By SSg Ed Irizarry
August 03, 2005
Photograph courtesy SSG ED Irizarry
If you have never walked in chest deep snow wearing snow shoes... well, let's just say it is very amusing to watch someone do this for the first time. Be prepared to have sore ribs from all the laughter. My first thought of myself with my squad towing an Akio Sled came to me in this form... "So this is what it feel like to be a Dog on a Dog Sled Team." And remember, if you are not the lead dog the scenery never changes - just imagine the rest on your own. We learned to build snow caves, digging down to the earth to set up an Arctic tent and light an Arctic stove - think of those tasks and Murphy's Law. Well, you get the picture.
After a night of patrols in Iraq, you wish for -40º temperatures again and the wonderful Alaskan wildlife. Guard duty takes on a whole new meaning when you have grizzly bears in the same AO. Which brings to mind a night on patrol in Alaska when I had a soldier break out of the patrol. Before I could take control of that individual he began to wildly throw his arms in the air and commenced to scream at the top of his lungs. I found myself awed at his enthusiasm. I thought he was either suffering from a robust case of Tourette's syndrome or he was about to demonstrate Mosh pit dancing. What I failed to notice was the large brown bear heading in our direction. Fortunately the big bear also noticed the crazed behavior of the soldier and quickly retreated away from us. I can't say I blame the bear!
On another patrol in Alaska, the rear security ran past screaming something I just couldn't make out. When I finally understood, I turned to see a 1500 pound moose lumbering toward us at the speed of "I can't run fast enough!" Needless to say, you forget about rally points and seek cover behind anything Ol' Bullwinkle can not knock over!
Now in an environment totally opposite to the extremes of the Arctic, we have been very lucky to have been assigned to the United States Army's 299th Infantry and were welcomed with open arms. We have been conducting missions with wonderful results. During our outer perimeter patrols, we have encountered many different situations. We were able to help a family with their son. The child suffered from a seizure disorder and we were able to medivac the child to the safety of the Green Zone for treatment. To this day, the child is still running happily with his siblings.
In the Iraqi farmland west of Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), we were directed by children to seven unexploded ordnances. We called for Explosive Ordnance Disposal to dispose of them and now the children have a safe place to play.
Patrols have helped make good relations with the local Nationals at the Mosque in Al Farat. A large step forward toward security in our AO. Our soldiers man the towers and are the eyes and ears for our patrols on the ground.
We have come a long way and I believe everyone has had a life changing experience in Iraq, for the better. We have become stronger.
I believe I can speak for everyone when I say, " I'll never complain about sub zero temperatures again!"
Half-way to home everyone, Godspeed!
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