Friday, July 22, 2005

Valley soldier set for August R&R

2003 WRHS graduate to report home from Kirkuk

Express Staff Writer

Idaho Army National Guard Spc. Daniel Fierman is serving in the infantry in Iraq with the U.S. Army's Bravo Company.

Second of two parts

Last week, Idaho Army National Guard Spc. Daniel Fierman, a 2003 Wood River High School graduate, learned that he has been approved for leave from his duties as a Humvee gunner in Kirkuk, Iraq, starting Aug. 5.

Fierman joined the Idaho Army National Guard in 2003, training with the Hailey 116th Cavalry Brigade scout unit while still in high school. Fierman was called up for duty in Iraq during boot camp the summer after graduation. Although he enlisted with the Idaho National Guard, Fierman was re-assigned to serve in the infantry in Iraq with the U.S. Army's Bravo Company, which was short on riflemen.

Recently, Fierman took some time out between street patrols and guard duty to share some of his experiences in Kirkuk via e-mail and by jerry rigging Internet phone calls on his laptop computer in his bunker, dubbed Barbarian Base. What follows are more of his dispatches, the first of which were published Wednesday, July 20.

On the military and what it means to be in Iraq:

"I think that if the American public was here and they would see the things we see and do the things that we do they would not think it is so bad. Along with combat operations ... in the city, we do a lot of things for the people. We work on housing projects to help refugees have a place to live. There is a thing that we call operation crayon. We take school supplies that people have sent us and take it to schools for the children. We search a lot of houses and pull people out of their houses in the middle of the night and search their houses. You think they would be angry but most of the time they are happy that you are there and know that we are looking for bad people. My experiences with the Army now have changed my whole view of the military for the better and for the worse. All in all, I believe that my experiences have made me a better man, and as for the things that I don't like about the Army I keep to myself because ... well, nobody wants to be court marshaled."

On how he got into the military and what he has gotten out of it:

"I played tackle for Wood River and I would pay a million dollars to play high school football again. It was one of the best times of my life and one of my first experiences of being part of a team. Go green!

"I was a rowdy guy in high school and I still am. I think the only reason that I didn't get in more trouble than I did was because the teachers liked me for some strange reason. I didn't have great grades, but I knew how to talk my way out of trouble. I recalled being called a jackass by one of my science teachers and getting kicked out of class. Part of me knew that I needed some type of discipline to get through life so what better place than the Army to learn just that. That is one part of the story. One day in 2003 Casey Markwell and I were in Twin Falls goofing around. We were at the mall and decided it would be fun to go screw with the recruiter so we went in to the National Guard storefront in Twin and came out enlisted. Those recruiters are some smooth talkers.

"Like all 17-year-old kids I thought the Army was super high speed and just plain cool. Originally, Casey and I wanted to be tankers, but I'm 6 feet 3 inches and I was told that I was too tall to be a tanker. So, we became cavalry scouts not knowing that being a scout is one of the hardest, more dangerous MOSs (Military Occupational Specialties) in the Army. Oct. 21 I was off to the scout OSUT (One Station Unit Training) program at Fort Knox, Kentucky. If I had done my research when I chose my MOS I would have realized that the scout basic training is one of the hardest programs in the Army short of being a Ranger. The normal Army basic training for a non-combat arms soldier is nine weeks long then you go off to do your job training—no longer a recruit, but a soldier. I had four (and a half) months of basic training, which included my scout training which was engrained into me from day one. At scout school, I was trained on various types of Army weaponry to include the M240b machine gun, the .50 caliber machine gun, the Mark 19 automatic grenade launcher, the Javelin missile system, explosives/demolition, and the M2A2 Bradley fighting vehicle. To this day, it is one of the most challenging things that I've had to do. I went in 245 pounds and came out 195 (pounds).

On the future and baboons:

"I have a lot of things planned for when I come back. With the money I have saved from the deployment I am buying a new truck. I have my acceptance to Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., and I will attend the film school there spring semester of 2006. My parents are in the real estate business so I will get my real estate license when I get home and try to work for a real estate firm while I go to school. I also plan to spend New Year's in Cancun, Mexico. I figure at this point I deserve a vacation.

"As far as getting deployed again after Iraq, there are all sorts of rumors floating around on that issue. I will just say this, in the Army we are taught to expect the worst and hope for the best. So, if one day in the future the 116th BCT gets deployed again, I will serve and fight for my country as I do now.

"There are plenty of horror stories about being in the field, but I have a story that ... I couldn't believe when it happened. I was in the gunner's turret of the Hummer, which is where I normally am. So, we are on patrol out in the city and our convoy of Hummers crosses this bridge that we have crossed a million times. When, all of a sudden, traffic stops and I stood up to see what was going on. When, out of nowhere, this baboon, (I kid you not, a frickin' baboon) red ass and everything, runs by the Hummer. I couldn't believe my eyes because behind the monkey there is a guy chasing the baboon with a stick. Now, at this point I thought that it couldn't get any weirder ... when I looked behind the guy with the stick there were 10 Iraqi policemen with AK47s running behind him. Apparently, they were trying to help the man get his monkey back.

"Unfortunately, we were all so stunned no one grabbed a camera. The guy and the cops got tired of chasing the baboon, so the cops shot the baboon with their AKs. We couldn't believe our eyes; apparently the man had bought the monkey on the market and put it in the back seat of his car and was taking it home to his kids. Now, I don't believe that at all because if you have ever seen a baboon ... you would realize that they have some huge teeth and they aren't very nice. I think that whole thing was hilarious and to this day I think that is the most exciting thing I've seen next to getting hit with a roadside bomb."

Fierman is expected to arrive in the Wood River Valley for a two-week leave between Aug. 7 and Aug. 9.

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