Soldier Stories: JJ Bixby

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(Host) JJ Bixby of Brandon is among the four- hundred Vermonters of Task Force Saber who are coming home from a year in Iraq.

Bixby is an infantryman who patrolled the streets of a town in Anbar Province.

He talks about his job in Iraq and he describes the equipment he carried.

(Bixby) "We had our body armor which had ceramic plates in the front and back. We carried side protectors which were two more ceramic plates on the side, Kevlar helmet, seven magazines for your M16. I carried four smoke grenades, stun grenade; you had a medical kit that you carried with you, extra ammo, pistol ammo. Then you carried you’re rifle itself, your side arm, your pistol, and by that time you’re well loaded-up and it’s kind of hard to move.
Actually, I think I was able to find a scale over there, and when I stepped onto the scale, with my full combat load and kit, I was pushing about 350".

"We were in the Tamim, area which is just outside of Ramadi. Most of Tamim itself was really dense urban-type structures. Short alleyways, short roads, cross streets until you got out to where there was more open roads and stuff."

It was pretty active. It was actually pretty heavily active. It was right in Anbar province which is right by the last sector out there in the west that’s seen the most activity right now. I don’t think there was a single day that went by that something didn’t happen. We’d usually take small arms fire, maybe sniper fire, IED."

"We would typically try to get out try and interact with the people that lived right in that area. Tried to figure out what was going on, if they had seen the insurgency operating in the area when we weren’t there. It got to the point where you got to know people in certain areas, you could tell when things were normal, when things weren’t normal and there were definitely areas where you just didn’t dismount at all, just because it was just such a hot area."

"You’d get used to the amount of people that would be outside, outside by their shops or their stores, or the people walking on the street or sitting outside on the doorstep. And then a few hours later you may come back by through there, and it’s deserted. There’s nobody near anywhere, the streets are quiet. Nobody’s outside, that was usually a signal. Hair would go up on the back of your neck that something’s not right here."

(Host) Tomorrow, in "Soldier Stories" we hear from tank gunner Damon Rooney, who talks about confronting the realities of combat.

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