Staff Sgt. Christopher Blackwell, native of Pensacola , Fla. , a member of the Command Security Detachment, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Task Force Lightning, stands in front of his containerized housing unit on Forward Operating Base Warhorse. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Paul J. Harris, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office, Sept. 24, 2006)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2006
by Pfc. Paul J. Harris
3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
BAQUBAH, Iraq (September 27, 2006) -- Iraq has sand but not the type Staff Sgt. Christopher Blackwell, cook, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Task Force Lightning, was used to growing up in Pensacola, Fla.
His time spent hanging out at the beach are some of the fondest memories he has of his hometown and Iraqi sand is a far cry from what he remembers.
Blackwell left his hometown to join the Army to pursue one of his other passions: cooking. He cooked for his fellow Soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom I when he was with 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment and thought he was going to be cooking again when his unit from Fort Carson, Colo., was getting ready to deploy in 2005.
For this tour he was selected to be apart of the Striker Brigade’s command security detachment, responsible for protecting and mobilizing Col. Brian Jones, commander, 3rd HBCT.
“It was a pretty easy transition because being a cook with 1-8 we used to train out of our military occupational specialty,” Blackwell said.
The training he received would soon be put to the test upon his return to Iraq. On a recent dismounted patrol in downtown Baqubah with elements from 5th Iraqi Army Division and 1-68 Combined Arms Battalion, 3rd HBCT, Blackwell and his fellow Soldiers came under small arms fire from insurgents.
With adrenalin pumping and his heart racing Blackwell maneuvered to a rooftop to return fire and provide protection for Jones. For Blackwell, this was a new experience because in OIF I he had only received indirect fire such as mortars and rockets from the enemy.
As the result of Blackwell’s and his fellow teammates performance Jones recommended they receive the Combat Action Badge for actions on contact with the enemy.
Though the events of the day were scary they were not the most frightening experience Blackwell has encountered during his recent deployment. While patrolling in a Humvee, the vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.
“I was in shock,” Blackwell said. “It took a good 10 to 15 seconds to figure out what just happened. We immediately hit the gas and tried to go out of the kill zone and the fire suppression system was going off making it hard to breathe and see.”
Blackwell and the rest of the Humvee crewmembers survived the explosion with barely a physical scratch and some shaken nerves.
“In my opinion the upgraded armor saved some lives in that truck,” he said.
With his second deployment ready to come to a close, Blackwell has seen changes since his first deployment. Some of those changes are good like the upgrades in armor and the improvement in the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army and some bad like the increase in sectarian violence.
As a result he is looking forward to returning to his wife Michelle and three children in Fort Carson and doing a little cooking southern style.
“Seafood Jumbo is my specialty,” the Pensacola native said with a grin.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Blackwell, native of Pensacola , Fla. , a member of the Command Security Detachment, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Task Force Lightning, listens to a Soldier from 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, explain the area around the jail in downtown Baqubah, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Paul J. Harris, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office, Dec. 27, 2005)