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Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, April 17, 2003

SERVICE NEWS
PFC SCOTT HENSLEY

PFC Scott HENSLEY is serving with the military police in the Middle East.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2012

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, April 15, 2004

 

Hensley returning after year in Iraq

One of Ringgold county's service men who has been in Iraq will be returning home this week.

Specialist Scott HENSLEY, son of Jim and Kim HENSLEY of Mount Ayr, is in the Iowa National Guard's 186th Military Police Company out of Johnston.

He has been deployed for 14 months and has been in Iraq since April 23, 2003.

During his time there, he had been working guarding enemy prisoners of war and in convoy support.

His unit has returned to the United States and there was to be a ceremony in Des Moines Wednesday night welcoming the group back. He then was to return to Mount Ayr that evening.

A home coming celebration will be held Saturday, April 17, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Mount Ayr Volunteer Fire Department fire hall.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2012

 

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, April 22, 2004, Pages 1 & 14

Scott Hensley one of first county soldiers to return from duty in Iraq

by H. Alan Smith

EDITOR'S NOTE: Two Ringgold county residents have recently returned from serving with the Iowa National Guard in Iraq.

A story about Specialist Scott HENSLEY from Mount Ayr and his experiences are included in this week's Mount Ayr Record-News. A story about Sergeant E-5 James MILLER of Tingley will be included in next week's Mount Ayr Record-News

When Scott HENSLEY headed for Iowa National Guard training the summer after graduating from Mount Ayr Community high school in May 2002, little did he know that he would soon become well acquainted with the geography of a country like Iraq.

Specialist HENSLEY, son of Jim and Kim HENSLEY of Mount Ayr, is in the Iowa National Guard's 186 Military Police Company out of Johnston.

He went to basic training in August 2002 and returned December 13 of that year. Just a month later his unit was activated and he has been on active duty, with over a year of that time spent in Iraq, since then.

"It was quite an experience to be there, but I'm glad it's over," HENSLEY said in an interview Monday. Unless things change dramatically, his time in Iraq is over. His company has been told they will be home for at least a year.

The National Guard members are to have a maximum of two years of active duty in a five year period. HENSLEY has served all but six months of that already and units don't usually deploy overseas again for such a short period.

"That could all change, of course, with some change on the federal level," he noted.

HENSLEY'S unit was one of the luckier ones. All of the members of the unit returned from Iraq. There were three who were injured in their service, however, one of whom lost his legs when the Humvee he was driving ran over an imbedded explosive device.

"When I signed up I didn't really think that I would be seeing action this fast," HENSLEY said. "It got real very fast."

HENSLEY reached Baghdad April 23, 2003 with a group of 10 from his division sent ahead to scout out of the way for the rest of his company.

"There was still some pretty heavy fighting on the outskirts of the airport in Baghdad where we lived," he noted. He lived in a Republican Guard training area on the west side of the airport.

Living conditions were not good to begin with. It was two months before showers and kybos reached his. There were 120 people bunked out in a warehouse and not a night when there wasn't some explosions nearby.

For the first couple of months while in Iraq, he was receiving one MRE (meal ready to eat) and one bottle of water to last a day.

"We didn't sleep much at all during the early parts of our stay, then got up to four to six hours a night later on," HENSLEY said.

HENSLEY'S unit was doing internal and external security -- taking care of Iraqi prisoners captured and held in prisons at the airport. Later on this work meant transporting prisoners to court appearances as well as traditional jailer duties.

Another part of the responsibility was providing escort service for armed forces VIP's and noncombantant who needed to move around the cournty.

"I traveled all over Iraq during my year there," HENSLEY said. "Babylon was about the only place I didn't go."

When Humvees from his company moved out, HENSLEY was manning a gun on top, always on the look out for trouble.

"You always had to be on your toes," HENSLEY said. "It was a rush."

HENSLEY found that having just finished his basic training, he had a bit of an advantage over some of the older soldiers in his group.

"Having just finished training, I was up to date on everything while some of the rest of the company had some refresher work to do."

For the first three months of the deployment, there was quite a bit of small arms fire that he and his friends had to deal with.

That died down to be replacedl by rocket propelled grenades and mortars.

"We usually had something thrown at us about every night," he noted.

Out on the roads, it was very important to watch for improvised explosive devices (IEDs in Army parlance).

Rounds that didn't go off were taken to make bombs that were hidden along the roadside to be denotated remotely or when one was struck by a vehicle.

"The drivers had to be very careful [Page 14] not to hit anything in the road," HENSLEY said. "They had all our lives in their hands."

Iraq orphanage visit one of most memorable for Hensley

There was a culture shock in being in a different country -- almost like a different world.

"They were many years behind the United States in technology in may ways," he noted.

"You were dealing with a whole different set of lifestyles and customs," he said. "It made you realize how many things we take for granted living in the United States."

Holidays -- American and Iraqi -- were some of the worst days, HENSLEY said. Those were days chosen by insurgents to make attacks.

"Christmas was one of the hardest days for us," he said. From 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., a series of rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire was aimed at their location. "Fortunately we didn't take any hits."

"We learned to be on extra high alert on holidays," he said.

When news was shared that Saddam Hussein was captured, all kinds of small arms fire broke out in Baghdad.

"We were pretty concerned for a little while when he heard all the shooting, so it was a relief when we found it was just celebratory fire -- people shooting into the air to celebrate the capture," he said.

"We were just told to stay inside," he said. "There was danger because what goes up must come down and you never knew where all the rounds would fall that were shot into the air."

Certain memeories stick out for HENSLEY from among those during his over 11 months in Iraq.

When he crossed the border for the first time, there were Iraqis waving and giving a thumbs up sign, but he wasn't sure what that meant. Later whenthey went back to bring in the trucks and equipment for his company, they were greeted by people waving American flags, which he thought was a positive sign.

He got to visit Saddam Hussein's main presidential palace when he was escorting high ranking people to meetings there.

The marble and gold of the palaces were in sharp contrast with a lot of the other buildings he saw.

He sat in Saddam's chair in the main palace for a little while, which was quite an experience.

He got to know Iraqis he met in working with the court system. He learned to know several judges and met some lawyers. He also worked with Iraqi police and Iraqi corrections officers in his duties with prisoners.

"The thing that sticks in my mind most, however, was a trip we took to an orphanage in downtown Baghdad," he said. "We were bringing toys and school supplies to the children there."

The children were all youngsters who had lost family members during the war. "They were the cutest kids you would ever see," he remembers. "They were so happy to see us."

He has some pictures from that visit which he hopes to share when they are developed.

Some of the hardest part of being so long in a country like Iraq as just being separated from everyone, he noted.

"Our biggest morale helpers were the letters, care packages and things sent to us from back home," he said. "It was tremendously helpful to receive things from home and keep in touch in little ways."

"We received packages from people we didn't even know, but it was really nice to get them," he noted.

HENSLEY got tired of the MRE meals while on active duty as well. If he had to choose his favorite of those pre-packaged meals, it would be the beef ravioli, he said, but that's looking for the best in a bad situation.

After four or five months, a dining facility made it to the airport area where he was based. "Chicken was still the only real meat," he said. "The beef was some sort of soy substitute. The cooked food was a step up from MRE's anyway."

HENSLEY returned to Des Moines Wednesday, where there was a welcome home ceremony at Camp Dodge.

The first thing HENSLEY wanted to do once he got away from the ceremony was to have a steak dinner.

"It was nice to get real beef in me finally," HENSLEY noted.

When his family drove home that evening, he was met by an escort of well-wishers at Kellerton and they followed him home, where sixth graders had made a big banner welcoming him home and classmates had decorated the front of the house.

Still dressed in his desert gear, it took a bit to make the transition to really being home again.

Then Saturday a reception was held at the Mount Ayr Volunteer Fire Department for people to drop by and welcome him home as well.

"I would like to thank everyone in the city of Mount Ayr who helped with my welcome home," he said. "There are just too many to name. It sure is nice to be back."

A warm welcome home was extended to Specialist Scott Hensley when he returned to Mount Ayr after his unit was deployed in Iraq for almost a year. A group of vehicles joined in with the Hensley truck when they reached Kellerton and the group was escorted by Ringgold County Sheriff's vehicles in a mini-parade to Mount Ayr, around the square and then to the Hensley home.

Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2012

To submit your Ringgold County items, contact Sharon R. Becker at
srbecker@windstream.net.
Please include the word "Ringgold" in the subject line. Thank you.


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