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March 17, 2004

A Brief History of Camp Lancer

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connecting people and places and lives and loves.

2136 hrs 2004 March 7

When my son, Philip, deployed to Iraq, we all understood it might be 4-6 weeks before he'd be able to contact us. We got lucky today. He was able to make a brief call to his wife, letting her know his unit is now in place - Camp Lancer at Bayji. That's all we get for now. And for now, that's enough.

Tonight the candle burns a little brighter.

Thanks, Monika. [Week3: Camp Lancer at Bayji - Shiny Glass Beads]

So now I read the news a little closer.

0810 hrs 2004 March 13

I open Google News. The lead story reports 2 soldiers killed.

I started my morning with Google News today, and upon reading my son's newly arrived unit lost two people yesterday, realized within seconds how close to home this terrifying war is. My head is still spinning. My heart? Well, it seems like my heart is always hurting these days. Hence, this blog. Perhaps connecting people and places and lives and loves. Maybe, just maybe. [Maybe, Just Maybe]
Adrenaline kicks in, this is no good. I stop reading and put on water to make tea. I slip in to a breathing meditation while the water heats.

After tea, I call Monika in Germany, not mentioning what I had just read.

I called Philip's wife Monika in Germany a few minutes ago. He was able to call yesterday, saying that phones are available now and that a 30 minute phone call once a week seems possible. Other than that, not much to report - as of yesterday he hadn't left the confines of Camp Lancer.

I'm sending him email now to see if we can get him blogging. [Week 4: Camp Lancer at Bayji]

Philip and I had agreed on trying to blog his experience in Iraq late last year. However, the service provider hosting the domain and blog tools unexpectedly went out of business just before he left, and we didn't have time to get another up before he deployed. So I quickly created the Camp Lancer Weblog.
I dedicate this weblog - Camp Lancer Weblog - to the memory of two soldiers from 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, killed yesterday in Tikrit. I do not know their names yet. But soom I will. And so shall you.
March 13, 2004
TIKRIT, Iraq -- A roadside bomb killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded four today, a day after the military said two other soldiers died in a similar explosion elsewhere in Iraq's so-called Sunni Triangle.

The soldiers killed today were patrolling in an armored Humvee when a roadside bomb exploded in Tikrit, the hometown of deposed President Saddam Hussein, said Army Capt. Tim Crowe. The soldiers were not identified. They were from the Army's 1st Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, which is taking over security in the Tikrit area today. [Launched: Camp Lancer Weblog]

And then I waited.

In Sunday morning's email, the details begin to arrive.

And so shall you.

13 March 2004

My Company Commander, CPT John F. Kurth, was killed at 0500 hours. SPC Wood, a recent rehabilitative transfer from C Company was also killed. 3 other soldiers were critically wounded and were flown to Lahnstuhl, Germany. They were in a three vehicle convoy of HMMV’s (High Mobility Multi-wheeled Vehicles). The mission was to clear the route of IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices) placed along the route during the night. They missed one, it did not miss them. The cowards sneak out at night, dig holes, and leave bombs in and on the sides of roads. They use explosives, 155mm and 105mm Artillery shells, 60mm Mortar shells, grenades, mines … you get the fucking point. The bombs are remote or radio detonated, they prefer to target the middle vehicles of convoys (usually where the senior ranking officers are), or light skinned vehicles.

CPT Kurth, also known by his peers as Hans, was a West Point graduate. Soldiering was a labor of love for him. He is worth several hundred thousand dollars, probably more. He owns land, including an apartment building that generated a healthy income. His heart wanted to be a soldier, not the savvy businessman his bank account reflected. In a world of excess, he was the picture of moderation. He drove an early model Blazer that smelled of mildew, and stayed dirty from his frequent romps through the training area. He would walk barefoot through the company area to use the showers, until the XO gave him a pair of 99 cent flip-flops the CO was too cheap to buy himself. I constantly pressured him to take his European Motorcycle Test. He has a Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster he bought from a soldier, it is in storage, he has never ridden it. The one luxury he afforded himself, and he never got to play with it. Saba liked him. He would always stop what he was doing in his office to pet her. He was the best Company Commander I have had in 11 years of service. He lived in his office for the last 8 months before we deployed to Iraq. He spent every day reading after action reviews of the units that were here before us. He was present at every range, and supervised every training event the Company did. He wanted to make sure that every soldier got the information they needed to survive. He was a true warrior. He developed the Bushmaster Fighting Program which taught every soldier hand to hand combat tactics. He could bench press over 300 pounds, run a marathon, and road march farther, with more weight than anyone in the Battalion. Everyone knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, he would win any knife or gun fight he got into. He was the embodiment of the Warrior Ethos. He will be remembered.

I did not expect to have this happen yet. It has only been six days. I do not want to upset anyone, but this is the reality of the mission here. This incident will help my soldiers to focus on what is important to them. I do not know if I should describe the details like this. I do not know how I expect you to react. Try not to worry about me specifically. That is not my intent by telling you this information. I am the Commander of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, I am a subject matter expert on the employment of my weapon, and it is a big ass piece of metal with reactive armor. Shit Happens beyond our control. I do not feel like writing anymore today.

Philip Jarvis


Section Leader [And now I have names]

I am weepy the rest of the day. Tears flow from ancient wells, merge with new streams.

The next day, Monday, another email.

Note: SPC Wood was not transferred to B Co. SPC Jason Ford was killed in the assault on CPT Kurth's HMMV. There was a SNAFU that I will avoid in the future. My apologies.

16 Mar 2004

Hello, It was a better day today. We conducted a SIR (Surveillance, Intelligence, Reporting) patrol in sector this morning.  We went to a place known as [edited out]. I don't know why the outgoing unit nicknamed it that, but I believe it has to do with illegal arms trafficking in our sector.  Anyhow, it is an interesting little road. It is directly next to the Tigris River. We saw a large black plume of smoke coming from from the far side of the city last night as we returned from FOB Omaha. I guessed that someone sabotaged the oil refinery and we would be receiving an alert to investigate. That was not the case. The river actually caught on fire.  There is so much oil dumped into the river that it actually burns.  It appears that the Iraqis are ill-equipped to deal with these fires.  Hell, I can't even recall seeing a fire station while on patrol. Anyhow. Yesterday was a hard day for us. My soldiers and I packed up in the Hummers and went to FOB Omaha for the memorial service for CPT Kurth and SPC Ford.  (The initial report said it was a soldier named Wood)  It was a very dignified ceremony that helped us deal with the loss.  I talked with the squad leader who was the TC (Truck Commander) of the vehicle behind CPT Kurth when they were attacked.  He said that they went down the road that 4ID told them not to travel at night.  SSG Paulos is not a guy who likes to be told to stand down.  When they were told that there was a road that the Iraqis have a firm grip on, I cannot imagine CPT Kurth and or SSG Paulos just rolling over ignoring it. I bet that our unit won't travel it again at night without Bradleys. Another NCO, SGT Kalous, who was in the Hummer when the IED (Improvised Explosive Device) was detonated, had to have a foot amputated just below the knee.  He was riding with his foot dangling out of the door, another TTP (tactic, technique, and procedure) that 4ID said not to do.  If he had kept his foot inside the door frame (there are no doors on that Hummer), he might still have his foot.  SPC Press was the driver.  He is the soldier saluting in the picture I am attaching.  He received some lacerations to his right arm and some other minor injuries.  The radio in between him and CPT Kurth saved his life.  He is taking it pretty hard. My soldiers are more focused now because of this incident.  They looked 200% more professional and aggressive while outside the wire today.

If you guys want to send stuff, hard candy is good, beef jerky is better. Ramen is also good, but canned Chili is better. Chips Ahoy! are good, homemade Bundt cake is better. (just kidding, homemade chocolate chip cookie are better). A snub nose .38 would be nice, a Glock 9 better. just kidding. This could go one for a long time. The stuff I really miss can't be put in a box.  Samuel Adams will taste that much better after this. Smokey Bones BBQ ribs, nuff' said.  I cannot even describe how it will feel to
hold Monika in my arms, pet Saba, or twist the throttle of my Harley. I will take the time to enjoy every single luxury that I encounter. But most of all, time spent with the people I care about will have more meaning to me. The minute hand on the clock is the fastest item in any house.  After
this, I will have over 29 months deployment time away from Monika.  It has come to my attention that THAT is entirely too damn long. I am going to be an Army Recruiter.


Philip Jarvis
Section Leader [Corrections and Reflections]

The posts are only part of the story. There are comments for all, and email exchanges that, sacredly shared, are forever quietly kept from view. It is now 10pm, Wednesday night. This blog is barely 100 hours old, but I feel like it's been here forever.

Thanks for listening.

March 17, 2004 at 11:29 PM | Permalink


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I was one of the first soldier on Camp Lancer. At the time I was there we had no Hesko Baskets or burms. It was wide ass open you could see the small town and oil refinery clearly. The Iraqis could see us sometimes they would send rounds our way. I was there from 03-04. I learned a lot about life while there. I can not say I have applied all of it. My adventures out of the wire took me all the way down to Babylon and back several times. I got to participate in securing a perimeter when Sadham was captured. I remember when 1st armor relieved in place 4th infantry. With any transition there are bumps and knocks. Too bad some of these had to come in the form of life and love lost.

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