Sean Walsh — Army Lieutenant in Baghdad

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Petros Giannakouris / AP

Soldiers patrol south of Baghdad in Radwaniyah, Iraq.

Walsh was a student at West Point when Congress first authorized the 2003 invasion, and remembers thinking the war would be over by the time he graduated. He deployed last August and spent the first six months in Baghdad patrolling the city's southwest side as a Stryker Rifle Platoon leader before becoming a project manager in the country's reconstruction effort.

On first hearing about the war
I remember hearing about the decision to invade Iraq very clearly because I was at West Point in an international relations class and that became a sudden topic of conversation. And it's kind of funny because I remember thinking that it wouldn't impact us. We were three years away from graduation, and we didn't really think we'd end up over here. But here we are.

On his first impressions of Baghdad
Everything kind of became very day-to-day very quickly. When I was a platoon leader, I lived in a converted meat-packing plant, [and] we were able to go out and meet the people. It's not like it looks like on television — even just the diversity of the area. Where I was living, even though it was in Baghdad, it is actually very, very rural. We had to move our strykers to let herds of sheep go by. Then you go maybe 15 kilometers, or even 5 kilometers to the west or east and it gets very urban. Also, just how normal the people are. They're dealing with a very, very difficult situation and yet life kind of goes on. It just has to for them.

On cultural training
The amount of cultural experience we got varied. We had classes. We had some limited Arabic training. The biggest thing that was helpful in my unit was that we had soldiers who'd deployed before. A power-point presentation is wonderful, but it can't capture the experience of someone who's been here before. So all my soldiers who had deployed before, they became the cultural experts.

On patrolling Baghdad's streets
When I was a platoon leader, we had to maintain continuous patrols so I would be out from 3 in the morning until 11 in the morning, or I'd be out from 10 at night until 6 in the morning — just ridiculously odd hours that would change every day almost. So it became really weird — not to sleep or eat really.

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