In a normal war, 25-year-old Second Lt. Mark Barger of Houston, two years out of Texas A&M and fresh out of Officer Candidate School, would be far behind the front lines. But in Iraq, the Army's truckers are the front lines--especially in the notorious Sunni Triangle. Rod Nordland talked with Barger aboard his Humvee during a convoy.
How's your war going?
Oh, OK. We've been hit 22 times in seven months, but our company's been lucky: only two wounded bad enough to evacuate, no dead. Every one of our big trucks has had the windshield replaced, blown up or shot out.
So what's the worst thing about it here?
We have to be politicians and policemen and occupiers, and it's hard to know which to be at any moment. It's gone through stages. The first couple months, they were afraid of us. We have all this battle-rattle on and we're always wearing shades. They thought we were cold-hearted robots. Then they figured out we were just human and they could hurt us, and they got bolder the last few months. Now we're firing back and showing how tough we can be.
You get discouraged?
Not really. I honestly believe in a couple years the U.S. will still be here in Iraq, but Iraqis will be better off. They'll be taking back ownership of their country and it'll be a great place to be.
It's going to take time.