7:14 | Zach Pena recalls his time in Iraq and feeling like he was ready to come home. He remembers coming home to a greeting from a lot of other veterans and feeling welcomed.
Keywords : returning home greetings IED(Improvised Explosive Device) plane family leave
While transitioning into Iraq from the States, Zach Pena had a lot to accustom to after he first arrived. Taking advice from some of the senior guys helped him to get a sense for the conditions they would be facing.
Zach Pena remembers some of the devastation and weapons caches filled with a huge variety of deadly items, from top of the line US TOW missiles to WWII hand grenades, that he saw in the Iraqi countryside. While patrolling the desert, anything goes and once things start to happen, your training immediately kicks in.
While at the hospital of Al-Asad Air Base, Zach Pena faced his first mortar strike. Since he was recovering, he had to think quickly in order to make it to safety. Once he returned to combat, they were doing a lot of vehicle checks and so he had a lot of interesting civilian interactions.
Zach Pena remembers growing up in a military family and experiencing 9/11 and feeling the desire to join the military.
Zach Pena tells about the type of machinery that he handled while training for combat. While transitioning to his next station, his company got sent out to the deserts of California.
Zach Pena remembers getting the call to go to Afghanistan after President Obama called for an increase in troops. While there, their duties were a little bit different but with a similar mission of securing the area.
Zach Pena remembers some of the most inventive IEDs that his platoon came across as they patrolled the Afghan desert. After one particularly hairy encounter in the desert, his platoon had to secure the area and make it back to safety.
Due to the prominence of poppy, Zach Pena and his platoon found many inventive ways that the plant was hidden. After he got a lower GI infection, Pena was almost unable to return home with his platoon, but fortunately mustered the strength to go home with his friends.
Coming back to civilian life, Zach Pena found his time at University of Tennessee to be a smooth transition. Coming back to civilian life can bring some hurdles but he was able to excel at his new challenges and came out for the best.
After his second tour was done, so was he. Kyle Wise was pretty torn up. He had a traumatic brain injury, bad migraines and significant problems with his legs that required surgery. He has gotten some relief with acupuncture that has reduced his need for some of the many medications he has to take each day.
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.
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.
The training was accelerated. The counterintelligence school was getting National Guard elements ready for whatever would come after the 9/11 attacks. Kyle Wise was getting good at the trade craft, thanks to instruction from a legendary figure in the intelligence community.
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.
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.
Former Marine Kyle Wise was looking to get back into the military, but it seemed no one would let him keep his one stripe from the Corps. The Army National Guard was the one option that let him retain the rank so he joined and became a counterintelligence specialist. The attacks on 9/11 accelerated the training for everyone.
As soon as American forces entered Iraq, Ali Alzubaidi wanted to work with them. He had long dreamed of a free Iraq and he had studied English, so he set out to become an interpreter. The troops loved him because they had no connection to and little understanding of Iraqi culture. It was difficult for many Iraqis to accept them because of American policy toward Israel.
As part of a Military Intelligence unit, Kyle Wise wore civilian clothes, was always armed and was part of the only outfit allowed off base in Kuwait. Sometimes his missions took him into Iraq. Sometimes he was acting on bogus information provided by a civilian, who was after either money or prestige.
Ali Alzubaidi knew that the Iraqi Army had terrible morale and would collapse quickly when the Americans invaded. He was disgusted when he saw his fellow countrymen looting everything in sight. He pleaded with a US Marine to stop them, but the Marine could not.
After final training in some questionable facilities, Kyle Wise deployed to Kuwait with a Military Intelligence component of the Georgia National Guard. His unit was responsible for all security screening of individuals and for any investigations that became necessary.
It was called Logistical Support Area Anaconda and it was huge. Kyle Wise couldn't believe it. On his previous tour in Iraq, he had been stationed in small facilities. This place had neighborhoods. One thing was the same, the heat. But this time around, there was at least a little more air conditioning.
Ali Alzubaidi grew up near Sadr City in Iraq. He heard stories about the war with Iran initiated by Saddam Hussein, who was insulated from the populace with multiple layers of security. During that war, people were still doing fine economically, so there was not yet resistance to the brutality of Saddam.
When he finally joined his intelligence unit in Iraq, the teams had been reworked and sent to the units they were supporting. Kyle Wise was then sent to a brand new team where, although he was only the assistant NCOIC, he was clearly the most experienced agent.
Ali Alzubaidi was a pre-teen when Operation Desert Storm began and the sky was filled with American weaponry. People were terrified until they realized the accuracy of the weapons systems was sparing them. Afterward, the economy got very bad and, as he began college, it was hard times.
Kyle Wise has one piece of advice for all veterans. Seek out other veterans and talk to them. Use the organizations that are out there, like the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion and the like, to connect with your peers and contemporaries.
It was on a modest black and white television that Ali Alzubaidi saw footage of the 9/11 attacks. What did it mean? Who was behind it? As American forces began to deploy around the world, including the Persian Gulf, he began to be optimistic that Saddam Hussein's time would come to an end.
His first night at FOB Warhorse, counterintelligence agent Kyle Wise was looking for where he was supposed to bunk. He had his laptop bag and his M-16 slung over his shoulder and was walking along, minding his own business, when he heard the challenge word. What? Why here in the middle of the base? Then he heard a .50 cal charged.
Of the three religious groups in Iraq, only the Sunnis were favored by Saddam Hussein. The Shia and the Kurds were second class or worse. Ali Alzubaidi explains that there were many who were not afraid to resist, but the threat of harm to their family members made them hesitant.
It was during a firefight in Afghanistan that his head had a chance meeting with the grill of his truck. Kyle Wise was knocked out for a minute but he gathered himself and returned to the business at hand. When he was being retired, he found out that the injury was Purple Heart eligible.
From 2003 until 2008, Ali Alzubaidi served as an Iraqi interpreter for American troops. Then he heard about the possibility of emigrating to the United States and that was it. He settled in Colorado with his wife and even enlisted in the Army, where he served for eight years.
While he was training up for his second big deployment, Kyle Wise began having some trouble on the gun range with blurred vision. This was just the beginning of some strange health problems that would cause his unit to leave without him.
It was miserable in the desert in Kuwait. Chris Tucker gave an earful to a visiting general when he innocently asked, "How's it going?" His superiors got nervous, but he actually had a good conversation with the officer, who answered his probing questions.
When he shipped out in 2001 with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Bart Cole got to visit some interesting places. Thailand was the hands down favorite. Back in Hawaii, a special cruise with family members was loaded up and got under way and it was during this excursion that Sep.11 dawned at sea.
Kyle Wise had already been to Iraq and Afghanistan with his National Guard Military Intelligence unit. When another deployment was imminent, he went to Fort Dix for more training where he noticed something odd. Hardly any of the instructors had any patches that indicated combat experience.