News: A day in the life of an infantryman deployed in support of Operation New Dawn
Story by Spc. Andrew Ingram
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – Monday morning soldiers of 2nd squad, 3rd “Black Sheep,” platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, woke up at 5:30 a.m., heading to the gym at Contingency Operating Base Speicher. After two hours pumping iron, the infantrymen proceeded to breakfast at the dining facility, then made their way to the Stryker Armored Vehicles lined up near their containerized housing units.
“We don’t have a very exciting mission today,” said Spc. Fredrick White, infantryman and a squad automatic weapon gunner, Company A. “We’re going out to provide security for a Provincial Reconstruction Team inspection. It should be pretty simple, but we can’t get complacent.”
The Black Sheep picked up members of the Salah ad Din Provincial Reconstruction Team and headed north to a Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs vocational school near Tikrit.
On site, the Black Sheep inspected the school for potential threats and guarded the compound’s perimeter as the PRT representatives met with teachers and administrators.
Once the mission was complete, the platoon returned to COB Speicher.
This is just a typical morning for 3rd Platoon, said White, who hails from Chicago.
White’s squad mates agreed that despite doing similar routines and missions day after day, solid training and constant vigilance keeps the troops sharp and ready for action.
“Most of us were expecting a lot more action this deployment than we’ve seen so far,” said Spc. Kurt Brown, an infantryman from Atlanta. “But in Iraq things could change in a heartbeat, and we have to be ready for anything.”
After the platoon returned from mission, they set about cleaning the vehicles, and then it was back to the dining facility and onto the company area.
Leaders of Company A and 3rd Platoon make training and education a high priority, said Cpl. Jeffrey Heparnold, team leader, 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon.
“After we get back from mission every day, I make sure my guys get chow, and then we get on our correspondence courses, training or PT,” said the Cheney, Wash. native.
Heparnold said he makes Army education a priority for his soldiers, because he believes it is the best way for troops to gain the technical and tactical competency to further their military careers, and the promotion points to become non-commissioned officers.
By 6 p.m., the soldiers begin drifting off in different directions. Some head back to the gym, others their rooms to relax with a movie or talk to loved ones online.
Time to unwind maintains morale and helps keep the 2nd squad soldiers focused and motivated during missions, Heparnold said.
Each squad member spends his free time a little differently, and all agreed it is necessary to get away from the comrades they eat, work, train and sleep around nearly 24 hours-a-day.
“Sometimes it gets tough being around everybody all the time. You really don’t get a lot of privacy, and you get sick of each other,” said West Palm Beach, Fla., Native, Spc. Trevor Legg. “But at the end of the day, they are still your friends, and we all care about each other.”
Legg said most of the friendships stretch back to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, where the 2nd squad soldiers met and trained for the deployment in support of Operation New Dawn.
Friends or not, Spc. Robert Wright explained rivalries and competition between the squads and platoons is a small but important dynamic for the deployed unit.
“There is some rivalry that goes on between the squads and more between the platoons in Company A,” he said. “Most of the time, it’s fun. Nothing too serious, but it keeps us busy.”
Rivalries motivate the soldiers to do their best, whether the personal competitions are physical training, weapons qualifications, combat drills or video games, Wright said.
Even if the rivalries are minor, 2nd Squad is the best squad in the company, said Pfc. Thomas Maroon, an infantryman from Wood River, Ill.
The deployment to northern Iraq is teaching the Black Sheep Soldiers to appreciate what they have back home, said the soldiers of 2nd squad.
Both Legg and White agreed after months of walking to and from the shower trailers and spotty heat, they would never take the amenities of home for granted again.
The freedom and security offered in the United States would never be far from Wright’s mind said the Sterling Heights, Mich. native, while Maroon and Brown said they are looking forward to returning to their families and loved ones.
After two deployments to Iraq, Heparnold said he is content knowing that Iraqi Security Forces can competently take charge of the security of their nation.
“This is nothing like my last deployment where we did almost all the work,” he said. “The ISF knows how to do the job now; they just have to take the reins.”
Tuesday morning the soldiers of 2nd squad woke up at 5:30 a.m., went to the gym and began another day in Iraq.