America’s Longest War
My entrance into the world of national security was literally baptism by fire in Baghdad back in June of 2003. Imagine being a 26 year old kid and your boss tells you that you’re going to be his “government guy” for Baghdad’s second largest and most diverse district. There is no duty description. There is no one who can tell you exactly what you’re supposed to do. You are thrust into the arena - playing a key role in revamping a municipality and forming a federal government. Welcome to my most joyous experience.
Knowing my unit’s (the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment) deployment to southwest Asia was on the horizon, I coordinated with my squadron intelligence officer in acquiring DoD published Iraqi cultural materials, and used them to train my platoon. For the first time, I was able to take advantage of the two semesters of Arabic I had taken at West Point. I spent the pre-deployment reading articles about the region and quizzing my soldiers on their learned knowledge. A history buff since early childhood, I was passionate - reading more on the history of Islam and the Middle East, as well as much of the Quran.
When it came to working with the Iraqi people, especially in revamping their municipality, I was mentored by community leaders and local citizens. Immersed in learning about their neighborhoods, history, and culture, I drank tea with old men on the streets and smoked hookah with men of my generation. You could always find me in a market and visiting a school. I ate in restaurants with Iraqi friends and family, and on occasion, my soldiers and I grabbed lunch by the side of the road of a busy market area. A crucial component was working with our district’s Women’s Committee, a powerful force and some of my dearest friends and confidants. Growing my knowledge and creating these strong bonds of friendship were invaluable in assisting the Iraqi people in making sound decisions for the betterment of their families and neighborhoods.
When I attended my regular governance meetings at Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) HQ, I was taken aback by how DoD and State Dept personnel were making life-affecting decisions, yet rarely, if ever, left the Green Zone. Their decisions nearly cost me my life and those of my friends, NCOs, and soldiers. Sadly, we all are still feeling the ill effects of those decisions.
Too often I had to explain the socio-economics and culture of East Baghdad to my CPA colleagues. I would offer to take them out to spend time with the people at ribbon cutting ceremonies, neighborhood council meetings, and school visits, but, much to my dismay, they never did. My colleagues kept saying they were working to create a free and democratic Iraq, but my men and I continuously asked ourselves, “How could they be working towards an honorable end without truly knowing Iraq and its people?”
As you’ve been reading this, you probably have been asking yourself, “What does Terron’s Reader’s Digest version of his Iraq memoires have to do with Black History Month?” Well, technically it does, because I am Black and my deployment was historic in nature. But, here’s the real point; I deployed with humility. I invested in the mission - learning about Iraq and learning from the Iraqi people. Otherwise, how could I impact real change?
Sadly, Iraq was not America’s longest war.
When George Floyd was murdered, Liberals, Progressives, and Democrats were quick to put on t-shirts and get yard signs declaring that “Black Lives Matter.” Thank you, I guess? Okay, so now that you have acknowledged that our lives matter, what are you doing about it? This is not a rhetorical question.
Since joining Truman in 2006, “Black issues” have been nearly impossible for us to face, discuss, or digest. When Trayvon was murdered, we lost nearly all of our Black members because Truman was neither willing to maturely discuss the issue nor able to understand the national security implications surrounding the effects of his murder. As an organization, we still have yet to recover from that exodus.
Though we have attempted conversations surrounding what it means to be an American descended from African slaves here in these United States, they all were short lived. These conversations caused me to wonder how an organization of some of America’s most educated, intelligent, talented, and selfless young professionals knows little to nothing of my people’s struggle here in our country. Trumanites whom I love and respect who are subject matter experts of countries like Uzbekistan and can recite the history of every Islamic caliphate, know little-to-nothing of the barbaric treatment of my people and how their contributions made our country the hegemon.
Those who have worked with me know that I am a solutions-oriented person; I clean up the spilled milk. My challenge to you, my friends, is to dedicate yourselves to reading about “Black History.” Watch a documentary and talk with a Black friend. If you do not have a Black friend (and that’s okay), ask me. I’ll hook you up. Imagine If each of you invested in our country the way I invested in Iraq. Imagine the great things we could do together.