5:34 | The Iraqi insurgents would often set a new device in an existing crater on the road and pave it over to look like a road repair. Dale Beatty was in a Humvee escorting a fuel convoy and he was aware of this tactic. When he spotted one of these patches in the road, he instructed the driver to go around, but this turned out to be the wrong move.
Keywords : Dale Beatty Iraq patrol Fallujah Iraq convoy Improvised Explosive Device (IED) mine Humvee medic morphine amputate
He joined the same National Guard unit that his father had joined. Dale Beatty wasn't ready to leave his North Carolina home, but the guard offered a taste of military life, even deployments during weather emergencies.
National Guardsman Dale Beatty was at work when he saw the 9/11 attacks unfold on TV. He knew immediately that he would be going to war soon. That was confirmed when he was sent to California for desert training. After further training at Fort Bragg, his unit readied to deploy.
His National Guard unit was activated, trained and deployed, and Dale Beatty was on his way to Iraq. Nothing had prepared him for what he experienced when the ramp dropped on the plane and the heat and the smell of the desert engulfed him. As he moved from Kuwait into Iraq, he looked over the civilians around him in his convoy. Are these the guys who are going to shoot at me?
As Dale Beatty's truck convoy moved through the southern Iraqi desert, he encountered crowds of children begging for food and water. The soldiers were instructed not to throw them anything, but when a father sees children in need, the rules sometimes get overlooked. As he moved into populated areas, the begging turned to selling.
It was an old Iraqi Air Force base in northern Iraq that the Americans settled into and began to fortify and improve. Dale Beatty noted the grass and trees near the base and they gave him the idea that maybe they were far enough north to avoid the heat of the desert. He was wrong. The base kept taking fire from the surrounding area, so patrols were started to find and eliminate the threat.
Within four days of being injured in Iraq, Dale Beatty was at Walter Reed hospital in Maryland where his wife was waiting. During his recovery, he was inspired by the actions of those who helped him to do something himself to help other wounded veterans.
Though he was severely injured in Iraq, Dale Beatty has no animosity towards anyone. He acknowledges the good leaders that he had in the Army, who all shared one important quality which he tried to emulate, and he shares an experience he had in an Iraqi family's home that gave him a sobering perspective on our mission there.
He'd come a long way from those early months of the Iraq war. Ken Preston recalls welding steels plates in the doors of Humvees to make "hillbilly armor." When he became Sgt Major of the Army, he was able to help improve the quality of the equipment in the field. Not only that, more child development centers were built for Army families to improve their quality of life.
He put his mechanical expertise to work in Afghanistan for Halliburton KBR, but Robert Walton returned to the Army with the Georgia National Guard and prepared to deploy to Iraq. He had grueling desert training in California, and then encountered an NCO who set his mind straight.
Now the story can be told. Charlie Moua tells about the time he left his weapon behind. Fortunately he had a friend back there to take care of it. He was in a support position but it was still embarrassing. The chow wasn't great but sometimes you got to eat at a nearby base that was luxurious by comparison.
He was a troubled youth, but Robert Walton thought his life might turn around in the Army. His GED wouldn't get him on active duty, but the National Guard was an ideal starting point. He was a talented mechanic, so he came in as a heavy equipment mechanic with an engineering company.
He returned from his Iraq deployment a little early to care for his wife. This allowed Larry Draughn to take on a role he relished. He got to welcome new Marines to the battalion and show them the ropes before the rest of the unit returned.
A big priority for Ken Preston, the 13th Sgt Major of the Army, was helping the families of service members who were being pressed into longer and longer deployments. The armed forces were being stretched thin. In 2009, he was asked to come to the White House to brief the President from the enlisted perspective and he was able to voice his concerns at the highest level.
His company won a shooting competition which meant they could attend the Bright Star exercises in Egypt. Thomas Wells was packing to leave when he got new orders. The unit was going to Iraq and they only had thirty days to train up on all new equipment.
Charlie Moua and the rest of his company were lucky. The heat might have gotten to them but they all came back from Iraq intact. He was in supply and logistics but he had his time manning the 50 cal and performing security.
He had a lot of military in his family. High school student Larry Draughn was thinking about a possible military future but after the 9/11 attacks, the likelihood increased. Sure enough, he enlisted in the Marines after he graduated.
On his second deployment to Iraq, Charlie Moua was based near the Syrian border. It was relatively uneventful, but there were losses and he pays tribute to the fallen every Memorial Day. He thought about reenlisting but decided to pick up his life where he left off after 9/11.
When his unit returned from Iraq, there was a big ceremony and formation with families waiting. Thomas Wells had no one there, but he had a great homecoming when he finally got to Omaha. He regards the men he served with as heroes and hopes they feel the same about him. (Caution: strong language.)
What did they do during down time? As in every war, young men looked around for something to drink. Thomas Wells laughs as he recalls what they came up with. Since it was the dawn of the digital age while they were in Iraq, they had a lot of music and movies on personal media.
Looking back on Iraq, Ken Preston recalls how limited the communications were, with very few satellite units to go around. There was internet for the troops, which was not the case in the previous war. Daily communication with home has it down side, though.
Going from the National Guard to active duty was difficult for Robert Walton. First, they wouldn't count his Guard experience toward promotion. Then, there was an abusive NCO. He had some good training experiences in Egypt, but, when his term was up, he went to work for Halliburton KBR.
A lot of technology has changed, but to an old tank master gunner like Ken Preston, it still comes down to that last hundred yards on the ground, force to force. Getting to that point has been aided greatly by GPS technology, something that helped tremendously in Iraq.
During Robert Walton's first deployment to Iraq, the soldiers' hands were not yet tied by the government. They were freely able to eliminate threats. He lost his first friend in a Bradley rollover accident. He was in the vehicle and it was his first big scare.
After the war in Iraq shifted from a conventional war to an insurgency, intelligence became very important. That and up-armoring vehicles to protect them from the enemy's favorite weapon; the Improvised Explosive Device or IED. Compounding the problem was a lack of disposal teams. For V Corps Command Sgt Major Ken Preston, it was a difficult fight with a steep learning curve.
The power plant was supposed to be clear, but when Robert Walton was walking through, he heard voices nearby and they weren't speaking English. It turned out to be not much of a threat. What was a real threat in Iraq was the huge amount of munitions stockpiled by the insurgents to use in IED's.
As the length of deployments increased, lessons were learned about how service members went through the process of reuniting with their families. Sgt Major of the Army Ken Preston explains how it was a mistake to go immediately on a vacation.
When he landed in Iraq, Mike Pickrel felt like he was in a very unpleasant place. It was hot and it smelled bad. He was in a tight knit Cavalry unit which was immediately poached for manpower, so they would face their assignment shorthanded.
Why would you volunteer for a fourth combat tour? For Robert Walton, one reason was the illogical world of civilian hiring. He possessed many qualifications and certifications, but they weren't good enough because they were in a military setting.
Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom Nate Winkler looks back with pride on the job he and other service members did in that war. However, he's unsure about the lasting value of it, similar to how older veterans feel about their service in Vietnam. He is sure of one thing, the lessons he learned in the Marines guided his life and made it more successful.
It was never part of the plan to go into urban areas. Ken Preston describes how American forces wound up occupying and patrolling Iraqi cities once Saddam was ousted. He was in V Corps HQ and found an excellent base of operations to use; one of Saddam's palace compounds near the Baghdad airport.