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GMC News

48th disrupts enemy

48th Brigade works to disrupt enemy patterns

By Gray Beverley GEORGIA NEWS SERVICE

YUSIFIYAH-NAHIA DISTRICT, Iraq – In June, the 48th Brigade Combat Team came across more than 75 enemy bombs. At a rate of more than two per day, improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have exploded in the path of Georgia soldiers.

Some were detonated by the Americans before any harm could be done. But at least 47 soldiers have been injured by insurgent attacks – some with serious wounds.

In a prelude to the brigade\’s largest offensive, members of Georgia infantry units last month scoured local farms looking for the makings of IEDs.

The mission marked the start of a wave of brigade offensives – the first large-scale retaliation against those who have been terrorizing greater Baghdad streets. It occurred before the recent wave of bombings that cost the Macon-based National Guard brigade 11 members.

With Bowie, a Belgian Malinois, leading the way, soldiers combed the plowed fields and searched under palm trees looking for places where insurgents hide their tools of terror.

In the distance is an American checkpoint that has been a popular target. But Spc. Anthony Williams, a pastor in the \”good life city of Albany\” and a former high school first baseman, said the \”spirit of America\” will not die, no matter how often it\’s tested.

\”(The enemy) can nuke this place \’til there\’s nothing left but the roaches, and we\’ll still be here,\” Williams said.

The local residents gaze from their porches at the activity.

A 49-year-old translator who goes by \”Imad\” said the farmers are scared to talk to Americans but are glad they\’re around.

He said some Iraqis have requested checkpoints be placed in their neighborhood.

\”They say that they prefer U.S. armies in front of their homes, because they feel safety,\” Imad said.

Second Lt. Nathan Stone of Monticello, a physical education instructor at Rutland Middle School in Macon, said he\’s making sure residents do not feel intruded upon.

\”We just let them know we appreciate their cooperation,\” said Stone, 26. \”I let them know we\’re here for their safety as much as anything.\”

In perhaps a sign that men everywhere share a common bond, the first thing one resident said – using two words of English and pressing his hands together – was that a tire on an American five-ton truck was low.

After nearly two hours in the heat, Bowie called it quits. The group didn\’t find anything.

Not a problem, said Sgt. 1st Class Randy Palmer of Newnan, who works part-time at a National Guard training facility in Macon. He said establishing a footprint here will disrupt enemy patterns, keep them on their toes and lead to their making mistakes.

\”The reason this is important is so that everyone knows that we\’re out here looking for this stuff,\” said Palmer, 48. \”You want them to feel like they\’re watched.\”

During breaks in the action, the soldiers reminisced.

Palmer said he misses sitting on his back porch, smelling honeysuckle, looking out on his neighborhood and camping with his sons – his \”three-man fire team.\”

Sgt. Bruce Westbrook of Atlanta keeps a sketch of his deceased mother in the lining of his body armor. She\’s alive in his heart, he said.

Spc. Jonathan Lopez, who had just started at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville before deployment, said the smell of farmland reminded him of home. Lopez is a field artillery specialist who helps the infantry team analyze craters left by enemy mortars.

The work\’s OK, he says, but there\’s something he\’d rather be doing.

\”I\’d rather have a Waffle House grilled bacon cheesesteak plate,\” said Lopez, 19. \”That is the best.\”

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To contact Gray Beverley, e-mail gray@ganews.org.