Soldier lives highs, lows of Iraq
Sgt. Daniel Hilsabeck faces the unexpected every day when he patrols the roads of western Iraq. Still, he was unprepared for his reaction when actor Chuck Norris visited his army platoon in Ramadi, Iraq, last week.
“Not too many civilians want to come to Ramadi,” Hilsabeck wrote in a recent e-mail. “I really respect the guy for that. I’m a fan of his now.”
Hilsabeck e-mailed his family about Norris’ visit, an uplifting event that came on the heels of the loss of two American soldiers Hilsabeck knew, according to Diane Pruss, Hilsabeck’s mother.
Pruss welcomed Hilsabeck home during his two-week leave in September after not seeing him for nearly a year.
“It was wonderful,” Pruss said. “When I saw him come down that escalator at the airport, to be able to hug him was worth it all.”
Hilsabeck’s latest tour of duty began in December 2005. His scout platoon, Shadow 2/37 with the 1st Armored Division, was supposed to come home in December. Recently, the platoon’s tour was extended until the end of 2007. Pruss said that the family was disappointed that Hilsabeck wouldn’t be coming home for another year, but she supported him in his job.
Hilsabeck’s work as a scout keeps him on the roads of Iraq up to 24 hours a day in Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold in the western Al Anbar province.
“I could be sitting out on some hill with binoculars for 24 hours observing enemy movements, driving up and down a highway looking for bombs for a few hours or kicking down someone’s door,” Hilsabeck wrote, describing a scout’s typical day.
His job includes patrolling the roads in search of improvised explosive devices, planning and executing ambushes and sniper shooting.
One of the ways that his platoon deals with the stress is to bond more closely, according to Hilsabeck.
“We always know when someone’s having a bad day,” he wrote. “We have been living together for a few years now, so we are pretty much like family.”
Technology also plays a role in keeping the soldiers’ spirits up. The platoon purchased a satellite dish for Internet access, which Hilsabeck said helps them keep in touch with the outside world.
“Internet is what keeps us sane,” he wrote.
While high-speed Internet fills the void of news from home, it doesn’t replace more traditional means of communication. Next to e-mail, a sure way to make a scout’s day, according to Hilsabeck, is to send him or her a letter.
After enlisting in May of 2003, Hilsabeck was sent to Iraq and worked training Iraqi police in the northern town of Tal Afar. Today he serves as squad leader for his platoon, which conducts reconnaissance. Since returning to Iraq in December 2005, Hilsabeck has noticed a dramatic improvement in the Iraqi police.
“They are organized, and most units are well-disciplined compared to 2003 and 2004. Every day they’re getting better,” he said, adding that their continuing success was crucial and would help in getting American soldiers back to the U.S.
Hilsabeck spent his two-week leave visiting family and reconnecting with friends. One night he went out in Reno in a rented limo, “cruising the town like a rock star,” he wrote.
While it was difficult to leave home for Iraq when the two weeks were up, he noted that his responsibility toward his platoon made the transition easier.
“My guys need me over here,” he wrote from Ramadi.
To contact Staff Writer Jill Bauerle, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4219.
Write a letter to Daniel Hilsabeck or any scout:
SGT Hilsabeck Daniel
HHC 2/37 AR Scout Plt
1BCT 1AD FOB Blue Diamond
APO AE 09346
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