested to know on the training because I think that's indicative.The 2 sides of your service there in this operational side and then also this training side is really indicative of what the climate was, of the conflict and then also how we were approaching it. I know you said that your medical training with them was really tough because you said it's not that they weren't intelligent, it's just they didn't really have it. Didn't seem to have a base of medical knowledge or understanding. Can you speak a little more to what this training looked like? What form that took and what you saw as the goals of the training and if you feel like those were accomplished or not.
TR: Again, I can't speak to their tactical training because that was folks withdifferent skill set, but as far as the medical training, we tried to train up the Iraqi medics because they had medics just like we have medics. Or that was the goal. I don't know if they -- I don't think they had medics before in the old Army before we came in and took over, but we tried to train them to the same standard as we had here in the US forces.
They had their own medical batons and so we wanted to train their medics thesame standard so we were just teaching the same thing that we know. How do you 02:18:00do a head to toe assessment? What kind of bad things are you looking for? Okay, you found this bad thing. What are you going to do about that now? All right, you say this leg is gone. What are you going to do? Why are you going to apply a tourniquet to keep them from bleeding to death and such?
Of course it's difficult to explain the different terminology, Latin and stuff.If I was to talk to you about Tension Pneumothorax, blank stare. All right, unless you actually have any kind of medical training, right? Try talking Latin to someone who and I need an interpreter to convert the Latin for them. We had those challenges there as far as using interpreters. We had the simplified, all right, the Tension Pneumothorax that's when you get a hole in your chest from a bullet or something and you're sucking in air into your chest and it's crushing your lungs like Three Kings, have you ever seen the movie, Marky Mark and all that good stuff.
We had to simplify the terminology, but other than that we wanted to teach themeverything we knew as far as medical skills. Some of them, not bad. Not bad. Some of them just didn't really get the idea of what it means to be a medic. Again that's the same in any military. You get some people who grasp the concepts and some folks who are just lost out there in the middle of nowhere. We trained them the same standards and sent them forth. I really don't know how many of them did, but we did our best to train them the same standards that we would train someone, a medic on the US side.
TP: How would you describe the perception of populous? I know you said you --02:20:00Generally people were very happy that you were there, but like okay, but you can leave now. Was that different? Was that similar? How was that like this time?
TR: As far as their reception towards us? This time it seemed like a pretty evenmix. Some folks understood why we were there and they didn't give us too much grief and then others were just downright you should have been gone by now. What are you still doing here? Is it your intent to stay here forever and occupy us? There's probably a little bit of resentful here and there. I don't know. I would have to say it's 50/50 and I'm thinking that the 50% that was on the not so friendly side with us, I'm not talking bad guys who are just the local nationals that the ordinary everyday people.
I think the reason that is, is because and this is just my view point is that Ithink they were fence sitters and I say that because I don't think they knew which side to root for. Personal safety being first, I can understand this because what if they're saying "Go USA. Go USA," and then we leave and then the bad guys come in and they know that hey that dude was saying, Go USA. Oh, he's in Fort now, right? I think they were fence sitting because they didn't know how this was going to go. Is the US forces going to triumph and beat up the bad guys or is the US going to leave and the bad guys come back and now my whole family's going to get murdered because I supported the US.
, but you did have those folks that were really still adamantly, "Hey, thank youso much. You know we really appreciate what you're doing." Then you had that other segment that was like, "Okay, we're kind of cautious about you know. All right, I'm not really going to show you support, I'll maybe be neutral if not a 02:22:00little bit kind of look at you meanly." Just to not give the impression of being supportive. I think that's part of what that was. I think the majority of the population they're caught in the middle. They really were. They were caught in the middle. I think they wanted to be cautious about really being outright supportive, but quite a few were. Quite a few were and they were still very gracious.
JH: Are there other significant events, experiences that characterized this tour?
TR: One of those good feel, good things is when we would go on what we calledMed Caps and Med Cap stands for Medical Civic Action Program. This would be part of the trying to win over hearts and minds. What a Med Cap was is that we would grab a whole bunch of medical supplies, and we would drive to a certain area of town and obviously we would go in advance. We would send our M3 and stuff in advance. They would clear out an old building or an old hospital or something like that and we would set up a clinic for the locals.
Some of these people I'm pretty sure never had medical care before so we had setup a clinic for free. We'd go in and see them. See what's going on with them, give them some medications, send them on their way. I guess every darn time, at least that I know of, every darn time we had run out of supplies before we ran out of patients. That's one of those that made me feel good about being there. Finally we're doing something for these people.
These poor people who have been in this situation of Saddam Hussein and hewasn't too nice to some of them and now they had everything with surgeons and all that, we're finally doing something for the good of these people whose only sin was to be born Iraqi. That was something else that made me feel really with participating in the Med Caps. That was awesome. I enjoyed that. 02:24:00
I'm kind of a people person in case you haven't picked up on that. I reallyenjoyed that. To me that was like this is really what I'm here for. This makes me feel that this is all worth it. Was being able to do that.
TP: Any other stuff from the beginning events or memories before you found outthat you would be, that your deployment was up and you'd be coming back home?
TR: Now I think not really. It's like what they talked about in the Civil Warwhere the real majority of the time is like 90% boredom and 10% fear, a lot of my tour except for those incidents, I went outside, I'd go on convoys. Every once in a while we'd do a supply run to the Green Zone and grab more supplies back to take back to camp. We would again do some Med Caps which were great. Sick call. Taking care of my soldiers, that's what I was all about. Had some interesting folks with sick call.
Had one guy, there was kind of a language barrier. He wasn't Iraqi. He was hewas a coalition contractor and I finally figured out that he was from Uruguay and he had some kind of injury, I can't remember what it was. It wasn't anything major and I think he had the opportunity to go to his own aid station, but no. He wanted to see us. I think it was a broken finger or something. Nothing crazy, nothing terrible. He wanted to see us and I remember that to this day. He wanted to see us because he knew Americans take the best care of people in the world. 02:26:00That struck me as cool.
That it was our medical folks that had that good of a reputation. What else? Itmade me feel good as a dad; I got called out to the front gate. One of our interpreters was a local Iraqi woman and she had a small baby and the baby had a raging fever and she said she had some information for us, but the baby is very sick. I think this baby was like 3 or 4 months old. A young baby. Because I was the medic on call to help the front gate guards in case anything bad happened.
Front gate guard got sick or something like that, I was the one who was detailedto go out there and help the gate guards. I go out there. I get called out there and of course they had a female interpreter so I'm talking to her, I'm getting the baby signs and symptoms, I'm thinking, oh crap, this is not good. This is not good. I think what happened was she had an infected belly button so it was all bulging and yucky. I made the judgment call to bring her to the aid station. Now mind you she was not quite one of ours.
She was helping on and off interpreting, but she wasn't really fully vetted byus, but I knew that this kid was in trouble so I went against command directives and I escorted her go to our aid station. The doctors looked at her and they gave her some antibiotics and I thought I was going to be in trouble because I wasn't supposed to do that. I wasn't supposed to take this local national and her baby to our aid station because we weren't quite sure if we could actually trust her, trust or. It turns out we could. I was afraid I was going to get in trouble from the commander.
The commander being like a two star general and here I am I'm a specialist by02:28:00then which is a A4. 2 ranks down from what I am now. Staff sergeant. I didn't have a whole lot of rank so I thought oh; crap I'm going to get in trouble. I'm getting in trouble so much, but the medics and the docs they were having a ball. This is the first baby they had seen in a while so they're taking pictures of this baby. The female medics are cuddling the baby and saying Oh and here I am. I'm freaking out because I'm thinking the military police are going to come and arrest me for violating protocol and finally one of the docs, he was a high ranking guy.
He said, "You know what is special, Rickey? You know what? You are. You'reguilty. You're guilty of saving this baby's life." That made me feel better. Did I get in trouble for that? Nope. Not a peep. That was pretty cool and that was a neat little experience there as well.
JH: What was communication with your family like this time? Anything different?
TR: Much easier. Much easier. We actually had Internet. We actually had localcontractors put internet in all the rooms. I had a laptop with a camera. Now I was able not only to talk to my wife and my kid, but actually see them on the computer laptop camera and everything so that made things so much easier. So much easier. It wasn't quite as painful being separated as it was the first time when I only got one phone call or 2 phone calls in my entire tours there.
This time, we had internet, we had plenty of phones, they have like a littlephone operating center so you get on phones. There was different ways to contact the family. Of course traditional letters. I wrote letters like crazy. My wife sent care packages like crazy. I got books and munchies and candy and stuff like that just like the first tour and then things got -- I think things got here a lot quicker with the second tour.
With the first tour it was 2 weeks from the time they sent it to the time it gotto us. In '05, it was 5 or 6 days before the care package got to us, so that 02:30:00improved too. All in all, that was so much better. Communication was so much more enhanced because now we could just sit there and -- We can see them now instead of just hearing them on the phone.
TP: Unless my math's wrong, was your 5th child born when you were deployed?
TR: Yes. He was likewise born in September. He was born on September 16th 2005.He didn't wait long enough. I tired and I tried and I tried to get the RNR because he had to -- because we are entitled to our RNR leave. You got a 2 week RNR leave during your tour, because it was a year, so you get 2 weeks. I schedules my 2 weeks around the time that we projected he would be born. Alas, he didn't wait.
I was somewhere over the Atlantic when he made his way in the world, so I missedhis birth by about I think 7 hours, something like that and I missed his birth. He's the only one whose birth I missed. September 16th 05, that's when my youngest came in and now he's in 3rd grade and driving me crazy. 4th grade. Sorry, 4th grade now. That's right, new school year. 4th grade. Time flies. I missed his birthday darn it. I still regret that. He's the only one whose birth I wasn't there for.
TP: What was it like then getting to spent 2 weeks at home with all 5 and yourwife now and then what was it like after the 2 weeks and had to go back over?
TR: The 2 weeks I was there, chaotic. Chaotic, but awesomely chaotic, awesomelychaotic because my oldest ... Our oldest was -- Let's see. She was born in '96. June of '96 so she would have been what? 8 and a half, 9 something like that. My math's terrible. That was the oldest and then I got -- Because my daughter is the oldest and then we got the 4 boys. It was chaotic, but it wonderful. The 02:32:00late night feedings, bring it on because my brain was still on Iraq time, which is 8 hours behind the US, that was fine.
I didn't -- the midnight feedings, the midnight wakening didn't bother me atall. The wife a little more, but me because my brain was still hot wired to the time change. Absolutely wonderful, wonderful. Going back, now this was -- this is I think October, the very beginning of October or something when I came back, but that was terrible. That was rough, because here I am leaving a newborn. At least I got to see him, but that was rough.
We actually had ... we were sitting in Columbus International because basicallywhen you go on block leave you take a -- we can take a military aircraft from Baghdad to Kuwait, but when you're in Kuwait you take a civilian jetliner home. You don't take a military aircraft. I flew from there to Savannah and then from -- Oh not Savannah, sorry. Atlanta and then Atlanta to Columbus. Before I left, so here we are sitting waiting for my flight to get called back to Atlanta, I think again.
No, it was DFW, Dallas Fort Worth. I was on the way back, so waiting for theplane. All 4 kids are sitting beside me and my wife. I'm holding the baby and this nice little old lady offered to take a photograph for us because my wife had a 35 millimeter camera, so she did. She took a beautiful photograph because here I am. My desert camp as I'm holding this baby and the kids are looking at me and the wife's looking at me.
Still got that photograph, but just a stranger coming by, saw all that and said,"Oh. Please let me take a picture of you?" Here and I see you have a camera. I'll take a picture of all of you together and that was sweet. My wife actually 02:34:00sent me the picture, but I was only there for another couple months because we were re-deployed. Came back home for the second time in January of 06.
JH: What's your memory of those last days before coming home? What's that like?
TR: Short timer syndrome. That's what it was, but basically you have a unitcoming to relieve you and then you spend a couple of weeks-- The new unit that's replacing you, you spend a couple of weeks and its what's called a right seat ride and what a right seat ride is, is when you are training up the person that's taking your place. Everything that you did, you're training them up. Literally, you're driving out there in the middle of Baghdad or whatever, you're driving and your replacement is actually sitting there in the seat of the Humvee beside you.
We're showing them what we do and what we're looking for and stuff like that andthen, they officially took over. Ironically enough on January 1st. someone must have timed that, but the new unit took over on January 1st '06 and then the final week, we were doing everything. We had to repack all the medical supplies to take it back to the Georgia and wash off all our vehicles again like we had to the first time. Putting everything in the big Conex containers, the big metal shipping containers and get those ready.
It's just pack, pack, pack, day and night, but no one complained because we knewwhat the goal was. It was a lot of short timer syndrome. There was a joke. We were looking forward to our get the Fuey day, which was get the F out of Iraq, so it's an acronym. Get the F out of Iraq. That was our new acronym and for me, the get Fuey day was the 6th of January.
JH: What was your home coming like this time around?02:36:00
TR: Cold. Very cold. Very, very cold even though it probably was only... it wasprobably just like 70 degrees in the Savannah or Fort Stewart. Basically, we again landed at Hunter Army Airfield, took buses up the Stewart. This time was outside on the Castrol field, which is a big outdoor... Big monster field. It's the size of 2 football fields. It is just for that specific thing. We were hiding behind some bushes. You had everyone -- all the family members in the stands waiting and then we marched out in perfect order, calling cadence and everything like that.
It's like a big football game we just won. All the family member just cheeringand screaming and all that good stuff. We reunited with the family -- because everyone came down. My wife even brought the youngest with us, Nathan. That's pretty awesome. Again, it was pretty much the same protocol. You had to stay ... You couldn't drive for at least 48 hours because they were afraid people would go out and get drunk and do stupid, so we weren't allowed to drive so the family members had to driver us around. We had mandatory debriefings and looking for signs of PTSD.
Standard post deployment briefings, blood draws, blood work, immunizations andthen we had another month long block leave in February. Came back and the rest of my tour or the rest of my time in the active duty Army was uneventful because I ... My contract was up. My ETS end term of service, my contract was up in early July of '06, so the rest of my time from February to July uneventful. Sick off stuff and then May and June started out processing and left the active duty of Army. Came straight to the Guard, the Ohio Guard.
JH: That's the point in time, you've decided that would be the end of your terms02:38:00of service with the active duty Army. What was the process behind that?
TR: The thinking was this. I wanted to stay in the active duty Army. I wanted tostay. The Guard was not my first choice, but I didn't want to do what I'd done for the previous 4 years, which was stay separated from my wife and family. That just wasn't going to ... That was going to fly this time around. It's more my decision than my wife's because she probably would have gone with me, but it would been rough on the family. What I want to do -- what I was trying to do was to get another duty station that was much closer to Ohio. My 2 choices being Fort Knox, Kentucky, which is only maybe four or 4, 5 hours' drive from where I live and then what was the other one?
Maybe Fort Drum, New York, which is another 6 hours. It was about 6 hours fromEast Ohio. Basically what happens is, when you're thinking about reenlisting, they'll give you your choice of what's open. When we have released staff is in the Army, we have this place open and we have this place open. Nope. None of them were Fort Knox or Fort Drum, which were very close to Ohio geographically speaking.
I think what they offered me Fort Riley, Kansas. A little bit further away fromOhio than I prefer. That's actually further away than Fort Stewart was. Fort Riley, Kansas and I think maybe Fort Huachuca, Arizona or something like that. No, not going to work. What was the third one? I can't remember what the third one was, but they're all too far away from Ohio.
If they'd offered me Knox or Drum, Fort Drum in New York I would have taken itin a heartbeat. I probably would still be active duty Army, but that's all that ... That's all that they offered, so it's like, "Okay. Well, I'd love to be in the active duty Army and I still want to be in some component of the Army so I'm going to compromise and I'll just go in the Ohio Guard and go from there."
Ironically enough, it took an unexpected twist because after being in the02:40:00National Guard for a year and doing the whole "weekend warrior" stuff, I was one of the few people in the Ohio National Guard that had extensive combat experience at that time, so they picked me up for an active duty guard slot. It's what's called ... What's called AGR, Active Guard Reserve, so you're still doing active duty stuff, it's just for the State National Guard, instead of the Federal Army.
I've been doing that ever since. I'm still active duty. I got what I wantedafter all because they picked me up -- They picked me up from the instructor slot in '07. I've been doing that ever since. Now, I train here for the Ohio Guard. I train soldiers how to save lives. I re-certify my combat medics. I train my non-medical soldiers on what's called combat lifesaver. That is basically teaching non-medical soldiers basic battlefield first aid.
How to treat bleeds. How to keep the airway open. How to patch up holes in thechest, so just basic battle field first aid. Of course, I'm an American Heart Association instructor. I also teach CPR to the doctors and nurses and medics. In the end, I didn't think it was going to happen that way, but that's how it worked. I'm active duty again, didn't think I was going to be. Now, I have 13 years in and counting.
JH: You had mentioned at this moment, deciding if you were going to re-enlist inthe Army or not, the guard wasn't necessary your first choice. At that point in time, what were you perceptions of the role of the American National Guard?
TR: To be honest, when I was first considering that, I was really didn't knowwhole lot about the Guard and what they do. I knew from commercials and stuff like that they did state side stuff, like they helped out with tornadoes and things like that. Occasionally went overseas if they were absolutely needed. I knew it's the whole one weekend a month then. 2 weeks of active duty training in 02:42:00the summer and that was it.
Of course, this whole thing I'm doing now is for a new future so I'm thinking,"Okay. Well, this is not that desirable, but I need to make that -- I need to make that compromise between trying to be in the Army in some way and form. Some way or form and then making sure I'm with my family and taking care of them like I should be."
That was the best compromise I could think of. Had I been able to do active dutyArmy or Federal Army likely in Fort Knox or whatever, I would have done that in a heartbeat. My wife was and still is in support of my military career, so we could have gone that way too. It's just not how it worked out, but in the end, I got the best of both worlds now.
JH: Before you got picked up for active guard in reserve, what were you doingwith your civilian life and career?
TR: I was actually working downtown. I was working at the Ohio State Universitymedical center down here on -- 315 here. I was doing patient care. A great ... somewhat like I was doing in the Army, except a lot less explosions and bullets.
TP: How would you say looking back on your service knowing that you're stillserving -- how has your military experience affected you and how has it affected your family?
TR: Myself, it's really given me a greater world view. I am thankful for all theexperiences I've had in the Army. Even my combat deployment, yes. There was some really bad times that I had over there, but I'm thankful that I got to go over there and meet some really amazing folks. The local nationals and the people from of the coalition forces, I've met the British and the Australians. Boy, the 02:44:00Austrians know how to drink their beer, but anyway, I got to meet folks from different countries and different cultures.
I think that really broadened my worldview and gained a lot of insight in theway the world works. My overall wisdom, I think I'm a little bit wiser. It just comes from getting older I guess, but part of it just from the overall experiences I've had. Just all in all, it's changed me. I think 99.9% for the better. It's really changed me.
When I first joined, I did have moments of doubt, mostly in training. Basictraining stuff. I did have moments thinking, "Oh my gosh. I just should've stayed at Bob Evans and just run a restaurant. This is not for me. Maybe I made a mistake." In hindsight, I know it was the right thing. It's probably one of the best decisions I made in my life, other than marrying my wife.
TP: Are there certain values or aspects of military service that you carry withyou now?
TR: Yeah. I absolutely. As far as my overall self-confidence, it's grown quite abit. As far as my sense of leadership, taking charge, knowing what needs to be done, having a positive attitude to go out there and complete the "mission." Whether it's a civilian thing, doing whatever I need to do. My budget, my finances or whether it be a military thing leading my soldier, soldiers or training them, it's given me ... Even though I join at the age of 30, I think it really matured me quite a bit too. Matured me more, I guess I should say.
All in all, I think it's been a good experience. If I had to do it over again,if that's going to be something you ask in a little bit, yes. Yes, I would. I'd sign up all over again.
JH: Getting that only about 1% of the general population serves, what do youthink people need to know about military service? About combat in this day and 02:46:00age and in particular about the people who serve?
TR: What the American populous needs to know is that, every soldier, their goalis to serve the people of the United States of America. Support within the Constitution. That there's always a few bad apples. Of course, you always hear of someone doing something wrong overseas, but by and large, the great majority of us serve because we feel that we had that higher calling. That we had that higher purpose. That there's more to life than just us.
Then we defend the country. It's something that most of us view, I'm sure as anhonor and a sacred obligation. It's something that we take very seriously. Protecting the country is something that I'm sure the neighbors have a passion for. We do it to the best of our ability with professionalism and we care. Our job is to protect people of the United States of America. I think a lot of folks and a lot of US military personnel, we take that as a sacred thing. As a sacred calling.
TP: I'd like to ask you as well. What do you think people should know aboutmedics because the medics is kind of a staple in a lot of popular culture of the war movies or whatever. What do you think ... What would you want to say people about combat medics?
TR: Combat medics, you have to be a special breed. Some people are born withthat. Some of us had to learn it. Maybe me I was a little bit of both. The medics job is to make sure that every single one of our brothers and sisters in arms, we do the very best we can to make sure they go home alive. That's our main job. Its most of us ... I at least, I care about every one of my troops. I always rejoicing in the folks and I'm able to help. Whether it be from a bullet 02:48:00wound or from getting-- Eating the wrong food and getting a messed up stomach. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of helping people and making their lives better.
Whether it be us or the local nationals that I got to help out every once in awhile and treat them. The medics job, it's been said many times and I agree that when a soldier first gets wounded and they know they're really messed up, can I justify this personally? Yeah. Maybe once or twice. I can -- I don't know but the first person they call for isn't mama, it isn't God. The first person they call for is the medic and it's our job to come running.
It's our job to try to get your loved ones home alive and that's again, that'sanother sacred pledge that most of us will take very seriously. We'll do it to the best of our ability.
JH: I want to ask you. You've mentioned a couple of times, working withchaplains, attending services during your tours and that your family came from a strong faith tradition. How has that influenced your service and your thoughts about what you're doing and what you did on your tours and what you're doing now, continuing to serve?
TR: Speaking from a spiritual perspective, I do have a strong bit of faith. Eventhough I have a lot of scientific background to me, ironically enough, it's actually strengthened my faith. From my own personal viewpoint, serving my fellow man, serving my fellow soldiers, it's my way of serving God. If heaven forbid, if something had happened to me on the tour and I've gotten hurt or worse, my other upper buddy and it was that whole Bible verse, no greater love have any man just he who gives his life for his friends. Very spiritually, it's 02:50:00just my way of giving back and serving God.
TP: Is there anything we've not asked you that you'd like to add?
TR: Sure. I can end this on a humorous note. Back in '03, of course I was abrand new private and this is after we established ourselves in Ballade. My lieutenant, he was very new to the Army too. He was just out of officer training school. We're talking brand new soldier, just as new as me, if not newer. I said I was the driver, which I was. He had an order that every morning, because you never know when we might have to take off in a Humvee and go somewhere, I had to take him somewhere, he said, "Every morning, Private Rickey, you're going to go and you're going to go to the fuel trucks and you're going to make sure my Humvee is full up with the." "Yes sir. Not a problem."
One morning I go and I start up my vehicle and I go and I do my thing. I go andI start up, I'd take it over the big fuel truck and we have the fuel petroleum specialist. That's the actual Army of us, they fuel the trucks. I go back to the aircraft hangar, where we're all living at and I see my lieutenant just jumping up and down and he's in his underwear. It turns out, he had laid his pants in the back of the Humvee overnight and he was still sleeping when I took off to get the fuel, so he was mad.
Here he's jumping up and down, literally just by being up now in his underwearand his actual Army shirt. The rest of the baton, the medical baton, they thought it was hilarious. They were just giggling behind his back and one of them said -- actually I think it's one of the sergeants who said, "You know what Rickey? My respect for you just went way up" because he wasn't very popular. 02:52:00That's one of my good war stories there. The saga of the lieutenants' pants. God, I hope he never sees this.