Interview with Ryan Wagner

Chase Fredrick, Interviewer | 1232
UW-Madison Campus Voices | Badger Veterans

0:00No transcript.

0:00 - Introduction

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0:09 - Marine recruitment and basic training

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Partial Transcript: To start out with, could you give me a brief background on your training...

Segment Synopsis: Joined the Marine Corps in September 2001 with the delayed entry program, was still in high school. Started a contract with the military for 4 active and 4 inactive years. Went into the military, with the 8.5-9 months of boot camp in 2002. Flown out to San Diego and started the 13 week Marine Corps basic training. Described as pretty strict, detailed mental challenge and content of 13 week basic training. Went home for three weeks doing some recruiting since he still had high school friends in the area.

Keywords: basic training; boot camp; Delayed Entry Program; military training; US Marine Corps

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2:13 - Field training

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Partial Transcript: Then I went back to Camp Pendleton, California, for basic-- or basic field training...

Segment Synopsis: Went back to Camp Pendleton, CA for basic field training for 3 or 4 weeks. Dealt with shooting and field tactics, basic infantry skills. Wagner described it as fun, relaxed training up in the mountains, nothing like boot camp.

Keywords: field training; military training; US Marine Corps

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3:05 - Choosing a field specialty

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Partial Transcript: After that, I was assigned-- Or before that, before I actually got there...

Segment Synopsis: At the end of Boot Camp he was assigned his Military Occupational Specialties (MOS): military ammunition technician. Picked the 0400 field, logistical field. Expresses why he became interested in those positions.

Keywords: ammunition technician; Military Occupational Specialties; MOS; US Marine Corps

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4:24 - Preparing for first deployment

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Partial Transcript: So I went over to the ammunition side of logistics and went down to Alabama...

Segment Synopsis: Entered the logistic side of ammunition field, traveled to Redstone Arsenal in Alabama for training (5-6 weeks) to learn basics of ammunition.

Keywords: Alabama; ammunition; Camp Lejeune; Invasion of Iraq; Iraq War; Kuwait; Redstone Arsenal; US Marine Corps

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5:37 - First tour in Kuwait

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Partial Transcript: So you spent a couple months in Kuwait-- or you served a tour, so how many months?

Segment Synopsis: Kuwait tour was his first tour. He went with the supply battalion ammunition company of 2nd marine division out of camp Le June. They pulled out of operation Rolling Thunder in NC to be sent over to Kuwait to help send ammunition deeper into Iraq with the infantry battalions. Mostly rigged up panels of ammunition by Camp Coyote and Camp Fox in Kuwait for helicopters to take.

Keywords: ammunition; Camp Coyote; Camp Fox; helicopter; Iraq War; Kuwait; military supplies; US Marine Corps

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7:20 - Repackaging unused ammunition

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Partial Transcript: After a while, things slowed down. We weren't using that much ammunition with the initial invasion.

Segment Synopsis: After a while, things slowed down, then slowed to nothing. President Bush declared the war over, so we started planning on how to get the ammunition back. Started building sheds in Kuwait to palletize and package ammunition to send back to military ships that are floating around as bases for ammunition stock. Spent 3-4 months putting ammunition back or destroying them. Many millions of dollars worth of ammunition was destroyed because they didn't have their original packaging.

Keywords: ammunition; George W. Bush; Invasion of Iraq; Iraq War; military contractors; military supplies

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10:10 - Believed Iraq War to be over

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Partial Transcript: I was one of the last eight marines in Kuwait at the time...

Segment Synopsis: After packaging, containers were blocked and braced onto ships and sailed from Kuwait. Wagner was one of the last 8 marines at the time, and all marines were out of Iraq. Loaded up all the ammunition and took off. He thought the war was over, figuring that was it, and flew a civilian flight home.

Keywords: Iraq War; US Marine Corps

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10:55 - Return to Kuwait

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Partial Transcript: So all of our ammunition, even, like I said, got blown up, trashed...

Segment Synopsis: Three months later, all the ammunition that had been packed and sent to sea ended up getting turned around and coming back to get unpackaged again. Wagner ended up unpacking a lot of ammunition that he recognized as his own packaging. At the time, it didn't make any sense to Wagner.

Keywords: ammunition; Iraq War; military supplies; US Marine Corps

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11:44 - Preparing for tour in Iraq

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Partial Transcript: So your second tour, then-- You came back in, would it have been 2004?

Segment Synopsis: Wagner went back to the states into the ammunition company in the states. Then he got transferred to a combat infantry unit, where he could use the skills he had for logistical planning of combat operations. Joined 1st battalion of the 8th Marines, transferred to San Diego, and then discharged to Iraq as a corporal in June 2004. Discharged to Iraq.

Keywords: ammunition; combat infantry; military supply; US Marine Corps

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13:29 - Guarding Haditha Dam in Iraq

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Partial Transcript: Our first station was in the Al Anbar province-- Al Anbar, and we were at Haditha Dam.

Segment Synopsis: First station in the Al Anbar province of western Iraq at the Al-Asad air force base. The Haditha dam and area at the time was very corrupt, insurgents had taken the town and were running the show, police force very corrupt, took a long time to convince the civilian people that they were going to do good work.Wagner guarded the dam with a unit from Czechoslovakia. The Czechs guarded the dam, and US guarded the area around the damn. The forces didn't interact much due to the language barrier. Had to use a code word if passing at night otherwise anyone had permission to open fire

Keywords: Al Anbar, Iraq; Al-Asad Air Force Base; Czech army; Haditha Dam; Iraq War; US Marine Corps

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15:12 - Relations with Iraqi police force

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Partial Transcript: So that tour was started up in Haditha Dam, and we started by-- like I said, talking to the mayor...

Segment Synopsis: Trained police force up, then protected the area. They started bulding relationshps with the people at Haditha, and Wagner even made tea for the mayor. But it was 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Wagner remembers a guy got hit with a (IED) in an area they thought was safe. He wanted to get out and go out on patrols because he got bored at their camp, Wagner describes it as "like living in a damp humid apartment with not nearly enough space".

Keywords: Haditha Dam; IED; Iraq War; Iraqi police force

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16:41 - First push in Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: And then in July-- So we were there for a month. We got sent back to Fallujah...

Segment Synopsis: After a month they were sent to insurgent-ran Fallujah in July. They tried to disrupt the insurgency there at the time with a reaction force but it didn't work, went back. First try to push into Fallujah failed.

Keywords: Fallujah; insurgency; Iraq War; military contractors; US Marine Corps

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18:15 - Growing marine force around Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: So we came back down in Mid-October, back down to Fallujah from Haditha and al Asad.

Segment Synopsis: They came back in mid-October to attack the city, had been shelling it non-stop for a while. People were dropping flyers from the air saying "get out, or else". Had 3-4 infantry battalions and patrols northeast of Fallujah. They were staying in old Iraqi barracks outside the city.

Keywords: Fallujah; insurgency; Iraq War; US Marine Corps

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19:28 - Insurgents controlled the inner city of Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: So was the city more or less-- Were there any troops going through the city?

Segment Synopsis: No, the city was completely off limits. The closest they got to Fallujah was the clover leaf loop of a highway that went just northeast of the city. They had Marine Corps forces there that got hit constantly. Any closer than they that, and the troops started getting RPG'ed and mortars thrown at them. Inside the city was still a stronghold of insurgents. Mortars and rockets were set up by Iraqui insurgents and were close enough to hit their troops at Camp Fallujah, and they had some casualties

Keywords: Fallujah; insurgency; Iraq War; mortars; US Marine Corps

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21:19 - Bombing of an ammunition supply depot

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Partial Transcript: In July of 2004 -- back-step -- they hit the ammunition supply depot that I would be in charge of two years down the road...

Segment Synopsis: On the 4th of July, 2004 insurgents hit the ammunition supply depot that Wagner would be in charge of two years down the road, and blew the supply warehouses up completely. It exploded for the next few days while all the ammunition went off within.

Keywords: ammunition; Fallujah; Iraq War; US Marine Corps

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22:06 - Anticipating the Battle of Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: That was kind of the force we were dealing with. We were dealing with an enemy that was inside of the city...

Segment Synopsis: They were dealing with an enemy that they couldn't reach because they were in the city, and the military couldn't get inside. From the beginning of November 2004 the military bases were full. It was evident to Wagner that something was going to happen, something big. He was told to prepare for a month of sustained, high-level battle.

Keywords: chow hall; Fallujah; IEDs; insurgency; Iraq War; US Marine Corps

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23:34 - Preparing ammunition rations for battle

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Partial Transcript: Did that end of being accurate: A: It didn't, it didn't...

Segment Synopsis: It was about a week and a half, maybe 10 days of good battle. The records they had would mean that this would be the biggest battle since Kuwait city. The daily ration per batallion was written based on the numbers from Vietnam. He had to go through old records to try and see how much ammunition he would need if they were to fight a Vietnam-like battle.
Wagner was 20 at the time and it was very exciting to him, he was in charge of the ammunition for 1200 guys and several light armored vehicles and the tanks and artillery in the batallion. Some experienced military veterans helped guide him in using old statistics to project the extent of the battle they were facing.

Keywords: ammunition; Battle of Fallujah; Battle of Kuwait City; Desert Storm; Iraq War; military records; US Marines; Vietnam War

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26:33 - Danger to Iraqi contractors

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Partial Transcript: Let's go back to Haditha for a minute. So you were saying the government and police were very corrupt...

Segment Synopsis: The US used some Iraqi contractors to do plumbing and electricity work, but anyone who was seen going into the camp then had a price on their head. After a while, they didn't have any of the contractors. Wagner wasn't sure if they were taken care of by the insurgency or if they just decided it was too dangerous to come back. The police officers at the time just weren't paid to be police officers, either. Somebody was paying them to come there and put on a uniform and work, but as soon as they got their paychecks they left. They didn't have half the police force anymore. Attempts to assassinate the police were pretty common.

Keywords: Al Anbar, Iraq; Haditha, Iraq; IED; insurgency; Iraq War; Iraqi army; Iraqi police force; military contractors; military police; retaliation

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30:45 - Movement to Fallujah allowed quick insurgency in Haditha

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Partial Transcript: Did that change with time? Did it get better or worse in the time you were there?

Segment Synopsis: In Haditha they got better. The police force were holding their own and the mayor met with us regularly. When we left in October of 2004 the Haditha district was a pretty good place to be, it was very calm. But the night we left, something happened to the mayor and the police were disbanded, and the insurgency was right back. The unit that replaced theirs didn't do much diplomacy with the town, they stuck to the dam and had to start from scratch. This was probably a pretty atypical situation as everyone was pulling out to go to Fallujah and the replacements for them weren't coming fast enough. But insurgents picked up on troops leaving pretty fast. All the missions and operations we did and later left, the insurgents came back right away

Keywords: Al Anbar, Iraq; Fallujah; Haditha, Iraq; insurgency; Iraq War; Iraqi police force; military intelligence; military reserve

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33:53 - Strategy for Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: So back to Fallujah now-- I guess, could you give a general account of your experience of the battle...

Segment Synopsis: November 9th, 2004 he went to the intel brief, he was sitting back in the corner. They were going to come in via the North side of the city and go into the Mayor's complex and take over that compound as fast and efficient as possible. Getting across Fran, main road that ran through the Fallujah. He wishes he would have paid more attention to the briefing.

Keywords: Battle of Fallujah; Fran, Fallujah; Iraq War; military intelligence; military strategy; US Marine Corps

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36:20 - Loading ammunition for Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: That night, we loaded up everything, and I took a 7-ton, which is a big truck that we have...

Segment Synopsis: They loaded up with ammunition. Describes types of ammunition and what he thought would be needed and why on the 7 Ton truck. He didn't know what was about to happen, it was a huge guessing game. He had another truck set aside and all set up.

Keywords: ammunition; Battle of Fallujah; Iraq War

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37:10 - Night before Battle of Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: But anyway, so we lined up on the night of the 9th, in the middle of the night...

Segment Synopsis: He describes going to the north side of the city and camping out overnight. Describes beginning of battle and the preparations they made. At the time he thought it would be cool to be going into the city with the jets flying overhead, but now he is grateful he was not involved in the main advance.

Keywords: Battle of Fallujah; digging trenches; Iraq War; US Marine Corps

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39:24 - First day in Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: We had rockets come in. One landed about 40 yards from me...

Segment Synopsis: On November 10. A rocket landed about 40 yards from him, missing his head by about two feet, took on some fire from the rear. But besides that, our job was mostly support.

Keywords: Battle of Fallujah; Iraq War

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40:17 - Seeing injuries in Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: Everything was happening fast. The first unit came out, the first light-armored vehicles...

Segment Synopsis: Injured people started coming in, and other troops asking for supplies. Wagner describes his reaction to the injured coming back, and how he was really freaked out by all the yelling and injury. One guy came with his hand shot up and was screaming "Don't tell my wife, don't tell my wife!"

Keywords: ammunition; Battle of Fallujah; casualties; Iraq War; military supplies

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42:18 - RW did not go to the front line

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Partial Transcript: First day, into the night, into the next night-- For the first-- It was a blur...

Segment Synopsis: First four or five days that was all it was, we waited, saw body bags and wounded come back, eventually got across Fran and into the mayor's compound. Ammunition started being sent in to the front line instead of the troops coming back. He wanted to go, but his captain said he was needed more in the back and he was fine with that.

Keywords: ammunition; Battle of Fallujah; casualties; Fran, Fallujah; Iraq War

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43:44 - Insurgents' tactics in Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: The only thing I gathered, you know, besides the fact that the insurgency would hide inside a house...

Segment Synopsis: Described how many people were lost by an insurgent tactic of blowing up entire buildings. Explained how they adapted to the insurgent tactics to make sure a building was safe. For the most part they started bulldozing buildings instead of going inside. Also explained sniper problems. Their intel knew who he was, some famous sniper from a former USSR country, came in and just wanted to fight, took people left and right.

Keywords: Battle of Fallujah; grenades; guerrilla warfare; insurgency; Iraq War; snipers

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46:12 - Moving camp during Battle of Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: But that was the first, you know, first week and a half, and then we moved our base...

Segment Synopsis: Moved base closer to Fallujah after a week and a half, we did that just so that we weren't actually in Camp Fallujah and the marines that were in there knew that we weren't just sitting back at base, it was a weird move, couple miles away, made no sense, and we took more fire there. Held mayor's compound and went out from there, then he went into the city, it was pretty calm at that point, most insurgents had moved to southern side of the city. But 20 days in still casualties here and there.

Keywords: Battle of Fallujah; Camp Fallujah; forward operating base; Iraq War; US Marine Corps

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47:44 - Clearing insurgents from the city

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Partial Transcript: Our battalion commander coined it "Operation Deer Drive"...

Segment Synopsis: Operation Deer Drive, going building to building going to each building and clearing each part of the city.

Keywords: Battle of Fallujah; insurgency; Iraq War

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48:55 - Civilians were gone before the battle

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned they had been dropping leaflets to warn civilians to get out. So between that and air strikes, most of them got out...

Segment Synopsis: Over the radio heard of reports of civilians, but they were probably insurgents that played the civilian card to not die "played civilian" old man in a wheelchair, rockets and jets flying overhead, and this guy is getting pushed out of the city with a white flag, just a t-shirt, getting pushed out of the city in a wheelchair. It's hard to say we gave fair warning, but we did have flyers and public service announcements.

Keywords: Battle of Fallujah; civilians; insurgency; Iraq War

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51:38 - Insurgency could not keep an organized strategy

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Partial Transcript: So do know if-- The insurgents, were they organized...

Segment Synopsis: Wagner couldn't say, he imagined there was some structure at least in some parts of the city but as soon as we started, their cellphone communication was shot and I don't know how they would have been able to communicate. Their strategy at this point wasn't to win, just to take as many lives as possible

Keywords: Battle of Fallujah; insurgency; Iraq War

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52:54 - Down time after Battle of Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: So then you stayed there for a couple months after the battle...

Segment Synopsis: Thinks he was back for Valentines Day in 2005. next deployment was going to be a float, going back on ship. Was bummed because he still had a year and a half in his contract and he would be sitting in Camp Lejeune

Keywords: Camp Lejeune; deployment; Iraq War; US Marine Corps

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54:01 - Response to Hurricane Katrina

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Partial Transcript: In-- Later on that spring-- Or I forgot when it was... Katrina.

Segment Synopsis: Katrina hit, and since they were at base they were one of the only big battalions around First to help and take off to help Katrina victims.

Keywords: Camp Lejeune; Hurricane Katrina; US Marine Corps

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54:50 - Returned to Fallujah rather than to Katrina

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Partial Transcript: But I was given the choice, actually, as soon as Katrina hit, of whether or not I would be transferred to the regiment and go back over to Fallujah...

Segment Synopsis: Given the choice on whether he would be transferred to regiment as a ammunition technician or back to Katrina but wanted to go back overseas to Fallujah in September of 05, tour lasting 5.5 months, going as a regimental ammunition technician in charge of Fallujah ammunition supply.

Keywords: Fallujah; Hurricane Katrina; Iraq War; US Marine Corps

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55:33 - City of Fallujah returns to life

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Partial Transcript: I was back in Fallujah in September, late September of '05. And that tour would last 5-1/2 months or so.

Segment Synopsis: Eventually went back to supply at Fallujah, nice to see the transition and see the city civilians opening up markets again, power was coming back to the city, they had occupation and control but city was coming alive again. Wagner states his final thoughts on his 4 year career in the military.

Keywords: ammunition technician; Fallujah; Iraq War; Iraqi civilians; military occupation; military supplies; US Marine Corps

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58:21 - End of Interview

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