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ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL REPORT

Iraq Journals

Glimpses of life in a war-torn country by GNS national security correspondent John Yaukey and photo director Jeff Franko.

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Monday, December 15

Soldiers' disbelief dissipates as capture rumor proves true

By Matthew Cox | Army Times

AD DULUIYAH, Iraq - The news of Saddam Hussein's capture began with whispered rumors that soon grew into the story soldiers here couldn't stop talking about.

Whether they were standing in the chow line or cleaning their weapons, most from the Army's first Stryker brigade took time out Sunday to marvel at the details surrounding the bold mission that resulted in the capture of Iraq's former dictator outside of Tikrit.

About 600 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade along with special operations forces launched Operation Red Dawn on Dec. 13, after securing new intelligence about Saddam's whereabouts. Saddam was discovered hiding at the bottom of a well-camouflaged spider hole.

Most soldiers from the Fort Lewis, Wash.-based 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division first reacted with disbelief. They questioned whether news that about 100 miles away, the U.S. military had captured the biggest combat trophy of all was simply a war story.

But after listening to news broadcasts, they learned it was fact, not fiction.

``I think it's great news. I'm glad they caught him,'' said Sgt. Jeremiah Hoshstedler, a 22-year-old Fayetteville, N.C., resident who is a member of 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment.

Sgt. Coby Schwab, also in 5-20, said he hoped it would help U.S. forces gain more control over former loyalists opposing a new government for Iraq.

``I think if it is true that (Saddam) was fronting all this terrorism, it may actually bring it down,'' said the 21 year-old Nevada native.

Others did not see Saddam's capture changing much.

``I don't really think it's going to make a difference in how long we are here,'' said Pfc. Mark Herr of Lugoff, S.C., who is also assigned to 5-20. ``Even though he's out, somebody else is going to be scrapping to take command, so I don't think it will change anything."

Capt. Ed Larkin, however, is convinced this is a turning point for the United States in seeking to restore peace to the strife-torn country.

``What's going to happen is the people that are sitting on the fence that were afraid to come over are going wholeheartedly come over to our side,'' said Larkin, a 32-year-old Army Reserve linguist from the 351st Military Intelligence Company out of Austin, Texas. ``If there is no hope of (Saddam's) party returning, the alternative is to turn to us.''