Herald JournalHerald Journal, July 5, 2004

Nick Fiecke tells of deployment to Iraq

By SPC Nicholas Fiecke, U.S. Army

Our training, prior to deployment overseas brought us to a number of different military installations. The first of which was Ft. Stewart Georgia.

At Fort Stewart, we were given a number of evaluations, mostly consisting of medical checkups and vaccination updates.

We also had to gain qualification in a few standard military tasks such as weapons qualification and emergency aid type procedures.

After we completed our tasks at Ft. Stewart we ventured to Ft. Polk, Louisiana. At Ft. Polk we took part in a training simulation set up to help prepare soldiers for duty in Iraq.

We would be given specific missions, and it would be our job to carry out those missions the way we would as if it were the real thing. This would all be done while being observed and graded by specialized military personnel.

At the conclusion of the mission we would have a briefing in which the observer would give a small presentation on the good and bad aspects of the performance of our mission. I found this training to be very detailed and helpful in preparing us for our deployment to Iraq.

Once our training at Ft. Polk was concluded we headed back to Ft. Stewart for more medical examinations. Once we completed this, we then ventured to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. This was the main duty station of the 105th Engineer Battalion. The 105th is the Unit we are attached to.

Once we paired up with the 105th, we were tasked out as squads causing the Minnesota National Guardsmen to be split up between three Companies. My squad was assigned to A Company. Two more squads were assigned to B Company. And the fourth squad was assigned to C Company.

After spending a few days at Fort Bragg so that the members of the 105th could spend quality time with their family members, and we could enjoy a NASCAR race at Rockingham, we got on the plane that would take us overseas, and one giant step closer to our final destination.

We boarded the plane on a date in which record snowfall had descended in North Carolina. As you might expect, this caused numerous delays. After making a few scheduled pit stops in Maine and Germany, which were unfortunately very brief, we had arrived in Kuwait.

Camp Wolverine was our first stop in the country of Kuwait. Once we arrived there we went through some in processing procedures, and had a brief one night stay to get some much needed sleep after the long journey.

Our next destination was Camp Udari located farther north of Kuwait and closer to the Iraqi border.

This is where we spent the next couple weeks to prepare for our excursion into the country of Iraq. Some of the preparation consisted of gathering our vehicles and other specialized equipment so that we would have everything we needed before we entered Iraq.

After inventorying our gear, we proceeded to enter Iraq. Some of our personnel were going to be convoying in to the country. Others, such as myself, were being flown in by way of Chinook helicopters. Our flight brought us to FOB (forward operations base) Anaconda, of Iraq. We were finally in Iraq. In some ways it seemed exciting, but in other ways it was quite daunting.

At Anaconda we had to wait a couple days for a flight to open up to take us closer to our final destination. During this time at Anaconda I had experienced my 21st birthday, and seeing as how I was so far away from my family and friends, and the fact that alcohol is prohibited for military personnel in Iraq, it was difficult to relish this most enjoyable of birthdays. However, my fellow soldiers did a tremendous job of lifting my spirits.

When it was time to leave Anaconda, We boarded another helicopter and set out enroute for our next location, which turned out to be FOB Caldwell. This is where C Company 105th along with headquarters for the entire battalion was to be set up. We spent a night there, and the next day we convoyed over to FOB Cobra, which would be A Companies final stop. B Company was to be set up at FOB Rough Rider, but they were later moved to FOB Bernstein after some of our foreign allies had chosen to pull their troops out of the area.

Upon arriving in Cobra, we prepared to set up our living quarters. For this we had received small trailers known as a conex. Four soldiers are assigned to each conex. I must declare that I was quite impressed with the conditions of our living quarters. There are many soldiers in Iraq that have it a lot worse, considering that we have the luxury of enjoying electricity and air conditioning.

Once we got settled in we immediately started taking on missions. As engineers it is our job to upgrade the FOB conditions, but we are also tasked out with missions consisting of route clearance and UXO (Unexploded Ordinance) eradication. Improvements of the FOB that we perform consist of Constantine wire assembly, the erecting of burros and barriers, and the overall improvement of FOB security. This is an ongoing set of procedures that will most likely never be completed. Also, a task that we perform everyday, is route clearance.

This task consists of us going out on the roads around our AO (Area of Operations) and making sure that the roads are clear of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). This mission usually consists of three vehicles, normally 113 personnel carrier tracks or HUM-Vs. Our main objective is to make the route clear so that convoys can safely travel along these routes to bring in and maintain our supplies. The other main task we perform is to eradicate UXOs.

A UXO consists of the weapons we find that can be located pretty much anywhere throughout the dessert. We go to strategically plotted points that are pinpointed with satellite imagery.

If we find any UXOs we may either abolish them using explosives, or we will mark their location and give the coordinates to EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal), which is a more specialized group at handling UXOs. That pretty much covers our main objectives here at FOB Cobra. Every now and then we get tasked out with different types of missions but those circumstances are quite rare.

I myself perform a number of different tasks to aid in the completion of our missions. Engineers especially tend to train their troop to be versatile, so that we are capable of switching our tasks to prevent our work from becoming tedious. I myself am looking forward to my return home. Being deployed lets you realize how good you really have it back home.

Sometimes we tend to take things for granted because of the easy access we have of obtaining the products we want. Also, the anguish of being away from family and friends tends to take its toll on those of us serving in Iraq.

I sincerely appreciate those who have provided their support to those of us serving here in Iraq. It truly lifts our spirits when we get to hear from our friends back home. I ask that you maintain your support and I hope you enjoyed this letter of information and appreciation.

For anyone interested in contacting me. My address is as follows:

SPC Fiecke, Nicholas

A Co 105th EN BN, 30 HSB 1st ID Operation Iraqi Freedom FOB COBRA, APO AE 09393

I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

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