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"This time there was no drill sergeant there...scaring you to do the right thing; it was knowing you were doing the right thing, no matter what." (Audio Interview, 5:27)

   Shawn Russell Stenberg
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War: Iraq War, 2003-2011
Branch: Army
Unit: 30th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division
Service Location: Michigan; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Gordon, Georgia; Iraq; Kuwait
Rank: Staff Sergeant
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Shawn Stenberg had served two tours in Iraq when he was interviewed for the Veterans History Project in April 2006. In the nearly two-year break in his service, he saw significant changes in Iraq. Supplies, from food to body armor, improved dramatically. Some things, however, changed for the worse. The Iraqis had lost their fear of the soldiers, and he routinely came under attack. He also experienced the Army transitioning from a larger, more centralized organization to something like what it was in Vietnam, with an emphasis on every soldier being an infantryman first. Thus, he found himself training cooks and chaplain's assistants for combat, amongst other bewildering duties. (When researcher Larry Minear re-interviewed him on September 11, 2007, Stenberg anticipated being redeployed to Iraq in January 2008. Stenberg remarked, "You change forever when you experience something like this, whether the change is for better or worse.")

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (46 min.)
»Photo Album  (3 photos)
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 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Felt they were making a huge impact the first time he was in Iraq; people were thankful to be liberated; can't understand how they live until you see it for yourself. (01:37) Army developed Units of Action, which were smaller, more nimble Brigade Combat Teams; necessitated multi-tasking; you had to be an infantryman first, along with your specialization area; more like the Army during Vietnam. (01:40) Stark contrast between the first two conflicts in Iraq and Operation Iraqi Freedom III; Iraqis had lost much of their fear of the soldiers and were routinely attacking them. (02:01)
During his first tour, his bulletproof vest lacked armor plating, forward commanders didn't have maps of the theater of operations, and his unit lacked communications equipment. (01:18) The stories behind the photographs in his collection; many children had never seen a photo of themselves; kids already acclimated to war; primitive living conditions; fears of civil war. (02:58) Why he enlisted; patriotism and trying to do the right thing; wouldn't want his son to join the military, and wouldn't want anyone he cares about to experience the things he has. (01:25)

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  October 26, 2011
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