While in Iraq
Staff Sgt. Prohaska, E 51st
Before the war started my team was one of 36 LRS teams. Fco 51st from 18th Airborne LRS was attached to 165th because 5th Corps was overall in charge I believe. That is above my head in the politics. Out of those teams there was three teams selected. SSG Barnwell, SSG Armstrong, and my team were selected to pull surveillance on the first three NAIs (Named Area of Interest) into enemy territory. All three teams areas were in the same area of Iraq. The NAIs were about 350 km into enemy territory. We planned for the mission for three days as kind of a practice because we were not sure when the war was going to start.
Once we found out the war was going to start we went back into planning and planned for 24 hours. We planned to stay out for five days, but it all depended on the rate that 3ID was moving. We had two CH-47 Chinook helicopters for the three teams. SSG Barnwell and Armstrongís team were on one and my team was on the other. My team inserted about 7 kms from our tentative hide site. Once we were off the aircraft we pulled SLLS (stop, look, listen, smell) and then proceeded on azimuth to our tentative hide site. In route we ran into dogs. We were following a small ditch. The dogs followed us all most all the way to our hide site.
Each manís rucksack weighted at least 125 pounds so the moving was slow, but we tried to pick up the pace because we were a little behind schedule since the aircraft had to take off late due to mechanical problems. Once we made it to our hide site we started digging in. We were able to make a good plan on where to set our hide site because of the operations sergeant SFC Freeborg who was able to give us line of site imagery which showed us where we could set our hide site and see the objective with no problems. The usual hide site is about two and half feet deep. Because of the rocky soil we were only able to get about one and half feet down in only a few places. The site was completed right about sunrise.
As soon as we were in the site, SPC Rieman looked at me and told me we had enemy. None of us could believe it because this was our first mission and it was something that you only dream about (to do your job in combat). All day we had a lot of enemy activity. We had problems relaying this information back to the unit HQ because the HF (high frequency) was not working and the SATCOM (satellite communication) channel was so busy that we were unable to get anything through. We did contact the Air force and asked them to relay to our unit that we were having communication problems, but the mission was still a go.
Through out the day we had a few farmers come near our site. One farmerís sheep came right up to our site. We were worried that the sheep were going to step on the site and collapse it since it was only made of PVC piping with a bed sheet spread over the top. That night we had enemy soldiers come with in 100m of the site many times and a few times the enemy came within 1 or 2 meters of the site. I know that 100 meters does not sound close to the men who served in Vietnam, but the desert is a much different environment. Throughout the night enemy soldiers on foot and in civilian vehicles circled all around our site. Late that night, early morning we heard a few gunshots off in the distance.
When the sun came up we saw around 60 enemy loading into seven trucks preparing to head south to attack 3rd ID. We still did not have communication with our HQ so we sent this information up through the Air Force located at the Corps HQ. The information was dispersed and within a few minutes aircraft we bombing the area. 3rd ID pushed forward and engaged in about 8 to 10 hour firefight one to two kilometers south of our position. Once 3rd ID had the situation under control and they moved through our area, Eco 51st s LNO that drove with 3rd ID from Kuwait led by CPT Kapla came up to our site and picked us up. After we were picked up we drove a few miles south to an area to wait for aircraft to fly us back to Kuwait.
While we were waiting I had the privilege to talk to a few of the men from 3rd ID. They told me that the information that we sent up saved lives. Because of that information 3ID changed their movement formation and put the tanks and Bradleys up front instead of the light skinned HMMWV. The men in my team I trusted 100 percent before the mission. The team had worked together for about one and half years before the war with the exception of one, who only worked with the team for about six months before the war.