EN1 (SW/AW) Gary L. Rhodes
Squadron Patrol Leader, Riverine Group 1
In October 2007, I was flying back to the United States from my first tour
of duty in Iraq. I wanted to see my wife, family and 4-year-old American
pit bull. I was excited.
Before landing, our plane went through some nasty fog and I remember
thinking we were getting pretty low to the ground and I couldn’t see anything
out of the windows. As we were landing, the plane swayed back and forth and
smashed to the ground. The pilot came on and said we had landed in Cherry
Point, N.C., safely, but we almost wrecked our plane coming in.
I was part of the first Riverine Squadron to be deployed to Iraq. While
in Iraq, the only word to describe it is unnerving. You don’t know who
could be firing a gun at you, it’s hot, there are no trees and it made me realize how much I couldn’t take simple things for granted anymore.
You never get a good night’s rest and, for me, the only thing that kept
me going through each day was the will to live. The squadron has already
been told it will be going back to Iraq in the coming months.
Becoming a member of the Riverine Squadron was something that, at
first, caught me off guard. I was going through all my orders, because I was
up for going back to sea, and this weird name came up. I called up my
detailer to find out more information about it and he said, “Oh, it’s the
Riverine Squadron. You’re already going, you have to be there in two
I was like, “When was I going to be told about this?” After learning
more about it I was intrigued because I used to watch Navy SEALs shooting guns and cool stuff with my father on television and I thought this
could be a really good opportunity for me.
Before leaving for Iraq my girlfriend, Sarah, and I got married. I proposed to her at our Christmas party and we had a small wedding shortly
thereafter. We’re planning to have our big one, with friends and family, in
September before I deploy again.
I met Sarah a couple of years ago during my fun Sailor days. I’d gotten
a little out of control since my mother had passed away in 2001 and she
brought me back down to reality. I definitely wouldn’t be here right now if
it was not for her.
An average day in Iraq would be spent working on various maintenance
requirements such as vehicle, boat, weapon and personal gear. At some
point, we’d get our fragmentary order explaining our mission and go into
the planning and preparation stages. We would get everything ready and
then go under a brief and rehearse what we’re supposed to be doing. We
would then go outside the wire and, from there on out, it’s stuff that they
make movies about. It is pretty scary.
Once you go out and run your mission, you come back, debrief and
then shake down all your gear, clean everything again, get everything
ready. The vehicles and the boats, they get operated so much over there
that if you don’t do maintenance on them, they’ll break on you and the last
thing you want to happen if you’re in the middle of the Euphrates River is
a boat to stop working on you or your gun misfire. ■
“We would then go out-
side the wire and, from
there on out, it’s stuff
that they make movies