27 | Hice


We just kinda here the rounds ping around us bouncing off our vehicles. But then eventually, I see this caller at the end of this alleyway. I can see muzzle flashes coming from the windows. And so I tell everyone else, hey, light up that car. And so we all just start unloading Curtis. Heiss was one of the thousands of regular enlist es in two thousand and one people who are joining the military in pursuit of personal excellence social improvement or maybe even adventure, although combat deployments. Always around the table. He joined at a time when answering that call didn't seem as if it were going to happen when it did he learned quickly enough that losses a part of war. But that doesn't mean that it's easy to accept. I remember hearing someone Yale and opened my eyes and looked up and it was of toddlers yelling. And I couldn't tell what he was yelling. I could just kind of see his lips moving in here meal in something so loud in there within eventually I made it out to say sergeant reassess hit. What is true bravery? What makes a hero a hero tested by the worries of what's happening at home, thousands of miles away. And the reality of what you're facing here. And now when your life is in danger every second and it's either killed or be killed from wondering and incongruity media. This is Anthony Russo. And this. Is war? A question about whether Curtis Heis would join the US military from the time. He was a little kid. It was mostly what he focused on even joining the civil air patrol as soon as he was old enough. It gave his mother the impression that he would end up in the air force. But as he puts it the marine recruiter got home, I although she had some reservations high-seas mothers signed him up for the early entry program. I signed up during the summer of two thousand one it would have been between my junior and senior year of high school a lot of my friends in school already knew that I'd signed up for the military our members specifically being in homeroom that morning. So when that happened, of course, we all turned our TV's on was we're watching it there in the classroom. They all kind of turned around and looked at me as if to say, well, if you know where you're going both at the time, and in retrospect, he really didn't when you're seventeen year old future doesn't stretch much past the next few weeks. Heist didn't watch the news or consider the geopolitical implications of his enlistment. He. Just focused on becoming a marine in his mind. The US military was more about adventure in disciplined than combat the only further implications had to do with his girlfriend for home. His very enlistment was a problem. The possibility of war after that weighed much more heavily on her. I don't really know. Maybe I was a little too young into naive to really put all the dots together and realize that is specifically would be deploying somewhere in our member more specifically my girlfriend at the time. Who's now my life? She was really upset about it. She really didn't want me joining it. All course. I did. Anyway. And we almost broke up over it. And I was trying to convince her that it would be okay by saying, oh, it will just be an easy for years. I'll just do for years and probably stay stateside. And then I'll get out and it'll be done. And then September eleventh happened. She knew at that point. No, no, something you're probably going to be going somewhere, Afghanistan or something to look back on it. You know, in retrospect, I was eighteen years old, and I just was really more focused on training at that time the last part of two thousand one and the first. Part of two thousand two diverse and disparate crop of recruits. Sure, there was an enlistment bump in response to the September eleventh attacks, but it's important to remember that there were probably many people in the same position as Heiss young folks who had been committed to enlisting since they were children some with plans to make the military their career and many like heists who were open to careers in the military, but more focused on getting training and money for college as late as two thousand and two long after graduation and with the Iraq war looming his attitude about that really hadn't changed at all on. My MOS was thirteen seventy one which is combat engineer. I come from a family that works construction most of the guys on my dad's side of the family working construction, specifically brick masonry. And so if I hadn't joined the marines, that's probably what I'd be doing today and Saugus I kind of figured that. If I'm going to be Moran. Been maybe try to do something that already know. Anyway, I liked construction building things and the recruiter was showing me all these Xers in his book about marine. Building this building that and all that sounds sound. Like right up my Ali. And I remember when I think started to get a glimpse of what might be happening. Because while I was there at Camp Lejeune doing my comments near training, initially. My orders were to be at second combat engineer battalion, which is on campus soon. So I would I would have stayed there on the east coast, and I was really excited about that. Because knew that would have been a short ten hour drive home, and I could come home almost any weekend. I wanted to but by the end of our class just a few days before graduation mount orders along with the orders of a lot of other marines in my class. Got changed to first common is near battalion on the on the west coast at Camp, Pendleton, California as two thousand and two turned into two thousand and three the reality of the war still hadn't clicked with hice. He found himself in camp. Margarita a section of Pendleton where he and scores of other marines were waiting for their units sinement s- as a new marine it didn't strike him as very peculiar at the time. But in retrospect, there were an awful lot of unattached marines there for longer than there. Should've been hey, and his fiancee Julie were still trying to figure out how they were going to work their long distance relationship when the reality of the holding area finally was made plane. I remember this chief officer coming out and we're in formation standing at attention nieces, marines, the reason we haven't sent you all to your respective units. Is because you're units or either already in Kuwait or there in route to Kuwait, and you're gonna meet them. They're my fiance at the time she's expecting me to be working on getting home. So that we can get married. So I had to call her and say, we'll look that's that's not gonna happen. There were no seven month rotations, like there are now, you know, I think order said, however, long it takes to defeat Saddam's regime said you can either wait till I get home, and then I'll come home, and we can get married or you can fly out here. And if we can find a courthouse, you know, and work it out, we can go get married here in California, which ultimately is what we did. These are the kinds of details. That are often lost in the big picture run up to the war in Iraq, the personal logistics of unexpected deployment the chaos of what would normally be a pretty Monday. In process. Julie had changed her flight. Just so she could get to California early enough for a Saturday courthouse wedding her parents came in that afternoon and the new family spent the last few weeks of February together before heading back east all the while small groups of guys were flying out commercial to Kuwait and joining their units. Highs turn came in March two thousand and three where he found out. He'd be riding shotgun in the second wave of the invasion whenever that occurred every day there were rumors that the invasion was going to be the next day one day. It turned out that the rumors were true. I remember in the middle of the night being woken up, and you know, being told okay? You know, it's about to kick off. This is the real deal this time, and I remember in the dark staging all of our vehicles. So that when the convoy did take off it would be kind of an an orderly fashion. So new it was really happening. And we we lift our base in Kuwait and went to a staging area. Just immediately south of the border and member hearing the artillery shooting at them. And that's remember, then realizing, okay, this is real this is really happening. Remember driving into Iraq and it being dark. So it must have been in the middle of the night. Sing lots of fires. Some of the oil wells that were that had been burned and they were burning and so that was that was kind of an eerie sight, and then the burnt-out holes of tanks and Iraqi military trucks and things like that. And some dead bodies on the sides of the roads, the fact that they didn't shake me is what shook me most. If that makes any sense, I guess because you expect to be affected by things in a certain way. And then when you're not affected by them. It really kinda makes you question yourself like is there something wrong with you because you weren't affected? So that bothered me a little bit. The thing is when you're seeing your first war up close, you realize that there is no expectation that will match up with your experience. It's a long way from the lush greenery of central Tennessee to the desert's of Iraq. Plus, there's a surreal d to it heist spent the better part of his youth playing being in the military, but even with all. His preparation training. He couldn't possibly have known. What it would be like I remember meeting up with Ma fire team leader his name was lance-corporal Cun. He was from Cambodia he was really tall lanky. And he I was going to be in the m to forty machine-gun farting in our squad. I didn't know much about the two forty I'd gone through a little bit of training with marine combat training. So it's a little more with it. But I certainly wasn't an expert on it. But that's the fourteen I was going to be joining up with. And so I was going to learn about it whether elected or not we never knew when we stopped if we're only gonna be stopping for a few minutes, or if you hours or a few days, we didn't stop very much, but we'd stop for the night. And we got out and we dug are fighting holes. You know, we always got out, and we usually dug a hole to kind of sleep, and and it will fighting position again because you never knew how long it was going to be we often didn't dig very deep because the ground was very hard. And also again because we didn't know how long we're gonna stay. There we stayed the night there in the next morning. We got up pretty early and we had. Gone so far ahead of our resupply convoy that we didn't have a lot of Challe. Didn't we were down to like one day? We were trying to ration our water because the the supply chain was so far back behind us. Dr member our squad leader come into that morning is name was sergeant Duane Rios. And he was kind of giving us some intil. The until was that there was an Iraqi mechanized unit in this town, and that we were we expecting some pretty tough resistance going in there the marines mounted up their light, armored and Fibi assault. Vehicles. Also called Amtrak's AV's if the Iraqis did have a mechanized unit waiting for them, though, the Amtrak's wouldn't provide much protection highs in the rest of the engineers had been training with their mop suits in case of a chemical attack. It was April fourth two thousand and three and in addition to the threat of gas attacks. There was the prevailing belief that Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard would fight the last man as the marines pressed on toward the capital city that at least sounded true else. Swear in the battle US forces successfully taken Baghdad international airport, but US groundforce is headed for the capital where meeting more than a little resistance high. So ready had learned what before and after combat looked like before too long. He would know the worst of what during did as well. But so we were going through the city we were buttoned up you can hear all the combat going on around. You can hear all the hear the machine guns on your own vehicle shooting and all the other vehicles engaging. The enemy can hear all the explosions. There's a small window remember on the back of the av. You could flip it open a window. It's basically three inch glass with a metal plate that covers it up on the inside, and you can open up that metal plate and look through this vision block. I remember seeing the plumes of smoke in the burned burned out holes of disabled vehicles on the side of the road and stuff like that. So you knew that we were in the thick of it. But there's not much you can do about it. And one of the things you learn as marine is, you know, anytime you can take an opportunity to sleep or eat, you go ahead and do it because you never know. When you're going to get to do it again. And so so I tried to close my eyes and get a little bit of sleep. And I member from where I'm sitting in the vehicle looking up toward the front of the vehicle sergeant Rio was in the TC hatch area, and he's got his own little personal hatch that opens up and he can stand up out of that hatch and engaging with his weapon, and he was doing that. He was really kinda covering the left hand side of the vehicle since the turret was only really covering the right hand side. It is really loud inside the vehicle is really dark. I was a little bit of ambient light from a small little light. We had inside the vehicle, but I remember hearing someone yell and opened my eyes and looked up and it was on Tahoe. He was kind of the next in line in charge of below. Or spoil leaders are real corporate Taba was yelling. And I couldn't tell what he was yelling. I could just kinda see his lips moving in here meal and something because it's so loud in there. But then eventually I made it out to say certain reassess hit catching a quick nap in the middle of combat is a little easier when the war is outside. But all of a sudden the battle made its way inside. The amtrak. This wasn't just annoys a close. Call waiting to happen. Or maybe something you could move to the back of your mind. This was the war coming to call entering the relative safety of your light, armored vehicle and snapping foggy awake to the chaos and carnage all at once for a heist the reality of combat and the war in the Middle East. We're about to get a lot more personal. I wanna talk to you about care of of is a monthly subscription vitamin service that delivers completely personalized vitamin supplement packs right to your door. It works like this go to take care of dot com. 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There was a quote from the Faneuil Hawthorne, reminding me that happiness comes into gently only and today, I learned that some experts believe that the human eye can distinguish up to ten million colors. But for me, what it really is is a second of mindfulness taking a moment to think about something I otherwise might not have while trying to improve my health. Plus you can keep track of all your health goals with the care of app, which also helps remind you to take your supplement. If you've been thinking about starting a new health planner changing up your routine now is a great time to take advantage of this special offer for fifty percent off your first month of care of vitamins. Go to take care of dot com and enter this is war five zero. That's take care of dot com. And enter this is war. Fifty good habits can be hard to build care of can help keep you mindful of your health, go to take care of dot. Com and enter this is war five zero. Hi stepped awake from his light does in new. It was time to act minutes before he was being driven to his part of the war where he and the other engineers would do their own mission. But now that mission changed they had to react to the fact that sergeant Rios was wounded and deal with whatever came next as all the chaos of the invasion in the resistance exploded around them, we hold him back into our area, the vehicles more open area where the rest of us are all sitting and again, we have very little lie. But we're trying our best to find out where he's hit, and we're taking off all of his equipment and all of his gear found found out where the the wound is, and there's so much blood is just a lot of blood which made it hard made it hard to find out where the wound was and so eventually we did find it right below is right ear, and we knew that it was pretty devastating place to be shot. And the only thing you could really do was pressure to it. You know, we're taught a lot about. Combat life, saving and were turn it gets. But you can't but attorney get on a neck. They radioed for our Cormon. Course, he's in another vehicle, and so he's got to get out of his big when run to our vehicle. No, probably a couple hundred yards at least through the fire and then get into our vehicle and then try to work on reas. And I remember I was at the back hatch of vehicle where someone would come in or out. And I remember someone pounding on that back hatch and opened up, and it was our doc are Cormon plant Holloway. So Dakata hallway comes in? And he immediately starts working sorcery us. We tell him where the wound is. And he starts working on and trying to bring him back around because he was fading in and out of consciousness. So he starts working on him. And we're all just kind of watching. There's not really much that we can do someone else on the radio was working on a plan for us to meet up with an ambulance humvee. So that we could move sergeant Rios to that and a casualty collection point. So we met up at this kind of a t shaped intersection and by this time. Doc Holloway realized that he he couldn't bring ordinary us back. He just lost too much blood in that in that short period of time. And and he he was dead corporal Montalvo took command. But there still was so much to do. Remember the push into Baghdad his underway. There is no returning to base. In fact, there's really no base to which they might return they'd been sleeping in holes in the desert the night before highs and the rest of the unit headed to rendezvous with the ambulance humvee at the casualty collection point. So they could send Sargent Rios back home to his family and continue pushing forward where at this t shaped intersection there's two and three storey buildings around us were in the middle of some town not gonna I don't know the name of the town myself and the other security guys, we jump out of the vehicle, and we're kind of looking all the windows. Rooftops for anybody who might be shooting at us. And it's early quite right now, the guys that are carrying Oreos his body kind of carrying him in a in a poncho ladder sort of a makeshift stretcher, and they go to put him in the in the back of the ambulance v. And it's full of Ben. And wounded marines, and they can't they can't put him in there. So they gotta put him back in vehicle. It didn't take too long to understand that the only solution was to have choppers come into a vacuum. All the casualties. The best marines could do continue pulling security while they waited for support in the meanwhile, they were exposed during this lull in the fighting, but the quiet never lasts long and the marines knew it couldn't last much longer when the shooting started. Then they weren't completely surprised. We did start taking fire from an alleyway there in that that sort of t shaped intersection that we were at and so we're getting shot at at first. We don't know exactly where it's coming from. Everybody's kind of looking around. We just kind of here. The rounds ping around us abounding offer vehicles. Luckily, no one's hit. But then eventually I see this car at the end of this alleyway. I can see the muzzle flashes coming from the windows, and so I'll tell everyone else. Hey, you know, light up that car? And so we all start unloading on this car in a couple of minutes the firing stopped. And that was it that was other fighting going on around us adjacent streets that wasn't directly affecting us. But it was. You know, kind of added to the chaos, and I remember at one point the H one Cobres flying over in shooting some of their rockets to some of the houses around us. And that was that was pretty exciting. We kinda, you know, Shelton for them, you know, 'cause at the Calvary had arrived right after that happened and the firing kind of Dodd down. That's when the H Forty-six came in and landed on the street right there, and we were loaded up sergeant reassess body onto the helicopter along with the other dead wounded marines that were in that humvee, and then they took off and we got back in our vehicle and drove to wherever the next spot was that we were supposed to stop. They didn't dry for very long, but they drove fast high talks about bouncing around in the back there in the dark wondering what the next mission was going to be trying not to focus too much on Rios in retrospect, there might have been something of a hurry to catch up with the rest of the detachment which had continued on. Or maybe the speed was more related to the post firefighter Drennan either way when they reached their destination the engineers. Weren't going to get any breaks. We're all just kind of their client, you know, in our own thoughts until we finally stop. And when we finally stopped they opened up the top hatches. And then our back hatch is also opened and is the first time that the light is being let inside the vehicle, and we can kind of see everything that's happened. We can see the blood everywhere, and sergeant reassess gear and his his clothes that we'd cut off, you know, laying there, and that's the first time, you know, really all kind of sank in. You know, what just happened standing there at our back hatch? I remember seeing our platoon sergeant gunny flaming. And I remember him kind of looking in the door and making contact with each of us and also kind of setting the situation, and he knew what had happened, obviously, he had heard all the traffic on the radio. But it was his first time seeing it all as well. And and I remember him just saying get out and dig your fighting holes for a second. I remember being mad about that. Like, are you kidding me? I mean, do you know what just happened and on things as get out and dig your fighting holes, but later on looking back on it at realized, you know, he had a job to do in his job was to protect us. And he was doing that. For a reason he knew that for us to sit in there and look at that and dwell on. It was not good that we need to get out and get back to work, you know. But at the time it just after going through what we just went through. It just seemed like a and of a cold response. But I totally get it. Now in retrospect, and it was more than just teaching them. The put reaced death in the background for the time being it was a reminder that they were marines and combat and that there was no place for breastfeeding. When there was work to be done. And there was plenty of work for the engineers. They were attached to the first battalion fifth marines as it headed toward Baghdad with each object of the one five ruled through there were caches of weapons that needed destroying walls at needed breaching in those early days of pacifying the city but much like the initial invasion itself. Winning Baghdad wasn't the difficulty the US had worried it would be we got to one of Saddam's palaces right there on the river. And I remember they called for the engineers to get out and do their thing which was to breach the gate to the palace. And I remember we got out. And we were looking at it in one of the officers from one five was there with us. And he was asking us. Okay. What can you guys do and kind of explosives you're gonna use all this stuff? And I remember our machine gunner. Mitchell was his name, and I remember him just pushing the gate, and it just opened. So very well. Say palace is not just one building. It's really a walled compound with several buildings and these are big beautiful elaborately built buildings, but they've been bond like one half might be standing in the other half was just rubble. You could tell that. It was a nice place at one point. But it had been pretty well blown up, and you could also tell that it had been looted to a certain extent a lot of the furniture been taken out and air, conditioners, stolen and things like that. But in little pockets of resistance lift in the palace to that were shooting at us. They had to be cleared out ten days. After sergeant Rios was shot Baghdad fell in the marines were setting patrol basis and fortifying their positions highest and the rest of the engineers joined up with their company and DNA and started building semi permanent presence there. April turn to may. This Dom Hussein's statue was toppled President Bush made his mission accomplished speech aboard the ABRAHAM LINCOLN and on may tenth his nineteenth birthday heist. Was homeward bowed on the USS Anchorage. It was really really nice. My wife was there. She had driven out with her brother and got us an apartment and met me there in California. It was just felt safe. I guess for the first time in a while we didn't deploy again until February of four it seems normal now for marines to have these back toback deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. But at that time, it wasn't we expected to go over there for the initial invasion in two thousand three do our thing defeat Saddam, and then leave and for the army or the coalition to handle it from that went on. We didn't expect to have to go back there. We found out we were going back for that second tour. It was in our member it was in December of two thousand three we wound up leaving in February of Ford. Yeah. It was pretty upset. Whenever had to tell her that. I was going back for a second deployment. And by this time, the war had changed even on the ship ride home from their first tour, we could tell by watching the news that the war was shifting to into something else into an insurgency new in you were hearing already stuff on the news about insurgency. Although I didn't know what that meant. Exactly. But we can tell that. It was something different. We found out the area that we were going to was town called palooza. I'd never heard of Lucia didn't know where that was our do remember on the way over there. We were flying we stopped at a base in Germany, and we came across some soldiers armed gas who I think we're headed home from Iraq. And they asked us where we were going, and we sit flu I remember. They both looked at each other and looked back at us and said, and you guys be careful that places crazy by early April two thousand four operation vigilant. Resolve which would become known as the first battle of flu would be underway and really set the tone for the rest of the war in the years since the conflict began as heist it said. Things had shifted. And there was a different war being fought in the Middle East, a greyer war than anyone had expected with different rules and approaches and tactics. I have been surprised during his first deployment at how difficult. It was to tell the insurgents from the civilians arriving back in Iraq would find the difference was no clearer. In fact, if anything it was more cloudy. Bubbling over with Saddam loyalists and foreign fighters who had come into support the insurgency against the American and coalition forces skirmishes, increasingly where a problem and the enemy was learning to make better use of ID's bowl to disrupt the allied forces trying to take the city and to intimidate the nascent Iraqi army on the ground heist and the rest of the engineers were tasked with clearing ID's, and helping prop up the Iraqi army, you know, it was just kind of a fight waiting to happen. And you had some army there already and they had a few run ins with locals. It just was kind of breeding up to be this this really big fight. And it just so happened that it happened. When we got there at we were we replaced a group from the eighty second airborne while we were doing our left seat right seat. Within is win. The blackwater GAAS were killed. They were just driving through the city, and they were ambushed and they killed him in. They burn their bodies and drug into the streets and strung up hung. From a bridge there influenza. So that's that's when we had our a real out to what flu was going to be like, the blackwater contractors were killed on March thirty first and the response from the US was almost immediate ambushes or something to be expected during a war. But the audacity of the aftermath made a deliberate and significant response from the US military absolutely necessary. It was just unacceptable for the insurgency to have that kind of unchecked control over the streets. Flu had to be pacified either by the Iraq security forces or by the United States, the US planned in executed operation vigilant. Resolve the idea was take control of the city and disperse or destroy insurgent forces within it retaking fluids to be a joint effort that included a significant role for the Iraqi army our job into nears was kinda two part. We were going to build a bunch of machine-gun posts, we loaded on trucks drive them to the edge of the city and the Iraqi military they were going to man those and then the engineers we. We're going to splinter a into our squads and attached to our infantry companies, and basically be attached them throughout the rest of the operation. The you know, the morning operating was going to kick off we loaded them up. And we drove him to the edge of the city. We went under this trestle. The road starts curving around to the left, and we started unloading the bunkers it's dark. It's maybe two or three in the morning, and we start getting shot at from these houses across the road. And they're probably I don't know two or three hundred yards from us at this time, and I'm a machine gunner now, I'm assigned to the into forty machine gun, which is mounted on a Trump hod in the back of our vehicle with the bunkers and stuff. I've gotta stay there on the gun to provide security that was engaging the firing from the houses. So we're shooting at him. And remember at one point we were told to stop we were told to cease fire, which we didn't quite understand that ordered the time. But it's because they had a a c one thirty gunship overhead, and they were gonna use the AC one thirty to engage these houses. And so they did. So we ceasefire AC one thirty opened up which was awesome was like the fourth of July. And so he starts. Unloaded on these houses the shooting stops. I remember during the firefight. I can see the silhouette of a marine, and I don't know exactly what it is. Because I can't really make out his face or anything because it's still dark, but I see the silhouette of this marine running to my left and he's running toward the enemy. You know to get closer to them. He's running up to the edge of the road where the the ditch is where the road kinda roses up. And I remember wondering myself with was he doing he's by himself? He's not he's not a whole bunch of means just one a hurt call for a Corman, you know, in the Cormon go over there, and they're working on this guy and see him carrying him off a few minutes later in a stretcher, and I found out later that morning that that was or pulled Tyler Fe, he's a marine from our platoon, and I found out later that he did that he was shot through the neck much like real wasn't two thousand three and to make it even more weird. It was a year to the day the siege of losing through the potential for humanitarian disaster into sharp relief about a third of the town had been evacuated, but they were still an unacceptable number of civilians mixed in with the insurgents by me. May the siege would come to an end in the US would be planning operations phantom fury, which would kick off the second battle of flu later that year high and the rest of his platoon were withdrawn to village outside the city eventually back to their base, and then home once they're highs plan on getting married and closing at his days as marine stateside. But that wasn't gonna happen after coming home. We went home on our thirty day block leave that actually three of them means that were ima platoon 'cause they were only at the same time. One of them was Steven Hayes. The other one was Jerod Brown, and then just door knocker and Jerry Brown and just door knocker from West Virginia and Stephen Hazel from Kentucky so relatively speaking. They were close by to Tennessee. And so they came to the wedding. So that was cool and they were all in the wedding. So they got to see my family and meet them. And until then it was all just talk. We'd all swap stories about where we were from our our families. But now we're actually getting experience it with each other. And that was pretty cool. We went back to. California and our member Julianna flew back together and Jerod Brown met me at the airport in medicine airport and drove us back to our apartment. He said, hey, our company is not slated to go back until like, April may of oh six and he and I were both going to be getting out in like May June of six, and so we took that to mean that we probably wouldn't deploy again, because they, you know, they would they wouldn't send us over there with only a month left in our enlistment just to send us right back. So we thought will were good. I mean, we can just skate out the rest of this time. But after being back stateside for a few months, they realized that Charlie company was going to be going back to Iraq, much sooner. And they had a bunch of marine to getting ready to get out, and they wouldn't have enough time to deploy. So they they moved a bunch of the marines from Bravo company, myself, included and injured Brown. Lot of the other marines in Bravo company. They moved us over to Charlie company because we had enough time to deploy one more time. To to go with Charlie company. So I went back a third time with Charlie company. I remember that being pretty devastating news for both of us, especially when we thought that there wouldn't be a third, and then there was going to be if there was any upside at all to this third deployment, it was that high felt as if he were ready for it. He knew how things worked in Iraq. He had been in enough danger and enough gunfights than he understood how he would react under the pressure of battle. If anything it was the quiet. The bothered him the most I don't know if you ever really get used to it. It seems like to me always wound up being a little bit better after the shooting started to me. Some of the scariest times was always when you're driving into what you think is going to be a firefight. And then it doesn't happen or the those few minutes right before the firefight starts, your heart is pounding. And you just know that it could happen any minute something could happen. And it's just that's the most intense moment. But once it starts, you're training kicks in. And you just do exactly what you were trying to do. It's almost like you're on autopilot for me. That's when I tended to. Down. But it was those few minutes. It was at -ticipant leading up to it that was the worst. But the the part of a rack that we were going to also much different. We were going to Alcom Iraq, which is on the Syrian borders, extreme western Iraq. And it was known for these and my first deployments hadn't really had a lot of ID. So this was something totally new this time instead of relieving arm unit. We were leaving another marine unit. It was a a reserve unit with him. But I remember when we got there seeing the motor pool full of just blown up humvees and trucks. The engineer spent much of their time on mine clearing detail hunting and digging out ID's just convoys could make it in and out of their area of operation or a oh. And when they were heading out for patrols the marines. Founded just made more sense to cut a new road to the desert that to try and deal with the heavy main roads in that area but their day to day mission required. They walk along with a metal detector in front of the convoys looking for ideas, digging them up destroying them after a while. The frustration was. Palpable. We'd come across you'd you'd hear the paying, and you would just kind of gently starts sweeping Assad the dirt with your hands armor, this one time we came across an artillery round. And so we just kind of keep sweeping the dirt around from it. And we would find it was two or three artillery rounds. And they were all connected to a man-made or like a homemade pressure plate. Are remember thinking is found these things some jerk actually took the time to dig this hole and put this thing together and put it in here to kill me. And it became very personal to think about all the work that this person did or people did to go through all that work to kill me, and my and my fellow marines, and it just it just made you so mad thinking about the maliciousness. You know, eventually the company commander decided that enough was enough and executed a plan called opperations steel curtain a joint effort with the army Rangers. The mission's aim was to clear the outcome region of I eighty. Factories by establishing a network of operating bases clearing houses in ridding, the area of all the bombmakers, or at least of the bomb making material the operation wasn't as apprise though. And the insurgents were waiting. Fortunately, they got their timing around. We must have caught the enemy off guard. They must have expected us to go from east to west. But actually what we did is we went out to can't Gannon's on the western border. And we went from west to east kinda throw him off guard as we went through from house to house, they had basically rigged entire houses to blow. They would take artillery rounds, and they would stash two or three in corner of this room into three and a corner of that room in that room and just throughout the house. There might be ten or fifteen artillery rounds hidden throughout this house in the corners buried under rubble, and they had wired them all to one central detonator some kind of a like a cell phone or something like that. So they could just call it. And then blow the whole house up at once because they knew marines typically break down the door go in and clear the house room to room. And so they knew that they could wait till like a whole squad. Marines got in. There and detonate the whole house and kill every marine in that squad. All at once. So as we go in through these houses, we've found a lot of those that were rigged up in that way. But they weren't completed. They might get you know, seventy five percent of the way done. We did find some though that were completed our member that we were working closely with some army E OD goes, and they had one of those signal jammers, and as we were inside this house, and as we were finding all these are Tillery rounds in finding the detonator and really kind of putting the pieces together. I remember going out to their humvee to get some some explosive because we were going to basically blow up this house, you could see their signal jammer actively working it was actively blocking that signal as they were trying to detonate it while we were in that house. They were trying to blow up the house on us while we were in that activates what we call the pucker effect that really makes you onto your life. 'cause to just know that if that if that jammer hadn't been working, it would blow up the whole house and all of us in it. We got all the rounds up. And I think there were a total of fourteen. Tillery around this house. It was is a huge three story house inside the city. We worked together with the guys, and we blew it up. I can't tell you how many houses we found like that. At least ten but to see a whole house blow up like that was really impressive. And to know that we were able to catch it before it killed any marines was felt even better if he had been on the fence before the move to squeeze an extra deployment out of him confirm that heist was done as marine, but like a lot of young people who are single minded about joining the military. He didn't have a good sense of what life would look like after he'd become an engineer with an eye on getting into construction after his military career. And while he tried for a while after coming home construction just didn't hold much appeal everything that I looked at regarded agree of some kind. And so until then I really hadn't planned on going to college. It was never really on my radar. But I thought the GI Bill can't hurt to try a started going to a little community college close by I like school much better as a twenty two year old than I did as a teenager that. Daytime classes had more of your eighteen year old read the hassle of people. It was frustrating. Because a lot of them didn't really care, and you could tell they didn't care. They were only there because bond. Daddy, told him the had to be there and Bondi were probably paying for it too. And they were just there because they had to be much the same way I wasn't high school. But then also did take a lot of night classes to and the night classes, you didn't have as much of that you had a lot more of your working people pe- people like me who were little older who work during the day and went to school at night. And so that was kind of a different crowd. Isis experiences a common one and worth considering for just that reason after earning his degree. He took leadership positions in his church in communities learning to focus disciplined, endurance. He learned in the military as he reintegrated into civilian life. His promise to serve when there wasn't a war on hadn't been affected by the coming of war. Just as a commitment service lasted well passes time as marine situations may change, but the promise of service is enduring. Next time on this war as got turned around and the front of his face was missing. All he had was the bottom part of his jaw. And this guy was so on drugs. He took a knee reloaded as a K took three steps before he dropped. And we're like we thought we were fighting zombies. Are you a combat veteran or do, you know one with a story to tell reach out to us at stories at this is war dot com with your dates and branch of service, and a brief description of the experience that you'd like to share. This is war was written by me, Anthony Russo and produced by incongruity media, if you like to show you can help support us by visiting our sponsors or by leaving a five star review wherever you're listening right now, you can also follow us on social media at this is war.

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