The Good Of Abu Ghraib
The Grim Reality Of War and Filmmaking

Real Soldiers

    "I’m thinking about 12 guys giving the Army a black eye and I’m thinking here I am saving the life of an enemy that just killed one of our own." - Captain (Doctor) John Shaughnessy - Medical Officer, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regt., 4th Infantry Division

Here is a story that is a MUST READ. Why? Because it paints the picture of what 139,988 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen are doing every day to save the lives of men trying to kill them. The media will want to focus on the other twelve from the Abu Ghraib scandal, but there are many that want you to know about the REAL soldiers that are out there doing right by us.

Jim B. is one of those people - he sent me this link this morning.

The Right Thing to Do
By Tam Cummings

FORT HOOD, Texas, June 2, 2004 — The patrol assignment for Forward Operating Base Cobra that evening was routine. The soldiers would search the towns of Jalula and As Sadiyah, in the Sunni Triangle of northeastern Iraq, for weapons or wanted insurgents.
“It was very, very dark,” 1st Sgt. Herb Silva picks up the story. “You couldn’t see 15 feet. It was overcast, pitch black, no illumination. We conducted patrols in both towns daily. No set pattern, three times a day, sometimes two in the day and one at night, always mixing it up.”

Silva had been sitting in camp, just outside the command post when the radio call confirmed “friendly casualties. The medics were getting spun up,” he said, describing the speed with which the troops responded. “One of my primary functions as a tactician is to get medics to the point of injury and back to the medical station as quickly as possible.”

Silva’s group arrived at the ambush point within six minutes. “I remember looking through the hatch with night vision goggles as we were driving and seeing the Bradleys’ shooting 25 mms (millimeters) with their ‘toot toot toot’ sound and their distinctive tracers.”

“They were still engaged in a firefight when we drove up,” Staff Sgt. Daniel Pimental, the medic who responded with Silva said. “It was bad. The Bradleys were all spaced out. We were concerned about where the casualties were. We ran to where the first Bradley had stopped after it was disabled.”...

The Cobra patrol had spotted the ambushers using the ditches for cover. One Iraqi was dead and another was lying in a ditch, severely wounded, trying to crawl away unseen. The soldiers had him pinned down from one position as another group of soldiers worked their way to him, maneuvering among the irrigation ditches.

“My guys could have taken him at any time but my guidance to my soldiers is once you have someone pinned down and they can’t move we need to capture them and get information like their name and tribe,” Weinrich said.

And although this was not the first time medical personnel at Forward Operating Base Cobra had treated a wounded Iraqi, this was different. “It was more difficult on medical guys because they had just pronounced one of our guys, treated one and flew them out on a helicopter and now they have to turn around and treat him,” [Captain] Weinrich explained. “He was screaming about the treatment, he wasn’t happy about the IV or the catheter, he’d probably been hit a couple of times. That guy did not want to be touched. He knew he was hurt pretty bad. He had been hit with 25mm HEs (high explosives).”

The other soldiers explained their actions towards the Iraqi. “We’re Americans and our instinct is to do the right thing. He’s a POW now and we have to feed him, shelter him, give him food and water. We are trained American soldiers,” Silva said.

“It’s the right thing to do,” [Captain/Doctor] Shaughnessy said. “They’re people too and even though they are trying to kill us, we take care of them as well as we do our own. Even though Cpl. Pirtle was our only KIA (killed in action) in our battalion, I do my best to treat them and ease their pain. I’m thinking about 12 guys giving the Army a black eye and I’m thinking here I am saving the life of an enemy that just killed one of our own.”

“The Iraqi was badly injured, but we treated him like anyone else,” Pimental said. “This wasn’t the first time. It was just the first time we had to deal with a guy who killed one of our own. This is our job. You put aside personal feelings and treat this one like any other. There’s a lot of emotion, anger and frustration, but this wasn’t the first time we had to deal with these emotions. The only difference was we knew ahead of time we had lost one of our own and this was the bad guy.”

The group’s commander said the actions of his soldiers didn’t surprise him.

“The thing I remember most is these soldiers fought so hard to keep Cortez and Pirtle alive and then treated the attacker and kept him alive,” Miller said. “The fact that soldiers treated an Iraqi that moments before had attacked them doesn’t surprise me at all. We saw it routinely. It’s so common we take it for granted that our soldiers set aside their emotions that this person was just trying to kill them. That soldiers could detach themselves and treat the enemy was commonplace throughout the brigade and the division. I believe its commonplace throughout the theatre.”

To honor Pirtle and his sacrifice, the 2-8’s regimental room was renamed the Pirtle Room. “It’s the most important room in the battalion, the heart and soul of the unit,” Miller said. “After Cpl. Pirtle was killed we wanted to figure out a way we would never forget the sacrifice he made. We wanted to have a ceremony involving the comrades closest to him and his family.”

Miller stops telling the story then and walks to the Pirtle Room. He points to the framed photograph of Pirtle, the unit crest, the wall honoring Medal of Honor soldiers. Miller points to Pirtle’s picture and notes the inscription. Like the other soldiers in the 2-8, Pirtle was carrying a small United States flag in his breast pocket when he was killed. When Miller comes to the double windows which look out on the grounds, he pauses.

“I was standing at the podium (during the renaming ceremony) and I was talking about these soldiers and Cpl. Pirtle. I looked out the windows and there, standing at attention was the entire company, everyone who couldn’t fit into the room. No one told them to do it; no one ordered them to attention.”

Miller’s voice drops and then he stops talking and looks out the window again. “It’s important to me, it’s important to the battalion that we never forget a soldier’s sacrifice. Every soldier in understands the sacrifice you make for duty. Some may not come home. We were fortunate to only lose one, but it was one too many.”

As for the actions of Staff Sergeant Daniel Pimental, I can personally tell you that he is one great Soldier. We have served together several times over the years.