Support our mission
 

KARBALA, Iraq — Though there’s talk of going home, the 1st Armored Division soldiers in Karbala said they were extended the first time for a reason: to take care of the bad guys.

And if push comes to shove in the days before the June 30 handover in Iraq, their ability to get those bad guys just might make them too good to send home again, troops said.

Army officials have announced that the Germany-based division should be home by mid-July, but senior noncommissioned officers on the ground said this time their troops are “stone cold” about the buzz.

“There’s no emotion,” said Sgt. 1st Class James Flum, platoon sergeant for Company B, 16th Combat Engineer Battalion out of Giessen, Germany. “We’ve been told many things that have not come to pass.

“Also, you got to think, do we really have faith in the 1st Calvary to get things done?” Flum asked.

In April, members of the division were either called back from Germany or turned around from departure points and sent to fight a Shiite Muslim uprising in south-central Iraq.

The task force built around the 1st Battalion, 37 Armor Regiment, known as “The Bandits,” was sent to Karbala to help fight militia of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. In 21 days of fighting, 1st AD soldiers captured militiamen, cleared out weapon’s caches and drove the rest of the militia out the city.

When troops were satisfied the militia was gone, the Army transitioned from fighting to rebuilding.

Since the militia left the city May 21, the Bandits have fixed up public land and buildings and created a safe environment for local businesses, the soldiers say.

“We did a kick-ass job here in the battle of Karbala,” said 2nd Lt. Josey Sandoval, the platoon leader for Company B, 16th Engineers. “The Army knows it’s got a resource here, so they’ll use us if they can. If we’re available here, they’ll use us.”

The troops said although some lives were lost, the extension was the right thing to do.

“We definitely hit one of the strongholds for the Sadr militia, which was important,” said Staff Sgt. Alexander Roa, personnel NCO in charge of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-37 Armor from Friedberg, Germany. “We weeded out a lot of bad guys and showed them that we are not afraid. We’re here to see things through.”

Now, with the handover right around the same corner as some dates of departure, troops said they’re going to have to see it to believe it.

“I won’t believe it until I’m home, for about two months, just sitting down. Then I might think we’re really not coming back,” said Sgt. Ketwon Moore, a track vehicle mechanic with Company B, 16th Engineers.

Some troops said they were even trying to quash family hopes of an early extension return.

“We’re a little skeptical about hearsay. I know it sounds weird, but I’m even trying to keep my wife’s hopes down. Last time, it wasn’t too pretty,” said Sgt. Thomas McKnight, another track vehicle mechanic with Company B, 16th Engineers.

Right now, troops are working as usual.

Maybe some minds slip into plans to finish off the rest of their summer at home, but nobody’s going to talk about it and jinx it before they get there.

Migrated

stars and stripes videos


around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up