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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Soldier Relates Iraqi Experience

by Stephanie Croston

It's been just about a year since Tim Hartmann, 21, went through his first ambush. Hartmann and his company were en route from Balad to Polliwoda along Highway 1 when they were attacked by a suicide bomber and an improvised explosive device (IED).

March 18, memories of the attack seemed far from Hartmann's mind as he sat on his parents' couch in Seward with his fiancee, Christine Kippes. He showed pictures of the bases he was stationed at in Iraq, convoys in which he participated and people he met.

Hartmann joined the army in 2000 while still a senior at Seward High School. After he graduated in 2001, he went to Fort Knox for tank training and was sent to Germany Dec. 7, 2001. After five months there, he went to Kosovo, where he stayed for seven months, then headed back to Germany for about a year.

"We knew we would go to Iraq," he said. "We were in training when the war started."

A month of training and acclimating in Kuwait preceded his unit's entrance into Iraq. A two-day drive along Highway 1, also known as the Highway of Death, brought the unit to Balad, about 40 miles north of Baghdad.

Hartmann spent time at five different bases during the year he was in Iraq. He started at Anaconda, a base of about 20,000 soldiers that felt more like a city than an army base. His unit was responsible for delivering supplies.

After a promotion, Hartmann moved to other smaller bases.

"The war was more effective there," he said.

Soldiers often shared their MREs (meals ready to eat) with Iraqi children and, at one point, spent a week and a half eating Otis Spunkmeyer blueberry muffins because all the MREs were gone, Hartmann said.

His "home" at Polliwoda was in an abandoned terrorist camp, and the room he shared with two other sergeants was a converted bathroom. They filled in the holes with cement and sprayed a lot of air freshener, he said.

Part of his job was training the Iraq Civil Defence Corps, police and army, a task he described as babysitting. Absenteeism and desertion were common.

"With the police, four of 10 would join and not show up," he said.

More rewarding was the work done in the villages, where soldiers rebuilt schools and hospitals. Not every villager was happy about the American presence in Iraq, however.

"In some villages we were welcomed, and in others we were not," Hartmann said.

Every day was different. Soldiers were careful not to fall into a predictable routine to keep bombers from easy targets, so supply deliveries were conducted at different times.

The quick reaction force at Polliwoda, which covered about one half a grid square, was mortared daily, Hartmann said, but mortar attacks at Anaconda were barely noticed because of its size. A grid square is approximately one square kilometer.

The sounds of mortars are quite distinctive, especially once you get used to them, he said. If you hear the whistle on an incoming shell, you'll be OK. If you don't, you'd better run for cover, he said. Outgoing shells sound more like thunder.

"There was constant tension. There was no trust," he said.

In November, Hartmann moved to Tikrit, where he was a tank gunner and lived in one of Saddam Hussein's old palaces.

"It's the Fort Knox of the military," he said, adding that the town has ammunition dumps and military equipment left from Saddam's regime.

During the Iraqi elections, Hartmann was in Beiji to help keep the peace.

"They spent weeks planning," he said.

False voting places were set up to deter suicide bombers, and those who wanted to vote went through heavy security.

"It was really successful," he said.

The worst part of being in Iraq was the heat, especially when it reached the 140s, he said.
"The heat was really bad. It killed morale," he said.

In Polliwoda, soldiers were able to get three to five hours of sleep in the afternoon during the "Tiger Siesta," so called because the tank company was called the Steel Tigers. Tanks are not used often because they were not designed to run hard in the extreme heat, Hartmann said.

Communication with America is relatively easy. Letters from Iraq to the States arrive fairly quickly, although return letters take more time. The camp at Anaconda had a computer tent where soldiers could e-mail friends and family. At Polliwada, there were 10 computers for about 400 soldiers, Hartmann said, and that tent was damaged by a mortar attack.

So what did he miss the most?

"A good night's sleep," he said.

While in Germany on R&R, he said it was too quiet. The shelling had become so ingrained, he almost missed it.

Hartmann met his fiancee in early November. They were at a nightclub in Germany, and Kippes said it was love at first sight.

Hartmann is in the army until December of 2006 and returned to his base in Germany March 21.

Welcome Home, Tim, and thank you.

In Today's News - Saturday, March 26, 2005 Associated Press
Car bomb kills three U.S. troops in Iraq
Taiwanese hold major protest against China
Police confront looters in Kyrgyzstan
India objects to U.S.-Pakistan arms deal

The US News: Iraq News
Iraq parliament to reconvene
Iran Arms Stockpile Worries U.S.
From Hero To Homeless
Assassination, attacks overshadow Iraq political talks >
Wave of violence across Iraq leaves 21 dead
U.S. Guards Discover 600-Foot Tunnel in Key Iraq Prison Before Detainees Can Escape
A quiet week in Iraq ends as string of attacks kill 15

Yahoo! News: War with Iraq
U.S. Marine Killed in Action in Western Iraq
Taiwan protests new Chinese law
Car bomb kills 2 U.S. soldiers in Baghdad Video

Fox News
Explosion Kills Four U.S. Troops in Afghanistan
Iraq Prison Tunnel Found
Report: Ousted Kyrgyz Leader in Russia
AP: Iran Amassing Arms
Seven Killed in Afghan Battle
Warplanes Kill Five Suspected Militants
Slain Soldier's Father Paints Tribute to Him
Afghans Set Election Date
Suspect in Deadly Afghan Bombing Arrested
Rice Praises Afghan Transition to Democracy
U.S. to Sell F-16s to Pakistan

Department of Defense
Troop Role in Djibouti Vital in Terror War — Story
Morale, Sense of Accomplishment High — Story

U.S. Forces Aid Afghan Flood Victims — Story
Coalition Medics Treat Young Burn Victims
U.S., NATO Troops View Potential Team Site — Story
Iraqi Police Recruits Tackle Screening Process — Story
Iraqi Workers Build Base for New Iraqi Army — Story
Buffalo Joins Brigade Combat Team Arsenal -- Story

Army Secretary Visits Camp Liberty Troops
Training to Provide Framework for Daily Ops
Iraqi SWAT Training Nears Halfway Point
Training Key to Overcoming Ambush

Corps of Engineers Awards Bridge Contract
Flowers Symbolize Progress in Afghans' Lives
Myers Visits Deployed Soldiers in Afghanistan
Army Secretary Visits Camp Phoenix Troops

C-130s Airdrop Critical Supplies to Afghans

Southwest Asia Deployment Reunites Family Members — Story

Rhode Island Artillerymen Return Home
Photos: 272nd MP Company Returns from Iraq
Photos: New Hampshire Guard Brigade Returns

San Antonio Spurs Host Troops — Story
Firefighters Visit, Thank Troops — Story

Soldiers Kill Seven Terrorists
Tip Leads to Bombing Arrest
U.S. Troops 'Well Led, Trained'
Iraq Daily Update
Iraq Reconstruction
Weekly Progress Report (pdf)

Commander Pledges Continuity
Afghanistan Daily Update

Army Chief Talks Transformation
Myers Outlines WMD Threat
Building MP Unit No Easy Task
Waging and Winning the War on Terror
Terrorism Timeline
Terrorism Knowledge Base

Unit Gets Presidential Unit Citation
Health Plan Benefits Some Troops
Rumsfeld in Guatemala for Talks
Support Critical to Mission
National Guard, Reserve Update

Today in History
1668 - Britain takes control of Bombay, India
1790 - The US Congress passes the Naturalization Act
1793 - Pro-royalists riot in Vendée region of France
1799 - Napolean captures Jaffa, Palestine
1804 - The US Congress orders the removal of Indians east of Mississippi to Louisiana
1804 - The Territory of Orleans is organized in the Louisiana Purchase
1862 - Battle of La Glorieta Pass, New Mexico Territory
1863 - West Virginia votes to approve gradual emancipation of slaves
1910 - US forbid immigration to criminals, anarchists, paupers & the sick
1913 - Bulgaria captures Adrianople, ending the 1st Balkan War
1931 - Iraq & Trans-Jordan sign a peace treaty
1935 - "RvJ" Mitchell & Major Sorley discuss the armament of the Spitfire
1942 - The 1st "Eichmann transport" to the Auschwitz & Birkenau Camps
1942 - Colonel-General Rommel launches a German offensive in North Africa
1943 - Army Nurse Elsie S. Ott becomes the first woman to receive an air medal
1943 - Battle of Komandorski Islands, Pacific theater
1944 - 705 British bombers attack Essen
1945 - Churchill looks over at the Rhine, near Ginsberg
- Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton attack at Remagen
- Japanese resistance ends on Iwo Jima
- Kamikazes attack the US battle fleet near Kerama Retto
- The US 7th Army crosses the Rhine at Worms
1954 - The US performs an atmospheric nuclear test at Bikini Island
1958 - 30th Academy Awards-"Bridge on the River Kwai", Alec Guinness & Joanne Woodward win
1958 - The US Army launches America's third successful satellite, "Explorer III"
1960 - Iraq executes 30 after an attack on President Kassem
1971 - Bangladesh declares independence
1974 - The Romanian communist party names Nicolae Ceausescu President
1979 - Israel and Egypt sign the Camp David peace treaty
1982 - In Washington DC, ground is broken for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
1989 - 190 million votes are cast in the first free elections in the USSR; Boris Yeltsin wins

-Vasili III, great prince of Moscow, son of Ivan III
1813 - Thomas West Sherman, Union Brevet Major General
1817 - Herman Haupt, Union Brigadier General
1868 - Fuad I, King of Egypt
1875 - Syngman Rhee, President, South Korea
1893 - Palmiro Togliatti, founder of the Communist Party of Italy
1914 - Ian McGeoch, Vice-Admiral
1914 - William Westmoreland, US Army General (Vietnam)
1920 - George E. Brown, Jr. (Representative, CA)
1930 - Sandra Day O'Connor, 1st female Supreme Court Justice
1940 - Nancy Pelosi (Representative, CA)
1962 - Yuri Pavlovich Gidzenko, Russian Lt. Colonel/cosmonaut