Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Terrorists, be warned: these guys are serious

I don’t know what the Iraqi commando trainees were saying in their rousing Arabic cadences, but somehow I got the impression the message they wanted to convey was ‘We’re going to open up a can of Whoop-Ass on the insurgency.’
The date was Feb. 18. The location was an obscure installation in Baghdad. The event was “stress phase” of the Iraqi Special Warfare Center Commando Course—some of the toughest training the fledgling army has to offer.
My assignment was to write a story accompanied by pictures for the Anaconda Times, a military newspaper based out of Balad. As it turns out, the story ended up being one of the most photogenic and interesting in a long while.
With all the tumult that is going on in Iraq, it is nice to see that there are still people who are dedicated to securing the country and combating terrorism. ‘Dedicated’ is definitely the word that came to mind when I saw the exhausted troops carry logs up a hill after being drenched in cold water.

I had the opportunity to help Sgt. Ryan Poland, my broadcast counterpart, record brief interviews with three of the commando trainees. The first question I asked all of them was “Why did you come here to do this difficult course.” All three of them gave variations of the same thing: to protect their families, to take back their country, to stop terrorism. One of the three soldiers alluded to other “personal motivations” but would not elaborate, so I suspect it wasn’t all out of idealism.
Who am I to blame them? If any one asked me why I enlisted, I might very well answer “to serve my country,” knowing that I wouldn’t have been quite as patriotic had it not been for incentives like the G.I. Bill and the chance to gain writing experience.
I hope their decisions to join the Iraqi fighting elite pay off, whatever their real reasons may have been.

Instructors used "flash-bang" grenade simulators like the one above to create an element of chaos in the training environment. This one burned a small hole in my DCU trousers.

And I thought the Army hosed me...

To read my article on “stress phase” of the commando course, see the March 5 edition of Anaconda Times.


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