Ann Kristene Kamarich with husband Maj.
Lt. Col. Robert
from the front:
reflect on service in Iraq
by Brenda McDonald, MSU Communications Services
war in Iraq unfolded in the pages of newspapers
or television screens for most people, but for a
number of Montana State University graduates the
war has been a personal experience.
MSU Collegian caught up with four graduates who
are serving in or just returned from Iraq.
Ann Kristene Kramarich, '90 EE U.S. Army's 4th Infantry
Division Aviation Brigade
had ice cream been so welcome. Kramarich celebrated
her birthday May 30 near Tikrit, Iraq, with a surprise
in-person delivery of ice cream cones from her husband,
Maj. Jay Chapman.
soldiers who work for me conspired with my husband
for a surprise gathering in our TOC ( Tactical Operations
Center)," she said. "My boss called me in like I
was in trouble. Then my husband came in with ice
cream from a local vendor. It was all very nice,
especially because my soldiers had their first taste
of ice cream in country."
husband gave her a gold necklace that his interpreter
helped him find. She said Jay asked the interpreter
what Iraqis give their wives for their birthdays.
"He said, 'a goat.'"
a 13-year army veteran, is a signal officer who
manages the communications between ground units
and helicopter pilots as they fly across the division
area. Her husband Jay is with the 4th Infantry Division's
armored brigade. They've seen each other sporadically
since the war began, even though they've been as
close as 10 miles to each other.
Kramarich, there have been many memorable moments
since arriving in Iraq. "One is definitely crossing
into the border of Iraq for the first time, into
the unknown. Another is flying across the countryside
in a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter with the doors open,
thinking, 'Wow, I'm flying over Iraq and the Tigris
said the hardest thing about being deployed besides
missing family and stateside creature comforts is
the heat and food. "There's no relief from the heat
and the food just gets old---however, today for
the first time we received what's called B Rations--rice
with shrimp gumbo," she said. "We've had salad twice
since we crossed into Iraq on Easter Weekend."
David Bergum, '94 PSci 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines.
(In Iraq this unit was part of the 1st Regimental
Combat Team which was part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary
has been bittersweet for Bergum since his deployment
to Iraq in early January. The sweet, the birth of
his first child, a daughter Laurelin Mae on Jan.
30. The bitter, his left eye was crushed April 27
in an accident in Iraq during a sandstorm. "A strap
that was securing equipment broke and hit me in
a helicopter pilot and 10-year Marine veteran, returned home
to San Diego May 7 to recuperate after surgery. He initially
had no sight in the eye but in early June he regained vision
in that eye, though blurry. "I'm hopeful I'll regain 20/20 vision.
I'm optimistic they can get me back in the cockpit."
in the military hospital, Bergum said the realities of war hit
him. "There were people there who aren't coming back to their
in Iraq, Bergum was an air officer for a marine infantry battalion.
He would coordinate air support and air strikes. The unit was
in the thick of the war. "We didn't have a front. We moved far
and fast." When the unit would pause for sleep, they would dig
themselves shallow holes called "graves" for protection, throw
down a sleeping bag and grab a few hours of sleep.
'Attack on Baghdad' came on April 6, I didn't sleep for four
days. When you're sleep deprived it all becomes a fog." The
most nerve-wracking moments, Bergum said, were on an Iraq highway
where they never knew if a vehicle coming toward them was friend
grew up in Bozeman. His wife and three of his four sisters also
graduated from MSU, Lisa (Bowman) Bergum, '96 HHD,
Lori (Bergum) Newman, '82 Nurs, Lisa (Bergum) Roeck,
'81 Acct, and Leslee (Bergum) Kane, '01 Sec Ed.
Patricia (Camel) Kelly, '73 Nurs 86th Combat Area Support Hospital/115th
best job with what you had was Kelly's experience in the month
she spent as a nurse in a combat field hospital two hours from
Baghdad in Iraq. "We didn't have everything we needed or wanted
for patient care there," Kelly said. She had been deployed to
Kuwait on March 14 and returned home to Ft. Polk, La. on May
a 16-year Army veteran, said the tent hospital had been set
up to treat prisoners of war but they ended up treating civilian
casualties as well. She said they treated everyone from toddlers
to the elderly. The biggest challenge to treatment was communication.
"We had translators, but not enough. We learned a lot of sign
it took several weeks once the war started for supplies to get
to the hospital. In the early days they would run out of supplies,
especially crutches. "As many as 20 patients were sharing two
sets of crutches."
said it was tiring and very hot as they worked hard for long
hours. "You lost track of the days. We didn't hear any communications
about what was happening in the war."
an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes
from Ronan, had spent her Army nursing career as a community
health nurse. In Iraq she saw injuries that only nurses in big
city emergency rooms usually see. Because many of the patients
were prisoners of war, Kelly would caution fellow nurses not
to see the patient as a soldier. "I just thought of them all
Col. Robert Brekke, '81 AniSci 438th Military Police Detachment
of Gallatin Gateway has been deployed to Kuwait since Jan. 19
and probably will remain there until November.
that the hardest thing about being over here is missing my son
Christopher," he said. "At eight there is a lot of growing up
that I am missing, and it is at a time when he has a hard time
understanding why I am over here serving my country."
| His unit
currently performs law and order operations for all U.S. military
personnel stationed in Kuwait. His unit is the police force
for the military.