Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

TOP STORY >>Soldier knows Iraq area

By SGT. MIKE PRYOR
82nd Airborne Div. Public Affiars

BAGHDAD — It’s not déjà vu all over again.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Grimm gets that feeling a lot, except in his case, it’s not déjà vu. His life really is repeating itself.
Grimm, 35, is spending his third deployment to Iraq patrolling the exact same Baghdad streets that he did on his first deployment.

The Adhamiyah neighborhood in the Iraqi capital has been Grimm’s area of operations for two out of three deployments.
Meaning that in a country the size of California, the Cabot native has spent most of his time in a neighborhood only two-and-a half square miles in size.

He was based in the same northern section of the city from 2004-2005 with the Arkansas National Guard, and just recently returned with the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd infantry Division.

“Being back here again, it is a lot like déjà vu,” Grimm said. “Just rolling up and down these streets, it brings back a lot of memories.”

Grimm said not much has changed in Adhamiyah since his previous deployment. Even Coalition Outpost Apache, his old base, is the same, except for a slight name change.

“We called it Fort Apache back then,” he said.

For Grimm, there’s hardly a corner of the neighborhood that doesn’t come with a memory. Some places call to mind incidents he’d rather not be reminded of, such as the firefight with insurgents in 2004 that earned him a Purple Heart. Others are more pleasant, such as when he rediscovered a chicken shack he ate at on his first tour. It was still in business.

“That guy still knows how to cook chicken,” he said.

As one of only a handful of soldiers in his unit who know the area, Grimm has tried to use his experience as an asset.
“When I first heard we might be headed to Adhamiyah, I went up to the commander and said, ‘Sir, what do you want to know?’” Grimm said.

As a member of his troop commander’s personal security detail, Grimm’s knowledge of the area has come in handy during regular movements throughout the area. He knows all the shortcuts and back streets, he said

While Grimm’s knowledge of the area has been valuable for his unit, it has come at a price for his family. Because of multiple deployments, he calculates he has spent only a month and a half with his family in the past four years. But rather than get frustrated, Grimm tries to keep a positive outlook, he said.

“As much as I love my wife and kids, I love my job, and I hope that’s something my three girls will eventually understand,” he said.

Even being back in Adhamiyah again hasn’t dampened his spirits. Just because the streets are not completely peaceful, that doesn’t mean the mission is hopeless, Grimm said. It just means taking a long-term view of success.

“It’s going to take time. We’re going to be here a long while,” Grimm said.

Which is why Grimm looks to the small, incremental signs of progress he sees every day to keep him motivated.

“Getting out in the streets to see the changes we’re making is the biggest thing that keeps me going,” he said.

“People will come up and thank us for helping their community. That really gives you a sense of pride,” Grimm said.