Home safe after four hectic months | VailDaily.com

Home safe after four hectic months

Christine Ina Casillas
NWS Capt. Brock 11-17-03 CS

Brock, 27, spent more than four months in Iraq, fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also served in Operation Enduring Freedom, patrolling the borders and protecting Kuwait from the terrors of Saddam Hussein.

Brock served as a battle captain for the 4th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team for the 4th Infantry Division.

He said he’s lucky. His team was lucky. In the four months he served in Iraq, he lost only one person in his unit – in a drowning accident.

“Accidents were one of the biggest killers over there,” Brock said. “There were a lot of car accidents.”

His unit traveled all over Iraq, he said, beginning its journey in Kuwait.

“We had a late start when I got there in May,” he said.

“Everybody was on edge’

The unit was waiting on Turkey’s decision whether to attack Iraq from the north. Brock’s unit was expecting to attack from the south, from Kuwait. But they waited for about two months and then stayed an additional two weeks in Kuwait, building combat power and getting organized, he said.

Then the Saddam Fedayeen insurgency started attacking American troops and the unit reorganized and headed toward Baghdad.

“Everybody was on edge,” he said. “We were all tense. We buckled everything up – our special armor and artillery – because we didn’t know if there were snipers out or what.”

It took three days to travel from Kuwait to Baghdad, he said.

One of Brock’s units actually engaged enemy fighters on the way from Kuwait to Baghdad, but no U.S. troops were severely injured, he said.

“When we got there we could hear rounds firing and tracers,” he said. “No one was shooting at us personally. They were shooting fire in the air and celebrating.”

But he said he wasn’t impressed with Baghdad. The city was dirty, abandoned dogs roamed the streets and the bugs were “frightening,” he said.

“You don’t see the trashy parts of Baghdad on the news,” he said.

The unit split up in Baghdad with a number of trucks carrying armor and infantry elsewhere, he said.

From Baghdad, the unit traveled northwest and then northeast, eventually to the Iranian border. The unit’s main mission was to find Saddam, his sons and Ba’ath party members. The unit also traveled to Samara East Air Field.

“At the air field, there were hangars and hangars full of Iraqi bombs,” he said. “Walking into some of the hangars, you could see holes in the walls that were bowed out and black because of dropped missiles.”

Brock’s unit took over the city of Samara.

“We took a little resistance, but nobody was hurt,” he said. “For the most part, people cooperated. We handed it over to another unit and went to the Iranian border and patrolled it.”

At that time, a terrorist group called the MEK, which was involved in the Iraq-Iran war, surrendered to the unit.

“We collected all their weapons and munitions,” he said. “By the time I left Iraq at the end of August, we destroyed more than 15,000 bombs and artillery weapons, which we found mostly in farmers’ fields.”

May turned into June, and the unit moved slowly into Kurdish areas, hearing about a couple of casualties in Baghdad, but none were from Brock’s unit.

Unit attacked

The unit found Balata hectic, he said. The Saddam Fedayeen attacked the infantry every night.

“Every night, we’d hear of attacks,” he said.

Then one night, Brock was asleep in his bunker and awoke abruptly. He heard whistling outside and then three explosions erupted hundreds of feet from the camp.

“They shot three at us and then left,” he said. “The next night, the same thing happened at the same time.

“It was about 2 a.m., and I heard three thumping sounds – thud, thud, thud – and then three more explosions. That’s how close they were to us. I heard the bombs flying over our heads,” he said. “It was nuts.”

The explosions made the troops jumpy, he said.

“If a door slammed or if someone dropped something, everyone jumped,” he said. “It was quiet for about two weeks, and the last nights there we heard 12 big booms knocking on the walls.”

Later, Brock’s unit found out that there were three points of origin from which they were attacked.

“The terrorists were getting pretty smart,” he said.

The troop spotted Iraqi vehicles sitting in fields, he said. The outside of the vehicles were stripped off, but there were missiles hidden inside.

“We waited for a while,” he said. “We reported on it but things get hectic – they were abandoned vehicles in a field – and it was a low priority for us.”

Then, Saddam Fedayeen began shooting out of one vehicles, sending 11 missiles toward the troop, but injuring only one soldier, he said.

Homeward bound

“When they sent me home at the end of August, all hell started breaking loose (in Iraq),” he said.

More than 400 U.S. service members have died since military operations began in Iraq, more than half of them since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat operations.

“It’s better to fight terrorists on their land than ours,” he said.

Brock was sent home in August because of an overflow of officers in Iraq. His unit had four officers when it only needed one, he said.

And after six years in the service, first joining in 1993 for the Nebraska National Guard after graduating from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Brock said it was nice to get away from the military life.

Brock now works for Vail Security.

“I have a great job here,” he said. “I came here because I didn’t want to go back to Nebraska.”

When asked about his time spent in Iraq, he said, “We just turned all of Saddam’s wrong-doing into something right.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.

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