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An image.
Saturday, September 23, 2017
The Rochester Sentinel
  • FORT KNOX, KY – Pity the fool who mistreats Janet Swanson if these four guys ever catch him.

    They learned more than anyone should have to know about death while soldiers in Iraq. They credit her with saving their lives. Their sense of gratitude is fierce.

    They know very well that war is hell – but peace can be worse.
  • FORT KNOX, KY. – Luke Abbott and some of his buddies spilled their guts over dinner the other night.

    There was a lot to spill.

    There were six at our table in a noisy Applebee’s restaurant near base. Four are veterans of combat in Iraq. They are still fighting battles most of us can only imagine. Janet Swanson, their therapist, drove down from Louisville for the occasion. Quiet, more than a little attractive and ballerina-petite, she struck a distinct contrast to the young men of war.
  • APPROACHING KUWAIT – I have been shoehorned into airplanes or airports for something like 24 hours now.
  • Sentinel editor W.S. Wilson leaves for Mosul, Iraq, today, where he will be an embedded reporter with the 113th Engineers of the Indiana National Guard.
  • KUWAIT, DAY 2 – This morning I turned in my passport and visa to the folks at Buildilng 511 here in the Hilton complex. They are with KBR, the private outfitter that handles logistics like this for the Army. I am assured that I’ll be able to fly to Mosul tomorrow (Saturday) in a C-30 transport.
  • MOSUL, IRAQ – It took me a moment to gather my wits after checking out of the Kuwait Hilton.
  • FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ – Sgt. Keith Miller looks every bit the soldier.

    Miller, 35, carries a squared-off 250 pounds on his 5’11” frame, has a shaved head (“Like Bruce Willis says, it is the comb-over of the 1990s”) and he favors the wrap-around mirror shades common among American troops. He’s not especially quick to smile. It all can make for an imposing presence.
  • FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ – American casualties in this war might not rank up there with the wholesale slaughter of Bull Run, Guadalcanal or Khe Sahn, but it certainly isn’t combat petite.
  • UMM HIJARAH, IRAQ - Judging from their faces, the men of Umm Hijarah liked what they heard from Sheik Col. Raad after the search.
  • FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ – Indiana’s 113th Combat Engineers started off Wednesday night with a bang, then things got better.
  • FORWARD OPERATION BASE ENDURANCE – We are an hour south of Mosul in a dust-blown stretch of desert that looks like it goes to the end of time.
  • FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ – So, what is it like living here?

    If you want to go off base, you’ll need permission from someone who is overworked, a convoy for cover and body armor. For a notion of body armor, cut holes in a big trash bag for your neck and arms, put it on over long underwear and hang two 10-pound sacks of flour over each shoulder.
  • FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ - Things are almost as good as they can get for 1st Sgt. Leo Marshall.

    He’s in the Army. He’s in Iraq. He’s got a challenging job and seniority.
  • FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ - Sixteen uniformed souls and one civilian made their way to this tiny chapel for services Sunday.
  • FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ – Who you gonna call if some twisted extremist drops off a bag of plastic explosive rigged to a hand grenade at your business?
  • FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ – Dating back only to 574 A.D., the crumbling walls of the Monastery of St. Elijah a few hundred yards from the mess hall here, are relative newcomers.
  • FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ — Some people would call turret gunner Luke Abbott lucky to survive the powerful suicide car bomb that exploded less than 20 feet from his Humvee June 6.
  • FORWARD OPERATING BASE SYKES – The Humvee has much to offer.

    It has robust armor and multi-layered glass that can stop most bullets.
  • FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ - Iraq duty is going well for Dawn Swantko, an outgoing 23-year-old medic from Hobart with hot pink toenails.
  • KUWAIT CITY – My last few hours in Mosul underscored how much there is to learn about this unit of the Indiana National Guard’s 113th Combat Engineer Battalion.
  • Col. Robert Brown, a strapping West Pointer, is in charge of U.S. Army operations in and around Mosul, Iraq. The Indiana National Guard 113th Engineering Battalion is one of the units he directs.
  • He runs the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry, to which The Indiana National Guard 113th Engineer Battalion belongs. Sentinel Editor W.S. Wilson was embedded with the 113th for three weeks.
  • Wilson was embedded with the Indiana National Guard’s 113th Engineer Battalion in Mosul., Iraq. In it infantry Col. Robert Brown discusses leadership, technology and today’s media.
  • COLUMBUS – The hard guys who have been banging around Iraq with Lt. Col. Rick Shatto for the last year might smile to learn that he turned frog-belly white at the wedding altar.
  • SHERERVILLE – Three can be the loneliest number for Stacey Wheatley these days.

    Two constants rule her life: One is caring for her spirited 2-year-old daughter Taylor Leona, and son Nicholas Ian, 5 months.
  • CHESTERTON – Mrs. Jessica Gray, 23, has much in common with the wives of other soldiers in the Indiana National Guard 113th Engineer Battalion.
  • TRAFALGAR – Dora Gazaway has had a lot on her mind lately.

    Her true love is at war halfway around the world in Iraq. Their newlywed son is living in Georgia. Their 19-year-old daughter is in Kentucky at college.
  • The dreadful little shadow that has followed Margie Sharp around for the last year is about to disappear.

    Her son, Ashley, a 23-year-old Andrean High School graduate, is coming home from war, intact.
  • Larry Smith didn’t get to be Command Sergeant Major by being a softie.

    He’s an old-school sergeant. As the ranking enlisted man in the 113th Engineer Battalion, his duties center around making sure top brass understands what their soldiers need, and that soldiers understand the rules.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Today, Indiana’s 113th Combat Engineer Battalion is back home again – in the arms of their friends, lovers and other strangers – after a year of eating dust, getting shot at and wondering if hell could be as hot as Mosul, Iraq.
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