Being an Infantryman in Baghdad when there are really no major battles going on can often be a thankless job. If you aren’t performing the mission of the infantry (closing with and destroying the enemy) it often feels as though you are accomplishing nothing. Our job, when not actually shooting at the enemy, is roughly equivalent to being the lid on a pot that is trying to boil over. Thus for as long as we keep the lid on, and it doesn’t boil over, it feels like we are doing nothing.
This minimal sense of accomplishment is coupled with spending countless hours out on patrol. Hot, sweaty, hours spent wearing at least 50 – 60 lbs of kit trudging through some of the worst slums known to man kind. Slums so bad that the pools of water are anti-freeze green, pink, or purple and smell utterly putrid. Livestock in the area literally graze trash. I pity the plight of the children and the horses, they truly have nothing in life to look forward to. Those long hours are often fraught with danger as one never knows where an IED might be set in and one can see the look of hatred in the eyes of a few of the young military age males. Needless to say it is a relatively thankless and tough job.
Today I got a little satisfaction as my helicopter lifted off from my FOB in Baghdad carrying me to BIAP to start a long anticipated R & R and a beautiful wife waiting for me half way around the world. I looked out and saw all of the areas I had patrolled for hours with my platoon. Immense, swarming with human activity. For the first time, I gazed down with a sense of pride. My men and I had become a part of something greater than ourselves. We had played the roll of a small cog in the great US war machine. We had somehow managed to work closely with the Iraqi National Police and Iraqi Police to keep the violence at relatively low levels. We had somehow managed to avoid getting blown up at the hands of insurgents who loath to see a free Iraq. My soldiers and I, even if it doesn’t always feel like it, had spent the last five months doing yeomans work and today for the first time I felt a little swelling in my chest while looking down and surveying my sectors.