No two memories of war are ever the same. Soldiers serving side by side can give very different accounts of their battlefield experience. Eyewitness testimony must be understood for what it is, the opinion of an eyewitness. Such testimony does, however, remain one of the most important ingredients of the historian's craft. Only participants can communicate the emotional and physical feel of events that the official record chronicles. Due attention to the "little picture" can offset too grand a sweep in the big one. The confusion, points of friction, and general messiness of war are more apparent in history as remembered than in history as reconstructed. In unconventional warfare and operations other than war, so many of the meaningful measures of success are local that the little picture becomes even more important.

Historians at the Army's Center of Military History have been no stranger to the big picture of the campaign in Iraq as reconstructed day by day in the operations centers of the Army and Joint Staffs. Indeed, the Center ultimately inherits service responsibility for culling all of those briefings, information papers, interviews, memoranda, and the like as they pass from fiery currency into fading memory. The Army History Program also attempts to track the little picture, with Military History Detachments (MHDs) deployed well forward to collect interviews, documents, and artifacts as the action progresses. In perhaps a generation some capable historian in the Center' employ will fuse together all that has been gathered at every level with materials from other sources to write a definitive official history that will stand the test of time. Meanwhile, the Center of Military History will publish selected monographs, interviews, and accounts-many written by veterans of the events described-as interim products until the time for such a definitive official history has come. In sifting through potential candidates for publication, I was pleasantly surprised by a journal kept by Capt. Robert "Todd" Brown, then a Bradley company commander in the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized).

There is a lot that Todd Brown' journal is not. It is not an official account, nor does it purport to be. It is not consistent. Todd experiments with his writing style-he was a civil engineering major at the U.S. Military Academy-and bounces around with respect to structure, organization, and delivery. He also bounces through mood swings reflecting good days and bad days. Reading a paragraph in isolation might cause one to believe the war was winnable or hopeless depending upon the exigencies of the moment rather than upon

Battleground IRAQ

some overarching theory of campaign progression. Sometimes he speaks casually of breathtaking courage, and other times he seems almost whiny.

His mood swings are the most dramatic when it comes to the Iraqis. He can effervesce when he has had a pleasant experience with locals, such as the sheik in Balad who celebrated his birthday, fussed over his glacially improving Arabic, and offered him a daughter in marriage if only he would convert to Islam. He can evince dark hostility when grinding away through recurring insurgent ambuscades. Indeed, he personally created a bit of a flap in a number of newspapers when he made some not particularly flattering comments when enforcing a cordon after one of his sergeants was killed. We do not expect homicide detectives to rhapsodize about the virtues of human nature nor do we expect embattled company commanders to glad-hand the press. Brown' journal is not objective. It is a captain' eye view of the world from which one might surmise most units other than his own were half-stepping, those in branches and services other than infantry are hardly soldiers at all, and everyone above the rank of major is a geriatric case.

All the above having been said, Captain Brown' journal is worth publishing because it is the best continuous narrative that we have yet seen concerning what it was like to endure a year in Iraq. From a historiographical point of view, it may gain value because his experiences were wholly contained in the so-called Phase IV, after major combat operations were purported to have ceased. It amply features the frenzy of combat, the boredom of intermissions, the thrill of operations gone well, the frustration of operations gone awry, the little joys of personal affection, and the grief of personal loss. It provides a medium for explaining and depicting the everyday life and vocabulary of the contemporary soldier. Brads, TACs, T-rats, UMCPs, groundhog days, and the like come alive in his narrative. His story also provides the experiential underpinnings of papers Captain Brown has written that were widely circulated at the time amongst units in or going to Iraq, such as his accounts of fighting in Samarra and countermortar operations around Balad, both of which are included as appendixes. Altogether, this work represents the memories that one man accumulated during the course of one tough year. Hopefully, it will be of use to those about to deploy into similar circumstances and to historians who must make some sense of it all upon its conclusion.

Chief of Military History
23 March 2007

Map 1: Iraq April 2003-March 2004

Map 2: Samarra April 2003-January 2004

Map 3: 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry (Mechanized) Area of Responsibility - July 2003-March 2004

Map 4: Balad and Environs July 2003-March 2004

Map 5: 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry (Mechanized) Area of Operations April 2003-March 2004