9:13 | Doug Heckman had been part of the initial Special Forces leadership in Afghanistan and in 2005 he volunteered for Iraq. He and his men got their combat badges the very first day when an IED hit their convoy. He says the Iraqi people are like people anywhere and were very hospitable to him.
Between West Point and Ranger school, mind and body were as well trained as it gets. Doug Heckman valued those experiences as he deployed to Europe when Ronald Reagan faced off with the Soviets.
The surge was succeeding but at a price. Doug Heckman liked riding in the lead vehicle but was in the second one the day Captain Shawn English had the lead and took the brunt of the blast from an IED. This altered his view of how high the bar should be set for military commitment.
Doug Heckman returned for a second Iraq tour and chipped a golf ball into Saddam's lake at the Grand Palace on his birthday. This was the wrap up to a great career and he reflects on that and on the relationship between Americans and their warriors.
He rose early to play golf but the sight of the Twin Towers in flames changed his plans. Doug Heckman was a Green Beret in the reserve and he knew what was coming. Soon he was selected by Col. John Mulholland for the Special Forces team leading the mission in Afghanistan.
The logistical problems were monumental, but a few hundred Americans from a range of units and agencies ran the effort in Northern Afghanistan from a former Soviet air base in Uzbekistan. Doug Heckman describes the challenges the team faced in supporting the Northern Alliance and remembers Johnny Spann, the first American to lose his life in the war.
Doug Heckman's Green Beret A Team was a group of highly trained and experienced specialists. Their primary mission area was North Africa. He got to see Rommel's caves in the Sahara but felt the lure of a business career and pursued an MBA while staying active in reserve.
As Jason Wilebski's squad entered an Iraqi house, one of the Marines was shot. The Corpsman tended to him while the others fought on. The next day, a Marine was killed at the same house and that house was reduced to rubble. Then they were told to withdraw. Was it political? Part 2 of 2. (Caution: strong language)
Fallujah had been cordoned off and the supply lines for the Marines were stretched thin. Eddie Wright was in the lead vehicle of a convoy and he passed the word, it looked like they were going to get ambushed. Keep going, he was told. They should have listened to him. The fire started on the right side and then the whole world opened up. They were in a kill zone. Part 1 of 4. (Caution: strong language)
He grew up working on a dairy farm where there was always work to do but Jason Wilebski was now a Marine. The training made that feel like nothing. The pace was relentless as his unit prepared for the invasion of Iraq. (Caution: strong language)
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.
Every day, Jason Wilebski's squad had to escort some women who were the personnel that searched females for the Marines at their base in Fallujah. He told them to vary their route to work every day. They didn't listen. Later, at that same gate, a car was approaching and the driver wouldn't stop. Unfortunately for him, Ski had his shotgun with him. (Caution: strong language)
At first, the wounds were simple. A lot of frag wounds and Corpsman Joseph Poquiz was thankful. One day when he was on radio watch inside an abandoned house, an insurgent threw a hand grenade into the room. There were two Marines in there with him. He was the lucky one. He only had a concussion.
They train you to get out of an ambush by assaulting through it, if you can. That's exactly what Jason Wilebski and his fellow Marines did in the Iraqi town of Al Kut. It helped once thay figured out you had to milk the grenade before you threw it. Part 2 of 2. (Caution: strong language)
Interpreter Ali Alzubaidi was amazed at how warmly he was welcomed into his first American unit. Some of his family had just passed away but now he had a family of 150. He began to feel unsafe when he wasn't with them, however, especially after he got a threatening phone message.
When the vehicle hit an IED, Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz was in the doorway and took most of the blast. All he could think of as he looked down at his shattered body was how long it would take before he could get back to his buddies, but he was beginning a long road to recovery. (Caution: strong language.) Part 1 of 2.
The flash-bangs they got from the Navy were lousy but the new ones that replaced them were pretty good. Jason Wilebski used one to stop an Iraqi on a tractor who just wouldn't stop coming. When he and his squad would go investigate reported explosions, they just might find a horror show awaiting them. (Caution: strong language)
Shock and Awe was really working. By the time Jason Wilebski rolled into Baghdad, the Marines had broken and smashed a lot of stuff. Soon, the statue of Saddam was toppled and children were giving them flowers. By the time he left Iraq, children were giving him something else. (Caution: strong language)
A huge sandstorm kept the Marines buttoned up in their vehicles for hours. After it cleared, they rolled into the town of Al Kut, where the enemy had an ambush set up. SAW gunner Jason Wilebski and Company made them wish they had not done that. Part 1 of 2. (Caution: strong language)
His father was an Air Force medical officer and would take him out on morning runs. That's where Eddie Wright saw his first Marines. They were running in formation and he thought they were just the best. He would be a Marine. (Caution: strong language)
When he pushed into Iraq, Jason Wilebski was part of the Marine infantry attached to a tank unit. At first, he could only hear the sound of the building battle as he rode in a sealed up Amtrac. When he dismounted, he saw a couple of Cobras take out some Iraqi tanks. It was a dazzling display of firepower. (Caution: strong language)
After being seriously wounded in an ambush, Eddie Wright was getting tended to by the Corpsmen and waiting for a helicopter. When it arrived, his stretcher was put aboard, then another. On it was his platoon commander, who was white as a ghost. Part 3 of 4. (Caution: strong language)
For a third time, Jason Wilebski deployed to Iraq, this time as a squad leader. He and his Marines were angry that they had been pulled back the last time they were there because they felt they could have finished the job. One thing that was different this time, there were a lot more IED's. (Caution: strong language)
They got hit every day in Fallujah. When they were lucky and back at the base, they still got rocket and mortar fire. Eddie Wright was part of a small team of Marines who was there as the Awakening began. Iraqis had learned that ISIS was a much worse enemy than the Americans. How did we get to this point? Someone derailed a good plan. (Caution: strong language)
No matter what you think about a conflict, you should support the troops who fight it. That's the message Jason Wilebski wants people to remember. He pays respect to the leaders and grunts he served with and reveals what music they were listening to while breaking up stuff in Iraq.
It was great to have a Spectre gunship overhead. Jason Wilebski really appreciated the cover from the air as he fought on the ground in the Iraqi town of Karmah. His unit was taking sniper fire from a mosque but there was a solution for that. (Caution: strong language)
Three times around in Iraq and Jason Wilebski was ready for a calmer experience. His next assignment wasn't that calm, though. It involved a lot of live fire training. He was one of the trainers, known as coyotes.
There was a lot of military service in Jason Wilebski's family. By the time he got to high school, he was sure he wanted to be something special, maybe a Navy SEAL. One of his buddies had enlisted in the Marine Corps and began to sell him on that angle.
He was just about finished with high school and set to enter the Marine Corps. Then, one day, Jason Wilebski was walking down the hall and saw people gathered around a television. A plane had hit the Twin Towers. America had been attacked and he felt a new urgency to get to those yellow footprints in San Diego.
When he found out he was assigned to Twentynine Palms, new Marine Jason Wilebski began to be regaled with horror stories about the place. "It was 130 degrees and they were throwing beer bottles at us," claimed one of his instructors, describing his arrival there.
During his second tour of Iraq, Jason Wilebski was part of a raid platoon. Their mission was to hit locations of IED makers and high value targets. Then came the push into Fallujah, where he and his fellow Marines fought house to house and collected AK's. Part 1 of 2. (Caution: strong language)