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Former Special Forces Soldier Talks About Stresses of War

During one of several deployments to Iraq, Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart’s Green Beret team conducted an all-intelligence-based mission set. That meant maintaining low-visibility and, basically, riding around dressed up like Iraqis and gathering intelligence during the day about the target sites that we were going to hit at some future moment in time.

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At one point, he said, his Special Forces unit generated 75 percent of national intelligence in Iraq proper. Not surprisingly, he was very compartmentalized about what he could talk about with anyone—including his wife and family—during that time.

“It’s very stressful, because you’re basically gathering intelligence on known insurgents and, sometimes, that intelligence doesn’t make it to where it needs to be in a timely manner and people die,” Stewart explained.

“If I found out that there was an IED laying in this road over here, I had to send this report up and try to convince a regular Army unit that I knew what I was talking about—that there’s this IED in the road,” Stewart said, noting the fact that, if leaders of that unit decided to ignore the intel he provided, “then they have a patrol that goes out there and a person dies.”

Another example Stewart pointed to involved having a source who couldn’t share information over the phone and would only share it in person.

“By the time he makes it through all the checkpoints and I make it,” Stewart said, “that intelligence is already old, because the action has already happened. It’s very stressful.”

To learn more about Stewart and the stresses he faced inside the military justice system after leaving Iraq, order a copy of the book, Three Days In August.

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