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Location: Oaksterdam, California

Friday, September 24, 2004

Purple Heart Boulevard

Why are these people undermining the war in Iraq? Don't they know they are sending mixed messages to our Trooops? Haven't they met Prime Minister Reality, yet?

Why is the European and Pacific Stars & Stripes showing such a liberal bias?

BAGHDAD — Until last week, the world knew little about Haifa Street. Then came the spectacular car bombs in front of the Iraqi police station, and suddenly, Haifa was Iraq’s newest war zone.

But to the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, who must patrol the sector that includes Haifa Street, that area has been an all-out war zone for months.

In fact, soldiers with the 1-9 Cav don’t call it Haifa Street. To them, it’s “Grenade Alley,” or “Purple Heart Boulevard.”

In Baghdad, “there are two areas that are highly contested,” said Capt. Chris Ford, commander of the 1-9’s Company C, “Sadr City and here,” in the Haifa area.

“Every time we go out, we expect contact,” said Staff Sgt. Jimmie Thomas, a platoon sergeant for Company C, 1/153rd Infantry of the Arkansas National Guard, which is attached to the 1-9 Cav.

“Almost anything you do out there is movement to contact,” Thomas said. “Presence patrols, whatever. You’re expecting to get hit.”

More than half the company’s soldiers have qualified for Purple Hearts, and Thomas knows personally just how “getting hit” feels.

He was on a mission just two weeks ago, which ended in an hours-long firefight, with six of the platoon’s soldiers, including Thomas, wounded by grenades. Thomas took shrapnel in the neck and a leg.


But it hasn’t always been such a “good” day for the unit, which has responsibility for most of the patrols on Haifa Street. Some 60 out of the 118 men in his company have qualified for Purple Hearts, Ford said.

And the 1-9 Cav has had three soldiers killed in action since arriving in March, said Maj. Chris DeGaray, the 1-9’s executive officer.


“These are the same people Saddam had problems with, but he used much more brutal tactics than we can to control them,” said Capt. Reggie Kornegay, a civil affairs officer with the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion but who is attached to the 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment.

Nevertheless, since the end of the war, it wasn’t that bad for coalition troops patrolling Haifa Street, said soldiers from the 1-9 Cav.

When we first got here, we walked around giving candy to kids and talking to people,” said 2nd Lt. Rick Caldwell, a Company C platoon leader.

Staff Sgt. Jimmie Thomas, a Company C platoon sergeant, agreed.

“At first it wasn’t too bad,” said Staff Sgt. Jimme Thomas a Company C platoon sergeant. Thomas said his platoon has done “hundreds” of missions to Haifa Street since March.

But two months later, the situation started to change.


As the summer wore on, the situation worsened.

By August, 60 percent to 70 percent of his platoon’s missions to Haifa Street “were resulting in enemy contact of some sort,” Thomas said.

But even as patrols continue to turn into firefights, DeGaray said he has faith the situation will turn around, especially as the Iraqi Security Forces improve its abilities.(emphasis added)

(Via the Art of Peace)