Spc. 4 Brian Nethery is headed back to Iraq after 15 days’ rest and relaxation following eight months in the thick of it with the “Big Red One,” the 1st Infantry Division, stationed at Balad, approximately 50 miles north of Baghdad.
“I’ve got the best job in the Army,” the 21-year-old soldier said enthusiastically. “I’m a 19-Bravo, a cavalry scout. My two primary jobs are reconnaissance and security.”
Most of his time is spent as a .50-caliber gunner on a Humvee. Nethery mans a ring-mounted heavy machine gun that can fire 360 degrees atop the vehicle. He is half in and half out of the truck.
“I feel like I have the safest spot in the Humvee, because every time one of our trucks gets hit by a roadside bomb, it’s the concussion that gets the guys inside the vehicle. Since I’m half outside the Humvee, I don’t feel the concussion like the guys inside. I just get thrown around.”
By now Nethery should be an expert. He and some of his buddies in Task Force 177, a battalion in the 1st I.D., have been involved in two roadside bombings that were direct hits on their Humvee.
“The first incident was in May and four of our vehicles were tooling down Tampa, the main road in Iraq, between Balad and Tikrit, about 9 a.m. I was up top holding my gun and scanning. You never see a damn thing,” Nethery explained.
“Our Humvee got trashed by a 155 mm artillery shell buried a foot-and-a-half deep in the road. It was detonated with a remote control device by someone about 30 or 40 meters off the highway,” he said. “I was thrown halfway out of the vehicle and hit in the left side of my face and neck with a bunch of rocks. Everybody survived, but the Humvee was thrown in a heap across the highway.”
Their second encounter with a roadside bomb was not as scary, but it was still serious. It took place at the Samarra Bypass where Tampa splits and goes one way to Samarra and the other to Tikrit and Fallujah.
“We were on our way back from brigade headquarters with radio equipment. After passing over the overpass just outside Tikrit about 2 p.m. we passed by a can of diesel fuel hidden behind a guardrail along the edge of the road. The can of diesel was detonated with a Russian-made plastic explosive, like our C-4, attached to it.
“A huge fireball came shooting out over the Humvee. I got my eyebrows singed, but wasn’t badly hurt. No one inside was injured, however, the vehicle wasn’t as lucky,” he said. “The explosion fried our back tire, messed up the paint and melted some plastic on the hatchback. Like the first bomb, the second one was radio controlled, too.”
In the eight months Nethery has served in Iraq, what has he learned?
“I think it’s good what we’re doing over there. I really feel like it was preventative medicine because Saddam Hussein and the people in power underneath him didn’t have very good intentions toward us or anybody else. They call us infidels.
“There are good towns and bad towns and good people and bad ones. Some people over there don’t like us because their tribal leader doesn’t agree with what we’re doing. Other people over there just love us to death and they can’t do enough for us,” the young soldier said.
Nethery says he thinks what his unit and others like his have done to improve the daily lives of the ordinary Iraqi citizen in the last year or so has improved relations with the rank and file Iraqi. One of 177th Armored unit’s big projects had been the construction of a water treatment plant for civilians in their sector.
In a more serious vein, the young soldier has participated in some early morning sweeps of the nearby Samarra area looking for bad guys.
“We’d go out in the middle of the night, surround the town and go door-to-door looking for insurgents. It was the worst thing I ever got involved in, but I don’t want to talk about it. It’s kinda personal,” Nethery said.
Asked about the Abu Ghraib prison debacle involving American soldiers mistreating Iraqi detainees, he had some definite opinions.
“I think some of our soldiers at the prison got a little stir crazy and got on a power trip. It really offends me because they brought dishonor to their unit and our nation. That isn’t how a professional American soldier acts.”
On Sunday of last week, Nethery was invited to take part in the 105th Anniversary Celebration of the founding of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He had just joined the Clyde Lassen VFW Post in Englewood. He was one of those chosen as flag bearer at the posting of the colors.
“I found a lot of good people at the VFW. Men and women who had been through the same experiences that I have. They all knew what you’ve been through and they really care about the folks in the military these days. I appreciate all that they do,” he said.
“I want to go back to Iraq and finish the job we were sent over to do. It’s my job. There is no other job in the world like it,” Nethery said, with conviction. “I like the military life because you’re held to a higher standard. I’m planning on being a career soldier and making a life out of it.”
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 11, 2004 and is republished with permission.
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Death stalks night firefight with Iraqi insurgents – Sgt. Brian Nethery’s mom in Gulf Cove very proud of son
Charlotte Sun (Port Charlotte, FL) – Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007
Jamie Nethery of Gulf Cove wasn’t surprised to learn her son, Staff Sgt. Brian Nethery, who is serving in Iraq near Ramadi, was mentioned in a lead story in the Washington Post on Sunday — the second time he’s made a national newspaper in recent months.
Nethery is attached to the 1st Battalion, 77th Armored Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.
The article concerned a routine night patrol that became unroutine when Nethery’s squad stumbled across a much larger contingent of heavily armed Iraqi insurgents outside the village of Tash, south of Ramadi. By the time the bullets stopped flying, two U.S. soldiers were killed and 11 were wounded, and an estimated 32 insurgents were killed.
“My son’s very, very brave. But it’s scary knowing exactly what he’s doing over there. When he comes home on leave, he doesn’t tell his dad and I what he’s doing over there. He doesn’t want us to worry,” Jamie said.
“When Tommy, his father, came home from work, I told him, ‘You need to read the Post’s story, because our boy is in it.’ He sat and read the long story and when he was done, he was very quiet. Then he looked at me and said, ‘This is what Brian does over there. Wow!'”
A 2002 graduate of Lemon Bay High School in Englewood, Nethery was a lineman for the Manta Rays football team, his mom said. He always wanted to be a soldier when he was growing up, she recalled.
He signed up for the Army while he was still in school. He served his first tour in Iraq in 2004 and is halfway into his second tour, Jamie said.
“He was a responsible, 19-year-old kid when he left us and went in the Army,” she said. “He returned from Iraq in April on two weeks leave a more responsible, grown man. He has different values and different views, but they’re better than what he left with.”
When he wraps up his current tour in 2009, Brian plans to make law enforcement his career. In the meantime, he will continue to serve as a .50-caliber gunner atop a Humvee over there with “The Big Red One.”
Ann Scott Tyson, a staff writer for the Washington Post, picks up the story of the deadly clash on June 30 at Donkey Island, in which Brian and the men of the 1st Battalion distinguished themselves against overwhelming odds.
Brian and eight other soldiers were on a night patrol in the desert, riding in three Humvees outside the town of Tash, when they ran into an estimated 70 heavily armed insurgents, according to the article.
As one of their Humvees crested a sand berm, the soldiers spotted two semi-trucks parked in front of them in the desert. A few feet away stood a couple of dozen insurgents.
The top gunner on the first Humvee opened up on the enemy fighters with its roof-mounted M240 machine gun.
“In the same instant, the insurgents returned a barrage of fire with AK-47 assault rifles, heavy machine guns and hand grenades,” Tyson wrote. “Bullets shattered the ballistic glass on the Humvee, breaking the driver’s window and cracking the windshield like a spider’s web. Shrapnel tore into the top gunner’s face and hands. He dropped down inside the vehicle and another soldier climbed behind the machine gun and took his place.”
The first vehicle tried to make radio contact with the two Humvees following behind without success. A scout platoon was reached by radio a few miles away. It came to the rescue with seven Humvees loaded with more troopers and ammo.
The 1st Battalion soldiers were ordered to make an assault on foot against enemy insurgents along a nearby canal. Several of the soldiers dismounted and began advancing as ordered along the canal when they came under fire from an insurgent lying in wait.
Two soldiers went down instantly, Tyson wrote. This is when Brian joined the assault in the desert. He went to the aid of Sgt. Vicente Nicola, who had been struck in the head by an enemy round.
“Get your ass to the medic! I’ll get Brian Taylor (another downed soldier),” Brian said. Nicola survived.
“Brian’s Humvee … crept along the road. Insurgents on the adjacent beach tossed homemade grenades — water bottles filled with explosives and nails — that exploded in front of the vehicle,” Tyson wrote.
“Brian left his Humvee and crawled over the beach to find Taylor. He grabbed Taylor by his gear, ‘One, two, three, push!’ he said, pulling while Taylor shoved with his good leg until they finally reached the Humvee.”
The additional firepower brought into the fray by more Big Red One troopers called in from outside tipped the firefight in favor of Brian and his fellow soldiers.
“Soldiers who fought in the battle say they feel extremely lucky to have happened upon the insurgents — and to have survived,” Tyson wrote near the end of the article.
Thousands of miles away in a home on Drysdale Avenue in Gulf Cove, Jamie Nethery said, “Brian’s my hero. He’s going to make a great husband and a great father one day. He’s just an all-around great person.”