[Photo: courtesy Brian Borkowski]

Prepping for war, soldiers of B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion pose for a group picture in Kuwait. They spent about two months in Kuwait, then entered Iraq on March 20. Paul Smith is seen in the back row center, wearing sunglasses.
Click for a zoomable group photo



UNIT HISTORY: After Baghdad fell, Lt. Col. Scott E. Rutter compiled a history of a task force that included Sgt. Paul R. Smith's unit of combat engineers. In dry prose, Rutter's account includes mundane matters of food and hygiene; bad intelligence; confusion in combat, the horror of battle and even the humor.

This passage describes some of the conditions at Camp Pennsylvania, the training area of Smith's unit in Kuwait:
Designed to house a battalion size Task Force (700 soldiers), the camp's population quickly soared to more than a Brigade size element (4,500 soldiers). This caused serious cramping on the camp's infrastructure. Drinking water was plentiful; however, water for showers and daily hygiene always seemed in short supply. Bathroom facilities consisted of blue porta-potties. At first only seven served the 740 men (and two women at the time) of Task Force 2-7. Within a few days the number jumped to 20. These remained fairly clean but should have been emptied more frequently. There was a brief time when a "mad crapper' wrecked havoc on the Task Force toilettes, showers, and even an unlucky vehicle hatch. The Criminal Investigation Department showed up to investigate a completely unrelated event. Rumors spread, fueled by Lieutenant Colonel Scott Rutter's urging, that they were taking DNA samples to discover the identity of the "mad crapper.' This tactic worked well, followed by several weeks of "madcrapper' free living in Camp Pennsylvania.

Here, Lt. Col. Rutter describes a confusing combat situation on March 20, the very first night of the war:
Earlier in the evening the Brigade Reconnaissance Troop reported enemy vehicles in our sector. They claimed crewed T-72 tanks were firing on their vehicles. This report reached the Task Force and everyone keyed up for contact, contrary to what the most recent intelligence reports claimed... (One combat unit) fired on the "T-72s' as they crossed the border...

Hours later the rising sun cleared up the confusion, revealing T-55 hulks remaining on the battlefield from the 1991 conflict.

In these passages, Rutter captured the horror and humor of war:
From March 29:
A man, waiting while the bus he was traveling in was searched, claimed to have a hurt ankle and sat down on the curb. Soon after, a taxi approached, slowly passing the turn around warning signs. The driver, speaking in English, claimed to have been called by the injured man to pick him up. A fire team approached, led by the team leader to search the vehicle. The man exited the vehicle and allowed the soldiers to search him. In accordance with the standard operating procedures the soldiers made him open all doors to the car.

Opening the trunk detonated explosives, causing the car to explode in a massive fireball, instantly killing all four soldiers, the driver, and the man sitting on the curb.

From April 4:
Major Cooney occupied nearby bushes to relieve himself. Several minutes later, shots rang out and began impacting near him and by the Tactical Operation Center vehicles. Almost simultaneously, incoming airburst mortars began exploding above everyone. One exploded directly above Major Cooney, knocking him off his Entrenching Tool onto the ground. At this point the Executive Officer realized his situation was becoming increasingly perilous. Half a dozen men on the road laid down a wall of suppressive fire and yelled for Major Cooney to retreat to the vehicles. So here comes Major Cooney, half dressed and hands full of gear and baby wipes, stumbling forward from the bushes. Tripping over recently plowed ground and having no hands to catch himself he went face first into the mud. He recovered surprisingly quickly and, now dragging a ten foot dried palm branch, scrambled back to the road. Not at all funny at the time, the image of his muddy smiling face running back to the road is a memory all those present will never forget.


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Paul Smith: Medal of Honor
Paul Smith: Medal of Honor
Paul Smith: Medal of Honor
Paul Smith: Medal of Honor
Paul Smith: Medal of Honor
Paul Smith: Medal of Honor
Paul Smith: Medal of Honor
Paul Smith: Medal of Honor
Paul Smith: Medal of Honor
Paul Smith: Medal of Honor
Paul Smith: Medal of Honor