getting the guy

Friday, October 08, 2004

Hitting paydirt
At first, it seemed that once again, the raid was going to be a bust.

A team from the Oregon Army National Guard’s A Company had headed to a neighborhood just a kilometer away from Patrol Base Volunteer, on a tip that a person of interest was being treated at a hospital. A little after midnight early Thursday morning, the group headed to the site, surrounded the building and moved in – only to find it was a sports center, not a hospital.

But they kept at it. Company commander Cpt. Eric Riley, 35 of Roseburg, dispatched Staff Sgt. Jim Ellifritt with an interpreter and a squad from the 2-7 Cavalry that is attached to A Company to go out into the neighborhood. They asked around, eventually finding the hospital a short distance away.

Once inside, no one, Ellifritt said, seemed willing to answer any questions. Ellifritt, 24, of Vancouver, asked how big the hospital was, how many rooms, how many patients, but doctors and others could not or would not offer straight answers, he said. They contradicted each other and seemed nervous.

“When you have that many people lying, you know something’s going on,” he said.

So they started searching room by room.

They almost missed one room that was tucked away. When soldiers entered, they found two men – one in the bed, with burns, shrapnel wounds and a chest tube. The other man said he was the patient’s brother.

Turns out the the patient, is believed to be a lieutenant in Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The wounds — which he said came from an attack along a road to Karbala — are believed to have been sustained during fighting with U.S. forces, Riley said.

The operation reflects what everyone here knows all too well. Sometimes the intelligence is right on, sometimes it’s totally off. And many times, it’s a hodge podge of the two. The trick is figuring out which is which.

By 6 a.m., the two men had been detained and transferred from the hospital for questioning. The soldiers returned back to base for some much needed sleep.

— Helen Jung

I was on this patrol that went out and got these guys. 


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