TF 1-161 Gulf War Veteran gives insight on Iraq's future during his final days in a familiar la
July 6, 2009
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - "Go Long!" called out one member of the Washington National Guard's Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment as they broke out a football for a five-hour layover at Contingency Operating Base Speicher. As the Soldiers of Co. C awaited mission instructions, the convoy commander, Staff Sgt. William Stanchfield, of Tacoma, Wash., sat in his Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle planning their return trip to Joint Base Balad. With the long line of contractors' trucks in sight, he studied his global positioning system map and verified his frequencies. As the staging line got longer, he waited for the last truck to line up to signal they were ready to move. Iraq is far from anything new to Stanchfield. He is one of only a handful of Soldiers in 1st Bn., 161st Inf. Regt. that saw combat during the first Gulf War. He first served in Iraq as an M1A1 tank driver with the 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment assigned to the 1st Armored Division from 1990-1991. "The first Gulf War was a war," Stanchfield said. "It was what I envisioned as what a war was going to be with the Iraqis. During that war, once we got over the berm, the Iraqis wanted nothing more than to get away from us." Stanchfield recalled a time he was under attack during the Gulf War. "In '91, we were about 200 miles inside of Kuwait on the second day of the attack. We were waiting for something to happen when we noticed about six to eight prisoners waving pieces of red clothing to signal their surrender. I thought it was peculiar, but I discovered that their officers weren't wearing anything white so they could not surrender," he said. He added, "So, I was put in charge of guarding these Iraqi prisoners, not with the .50 cal, but with the tank itself. The sound of the .50 firing didn't scare them, but the sound of the M1 terrified them. So, I sat there with my tank running, guarding the prisoners with the tank. I noticed that one of them had a gangrenous leg injury from the air bombing. So, our medic treated his leg. The look on this prisoner's face at the little aid we provided him, I think made a drastic change on the impression of what Americans were to this Iraqi Soldier." Stanchfield is an avid student of history and holds an advanced degree. As a Soldier with first-hand experience from which to draw upon, he provided a unique perspective into the harsh reality that faces the Iraqi people and the new hope that rests in the Iraqi children. "The adults won't change. But the key to breaking the past is the future of Iraq, the children. The kids are the solution to the problems here in Iraq. When you treat the children well in any tribe, you treat the tribe well, and with the tribe comes the government and then the country," he said. Stanchfield recalled an experience in 2004 working outside of Victory Base in Baghdad. "We came across this Iraqi kid that had stepped on a nail and the injury had become infected and abscessed," he said. "But, this kid had no shoes. Being a registered nurse, I was able to drain the abscesses and treat the wound, but with no shoes, it would be a waste of time; it would just get more infected. So, I gave twenty dollars to my interpreter to buy shoes in town for this kid. After finding the right size, I treated this kid and saw him every so often and he got better. Now he and his family know there is one American that cares for him. Now, that child, the future of Iraq, will carry that experience with him forever." Stanchfield's driver also illustrated the key to Iraq is with its the children. Spc. Chris B. Fisher, of Vancouver, Wash., remembered an event that he feels did more to win the war than anything he has ever done. "In 2006, I was deployed with the Strykers out of Ft. Lewis, Wash., and we were in-charge of this village," Fisher said. "There was this kid we called "Gizmo." Gizmo had Downs Syndrome and we would see him all of the time standing out in front of his house waving at us. We would always wave back." he said. He adds, "One day, we tossed him a soccer ball as we were patrolling the town. The other kids quickly took it from him. So, the next day we made a plan to get him another soccer ball. We cordoned his house, got a squad together and gave the soccer ball to Gizmo and escorted him back to his house so he could secure the ball. His family seemed to be really touched by this." "It's stories like this and other little acts of kindness that are going to make us successful here in Iraq," Stanchfield said. "The Iraqi people are survivors and they will survive this too. I wish them all the best." This was Stanchfield's last deployment as he plans to retire upon the end of his final enlistment. He said his future plans after the deployment are going to Europe with his wife Sharri and visiting their grandchildren. He will continue his service to his country as a registered nurse working at the Veterans Hospital in Seattle, Wash.