Selected Iraq Stories


Photo by Rob Curtis, Army Times


Ready or Not


Army Times, August 2005


KHALIDIYAH, Iraq - It is possible that the 100 Iraqi army and police battalions in various stages of development could grow into a force capable of being an effective counterweight to the insurgents.

As U.S. trainers repeatedly say, the new Iraqi army doesn't have to be as good as the American Army, just better than the insurgents. But those insurgents are good enough to have bottled American forces inside fortified bases. U.S. troops venture forth only in convoys more heavily armed and protected than anything anyone envisions for the fledgling Iraqi army, whose current idea of an armored vehicle is a Nissan pickup with steel plates welded to the sides.

Read the story

'This Place Is Crazy'


Army Times, March 2004




FALLUJAH, Iraq - Even the guys who earned their Combat Infantryman Badges during seven months in Afghanistan and have been fighting here for six more get that look when they're told they're going on patrol in Fallujah.

It's the look you get when it's hard to swallow, when your jaw locks and your weary eyes reveal the resignation of grunts who've been ordered time and again to do what no reasonable person would do the first time.

"This place is crazy, that's for sure," said 1st Lt. Dennis Cook, 24, of Traverse City, Mich. Cook is a platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne Division, and he had just dumped two dead Iraqis in front of his battalion's tactical operations center on Forward Operating Base Volturno, three miles from downtown. The two had ambushed Cook on his way back to base, which is not that unusual except on this particular afternoon it was the second time Cook's platoon had been attacked and it came within sight of the base and its relative safety.

"This place is crazy," Cook repeated, in case you didn't get the message the first time.

Read the story

Last Patrol

 Army Times, March 2004
  MOSUL, Iraq - Modern wars come with soundtracks and as the scout platoon men dragged out of their racks in the pre-dawn chill of a recent Sunday morning, it was Lynyrd Skynyrd on the boom box:

"If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?
"For I must be traveling on, now, 'cause they're too many places I've got to see."

This scout platoon of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) had fought its way through the war and occupation without a single man killed. The men wordlessly strapped on body armor, web gear and weapons, fervently hoping that if they weren't moving on tomorrow, then maybe day after tomorrow. Their duffel bags were packed for home and they were suiting up for what was supposed to be their last patrol.

But these men have heard before they were going home. So on this particular Sunday morning, the men of the scout platoon approached the prospect that this was their last patrol with the paranoid caution of someone accepting a Christmas present that might be booby-trapped.

Read the story

Law in a Lawless Land


Army Times, March 2004


  NASSIR WA AL SALAAM, Iraq - Eerie. Surreal. Spooky. You pick the adjective. Before the war, the Iraqi Ministry of Trade warehouse complex was a grand place, eight football fields wide, 12 football fields deep, 30 beautifully engineered steel-framed warehouses, some of them longer than three football fields. An eight-foot wall surrounded the entire site.

Inside were wide, smooth concrete streets lined with fragrant eucalyptus trees befitting a place that stored not just food but all of the luxury items - refrigerators, air conditioners, televisions - reserved for the Saddam Hussein loyalists who populated what now is commonly called the Sunni Triangle. Some of those loyalists still pursue a war of attrition against Americans in this area immediately west of Baghdad.

But the combat inside this walled complex has nothing to do with rooting out those insurgents who almost nightly mortar and rocket American bases and place deadly bombs alongside roads. Instead, the warehouse complex is now one site in a battle to re-establish basic law and order, with troopers from the 82nd Airborne Division acting as the posse in a largely lawless region.

Read the story