4:57 | LTC Garnet Derby was killed when a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle, also taking 3 other soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter. Brett Stroney recalls the incident and the memories of LTC Derby.
Brett Stroney was just a high schooler on the day of the 9/11 attacks. He recalls the sense of duty that led him to consider the United States Military Academy as America entered the Global War on Terror.
In 2008, Brett was en route to Kuwait where they would stage for their tour in Mosul, Iraq. He remembers the distinct feeling of unfamiliarity as he arrived in-country.
One of the memorable events in Iraq for Brett Stroney actually happened back home when President Barack Obama was elected.
The long hours often faced by servicemen and women weren’t just in the field, as Brett remembers a mission to apprehend a high value target that led to a full day’s worth of administrative work.
Coming home from Iraq was a memorable experience, and Brett describes how that has changed since.
After his platoon time had ended, Brett made a big move and opted to go for an assignment to Special Forces. He describes the process to even be selected and the sorts of highly experienced people that were also applying.
Brett Stroney spent about two years training to be a member of Special Forces, and now he was deploying to a new battlefield, Afghanistan. He explains some of the noticeable differences between the war there versus in Iraq.
Brett’s experience in Afghanistan was not one of little consequence. He remembers the higher stakes of their mission there.
Leadership is such an important part of being in Special Forces, but Brett recalls the high level of professionalism amongst the senior members.
Brett Stroney had an assignment to El Salvador to assist local forces in fighting back narcotics trafficking. This inter-agency work gave him a new appreciation for the DOD, as well as working closely with other countries and learning their culture. Things he learned in Iraq and Afghanistan gave him better insight into how to assist the Salvadorans in their efforts.
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)