4:08 | In just over a week, the city of Baghdad had been occupied by American forces. LTG Eric Wesley remembers the days following and the leadership shown to reinforce the Army's presence in Baghdad. Part 4 of 4
Keywords : M577 Armored Command Vehicle Baghdad Iraq Thunder Run Operation Iraqi Freedom incoming crater mortar command post (CP) leadership
LTG Wesley was deployed to Germany at the tail end of the Cold War where he was able to serve with the 1st Armored Division. He would have to sit out Desert Storm, but the experience gained during this time would be very valuable in the future.
We all remember that fateful morning of 2001, but it had a very different impact for those who would be going to battle as a result. LTG Wesley recalls the pivotal event and how Iraq was viewed before the invasion in 2003.
Preparations were being made in 2002 to move into Iraq, and LTG Wesley along with the Spartan Brigade were going to spend six months in Kuwait doing maneuvers. Anticipation rose as invasion seemed to be just around the corner, but it wasn't going to be like 1991's Desert Storm, this time they were going to Baghdad. Part 1 of 4
The time had come for the brigade to push into Iraq. Speed was the goal, but multiple challenges faced them including navigating the desert terrain and getting fuel to the tanks. LTG Wesley describes the strategic thoughts that went into pushing through southern Iraq on their way to Baghdad. Part 2 of 4
On the way through Iraq, LTG Wesley would have his first combat experience. Incoming fire as they moved through Iraqi villages generated plenty of adrenaline to carry them to Baghdad. However, their plan to siege the city was changed into something more difficult. Part 3 of 4
LTG Eric Wesley discusses some of the things he's learned about leadership and how good leadership can affect not only individuals, but large groups of people.
War has a huge affect on the psyche of those who experience it. LTG Wesley reflects not only on the horrors he's seen, but also on the compulsion that keeps people fighting.
LTG Eric Wesley discusses his upbringing and how he came to attend West Point. These are formative times for any young cadet, and Wesley recalls some of the big takeaways from his time there.
There was definitely a favorite song in the 3-4 Marines. As they waited to sweep into Fallujah, psy ops cranked up the loudspeakers and it was game on. Twenty years later, Josh Lipe reveals the name of the song and tells what it's like to be together with his guys once again.
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.
As part of the Marine Corps Security Forces, Josh Lipe's unit was assigned tasks such as guarding embassies and safeguarding nuclear fuel transfers. When the bombing range in Puerto Rico was reopened following the 9/11 attacks, they had to mix it up with some local protestors.
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)
The Marines were living in converted shipping containers and stuck with bad chew and bad Iraqi cigarettes. The desert cammies were filthy so Josh Lipe had his squad change into greens so they could wash them. This led to some incoming from a stiff First Sergeant. (Caution:strong language)
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.
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 9/11 attacks occurred, Josh Lipe was at Security Forces school in Chesapeake, VA. The base instantly went on war footing and students were put on guard with live ammo. Rumors were flying as the young Marines waited in suspense to find out if more attacks were coming.
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)
After the Blackwater contractors were killed in Fallujah, Josh Lipe's unit was part of the force assembled to clean up the town. He had a premonition about a friend in a different unit that he happened to see and it turned out to be true. When he had fought his way into the city and had a moment's rest, he got hold of a satellite phone and had a dramatic phone call with his mom. (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 Josh Lipe came to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, the unit was understaffed. They were going to go to Iraq shorthanded but there was no lack of spirit. While he waited in Kuwait to cross the border, he found out what night vision can do to star gazing. It was spectacular.
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.
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.
He was on patrol and running missions for a month in Fallujah and Josh Lipe was finally getting the benefit of all the training he had gone through. His squad was comprised of Marines that were straight out of central casting, some real characters.
Josh Lipe had a feeling they were headed into an ambush and he was right. He should have been OK. He was in the second truck and they usually tried to take out the first or the last, but in this IED attack, his truck was hit. The blast knocked him out and when he came to, he began to check on the rest of his guys. Their reactions when they saw him let him know haw badly wounded he was. (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)
He was raised by a Marine, so when Josh Lipe went off to boot camp himself, he knew exactly what to expect. He was amused instead of intimidated by the mind games but there was one problem. He injured his ankle and kept on going. That was a mistake.
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)
It finally caught up with him. Josh Lipe had gritted his teeth and kept going back in the School Of Infantry when he injured his ankle and foot. Now he had a bone spur that required surgery just as his unit prepared to deploy to Iraq. He was going to miss the deployment.
IED's were a growing problem in Iraq and Josh Lipe was alarmed at the piles of stones that he thought had something to do with the bombs. That turned out not to be the case, which was a big relief. He remembers a huge Iraqi truck stop on the trip north and he can still smell the bad diesel.
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)
He walked into the hospital at Al Asad under his own power but Josh Lipe was soon out cold for 36 hours. He'd been badly injured in an IED attack and was in a frenzy when he woke up. Take me back to my men! That was impossible and he was flown back to the US to recover. The transition was not easy. (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.
After recovering from his injuries, Josh Lipe was on the field to greet his unit when they returned from Iraq. He became an instructor in several areas, first in the Marine Corps and then in the civilian world. He'd nearly been killed by an IED but he felt sure he was saved so he could teach others.