Archive for Thursday, July 7, 2005

De Soto soldier deploying — again

Dabbs to leave soon for second tour in Iraq

July 7, 2005

For the past 14 days, Chris Dabbs has caught up with high school friends, hung out with fellow combat veterans and just relaxed -- all the while re-familiarizing himself with his hometown.

But 21-year-old Dabbs has only three more days before he has to leave De Soto once again.

So what's his plan?

"Living one day at a time," he said.

After all, that's how he's going to have to manage a second tour of duty in Iraq that could last anywhere from 14 to 24 months. He leaves Sunday for training before he is deployed overseas toward the end of this year.

"It would be nice to have a date," Dabbs said of the unknown length of duty. "But, you know, it's kind of just 'go with the flow' and take it day by day."

Dabbs, who will join the 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Path Finders, said he was ready to return to Iraq.

"Personally, I want to go back to see how things have changed since the first time," he said.

But his level of anxiety had risen since his first tour of duty in 2003. The area has become more hostile since he was there last.

Looking back as a more experienced soldier, he said he would take greater precautions when he returned to the Middle East.

"I was really naive the first time," said Dabbs, who turned 19 only eight days after he landed in Kuwait on Feb. 16, 2003. "I thought I was invincible looking at what I did the first time, and this time will be a little more nerve-racking."

Dabbs didn't experience a lot of combat last time in Iraq because his job required stealth and staying low-key, but there were two mortar attacks.

He couldn't disclose specific information about his new mission, but he said it would be different from his mission a year ago, which involved reconnaissance missions to set up border patrols and train border guards. He will also be sent to a part of the country south of Baghdad.

A Path Finder's duties include setting up drop zones, landing zones and pick-up zones. They also call in air support and perform recon missions for odds-and-ends situations.

When he goes back to Iraq, he's anticipating more mortar attacks than physical combat.

His experience has taught him the situations in Iraq are not as bad as they may seem to the average civilian.

"I'm just a little bit more worried about what's been going on there, but I know it's not as bad as the news has been reporting," he said.

Dabbs experienced first-hand what he referred to as "biased news coverage," but he said all the news stations were at fault for some bias in the war coverage.

While stationed in Alemania in northern Iraq, one of the duties of Dabbs' 311th MI long-range surveillance detachment unit was to train border guards along the Iraq/Iran border. When the training ended, the unit threw a graduation ceremony for the guards. Shortly afterward they began their duty protecting the border.

CNN filmed the graduation, but for reasons unknown, the story never ran on the 24-hour cable news channel, Dabbs said. Instead CNN aired coverage of 10 U.S. soldiers killed by a car bomb.

"We were quite pissed about that," Dabbs said. "They (CNN) thought that would be more important than the good work we were doing over there."

Regardless of what may lie ahead, Dabbs said he couldn't see himself working any other job, which is also a family tradition.

"I don't like to work indoors and I like to travel, and the military had it all for me," he said. "And now they're paying me to jump out of planes, slide down ropes from a helicopter. I'm having a blast in the military. One day is different from the next."

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