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A Company of Soldiers

Produced and Directed by Tom Roberts

Co-Producer Edward Jarvis


ANNOUNCER: Today, nearly 150,000 U.S. troops are on the ground in Iraq, battling an insurgency that has killed over 1,400 of them and wounded 10,000 more.

Maj. LEIKER: They were hit by RPG fire and small arms fire twice. These are professionals out here. They set up ambushes—

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE, the inside story of one band of American soldiers—

Capt. WHITELEY: Cline, make a hole for us up there.

ANNOUNCER: —the men of Dog Company, stationed for the last year in south Baghdad.

Col. ALLEN: When they set up in the road to fire at us, somebody needs to let us know.

ANNOUNCER: It is a story of hope—

Col. ALLEN: If your people will cooperate with me, there'll be nothing but building. We'll get rid of the terrorists. You can live in peace. You know my intentions are honorable.

ANNOUNCER: —and frustration—

Col. LANZA: Now, listen to me! Rockets have been fired from your property. Bombs have been planted. The blood of two of my soldiers, as well as numerous Iraqis, are on your hands.

ANNOUNCER: —a story of fear—

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: You don't know who has bombs in their cars. Suicide bombers, they'll come up right next to your car and blow themselves up just to blow you up along with them.

ANNOUNCER: —and confusion—

SOLDIER: What've we got? What've we got?

SOLDIER: Small arms fire

SOLDIER: Hey, let's turn it around!

SOLDIER: We got civilian casualties!

Maj. LEIKER: Tell the JCC to get a civilian ambulance out here!

ANNOUNCER: —a story of sudden violence—

Maj. LEIKER: Now, this is Indian territory out there. This is — this is enemy territory.

SOLDIER: We just hit an IED at the traffic circle!

SOLDIER: Are you OK? Are we OK? Are you OK?

ANNOUNCER: —and crushing grief.

Capt. WHITELEY: He went through over 100 rounds. He got hit, came back up, continued to fight, mortally wounded. There is nothing more we can ask from anybody on our team than that level of dedication.

ANNOUNCER: It is the story of what must be faced—

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: The hardest part of war isn't putting your life on the line for your soldiers, but saying— but saying goodbye to those who've fallen.

ANNOUNCER: —when you are A Company of Soldiers.

NARRATOR: It is an hour before dawn on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. The U.S. Army is massing for an operation. Iraq has become America's biggest military commitment since Vietnam. Despite the sheer might of the U.S. forces, virtually every one of the 150,000 American soldiers stationed in Iraq faces the risk of death or serious injury every day.

We spent the month of November 2004 embedded within Dog Company of the 1st Battalion in the Army's 8th Cavalry Regiment. In November, the eyes of the world were on the bloody fight for Fallujah, but the final battle for Iraq will be won or lost elsewhere, in places like Mosul, Ramadi, Najaf and here in south Baghdad with Dog Company.

Camp Falcon
South Baghdad

PFC. BENJAMIN MORGAN: We're a team on the trucks, and we're a team off the trucks.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: You build a bond here when you go through life-threatening things every day, when you spend all your time with the same group of people, you sleep with them, you eat with them, you clean with them, you cry with them. I mean, there's a bond between the men and women I work with out here that I've never felt with anyone else in my life.

NARRATOR: The 100 or so men and women of Dog Company form the headquarters support unit for the 8th Cavalry. Back in the States, these soldiers would normally staff the offices and man the telephones. Out here, their primary job is to protect the senior officers from attack. It is a dangerous job that takes them out of their base at Camp Falcon virtually every day.

The base overlooks Iraq's main north/south highway. One of the 8th Cav's responsibilities is to keep this vital route open.

SOLDIER: I just like driving. I like being in control of the road. People have to get out your way. You just own the roads here.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: I heard it on the radio that a vehicle with two guys pulled up. They got out and they tested the guys for TNT and stuff. They came up positive. They tested the car, which came up positive. Then they looked in the trunk. Dude, they found a dead body in the trunk.

SOLDIER: Really?

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: Yeah, he'd been executed, shot in the head.

Pvt. JOSUE REYES: Did they kill him or did somebody else kill him or what?

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: Well, that's what they're trying to find out. They're interrogating them now. That'd be kind of scary, wouldn't it, open the trunk and find a dead body?

NARRATOR: Dog Company's biggest fear is the VBED, the Army's acronym for the car bomb. The gunners fire warning shots to keep cars from getting in amongst the convoy of Humvees.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: All right, if he gets any closer, let me know. Fire a warning shot and let me know. Let the 3 Whisky know that I-Golf has a white truck behind us about 250 meters, with a guy standing up in the back of it. I told him that if he gets any closer, to fire a warning shot. So when we get up to this first checkpoint right up here, we might want to tell the guys at the checkpoint. Over.


SOLDIER: He turned.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: He turned?


Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: A-1, this is 3. The truck has turned off the road.

NARRATOR: Today Dog Company has been ordered to set up a roadblock while the rest of the battalion hunts for insurgents hiding in the area.

Maj. LEIKER: Hey, Dan, you're in charge of that lane, OK?

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: What am I, chopped liver?

Pvt. JOSUE REYES: Everybody feels scared. When I go out the gate, I feel kind of anxious and nervous at the same time. But I don't really feel fear, like, so much fear that I can't function, you know?

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: All right? I don't want to hear it.

Pvt. JOSUE REYES: Especially when, you know, there's a car on the side of the road, and it's just sitting there and you have to go past it. And you— there's the sense that, you know, that could be the car that blows up.

NARRATOR: Suddenly, they spot a car coming their way.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: Warning shot! Warning shot! Engage!

PFC. BENJAMIN MORGAN: He passed the trigger line. He passed the trigger line. Sir? The Humvee's right here, sir. He could see us!

NARRATOR: The car had approached the roadblock at high speed. To the soldiers, it seemed like the driver accelerated after the warning shot, so the order was given to shoot directly at the car.

Pvt. JOSUE REYES: Hey, dude. See him run right at us? The minute you said that, I was, like, "Fuck this."

PFC. BENJAMIN MORGAN: I know. The guy— after the warning shot, he sped up.


NARRATOR: We would end up spending a great deal of time with this small combat unit. They were nine men strong and traveled in three armored Humvees. They had been thrown together from many different parts of Dog Company and so called themselves the Misfits.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Did you get hold of your girl?

CLINE: No, not last night. Her dad was home.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Does her dad not like you or something? Her dad was home, so you couldn't talk to your girl? [laughter] What's she, like, 12?

CLINE: You know how it is.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Remember that little white pick-up got in our way? One day, Babbitt— Babbitt was driving—

NARRATOR: Sergeant Garcia is one of the Misfits' three sergeants. He's a career soldier who has just re-enlisted for his third tour of duty.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: —so he hit him to move him, out of the way. But we were still going too fast, and so was he, so we turned sideways. And we're still pushing him for about, oh, I don't know, 20 meters, kept pushing him, pushing him, pushing him, and then — vroom! — went off. And we kept going, and he went and hit the rail on the side.

SOLDIER: Did you?

SOLDIER: Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: It was so funny!


Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: Yeah, all we saw was the dude sitting there, going—

SOLDIER: Yeah, just sitting there. [laughter]

NARRATOR: Sergeant Carpenter is from Georgia and the father of two young boys. He has been in the Army for 12 years.

SOLDIER: Most of them do. I mean, still, a little, they see an Army car or our vehicles, and they move. We don't have any—

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: No, I was talking to my wife. She was saying that they're still doing a lot of protesting in Houston.

SOLDIER: For what, man?

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Yeah. Us being out here.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: What? My whole outlook on it is people that are protesting are the ones who are scared to come out here and die for their country. So I don't even care what they say. Doesn't matter to me. Well, it matters to me, but—

SOLDIER: You learn to live with it, I guess.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: They've got enough gumption to put all that together and protest this, well, why don't you get a little bit more gumption and enlist, come out here and help us.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: We sure do need some help. Que sera sera.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: To each his own.

NARRATOR: The Misfits, and the other 2,000 soldiers who live at Camp Falcon, can never fully relax. The base is under constant threat of attack. Sniper and mortar rounds are frequently fired from the poor neighborhood just across the highway.

SOLDIER: She sells small food and cigarettes.

NARRATOR: Combat and security are only two of the U.S. Army's tasks in Iraq. They are also trying to rebuild the country's economy and its infrastructure.

Capt. JOHN MORRIS: OK, let's go. OK, Sam. We're going to go— yeah, we're going to go over to the market, OK?

NARRATOR: Capt. John Morris is a civil affairs officer. He is responsible for economic development and liaising with Iraqi civilians. One of his projects is the construction of a new indoor market in this poor part of Baghdad. In a week or so, all these vendors will be moved inside.

Capt. JOHN MORRIS: Salaam Aleikum.

NARRATOR: The captain is here to check on the building's progress.

Capt. JOHN MORRIS: What happened? See the wall down there? It's not finished, either. There's no stands down there.

INTERPRETER: Captain, just that he tell you everything in this market is finished.

Capt. JOHN MORRIS: Everything's finished?

INTERPRETER: Just about special join for the electric, from this electric rail to the market. Maybe after one week, he put it back.

Capt. JOHN MORRIS: OK. Is that going to happen, or do I need to make that happen?

[subtitles] Do you want the Army to do it or the contractor?

IRAQI MAN: [subtitles] Speak to the ministry because they own the electricity

Capt. JOHN MORRIS: OK. OK. I just need to know what else— is there anything else we need to do for this to open? I want to— I would— I want to come to— I want to go to my commander—


Capt. JOHN MORRIS: —and I want to say to him—


Capt. JOHN MORRIS: —I'm ready to— I'm ready to open on this day. I need to know when that is. Is there anything else we have to do to finish the market so we can open?


Capt. JOHN MORRIS: Now. Tell the Lion thank you for his time.


Capt. JOHN MORRIS: And we'll see him in a few days

NARRATOR: For the eight months Dog Company has been in Iraq, their sector has been relatively quiet.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: I've been here 12 years, and I get my first combat stripes. You've been in four months—

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: And you already got yours! [laughter]

NARRATOR: Sergeants Carpenter and Garcia keep a protective eye on Private Reyes, the youngest member of the Misfits. He is 19 and was sent to Iraq straight from basic training.

Pvt. JOSUE REYES: I was kind of worried when I got here because— just because I was the new guy. I took the jokes that they made. Now it's a pretty cool team to be with. It's a pretty good bunch. I like them.

[www.pbs.org: Read PFC. Reyes's extended interview]

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: Oh, bam! [laughter] Check!

Pvt. JOSUE REYES: Is it over?

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Oh, damn!

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: Or lose your queen.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: I didn't even see that!

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: No, it's not over. Checkmate's over.

Pvt. JOSUE REYES: Oh. What's check, then?

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: It means he's going to get this, so I need to move it out of the way. But unfortunately, once I move this, he can get this one because a horse moves two and one over.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Yeah, because this one you want to keep, and I messed up. I wasn't thinking, and unluckily, he got it.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: There was no luck in that.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Oh, no. Wait!

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: I set you up.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Wait. [laughter]

NARRATOR: But the relative calm at Camp Falcon was about to end. In early November, shortly after the assault on Fallujah began, two huge explosions are heard in South Baghdad. The Quick Reaction Force, known as the QRF, is dispatched immediately.

Maj. LEIKER: We're going to head up to the police station. We've got to keep our eyes out for a secondary VBED, OK? We're also going to go up there and check to make sure that the IPs [Iraqi Police] and the hellraiser element, which is the MPs, are up there and they're safe.

NARRATOR: First reports say that two Christian churches have been car bombed. Major Leiker is in charge of combat operations. His first stop is the local Iraqi police station, to assess the situation.

Maj. LEIKER: Do you have a map? A map?


Maj. LEIKER: Yes.


Maj. LEIKER: Yes. The church? Explosion?


Maj. LEIKER: Where church? Right there?

IRAQI POLICE CHIEF: [through U.S. Army translator] We have three church in this area.

Maj. LEIKER: Right. Which one got hit?

IRAQI POLICE CHIEF: [translator] Ayakobi church. Ayakobi church.

SOLDIER: Show him on the map where the church is.

NARRATOR: And there is another threat. The Iraqi chief of police has just received a warning that they, too, will be attacked later tonight.

IRAQI POLICE CHIEF: [subtitles] We're 100 percent certain we're going to be attacked tonight

Maj. LEIKER: That's why we're leaving the— the MPs are going to be staying here.

IRAQI POLICE CHIEF: [subtitles] It will be every man for himself. No other police will be able to help us.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: The IPs in other police station, everyone, he has to protect his police station. They are from their police station. They cannot come here and leave his police station.

Maj. LEIKER: The MPs are here. I have a QRF that's here around the area. He will be OK. If he starts to get attacked, I have the combat power that I can bring over to help him out.

NARRATOR: More than 1,000 Iraqi police and national guard have been killed in the past six months.

Maj. LEIKER: Well, that's why we're here, OK? You bet. Thank you.

Maj. LEIKER: Just be on alert. They've already received some small arms fire.

We're trying to go to the St George's Church. See, there's a church right there on the map, and a church right there. They must be off on their grid. That's probably the church.

SOLDIER: This is the mosque right here, right?

Maj. LEIKER: No, that's the mosque right there. That's the mosque right there, OK? Their grid— their grid is slightly off. So get back on the net and ask Tango to verify the grid and see if they're south of the market — I believe it's this one right here — and what is the best way to get there? Is it to come straight down by this mosque and curve around, or how? OK?

SOLDIER: All right.

Maj. LEIKER: We're going to have to hunt around a little bit because I don't know the exact way to come in from the north.

Where's it at? Shit! Let's go. OK. OK, I want you to really be alert!

Are you the priest?

PRIEST: Yes, yes.

Maj. LEIKER: OK. One vehicle? One bomb?

PRIEST: One vehicle, yes.

Maj. LEIKER: Just one bomb?


Maj. LEIKER: OK. Where— did he drive in here?


MAN WITH PRIEST: Fifteen guys. Fifteen dead from—

Maj. LEIKER: Fifteen dead Iraqis?

MAN WITH PRIEST: Yes. They said to to the guard— to the guard, must to leave this area now directly.

Maj. LEIKER: Is anybody hurt?

SOLDIER: Yeah, a female's been hit.

Maj. LEIKER: Female. OK, get the medic over here!

SOLDIER: One female.

Maj. LEIKER: One female. Make sure— over here!

MAN WITH PRIEST: They send— they send to hospital.

Maj. LEIKER: OK. How many people are dead? One dead? OK, let's go look at the church, OK? Let's go look at the church. OK. I have to go with the gun. I will stand at the edge of the church, Father. I will look in from the outside, Father.


Maj. LEIKER: Was this car— this is a car bomb?


Maj. LEIKER: Holy smokes!

MAN WITH PRIEST: The engine about this car—

Maj. LEIKER: The engine is out that way. Father, I am sorry for your church.

MAN WITH PRIEST: You see, that's the tire for the car.

Maj. LEIKER: Yes, that was the car.

NARRATOR: Iraq has one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. This is the seventh church that has been car bombed in recent weeks.

IRAQI MAN IN CHURCH: Here they don't like Christians.

Maj. LEIKER: And they pretty well trashed everything in here.

IRAQI MAN IN CHURCH: Nobody save us. We like to be peace. Jesus says the peace, and don't— they not like the peace.

Maj. LEIKER: Big, beautiful stained glass windows.

SOLDIER: Who attacks a church?

SOLDIER: Cowards.

SOLDIER: Muslims.

SOLDIER: Outside terrorists.

[www.pbs.org: More on the church bombings]

NARRATOR: There is no more Major Leiker can do tonight, and the Iraqi emergency services are left in charge.

RADIO VOICE: Roger. Good copy. We'll give you a call when we're going back out. [unintelligible] be advised [unintelligible] IEDs and small arms fire vicinity [unintelligible] Over.

Maj. LEIKER: Be careful of IEDs, guys.

SOLDIER: Hey, slow down!

Maj. LEIKER: What've we got?

SOLDIER: Some potshots.

Maj. LEIKER: OK, let's turn it around.

SOLDIER: What've we got? Contact!

SOLDIER: Zero-zero-two, small arms fire!

Maj. LEIKER: Hey, let's turn it around!

SOLDIERS: Where are they at? Where are they at? Where do we go! Move it! Go back! What's that? Turn it back around! Come on, let's go!

Maj. LEIKER: OK, go ahead and stop right here!

SOLDIER: Stop! Stop!

Maj. LEIKER: Mustang 3, we're in a small arms contact, vicinity 60th and Palmer road!

NARRATOR: On the way back to the base, the convoy had been ambushed with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms, and the Americans had aggressively returned the fire.

Maj. LEIKER: Hold on! I want to know where all friendly forces are before we start doing anything!

SOLDIER: Hey, we got civilian casualties!

SOLDIER: They need a medic!

SOLDIER: There's a vehicle, a civilian taxi. Right now, there's just two in the vehicle. I'm just waiting for them to clear so we can give the go-ahead for the medic.

Maj. LEIKER: OK, what happened?

SOLDIER: Took collateral damage.

Maj. LEIKER: From who, us?

SOLDIER: We don't know yet, sir.

Maj. LEIKER: OK. Hey! Tell them that I'm going to need— I'm going to need the— well, shit! Hey! Tell the JCC to get a civilian ambulance out here! Who— now who— who fired?

SOLDIER: I have no idea, sir.

SOLDIER: There's a right one who got shot over there? This vehicle was coming through, so he got ricocheted from the other side.

Maj. LEIKER: Yeah, this is a ricochet right here because I don't see any—

NARRATOR: The medic says the man in the taxi is mortally wounded and nothing can be done to save him.

Maj. LEIKER: God damn it! OK, tell me when you're all ready. Get your guys lined up, and let's get ready to go!

[www.pbs.org: Read FRONTLINE's position on strong language]

SOLDIER: How far up here are we pushing to—

Maj. LEIKER: We're only going to push down just past where that house is, so that we have an arc of fire of vehicles. And then we're all going to move out, OK? And I'll give the word on that. Let's go! Let's go! Get your vehicle going. Hey, be careful for IEDs! I want you to be very alert. Very alert! Do not be kicking doors in! It's just like a normal cordon and search, OK? Be very respectful because it's Ramadan, and we've got really muddy boots now. OK?

Ask them if they've seen any bad people— Ali Baba.

Salaam Aleikum. No ali baba?

IRAQI CIVILIANS: [subtitles] There is nothing here. Nothing.

Maj. LEIKER: No Ali baba? Over here?

MAN IN HOUSE: [subtitles] All these areas are open, so they could have come from anywhere. We don't even have any weapons to protect ourselves. You can search if you like. You won't find anything.

Maj. LEIKER: Thank you. Nothing like a little excitement.

NARRATOR: The insurgents had escaped, but no U.S. troops were injured.

The next day, things get a great deal worse. While we were at the base, news began coming in to the Tactical Operations Center that a patrol had been ambushed.

Maj. LEIKER: We were ambushed right here. These guys probably set up these IEDs, came in here—

NARRATOR: It was the Misfits.

Maj. LEIKER: All the reports we got, people shooting on 60th Street today, still got the two IEDs at the possible churches.

NARRATOR: Two soldiers are critically wounded. Very early that morning, we'd been out on an operation with that same patrol. It was led by Major Leiker and included Sergeants Carpenter and Garcia and his gunner, Specialist Travis Babbitt. When the ambushed patrol returns to Camp Falcon that afternoon, Captain Whiteley, the commander of the Misfits, calls the team together. He's got some bad news to deliver.

Capt. WHITELEY: Where's— where's Morgan?

SOLDIER: He was out [unintelligible]

Capt. WHITELEY: So everyone knows Babbitt, unfortunately, has passed away. He died of wounds after he got to the cache. He received a single gunshot wound that went in behind his left shoulder and then came out somewhere in his right lower rib area. I don't— I don't really know.

What I do know is that Babbitt was a superb soldier, and he was a great friend to all of us. And he died like he should. He went out fighting. We knew they were down there waiting on us, and we— we went down there to do our job. And Babbitt went through over 100 rounds, got hit, came back up, continued to fight, mortally wounded. There is nothing more we can ask from anybody on our team than that level of dedication. [sighs]

We all loved him like a brother, and it's going to be very, very difficult for all of us, including me. But what— what we have to do now is be strong for the guys who are on the team, for each other. We have to take care of Babbitt. He's got lots of stuff we've got to do. We've got to get his stuff back to him. We've got to get his memorial service ready, and which— it has to be absolutely top notch.

And most importantly, we have to continue to soldier, each and every one of us, because later on tonight, tomorrow morning, we're going to be back on the same road. We're going to be going back into another ambush. And the next time, we'll put more on them than they put on us.

But I just want each of you to know that I'm— I'm damn proud of what we did today. Everyone did their job, and you performed excellently. Trucks two and three stayed in contact, so the rest of the tank could maneuver around you. Superb job, my Sergeant Cruise and Sergeant Carpenter, every last one of you. I couldn't be prouder.

I love each of you like my brother. And unfortunately, we just lost one. So I want you guys to spend some time talking to each other. It's absolutely OK to cry about it, yell about it, be angry about it, whatever you want to do. The chaplain's here, if you want to talk to him. I'm always available. Sergeant Cruise is available.

But while you're doing that, I want you to first get back to the task of soldiering and get the trucks ready, just in case they need us again tonight. And then I want each of you to stay right here where I can put a hand on you if I need you later on, OK? All right. I love each and every one of you, and I'm proud of what we do here. And If it's our time to go, we can only hope that we go out like Babbitt, all right, fighting, with our boots on, being a soldier.

So thanks for your time. The chaplain's here. I'll be in the— here to talk if you guys need me. And we just need to get on to business.

SOLDIER: You all right, sir?

Capt. WHITELEY: Yeah, I'll make it. You?

SOLDIER: Oh, I've definitely seen better days.

Maj. LEIKER: Captain Whiteley! OK, here's what we got going, guys—

NARRATOR: Dog Company is beginning to realize that they are fighting a new, more professional enemy.

Maj. LEIKER: There's a whole bunch of enemy right up in here, along Market Street again, approximately 100 AIF. Right now—

NARRATOR: They suspect that about 100 insurgents, called Anti-Iraqi Forces, or the AIF, have moved into their sector to distract American forces from the fight in Fallujah.

Maj. LEIKER: They got hit by AIF, OK? Numerous, to include from the rooftops. We're going to go down Chicken Run, go all the way out to Red Rings, go up center line to get the cache. Any questions? OK, you know the route? OK? You know the route? You're driving. You know the route, right? OK, let's go. Red Comm one, let's go.

SOLDIER: We're going to be coming back into the shit you guys, remember that. OK?

NARRATOR: It is the day after Babbitt's death, and the Misfits have been ordered back into action.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: This is Sgt. Carpenter. Can you hear me?

SOLDIER: Another day, Sarge.

PFC. BENJAMIN MORGAN: Anger was the first thing. I think that's probably just about what everybody felt, at least the way everybody acted. We all wanted to go back out and find the guy that got him and do some very not nice things to that person. We tried to get back into the action right away. As we were coming back, we kept calling, asking permission to rejoin the battle, and they wouldn't let us. They sent us back to the battalion headquarters.

Nothing we ever do can bring Babbitt back, but maybe that way, we could kind of strike back a little bit out of, I don't know, kind of payback, I guess you could say, revenge.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: Reyes, if you see any cars parked along the road with nobody in it, I want you to go as far away from it as you can.

Pvt. JOSUE REYES: [unintelligible] because I saw that taxi, and it was just sitting there.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: If somebody's carrying an AK, we have the authority to shoot.

Pvt. JOSUE REYES: That makes it easier.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: Just another day watching out for VBEDs. That's our biggest scare right now. We've had eight in the last three days.

NARRATOR: The Misfits are heading for a stretch of road where running gun battles have been fought all day.

Capt. WHITELEY: Is that smoke or an explosion?

SOLDIER: Yeah, smoke.

SOLDIER: Something's on fire.

SOLDIER: Keep your eyes open. Keep looking at the rooftops.

Capt. WHITELEY: Wait up. Get everybody to stop.


Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: You don't know who has bombs in their cars, who has AKs, who has what in their cars. All the VBEDS we've had are either on the side of the road or suicide bombers. They'll come right up next to your car and blow themselves up just to blow you along with them. They move, or we move them. First thing, honk your horn. Second thing, warning shot. He's still not moving, direct fire on the hood or the trunk, tires. Try and disable the car to get it out of the way.

You'll see bombs going off. You'll see weapon exchange, rounds going back and forth, and they still want to go right through the middle of it, you know? And it's— we're trying to save their lives, but they're not helping us by getting in our way. Every day, every time we roll out, there's something to worry about. VBEDS, IEDs, gunfire, RPGs, you name it, it's out there. There's just so much stuff they throw at us, it's ridiculous.

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: Tonight, we're expecting, in the "Night of Power," quite a bit of activity. I don't want to be caught one patrol at a time and have to stack myself on top of him. I'd rather be out in force, so that if he does decide to stand up and engage us, we are ready for him.

NARRATOR: Lt. Col. Allen is the commander of the 1st Battalion of the 8th Cavalry.

OFFICER: These are foreign fighters. We've got a couple indicators right now of some key mosques in zone 25. Three specific mosques are being implicated right now in this activity in the north, that the Shuhada mosque has been supporting this, the Rahman mosque and the Yasin mosque. So a lot of this is not new to you guys, specifically because these are the Sunni mosques that we've had trouble with for a while.

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: OK, guys.

NARRATOR: Tonight Lt. Col. Allen plans to use the entire battalion to flush out the newly arrived insurgents. The mission will be especially dangerous because this is the Muslim Night of Power, a time, Islamic radicals believe, when their attacks are given greater significance by God.

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: —right in the middle of it. If we meet the enemy, we're going to overwhelm him with combat power and destroy him or move him away. But the intangible of that is so many people pumped up trying to get to the fight that we start shooting each other.

The curfew's at 10:30, and we should be out before that. Remember the ROE, show, shout, shove and shoot, hostile act, hostile intent, before you know, you use lethal force. And force has got to be graduated in kind, so if a guy's standing there yelling at you, obviously, you can just yell back.

Tonight, your judgment will be key to this requirement. I need some engagement on the population. You've got to talk to the people because if you were them right now, you would see, you know— kind of like in America, a hurricane comes through, you know, your normalcy's not there, you know? And it's comforting to have somebody come by and tell you what's going on. But you can't do that for long. Security is going to be vital because if you stop for more than 20 minutes, they're going to— and they're in the area, they're going to hit you.

CHAPLAIN: Dear Lord Jesus Christ, we pray to you every day that you continue to give us strength and praise in everything that you provide us with, and continue to take care of all soldiers deployed and around the world. We thank you for that. You and continue to give our families strength and guidance [unintelligible] you provide with us on a daily basis, and you continue to keep them safe on a daily basis. And we praise you for that, as well. Dear Lord Jesus Christ, we praise you, amen.


Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: Mount up! I need to see Wersiovski and my two battle captains right out here.

Maj. LEIKER: We're going to leave here in a few minutes, and we're going to surround a mosque, OK? This same mosque is an area today where they were hit by RPG fire and small arms fire twice. They had a cache of weapons and a vehicle right outside of it. So this— this is not— you know, this is Indian territory out there. This is enemy territory out there. These are professionals out here. They set up ambushes, they draw you in, they try to hit you from multiple directions with RPG and small arms fire, to include sniper fire. That's how we lost Babbitt, a sniper. You guys understand me?

OK, on Yomama, go to the traffic circle and go north. OK? Yomama, traffic circle, north. OK, where's Yomama? Cut the corner short. [explosion]


SOLDIER: What have you got?

SOLDIER: We're going to push through! We're going to push through!

Maj. LEIKER: Are you OK?

SOLDIER: Yes, sir.

Maj. LEIKER: We just hit an IED! We just hit an IED at the traffic circle!

SOLDIER: We're going to push through. We're going to push through.

Maj. LEIKER: Are you OK?

SOLDIER: Yes, sir.


Maj. LEIKER: Check yourself for wet spots. Are you OK?


Maj. LEIKER: At this time, a negative. We're moving forward to assess the situation. Over.

This is Mustang 3, and we're moving through the engagement area and we're going to get a situation [unintelligible] report. Over.

Are we OK?

SOLDIER: I got some damage to my left eye.

Maj. LEIKER: Pull up right over here! Stop! Are you OK? Are you OK?

SOLDIER: Harness! Harness! We're checking Harness!

Maj. LEIKER: Are you OK?

SOLDIER: You all right?

SOLDIER: Hey, check his legs. Check everything.

Maj. LEIKER: Fucking check Garcia! Check this other guy!

SOLDIER: I got him! I got him!

SOLDIER: Call fucking security!

SOLDIER: Garcia, you all right?

SOLDIER: Call security!

NARRATOR: A roadside bomb, called an IED, had exploded underneath the Humvee right in front of us.

Maj. LEIKER: Hey, one of you guys go check Harness real quick. Yes, he is— he is walking wounded. Keep checking! Keep checking! Don't fuck around!

NARRATOR: While Major Leiker checks for casualties, his sergeant wants to move further away to avoid an ambush.

SERGEANT: Hey, we've got to move out of here.

Maj. LEIKER: Hey! I got to check him first!~ Give me a minute!

SOLDIER: I'm not saying anything, sir. I'm just saying—

Maj. LEIKER: Well, somebody was! Keep checking.

SOLDIER: Shrapnel to the left ear. He's— he's all right. Shrapnel to the left ear.

SOLDIER: I fucking saw that coming.

NARRATOR: Specialist Harness, the gunner, was hit by shrapnel and has a burst eardrum, but his injuries are not too severe.

Spc. HARNESS: I didn't hear anything at first, and it felt like I got hit in the back of the head with a bat. It was just really quick and— I don't know— I don't know if I blacked out or if I just closed my eyes or what. It just happened really fast. I just remember just seeing the sparks when it exploded, and then I just felt like I got just hit really hard in the back of the head.

NARRATOR: What most disturbed Specialist Harness was that his best friend, Babbitt, died two days earlier manning the same gun on the same Humvee.

Spc. HARNESS: I really— I just— I just— I know— I knew who was— you know, who I was sitting in for. And I didn't— it isn't— you know, I just didn't feel right being there.

SOLDIER: Specialist Babbitt and I were very close. I talked to his wife a couple of days ago. I was actually kind of afraid to talk to her. And his mom. She understands it and is going to deal with it. It's going to be a lot harder when he gets— when his— when he makes it back and she has to see him, for her, or maybe good? Good.

NARRATOR: The battle with the insurgents is becoming even more personal.

Capt. WHITELEY: OK, guys, the— I wanted to read something to you before we go off on this mission because I think it's fairly important that you hear the rest of the details from what Colonel Allen told us last night about the possible VBED attack against our convoy.

NARRATOR: Captain Whiteley has received intelligence that he has been named as a target.

Capt. WHITELEY: [reading] "The source stated he was supposed to meet with Captain Whiteley today and had a very important message to pass to him. The source stated that due to the killing of a local Iraqi, Captain Whiteley had been blamed for the death. The relatives had sworn revenge against Captain Whiteley. Source stated that due to the regular pattern Captain Whiteley kept with travel in the local area, i.e. going to the town meetings, council meetings, et cetera, the relatives have planned a VBED attack specifically against Captain Whiteley. Source has stated that the relatives know Captain Whiteley's patterns of travel and are using them to target him."

So what the analysts know was that they've been following us for some time. There's some things in there that are possibly credible. So we're just going to— when we go out from now on, beginning like right now, we're going to be extremely observant for any vehicles that are following us. So I want the gunners to be— watch for any cars that are following us.

You look down into that car and see if anything looks suspicious. And if you see anything laying in the back seat, any weapon, anything that looks weird to you, fire a warning shot, see how he responds. If you clearly identify a weapon, I just want you to kill him. Just don't even mess around with a warning shot. I think we've been dealing with an elevated threat level even before this little love note, just based on the insurgent activity. We're just going to do things normally. There's no need to get excited about it. People are trying to kill you. Yay, you know? [laughter]

All right, so let's get back in the truck and let's get ready to roll. Come on. Let's go.

PFC. BENJAMIN MORGAN: It doesn't so much change the mission as it does change the intensity we work. People have been hired to go after this team specifically, and we just have to be a lot more cautious about what we're doing and just try to make yourself less of a target, but still being fully capable of defending yourself. My job's not to die for my country. My job is to make the other poor bastard die for his country. If it comes to that, then I'll do what I have to do.

[www.pbs.org: Read PFC. Morgan's extended interview]

Capt. WHITELEY: Cline, make a hole for us up there. Soon as they started the daylight attacks [unintelligible] friggin' stressed out.

NARRATOR: The fighting has played havoc with everyday life in the 8th Cav's sector. Gasoline, in particular, is now in short supply, and some lines are three miles long.

Capt. WHITELEY: This is going to become an increasingly dangerous route. All the— you see all those people at the gas station, pissed off? There's no gas, and they can't get home.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Car's kind of heavy in the ass.

Capt. WHITELEY: Watch this guy. Stay away from him.

NARRATOR: Later that day, there are more attacks and more casualties.

OFFICER: OK. What was the initial contact on?

NARRATOR: Anther Dog Company patrol has been hit.

SOLDIER: There's four, four wounded, one KIA. White is the KIA.

NARRATOR: The Misfits are ordered into the battle.

SOLDIER: Now there's a unit in contact right now. Down at the Y intersection, and we're going to meet at the soccer field, which is an area pretty much near to that place.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: We're trying to piece something together, a team of three trucks, so we can head out and help them out.

SOLDIER: Yeah, I need a gunner.

SOLDIER: I've got one seat.

SOLDIER: So we got three trucks.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: How we know, I'm not sure, but it's supposed to be one KIA, two wounded.

OFFICER: Let's go! Let's go!

OFFICER: What're you doing?

SOLDIER: He's clearing the lane, sir.

OFFICER: Let's all turn off here to the right. Hey, clear the lane!

SOLDIER: Damn rail!


SOLDIER: [unintelligible] a test round, sir.

OFFICER: Go ahead.

OFFICER: Sir, we have a total of three wounded, one deceased. I think we — stand by. Name of the deceased?



NARRATOR: The battle is already over. All three vehicles in the original convoy took a direct hit from rocket-propelled grenades. This is the most sophisticated ambush Dog Company has yet seen.

SOLDIER: I'm good.

OFFICER: Slow moving. We're towing. Better keep your eyes open.

SOLDIER: Roger. I'm tracking.

OFFICERR: OK guys, I don't want to hear anybody saying anybody's dead on the net any more, OK?

SOLDIER: We've been here about eight days, and it's been almost action the whole time. We're in contact almost every day. Almost every day, there's contact— small arms, you know? But I mean, this has been pretty intensive. Since Ramadan kicked in, hell, we've been— contact with AIF forces have been— have stepped up three, four fold. They've always been that way, hit and run, hit and run. Sporadic gunfire, and then they haul ass. Fire one or two RPGs, haul ass. That's been— it's been like, you know, guerrilla tactics.

NARRATOR: While Dog Company struggles to combat this new insurgency, all their other activities, particularly economic development, are put on the back burner.

Cpt. JOHN MORRIS: I don't think it's a new type of enemy, I think it's a new wave of attacks brought on by spillover from Fallujah. It's been effective because it's changed a lot of the missions that we normally run, which are on my part, the civil affairs, psychological operations portion, that we have our normal routine disrupted. It's also affected the entire base because a number of our local nationals that support us with interpreters have been shot, they've been beheaded, they've been threatened. Many have quit. Contractors have been killed. Contractors have been threatened, kidnapped. So it's been somewhat effective. And as we saw the other day, it's a sad state when churches and places of worship have to get involved. Conversely, the enemy uses it as a haven, the mosques.

NARRATOR: A 122-millimeter Chinese-made rocket has just hit the base, seriously injuring a military policeman. Mortars and rockets are now striking the base with increasing frequency. The situation has deteriorated so much that Lt. Colonel Allen decides to confront Sheikh Mahee, a local Sunni tribal leader from the neighborhood where many of the attacks have been launched.

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: The only way I can convince Colonel Lanza not to put you in jail today is if there's an agreement that if you see these men, if you know they're setting up rockets, if you know they're fixing to set up some sort of ambush, that you have somebody call us and let us know that it's happened.

NARRATOR: Colonel Lanza, the senior officer on the base, arrives to increase the pressure on the sheikh. The colonel wants to know the names and addresses of local insurgents.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: There is, in the district and the area, there's a misunderstanding going on between him and the people.

SOLDIER: Disputes.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: But there's things will happen he doesn't know about. [unintelligible] If you want him to leave the area, he's ready to leave. If you give him a chance to leave this area, and if you think he's the cause or he will disturb the area and the cause is because of him, he's ready to leave the area.

OFFICER: Sure he is.

Col. LANZA: Now, listen to me! Now you tell me to let you go to Jordan because you're afraid of the terrorists.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: He said he's not planning to—

Col. LANZA: No, but when you leave and the terrorists still operate in your area, you'll say, "It's not me, I'm in Jordan." I have no reason to trust you. I have no reason to trust you. I have no reason to believe you. I have no reason to even believe anything you've told me today. And there is no way — no way! — that you cannot know what is happening in your area. And now you're asking me to give you a chance. You've come here today with no specific information.

I already know this. So you have offered me nothing. Rockets have been fired from your property. Bombs have been planted right near your neighborhood, right near houses, right near your family's houses. It takes time to dig those bombs in. And people watch. People know. They watch the men dig those bombs, and they do nothing!

You come— you come to me today as the victim. But really, you come as a terrorist, as part of the mujahedin.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: Said he's going to get up and make some kind of neighborhood watch and guards. If you want, I can do that.

Col. LANZA: Why didn't you do it before? If you can do it now, why haven't you done it before? This is— listen, this has been going on for eight months. The blood of two of my soldiers, as well as numerous Iraqis, are on your hands.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: He knows the addresses now.

SOLDIER: Specialist Travis Alan Babbitt was a native of Texas. Immediately following his graduation from high school, he entered the United States Army in February 2001.

As his patrol attempted to recover the wounded local nationals, Specialist Babbit's valor saved the lives of his fellow soldiers and friends. Specialist Babbitt is survived by his wife, Anita, his son, Diego, 5 years of age, two daughters, Unique, 3 years of age, and Serenity, 1 year of age, and his mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Barney Hernandez.

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: On November 9th, Specialist Babbitt's patrol was ambushed from three different directions by numerous RPG/RPG and—

Specialist Babbitt, despite being mortally wounded, rose again from his position, located the AIF sniper team and began to fire, destroying their position, killing the AIF sniper, and he collapsed into his truck. The enemy was defeated. I am very proud of how you've fought over the last week, kicking the enemy off battlefield. God bless you.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Travis Babbitt— I've known Travis for over three years. He was my— he was my driver on my tank. He was part of my lowboy team. And he was a gunner on my truck. For us who knew Babbitt, he was a big teddy bear bully. He could push you around. He could get his way at all times. But he always turned around and asked for a hug, at the oddest moments. He always took care of us, took care his team and took care of his friends, always being very generous. Always talked about his children, his wife, mainly his pride and joy, his little boy, Diego.

Babbitt used to always tell me before we went out, "Sergeant Garcia, I'll never let nothing happen to you. I always got your back." If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be standing here talking to you.

I've learned one lesson by being out here with all of you. The hardest part of war isn't putting your life on the line for your soldiers, but saying goodbye to those who've fallen. Babbitt, I love you. You'll always be in my heart. Take care, brother.

If it wasn't for him doing what he did, I wouldn't be here today. He saved my life, even though it meant giving his own. After the incident with Babbitt, I was asked if I needed a break, if I wanted to come off the team for a while. That's not even a question for me. There's no way I'd leave the team. No way. All they're doing is pissing us off, and we're just going to keep coming. We don't stop, so—

[www.pbs.org: Read Sgt. Garcia's extended interview]

NARRATOR: Lt. Col. Allen has ordered the 8th Cav onto the offensive. He's going to push his battalion forward, into the areas where the attacks have been mounted, in an effort to capture or destroy the group of insurgents who have invaded his sector.

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: The bottom line is, we've been fighting a determined enemy over the last week. It is my intent to take the offense and fight him in his sanctuary down south in the farms and the palm groves along the river. I want to disrupt his activities because where we find him, I want to destroy him.

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: Keep your eyes open. I'm not— I'm not saying you're falling asleep!


Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: I'm just saying keep your eyes open. This is a very dangerous sector down here, all right?

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Kind of weird, just being the first ones up this early in the morning because that's usually when they hit us, early in the morning. So it's a little nerve-wracking. But you know, we do what we can.

NARRATOR: Dog Company secures a Sunni village where they were ambushed only a few days earlier. They test the men in the village to see if they have recently handled explosives. They find residues on the hands of almost a dozen, who are then arrested.

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: See, here's our problem. The terrorists, the ones that escaped Fallujah and Najaf, they're moving into this area. They intend to make this another Fallujah.

VILLAGE ELDER: They come in the night, in the dark. And [unintelligible] who know from the people.

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: But they— here's what they want. They want me to come in here and fight them and flatten this area.

VILLAGE ELDER: Yes. [unintelligible] freedom and the safety and the peace. [subtitles] They are not staying with me. They would only stay with personal contacts

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: So whoever comes around here, terrorists or the guys—

VILLAGE ELDER: It is the truth. Yes, they come.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: —they come, they have connection down here.

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: Yeah, but we need your cooperation because when they set up in the road to fire at us, somebody needs to let us know. Otherwise, we think everybody here is involved. You know my intentions are honorable. I helped build the schools. I helped refurbish the schools. We helped with the road, with the water, the electricity. My first job is to build. Only when I have to, do I have to fight.

If your people will cooperate with me, there will be nothing but building. We'll get rid of the terrorists. You can live in peace, and you won't have this kind of operation all the time.

VILLAGE ELDER: I understand what—

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: This is— I know this is a disruption, OK? But the only alternative I have is to come in here shooting. Help me get rid of these people.

VILLAGE ELDER: [subtitles] I know you're doing your job, and that you're civilized and friendly. But other people will think I'm a spy because I'm standing here.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: I know that you [unintelligible] and you are civilization and friendly. But the other people, someone saying that I am spy because I am standing here.

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: Spy for who?

VILLAGE ELDER: For USA. [laughs]


NARRATOR: The Misfits search for mortar positions in the back streets of the village. One of the soldiers, the 8th Cav's doctor, has shot a dog he said was about to attack him.

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: Get away from it!

DOCTOR: It came to me, sir.

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: I know.

DOCTOR: He tried, sir.

NARRATOR: We had seen the entire incident, and to us it did not seem the doctor was in any danger. Several of the Misfits are clearly disgusted by what happened.

SOLDIER: Most of the dogs around here have rabies.

NARRATOR: I heard one of them say, "What's the doctor doing out here with a gun?"

Further east, on the banks of the River Tigris, engineers tear down a palm grove which was used as cover for the insurgents who had ambushed the convoy with rocket-propelled grenades only a few days earlier.

Pvt. JOSUE REYES: They're tearing down the palm grove?

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: Yeah. Oh! Oh, holy crap! See this hole right here? This is the one where the scouts got attacked at. Look how big this thing is.

Pvt. JOSUE REYES: That was the IED?

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: That was the IED. Look how deep it is. And then the house up here, this is where they got hit by the— the RPGs came from up here. They were on the other side of the wall. And then there were small arms all in through here on both sides.

SOLDIER: Yeah, you can see the bullet holes.

SOLDIER: See the bullet holes over here?

NARRATOR: The ambush was coordinated from within this villa. It still belongs to one of Saddam Hussein's many wives. Dog Company has decided to set up a base inside it.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Pretty good shape. We can play some golf! Now I need some balls.

SOLDIER: You need some what? [laughter]

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Some golf balls.

SOLDIER: I'm breaking the window.

SOLDIER: Let's see, eight— eight, eight, eight, anybody eight. I got the eight and the nine.

SOLDIER: It's kind of hard to hit with this, huh?

SOLDIER: Here comes the brass.

OFFICER: Let's put away our play toys and remember why we're out here. You've got a mission. It's not to practice your golf swing.

SOLDIER: Came out the door.

SOLDIER: I didn't see him until he said something, though.

NARRATOR: Lt. Col. Allen's three-day offensive seems to have been a success. The new insurgents were forced out of 8th Cav's sector, and dozens of arrests were made. In the days ahead, the number of attacks would drop off sharply.

A few days later, another success, this one by the Iraqi National Guard. The Iraqis had discovered a large cache of weapons hidden in the parking lot of a local mosque. The mosque had long been suspected of harboring insurgents, and numerous ambushes were carried out nearby, including the attack that killed Specialist Babbitt.

Capt. WHITELEY: The imam from this mosque was arrested by the Iraqi special forces two weeks ago. The gentleman over here to my left is a caretaker of the mosque in the imam's absence. He's from Ramadi, just arrived here two weeks ago, which explains a lot. It validates our theory, really, of how we thought they were going to fight us, using the fighters from Fallujah, outsourcing some type of command and control from the local mosque and then keeping the cache in the [unintelligible]

NARRATOR: The Iraqis also captured 15 suspected insurgents. Many of them appear to have been beaten.

An American bomb disposal unit uses a controlled explosion to neutralize a captured car bomb. That's one less VBED to worry about.

SOLDIER: Looks fairly light, but I think that would hurt if it smacked you.

SOLDIER: Right here's a big find.

SOLDIER: It's a huge find, made all the more brilliant because it was done by the Iraqi National Guard, minimal U.S. involvement. It's actually a wonderful story about them.

NARRATOR: The dramatic reduction in tension has made it possible for the 8th Cav to get back to the job of rebuilding the Iraqi economy. After a three week lay-off, Capt. Morris is off to see if his new market has opened.

Capt. JOHN MORRIS: What a great place, huh? We've got random gunfire, trash recycling, buy your vegetables, too, and get a ride home, all in one place.

NARRATOR: The market is open, but all the stalls are empty.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: [subtitles] Where's the manager?

NARRATOR: Morris and his translator try to find out what happened

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: [subtitles] Have you opened for business?

MANAGER: [subtitles] Yes, nine days ago.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: [subtitles] Has anyone come to take a stall?

MANAGER: [subtitles] No. As you see, the traders are outside and nobody's come in

NARRATOR: Because of the recent violence, the translator has decided to conceal his face from the camera. Within minutes, an angry crowd of vendors surrounds them, complaining they are being forced to pay to use the stalls.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: [subtitles] Who claims to have been charged for a market stall? Anyone who's paid for a stall speak up.

NARRATOR: The Army built the market on the basis that the stalls would be offered for free.

VENDOR: [subtitles] The American soldiers took the money!

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: [subtitles] Did you see it with your own eyes? Yes, she saw the American Army take the money. How much?

VENDOR: 100 million Iraqi dinar!

Capt. JOHN MORRIS: No. We built this market for the Iraqi people. We're not selling it. We built it for the people. We don't sell anything.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: American Army make this market present from American Army to Iraqi people. Iraq.

Capt. JOHN MORRIS: We give them schools. We give them roads. We give them water. We don't sell anything.

VENDOR: [subtitles] Tell the captain since he is in charge of the security for the area, he has created this situation.

NARRATOR: It turns out it's the local sheikh who has been charging the fees.

Capt. JOHN MORRIS: Why is— why is the sheikh doing this?


Capt. JOHN MORRIS: I don't know why he's doing that. He's taking from the people.

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: [subtitles] He will investigate.

VENDOR: [subtitles] So if this has happened, are you not the one responsible?

U.S. ARMY TRANSLATOR: Is Sheikh Mahee. He take taxes from any space, one million Iraqi dinar. American Army responsible about that in this case?

Capt. JOHN MORRIS: I'll have to find out. It's crazy. Yeah, our friend, Sheikh. Our friend. I know. Hey, what do you say we take the donkeys out of here?

NARRATOR: Three months later, Capt. Morris tells us the market is still not open.

SOLDIER: Where are we going, Sgt. Cruz?

NARRATOR: All U.S. soldiers serving a year in Iraq are given two weeks of R&R. In late November, the Misfits take Major Leiker to the airport to catch his flight back home.

Maj. LEIKER: All the little kids love us. Going to miss being with you guys. This is where God wants me to be, doing this job.

SOLDIER: What was that!? Something just—

SOLDIER: You all right?

SOLDIER: You want to check?

SOLDIER: OK, let's get out.

SOLDIER: What happened?

SOLDIER: We hit the truck.

SOLDIER: Hey, we got to move out of here!

NARRATOR: The 50-caliber machine gun, the heaviest weapon in the convoy, has hit a truck and been knocked out of action.

SOLDIER: The barrel hit a truck.

SOLDIER: It twisted in this way,

NARRATOR: The Misfits are desperate to fix it quickly. This is the road to Baghdad airport, the most dangerous road in the world. There are ambushes and car bombs almost everyday.

SOLDIER: All right, mount up!

SOLDIER: I'll see you. Take it easy.

Maj. LEIKER: See you later, guys.

SOLDIER: I got two-and-a-half magazines left, is all I have.

SOLDIER: About half a magazine left [unintelligible]

NARRATOR: The Misfits' tour of duty is due to end in March.

SOLDIER: One thing I remember, spray and pray. That's what I remember

SOLDIER: Pretty much.

SOLDIER: That's what a tanker does, is spray and pray.

NARRATOR: The month we spent with them in November turned out to be the most dangerous weeks of their time in Iraq, although Dog Company has suffered a few more casualties since we left.

[mail call]

SOLDIER: That's yours, Sgt. G.


Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: What's up?

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: It's for Babbitt, dude.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: What's the post date?

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: Nine November.

SOLDIER: Babbitt.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: That's the day he died.

SOLDIER: It's from his wife, too, isn't it?

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Yeah, Anita. Going to have to send it back, though.

SOLDIER: Yeah. We're not even— oh, yeah, I guess we'll have to get it back to her.

SOLDIER: You have to get it back to the mail room. They'll send it back.

SOLDIER: That sucks. I kind of want to give it back to her and a picture and say we're sorry, but—

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: Yeah, I know. Well, maybe we could ask—

SOLDIER: I already did.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: We can't put it in another one and put our own stuff—

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: So, from Odums. They'd sent a thing to Odums, and they were trying to do that.

Sgt. GABRIEL GARCIA: And they wouldn't let them?

Sgt. SHANE CARPENTER: They wouldn't let them. It's got to go back. It's got to be official, unopened, so—

Ltc. JOHN ALLEN: It's incredible because you have their very lives and their futures in your hands, and the orders that you issue, you know you have to be good. You know you have to be right. And you can leave very little room for mistakes because their lives depend on it. And every patrol, there's a risk of loss of life and limb. And when you— they fall, you know, the overwhelming sense of responsibility, that the life that could have been— excuse me for a second. [weeps]

You know, that's the hardest. Talk— you know— excuse me. Talking to their families, you know, the children, it's just overwhelming. I know the cost. It's an incredible burden and that I don't take lightly,

NARRATOR: We spent only a month in Iraq with the Misfits, a powerful experience, for sure, but one which offered only a single window on the complicated realities of this war. We found it difficult not to admire the courage and commitment of almost all the soldiers we met.

But we also saw what a blunt instrument an occupying army can be and witnessed the inevitable political costs it pays for having to conduct combat operations amongst an urban civilian population.

Dog Company will be coming home soon, but for the U.S. Army, the road ahead in Iraq still looks long and hard.


A Company of Soldiers

Produced and Directed by

Co Producer

Film Editor



Original Music

Production Manager

Production Coordinator

Additional Research

Assistant Editor

Online Editor


Sound Mix


The soldiers of Dog Company,
1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment

and the
US Army Public Affairs

Embedding conditioned on security review


Tim Mangini

Missy Frederick

Steve Audette

Michael H. Amundson
John MacGibbon
Julie Kahn

Chris Fournelle

Chetin Chabuk

Mason Daring
Martin Brody

Erin Martin Kane

Christopher Kelly

Jessica Smith

Dennis O'Reilly

Kate Femino

Jessica Cashdan

Gabrielle MonDesire

Kirsti Potter

Lisa Palone-Clarke

Eric Brass
Jay Fialkov

Adrienne Armor

Mary Sullivan

Tobee Phipps

Dana Lamb

Mary Carmichael
Kate Cohen
Sarah Ligon

Sarah Moughty

Sam Bailey

Catherine Wright

Robin Parmelee

Ken Dornstein

Sharon Tiller

Marrie Campbell

Jim Bracciale

Louis Wiley Jr.

Michael Sullivan

David Fanning

An October Films Production for WGBH/FRONTLINE and BBC

(c) 2005

FRONTLINE is a production of WGBH Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.


ANNOUNCER: Visit FRONTLINE's Web site for more on this report, including a profile of the 8th Cavalry's Dog Company and its duties and projects in Iraq, extended interviews with some members of Dog Company, a producer's notebook detailing what it was like to follow and film the day-to-day realities of the troops in south Baghdad. Watch the full program again on line and more. Then join the discussion at pbs.org.


Next time on FRONTLINE:

INSTRUCTOR: Do you accept the fact that as a result of your training, you will kill without conscious thought?

ANNOUNCER: The military teaches them how to fight—

SOLDIER: I was crying. I was hysterical.

ANNOUNCER: —how to kill—

SOLDIER: Your mom shouldn't have to hear about you shooting a civilian woman.

ANNOUNCER: —how to survive.

SOLDIER: I couldn't pick up a weapon without thinking about shooting myself.

ANNOUNCER: But who teaches them how to live with themselves?

EXPERT: Nobody comes back from combat unchanged.

ANNOUNCER: The Soldier's Heart next time on FRONTLINE.


To order FRONTLINE's A Company of Solders on videocassette or DVD, call PBS Home Video at 1-800-PLAY PBS. [$29.99 plus s&h]

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posted mar. 7, 2005

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