CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
Jarrett L. Feldman
Operation Iraqi Freedom Oral History Interview
US Army, New Jersey Army National Guard
Date: July 13, 2009
Interviewer: Carol Fowler
Summarizer: Jack McDonald
Jarrett L. Feldman was born in August 1980, in Newton, New Jersey. Prior to his military service, he was a student at Montclair State University. One of his good friends from high school had joined the Marine Corps, and he felt that if his friend could do it, so could he. Feldman always had an interest in the armed forces, because his grandfather had served in the Army Air Force in World War II. He decided to join the National Guard, since he admired the local community feeling that the Guard provided. Feldman also always had a desire to help people, and he felt that the National Guard was a great way to do that. The Guardsmen protected and assisted the community during times of crisis, such as natural disasters.
At the time he enlisted in the National Guard, Feldman was transferring from Montclair State to Rutgers University. Two days before he left for boot camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in 2002, he received his acceptance letter from Rutgers. Feldman did not mind the transition from civilian to military life, and attributes this to being raised in a strict household, as well as having a mature perspective at the age of 21. By the end of basic training, he had gained the nickname “captain” because his goal was to become a captain by the end of his enlistment. Feldman was able to come out of basic training as a private first class, because he had 60 college credits. He went on to take a course in advanced individual training as a motor transport operator at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
After completing his training, Feldman continued his education at Rutgers University. While there, he also served as a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadet for two years. During this time, Feldman was assigned to the ROTC Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP). As a SMP, he was assigned to a National Guard truck company, where he shadowed a platoon leader and learned the job and how to be an effective leader. After completing his first year at Rutgers, Feldman attended an advanced leadership program in Washington State. He completed his ROTC training in June of 2004 and graduated from Rutgers the following fall. Upon graduation, Feldman was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army.
After he was commissioned, Lieutenant Feldman was sent to Fort Eustis, Virginia to attend the Transportation Corps Officer Basic Course. He was initially assigned as a Platoon Leader as a part-time Guardsman. During this time, Feldman received active duty orders for six months to serve as a battalion administrative officer for the New Jersey National Guard. He later also served as the curator of the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey. Feldman served in this position until he was deployed.
In 2006, Feldman was assigned to command a detachment. He trained his soldiers on IEDs; how to recognize them, how to call for medical evacuation, etc. Feldman thought this was important, because IEDS were common in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is where a majority of mobilized National Guard forces were being deployed. In the fall of 2007, he was told his unit would be sent to Iraq, with the mission to maintain the joint area support group in Baghdad. His unit, B Company of the 250th Brigade Support Battalion, was mobilized on June 16th and left the state on June 17, which was Feldman’s second wedding anniversary.
Prior to the unit’s deployment, the soldiers had to receive training on how to detain people and conduct themselves in other civil situations they might find themselves in. They were sent to a training range on Fort Bliss, Texas which replicated a Theater Internment Facility (TIF), where they learned how to respond to a riot, handle detainees, as well as they were briefed on international laws. Feldman enjoyed his time at Fort Bliss, because it prepared him for his job in Iraq, as well as acclimated him to the similar weather.
Feldman’s company then moved from Fort Bliss, Texas into the Iraqi Theater. They flew to Bangor Maine, then Frankfurt Germany, and finally to Kuwait International Airport. They were then transferred to Camp Cropper, which was part of the Victory Base Complex near Baghdad, Iraq, where they were put under the command of the 11th Military Police Brigade’s 744th MP Battalion. Camp Cropper was a detention facility for Iraqi extremists and/or criminals. When they arrived at the camp, they were given their duties as well as received on-the-job training. Feldman’s unit oversaw a compound within the TIF, which they had to man with guards.
Feldman believes that the main goal of the mission was to rectify the Abu Ghraib incident of 2005, in which detainees were physically abused. In order to accomplish this, the military wanted soldiers to be open and transparent so they could help educate the locals. The military wanted to educate civilians, so they would be better able to resist the religious extremists. Illiterate or uneducated people were targeted and persuaded by extremists, because they could not read the Quran, and therefore did not know what it instructs believers, and so were manipulated into carrying out terroristic acts. Instead of locking these people up with other extremists, the military wanted them to go to classes taught by moderate religious people. Detainees would be taught how to read and write, as well as a variety of other skills such as carpentry and art. Feldman felt they were doing good things and making a direct impact on the surrounding communities.
Detainees were sorted by their threat level. Detainees with a threat level coded Red were considered hardcore terrorists. Those coded Green were considered people who were persuaded by terrorist groups to commit crimes. For example, a Green detainee might be offered money to carry out a terroristic act. These people often accepted the money so they could feed their families. Green detainees were viewed as “transitional” and they were the ones who were taught skills by American soldiers.
Detainees could not perform labor that benefitted the Americans. Soldiers would have to make items for themselves if they needed something; and, detainees could only work within the constraints of the detainee work program, Geneva Convention regulations and international laws. Detainees could also be visited by family members. Visitors would have to get biometrically checked to make sure they were a family member and not a wanted terrorist. Detainees also had the option to “pledge out” or take an oath that they would not commit harm against the government or any other person. If they were found breaking this oath, they would be sent back to Camp Cropper as a Red level detainee.
Upon his arrival at Camp Cropper, Feldman interviewed with the 744th Military Police (MP) Battalion (BN) S4 logistics officer and became an assistant S4. He was appointed as the detainee supply officer in charge. In this position, Feldman monitored quality control for supply contracts, dealt with vendors, and submitted orders. He had to take a few courses, both in person and online, to learn how to manage the supply system. The 744th MP BN had many different responsibilities. If supplies or people needed to be moved, his section had to do it. The battalion often had to transport detainees to medical appointments, interviews with intelligence officers, or transport juveniles to schools.
Feldman also had to provide special meals and diets to detainees with health issues. Many detainees had diabetes and heart disease, and they needed certain diets to survive. The unit also had to care for “mangled” detainees who had lost limbs while planting bombs. Feldman took his job seriously, as he knew that if he screwed up or didn’t make sure detainees were accommodated, it may create an international incident. His greatest fear was that one of his soldiers would get harmed by a detainee because Feldman had failed at his job. Thankfully, he did not have to experience his worst fear, as he excelled in the position.
Feldman remained the detainee supply officer until he shipped out and returned home. He flew out of Camp Virginia, Kuwait, which is the camp all soldiers processed out of. Feldman received a Bronze Star medal for his service in Iraq. He felt that he saved lives during his time in Iraq, due to no riots happened, and none of his soldiers were harmed from of the work he did. Feldman never complained about his time in service, because he felt he was there to do his job, so people back home could enjoy their own lives.
Lieutenant Feldman went on to be promoted to captain in the New Jersey Army National Guard, serve a tour in Afghanistan and then be promoted to major. He is currently on duty as a full-time Guardsman and Deputy G-4 for the New Jersey Army National Guard.