BAQOUBA, Iraq — Patrolling the streets of Baqouba — where makeshift bombs are as common as daily power outages — is no easy task. But for the “Renegades” of 3rd Platoon, Battery B, 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, it’s all in a day’s work.
“It’s part of everyday life now,” said Pfc. Sammy Daniels. “You wake up, get ready and go.”
The soldiers realize what their presence on the city streets means.
“We go out there to provide a target,” said Spc. Michael Phillips. “It’s the only way to find them … to get them out of hiding so we can fight them.”
The Renegades, out of Bamberg, Germany, and based at Forward Operating Base Gabe, are holding their own against insurgents. In 228 missions in the last three months, the platoon hasn’t lost a single soldier.
The soldiers said they have succeeded by keeping an eye peeled for anything out of the ordinary, and constantly asking, “What if?”
“While you’re out there, you try to predict what could happen,” said Sgt. Chris Thyson said. “Like, ‘What if a car bomb came around the corner right now?’”
Although some of the unit’s soldiers have been injured by roadside bombs, the soldiers know car bombs will cause a lot more than injury.
“[Car bombs] are the real danger,” said Spc. Kyle Brooks. “I’m always looking at vehicles and checking for signs that it could be a [car bomb].”
The unit’s up-armored Humvees provide adequate protection against the makeshift bombs, said Sgt. Brandon Ancar.
But “with a [car bomb] packed with 1,000 pounds of explosives … there’s not much left,” Phillips said.
Halfway through their rotation in Iraq, the soldiers speak of the dangers almost as if they are immune. But it wasn’t always that way.
“When we first got here, everyone was on edge,” said Spc. Jason Baker. “Now, it’s second nature.”
The soldiers say they have seen some interesting situations, and been in some firefights. But things have calmed down since April, a month that saw many attacks across Iraq that killed many U.S. servicemembers.
The soldiers prefer not to talk about the bad times. In fact, most won’t even tell their families about what they’ve seen.
“They see enough of what’s happening here on the news; I don’t want to add to their worries,” Phillips said.
“I let my wife know that I’m OK whenever and however I can,” Ancar said. “But I don’t need to tell her exactly what I’m doing out on these patrols.”
The code of silence also helps the soldiers cope with what they’ve seen.
“What happens outside the gate stays outside the gate,” Phillips said. “You have to try not to think about it and not dwell on it.”
And take it one day at a time.
“Any day you come back is a good day,” Daniels said.