Saturday, December 2, 2006

My War: Killing Time in Iraq

My War: Killing Time in Iraq an autobiography by Colby Buzzell (2005) is about the tour of service of a member of a Stryker brigade near Mosul, Iraq. Buzzell joined the army to escape the limited future he felt he had as a high school graduate who was simply working several low paying jobs and hanging out with friends. He wanted to serve in a combat infantry division (preferably the 101st) and wished to be deployed to Iraq. He was assigned to a Stryker Brigade based out of Fort Lewis, Washington that was listed as non-deployable. Soon he received his wish and was deployed to Iraq.

My Rating: Good (***). The first hand report of war by a soldier, especially one who is not an officer or career soldier, is always refreshing.


  1. Adapt equipment for the environment. The Stryker was considered to be too lightly armored to face RPGs in Iraq, so they were retrofitted with a “birdcage.” This was basically a chicken wire cage around the Stryker which would cause an RPG to explode on contact with the cage and before it hit the Stryker armor. “I was very skeptical of the birdcage because I thought it was just a quick fix, and more importantly it made the Strykers an eyesore, and it wasn’t till we got to Iraq that the birdcage became a beautiful sight to see. As we all found out later, they do indeed work.” (p. 50)

Wheeled vehicles have limitations in difficult terrains, but in urban environments they have advantages over tracked vehicles. “In Samarra, Iraqis have taken to calling the Stryker Brigades the ‘Ghost Riders,’ because they arrive in near total silence, strike the enemy without warning. The terrorists in Iraq have plenty to fear from the ‘Ghost Riders’ of Fort Lewis, Washington” George W. Bush (p. 101).

  1. Sometimes luck is better than anything. “…somebody yelled, ‘Light him up!' ...Two United States Army infantry platoons were shooting at this guy, almost all of them awarded expert marksmanship badges, armed with semiauto and fully automatic weapons, with some of the best sights on their weapons that money could buy. Thousands and thousands of rounds were expended, some shooting at near-point-blank range, and only a couple rounds hit this individual, and in non-lethal areas.” (p. 100)

  1. Follow your experience rather than policy. The Army issued nylon sacks that hold machine gun ammo, but when testing the ammo, jams were resulting. Buzzell wouldn’t use them because of that and risked being disciplined. Another member of his team followed Army policy and his gun jammed during combat. (p. 99)

Some points made, expressed, or relayed by the author:

    • “I noticed that the Iraqis, especially the female Iraqis, were completely tripping out at the sight of a female in uniform … some of the women thought that they were total sluts for wearing pants and working with men, and some thought that they were totally awesome and wished they could do that, too, and so they looked up to them.” (p. 95)

    • “They told us that the ‘battle tempo’ would be slowing down dramatically for us after the country was handed over to the people of Iraq. (p. 145)

    • “One of our interpreters went by the mosque that got shot … up the other day and he told me that they placed a huge banner out in front of it that reads: ‘This mosque will be closed for two to three weeks. The Bad Hands did this.’” (p. 145)

    • “It was also interesting to watch the press conferences the president and the generals in Iraq gave. Sometimes I wondered if they were talking about a different Iraq than the one I was in. Especially when they used the words ‘coalition forces.’ They must have been talking about Fallujah or Baghdad when they said this, because in Mosul, I didn’t see any of this so-called ‘coalition’ that they kept talking about. None whatsoever.” (p. 155)

    • Regarding Abu Ghraib, “All that hard work that we did in Iraq, immediately down the tubes.” (p. 155)

    • Regarding The Washington Times criticism of the Stryker, “…now that we’ve been out here and it’s been combat tested, and we’ve seen what it’s capable of doing, and how it can withstand anything that’s thrown at it, I will never say a negative thing about the Stryker again, ever. In fact, no lie I don’t know of a single person in my Brigade who has anything negative to say about the Stryker anymore. Even people I know who hated it and bad-mouthed it every chance they had talk very highly of it now.” (pp. 206-207)

Click here to buy "My War: Killing Time in Iraq"

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