A Soldier’s Top 10 Memories Preparing for the Invasion of Iraq

The 10 Year Anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is upon us and I want to share with you some of my most memorable moments of the pre-invasion period. These are the stories my friends (my brothers and sisters in arms) and I still talk and laugh about.

In March 2003, I was 28 years old Army Captain stationed in Germany, assigned to the first Military Police Battalion (709th) that entered Iraq.

1. Scalped! Foolishly, I allowed a guy in my unit to give me a haircut the day before we left for Kuwait. He scalped me, blood flowed down the side of my head and I had scabs for weeks. But I saved $9.

2. Flying in Style to War. I flew business class in civilian clothes from Germany to Kuwait as I mentioned in my post last week. Then I rode in an SUV to desolate Camp Virginia, in the northern desert of Kuwait, where I prepared for war.

3. Sand Storm! I was walking back from a planning meeting at the Brigade to my Battalion located on Camp Virginia when I almost got swallowed up by a sand storm. I literary could not see my hand in front of my face. I had to lie down on the ground and wait for the storm to die down. There was sand everywhere……I mean everywhere!

4. Sand Storm Again! The next day half the tents got blown over; we had to dawn our goggles, grab the mallets and reinforce all the collapsed tents in the middle of another storm. Let me tell ya……March in Kuwait sucks!

Major Rob Dillon and Captain Kevin Hanrahan at Talill Airbase, Nasiriyah, Iraq, March 2003

Major Rob Dillon and Captain Kevin Hanrahan at Talill Airbase, Nasiriyah Iraq, March 2003

5. The Stinky Lieutenant! There was this guy (A First Lieutenant) sleeping in our tent in Kuwait, who Jeff and I (Jeff and I were both Captains at the time) had to order to go take a shower. He was stinking up the entire tent. It was so gross…..we had to escort him to the shower trailer to make sure he used soap.

6. Bucket Washing. I washed my clothes in a bucket in Kuwait and Iraq. Well I washed while Jeff rinsed the clothes in his bucket. That is when we had water to do wash. The Lieutenant never washed his clothes. I guess he forgot to pack a bucket. Silly Lieutenant!

7. Skud Missles Attacks. Skud missiles attacks/ warnings in Kuwait were always interesting. We had no bunkers so we donned our chemical protective gear and lay next to the concrete barriers which are like larger jersey barriers. We laid there not knowing if the rockets that potentially could come crashing down on us contained chemical or conventional munitions. After a while the alerts became a joke- until the Iraqis actually started shooting them at us.

8. Irish Whisky? On March 17th, 2003 (A National Holiday for us Irishmen) I may or may not have drunk some Irish Whisky from the flask of a certain superior ranking officer. I plead the 5th on this one but is a memory I will never forget.

9. When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go! On the border of Kuwait and Iraq, I watched a female sergeant put a poncho on, walk into the desert, dig a small hole with an entrenching tool (military shovel), crouch, and defecate in front of thousands of thousands of Soldiers preparing to enter Iraq. That was one badass sergeant!

10. Rolling In My Jalopy! I entered Iraq on Day two of the ground war, ten years ago today, in a soft skinned Humvee (Not armored), wearing a green foliage uniform and a Vietnam era flak vest.

I didn’t realize at the time…..but memories and friends for a lifetime. My only regret is not taking any of my own pictures.

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26 thoughts on “A Soldier’s Top 10 Memories Preparing for the Invasion of Iraq

  1. Karen

    I think you should have wore your hazmat mask around the Stinky Lieutenant. LOL

    I hope he decided to bathe before he went home to his wife.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      At the time he wasn’t married Karen. Now he is to a wonderful lady so I’m keeping his identity tight lipped!

      Reply
        1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

          I yes Jani….just saw him last year. A great guy and now married. We give him crap all the time! (not in front of his wife though)

          Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thank you! We thought was fabulous to be in our green uniforms in the desert. Of course our higher headquarters had the desert uniforms!

      Reply
  2. Jani Muhlestein

    You were so young! I bet it seems like a lifetime ago. And even with 8 years behind you, I bet it wasn’t something you were ready for. Thank God you came home. And…go Kevin for daring to celebrate St. Patrick’s day right. Maybe.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      At the time I didn’t realize how important those moments were Jani. I wish I had taken a ton of pictures.

      Reply
      1. Jani Muhlestein

        We wish you had, too, naturally. I’m just glad you’re here to tell us about it. From what I know about you, that wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Oi vey. You’ve changed, naturally. You’re ten years older, true. But it’s more that: your eyes are different. I’m sure your soul is too. But you had the faith to marry again, and have an angel boy. That takes strength and character. And hope. I’m glad that the war didn’t rip that from you.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

          Thanks Jani. I ‘ve always found it amazing that two people can see the same horrific act and their responses are so much different. I certainly have memories that never fade…..but they don’t haunt me.

          Reply
  3. Keith Baron

    Great post Kevin – memories like this stay with you forever,well maybe not the one about the
    stinky Lieutenant

    Reply
  4. Mary J. McCoy-Dressel

    So glad you shared this, Kevin. I joined a support group when Desert Storm started. I’d love to share a poem with you that I wrote and shared with that group. It was chosen for an anthology. I could send it or DM at Twitter. It gives an idea of what we felt at home.

    Reply
  5. A. E. Poynor

    Thanks for the great post. I think everyone who has served likes to remember the funny stuff, even if it wasn’t funny at the time.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      I think at the time we all just couldn’t believe that we were actually going to war. Of course none of were really sure why we were invading……WMD, Al Qaeda in Iraq…..we weren’t 100% sure but we had a mission to accomplish!

      Reply
  6. RD Meyer

    I remember being ready to go and then having no airplane, so we were on stand-by for almost a week. Then I got a call after PT that we needed to be ready to go in four hours!

    I remember landing outside of Kifl with a rucksack of over 120 pounds. We were supposed to be further south, but we were suddenly ordered to go north. As I got off the bird, a mortar explosion went off to my left. My BDE Cdr was in front of me, his hands on his hips, and he declared, “Russ, we need to take that bridge.” He then pointed to a dilapidated thing over the Euphrates. My first thought was, “Oh, this is not good.”

    I remember 1 SG from another company commandeering a Lays Potato Chip truck and urging us to get in so he could take us to our first assault position.

    I remember going without a shower for seven weeks. We took baby wipe showers, but someone made the mistake of telling folks back home we were using baby wipes, so everyone and their brother sent us more. By the time I left, I could’ve wallpapered Baghdad with the things.

    Most of all, I remember the cohesion of my company. Those boys were truly my “Band of Brothers,” and we remain family to this day.

    Reply
    1. Jani Muhlestein

      Thank you for your courage and service. I am so grateful that ten years later, you are still here. May you be here many, many more years. You, and your Band of Brothers.

      Reply
  7. michelle

    LOL @ the stinky lieutenant. first are you SURE it wasn’t a butter bar LT? sounds like something THEY would do. HAHA. ;-)
    i remember when i went through basic (AF boot camp) at Lackland we had a girl who got recycled because she had broken her arm. she NEVER bathed or washed HER clothes either. it was DISGUSTING. we had to get the drill sergeants to FORCE her to bathe. i remember we had a male and a female. the male told her if SHE didn’t bathe herself AND do her laundry HE would take her outside and use a hose on her in front of everyone.
    Yea she got a plastic bag for her cast and bathed. after that she FINALLY washed her clothes. i honestly don’t think she stayed much longer. i think they released her for failure to acclimate or something like that.

    Reply
  8. Carole Remy

    Thank you for sharing your stories, Kevin! You have my admiration!

    When my father was in WWII, from the early days through occupation, he kept a daily diary including stories, cartoons he drew and hundreds of photos. Like you, he focused on the lighter times. I hope one day to get it digitized and published. You’ll be first on the list for a comp copy!

    Carole

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      That would make for a fabulous book Carole. Occupation time in Europe must have been an amazng time.

      Reply

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