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Staff Sgt. Michael Sherman, 28, of Hawaiian Gardens, Calif., has his photo taken by Sgt. Jim Davis, 34, of Kokomo, Ind., in front of the gold-domed Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, Iraq, Friday. Earlier that morning the soldiers found out that an agreement was reached to remove militia members around the mosque.

Staff Sgt. Michael Sherman, 28, of Hawaiian Gardens, Calif., has his photo taken by Sgt. Jim Davis, 34, of Kokomo, Ind., in front of the gold-domed Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, Iraq, Friday. Earlier that morning the soldiers found out that an agreement was reached to remove militia members around the mosque. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

NAJAF, Iraq — Soldiers here woke up Friday to word that the Medhi militia, holed up around the Imam Ali Shrine, was giving up after a deal was reached between religious leaders and the Iraqi government.

But despite word that fighting should be over, soldiers aren’t rejoicing. Skepticism reigns.

“They’ve done this before,” said Spc. Gary Price of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment. “I think that this is just the militia’s way to re-supply and move in more troops to fight a little more.”

The cease-fire that preceded the call for the militia to lay down its arms wasn’t the end to fighting.

“The idea of a cease-fire is that they’ll not fire at you,” said Spc. Jerry White, 24, of Gainesville, Fla. “But they’ll sure throw grenades at you.”

At least five of the battalion’s soldiers were wounded after the cease-fire, so the announcement that the fighting is over was taken with a grain of salt.

“Nobody’s talking about it,” said Spc. Daniel Ethridge, 23, of Leesburg, Ga. “But everyone’s sitting with their fingers crossed hoping that this thing stays.”

“I hope so,” said Company A’s Spc. Ronnie Dudley, 23, of Council Bluffs, Iowa. “My focus isn’t on their surrender, my focus is on whether or not our radios are working or if we have extra batteries.”

“If I’d put odds on it, I’d be 30 percent sure,” said White.

If that 30 percent holds true, the soldiers hope to leave for Camp Cooke in Taji, north of Baghdad, as soon as possible.

“We’re focusing on getting back to Taji,” said Ethridge of 2-7 Cav’s mortar platoon. “Oh yeah, air conditioning and regular showers. That’s good.”

“It’ll be just as good as the Hilton,” said Price, “the next best thing to home. I want to get some sleep for a change.”

Plus a shower. Price and others in the company haven’t showered for nearly three weeks.

“We really stink,” said Price, 26, of Sierra Vista, Ariz., getting nods of agreement from other nearby soldiers. “We’ve been living in a trash dump for the last week.”

As well as a change in location, the pending move to Camp Cooke brings a change in the type of combat they can expect.

“Taji has a lot more improvised explosive devices,” said Ethridge. “Here there are a lot more rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire — a whole lot more.”


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