First Person: Little Positive to Take Away from Iraq Experience

Yahoo Contributor Network

As we near the 10-year anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, Yahoo News asked U.S. servicemen and women who served to share their perspectives and discuss how it changed them. Here's one story.

FIRST PERSON | My name is Nigel Wooten. I have been deployed to Iraq twice with the Army as a Financial Management Technician. As you might be able to guess this is not a combat job, it is actually classified as combat service support; we were kind of behind the guys who were considered behind the scenes. My first deployment was in 2007 when I was 25 during President Bush's troop surge.

I joined the U.S. Army in 2005, and I deployed to Iraq for 15 months from 2007 to 2009, and then again in 2010 for 12 months to Mosul and Baghdad.

As financial management technician; between my deployments, I had worked for military pay as well as commercial vendor services for the Army. I was responsible for analyzing pay issues for soldiers from around the Army in the former job. They called what we a "force multiplier" back then. A soldier who had problems with his paycheck was distracted on the battlefield; doing our job quickly and accurately alleviated that and allowed our war fighters to focus on the task at hand. The latter job was about paying and closing out the many vendor contracts at work in theater.

As you can imagine, mine was a deck job and one where I did not leave the base much. There are two misconceptions many people have about those of us who have deployed to Iraq. Either they believe the experience is the same for everyone or they believe us "desk jockeys" had it easy.

The truth? Both are lies.

The frequent deployments were a strain on everyone's family. Spouses and kids were affected just as much as their deployed loved ones. Many of us came back much more aggressive and a lot less patient, even those of us who weren't actually pulling triggers on a regular basis. I will admit the warfighters had it worse, but there were no front lines. While troops were fighting, our bases were getting mortared and rocketed. We all had to worry about our lives. Now I am out and beginning to find out that the whole dedication to ending veteran joblessness is not really translating as they had hoped. I am a full time student here in north Georgia working my way through hoping that when I am done the economy will have recovered enough for me to get a decent paying job.

In short, there was not much positive to take away from the experience.

At the same time, for the military as a whole, aside from the recent budget cuts, the Army is becoming better due the experience in Iraq. Previously, there have been no major changes in the military since Vietnam. But in the past 10 years, from my perspective at least, the military has evolved more that it very has in such a short time. The war in Iraq necessitated new uniforms, equipment, armor and vehicles-- all engineered for saving soldiers' lives. The military is also doing more to care for the mental health of its personnel and well as its disabled vets. The problem, though, is that unlike some other wars in our country's history, this war has hurt our nation's economy. It's been more of a drain than anything. It was fighting two wars that placed thousands of soldiers in wheel chairs and on prosthesis that has put a strain on this country's health care system and sent the defense budget sky rocketing.

Looking back, aside from the people I have met and the relationships I have formed, I feel like a lot the time I spent in Iraq was wasted. The reasons for us being there was never clear and the mission never felt like it was needful or serving a purpose, at least on my second tour.

All that said, if I had it to do again, I would. But for me it's not about patriotism, or some sense of American duty or honor. I would do it again because the reason I went in the first place was to feed my family. I joined the army in 2005 because my then pregnant wife and I were down to nothing living in a relative's guest room. As a man I could not stay there and not try to do anything for my family. I joined the Army, and I spent all the time away from my family for the sole purpose of giving them a live that did not include poverty. So if given the chance to do it again, the question wouldn't even have to be asked.

View Comments