Bradbury says service in Iraq is worth the sacrifice
Serving with the Second Squadron of the Seventh Cavalry regiment as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Mosul, Nineveh Province, Bradbury has led more missions than anyone else in his unit, which was responsible for the capture of the number two Al Qaeda commander.
The lieutenant said his unit was on an operation in eastern Mosul on July 4 and “just happened to get lucky” when it captured the top Iraqi in al-Qaeda in Iraq, Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani. Bradbury gave all the credit to the unit and said he did not personally capture al-Mashhadani.
Serving in Iraq is “actually an experience I wouldn’t give up,” said Bradbury, who was home on leave for three weeks and was scheduled to return to Iraq on Aug. 20.
“It’s so alien, that environment and this environment,” he said. “It almost seems like (I was there) a year ago instead of a week.”
With the goal of providing security and safety for Americans and the Iraqi people, combat operations are just one part of the squadron’s detail in northern Iraq, Bradbury said. The unit’s civil affairs mission also includes school and neighborhood assessments.
During school assessments, the soldiers make sure schools are up to standard, with working heat for the freezing temperatures in the winter and working air conditioning for 120-degree heat in the summer.
Neighborhood assessments involve making sure utilities such as electricity, water, sewer and trash collection are in place and functioning properly. Iraqi forces help American troops in neighborhood reconstruction projects after car or truck bombs, which the army calls Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices, or VBIEDs, destroy public buildings.
Bradbury said VBIEDs usually have a thumb initiation switch for the driver or a cell phone initiator inside the engine compartment, “in case (the driver) decides he wants to live a couple more days.”
Most improvised explosive devices “make a big noise and have little effect,” Bradbury said, because they are placed by amateurs. In addition, enemy troops in Iraq rarely hit anything with small arms fire, he said.
However, Bradbury’s unit did lose five soldiers who were killed during two incidents in January. It still spends time cordoning off neighborhoods and searching for insurgents and explosive devices.
The unit also does walking patrols in the ruins of ancient Nineveh, where the Biblical Jonah preached after spending three days in the belly of a whale. Livestock now graze within the ruins of the ancient city walls.
In the winter rainy season, Bradbury said the mud is so thick trucks get stuck in the muck up to their wheel wells. Still, the troops in Mosul, where he said the only real Muslin fabric is made, must set up hasty traffic control points to catch people with IEDs coming in and out of the city.
Units in Iraq initially used the M1A1 Abrams tank for patrols, but Bradbury said using the tanks was like “trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer” and troops soon switched to using “up-armored” Humvees.
The all-terrain vehicles are quick and versatile.
Bradbury has personal experience with how unwieldy the tanks can be.
“I actually took down the power for an entire city block,” he said. “That led to one of those neighborhood reconstruction projects I was talking about.”
Temperatures inside a tank in the summer can reach 160 degrees and the Iraqis believe a rumor that Americans take cold pills to keep them cool.
“I wish that were true,” Bradbury said.
The unit averages one to three missions a day. He said search missions are usually intelligence driven and troops know who they’re looking for.
“It’s just like police work,” Bradbury said. “You know when your target’s going to be there and you go after them at that time.”
The unit often works with Iraqi Security Forces, including police, SWAT teams and the Iraqi Army. Bradbury said the Iraqi troops are very professional. Many of the ISF members were underground fighting against Saddam Hussein before Americans arrived. They are now taking more responsibility for the security of their county and rebuilding their schools and public buildings.
“Some of them have been fighting for longer than I’ve been alive,” he said.
Saying the Iraqi Army has more recruits than it knows what to do with, Bradbury said some Iraqis join the military for the money “and they want to secure their neighborhoods.”
“I believe things are improving in the north,” he said. “I have no experience with the south.”
Asked, “How do you know the bad guys from the good guys?” Bradbury responded, “The bad guys are shooting at you.”
Most of the insurgents the American soldiers must fight against are not Iraqis, he said, but are from Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan.
“The people in Mosul are standing up to the outsiders,” he said.
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