Troop Morale in Iraq? “It Sucks,” Reporter Discovers

By: E&P Staff

We often hear from President Bush, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld or various generals about the high order of troop morale in Iraq –but we rarely hear directly from the troops themselves. Joshua Partlow of The Washington Post spent four days recently, on and off patrol, with members of the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, in and around Baghad. The battalion of more than 750 arrived in Baghdad in March, and since then, six soldiers have been killed and 21 wounded.

Here are some of the reactions he got, as he chronicled in a story for his paper on Thursday.

–Staff Sgt. Jose Sixtos: “Think of what you hate most about your job. Then think of doing what you hate most for five straight hours, every single day, sometimes twice a day, in 120-degree heat,” he said. “Then ask how morale is.” Frustrated? “You have no idea,” he said.

–“It sucks,” said Spec. Tim Ivey, 28, of San Antonio. “Honestly, it just feels like we’re driving around waiting to get blown up, that’s the most honest answer I could give you….You lose a couple friends and it gets hard.”

–“No one wants to be here, you know, no one is truly enthused about what we do,” said Sgt. Christopher Dugger, the squad leader. “We were excited, but then it just wears on you — there’s only so much you can take. Like me, personally, I want to fight in a war like World War II. I want to fight an enemy. And this, out here, there is no enemy, it’s a faceless enemy. He’s out there, but he’s hiding….

“We’re trained as an Army to fight and destroy the enemy and then take over,” added Dugger, 26, of Reno, Nev. “But I don’t think we’re trained enough to push along a country, and that’s what we’re actually doing out here.”

–The commanders may be “looking at the big picture all the time, but for us, we don’t see no big picture, it’s just always another bomb out here,” said Spec. Joshua Steffey, 24, of Asheville, N.C.

He said he wished “somebody would explain to us, ‘Hey, this is what we’re working for.’ ” He added that he could not care less “if Iraq’s free” or “if they’re a democracy….The first time somebody you know dies, the first thing you ask yourself is, ‘Well, what did he die for?’ “

–“At this point, it seems like the war on drugs in America,” added Spec. David Fulcher, 22, a medic from Lynchburg, Va. “It’s like this never-ending battle, like, we find one IED, if we do find it before it hits us, so what? You know it’s just like if the cops make a big bust, next week the next higher-up puts more back out there….

“My personal opinion, I don’t speak for the rest of anybody, I just speak for me personally, I think civil war is going to happen regardless. Maybe this country needs it: One side has to win. Be it Sunni, be it Shiite, one side has to win. It’s apparent, these people have made it obvious they can’t live in unity.”

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