MJR : DISPATCHES FROM IRAQ
The mission: Sell soldiers in Iraq on re-enlisting “What I do here, there wouldn’t be muchformetodoin the private sector. There’d be so many licenses required.” Staff Sgt. Victor Orozco, 34, of Colorado Springs, a 14-year veteran who was signing re-enlistment papers, below. He helps run a 42-person medical clinic in Iraq. DISPATCHES FROM IRAQ | On the ground with the Fort Carson-based 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment SECOND A SECTION Story by Bruce Finley Denver Post Staff Writer Photos by Craig F. Walker Denver Post Staff Photographer Baghdad, Iraq Staff Sgt. David Henderson works long hours these days, trying to persuade soldiers to stay in the Army. That’s an urgent priority as military chiefs struggle to line up recruits for U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, where many of the 140,000 soldiers are on second combat deploy- ments. “We gotta do something,” Henderson said. So here at a base camp south of Baghdad, he has set up in a tent by a banner that reads: “Re- enlist 3rd Armored Cavalry” with a silk-screened photo of New York City when the Twin Towers still stood, framed in red, white and blue. Inside, Henderson, 33, of Eaton, Ohio, and other Army re- tention officers help soldiers re- view options. They’re offering bonuses as high as $15,000 for those who commit to more time — up to $150,000 for some Spe- cial Forces soldiers. And on a recent night, Hend- erson stood by the tent even as a crescent moon rose when many soldiers were sleeping. He was waiting for one who had promised to drop by. That soldier — Staff Sgt. Ryan Marrero, 30, of Bayamon, Puer- to Rico — had just completed a bumpy mission in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle chasing a white Suburban identified by a helicopter as possibly linked to insurgent activity in the area. Marrero rolled back into base camp around 9:30 p.m. and hus- tled to the tent. Henderson had contract pa- pers ready to sign. Then, at a ceremony in front of a hastily hung flag, he and Lt. Stephan Bolton, 34, of Lawrence, Kan., administered the oath as Marrero held up his right hand. He had collected a $14,000 bo- nus. It would help with housing in Colorado Springs for his wife and 6-year-old son, Ryan. Marrero said: “It’s official, right?” It is. And this retention work in the field is proceeding ahead of pace. Henderson and two oth- er officers running the re-enlist- ment tent have re-signed 37 sol- diers during one month away from their Fort Carson home base. Two more career counselors are expected to join them in Iraq. “Gotta be ... new recruits” At a recent flag-uncasing cere- mony here, Sgt. Maj. John Cald- well urged all troops to consid- er re-enlisting, taking advan- tage of the bonus money that was now flowing from the Pen- tagon. Days later, Caldwell would be seriously injured dur- ing a convoy ambush involving a remote-controlled explosive device. One unit soldier was killed in the attack. His fellow soldiers still have gotten no word about Caldwell’s condi- tion. The war-zone re-enlistment campaign is a priority because recruiting lags at home in U.S. cities. But even if Henderson and crew surpass their quarter- ly quotas, he said, that will not be enough. “There’s no way we can re- tain the numbers the Army needs. There’s gotta be some new recruits.” Some of his conversations with soldiers here are hard. On a recent morning, Cpl. Willie Fanshier, 26, of Lufkin, Texas, serving her second stint in Iraq, sank into the folding chair by Henderson’s desk and practical- ly begged. She was looking for a way to still serve the country in the Army, but also see more of her three young daughters. Two stay with her mother, and the youngest with her ex-husband. She supports them on her earnings, but that’s not like getting to raise them. “And being a fueler is not what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Fanshier said. She asked about Army medical work possibilities, or legal work — “something so that, when I get back, I could spend some time with my family.” It’s not clear the Army can help. Fanshier could leave in June 2006. “It’s hard to find a unit that’s not part of a deployment now,” Henderson said regarding Fan- shier’s request. “I don’t even try to compete against family.” > See IRAQ on 28A Above, Staff Sgt. Ryan Marrero, 30, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, takes the re-enlistment oath earlier this month from his platoon leader, Lt. Stephan Bolton, 34, left, of Lawrence, Kan., at Camp Striker, south of Baghdad, Iraq. Marrero received a $14,000 bonus for signing up again. 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