A soldier in Iraq speaks out

Editor’s note: The following was sent by a soldier in the 333rd Military Police Company, 404th Military Police Battalion in Iraq, in response to the Oct. 22, 2003, article about the Macek family.

To All Americans:

I am writing this letter to all, partially as a response to the Macek letter published in The Rock River Times regarding his wife’s deployment with our unit, 333rd Military Policy Company, Freeport, Ill., and overall to express a soldier’s view from Iraq. As with most of the 333rd soldiers, I have a family and career on hold at home while serving here in Iraq. Just as the Maceks, we ALL understand the turmoil resulting from an open-ended mission and the hardships of living in tent city in one of the world’s hottest regions. Yet, most of us disagree with the Macek representation of 333rd soldiers in the letter.

It insults the pride we feel as soldiers and detracts from the goals of our mission. Often, we all whine some here, to other soldiers and to loved ones. Although our concerns are real, most talk is just stress relief common among units living the harsh life in rural Iraq and [it is] wrong to portray us as demoralized because of it. We’ve only been in Iraq six months, merely two seasons of our life, a relatively brief period. My father was in the Illinois National Guard on Dec. 7, 1941, serving three and a half years after activation. My neighbor was in the Guard and activated for one and a half years for Korea.

The history of the Guard is older than the U.S. Army’s, and citizen soldiers have often been called to play key roles in our nation’s conflicts. It’s the misconception of many that by joining the Guard and Reserve, that one will be kept stateside as a last line of defense. Nearly everyone knows that about half the military is Guard and Reserve. Since 9-11, the world has changed, and necessarily so, the role the American military plays in world affairs. Nation building is not new to the U.S.; we did it successfully in Germany, Japan, Korea and currently doing so in other troubled spots. Because of the complexity of it, no one can say exactly how long this all will take, but everyone knows it will take years. Our unit’s orders are for one year, but if not needed, we will be sent home earlier. How can one blame the military when nation building doesn’t occur to suit our individual schedules? Many seasoned regular Army soldiers will tell you that our circumstances in Iraq are unique and [it is] difficult to predict future changes on a timeline.

As a military police company since 1966, our unit has served on overseas annual training missions in Panama (twice), Belize, Germany, Italy and Nicaragua, as well as doing seven months of homeland security at O’Hare Airport following 9-11. Most soldiers join the MPs for the travel, law enforcement experiences and educational benefits. The National Guard provides that, in return, we agree to serve as citizen-soldiers. We are a combat support MP unit, which means we train as security and traffic control forces for zones near the front lines. We all knew that when we volunteered for the MP Corp.

As many of us, I was surprised to be sent to Iraq, but it’s what I agreed to when I took my oath. The Army and my unit have trained us well to do this job. Every day, I see more than 150 of our soldiers risk their lives as they saddle up and head out to do their jobs in dusty, 130 degree-plus heat. These soldiers don’t like the environment, but they willingly do their duty. There is great pride in our unit, and we know it’s playing a part in history. Years from now, we’ll look back and boast about this most significant chapter in our life. Most of us do not want the Macek letter to misconceive us as crying complainers.

We understand Mr. Macek’s frustration of worrying about his wife’s safety and living conditions, along with the open-ended mission. All of us are here to protect his right to express his opinion and concerns. Having the guts to speak up is admirable. Nearly every soldier here is a little disgruntled, but many resent his letter because it makes it sound like there is a serious morale problem in the 333rd. As the operations master sergeant, I daily interact with every platoon and section at every level of soldier. I tell you, low morale is not a major issue, but most have legitimate concerns. We all miss cuddling up to our loved ones, and dwell on not being with them. Yet, we are here and want to complete our part in this mission. I see most soldiers here as Bogart at the end of Casablanca, realizing that our personal inconveniences do not amount to a hill of beans in the overall “big picture.”

I am a patriot and proudly wave my flag; yet, I am not blindly led by government rhetoric. I had serious doubts about our justifications and motives for coming to Iraq. Now that I am here, I see the bigger picture. Saddam was a tyrant and evil person. I have seen both sides of Iraq. I have been to his grand presidential palace in Baghdad where he lived like a king, while most of his people got minimal food and medical care. I see the poverty caused by unfair handling of resources by his socialist regime. As an MP operations NCO, I weekly go to set up security for our humanitarian Operation Good Neighbor, which runs day-long medical clinics in rural villages. I see many men hobbling with a disfigured foot, which resulted when Saddam’s military police caught AWOLS or deserters—Iraq’s MP put the soldier’s foot on a rock or stair and smashed it with a board or hammer, breaking all the bones, leaving the toes shifted out a couple inches. I hear stories of sisters and wives being raped when Iraqi veterans did not volunteer to fight us again. Once you’ve been here and experienced this country first-hand, you’ll know that getting rid of Saddam is a good and noble thing.

If nothing else, 9-11 should have taught America that we cannot sit idly by in the best place on earth and not be affected by the outside world. If I have to spend a year of my life here not sleeping in bed with my wife to prevent another 9-11, then I am proud to do this, not because I want to, but because it will make a better world for my children and future generations. It’s a minor price that so many have paid before me. Without others having paid that price, Mr. Macek would not have the right to express his opinions, nor would Sgt. Macek have had the right to voluntarily serve her country.

I hope all who read this realize that most of the 333rd Military Police Company soldiers feel as I do.

God bless.

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