A conversation with an officer regarding the culture of combat soldiers during our deployment in 2006 – 2007

Foreword:

The following was a conversation I had with a former officer from my unit when I deployed for Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006 – 2007. I had respect for this officer, he had suggested that I should become an officer early in my career. This was not a path that I took, but for a higher level officer to take an interest in the career of one of his lower ranked soldier was exciting from my position.

My reasoning for this conversation was the search for more people to corroborate my letter to the VA, trying to explain the culture of the unit and why it was never reported officially that I had a TBI during my first deployment. This letter would have been for two people. 

Alas, as one reads this, they can see the conversation did not go the way I expected. This would also be the last conversation that I have with this individual. 

I did a copy and paste from the conversation and only edited the names out.


Me

  • I wanted to get back in contact with you because you were the only officer I have ever trusted in my career and was a positive influence on me. You encouraged me several times to go to OCS and I never forgot that you said you thought I would make a good officer. While that dream did not happen, I am trying to find my way by helping out every veteran I can.I am writing buddy letters for a few of the old noncom’s from 1/9 and we both have a bad memory of the time. I was hoping I could send you the letter and have you look at it, and see if you can spot any mistakes I might have made after a decade and bad memory loss.The buddy letter outs us for some unsavory acts during the deployment (not pissing on people level) and it would be kind of a dump of some of my bad experiences.

    I would also be grateful if you would be willing to sign off on it yourself because a letter from an (I believe you were, please forgive me if I am mistaken) Lt. Col. is going to go a long way. I wouldn’t want any endorsement of anything you were not aware of, such as the unsavory acts, but I am trying to go for the culture of the unit.

    I understand that is a hard request, and I fully understand if you did not want to do it, just let me know.

  • 2:58 PM

Officer

  • BT, I’m not sure what you want with regards to the letter. While we were in the same place and unit-our experiences were vastly different. Recently, I had dinner with COL *** and I told him that I had less than a positive experience with 1/9 Cav. Matter of fact, it was the main reason I declined battalion command and left the Army. From the Troop level down I thought we had stellar soldiers but from the FG up and at the Command Group level- we were a huge “Soup Sandwich.” While there were surely some unethical situations-to this day I am not aware of “unsavory acts” or I’ve forgotten them so…no promises on your letter but I’ll be happy to read it.

Me

  • I will respond in order.One of the main points that I am trying to implement into the letter is the flagrant disregard for the health and safety of soldiers. We were constantly instructed by our leadership to never put that we had been injured in a blast whether being knocked unconscious or blacking out. This was systemic from the NCOs to the junior grade officers. I have been talking with another NCO who was an E4 at the same time and platoon and he verifies the story, which is what the letters are for.We are trying to justify the claims for our TBI, not for money, but for the VA to actually recognize that we have TBI’s and try to get us actual treatment. The VA flat out refuses to accept that I have a TBI because I never marked that I was knocked out during my IED blast. Because of this they automatically assume that the veteran must just be lying. Refusing to take into account that the culture of a combat unit is different from that of real-life. We were threatened by the leadership, we were threatened by the idea of being seen as not pulling our weight, and we were threatened by the idea of not being supported by somebody when were out on patrol because they felt like we betrayed them.

    Just to reiterate the point, I do not want you to vouch for anything that you are not aware of. It is not your place to answer and it is not my place to ask we were in completely different worlds at the time.

    I hope the dinner was at least productive in some way, perhaps being told a new perspective of the feelings others had would give him reflection. I do believe that people can change.

    With that said I would have said the same thing. Some of my letter touches on that. I directly blame him or Gen. *** for the death of Sergeant Dunkelberger with the removal of the heavy armor after the “show of force.” With all my statements, I plead the ignorance of the Specialist, which I am sure you are familiar with having your enlisted experience.

    I blame the irresponsibility of whoever made the decision that not only would elements of 1/9 and 2/7 Control the city of Mosul with over 1 million citizens. But we would also cover the entire damn northern section of Iraq. I believe that there were several levels of incompetency and the biggest being that Colonel *** was not replaced when he lost his battle space. We had incompetent leadership and I believe that directly resulted in many of the deaths that occurred on our deployment in Alpha Troop and our sister battalion. The unit would not even pay for Johnson’s wife to be flown to the hospital and I believe that is the ultimate responsibility of the deaths of their children. His wife should never have been expected to drive under the conditions that she was.

    I do not expect any conversation on those issues. There simply my feelings on perspectives that I think a lot of the soldiers had.

    I am glad you are going well and that you did go to the VA. It is wonderful to hear the stories of the people who do have PTSD but are still able to function well in society. I wish the same could be said for my condition. 10 minutes at Hobby Lobby yesterday [to use the bathroom] was the first time that I have left my house in I believe 46 days.

    The civilian world is shit especially with the treatment attitude towards veterans. A new scandal from the VA emerges almost daily, yet no one in the country gives a shit.

    California and Texas both refused to release their veteran suicide rates, which completely throws the 22 veterans a day killing themselves number out the window. Think tanks that I cannot vouch for feel the number is close to 40 a day.

  • I forgot to mention that if there is anything that you see I am flagrantly wrong on I would appreciate the correction on that so that I am not submitting some form of false information. Like you said it was 10 years ago our war is old enough to have a reunion party. I struggle to remember to feed myself if it was not for my wife. So my memory is fallible.
  • 9:16 AM

Officer

  • Hmmmm, I got hit with an IED and started puking because it hurt so badly. Got checked in by the Profis doc and went back to work. Nobody was going to tell me not to seek medical help and when I got home they wouldn’t let it go until I had our Profis Doc “bless off” that I was treated at the time of the bombing. Sadly, I never heard about “not” reporting it until now. Most likely, because the missions didn’t end if we were injured or not. COL **** is a good man. I don’t think he was a good combat leader and it took me years to accept that. **** was awful in combat and is a better politician than a soldier. CSM **** had a wealth of knowledge and I appreciated his expertise but he was the derisive soldier in our unit and I blame COL ***** 100% for that. Actually, they both should have been fired from their leadership positions-they were dysfunctional and it showed everyday. It’s not that the civilian world is shit…it’s just that they don’t know or have lived with integrity, brotherhood, mission, and taking care of each other (that’s the military I miss). If 1/9 CAV were to have a reunion I would decline attending-too much pain…however, I would toast my soldiers in a heartbeat because they made things happen (and not those 4 idiots at the FG level).

 


So the end of the conversation was at this point. I sent a few more messages, but none were responded to.

 


The image was taken in Tal’ Afar Iraq. The picture correlates officers and chaos. Which is always the case.

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