Les Patterson’s Monday Morning Boost: The Boys of Bravo Battery, Part 1

  • Most came home from war. Some didn’t.

    Sergeant 1st Class Ronald Tanner Wood was one of them.

    SFC Ronald Tanner Wood standing guard during the FOB Dibis Transfer Ceremony to the Iraqi Army.

    July 16th marked the tenth anniversary of the day Ron Wood was killed in Iraq. I would like to share a little bit of Ron’s story, and the story of the Boys of Bravo Battery, who I was honored to be a part of. Today is Part One.

    Bravo Battery part of the 1/148th Field Artillery Battalion  of the Utah Army National Guard out of Logan and Brigham City. We were part-time soldiers who left our homes and families in July 2004 to deploy to Iraq.

    Our first stop was Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. We spent a few weeks in the Texas desert for additional combat training as we converted our skill set from Field Artillery to Infantry. In September we transitioned to Fort Polk in Louisiana where we put all we had learned into practice, and discovered just how much we still had to learn.

    We finally arrived in the Middle East in November 30, 2004. We staged in Kuwait before “crossing the berm” into Iraq mid-December. Our first area of operation was at FOB MacKenzie, a Forward Operating Base outside the city of Ad Dhuluiya just north of Bagdad in the Samara Region.

    Specialists Joe Acre and Gage Poulson receiving their Purple Hearts after being wounded several months earlier.

    Within just a few days of our arrival we experienced the harsh realities of war. Two of our soldiers, Joe Acre and Gage Poulson, were wounded when insurgents attacked their convoy with an RPG, a shoulder mounted Rocket Propelled Grenade. Fortunately, their wounds were minor and they were able to return to duty in a short time.

    Purple Hearts are one medal no soldier wants to receive. Ever.

    Our senses heighten, we continued our mission as December rolled by cold and wet. Christmas came with the blessing of talking with family, though cards and packages from home had yet to find us. They wouldn’t catch up to us for a couple more months. Christmas personally brought me the gift that opened my eyes and touched my heart. I’ve shared previously the story of the Iraqi shepherd who gave me the gift of realization that not every Iraqi was out to get us.

    Iraqi Citizen showing off her Purple Finger after voting in Iraq’s first ever free election on January 31, 2005.

    http://www.onemarinesview.com/one_marines_view/2005/10/looking_good_as.html

    We prepared to part of the historical first-ever free elections in Iraq as we transitioned into the New Year. On January 30, 2005, the Iraqi citizens turned out in droves to let their voices, and their votes, be heard. You may recall the “purple fingers” proudly sported by Iraqis as proof they voted. 

    The next day we packed up our gear, loaded up our Humvees and trucks, and headed north into the Kurdish Region of Iraq. Our unit split in two at that point, half going to Sulaymaniyah northwest of Kirkuk led by Commander Darcy Burt and 1st Sergeant Kevin Martinez. The other half, which I was part of, went to Dibis northeast of Kirkuk led by 1st Lt. Erick Wiedmeier and Sergeant 1st Class Rick Harley.

    Our small base in Dibis was the former summer vacation home of the notorious Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as Chemical Ali for his role in the use of chemical weapons to kill ethnic Kurds. Situated on the banks of the Little Zab River, a tributary of the Tigris, our base seemed a beautiful and quiet oasis from the hectic pace we left.

    For the most part, our time in Dibis was relatively peaceful. Much of our time was spent training the Iraqi Army and patrolling the cities, villages and roads. We worked to get to know the local citizens, offering humanitarian aid, including medical clinics and water wells. We worked with the local government including our commander regularly attending city council meetings.

     

    My friend “Mr. Kabob” making me a kabob at FOB Dibis, Iraq.

    One regular bright spot was provided to us by “Mr. Kabob,” a local contractor who helped with projects on and off base. He earned his affectionate nickname by grilling kabobs for our entire crew every couple of weeks. Mr. Kabob told me it was his way of giving back to the Americans who gave so much to his country. Mr. Kabob and I developed a unique friendship. He personally touched my life by surprising me with two ceremonial outfits his wife made for my daughters, Rebecca and Leslie, who were 9 and 7 at the time.

    There was one stark exception to the peace in Dibis. The oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing the Kurdish region above ground were often a target of insurgents. When an IED was discovered we would cordon off the area to keep civilians and military safe. An EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) Team would then come in to dismantle and dispose of the explosive. Not long after we arrived in Dibis one of the pipelines exploded creating a massive fireball we could see from our base several miles away. On another day, a complex IED had been discovered on an oil pipeline. The Northern Oil Company of Iraq lost a four-man EOD team that day when a secondary IED went off while they dismantled the primary. It was a blunt reminder of the many people paying a high price for the cause they believed in.

    With Junea and other Iraqi school children during an Operation Crayon mission in northern Iraq.

    While preparing to deploy to Iraq, our battalion chaplain, a Catholic Priest from Idaho, encouraged us to find out our reason for going. “Uncle Sam has ordered you to go,” he said. “But you need to find your own reason.” His purpose became the hope of being a small part of creating a more peaceful world for the children of his parish.

    My reason for deploying found purpose in Operation Crayon. Working with donated school supplies from our local Cache Valley community, we reached out to make a difference in the lives of the Iraqi children. Operation Crayon allowed us to generate wonderful smiles on the children and some goodwill with their parents.

    When we would pull into a village, often one very impoverished, the children would come running up, shouting, “Mister! Mister! Chocolatte! Chocolatte!” To them, “chocolatte” meant candy of any kind. They loved the desks we provided, the crayons, paper, and pencils, and the candy of course. Soccer balls, “football” to them, were the requisite favorite.

    The young girl standing next to me in the picture above is Junea. Of all the children we met, Junea is the one I’ve deliberately remembered, hanging on to the hope our time in her country made a better life for her and her family. Despite all that has happened in the last ten years, and the turmoil Iraq is in today, I have not lost that hope.

    Iraqi soldier saluting as the Iraqi Flag is raised over the FOB Dibis during the Transfer Ceremony.

    An Iraqi Iman meditates before offering a chanting prayer at the FOB Dibis Transfer Ceremony.

    We wrapped up our mission in Dibis on May 30, 2005. On that day we turned over the Dibis base to the Iraqi Army in a dignified Transfer of Authority ceremony. Local and military dignitaries spoke, a Muslim Imam prayed, and Iraqi school children sang. I watched in honor an Iraqi soldier smartly and with dignity salute the rising of his country flag.

    Iraqi interpreters Emad, Jamie, and Ayad provided translation at FOB Dibis Transfer Ceremony.

    Our communication with the Iraqi people was greatly aided by local Iraqi interpreters. Emad, Ayad, and Jamie were three of who worked with us, often at personal risk to themselves and their families. Emad Salai and I became close friends. We came from different worlds and cultures, yet found a brotherhood of love and respect. We are still brothers today, and still keep in touch.

    We transition from Dibis and Sulaymaniyah to the city of Kirkuk. At this point we were back together as a full unit. Our mission remained much the same as before, patrolling cities, villages and securing the roads and highways. We also picked up the “Hey You” mission, meaning whenever the higher up brass needed something done we were there to do it.

    We didn’t always like the “Hey You” missions, but we did them. That’s what soldiers do. That’s what Ron Wood and the 3rd Platoon were doing July 16.

    Tune in next week for Part 2 of the Boys of Bravo Battery.

    Have a great Monday. Thanks for letting me share.

    p.s. Take 15 minutes today to remember those who serve today.

    Author’s Note: Whenever one attempts to share a piece of history, that history will always be shared through the eyes of the author. Stated facts are given as best as I can recall or support through my personal journals, notes, and pictures. All pictures were taken by me except where noted.

    Les Patterson loves to share stories and the “Monday Morning Boost” is his way of sharing a story or two with family, friends, and clients. Les believes every person, business and organization has a story worth sharing. Since 1997 he has enjoyed finding compelling ways to share those stories through writing and producing radio commercials at the Cache Valley Media Group. Discover how he can help tell your story at www.CacheValleyMediaGroup.com. Feedback and comments are welcome at les@cvradio.com. ©2015, Les Patterson. All Rights Reserved. To UNSUBSCRIBE, reply to this email with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line and your email will be removed.