Many civilians and servicemembers at U.S. bases throughout the Pacific were surprised and ecstatic Monday upon hearing news of Saddam Hussein’s capture.
“When I first began to hear details, I was shocked,” Seaman Apprentice Matt Weil of Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, said Monday. “I think it is a great thing.”
“I was also surprised by the way he was caught,” he said. “I just thought he was one of those guys that wouldn’t come quietly. I’m surprised he had no fight.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos Ocasio of Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, said he “didn’t believe it.”
“I was surprised … that he was captured so easily,” Ocasio said. “With all the talk he did, you’d think he’d put up more resistance.”
Sgt. Wilson Patterson of Camp Foster, Okinawa, was having a peaceful evening at home with his family when a friend called with news of the capture Sunday.
“We were so excited to hear the news that we called my family and friends,” he said. “We were all extremely excited.”
“This helps the troops and the morale and the ongoing operations in Iraq,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Gregory Hightower of Misawa Naval Air Facility, Japan.
Some learned of Saddam’s capture Sunday night from television reports; others were just finding out Monday morning.
“I was sitting there watching TV [Sunday] when a news flash came on with unconfirmed reports from CNN that the U.S. had captured him,” said Mark Stefan, a former Marine and a Camp Foster civilian worker on Okinawa.
In South Korea, 1st 506th Infantry Battalion soldiers from Camp Greaves were watching CNN reports on the capture at Camp Red Cloud’s food court Monday morning.
“I knew they would catch him,” Spc. William Rahman said. “I believe they already knew where he was for a long time, just seeing if he would lead them somewhere.”
In Sasebo, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Aaron Weissman called the capture “pretty amazing.”
He said he learned of the capture while exercising on a treadmill, adding he wasn’t surprised no bullets were fired.
“I’ve always figured Saddam Hussein to be someone who doesn’t get his hands dirty,” Weissman said. “He did look pretty run down and haggard in the video they showed on television.”
Monique Grant, the wife of Air Force Staff Sgt. Alistair Grant of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, found out Monday while on her way into a Camp Foster shoppette.
“I didn’t even know until you told me,” Grant said to a reporter. “My husband is over there now, so I hope this helps bring him home sooner.
“Because he’s over there, I stay away from watching or reading the news.”
She and others are hopeful Saddam’s capture will quell the violence in Iraq.
“I think … some people over there who are continuing to fight saw Saddam as a figurehead, that they’d have a chance to bring Saddam back to power,” Stefan said. “Now that he’s gone, maybe they’ll cooperate.”
Patterson agreed, saying the capture should prompt more Iraqis to work with Americans.
“I hope it will lead to less killing and let us work together for a better Iraq,” he said.
But some troops say the capture could exacerbate problems for Americans in Iraq.
“It could cause a lot more problems,” Weil said. “Those who have stood by him may see him as a martyr, and violence could become worse.”
Nonetheless, Stefan said Saddam’s capture shows “you can run, but you can’t hide.”
And that’s the message troops hope Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind behind al-Qaida and its 9/11 terrorist attacks, hears.
“He’ll be a little bit harder, but they’ll catch him,” Rahman said.
Stars and Stripes reporters Seth Robson, Nancy Montgomery, Jennifer Svan and David Allen contributed to this report.