Pfc. Jesus Ramirez, a tank driver in Company A, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, mounts his battle-damaged Abrams tank. The tank, nicknamed “Bad Luck,” suffered roughly half a dozen rocket propelled grenade impacts in Najaf. Picture by Pfc. Al Barrus
BAGHDAD, Iraq - August was a month that
Soldiers of Company A, 2-12 Cavalry, said they won’t soon forget.
In August, they faced the task of assisting Marines in neutralizing the Muqtada militia presence in An Najaf. It was a conventional battle, Soldiers said, complete with enemy defensive positions.
The brunt of the battles the troops ran into were located in the Najaf cemetery: a field of graves and tombs spanning a square mile with catacombs beneath.
“Whenever we rolled into the cemetery, we received enemy contact,” said Sgt. Dale Frantz, a tank gunner. “We’d take small-arms fire, then mortars would start to hit along with sniper fire and [rocket propelled grenades].”
This graveyard-turned-battlefield was almost a daily stop for the troops. They spent 12-hour shifts of adrenaline-fueled battle, broken up by 20 hours away from the cemetery.
“The adrenaline stays the same every day,” said Pfc. Joseph Pidgeon, a tanker with Company A. “The energy stays up, but you gain more focus. I think you get a bit calmer with it.”
“It’s hard to describe what it was like there,” said Pfc. Jesus Ramirez, a tanker in 2-12 Cav.
“While we were in Najaf, we saw a very focused combat operation,” Capt. Kevin Badger, 2-12 Cav., Company A, commander said. “There were fortified enemy positions and daily attacks.
The company is normally attached to the 2-5 Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, stationed at Camp Justice. The Soldiers had been conducting day-to-day patrols in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Kadhamiyah.
In Najaf, though, Soldiers returned to their original military specialties. Instead of their usual jobs patrolling, and participating in cordon and searches, they said they got to do what they joined the Army to do.
“Everyone … actually got to do [their] job while we were out there,” Pidgeon said. “If you’re in mortars, you’re shooting mortar rounds; if you’re a tanker, you’re shooting the big rounds; none of that cordon and searching. Rolling around in tanks is what we came in the Army for.”
“The company performed outstanding,” Badger said. “They are a very aggressive and lethal team. I don’t think any of us wished to go there, but I think that when presented with that task, we just got focused. It enabled us to validate our training. It got to a point where you’re not excited, but you’re ready to do the job.”
(Editor’s note: Pfc. Al Barrus serves with the 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment in Iraq.)