View Full Version : Soldier Speaks on Battle in Iraq that was Blacked Out

06-15-2012, 08:43 AM
I was a machine gunner during a major Iraq war battle that was blacked out by the media, now we're struggling to get the story to the public

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I tested out of high school and joined the Army when I was 17. Two years later I was a machine gun team leader in an urban assault Stryker unit known as "Bull Company." We served a 15 month deployment from Aug 2007 to Nov 2008 as the only conventional task force running kill-or-capture raids in a district of Baghdad known as Sadr City. Our mission was to hunt down high value targets in the Mahdi Army and secure the north western flank of Sadr City from their influence.

On the 23rd of March one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the war broke out right there in Sadr City. The Mahdi Army rose up to overthrow the occupation. Our rules of engagement were lifted, and both sides went to town. Open street fighting lasted for nearly three months. Thousands of people were killed and wounded. That includes some two-hundred Americans and countless civilians - and it barely made a headline back here in the west.
At that point Iraq was considered "old news" and the politicians didn't want to talk about the war. 2008 was an election year so the ratings were more important than the truth. Both sides had something to lose if any word of battle made it home. The most attention it got back here was a 60 Minutes segment about high-tech UAV's - one which completely overlooked the actual fight. Other than that, were just a few back-page articles that never made it into print, and blog posts later on down the road as it solidified into a niche subject.

Instead, the biggest headlines that spring were the impending Twilight sequel, American Idol hiring a new judge, and Elliot Spitzer getting caught with a prostitute.
I recently wrote a book about my experience during the battle, and I've teamed up with some other vetsto get their stories out to the public. Together we're trying to raise awareness for what happened and some of my friends said an IAMA might help. While it would be totally cool if you want to head over to Kickstarter and pre-order a copy of the book, I'm not here to pull a Woody Harrelson. I just want to get the word out about what happened in Sadr City, help people get a more complete picture of what really happens "on the ground" during modern combat.


Q: What kind of implications do you face, if any, from disclosing what you did in Iraq? What do you hope to accomplish by letting the public know about your experience? I mean, it was a war, it was fought amidst civilian populated cities, it was the same as many of the other strikes in that country. What's the end game to sharing your story? Awareness?

1) Hopefully none.

I don't disclose any top secret ****; I don't violate any OPSEC considerations regarding standard operating procedures, the knowledge of which could endanger lives; and now that I'm a civilian I have 1st Amendment protections on my speech so long as what I'm disclosing is open to the public.

2) I hope to accomplish awareness.

The entire spring of 2008 was effectively Iraq's equivalent to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. We lost control of nearly half the country. It played a major role in defining Iraq war policy and strategy for the remainder of the conflict.
But American foreign policy is becoming increasingly subjected to popular opinion - which is easily manipulated by half-truths, undisclosed facts, and the general squalor of corporate media.
Ultimately, if the average citizen is going to have such a major role in defining the methods, nature, place, time and reasons for modern war-fighting policy, it's critical that they are knowledgeable of the facts and aware of major events. In other words, anybody who wants to participate in the dialogue surrounding foreign policy and voice an opinion on the matter has a responsibility to know what is going on.

I don't claim myself or expect people to know and understand everything, but knowing the "what" and "why" of major events like Sadr City are critical. Each one is part of a long, specific and complicated narrative that is unique to the conflict at hand, but with bigger-picture lessons that apply to future conflict management, strategy and policy.

Essentially, what I'm trying to say is that none of the past strikes in that country were the same. That perception is largely a symptom of short-hand and sensationalist journalism. Each one is important in its own right. Sadr City is important, as it marks a sort of final lesson in the greater discussion of Counterinsurgency, the role of our military in war, and the successes/failures of nation building abroad.

Q: Wow so you were around 19 when this happened. How did you cope with being a machine gun team leader at a young age? Also, were your achievements agknowledged respectfully by the military?

It hasn't been very easy. Of course, I didn't have any perspective on how young I was back then - and I didn't have the experience to know how that would effect me.

Back then I had a mission, a job, and it was obvious that if I didn't fight I was going to get somebody killed and/or die myself. One of my squad leaders put it right when he told me "You just ****ing do it."
17-22 is a really defining time in somebody's life when they find out what kind of adult they're going to be. I basically spent the entire period learning how to kill, killing, and then teaching people how to kill.

Re: Acknowledgement

Within the military, Sadr City is a really big deal and a lot of "higher-ups" are very aware of the whole thing. It was the first time in modern warfare that a "Counterinsurgent" posture became balls-out kinetic warfare overnight, then right back to "Counterinsurgency" within a single day again. In that way, many of the men who served have made their careers with the battle.

Q: I believe this will get the word out because so many are interested in this, and if u get people to press the pretty blue arrow.
Did you actually ever kill anyone during your battle that you were aiming for? If you killed do you regret it at times?

I usually don't answer questions like this because it has been my experience that people don't really understand what they are asking. That is to say that on an emotional level they are expecting a different meaning behind the answer, and they have asked it for a different reason.

Yes, I have killed a lot of people who I was aiming for. In the majority of the cases, no I don't regret a thing.
We got some great advice from our chaplain in the beginning of the tour. He told us that what will keep us up late at nights is if we doubted a single thing about pulling the trigger. His suggestion was that we "make absolutely sure that man needs to die - then kill him."

I followed that as closely as I could, and on the whole I think he was right. There has only been one time that I regret pulling the trigger:
We got a confirmed intel hit that a silver opal with tinted windows was loaded up with "special group" snipers and heading our way. This was during a 36-hour counter attack at an OP behind enemy lines. We got a detailed description, and a confirmation that they were moving in to target our machine gunners.

The "special groups" in Sadr City were a big deal. They were trained by Iranian SF, supplied with state-of-the art weapons and tactics, etc. Their snipers were the best in the country. As soon as I saw a silver opal that matched the description (down to the hubcaps) moving in on my position with a creep, I lit the ****er up.

Turns out the intel was wrong.


06-15-2012, 09:11 AM
Just more confirmation for us guys who said we should have never gone in to begin with.

Too bad most of the country and the President at that time was fuking stupid.

06-15-2012, 09:41 AM
"im trying to get my story out to the media"

*posts story on REDDIT

06-15-2012, 09:46 AM
But how did this affect Canada?

06-15-2012, 09:53 AM
major fighting in spring of 2008?

US troops killed in Iraq by month:


i guess it would seem major if you were a part of it.

06-15-2012, 10:15 AM
All this confirms is that some enlisted soldier has opinions on how he was told to do his job. I didn't find anything that leads me to believe that the event he took part in was actively "blacked out." Either way, he should write a book about his experiences.

06-15-2012, 10:18 AM
All this confirms is that some enlisted soldier has opinions on how he was told to do his job. I didn't find anything that leads me to believe that the event he took part in was actively "blacked out." Either way, he should write a book about his experiences.

top comment:

"I was a medic in Sadr City for April 4th, 2004. 56 casualties, 8 KIA. When they turned the phone back on, I called my parents immediately (I was 19) and told them I was OK. They had no idea what I was talking about. Years later Martha Raddatz released a mostly butchered version of the story in her book "the long road home" but other than that, it received no real coverage."

final edit by OP:

edit: It's been brought up and I apologize for the phrase "blacked out." It's more appropriate to say it was unreported. That makes a difference, and I apologize to the community for the accidental sensationalism.

06-15-2012, 10:51 AM

Soldiers went to a war zone & war broke out?


His beef is that every single interaction or skirmish is not front page news?