8:55 | He was at sea when the 9/11 attacks occurred, then he was locked down at Camp Pendleton. Finally, Marine Bart Cole was given leave at home. Everybody knew there would be some action soon, and a deployment to Afghanistan was scheduled and then cancelled. Disenchanted, he left the Corps and went to college, but he felt left out.
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Bart Cole felt he was lucky to be doing his Marine basic training on the West Coast. He thought it compared favorably to wrestling, football and farm work and it didn't faze him a bit. He was impressed by the kind words for his family from the DI and that became a foundation for him. (Caution: coarse language.)
His first deployments took him to Egypt and up and down the US west coast. Then Marine Bart Cole undertook some training in special ops and at the thoroughly enjoyable Coronado boat school.
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.
Marine Reservist Bart Cole was called up and deployed to Iraq. After an uncomfortable stay in the deep desert, his unit was tasked with security around the Abu Ghraib prison complex. He found out why Marines were sent there, because they weren't Army. The Army ran the prison and was dealing with the abuse scandal, which caused a torrent of outrage.
He'd been in the Corps for quite a while, but Bart Cole had not yet seen any combat. That all changed on a highway in Iraq as he and eight fellow Marines were returning from a supply run. They drove up on a MP Humvee which was under an all-out assault by insurgents. He jumped from his vehicle and joined the fray. Part 1 of 3.
Bart Cole had stumbled upon some American soldiers in the process of being ambushed by Iraqi insurgents. He jumped up on their 50 cal and began firing at two Iraqi positions. He and his fellow Marines broke up the attack, which was short but intense, especially because it was his first firefight. Part 2 of 3.
A Major showed up after the firefight, surveyed the carnage and said to Bart Cole, "There were only eight of you?" He and his fellow Marines had just saved a group of Army MP's from being wiped out by insurgents. It had been his first taste of combat and it took a while for his mind to settle down. Part 3 of 3. (Caution: coarse language.)
The Marines were a security force for the exterior around the Abu Ghraib prison complex. Bart Cole was a squad leader who was experiencing the hate and discontent the abuse scandal had sparked in the populace. After a rocket and mortar attack killed some of the Iraqi prisoners, he was given a particularly morbid task.
Bart Cole had a Humvee blown out from under him. The squad leader wasn't seriously injured, but one of his Marines took a round and was evacuated. He wrote the man's family to offer support, something he learned from one of his mentoring sergeants.
Bart Cole's squad inherited some nice up-armored Humvees from the 82nd Airborne. He stenciled "US Marines" on them to distinguish his unit from Army units. They had some extra guns, but no mounts for them. Time for a little midnight requisition.
The insurgents used several vehicles as they were attacking the perimeter of the Abu Ghraib complex. The last was driven by a suicide bomber, but he was blown up before he could get anywhere. Bart Cole had to go collect what was left of the driver. A young Marine said he wanted to look inside the body bag. No, kid, you don't.
The bond is tight with the men in your unit and Bart Cole names and salutes several of his comrades. He recalls a mission which had them take up a position near a mosque. Suddenly, he heard movement in the dark.
What just happened to us? Bart Cole, along with many others, asked himself that question when he returned from Iraq. It was difficult to just absorb back into society. He stayed in the Marine Reserve and, eventually, his service was again needed overseas.
Squad leader Bart Cole had been there before, but many of the Marines with him in Iraq were on their first deployment. They were in Fallujah, which was supposed to be quiet, but wasn't. Vehicles were getting blown up at the rate of one a week, so they switched to foot patrols.
He figured he would die. He was a target everywhere he went and the MRE's were spoiled. Bart Cole made it out of Fallujah but not all the men in his squad did. He recalls a fellow Marine who reminded him of a character from Lord of the Rings.
Everybody loves Doc. The Corpsmen were universally popular and respected and Bart Cole had a couple of good ones in Iraq. He also grew to respect the rural Iraqis, who were only trying to scratch out a living like he had done, growing up on a farm.
Bart Cole was in the fourth grade when he wrote to the Marines and asked to join. He was a little premature, but during his senior year, he enlisted after a disappointing spring break.
Thermal imaging had been around for a while and Geoff Farrell was very familiar with it. GPS, however, was new and expensive, and no one was familiar with it. Both were integral to the swift victory in Desert Storm. Before his deployment he declined a dose of an experimental drug that was supposed to protect against chemical weapons and he wonders if that drug contributed to Gulf War Syndrome.
Bill Pearson had been to Vietnam twice and returned unscathed, but the Army wasn't done putting him in danger. He was assigned as an aviation consultant to Iran, advising the Shah's air force on it's supply of American aircraft. The day he arrived, martial law was declared and it wasn't long before there were mobs outside trying to burn down the building. The embassy was no help. Escape seemed impossible.
After his last tour in Korea, Jim Bolan was assigned to Special Forces. No volunteering needed. Everything was highly classified and they began training with no real system in place. Different units were then combined to form the 1st Special Forces Group, based on Okinawa.
After his Vietnam tours, Jake Jacobson served in Thailand and the Philippines, among other places, with different Special Forces teams. After almost thirty years of service, he retired, but was soon in Saudi Arabia training Bedouins. He didn't care for that job. (Caution: coarse language.)
It was a lousy assignment. Jim Bolan was one of the first Special Forces officers and, after Vietnam, he wound up in a training unit with no jump slot. Prodded by his wife, he went to Washington to dust off his most valuable inside contact, who was now the Army's Chief of Staff.
Bob Stewart was more nervous going to Vietnam than he was going into space the first time. You could get maimed in combat but in space you were either A-OK or completely gone. He made two flights on the space shuttle and, along with Bruce McCandless, made the first EVA with the new MMU, the Manned Maneuvering Unit.
After the Challenger tragedy, NASA mission specialist Bob Stewart returned to the Army where they made him a general. He worked at the Strategic Defense Command, a legacy of Ronald Reagan's SDI program. At some point the Army wanted him in Washington DC, at which point he promoted himself to ski bum.
He repaired radios in the Marines, but Norman Kling was now an electrical engineer working at McDonnell Douglas. When he tried to get his Marine Reserve commander to recommend him for a commission, the answer caused him to leave the Reserve.
Bob Stewart arrived in Houston as the first active Army officer to become a space shuttle mission specialist. After a year of classes, he was given a technical task, develop the shuttle's entry flight control system. The first flight was scheduled for two years out but he had to give management some bad news.
Returning Marine Norman Kling had his eye on college when he got home from the Pacific. He entered the electrical engineering program at Washington University in his home town of St. Louis. He had a soft spot for the Corps in his heart or maybe it was his head. Either way, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve.
After the battle, the men of the 2nd Armored Cavalry did humanitarian work for the Iraqi civilians, then it was time to return to Germany. For Geoff Farrell, a feeling of unreality set in on the flight home. How do you decompress from combat? At least those who fought in this war were not going to experience the humiliation that Vietnam veterans had faced.
Bob Stewart was walking on air. He just got a call from NASA that he was accepted as a mission specialist on the space shuttle program. He was going to be an astronaut, but first he had one more flight in his capacity as an Army test pilot.
When the cease fire was declared, American units had not yet reached Baghdad. In his command track, Geoff Farrell had the graphics on his screen to guide him right in, but it was decided we would not go. Looking back to that critical moment, he reflects on the decision.
Lt. Geoff Farrell was sleeping in the command track when he heard it on the radio. We were at war with Iraq. His armored cavalry unit crossed from Saudi Arabia into Iraq where they were greeted by friendly children in the middle of nowhere.
Some of his pilot friends were recruited by the airlines but Bob Stewart had other ideas. He became a test pilot. They got the money but he had the fun. He was instrumental in bringing the Apache and Blackhawk helicopters into the Army's fleet of airships.
Jake Jacobson had been to Korea three times and then spent a year in Japan with his airborne Pathfinder unit. After that tour and a short stint at the 82nd Airborne, he transferred to Special Forces. He was made a communications chief and assigned to Okinawa.
He considered it the finest education available. Geoff Farrell went to West Point, where he soaked up all the history and knowledge available there. He was assigned to Europe, where he patrolled the German border as Soviet Communism was dying. There was a brief period of jubilation when the wall came down, then they heard about Saddam Hussein.
The rumor was that the Iraqi's Soviet made tanks were superior to ours. Geoff Farrell had this on his mind while rolling across the desert to engage them. Just as they got near, a sandstorm came up. Then the Iraqi artillery began to fall. Then the first Iraqi tank was destroyed, shattering the myth.
It was a shakedown. Bob Ratonyi saw that he had to go off the trail and around the soldier collecting the money. Along with six others, he was making an attempt to escape communist Hungary after the brutal putdown of the Hungarian Uprising. He stumbled through the dark and found a group of peasants, but they were part of the operation, too. Part 4 of 4
They had prepared for the wrong war. Geoff Farrell's armored cavalry unit was going to the desert to confront Saddam Hussein, but their vehicles and uniforms were green and all their training was for fighting in European forests. Once they got to the staging area in Saudi Arabia, they adapted well.