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Jun-22-2010 16:39printcomments

Survival in the Final Stages of the U.S. War in Iraq

As Iraq winds to a close, thoughts center on vast changes, and simply making it back alive.

Iraqi Police, left, now escort U.S. troops on missions.  Photos in al Dujal
Iraqi Police, left, now escort U.S. troops on missions.
Photos in Iraq by Tim King

(SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn.) - With the dangerous summer months ahead and a surge in violence taking place against coalition forces in Afghanistan, we must not forget the men and women fighting to end a hard fought war in Iraq.

Today I Skyped with 20 year old Derek (whose last name he wished to remain anonymous) who is three months into a twelve-month tour of duty there. This is Derek’s first time being deployed as a US Soldier in the Army’s 4th Infantry Brigade.

Derek has an interesting perspective on the war; he is just entering the country as American forces prepare to exit.

While violence against US forces appears to have subsided in recent months, Derek is well aware of the dangers of combat as he explains to me the enemy’s use of Explosively Formed Projectiles and Russian Parachute Grenades.

Derek says that while his unit does not encounter small arms fire they frequently face indirect fire from mortar rounds and 107mm Chinese rockets.

Iraqi police officer in the town of al Dujail, summer of 2008 photo by Tim King

In many respects, Derek and his unit have it harder than those who fought before him.

Early in the war, American soldiers had free range over their missions in the country. Derek explains that today when his unit leaves their forward operating base they must have Iraqi Federal Police as escorts, many of whom are hard to trust.

Derek recounts that recently another unit in his company found two IED’s on consecutive days placed directly next to the same Iraqi police checkpoint.

Another danger Derek says is his units travel through Iraqi streets. Derek explains that today US convoys must follow the flow of traffic.

Iraqi civilians are allowed to drive their cars in and out of traffic directly through US convoys; a nerve-racking experience as Derek sits in the gunner position of an MRAP vehicle searching for threats.

Derek has his hesitations about the time when the US military leaves Iraq for good. He is fearful that Iraq could slide into more violence.

Nevertheless, Derek seems proud of his responsibility as he explains his unit’s mission of conducting counter IRAM and IED patrols.

Derek says that he joined the US Army to help protect the other soldiers fighting and in his mission he is able to do just that.

Stay safe Derek.

Adam is a recent graduate of Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts where he earned a B.S. in Business Management. Adam hopes to pursue a career in international affairs. For questions or comments please write to:

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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