Tuesday, March 20, 2007

When the War Began

Now that we have passed the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, I decided to pull out the journal I started in December, 2002. When the war began in 2003, I was assigned to a team that was mobilizing military police units at Fort Stewart, Georgia. As that mission came to an end, I asked to be released to go to Iraq. My unit wouldn’t release me until the following November.

I made this entry on March 21, 2003, and it reflects what I had seen on the news or heard through “rumor control” as the war began:

“On March 19, at about 2130 hours (9:30 p.m.), the United States acted on intelligence information and dropped bombs on a location in Baghdad where Saddam Hussein and his sons were believed to be hiding. Thus began Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Since then, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, the 3rd Infantry Division, the 7th Cavalry and other units have invaded Iraq. As of this writing, it is uncertain if Hussein was killed or injured, but intelligence sources said he was carried out of the building on a gurney with oxygen. It may or may not be true.

The Iraqi port of Umm Qasr has been captured, some 75 Tomahawk cruise missiles have been fired and fighting has taken place near Nasiriya at the Euphrates River. The capture of airfields H2 and H3 in the western portion of Iraq probably involved the Rangers and the Marines have seen intense fighting in southern Iraq which resulted in the first U.S. combat casualty, a Marine officer.

B52s have left Britain for parts unknown. This could be part of the ‘Shock and Awe’ strategy developed to shock the Iraqi military into surrendering. Large numbers of Iraqi soldiers have surrendered, but many are either resisting or withdrawing. In Safwan, a southern Iraqi town, civilians have cheered the arrival of liberating American troops.

Communications seem to have broken down within the Iraqi military leadership and some negotiations may be underway between American commanders and Iraqis with regard to surrender of some units.

During the fight for the main highway near Basrah, U.S. Marines were shelled by Iraqi mortars, but there were no casualties. Saddam Hussein (if he is still alive) has supposedly offered a bounty for the capture or death of an American.

A couple of military helicopters have crashed, killing numerous American and British soldiers. Some of the oil fields in southern Iraq are reportedly in flames. U.S. forces have gone to suspected sites of weapons of mass destruction, but the results are unclear. American and British naval forces have captured Iraqi ships carrying mines off southern Iraq.

Thousands of protesters around the world are active today with many violent protests occurring. Once protester fell off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and was killed. Tens of thousands protested in Cairo, there was violence in Yemen and over 1000 people were arrested in San Francisco as other protests continued.

CNN journalists were just ordered out of Baghdad. They were about the last ones there. Most journalists left when they were advised to do so.

As I continue to work with the soldiers at Ft. Stewart, I am impressed with the dedication of the troops going overseas. They know they will face danger and, quite possibly, death. They know they might have to endure chemical or biological weapons, but they continue to prepare themselves and their units for war. It is an honor to work with them…."

Reading this now is a reminder of how we all felt at the time. The nation was standing together, we had a common purpose and we were resolute in our determination to achieve victory. We would face whatever the future held for us, but we would face it together with courage and fortitude.

Some of us still feel that way…

SFC Chuck Grist


  1. Thank you for the reminder...
    Yes, some of us still do feel that way!

  2. I remember those days, and I miss them so much. Thank you for all you have done for our country and me. You did not have to, you don't even know me, and you are the one (among many) standing in the way of my demise. I am very grateful to you. May God watch over you always.