Editor’s Note: On occasion, The Ottumwa Courier will publish letters from those soldiers with the 224th Engineering Battalion detailing their experiences.

CAMP RAMADI, Iraq — Cpt. Douglas A. Post with the 224th Engineering Battalion reports on events in Iraq.

“Bravo Company had an incident last week that was both good and bad; we had one of our gun trucks that was hit by an IED. One of our soldiers was wounded; he will be fine, he was very lucky if you can call that luck, getting hit in the face with shrapnel and living. The way we look at things over here in Iraq is quite different than we do at home. If you survive an IED attack with only one soldier getting wounded, you feel very lucky and it is a good day. If we were back at home that would be a devastating incident to all around us. That is the real reason we are over here, so we do not have to see that type of activity at home and in our neighborhoods.

“Everybody in Bravo Company is doing fine, we have a couple of months to go and everybody is anxious to get home, we have started preparations for the homecoming ceremony, and packing up some of our non-essential equipment. We have to remember to always stay vigilant and aware of our surroundings all the time. The incident this week might just have saved someone’s life in the long run it brought us to the realization that at any moment something like this could and will happen, we need to stay vigilant the whole way.

“Thanks for all the hard work B Company, here and at home.”

•••

Spc. Aaron W. Olson with the third platoon offers some insight on what’s going on with the 224th in Iraq:

“I woke up this morning on Oct. 18, 2005, and it was quiet here in Camp Ar Ramadi, Iraq. It’s been awhile since the soldiers of the 224th Combat Engineer Battalion has heard silence in the mornings and evenings. There are usually explosions or distant gun fire to keep you jumpy and on your toes, but not this morning all you herd was complete silence.

My name is Spc. Aaron Olson, a combat engineer with third platoon, B Company 224 Engineering. I have recently transferred to B Company from Headquarters Company about two months ago. While in Headquarters Company I was an operations specialist in the Tactical Operations Center. My job consisted of gathering information from units out on missions and keeping communications with our soldiers and higher headquarters to accomplish all missions. I can say that coming to B Company has been a very good thing for me. I have made new friends and have joined an excellent team that has leadership, friendship and takes care of their soldiers in all situations. It is awesome to be a part of a group that is as tight and hard working as B Company. I am honored to write to the citizens of your community about some of my experiences in Iraq.

“Oct. 15, 2005 was Election Day for the Iraq constitution. This is the day the Iraqi people get to vote on a constitution to establish law and order and to help set up a new government represented by all tribes and people in Iraq and not just one dictatorship type ruler that was under Saddam Hussein. The plans to secure the poll sites have been going on for months by U.S. military, Iraqi security forces, and coalition forces. The day finally came on Oct. 15 and all units were in position for the election that could help bring order and peace to a tired and waiting Iraq.

“Third Platoon, B company drew a mission from battalion on the morning of Referendum day to haul soldiers and trucks to Camp TQ and then to return to Camp Ramadi with supplies for the Battalion. The route has been known for its IED (improvised explosive device) activity and sporadic small arms fire incidents. There were mixed feelings about the mission on the day of the voting. Will there be a big attack? Will there be IEDs in place all over the area? Will we take a lot of small arms fire? These were the questions that myself and other soldiers of third platoon talked about before our mission on Saturday morning.

“Second Lt. Warner, our platoon leader, gave the order to line up the vehicles and get the radios checked so the vehicles would be ready to roll out the gate. About 20 minutes before we rolled Lt. Warner had a safety briefing with all the soldiers and Marines involved in the operation. The Intel put out was minimal activity in the last week on the routes we were going to take, but you keep your eyes open and do not let your guard down. We have heard intelligence like this before, and have found that the enemy has been on the roads before us and left a surprise for troops traveling those routes. Everyone listened to the brief and loaded up ready for the morning’s mission. The convoy rolled to the gate loaded there weapons and headed west toward our destination. When a platoon rolls out the gate they roll out at high speed and with a lot of aggression to show the enemy or anyone in the area we mean business. When rolling out the gate in the morning we usually have to get civilian cars and trucks to move by using hand and arm signals, throwing a flash bang, or if need be us your rifle to get them away and keep the convoy safe. Well B Company rolled out the gate like professional and experienced Soldiers, but this time it was different. I was in the third gun truck gunning for the convoy commander, Lt. Warner. When we hit the road outside the gate, to our surprise the area was completely empty — no cars, trucks, people, there was nothing it was like a ghost town and it made you feel uneasy. It was too quiet.

“Down the road a ways we saw a group of about 20 Iraqi men walking with white dress looking clothing. These men were walking down the right side of the road with there hands raised above there heads and heading west. I didn’t understand at the time where they were going but I soon realized they were some of the first morning voters to walk out and exercise their new found freedom, voting! The men had their hands up because they were showing the U.S. forces in the convoy and the Iraqi Police in the area they were unarmed and peaceful. As we rolled further down the road in route to our destination we saw concrete barriers blocking the roads with military barbed wire strung out to prevent that ever so dangerous car bomb from disturbing the voting process. When we came upon the barriers in the road we found another way around to continue the mission. We took an over pass and when my vehicle reached the top I was amazed. There were tanks and gun trucks all around the area but the truly great site was the Iraqi Army securing the polls and they were everywhere. I waved at them to show my support to the Iraqi’s for looking good and doing a job that American Soldiers have been doing for some time now. When I saw the Iraqi Army out there looking sharp and taking charge I was filled with a joy of victory and pride. We as the U.S. Military, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are doing what we have set out to do. The Military took out Saddam and is now re-establishing a government, a country, and a people. We are teaching them and giving them the tools to be a proud and free nation and it is working. The rest of the mission that day was safe and uneventful. We accomplished our mission and returned home where all the Soldiers disappeared into there own private worlds created for comfort and dreaming of home. I for one went right to sleep and slept well that night, again it was quiet and we were involved in a great victory here in Iraq and in history.

“It has been a few days since the election and the fighting still goes on here. There will be more IEDs and more small arms fire but the mornings have been quiet and we hope that the vote was successful and Iraq will soon take over their own security. When this happens we bring our boys home and hope Iraq becomes a peaceful and beautiful nation in the future. It will still be a long road to haul but please keep the hope, we all do and so do a people longing to be free.

“That they may fight.”

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