In August 2010, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment deployed to Southern Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn, having returned from a 15-month deployment to Northern Iraq just 18 months earlier. Conrad Brown — who had deployed with 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to Mosul for 2007–2009 and completed the captains career course in the interim — redeployed this time with 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to Babil province. He found that the canals, farm land, and types of enemy threat were starkly contrasted with the urban warfare he encountered in Mosul. Serving as the assistant operations officer for the squadron was also much different than serving as a scout platoon leader for the previous deployment. While Brown hated riding a desk and put in long hours every day, the monotony and routine allowed him one respite — getting to the mess hall early and sitting facing the door so he could smile at the beautiful physical therapist who had been assigned to the regiment for the deployment when she walked into the mess hall.
This is his story.
August 2010. While Kuwait made a lot of sense logistically to use as a staging area before onward movement into Iraq, I’m pretty sure a lot of it had to do with just how miserable that place is. It’s 121 degrees at 0733 on Aug. 23. The place sucked so bad that soldiers were begging to get on the first flights into Iraq, because getting blown up or having rockets shot at you a few times a week was preferable to staying here any longer.
November 2010. After 15 months of riding in a M1151 my last deployment, it killed me to be riding a desk. Sketching a platoon mission plan into the dirt with a group of soldiers circled around will always be preferable to making a set of graphics for an Iraqi brigade commander for his upcoming clearance mission on PowerPoint.
November 2010. I created a “bug-out drawer,” just in case my boss let me jump on a patrol.
December 2010. When I finally got to leave to oversee the reconnaissance and building of a new traffic control point and patrol base on MSR Tampa, I had to take a picture just to prove I escaped.
December 2010. After about a month and a half of trading smiles with the physical therapist who had been attached to the regiment for our deployment, I finally decided to ask her out. Despite all of the very detailed planning I had been working on for months, I apparently put no thought into planning how I would ask her. I visited her clinic but she wasn’t there; as I walked out, I almost ran right into her. After exchanging awkward “Hellos,” I realized I hadn’t really thought further than that. “Do you have any plans for dinner tonight?” I started. “No?” she replied. “Woooould you like some?” Somehow she agreed to join me. That’s how you do it, kids.
February 2011. She liked to run… A lot. I’m not much of a long distance runner, but given my workload, running with her for PT meant we could spend more time together. We ran enough that I was able to run my first half marathon about four months after we started dating.
June 2011. One day, the squadron executive officer stuck his head in my office. “Hey, I don’t know what you did, but the Old Man wants to see you, right now!” I quickly jumped up and grabbed my notebook. “Sir?” I offered, as I walked into his office. “Hey,” he said, looking up and pulling his reading glasses down to the tip of his nose so he could hit me with the full force of his gaze. “I’m going to put you in the game.” Ten days later, I took command of Crazyhorse Troop at a remote patrol base over an hour away from the rest of the squadron.
June 2011. Paired with an Iraqi army brigade and an emergency response battalion, my troop advised, trained, and assisted Iraqi security forces along the volatile Sunni-Shiite fault line. As a way of building rapport, bridging language barriers, and getting some cardio, we also hosted Iraqi army soldiers on our patrol base for some intense soccer games.