Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 23, 2009 - When Army Spc. Andrew Winscombe deployed to Iraq, he figured he'd be heading straight into combat. "From what I saw on the news and the stories told by soldiers who were deployed in the area before, I thought I would be seeing some heavy fighting pretty much every day," Winscombe, an infantryman on his first tour of duty to the Middle East, said. He is a marksman with the 63rd Armored Regiment's 1st Combined Arms Battalion at Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad.
This deployment, however, has been far from what he had imagined, he said. Operations such as humanitarian events, infrastructure renovations and improvements to the local economy have rendered his position as a marksman all but obsolete.
"This is not the traditional infantryman's job," he said, speaking of the mission he has performed since October.
The Utah native said his missions now include a different skill-set with challenges all their own, such as serving on route-clearance patrols, looking for roadside bombs and pulling security for his unit leaders when they conduct civil meetings with local residents.
Winscombe said he is grateful for the progress in Iraq. Although he hasn't deployed before, his fellow soldiers on their second or third rotations draw vivid comparisons to past deployments for him.
Winscombe's unit is based in what once was known as "the triangle of death." The constant and heavy fighting of previous deployments has ended, he said. As an example, he said, his unit patrolled an apartment complex in a once notoriously dangerous area, leading up to the Islamic holiday of Ashura.
"It used to be one of the worst kinds of places to go," Winscombe said. "We didn't do anything, just watched the people in the area. It was really good to see the kids playing out front That probably hasn't happened in years.
"We are making a difference over here. I'm just glad I can be part of it."
Even though Winscombe has not been able to put his marksmanship skills to use, he is willing to assume new tasks.
"Soldiers like Andrew Winscombe are the most valued asset in the armed services," Army 1st Sgt. Raymond Nunweiler, senior noncommissioned officer for Company A, and a native of Lancaster, Pa., said. "He brings a hard work ethic and a desire to accomplish difficult tasks, as well as values that embody our great nation."
(Army Staff Sgt. Scott Wolfe serves in the 1st Armored Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)