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Media and Military

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February 14, 2002, Valentines Day, without a valentine to leave, I was physically and mentally ready to give my life in order to protect the Constitution and most of all to protect the people of the United States of America. I landed at the airport in Kuwait in support of operation Iraqi Freedom and we systematically got onto a relatively nice, but small, tour bus driven by an over-excited Kuwaiti national. We were on our way to Camp Virginia where we would wait for the President's declaration of war or the call to come back home. I waited along with other proud individuals like myself. All soldiers, with very few exceptions, are very proud and are believers in the U.S. and trust the guidance given to them by their supervisors and they feel the job is just and most importantly right. Perspective seems to differ when you see things through your own eyes.

Without knowing what would happen next, we spent the next weeks preparing our vehicles, preparing our equipment, preparing to fight, preparing to die. Meanwhile, major television networks back home were receiving record ratings, record profits covering the "War on Terrorism." Sweat built up in my boots, almost to the point where I would have to pour it out. Every night there was this horrid sandstorm with fierce winds making this eerie sound as we walked into the darkness to guard our vehicles. We had so much going on during these days. The constant rumbling of the tanks, choppers and generators was deafening. You would hear the gas alarm several times during the day. It was always a test, but we were not about to take the chance. We would throw on our protective suits and don our masks at nearly breakneck speeds in fear of our life. What would happen if it were not a test? Uncertainty may be the worst feeling once put into a position like that. We had no idea what would happen from minute to minute.

This may have been the scariest time in the Middle East. I did not know when I would see my family again or weather or not I would ever leave the Middle East. It was impossible to communicate with anyone back home because we did not have mail or telephones. Even electricity or hot meals were things of the past. If there were a war, how would it be? All blood and guts like a movie? All I kept hearing about was chemical warfare, "shock and awe." What was I to think?

"Blake, fire up the 113 (armored personnel carrier)," my squad leader, SSG Brown, instructed.

"Yes Sergeant!" I replied.

There were so many other things I wanted to ask him. For example, "where are we going," but there were too many other things to worry about. As a soldier, where and why is taken from our vocabulary. Our job was to obey. Honestly, I did not want to know.

This time, back in America and all over the world, everyone was tuned in, flipping from channel to channel on his or her televisions, waiting to see what would happen. Will Saddam step down or will he accept the "shock and awe" alternative? As we all know, Saddam chose the latter giving our nation no choice but to follow through what we promised.

We were determined to uphold the promise the United States made to the world. I helped spearhead into Iraq. In fact, I was one of the first to cross the southern border. As a combat engineer, we were to clear a path from obstacles for the entire Third Infantry Division. "Outlaw 1-3" (our call sign) was to be in front because the vehicle I operated was brand new, so it was believed to be the most reliable.

As we drove through the desert, however, the fear seemed to disappear. I did not see myself alone in this dangerous country. I looked all around me, and there were thousands of people just like me working towards the same goals. An endless stream of tanks took the two major highways into Iraq. There was plenty of enemy resistance, but that did not compare to the United States Army. The opposition was taken out before they knew we were there. 30 hours later, I was still driving. We have not had a break. Throughout the night sky you could follow the path of the MLRS(Multiple Launch Rocket System) to the glowing impact zone. I was "shocked and awed." I drove, half asleep at this point, eating my cold MRE (meal ready to eat) in disgust. Finally, we made it to our checkpoint, the Carbala Gap. We patrolled the area, clearing it of the enemy, and rested.

This was said to be a huge feat because of the importance of the bridge for further operations militarily and logistically. The next morning, all movements ceased and the Iraqi's made their first advance. It was the day dubbed "the orange day." The sandstorm was ferocious. You could not see your hand out in front of your face due to the thick orange sand. Originating a few countries west, Egyptian sand has a high rust content, which generates a vivid orange hue. I was on guard trying my best to keep an eye out for the enemy. Finally, my shift was over so I jumped back into the tank and handed my responsibilities to the next one on the list. The morning after, we found out that four-armed Iraqi's walked right passed our tank during the night while I was sleeping. Luckily, technology proved triumphant. A M2 Bradley picked them up on its radar and took out the threat without a single visual. My life was in danger in my sleep. It could have ended all right then. I could not believe my luck.

Week or two went by; we were at Tiger Base, patrolling the Syrian border. We went on all kinds of missions from manning TCP's (traffic control points) to search and destroy missions. Things were overly calm in that region however. There was not much action and a whole lot of boring, scorching hot hours watching a road that was seldom traveled. Because of this boredom, my squad leader decided to change things up a little bit. He decided to put someone new in the driver's hatch for a while. Note that we have been driving for thousands of miles on the highway on a track that was designed to operate in the mud for a maximum fifteen-hundred miles. We were on our way to do a standard TCP when all of a sudden the driver's side of the tank dropped. Hurling everyone back and forth, the carrier was now in the hands of something much larger. No amount of training could have prepared us for this. Large pieces of asphalt were flying over us in, what seemed to be, slow motion. We started to skid, throwing the rear of the tank ahead of the front. I, along with all the others, started to scream, "ROLLOVER, ROLLOVER!" One side of the tank started to bounce. It bounced more and more as the belly of the tank continually gouged at the ground. The lack of one side of track, proved impossible to stop as the



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