Below are excerpts from e-mail interviews with several UW graduates who are either serving in Iraq or have recently returned. All were asked the same questions. There was a striking consistency to some of their responses—many vets called the elections of January 30 their most memorable moment, and said that the insurgency was what surprised them the most. But their answers were equally noteworthy for the variety of experience, and of perception, that they revealed.
What is your most memorable moment in Iraq?
“The first ambush that our platoon was in, where we had two killed in action and one wounded in action and I was the medic there on site. That was quite a rough day having some of your friends go down like that ...”
—Travis Nease, MEDEX
Sergeant, 81st Brigade Combat Team, Army National Guard; Time of deployment: March 2004–March 2005
“The day of the first Iraqi national elections. We weren’t sure what the turnout was going to be like and the insurgents were hitting the Iraqi people fairly hard. But when we saw the incredible turnout in spite of the danger, it made us all proud to have played our small role in helping to bring that about. Some of the stories of what people went through to cast their ballot were incredible—walking 13 miles to vote, and then walking 13 miles back home: they did a marathon to vote; carrying a crippled relative for miles so their relative could vote; standing in line outside a polling place and watching a suicide bomber come up and detonate himself, and not getting out of line!”
—Ty Cresap, ’84
Lieutenant Colonel, Multinational Forces-Iraq, Task Force Counterintelligence Coordinating Authority, Air Force; Time of Deployment: December 2004–June 2005; Stationed: Camp Victory, Baghdad
“Getting attacked by mortars one night ... We happened to have our counter-mortar radar in the right direction, and they picked up the origin of the attack right away. Within seconds, we had a drone up and over the area, and were watching the guys load their mortar tube into their minivan. We stayed on them with the drone while vectoring ground forces in on them over the radio. It was gratifying when they caught them and took them to jail. What was even cooler was when they searched the vehicle, and found the video camera that they used to tape the attack! What a bunch of dumbasses! I think those guys are still in jail!”
—Christian Werner, ’97
Captain, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Army; Time of deployment: April–December 2004; Stationed: Baqubah; Currently: Rose Barracks, Vilseck, Germany
“Public recognition by the U.S. Senate of my service is available at http://appropriations.senate.gov/hearmarkups/record.cfm?id=220833 in the sixth paragraph. This was one of my most memorable moments and is [described in greater detail] at http://www.oifmedics.com/medics.htm under the heading ‘Committed to the Wounded Warrior.’”
—Dan Berg, ’80
Major, Critical Care Air Transport Team Nurse, Air Force; Time of deployment: February 2003–April 2004; Stationed: Baghdad
What surprised you the most?
“The absolute poverty in the countryside and the city. Mud huts, etc. It sounds trite, but we take a lot of things for granted that they would consider a luxury here in Iraq. Also the large number of Iraqi patients we take care of.”
—Paul Dickinson, ’98
Major, Nurse Corps, Army; Time of deployment: December 2004–present; Stationed: 86th Combat Support Hospital, Baghdad
“During the month of April 2004, two months after our arrival in Iraq, anti-coalition activity was drastically increasing. Up until then it was highly unlikely for enemy forces to attempt to engage armed helicopters, especially during the day. My team of Apaches was out supporting a platoon of infantry soldiers when we were ambushed by small arms (AK-47s) and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs). My aircraft took over 18 hits and my sister ship took one, which bled all transmission fluid. With major damage inflicted to our aircraft, we limped both Apaches safely back to a small patrol base. This event changed our whole outlook on the mission and elevated our awareness as well as our tactics.”
—Lee Fennema, ’98
Captain, 1st Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Army; Time of deployment: February 2004–February 2005; Stationed: Logistical Support Area Anaconda, near Balad; Currently: Katterbach, Germany
“I have only been deployed in country for a couple months, but I would have to say watching the locals work for practically nothing on the base camps, and finding out the insurgents have captured or tortured family members upon finding out they work for the military.”
—Sherri Zimmerman, ’00
1st Lieutenant, Postal Officer, 877th Adjutant General Company, Army; Time of deployment: January 2005–present; Stationed: Forward Operating Base Speicher, near Tikrit
What do/did you miss the most?
“My family, baseball season, and waterskiing ... oh, and a decent shower.”
“Starbucks, flushing toilets, cable TV and privacy.”
“Being a father to my son Liam for a whole year.”
What are your feelings about your service in Iraq?
“... It was rewarding both professionally and personally to work with the soldiers of this great country, and to bear witness to and provide security for the first democratic election in years.”
“I would be honored to return to Iraq at any time, at any personal cost, to continue working [to meet] our nation’s military medical needs. Our air medical evacuation CCATT mission is that important to me. Serving our country during Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom was the most significant thing I have done in my career as an RN.”
“For a while it felt like each day was the same as the last, but you could slowly see the progress that we were making and the effect that we were having on the people. Unfortunately, I redeployed in December of ’04, so I didn’t have the chance to see the elections firsthand, but all my buddies told me that it went better in our province than anyone had anticipated. That’s gotta make you feel good!”
How have others regarded you on your return?
“The response that I get from people once they find out I just returned is mixed. Some people think that we were savages in Iraq. Others bring up the politics behind the whole conflict and assume that you agree with the president’s decision invading Iraq. Many people don’t realize that many of us don’t agree with why we are there. However, I am not the type of person that will just quit the military if the person that I voted for is not my boss or I don’t agree with their foreign policies and fear that I may get sent to war. Once you are there in the ‘fight’ all the politics goes out the window and all anybody cares about is watching out for each other and getting back home in one piece. I am very proud to have served my soldiers in my unit.”
These UW graduates have also served, or are serving, in Iraq.
Judson Bennett, ’02
Robert Blessing, ’80
Erik Bowring, ’83
Alex Bertelson, MEDEX
Chris Carson, ’99, MEDEX
Robert Enquist, ’70
Aaron Isaac, MEDEX
William Kuhns, ’72
Scotty Light, MEDEX
Roger McFadden, ’89
Heidi Monroe, MEDEX
Brent Olsen, ’67, MEDEX
John Ramirez, MEDEX
Nick Rezek, MEDEX
Oscar Tiglao, ’00
If you know of other UW alumni who have been deployed to Iraq, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add their names to the list.
To Baghdad and Back: Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3
War Stories: Huskies in Iraq. On-going web exclusive about Huskies serving in Iraq.
Questions from the Heroes. A web exclusive with questions to those serving in Iraq.
Loss and Recovery: UW Expert Aids Army Amputation Units
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