“They won’t understand it’s about the men next to you… and that’s it. That’s all it is.”
Quote from Hoot in movie Black Hawk Down
It has been over ten years since I returned from Iraq and I have finally had the time to collect these images of my time from my deployment. Some of the time has been spent in acquiring the skills and techniques to render the digital images appropriately. And some has been life.
My time in Iraq was spent on the streets of Tikrit and helping the other members of my detachment, 21 brave men and women who delivered the messages and supported the operations of the Companies and Battalion and Brigade we were assigned to. As a Tactical PsyOp Company our mission was to be a force multiplier and to win the hearts and minds of the local nationals.
It was a difficult job at best and not very safe to say the least. While all of our detachment returned home, many had scars from battle, literally and otherwise. One team had been hit by IEDs at least 8 times; one soldier received a sniper wound in the upper shoulder; another was hit in the helmet by a sniper round; another hit in the back by a round; still another injured from an armor piercing grenade; and multiple IEDs, drive by shootings, sniper attacks and the list goes on.
Through all of this these fine soldiers did not falter nor did they shirk from their responsibility. They were all committed to the mission and as the quote above states, each other. In the end it is about the guy next to you and nothing else. If you cannot rely on the person next to you neither of you will return home.
Our job was to go face to face with the locals and this was a very dangerous proposition at best. While we could get information to the leaders, many times we would be surrounded by small crowds of people who wanted to hear what was going on and to give their opinions about the lack of water, sewer services, electricity, fuel, food and jobs. Many of our security personnel did not like to go out with us as we were in the thick of things. In fact the EOD, explosive ordnance disposal team, stated after one mission they would not go out with us again as they felt it was too dangerous. Thank you very much but I felt their job was more dangerous. I guess it’s a matter of perspective,
I prepared myself for this deployment with a digital camera that was mine and not one given to me by the Army as was the case when I was deployed to Afghanistan earlier. I stashed in a pouch on my vest and when time and circumstances permitted I would make images as I could. I used an Olympus C-770 with a great zoom and was compact enough to use rather unobtrusively.
These are images of my time there in Iraq when things were active. There were many soldiers lost in the units we supported and every time we left the wire every mission was fraught with danger. While you may think of the possibility of not returning that day, you push it to the back of your mind and focus on what needs to be done now. Live in the moment, do your job, and watch your buddies back. A simple code to live by.