By Staff Sgt. Antonieta RicoApril 12, 2007
BAQUBAH, Iraq (Army News Service, April 12, 2007) - Sweat and dirt streak down Pvt. Eric Rundquist's face as he rides within the dusty confines of a Bradley fighting vehicle. A muffled thud suddenly shakes the 40-ton personnel carrier, and passengers rush to check on each other.
The Bradley had just hit a roadside bomb - another in a string of combat experience for Pvt. Rundquist as he rode away from the scene of his first firefight in Iraq March 28.
Pvt. Rundquist's experience may have been similar to the media's portrayal of a Soldier's life in Iraq, but it wasn't identical. With little more than two weeks spent in Baqubah, Pvt. Rundquist said he has learned that there's more to his job than combat.
"As a little kid, watching war movies, I was like, 'I want to be a Soldier,'" Pvt. Rundquist said, "My uncle was a Soldier. He pretty much glorified it all for me."
The 22-year-old private has been in the Army for nine months. He acknowledged the rush of adrenaline he felt during the firefight, but admitted he can't ignore the satisfaction he's experienced when performing other duties, such as handing out food to the residents of Baqubah.
"It's not always action," he said of his duties to this point.
Pvt. Rundquist now realizes he had a false impression about the Army and its presence in Iraq, which was shared by family and friends in his hometown of Streamwood, Ill. Their perceptions, he said, were influenced by what they'd seen on the news.
"You only hear about the bad stuff. You never hear about the good things," Pvt. Rundquist said. "I mean, we are doing good things out here."
Pvt. Rundquist, a member of the 1st Cavlary Division's Company B, 1-12 Combined Arms Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, said he didn't know about the humanitarian aspect of being a Soldier until he arrived in Iraq.
"You think every time you go out there, its going to be a firefight," he said.
But his first mission in Baqubah was handing out shoes and food to civilians. He said his interaction with the Iraqi people helped him let go of misconceptions about the country's people, as well.
"There are good people out here," said Pvt. Rundquist. "They are just trying to live their life. They just happen to be caught in the middle of a war."
In his first few weeks in Baqubah, Pvt. Rundquist faced the intensity of war. Minutes before the Bradley hit the roadside bomb, Pvt. Rundquist and his fellow Soldiers had finished a sporadic engagement with insurgent snipers that lasted about two hours.
But Pvt. Rundquist has also talked with Iraqi children. A feeling of compassion for the Iraqi people now dominates his attitude.
"People actually have to live around that stuff 24 hours a day, and people will and are getting killed," he said. "I would somehow like to help. They deserve it - a normal life away from all this war."
He said he returns home from war, he'll remember that war is not like it's portrayed to be on the news. Until then, Pvt. Rundquist is determined to keep his mind here in Iraq, and as the new kid in his squad, he's determined to be an asset to his team.
"I'm going to keep my morale high, because I do not want to let anybody down," he said.
(Staff Sgt. Antonieta Rico writes for the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)