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I have mentioned a few times now that my brother was deployed to N. Iraq with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. This is an Army unit, but he is actually Air Force. He provides close air support and reconnaissance. Basically those in his career field act as the liaisons between the Army and Air Force units in combat.

I debated whether or not to share these, but decided I wanted to them “published” (it's all about me after all). What follows are three correspondences I received from my brother during his deployment. One is a letter sent to my parents, which was scanned and emailed to the rest of the family. The other two are emails he was able to send out during his precious few minutes on a computer.

I hope that you are able to glimpse a tiny fraction of the experience of another solider serving our country.

03 April (via email)

Sorry [MrsBigBroKnight] that this isn't more private but this is the first email I have seen and don't know when again.

To everyone, I am fine, the jump was uneventful, we haven't seen any combat yet and hopefully won't. We are moving constantly and the mail hasn't started yet.

For my parents and siblings I love you all and will talk to you when I get a chance.

For [MrsBigBroKnight] and my wonderful kids, I miss you all so much and hope to be home soon. Daddy is safe and fine.

It was really cold the night of the jump and the night after. I almost froze to death, had to snuggle with the Captain to keep from getting hypothermia.

I have a few letters for you all but no mail going out yet. I have to go as there is a line to use this. I love you all and give each other lots of hugs and kiss from me to you all.


06 April (letter sent to parents, scanned, and emailed)

Well, I am in N. Iraq, in one piece and doing fine. The jump is something I will never forget. It was pitch black, cold and wet. It snowed a few hours before the jump. The Drop Zone was nothing but mud. I ended up cutting my forehead, above my right eye on the landing. I didn't realize this until daylight when someone noticed the blood on my face. It is healing fine but will probably scar.

We haven't fired any shots yet, that is a good thing. But it sounds like we will tonight. We are doing an artillery raid on an Iraqi position in support of a Special Forces team and Kurdish fighters. We just got back from a recon mission of the area. What a [illegible, looks like “goat rape”???] it was.

There is media running all over the place. Once you leave the base camp they follow you and videotape everything. As soon as you loose one crew, another shows up.

Most of the locals come out and cheer and wave when we drive through the towns. The Pashmergians [ethnic group?] have been through decades of fighting with the Iraqis and they hate them.

I hope everyone is doing OK. I don't get much news out here except for when we use our radios to listen to the BBC or Voice of America transmissions. Sounds like we have Baghdad in our sights now. I am glad that I am not down there. Urban warfare is the worst.

I think that the mail is about to start up here soon. They said letters would start flowing in first. Once the supplies are built up, the boxes will follow…A B-52 just dropped 26 750 lb. bombs about 20 miles away. What a sound it makes! [note that he most likely heard the details over his radio, I don't think he can identify bomb blasts by ear at 20 miles!]

The SF guys have been really busy out front. We listen to the aircraft talk to them. A few times it has gotten eerie on the radios as some of the teams were engaged in heavy fighting. Knowing that one of my fellow AF guys is there with them really gets you going and wishing you could help them out. But we have our mission to do here.

Well, I will talk to you all later, Love you all,

01 May (via email)

Well, I am still safe and sound. We are still sitting here in Kirkuk, Iraq.

As for me and my guys not much for us to do. The war is basically over and done with. There hasn't really been any need for Close air support in a week or so in the whole country. Every once in a while they will call in aircraft to over fly crowds to get them to disperse but that is about it.

We are trying to downsize our numbers here now that our mission is done but the army leaders are not letting us. It comes down to, “If we (the army) has to stay here, you have to stay here and suffer with us”.

I went out on a patrol the other day. We went through the city here. It is just amazing how these people lived like this. For a city that is sitting on the second largest oil field in Iraq, you would never know it by looking around. It is a prime example that none of the oil money went to the citizens of Iraq.

The locals around here have been going out at night to the different ammo holding areas and been taking the ends off of the artillery shells and other ammo to sell the brass to the Iranians. One problem though, some of them have managed to blow themselves up.

There is one Non-government organization that we worked with the other day called the Mine Awareness Group. We went out to one of the sights they use to blow up old Iraqi ammo they find. It was amazing; most the guys on the team were former Iraqi soldiers just a few weeks ago. They were all happy to see us. Had tea with them, they showed us all of the ammo they were preparing for destruction that day, then we watched them blow it.

So far, the biggest problem around here has been the locals trying to kill each other. The other night a family of four was murdered, most likely ethnic related. There definitely is some deep seeded resentment between the different ethnic groups around here. All the
army guys have been doing is Policing.

Well, I need to get going, I will talk to you all later.

If you want to learn more about the 173rd's mission, check this article out from the Washington Post from March 28.¬Found=true
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