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Interview with Jimmy Adams [Undated]

Jason Faulkner:

My name is Jason Faulkner and I am interviewing Mr. Jimmy Adams for the Veterans History Project for Mrs. McKibben. Where are you currently, Jimmy?

Jimmy Adams:

Prior to the service of military. Of course, I have been working for the Department of Justice since 1992 as an instructor and that is what I am doing now. I am an instructor for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Jason Faulkner:

You were in the National Guard?

Jimmy Adams:

Yes.

Jason Faulkner:

Then you were drafted, then you were sent on short notice to go to Iraq.

Jimmy Adams:

Right. We were given deployment orders in early 2003, January 2003. Basically, what happens in that type of situation is that the National Guard Unit is activated. It is called activation and then from there you go into a deployment status. We did our prep or logistics and then we were sent to Fort Stewart for basically certification if you will. So that we can get accredited, that is when they check our various type of situations of chemical capabilities, weapons and medical and all of these types of things, then given training, preparing us for deployment, you know our shots and all these type of things, preparing us for our flight out to Southwest Asia, to Kuwait, and then on to Iraq.

Jason Faulkner:

Do you remember arriving and what it was like?

Jimmy Adams:

I did. Actually in Iraq, Iraq, or to the deployment to Fort Stewart?

Jason Faulkner:

Deployment to Fort Stewart.

Jimmy Adams:

Fort Stewart. What happens there, is again, we get all of our logistics, our personnel, and all of our rosters, all that type of stuff hooked up and we basically take buses to Fort Stewart and then go to the reception center there, and that is really hectic, once you arrive in that type of environment it is shots, medical clearing, uniform issues, you know getting cleared, getting all the things that you require , clothing, tactual types of things and then you go through various types of training: getting operationally cleared, you have to make sure that your equipment does work and then you actually go through some type of training.

Different - various types like weapons if you will - preparing. We were combat heavy, combat heavy engineer battalion, so we had an idea of what we were going to do as far as that and making sure that we have multiple capabilities - horizontal, vertical, different type of things, but understanding it is a dynamic battlefield, so even that given that we are combat engineers, at any time you could be basically placed in a security role, military police, or if you will, an infantry type of role.

See, you have to be multitasker. It was pretty hectic. Uh, it was pretty hectic. A lot of these guys were young soldiers, had never been deployed before, rather than their annual training. So, this was quite a shock. Even the vast majority of our NCO's, even Senior NCO's had never seen anything like this. As I recall in my unit there were only two, myself and one other soldier, that was prior service combat, and that would be Sergeant Blackwell.

Jason Faulkner:

What was your job assignment at Iraq?

Jimmy Adams:

I am a Company First Sergeant for Bravo Company 890th. Um, my main job normally under, I guess, sanitary circumstances, is logistics and rudimentary planning. That is what a First Sergeant does. So I support the commanders logistics making sure, basically that the beans and the bullets are provided and so on, so forth. However, we were kind of put in a bad circumstance. I would say that we were short on officers, drastically short. One officer was not physically capable of performing. So, we were basically down.

In country we had one executive officer and one platoon leader, so that changed the leadership dynamics. No one had prior active military time, myself, you know I had two combat tours prior as an infantryman, and so, I kind of had an idea on that mission part. So, what happens instead of just being in the logistic standpoint, of what happens is an executive officer basically plans the missions and I was the executing on the end.

I actually led the soldiers as a platoon leader, if you will, in the field. Multitasking, we did have some humanitarian missions initially that were planned. We were deployed initially into Balad, which is north somewhat of Baghdad, near the Tigris, Euphrates River, a branch off, Anaconda was our base name, and Balad is an old Iraqi air base. We became a fully operational base; it was a prior Iraqi air base.

We actually were the first ones into the base. We had to clear it. There was a little bit of resistance there, not a lot. Some resistance getting the buildings squared away and establishing a perimeter, so on and so forth. We were tasked to the 5th Corps, then eventually we were tasked back to the 82nd airborne division. 3rd ID had operational control, so we were kind of passed around a little bit. Initially, at Balad we set up a logistics base to support various types of missions. They put a field hospital in there, so on and so forth.

We initially had to man the perimeter if you will, and we linked up with various different units in our sector, so that was basically establishing that at Balad. From there they wanted to do CA,- Civil Affair, missions where they would actually go out in the community, fostering a good benefit and good repoire with the civilians in the area. Unfortunately, Baath ????? headquarters area and there was a lot of Pro-Sunni type of elements there. So, they weren't really happy about us being there as such, so we found out going on some of these civil affair missions, we were hit immediately, time and time again.

We were trying to build schools and a field hospital out there in the community and every time we would go in a certain sector of town we were hit, engaged with under fire, small arms of some type and, so it made it pretty hectic. The civil affair missions were never able to get off of the ground. We just found ourselves clearing buildings continuously and trying to protect the engineers that were actually trying to do their job. At that time I realized that we were going to have to form a permanent quick reaction force to react to these types of missions, and I was in charge of manning that, and then actually fielding that team. They actually did very well. The vast majority of the training was done under fire and they did very, very well.

We did not sustain any significant injuries or causalities during those deployments in Balad, fortunately for us. But it was also, you know, prior planning, good training. The U.S. Army is the best schooled army in the world, training doctrine, you can't beat it. So, we had the best equipment and definitely were tenacious, pretty aggressive doing our jobs, so we did well there. We stayed in Balad for about 2 - 2-1/2 months.

Then it was decided that we were going to be then tasked to the 82nd Airborne and sent to a place called Habbaniyah, which is near the town of Al Khalidiyah, in Iraq. It is roughly between Ramadi and Fallujah. That is basically where Habbaniyah is. It used to be a British base at one point. That was going to be where we were stationed. We were on one side of the road, and then the other side we had an armored unit, which is really a wonderful thing to have. Armor is a wonderful thing. There we did again, various types of what we call sustainment missions. The Core Engineers themselves, they were actually there to build the base itself, to prepare for the 82nd airborne main body, and then later on the marines would be handed over.

It was interesting. We were outside of the wire if you will. We established our own perimeters and there we had to take care of that mission on one side of the road. And on the other side we had to also get the buildings up for the army units in the oncoming years that were going to come into play. We were hit in Balad and in what was Ridgeway, called Ridgeway by the 82nd airborne. We were hit out of the 380 days, approximately in country, we were probably hit with some direct or indirect fire, probably 320-330 days. I am saying that one way or the other. It was pretty interesting.

You know, indirect fire is something that you can only account for so much, because it was random. They would typically drive around the perimeter, if you will, in the back of pick up trucks or whatever with mortar tubes and they would basically randomly launch these mortar rounds in. We were so close to the wire, we were pretty unscathed, and everything pretty much went over us and landed in the 82nd main area. Had a couple of close calls. We would have just sporadic fire and so on and so forth. Very interesting. A lot of time we would go back and forth between Balad and Ridgeway and we had to go to Falluja, bringing convoys through Falluja on any given day is an adventure in itself. It is imperative that you maintain your road speed and that you are deploying your forces properly; you have to react to every contingency.

We were hit quite a bit going through there. Lacking armor for the vehicles and things like that. Well, you know you just do the best you can. You sand bag and armor your vehicles as best as you can under the circumstances. We were very fortunate and we did well. Um, not really any big incidents where we lost a few soldiers here and there on various types of convoys. Again, very much was there. The biggest action, um, I am sure that you are going to ask more questions but the biggest; I guess my most significant day, if you will, happened on September 11, 2003.

We were in Ridgeway, Habbaniyah. The other teams were out. I had three QRF teams, if you will, operating out of Habbaniyah, approximately 24 personnel, that was including medics, and I only had six soldiers, that is myself and five that were not out on some type of security mission when a call came into our battalion stating that elements of the 489th combat engineers, out of Arkansas, good unit, real good guys, they had been ambushed coming back from Ramadi and that they had been hit and they were wounded and their equipment had been destroyed. They were trapped downtown. They were asking for assistance. That came down and there was really no one available, so my executive officer, Lt. Holmes said, "First Sergeant do you have a team ready." I said, "Yeah, myself and my alpha team, if you will."

He said that you need to get ready; these guys are caught and can't get back. So, we were always ready anyway, so we loaded our gear up and the teams from the 489th were meeting us back at the post by then, and they said that they had to go back down, that some there assets, and they needed some back up. At that point we linked up with them. We rolled back into town, secured the vehicles, and then I guess the ambush, if you will, that - we assumed that they were kind of baiting, hoping someone would react to. Of course we handled that. We got our stuff, people and equipment, and right after that we were hit.

It was unbelievable. They estimated 75-100 enemy combatants were close, and we were catching fire from everywhere, left and right, the street, from building tops, and we did the best we could. The First Sergeant from the 489th team was able to secure his perimeter section to link up with the tank. There was one battle tank, one that was down the road, he was signaling for us. He had taken an RPG hit, to no avail, and a RPG shot over him, and he was signaling us up to support him. Understand, infantry supports sometimes so we rolled up, myself, Sergeant Hernoun, and Sergeant Blackwell. I left Specialist Myrick and Specialist Taylor at the mid point. Basically, kept our vehicle in case we had to get out hastily, and Specialist Scott was left in the rear. He, Scott did a wonderful job arranging security when the Iraqi forces tried to compromise our rear, and he took care of that right off of the bat. It became pretty heavy. Ultimately, the firefight lasted approximately eight hours. I was wounded during the firefight in the face with bullet and debris shrapnel. I was hit in the chest and in the hands. Sergeant Hernoun caught one in the leg and Sergeant Blackwell caught one in the upper leg, but we were able to maintain the fighting effectiveness. We secured the perimeter, and it was stalled.

At that point, additional armor arrived on the scene and we were able to help redirect some of the fire. Once that was done and we were able to pull back, we were able to get our forces together and we were actually able to turn back to Ridgeway under our own power, so we were able to do that. It was a wonderful thing, to be honest with you. But at my vehicle, the vehicle that I left at the mid point, had over 200 holes an RPG had gone through the right rear quarter panel and took a 90 degree turn and went out the rear of the vehicle and about 20 feet spiraled up and blew up, so that was kind of a saving grace.

It is amazing, God's grace, that we were able to survive that. The bullets were like rain drops, all around us. It was the most amazing thing. You know the team reacted very well, you react to your training and they taught us in training, we trained as we were going to fight, so we were taught very well. You always think about things after. You know that is when you contemplate, well could you have done better, or you know that is when I guess anybody that says there not, you know, you do not react with fear while you're doing it, you just do your job and you react to that. You do not think.

Afterwards, you think, wow, that was pretty scary but you do not have time to think about being scared during it. You always have time to think of that later. I thought about it, it was pretty emotional. We sat down and talked about it and it brought tears, and you know we were able to go to the next day, we did, matter of fact the very next day our alpha company had been hit going back to Falluja and they were hit and we reacted to them the very next day.

You know you have bandages already, you do what you have to do, but if you are not taken for you are still going to be combat affective. I did very well. So that was probably one of the many incidents, there were a lot of good things that we did during deployment. You know I hear everybody likes to expand on the negative part of the war; the loss of life is a terrible thing. It is a terrible thing, and even when one American dies it is a terrible thing, it is a tragedy. But you know I have to firmly believe in our Chief Executive, the President of the United States and he deploys his forces as best as he sees fit, with the intelligence that he has and you know a soldier's job is not to question.

Jason Faulkner:

Right.

Jimmy Adams:

The authority of this or that, or get caught in the politics. We do not have that luxury. I would say this, unless you have been on the ground, and unless you have been there, seen it, and seen the good things that we have done to help the Iraqi people. You know unless you have a dog in the race I would pretty much stay out of the race. You know it is easy for these people to say this or that, or that or this, you know unless you have been there, and if you are not wearing the boots and you are not wearing the dust and you are not caught up in the grime, blood and sweat and all of those type of things, you really do not have a say in that, as far as I am concerned.

You know that is just my opinion. I have a strong opinion of that, and we are doing good in Iraq. I do not always agree with things but I will be honest with you. If you do not think for a second that they would not use Iraq for a launching base or a training base, you are crazy, they would, we saw the bases set up. When we were in Afghanistan we pretty much had to get Iraq and Saddam had to go. The world is a better place without Saddam and the people that we helped out, many, many people, medically, schools, food, the quality of life. I talked to the Iraqi's many times. We adopted certain types of families.

We did a lot of good. They are still doing a lot of good. Ultimately, it is up to the Iraqi people for them to decide how they are going to go. There is a lot of fighting going on. You know we are doing the best we can. We could have a better withdrawal plan and will withdraw at some time. But we are there for a good reason and it is valid. It is not a soldier's job to question, and so I hate to say that. It always easier for someone to say this or to say that but you know again unless you are there, you really can't tell. You are going to see what you see on CNN or some of these other networks or Fox, or whoever it is, you know, they only have their opinion based off of what they have heard, they are not out there with the soldiers. They are not out there doing these types of things, and it is a tough life.

It is a tough life in Iraq. I would not lie to you. It is, it was rough. You know the food is as good as it can be and very little sleep and if you are in a leadership position it is certain you get very little sleep, if you are on the job. It is a tough life. You have got a lot of issues thrown on you. You have the combative issue, the weather, the terrain, and all of these things come in play, and so it is hats off, hats off to the soldiers that are still there. You know what I mean; it is a shame that people have to die. But that is the way it is. You know you raise your hand, you swear an oath and then sometimes it is not only about the National Guard, it is not always about a college education, sometimes you have to step up to the plate and tow the line. I am proud of the unit that I was with, I am proud of serving with 3rd ID and the 82nd airborne, and I have no regrets. I have no regrets. We could have done things a little bit more, a little bit better. I am sitting here talking through the interview and you may have some questions that you specifically what to ask.

Jason Faulkner:

You said that you spoke with some of the people there in Iraq. Did you speak any Arabic?

Jimmy Adams:

No. We had interpreters. We knew some words. Mainly combat related; get down, drop your weapons, come here, do this, do that. We knew those. So, we had interpreters with us. CA personnel and then we also had Iraqis, if you will, that were actually brought in to our units to serve in that role. Some of the Iraqi's, a vast majority of the Iraqis speak English, so that made it a little bit easier. Some of the civilian authorities that we dealt with spoke fluent English. The local farmers and things like this, we dealt with them with our interpreters and so we did a lot of things to help them.

Jason Faulkner:

What were the living conditions of the people in Iraq?

Jimmy Adams:

Well you have a drastic difference. Urn. You know you have the Shiites who live a certain way. You have the Sunni's and the Shiites, and again, I am trying to give the demographics a little bit. But ah, you know there was a drastically different lifestyle from my interpretation in the way that Sunnis would live or those who were in the Baath party and we were in some of those areas, where living in Baghdad, even in Rampdi or Falluja, you know, you have standards of living based of whose in the party or was not. It was quite a double standard. The run of the mill Shiite, Iraqi Shiite, that was out there, and they, certainly out in the provinces, they had a very hard life. Scraping by as best they could. You know with their farms and things like this and a lot of mud and clay buildings, some block, but mainly not, thatch roofs. Even water was an issue. It was just very, very primitive living. Very, very primitive. No medical treatment. We did a lot of humanitarian things. Everywhere we went we carried huge amounts of food and water. We had medics with us always who tried to administer aid and food and water. Everyone that we seen, as best as we could.

Jason Faulkner:

How did you stay in touch with your family in Iraq?

Jimmy Adams:

Um. I bought a satellite phone, Thuraya satellite phone. The generic satellite phones did not work. Myself and four other soldiers got together and we bought ourselves a Thuraya satellite phone. We were actually able to buy phone cards from the Iraqi's that we could use for those, and I was able to, once I did you know obtain a phone, I was able actually to call my wife and my son approximately 8 to 10 minutes a day.

So that is pretty much what we all did. Other than that when we were out deployed and very serious we did not have this phone, you know when we were doing a mission or something like this obviously. Phone calls were few and far between. They try to set up phone centers and various organizations, and the military tried to set up phone stations and things like this but it was not always successful. When we were in the green zone, in BIAP, which is the Baghdad international airport complex, which is the green zone, the logistics base, every time we would go through there, we were able to use those phones.

So, I did not have a problem communicating with my house. Those who did not, you know, make adjustments found it very difficult, very difficult. I will say something, phone calls certainly do help. You could basically comfort your family; you would have even if you were in a bad circumstance or in bad situation. You do not need to necessarily tell that to home. You would rather paint a good picture so they do not have to worry about it.

Jason Faulkner:

Right. Did you ever have lack of supplies or anything like that?

Jimmy Adams:

Well, you know when we initially rolled into Balad we, we were first, and the issue we had was potable water. That's, that is the issue was potable water. As a First Sergeant I'm involved in that because I had to support my troops, beans and bullets and urn, potable water was really scarce. We were allocated about one bottle a day of that type of water. Everything else had to be through, you know, water purification and so they would purify the water in the water buffalo. And we had a problem, not with potable water based off of that. We were able to get enough for hygiene and to drink and things like this but bottled water was an issue, and we were able basically to work deals, if you will, with other organizations that had an abundance of water. And there was some units, various units, an army unit in particular they were in our sector and they were doing a lot of movement from Mosul by convoys and so they were able to get larger quantities of bottled water, we could basically trade them different types of things and so we all worked it out. You know we were supportive. You know we had food and water obviously, it would have been nicer to have to have bottled water, it just makes it a little bit more easy to maneuver and operate and it certainly taste better. But you know a little bit of impact here and there but know we were just fine. The U.S. Army supported us just fine.

Jason Faulkner:

Did you feel any extreme pressure or stress while in Iraq?

Jimmy Adams:

Well, just the operational tempo alone would be absolutely unbelievable, you know being a First Sergeant in itself, all grace to God, you know being in that position it is not that I am so special, to be there but nonetheless, I have paid my dues, and I worked my way through ranks. As a First Sergeant you have a lot of pressure on you anyway. Every single soldier that is deployed with you is your charge and your responsibility. I support the commander and his directives. A First Sergeants is very, very busy. Basically, they're my kids, if you will, and I care about every single one of them. We have dynamic personalities and you have got to worry about every thing, being short officers and so on and so forth, and our Senior NCO's have tasked out missions, you know the day-to-day operations.

You think about it, they need to be guarded and secure, they have to be fed; they have to have the equipment that they need. You have to worry about their mental hygiene as well. Are they getting time with their family, are they able to call, able to write, are they getting their mail. There is a lot of things. Pressure? Absolutely. You get so use to the operational tempo that it just becomes second nature and you find, you know you find after you come back that there is a big let down for so long you have been operating from such a dynamic operational tempo that is constantly, and there is a lot of stress and a lot of pressure but it is just how you deal with it, how you deal with it is, you find your ground. You have been trained to that so you are able to handle it.

You know it, the leadership I think as a leader you should always lead from the front. You always pull a rope; you do not push a rope. I made sure that regardless ah, the executive officer, myself that we relieve the soldiers on guard duty every holiday, or special event, or Sundays we would place ourselves in guard towers for them, to give them a break. We led the missions, lead from the front and if the soldiers see you do that, they see you lead from the front, they see go farther and longer with less sleep and less food then they do, they are going to appreciate that, they are going to respect that style of leadership and they will follow you unquestioned.

That also keeps up your morale the rapport and the morale of the company. So you need to place the burden, leadership needs to place the burden upon themselves, you know, that is just something that you deal with. I was able to accomplish that well with God's grace and we did just fine but I handled the pressure well. It is a let down after you are back. That is what you got to, you got to think about.

Jason Faulkner:

When were you sent back from Iraq?

Jimmy Adams:

We arrived back in April 2004. That is when we actually flew back into Savannah, Georgia, Hunter Army Airfield and deployed back to Fort Stewart and I was actually back on my job with the Department of Justice on the 21st of April 2004.

Jason Faulkner:

Did you make any close friends in your unit?

Jimmy Adams:

Aw, absolutely. You just, yeah, absolutely, of course. Being the First Sergeant again, you know I am intermittently involved with all of my soldiers, but you know you always have something that you pull to you, I had what I call the weapon delivery specialist, my driver and a gunner assigned to me, Specialist Scott and then Sergeant Blackwell, they were assigned to me. We were inseparable combat buddies. I believe the combat buddy system when you have that one person or two that know everything about you and that you are with all of the time. We, no soldiers should be alone. So we had combat buddies. Very, very, very close to my soldiers. You just don't go through something like that and not get very, very close. Do not think though that there is not tension and do not think that there is not room for disagreements. Leadership decisions are not always popular but they are followed if they are based on sound doctrine and standard operating procedures were established by the company of the battalion. You know, see you have a little bit of, you known infighting and grumbling but you can minimize by trying to keep morale up.

Jason Faulkner:

All right. Thank you very much.

Jimmy Adams:

Okay.

Jason Faulkner:

I have enjoyed it.

Jimmy Adams:

I appreciate that. Thank you.

 
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