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In the Spring of 2008, Coalition troops responded in-force to what quickly became one of the largest, bloodiest and most influential battles of the Iraq war. For nearly three months they fought for control over Baghdad against the ruthless insurgent militia of the Ja’Ish Al-Mahdi, leaving thousands dead and whole neighborhoods in ruin. Due to the unmatched ferocity of this battle and the danger to everyone involved, however, few reporters dared to cover the story – and what happened in those streets was soon forgotten by the world.
Sgt. Ludwig’s gripping narrative offers an unfiltered view of the final Battle for Sadr City, as seen through his eyes from behind the wrath of a machine gun. Still a young idealistic boy, he enlists with a high-impact urban-assault Stryker unit known as “Bull Company,” and comes face-to-face with his own oblivion. Up against the full might of the Ja’Ish AL-Mahdi, they embark on a one-way mission deep behind enemy lines, to capture a well-guarded militia stronghold and defend their ground “for as long as it takes.”
This is the story of what really happened in the late years of Operation Iraqi Freedom;
The story our media neglected to tell.
|Title:||Stryker: The Siege of Sadr City||Format and Length:||Trade Paperback / 446 Pages|
|Author:||Sgt. Konrad R.K. Ludwig, Ret.||ISBN (Paperback):||978-0-9853398-0-7|
|Publisher:||Roland-Kjos Publishing||ISBN (eBook):||978-0-9853398-1-4|
|Genre:||Military Nonfiction||ASIN (Kindle):||B00EZW0HUM|
“This is not a book for the faint of heart, or for those who believe our army’s mission in Iraq was to nation-build. Konrad brings the reader into the world of combat, where he and his brothers roared down streets teeming with men anxious to kill them.
When you read what a grunt actually does, how he must think, and the miserable, soggy, bloody, exhausting actions he must take, regardless of the circumstances – then you will understand why generals who haven’t endured such combat should be very, very careful about lowering the standards of the combat arms. When you read Konrad, you have a hard time to keep from sweating, and at times vomiting. He brings back to all of us grunts memories we prefer to bury deep, smells we wish never to sniff again, and bodies we’d prefer not to have squashed, except that is what we do.
You read these anodyne tributes to sage generals who skillfully and diplomatically turned around the mess in Baghdad by shrewd planning and forbearance, then you read Stryker and say: Were the soldiers and the generals on the same planet? Or did the senior command and the press invent a narrative of protecting the population and delivering economic projects in order to keep domestic public support? Whatever the rationale at the top, here is a true war diary that tells you what urban combat amidst a hostile populace is actually like.”
– Francis J. “Bing” West,
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense
Author of No True Glory: a Front-line Account of the Battle of Fallujah
This is an exceptional book. It is one of only two on the Iraq War that I recommended to people. The other is John Crawford’s “The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell.” Sergeant Ludwig captures what so few people understand about the realities of war–and what an infantry soldier is and is not. A timeless story of men in close combat that few have told as eloquently has he. I was quite moved. And, as with any great book, it puts the reader in a place.
I am the co-author of the RAND report “The 2008 Battle of Sadr City: Reimagining Urban Combat.” Sergeant Ludwig’s book is an invaluable complement to our study for the grunt’s eye view of this crucial battle in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Colonel David E. Johnson, Ph.D. (U.S. Army, retired),
Senior Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation
Co-author of The 2008 Battle of Sadr City: Reimagining Urban Combat
“I have been studying the Battle of Sadr City at work and decided that my efforts would be enriched by using a first person source rather than depending on official reports…
I found that once I started reading, the author’s writing style proved to be so refreshing and vibrant that I had a difficult time putting it down at night when it came time to getting ready for the next days early am commute into Washington DC. It is well done, revealing, and authentic. The author made it a point to explain that he did research the available records to ensure as few mistakes as possible crept into his book. I think he did a fine job… Ludwig’s insights on leadership and camaraderie in battle were especially illuminating. Highly recommended. It will have a prominent place on my OIF reference shelf.”
– LTC Mark J. Reardon
Senior Military Historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military Research
“What makes Stryker an interesting project is that it sits at the intersection of memoir and journalism. Sgt. Konrad Ludwig doesn’t just document his own experiences but takes the time to interview his fellow soldiers in order to tell the full story. What makes Stryker good is that despite the seriousness of the situation Sgt. Ludwig is such a natural, engaging writer that even in the most difficult parts I kept reading.”
– Desa Philadelphia
Former Correspondent at Time Magazine
“This book is intense, visceral, compelling. For anyone wanting to know what guys went through over there without the filter and agenda of news media or politicians, start with this book. Ludwig’s assessment is unvarnished and sobering. He aims a sharp lens at his enemies, his comrades and superiors, and in the most revealing sometimes frightening ways, at himself. It may be, as the author notes in his dedication, that this book is “not for mothers”. But I can say that as the father of one who serves, I highly recommend it. People should read this book to know what it is we ask of these young men and women.”
– John Harrison
Writer, Director and Producer of SiFi’s “Dune” Miniseries
“Like so many other sons, mine was also in the siege of Sadr City. That deployment was by far the worse he would ever see, It changed my son forever. My son lost brothers during the siege of Sadr City, and even though he had physically survived it, he had lost himself too. This book is for those who were not there, to bring light to what really happened, a memorial for the sons we lost, and support for those that came home.”
– Deanna Reid
Military Spouse and Family Rights Advocate
In the spring of 2008, American and Iraqi troops fought one of the largest, bloodiest and most influential battles of the Iraq war. The setting for this fight was right in the heart of Baghdad’s most feared district: the sprawling urban slum of Sadr City.
After five long years of violence, a ruthless crime syndicate known as the Ja’Ish Al-Mahdi had risen to power throughout the country. They were backed by a steady stream of supplies from the Iranian government, and led by the militant sermons of an extremist anti-American cleric named Muktada Al-Sadr. That far into the war, militia troops in Sadr City alone out-numbered the Coalition garrison in Baghdad by more than 13-to-1, in a city with roughly half the footprint and more than three times the population density of Manhattan.
For more than a year these two forces battled for control over the fate of Eastern Baghdad. It was only due to the effects of the iconic troop surge of 2007 that the American military could finally push across the Tigris in-force, and fight the Ja’Ish Al-Mahdi on their own terrain. By the spring of 2008 that struggle had come to a head and pushed the front line of the conflict up to the very border of Sadr City.
On the 23rd of March, the Ja’Ish Al-Mahdi began a relentless barrage of high-explosive, long-range rocket attacks on the allied “Green Zone” in Baghdad. In tandem with those attacks, tens of thousands of armed insurgents took to the streets to overthrow the Coalition occupation of the country. Their objective was to topple the newly formed government of Iraq with a single flood of violence, and in the first day of fighting alone, they had successfully over-run all but two of the outposts along the border of Sadr City.
By the 28th of March, American troops on the front-line of the conflict had been fighting non-stop for five whole days against incredible odds. Faced with the dire truth of the situation, a daring assault was put together. That morning, more than a thousand American soldiers moved in to re-establish the front-line of the conflict, just a few hundred meters into the border of Sadr City.
By sundown, they were in full-retreat.
A week into the battle it had finally become clear: a Coalition victory at the Siege of Sadr City was anything but assured.
Due to the relentless and ongoing indirect fire missions raining down hell on American and Iraqi troops along the border of Sadr City, it was virtually impossible for an allied advance to hold their ground without sustaining heavy casualties along the way. In addition to those attacks, however, every route into the city had been wired to the hilt with hundreds of roadside bombs. The Ja’Ish Al-Mahdi had spent nearly half a decade preparing for this attack, and they had long since proven to be a well-trained militia with superior numbers and a modern arsenal of weapons on every block in the city.
If an American advance was going to hold any weight, somebody would have go into the hornet’s nest ahead of the main force and put a stop to the endless rain of mortars, rockets, and improvised explosives on friendly positions throughout the town. To that end, the men of “Bull” Company were the clear choice. In the months leading up to the battle, they served as the only conventional task force running kill-or-capture missions into the heart of Sadr City, with an obective to hunt down the leaders of the Ja’Ish Al-Mahdi on their own terrain. As such, they were the only unit on the ground who knew what it takes to fight the militia in a head-to-head fight, beyond the limits of the Coalition advance.
Their orders were simple: venture forward behind enemy lines to assault and capture an enemy stronghold known as “Objective #608” – a walled in compound overlooking the primary staging ground for the Ja’Ish Al-Mahdi’s rocket and ground attacks in the area – and hold that ground “for as long as it takes.”
Little did they know that would turn into a fight for their very lives.
On the morning of the 29th of March, the men of Bull Company loaded up into a convoy of twenty-five light-armored Strykers and ventured forward into oblivion. After a twelve-hour firefight, they had finally captured the objective, and settled in for the night to await the enemy counter-attack that was sure to come. Just a few hours into the following morning, they were fully engaged on all fronts – alone, outnumbered, and surrounded – caught in a precarious fight for their very lives.
This is the story of the Mahdi Army Uprising of 2008: a three month struggle that would leave thousands dead, a whole city in ruin, and pave the way for the end of the Iraq war.
Originally known as the Bravo Company “Deathmasters” of the 1st Battalion/5th Infantry Regiment (1-5 INF) from Ft. Lewis, Washington; the men of “Bull” Company and the entire 1st Squadron/2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment (1/2 SCR) have served three combat deployments since the start of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
Starting in October of 2004 with the a front-line role in the Battle of Fallujah, the men of 1-5 INF earned their mettle in some of the hardest fighting of the war. A few days later they would follow it up with another grueling conflict: the Battle of Mosul. In all, they spent a year in fighting in Iraq – including protection details for the first free elections of the new Iraqi Republic – and by the end of October of 2005 they were awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for what had become one of the most notable tours of duty up until that point in the war.
Upon returning from their first tour of duty, the men of 1-5 INF were re-flagged as “1/2 SCR” and moved to Vilseck, Germany, where they became a global quick-reaction defense force in Europe, and conducted high-profile joint training operations with NATO forces to showcase the Stryker Infantry Fighting Vehicle as an effective tool on the battlefield. Orders for their next deployment, however, were soon to follow, and in August of 2007 the 1-5 INF Deathmasters deployed under their new name of “Bull Company” for a fifteen month tour of duty as part of the iconic “troop surge” in Iraq. After two years of training, they were now assigned to serve a special mission as the conventional urban-assault task force operating in eastern Baghdad, on the border of an unsecured and highly volatile district known as Sadr City – home to more than two-million residents, and the infamous insurgent militia known as the Ja’Ish Al-Mahdi.
It was just six months into their deployment that everything went sideways and the men of 1/2 SCR found themselves fighting – yet again – on one of the largest battles of the Iraq war. Overnight, hundreds of thousands of Ja’Ish Al-Mahdi troops had poured into the streets of Baghdad, Basra and Al-Kut, casting the entire country into chaos. For more than eighty-two days, the men of Bull Company fought relentlessly on the front lines of what would soon become known as “the final battle for Baghdad” – a turning point in the nations history that would pave the way for the end of the war.
After finishing up with the 2008 uprising of Sadr City, Bull Company and the rest of 1/2 SCR were then sent up to Mosul to finish out their deployment as a task force raid element and security detachment back in the streets of Mosul. By the end of their second tour, 1/2 SCR was awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation for their valor in combat and service on the front lines of Sadr City.
A year after returning from their second deployment to Iraq, the men of 1/2 SCR would deploy again for another twelve month tour of combat – this time serving in the city of Tarin Kowt of the Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan during one of the hardest years of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Currently, the men of Bull Company are continuing their role as a quick reaction force element in Europe, conducting international training operations with high profile NATO forces – ever ready for the call to serve.
Konrad R.K. Ludwig is a former non-commissioned officer of the United States Army, and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After serving four and a half years as an Infantryman, he was medically discharged to injuries sustained in combat.
Konrad was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He tested out of high school shortly after his seventeenth birthday and joined the United States Army as an infantryman in September of 2005. Upon completion of Basic Training, Konrad was assigned to the Bravo Company “Deathmasters” of the 1st Battalion/5th Infantry Regiment (1-5 INF) out of Ft. Lewis, Washington.
In August of 2006 his unit was re-flagged as “Bull” Company of the 1st Squadron/2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. Their mission was to perform joint training operations with allied NATO forces and serve as an emergency reaction force in Europe. During that time Konrad served as a radio operator, playing a key role in field operations and management.
Konrad deployed to Iraq with Bull Company and the rest of 1/2 SCR as part of the iconic “troop surge” in 2007 with special orders to serve as a high profile conventional task force against the deadly Jaish al-Mahdi, fighting in Baghdad’s most feared district – Sadr City. Six months into their deployment, the men of Bull Company and 1/2 SCR found themselves fighting on the front lines of one of the largest engagements of the Iraq War, lasting for nearly three months of directed combat.
Upon his return to the United States, Konrad began work on his first independently published book, an autobiographical military nonfiction title called Stryker: The Siege of Sadr City. He has since teamed up with other veterans to help them publish their own first-hand accounts of military service.
Konrad is now pursuing a career in writing and production. He is determined to help other veterans find their voice and tell their part of history.
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– Konrad R.K. Ludwig