News: My first deployment: The mean streets of Ramadi, Iraq
Story by Sgt. Peter Berardi
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Moving through the streets of what USA Today called “Iraq’s most dangerous city,” during late 2004, Capt. William C. Brine leads his infantry rifle platoon towards a group of buildings through the cover of darkness.
Reading his map through night vision goggles to conceal his platoon’s position, he tries to determine if the buildings before them are ones that need to be breached.
Being briefed that the mission could be absolute hell on earth kept us on edge the whole time, Brine remarked. Luckily the operation succeeded without incident. We also detained several insurgents and recovered many caches of sniper rifles, mortar rounds, vehicles that were modified to fire mortars and an assortment of explosive priming devices.
That’s how Brine, a resident of Bethel Park, Pa., and currently deployed as the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) battle major at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, remembers the 48-hour operation his platoon took point on to establish a presence on the east side of the wild, wild, west of Iraq. The city of Ramadi.
Many soldiers of the 316th have prior deployments. During which they learned and experienced many things, dealt with different kinds of stressors and a lack of amenities. Lt. Col. Eric Johnson, the 316th chief of operations, says these are some of the things that make Brine a great asset for the 316th and its soldiers.
Brine was commissioned as an infantry officer in 2003 and sent to Korea. In August of 2004, Brine was deployed to Ramadi, Iraq as a rifle platoon leader with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment.
“We were on the eastern side of Ramadi in a little outpost, a duplex that was half under construction,” said Brine. “We occupied the thing with no sandbags or overhead cover.”
Brine and the other members of the 503rd improved the buildings survivability themselves. Filling sandbags, hoisting four 400-pound aircraft cargo pallet to the roof, setting up observation posts and laying down concertina wire were just some of the improvements.
“I put in stakes with another lieutenant around the top of the back wall to run concertina on,” he said. “It was so hot I was only wearing my kevlar, body armor, a t-shirt, shorts and boots.”
Leadership skills along with taking a lot of initiative and being able to read into implied tasks are just some of the things the infantry taught him. “These skills help the 316th ESC because the officers above me don’t have to worry about my lane. They can feel that the SOC [Sustainment Operations Center] is properly run without too much oversight, allowing them to focus their attention on more important tasks,” he said.
The living conditions also added some unique experiences said Brine.
“We fit a whole 120 person company in the duplex,” he said. There was a lot of ingenuity and working alongside soldiers of all ranks to improve the survivability of the duplex and to make it as comfortable as we could.
“Being able to communicate to all ranks and convey my points to multiple mindsets was something I learned through that,” he said. Working with ranks from private first class to brigadier general in the 316th makes that skill indispensable, he added.
The stressors that the infantry are exposed to differ greatly from the ones the soldiers of the 316th are currently going through said Brine.
"The day-to-day operations were a lot tougher physically than what we are doing here,” he said. “We ran missions that lasted anywhere from 8 to 96 hours, wearing full gear for up to 24 hours straight was not uncommon and neither was walking up to 20 clicks [km] to an objective.”
One day the observation post received a rocket attack. “A vehicle pulled up right behind the back wall, opened up its hatch back and shot a rocket at the duplex. The rocket went right through the cinder block wall and angled up hitting the very top of the building,” he said. “Thank god it angled up and the wall had so much standoff from the building, if the wall had been any closer the rocket could have hit a soldier-filled area of the duplex.”
“The stresses with the 316th ESC are different,” he said, “You are working for a product not an end state. Your not working for the hearts and minds of the people directly but everything that we do supports those that are, making our mission very important and indispensable.”
Another very noticeable difference is the amenities available to soldiers now as opposed to then remarked Brine.
“My two meals a day consisted of a meal ready to eat and a mermite supplemented with Cup-Of-Noodles, we slept on cots and had to build our own furniture,” he said. “We got a hand saw, hammer, wood and nails and built our own shelves, desks and even some self closing doors.”
“I think I only got to call my family every four or five days and probably only showered five times during the entire deployment,” he said.
“It is nice being able to sleep in a bed with air conditioning, take a shower every night, go to the gym and especially have the ability to call my wife whenever I get off duty,” he added, “This is a pretty nice deployment, emphasis on nice, bold and italicized.”
The toughest part of deploying with infantry was losing soldiers said Brine. My battalion had several killed in action and many more wounded. “I was real fortunate that none of my soldiers were killed. I think it’s one of my life’s greatest accomplishments, making it through a whole 12-month deployment inside a hostile city like that and not having anybody killed,” he added.
“I still feel it was the most rewarding experience of my life,” he said. “Going out there and knowing that your making a difference in peoples’ lives made me feel that I contributed to the betterment of a nation.”
On the current deployment with the 316th, whose mission includes planning, preparing, deploying and executing logistical sustainment operations, he said, “I enjoy handling the daily activities from higher and lower and making sure that our operation is running smoothly.”
“I’m very happy with where we are as a unit, looking at where we were,” said Brine.
“The amount of growth we went through is absolutely phenomenal, I have a lot of confidence in our group and that’s a great sign.”