Lieutenant Colonel Ross Brown graduated from West Point in 1987 and commanded “Thunder” squadron of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Baghdad during 2005 and 2006. He is a progressive and intellectual military leader of the sort who plan and manage our frontline military units. He is open and transparent and has two sides to his leadership style: often an expansive, humorous teddy bear, other times a hard-nosed commander.
At the start of the film he is a first-time squadron commander who has never led soldiers in combat, by the end he is a seasoned veteran who achieves success in one of the most dangerous areas at that point in the war. But he also carries the weight of responsibility for those soldiers who lost their lives in his command. By October of 2005, his unit was the most attacked unit in Iraq.
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my tour in Iraq. I am still in contact, through my translator who is still serving in Baghdad, with a Sheik and an Iraqi Army commander that I befriended. I convey monthly my best wishes to them and their families and my continued hope that there will be peace very soon in Iraq. I look forward to the day when we can see one another again without the threat of death or violence.” —LTC Ross Brown
Sergeant First Class Ron Corella was born and raised in Salinas, California. He grew up as the child of migrant workers and his family moved around the country looking for work. He joined the National Guard when he was 17 years old, and later joined the active-duty Army, where he has served since.
SFC Corella credits the Army with helping him get a chip off his shoulder that he carried from growing up poor as the child of immigrant Mexican crop workers. He loves training soldiers, and on retirement his dream is to become a teacher. He was on his second deployment to Iraq during the filming of WARRIORS.
“My greatest job in the military is training soldiers. And we train not because we want to fight a war but because sometimes it’s needed. I like training soldiers, I like teaching them, I like looking out for their well being. I like what we do—like here in Iraq—helping the people and the gratification when you hear a person telling you ‘thanks for being here…we appreciate what you’re doing.’ It means a lot to the soldiers, that the people here appreciate what we do for them.” —SFC Ron Corella
Captain Michael Fortenberry grew up in Louisiana and joined the Army after high school. He served four years as an enlisted man, then left the Army in 1994 to attend the University of Southern Mississippi. Upon graduation with a BA in Political Science, he re-joined the Army with an ROTC commission. After 9/11 he was deployed to Afghanistan, and later Iraq, with the 10th Mountain Division.
As captain and company commander of Charlie company working out of Camp Liberty, his was one of the most actively engaged companies in the entire division, often targeted by IEDs. However, miraculously they left that year without any serious casualties and no deaths. He was in the Humvee, along with the filmmakers, that was hit by the IED in the film.
“At the end of my company’s tour in Iraq I felt I was more than their commander, but their friend. We all trusted each other, and I hold the highest respect for each of them. I believe that their professionalism and calm judgment in tough situations enabled the company to return without losing anyone.” —CPT Michael Fortenberry
Lieutenant Ron Maloney is a member of the 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard. He is a reflective working-class soldier who demonstrates real empathy for Iraqis, and has a natural rapport with his men. He openly expresses the moral quandaries involved in fighting a war where terrorists hide among civilian populations.
Ron Maloney joined the reserves a few years out of high school, had a stint in the Army full time, went on to college, and eventually went through officer training with the National Guard. Before the Iraq war he had built up a home-improvement contracting business in mid-Long Island, New York.
He ends WARRIORS with a wrenching story of events that still haunt him. Yet since coming home, Ron Maloney has decided to deepen his professional involvement in the National Guard, knowing he can easily be called to Iraq again.
“There’s no other job in the world that can give you the camaraderie, the feeling that no matter what happens to me I’ve got a guy over here that’ll pull me out of the deepest hell to bring me to my family. And that’s the rarest part of military life. I’m part of the military, and I believe in its ways. The military says you go, I go, and I believe in it. It’s the teamwork, the values, the ethics, the morals, the camaraderie. Where else do you get a job that constantly enforces those type of values: personal integrity, personal courage, selflessness. Not too many bosses out there say, hey, these are the key requirements for you to be in this job.” —LT Ron Maloney
Lieutenant Emily Nay is a West Point graduate who walked away from The College of William & Mary and Duke University to become an intelligence officer in the Army. In Iraq she was charged with gathering information and running the confinement facilities at Camp Falcon. Against common assumptions about who today’s soldiers are, Lieutenant Nay comes from a well-to-do, college educated family currently living in the suburbs outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
In a war where there are no front lines, no rear lines, where any location can be attacked, Lieutenant Nay typifies the current role of many female soldiers in Iraq. Her attitude is irrepressibly positive. She believes strongly in duty and service and expects to continue in some form of government work later in life. She was one of only two women in the squadron of nearly 1000 cavalry soldiers under Lieutenant Colonel Ross Brown.
“My experiences in Iraq undoubtedly altered my perspective on life. I was truly content while in Iraq despite all of the stresses because I had a sense of purpose while I was serving there. My deployment to Iraq allowed me to recognize how significant it was to have a clear purpose in my life. I noticed that many of the luxuries that I enjoyed in the States really did not have much importance. I also became more appreciative of things that I took for granted back home. My deployment to Iraq was a true blessing—it helped me to become a better person and to lead a more fulfilling life.” —LT Emily Nay
Lieutenant Matthew Sumrall is one of Captain Fortenberry’s platoon leaders, and was in the Humvee convoy that was attacked on camera. He has a lively, funny personality, and loves his home state of Mississippi. He left his beloved bride for Iraq just 3 months after they were married.
He holds three university degrees but decided after 9/11 to leave his well-paid and promising job in business to join the Army. The thing that Lieutenant Sumrall would most like to see changed is the public perception of the Army as a place for people with no better options.
“The thing I would love to change about the public notion of the Army, the misconception, is that it’s something for people who have no better options. When my grandfather was 17 years old he went to school throughout the summers so he could graduate early and make it in time for World War II. You had guys ditching out of Yale and Harvard, you had pro athletes, quitting to go. It used to be that being in the Army was something looked upon with respect. I don’t consider my profession any less noble than the one my brother, who happens to be a doctor, chose.” — LT Matthew Sumrall