[June 28, 2023] I arrived at The Boathouse in Baghdad, Camp Victory Base, eager to get into the war. Mid-year 2006 was the beginning of the fourth year of the war, and things were going badly for the Coalition. This tour would be when I lost 13 of my good friends on the battlefield, but I didn’t know it yet. Unsurprisingly, their loss still haunts me today.
I was assigned to what is called a “fighting corps,” the highest military organization directly responsible for fighting the battle. I would again be part of III Corps (based out of Fort Hood, Texas). The fort’s name was recently changed to Fort Cavazos at the direction of “woke” bureaucrats in the Department of Defense.
Arriving in Baghdad by a C-130 Air Force cargo plane that Monday afternoon was perfect timing. Newly assigned to the Corps engineer staff, I got to work immediately. Because I would be responsible for all construction throughout the country, I needed to establish my network with haste. Good quality, reliable networks are how you get things done. Ordering people around, particularly those of your same rank does not work.
I met my new boss, a one-star General who gave me a big welcome, and we’d served together previously in Iraq as Army Engineers. Right away, I went to see the Corps’ money man (C-8), the Country-wide contracting officer, KBR’s top man (contracted U.S. civilians), the JAG officer, the C-4 Logistics Officer, and the Chaplain; I was going to need some serious higher spiritual help for what I was about to get into.
Years after the war, I had a buddy who was having trouble with a strong case of PTSD ask me, “What the heck were you thinking, going back into combat so soon?” Frankly, I’d not given much thought to it. I was single, had no girlfriend, lived alone just off base, and had a few friends I liked, but something was still missing in my life. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Yes, I was busy with work as a full bird colonel, working 60 hours a week, often much more, plus traveling across the nation for the Army.
Looking back, I think maybe I was emotionally numb. I’d returned from Iraq in early 2005, which was unknowingly affecting me somehow. I felt little emotion except for wanting to do more and be more. And, now, with a year under my belt in combat, I had the experience to “get ‘er done.” Furthermore, I had a complete lack of fear. Now that was intellectually scary. When the mortars, rockets, and bullets are flying, and there is no fear, these can be a risk-prone, dangerous, stupid, and deadly combination.
I knew I could do the job I’d been assigned; Facilities Chief of MNC-I. Hands down, I knew more about military engineering planning, design, funding, the construction process, quality control, and how to get things done in combat than anyone I knew in Iraq, except for very few. At the beginning of this tour, I was bored. Initially, I worked a steady 80-hour workweek at a leisurely pace; no rushing things at this point. This pace continued for about five months as I got to know everyone involved at the key decision-making level. As I gained confidence in them, I was fortunate to call many a friend, and we worked together well, much like a well-oiled machine.
During this tour, I stayed in touch with my parents, siblings, and kids. As well, I communicated with some friends back in the States. I was getting the job done, feeling much better now that I was back in action. I was particularly thrilled to be away from the dull military garrison life.
In December of 2006, as suddenly as my life changed when I arrived in Iraq, we got hit upside the head with a Presidential Directive. We would do a 180-degree turn and start getting ready for the most significant surge of troops of the war to regain control of the war and do it on our terms.
I was alive again.
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