by JOC Michael
gritty, sandy soil of Iraq, far from any ocean, is an unlikely
place to find a trio of submarine Sailors.
these three undersea warriors have joined the Coalition Military
Assistance Training Team (CMATT) in that war-weary nation
in a daunting mission. Trading their duties in the relative
comfort of shore stations in the United States for the unexpected
perils and occasional rewards of a front-line position in
the Global War on Terrorism, the three submariners have exchanged
their coveralls for desert camouflage to help rebuild the
Iraqi military and its infrastructure. Headquartered in Baghdad,
CMATT works under the guidance of the Coalition Provisional
Authority to supply buildings, weapons, equipment, and training
for Iraq’s new security and defense forces.
Jason Taggart, YN2(SS) Randy Murray, and YN2(SS) Karl Rosenkranz,
who served together onboard USS Henry M. Jackson
(SSBN-730), volunteered for this unique assignment. After
a week of training and processing at Fort Bliss, Texas, they
climbed aboard a plane for Kuwait and then moved on to Baghdad.
who left the Trident Training Facility in Bangor Washington,
was assigned to the British Brigadier personal security team.
Murray, stationed at Submarine Base Kings Bay, found himself
with the administrative group at CMATT in Saddam Hussein’s
former presidential palace in Baghdad, overseeing administrative
needs for the 300-person joint multinational command.
October, Rosenkranz, who departed the Naval Intermediate Maintenance
Facility, Pacific Northwest, for temporary duty in Iraq, began
an e-mail correspondence with UNDERSEA WARFARE. Over several
months, he has been telling his story of training Iraqi military
recruits and administering pay records for thousands of new
soldiers and sailors. Perhaps the most compelling aspects
of his e-mails are the pictures and descriptions of smiling
– grateful Iraqi people, to say nothing of the day his
unit came under attack outside a checkpoint at Baghdad International
sent his notes from a forward-deployed unit at the Kirkush
Military Training Base, 25 miles away from the border with
Iran and a complex from which Saddam Hussein’s forces
were launched against that country during their eight-year
war in the 1980s. Kirkush was abandoned during the first Gulf
War, and CMATT moved in following the collapse of the regime
Karl Rozenkranz, who volunteered last fall to leave his
shore job in the Pacific Northwest for Iraq, examines
the workings of an AK-47.
with sand shipmates YN2(SS) Randy Murray and ETC(SS) Jason
Taggart, Rozenkranz became one of a handful of submarine-qualified
Sailors to become adept at firing not only the foreign-made
rifle, but the 40-mm grenade launcher and the AT-4 anti-tank
first, conditions were rough,” with no running water
and only MRE packets for food, Rosenkranz wrote. But any lack
of creature comforts was more than compensated by the people
the yeoman encountered in his unusual assignment.
think the greatest reward,” he noted, “is talking
to the Iraqi soldiers, who tell us about life under the former
regime. How they waited and waited for the Americans to come
– stories of how their lives have improved… I
mean, you should have seen their faces when we told them that
they have a right to complain, to free speech, and so forth.
It put it all in perspective, especially when you drive through
the towns and see the children run up to the Humvees asking
for chocolate and waving at us.
it is still scary as hell, don’t get me wrong. Everyday
it is something – mortars, RPGs, AK-47 fire. When I
first got here I thought – ‘cool, I’m gonna
be the first submarine YN to see ground combat in history’
– that I know of at least. But when it actually happened
it wasn’t as cool as I thought. Nonetheless, I am proud
to be here representing the submarine service, and believe
me, every one I come across will remember working with submariners.”
also joined what must certainly be a small number of dolphin-qualified
Sailors trained to fire a 40-mm grenade launcher and the AT-4
e-mail reported how he spent his Thanksgiving holiday. Instead
of enjoying turkey with all the trimmings in front of a football
game on TV, “mine consisted of a 10-mile road march”
and welcoming some new friends. “We have received our
third (battalion) recruits, some [from] the new Iraqi Coastal
Defense Force, their navy,” he wrote. In response to
the need for administrative support for these new recruits,
Rosenkranz created the Kirkush base’s first personnel
support detachment and, “I now maintain the pay and
personal records for over 4,000 soldiers. This entire system
was based all on the Navy way of handling pay and service
records, with an Arabic twist.”
his time was spent processing paperwork, however. In the same
e-mail, the yeoman wrote, “Last week, we had the chance
to go to the local town and hand out soccer balls. They were
paid for by the coalition troops, who donated them to the
children of Balad Ruz. I never knew the power of a soccer
ball, but when we handed them to the kids, I realized the
entire reason we are here was for moments like that. Their
smiles and cheers and thumbs up will stay with me forever.
None could believe that a Navy submariner was here with them
– I had to explain what a submarine was first. Just
look at the photos and you will see what I mean.
I went on a convoy to Baghdad and got to go inside the former
Saddam Hussein International Airport. What an experience to
go inside this place that was the site of a big battle during
the war and to see them rebuilding it. The other day, we received
a call that some soldiers found [unexploded ordnance] in an
irrigation ditch, so naturally, we went out to the scene.
It turned out to be six type-6 Iraq hand grenades –
all of them booby trapped. What a thrill it was to see this
stuff up close! Also this week, I got to make a security sweep
up the Iraqi-Iranian border.”
next report arrived on December 14, the day Saddam Hussein
was captured by a force of 600 soldiers in a remote farm near
Iraqi children hold their presents above their heads.
Coalition troops delivered a shipment of soccer balls
during a trip to a local village.
Rozenkranz helps deliver soccer balls to the Iraqi children.
gathered all the [Iraqi] soldiers and read the announcement.
There was so much cheering and dancing and singing…
the looks on their faces! – if only you could have seen
them. Some cried, others shouted ‘Death to Saddam.’
If I could only express how excited these people are to actually
have true freedom now. I am truly glad to be a part of history
instead of watching it.” But despite the euphoria that
resulted from capturing the tyrant in his spider hole, Rosenkranz
cautioned his unit that they, as well as coalition troops
in the country, could expect counterattacks.
Year’s Day, the yeoman found himself in the middle of
one such attack. His convoy had departed the Kirkush outpost
for Baghdad for a brief mission visit and had just begun their
return journey when it was interrupted with a deafening explosion.
our way out of the main checkpoint about two klicks out, we
heard a large BOOM – then dust flew all around us, [and]
there was ringing in our ears. Then, we heard small arms fire
break out. At this point, everything slowed down, and I realized
that I was scared. Our convoy returned fire and the insurgents
were liquidated. I was the only one in an unarmored Humvee
– and I count my blessings.
we went back to camp and unpacked and tried to wind down.
I cried in my tent for at least an hour. I realized that no
matter how tough I thought I was, it can all disappear. I
tell you this not to worry you, but to show you that all your
prayers and thoughts have and will continue to protect me,
and I thank you.”
the attack, Rosenkranz stayed optimistic about his mission,
and that of the coalition helping to rebuild Iraq.
new year will bring more hope and prosperity to the Iraqi
people then they have ever had, and chances they never dreamed
of. When we do civil affairs missions, and we tell them they
have rights – like free speech, voting, humane treatment,
etc. – their eyes light up, and it is just a moment
you have to be there to see. So in closing, I hope each and
every one of you a Happy New Year, and may you all live happy
and fulfilled lives.”
as it may seem to have U.S. submariners serving in the sands
of Iraq, Petty Officer Rosenkranz and his shipmates have contributed
not only to the reconstruction of that struggling country
but also to restoring hope to a people who had precious little
remaining. They’ll leave with fearful memories of the
dangers they faced – but also remembering the grateful
expressions on the faces of the Iraqis they risked their lives
Foutch is a Military Editor of UNDERSEA WARFARE Magazine.