I was a machine gunner during a major Iraq war battle that was blacked out by the media, now we're struggling to get the story to the public AMA
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I tested out of high school and joined the Army when I was 17. Two years later I was a machine gun team leader in an urban assault Stryker unit known as "Bull Company." We served a 15 month deployment from Aug 2007 to Nov 2008 as the only conventional task force running kill-or-capture raids in a district of Baghdad known as Sadr City. Our mission was to hunt down high value targets in the Mahdi Army and secure the north western flank of Sadr City from their influence.
On the 23rd of March one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the war broke out right there in Sadr City. The Mahdi Army rose up to overthrow the occupation. Our rules of engagement were lifted, and both sides went to town. Open street fighting lasted for nearly three months. Thousands of people were killed and wounded. That includes some two-hundred Americans and countless civilians - and it barely made a headline back here in the west.
At that point Iraq was considered "old news" and the politicians didn't want to talk about the war. 2008 was an election year so the ratings were more important than the truth. Both sides had something to lose if any word of battle made it home. The most attention it got back here was a 60 Minutes segment about high-tech UAV's - one which completely overlooked the actual fight. Other than that, were just a few back-page articles that never made it into print, and blog posts later on down the road as it solidified into a niche subject.
Instead, the biggest headlines that spring were the impending Twilight sequel, American Idol hiring a new judge, and Elliot Spitzer getting caught with a prostitute.
I recently wrote a book about my experience during the battle, and I've teamed up with some other vetsto get their stories out to the public. Together we're trying to raise awareness for what happened and some of my friends said an IAMA might help. While it would be totally cool if you want to head over to Kickstarter and pre-order a copy of the book, I'm not here to pull a Woody Harrelson. I just want to get the word out about what happened in Sadr City, help people get a more complete picture of what really happens "on the ground" during modern combat, and answer any questions you may have about... well... anything at all.
edit: I'm sorry it's taking me so long to work through these questions! I'm really blown away by all the interest! I'll be here all day working through as much as I can, so please forgive me if it takes a while.
edit: It's been brought up and I apologize for the phrase "blacked out." It's more appropriate to say it was unreported. That makes a difference, and I apologize to the community for the accidental sensationalism.
edit: I have to go eat and take a short break. I'll be back in about an hour (6pm ET) to wrap this up. Thanks for the awesome discussion!
edit: Thanks for all the awesome questions, support and interest! I'm sorry I have to sign off for the day (8pm ET)! To all the vets of Sadr City who joined in on this thread, thank you. I might chime in later to respond to a few open threads, but I had no idea how intense this could get and how fast it could get there.
edit: If you're interested in donating to the book's Kickstarter campaign, here's the link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/148551030/stryker-the-siege-of-sadr-city