Screaming Eagles Through Time
Letters From Iraq


A Soldier's Perspective

The following is a letter written by Spc. Kenneth McBean of California, now serving with the 187th Infantry Regiment ("Rakkasans") of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). This letter first appeared in the June 22, 2003 issue of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, and comes to us through the generosity of Kenneth's mother, Tina, who is fiercely proud of her son and his fellow soldiers, and of what they are accomplishing in Iraq... as we all are. God's Speed, Kenneth, we look forward to the day we can thank you in person for what you've done.

Be proud of nation and support troops

by Spc. Kenneth McBean
With the Rakkasans in Iraq

When people watch the news and read the papers about war or what is going on in a war, they get scared about what is going on. Families are afraid and worried about those they love and know that are at war. They don't know all that is going on, where they are at and how they are doing.
From a soldier's eyes at the front line, we always think about our families and friends and those we are with, always waiting for a letter, a package or just something from back home. Those are the things that lift our morale more than TV, the Internet, or games. We always wait to use a phone to call our loved ones, but we never know when that chance will come.
This is my second deployment overseas to a major conflict. The first was to Afghanistan/Pakistan. However, I was only there for about 2-1/2 months. It was an honor going there to help defend my country, to die for it if I had to.
It's the same way with this conflict. It's what I signed up to do... infantry. However, it's not all that wonderful at times. A lot of "hurry up and wait" going on. I don't regret it one bit.
I'm doing my three years and I'm getting out, going back home to good old California, going to college, starting work and hopefully to finally get into acting just like I've dreamed of since high school. I'm 21 years old, loving life, missing my family and enjoying things one day at a time, no matter how bad it could be. After all, it could always be worse. Expect the worst, hope for the best.
On another note, I don't appreciate hearing about people of my nation degrading us or what we do for a living, protecting you all from this kind of crap happening again. They sent in the best to make sure the job gets done this time. We're here now so our children and your children or yourselves don't have to go in the future.

Also, as retired Lt. General Hal Moore once said (and in We Were Soldiers), "American soldiers in battle don't fight for what some president says on TV, they don't fight for mom, apple pie, the American flag... they fight for one another."
I respect the President and his decisions greatly, but he is not here by our side fighting and killing the enemy; we are. We sleep on the ground, in buildings when we get the chance, eating those terrible MREs (meals ready to eat). We are always on the move, having to spoon with each other on those cold nights; we depend on each other when it comes to fighting side by side.
This is what we've been trained to do. We deserve some respect from those who have never had the guts to join, who are too scared or too lazy.
As far as we all see it now, everyone should be made to join some service for a minimum of two years at some point in their life. Two years go by real fast. I reach my two year mark on August 20 of this year. It's been a blast. You travel for free and get paid for it. You get to do a lot more than you could ever think.
For soldiers on the front line - don't discriminate against us, congratulate us and thank us for what we are doing. Support us 100% all the way. We support you by dying for you and the rest of our country.
Wave the American flag high and be proud of us and our country.

Spc. Kenneth McBean


Standing on the left.

From the eyes of a soldier on the front line
Part II

by Spc. Kenneth McBean
With the Rakkasans in Iraq

Back on June 22nd I had written my first story on people should be more proud of our nation, support us troops, and what us soldiers go through on deployment. I had written that at the time I was in Baghdad, at a time when we just went through hard times traveling from Kuwait all the way north through Baghdad so we could link up with the 3rd Infantry Division and support them on any attacks againsy Saddam's Fedaieen ("fed-a-heen" - meaning "commanders") regime, who later called themselves the Death Squad. Corny name if you ask any of us, but definitely dangerous.

No matter where we went we left in a platoon size element, or sometimes even the whole company, to patrol sectors of Baghdad, set up traffic control points (TCPs) to seize weapons from Baath Party members or just civilians who could eventually harm U.S. soldiers. Every now and then we also did raids on homes or buildings where we were tipped off by local Iraqi's of possible weapons caches or where enemy personnel might be. Most of the time it was just someone wasting our time. However, when we came across the enemy they never knew we were coming or where. Or they tried to ambush us. We never lost anyone from the few firefights we were in. We always prevailed.

There were lots of talk too that the enemy stopped attacking us because they thought everything we wore was bulletproof, including our DCU tops, bottoms, and boots. Also, wherever we went eventually people were either scared of us or happy to see us. We were like celebrities... all because of our patch that we wore. Not just the 101st "Screaming Eagles" patch, but our Rakkasan "Tori" patch that's worn on our helmets.

Rakkasan helmet patch

No one really knows much about the Rakkasans because not much publicity went towards us during this war. The Rakkasans, 3rd Brigade of the 101st, are probably the best unit the Army has when it comes to light infantry. We have been compared sometime to Rangers, Special Forces, even Delta Force, because we've been deployed to just about every conflict in the world since around 1941-42 when they were sent into WWII. At that time they were just called the 187th Infantry Combat team and that was the size of a battalion. You might remember Hamburger Hill during the Vietnam War, that was the Rakkasans who took over that hill. I know we lost it the day after, but we still went down in history for that battle. To those who wonder what the Rakkasan stands for, it all started in WWII when the Airborne Combat Team jumped out of the sky and the Japanese didn't know what they saw exactly, so they called out "Rakkasan", which means, "Falling Umbrellas." Rakkasans have gone down in history to the call of the world to make sure the job gets done.

That's why we're still here in Iraq during this peacekeeping time. We're making sure medical supplies and hospitals are working, electricity and water are running, the police departments are fully operational and are making sure things aren't getting out of hand, plus doing other humanitarian projects all throughout Iraq.

For some reason though, no matter how much we help the Iraqi people with their problems, we still get attacks against us from terrorist groups, those with the Baath Party, or anyone else who wants to start a conflict with us. The only political party that has been supportive of us is the PDK, the People's Democracy of Kurdistan. The Kurd's are real supportive. Right now we have three former Iraqi Special Forces members that we have been using as interpreters for us. The one that is attached to my platoon is Kurdish, his name is Hameed, 40, who served with the Iraqi Special Forces from 1984-87 as an interpreter as well. He's fluent in 5 languages; Kurdish, Arabic, Ashwoeran, Turkman and English, plus learning Farci still. We've been very pleased in them helping us find out information and taking care of projects. Hameed has asked me to let Americans know that he "thanks us for helping Iraq to be free and getting rid of Saddam." He would also like to, "thank President Bush for having such great soildiers come to his people's aid." I told him that I would let them know.

Things are geting better. Hot out here, but better. We may still come across obstacles and the enemy, but soon enough we'll return home to our families. I'll see my family, visit my friends, see my girlfriend Amber, and maybe visit other places depending on the time of the year I get back. My memories of home run through my head daily and everyone that is back there.

I'd still like to thank everyone that has been supportive of us troops and me over here. You are truly great Americans and you don't know how much your support means to us. Without you, we have no reason to defend our country. You make it possible along with our families. I love you all. California you are great! Can't wait to be where my home will always be... the Golden State. Thank you Mom, my brother JB, my dad Rick, my girlfriend Amber, my friends Nick, James, Amanda, John Ma. and John McG., Nicole, Ashley, Alana, Alisa, and everyone else I missed. Thank you California for everything you've done to help us soldiers, us troops, us Rakkasans. We will always be grateful! HOOAH! Rakkasans lead the way!!
Spc. Kenneth McBean