Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 8, 2008 - A long way from his family, friends and hunting, Army Pvt. Benjamin Raulerson, a native of Jacksonville, Ala., is here helping his unit rid northwestern Baghdad of terrorism and criminal activity. In his first month in Iraq, the 22-year-old infantryman has participated in more than 50 patrols, in which he has helped identify and seize enemy weapons cache sites and secure the area to provide the Iraqi government the opportunity to provide essential services to the people.
"(It) feels good knowing that I'm assisting in removing items that can harm the U.S. and (Iraqi citizens)," said Raulerson, who serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 25th Infantry Division's Company A, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, after a patrol that yielded several mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and other items that could be used in improved explosive devices.
Raulerson said his typical day includes patrols into various villages, where his unit assists the Iraqi army in securing the area. What time he has left, he said, he uses to relax.
The soldier has many stories about his various patrols, but he said one incident sticks out in his mind. He recounted a time on patrol when he was invited to a local leader's home to have lunch. "I had no idea what I was eating, but it was good," he said. "I enjoy trying new things."
It is that adventurous spirit of trying new things that led Raulerson to join the Army in April. After completing basic combat training at Fort Benning, Ga., he was assigned to the 27th Infantry Regiment "Wolfhounds." He arrived just in time to join the unit's other soldiers at the National Training Center, in Fort Irwin, Calif., where he spent seven weeks honing his skills as an infantryman and earned the Army Achievement Medal for exemplary performance.
"Raulerson is the best soldier in my team," said team leader Cpl. Douglas Urias, a Houston native, adding that the young private may even be the best soldier in the squad.
Raulerson said he attributes his initiative and natural leadership as a direct reflection of his father, who served in the Army as a military police officer in South Korea.
When he returns to Hawaii in about 14 months, Raulerson said, he plans to explore the Hawaiian Islands, learn to surf and frequent the beaches. But in the meantime, he said, he will continue to help protect the new freedoms of the Iraqi people.
(Army Staff Sgt. J.B. Jaso III serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 25th Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.)