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Posted on May 3, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Behind the Headlines: Night Patrol: A Mission With the Iraqi Army

By Adam J. Tiffen

Infantryman 1st Lieutenant Adam J. Tiffen reports on what it’s really like to fight on the front line in the War on Terrorism!

Our Humvees roll to a stop and my Soldiers dismount in the darkness. We move quickly away from the vehicles to consolidate and get organized. Looking through my night vision goggles, the world is reduced to shades of black and green.

We are conducting a joint patrol composed of four U.S. Soldiers from my platoon and four from Iraq’s 1st Armored Division. Our mission is to patrol the fields on the outskirts of northwestern Baghdad and establish a snap traffic control point (TCP).

Soldiers of the 115th Infantry Regiment, Maryland Army National Guard, and their Iraqi counterparts head out from a mission near Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.* Iraqi National Guard troops sweep through an area near the Syrian border while on patrol with Soldiers of the 115th Infantry Regiment, Maryland Army National Guard.

Sergeant Stephen Szabo, heading the lead fire team, signals that his men are ready. An Iraqi chief warrant officer leads the fire team that follows behind me. Twice this former member of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard fought the U.S.; now he and his men play a vital role in the War on Terrorism.

We have over two kilometers to cover tonight so I give the signal to move out. The patrol proceeds silently through an open field, when suddenly a shot flies overhead. Dropping to the ground I shout, "Anybody got a target?"


"Negative, no target!" is the reply.

Without positive target identification, we cannot engage. Szabo fires a parachute flare from his M203, but the illumination reveals no suspicious movement. We are going to have to move; we are sitting ducks in the field.

I call the Iraqi leader over, and the interpreter quickly relays my instructions. "Get your men on line. You will be our base of fire if we receive contact. We will flank to the right."

Spc. Jason Farr, of the 115th Infantry Regiment, searches for insurgents in Taji, Iraq.+ Soldiers of the 115th Infantry Regiment go over the details of their objective while conducting a cordon-and-search mission near the Syrian border.

The Iraqi barks orders in Arabic and his men spread out through the field. At my command, Szabo’s fire team moves quietly toward a grove of trees as the Iraqis back us up.

Ahead, a break in the trees reveals three men standing with their hands above their heads outside a small brick compound filled with propane fuel tanks. An AK-47 leans against the wall behind them.

Our Soldiers pick up speed as we approach the building then they quickly clear the wall and enter a house on the property. Meanwhile, Corporal Robert Waples, my radiotelephone operator (RTO), and I secure the three men.

Szabo calls out, "Clear!" The fire team then emerges from the house and I radio for the Iraqi team to move in. Picking up the AK-47, I note that it has recently been fired.

Corporal Waples searches the three for additional weapons. The Iraqi team arrives and quickly secures the men while the Iraqi leader questions them.

The interpreter translates, "While guarding this fuel depot, they saw movement and thought we were insurgents coming to blow it up. Once they saw the flare, they realized we were Americans. They raised their hands hoping we would not shoot them."

I shake my head in the darkness; the men are lucky. "Tell them that I understand they were guarding their property, but firing on us was dangerous. We could have killed them."

Army 1st Lt. Adam Tiffen stands next to a BMP while conducting a "snap" vehicle checkpoint while on patrol in Iraq. Army 1st Lt. Adam Tiffen and several Iraqi National Guardsmen pose for a picture with a local sheik.

The Iraqi leader gives the three men a fierce lecture. They nod gravely as they listen.

"Alright," I announce after determining that they are not insurgents, "let them go. They were defending their property." When my words are translated, the men appear visibly relieved.

Checking my watch, I realize it is only 10:30 p.m. If we move now we can still set up the TCP on time. "Alright, let’s continue mission," I order. My men fall back into a wedge formation and the joint patrol forms up, heading out into the night.

Author Information

First Lieutenant Adam J. Tiffen is a rifle platoon leader with B Company, 1-115th Infantry, Maryland Army National Guard. He is currently serving in Iraq.

*Image Credits: Images provided by 1ST LT. Adam Tiffen, except "+" which was provided by Tech. Sgt. Russell Cooley IV