FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — In the corner of a tent on this small, Spartan base sit reminders of Pfc. Satieon V. Greenlee’s life: a dusty television and Xbox game console; an empty cot, already dusty with disuse; and an improvised field memorial decorated with his laundry bag, a crucifix and the written goodbyes of his fellow soldiers.
Greenlee, 24, of Pendleton, S.C., was killed Oct. 2 by a sniper in the restive area near Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad. He was on an escort mission with the Personal Security Detachment platoon, part of Headquarters and Headquarters Company of 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division of Fort Drum, N.Y.
Days later, soldiers from his platoon laughed and cried as they remembered an always-cheerful, hard-working soldier with a colorful “country gangster” accent, a fondness for mentholated cigarettes and beer (real and fake), an appetite for all kinds of music, and boundless dreams for his wife and two young children, whose picture he carried inside his helmet.
Greenlee, a Humvee gunner, dreamed of returning home and opening a day care center. He excelled at video games on his Xbox. He joked, he laughed, he swore, and he was rarely found without a cigarette in his mouth.
Soldiers also remembered Greenlee’s infamously odoriferous feet and his unusual antics.
“He became a near-beer junkie,” Smith said with a laugh, recounting the time he found Greenlee attempting a near-beer binge in his tent.
“There were at least 15 empty near-beers sitting there and somebody said, ‘Greenlee, it’s not going to work.’”
His friends struggled to pinpoint the nature of his foot odor, wrinkling their noses in an unsuccessful attempt to describe the smell of Greenlee’s bare feet after a daylong mission.
“Everybody’s feet are different,” shrugged Spc. Donta Minor, 21. “They do different things. His just did a whole different thing.”
Greenlee, who friends say never complained, also played the one-man role of the platoon’s “Motivation Team.”
“He would get the whole platoon to sound off,” said Sgt. Florgelyn Dolores, 23, with a laugh. “He would yell, ‘Motivation Team, hooah!’”
That motivation, said platoon leader 1st Lt. Michael Johnston, 24, came from an intense love of his job.
“I remember him telling me about how he loved to train,” he said. “He loved to sweat and gain knowledge of his craft.”
His intensity made him a natural choice for a gunner, said Staff Sgt. Tony Smith, 27.
“Him and that gun came together,” he said. “He was just gifted.”
But he also had a deeply peaceful nature.
“He was the only guy I ever met over here who didn’t want to fire his weapon,” said Pvt. Justin McFarlane, 22. “He just wanted to do his job and go home.”
When he got home, he wanted to open a day care center, said Pfc. Jeremy Motzer, 21. “He loved kids. He talked about his kids all the time.”
Members of Greenlee’s platoon said he professed a sense of foreboding before his final mission. During the mission, a vehicle broke down and communications systems crashed simultaneously, just before Greenlee was shot. He never got to fire his weapon.
“He said it was a bad idea and he had a bad feeling,” Smith said. “It wasn’t just him. We all felt it.”
But even to the end, his friends said Greenlee remained steadfast and brave.
“He stood up in his turret,” Smith said. “He did everything right. He had no fear. He died on his feet.”