No weekends off and ‘Sleep when there's time.’ That's the life of a soldier in Iraq. Staff Sergeant Edward Bowers says he could easily tell which Iraqis wanted American soldiers there, and which did not. Nora Seibert has another chapter in our series of special reports, A Soldier's Diary.
SSG Bowers is no stranger to deployment. He served in Bosnia before going to Iraq. He's a commander of a Bradley---a big, heavily armed vehicle that carries soldiers into combat. He is with Charlie 1-12 Infantry of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
"It felt pretty good." SSG Bowers remembers the day he helped a Kurdish man with his broken-down truck. "He started giving me a hug and kisses---saying, ‘Thank you! Thank you!’ Telling me, ‘Saddam stinks!’"
But inside the Sunni triangle, it's a different story. He says most of the middle-aged men are not happy the Americans are there. But kids are curious about the soldiers and the older people are thankful. "I'd probably say the majority of the population wanted us there."
Part of their job was to show the Iraqi people that Saddam would never be in power again. "He's just like Hitler," says SSG Bowers. Although we saw it on TV, he says it was amazing how many pictures of Saddam were in that country. "We'd go around spraying paint on them, or knock down the walls with the tanks, and things like that. If we couldn't knock it down, we'd blow it up.” He says getting rid of the reminders of the former dictator sent a message to the people. "So that people see this guy ain't going to come back."
SSG Bowers spent much of his time in Iraq out on patrols, looking for weapons caches or tracking down people who were firing mortar rounds at their camp from three or four miles away. "We'd have to go out and find where these guys are shooting us from." They did, and pushed the attackers too far out to fire on the camp. "We captured a couple of the bad guys---part of the Baathist party---Saddam's Baathist party and Fedayeen guys."
After a year in Iraq, SSG Bowers says he knows why he was sent so far from home. "I feel like once I was over there---seen the people, the hardships---that's why we're there."
SSG Bowers is back at work now at Fort Carson and home safely with his wife.