Local returns from Baghdad tour

Karl Terry

Spc. James Montgomery, a member of the 126th Military Police, a National Guard Unit out of Albuquerque, is enjoying his first break from active duty in five months at his parents home in Portales. He is currently stationed at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq.

He says the sight of dirty streets with trash in them along with burned out, bombed out buildings is definitely a wake-up.

“You hear explosions all the time, said Montgomery. “It’s an everyday thing. You get to where a gunshot doesn’t even faze you.”

He was originally trained in defense artillery, but was sent, along with 140 New Mexico National Guardsmen, to military police school last year.

That training, along with his call-up wreaked havoc on his college studies and caused him to have to pull out of school three different times before his activation last Oct. 6.

The Portales native, who attended Faith Temple through 11th grade before taking his GED, had been in the National Guard for three years before his call-up.

He arrived in Kuwait March 10. From there he was moved pretty quickly to Baghdad.

His duties in Baghdad include training Iraqi police officers and regular patrols in Baghdad.

While his post is named Camp Liberty, according to Montgomery there is precious little liberty to be had in an American soldier’s day-to-day life in Iraq.

His days begin at 4:30 a.m. and usually go until about 5:30 p.m. They work seven days a week with six days spent “in sector” and one down day in camp in which they clean gear and weapons, work on trucks and any other catch-up duties they didn’t get to in the week.

“What’s not to miss here, family, friends, everything,” said Montgomery with a laugh, when asked what he missed about home.

“It’s the easy stuff like just being able to go down to a store and grab something that I miss. I sure don’t take stuff for granted anymore. It’s easy to take the simple stuff we have here for granted,” he said.

Montgomery is the only child of Steve and Ceretha Montgomery of Portales. His grandmother, Norene Griffin, and great-grandmother Nodie Hawkins also live in Portales.

“It feels good,” said Ceretha Montgomery, when asked how it felt to have her son home. “Its great to finally just touch him,” said the relieved mother.

Besides seeing his family, high on his list of things to do in his 14 days in Portales was to drive his new Chevy Silverado pickup truck and just hang out with friends.

Montgomery says there is a sharp contrast between American and Iraqi moral values. He believes Iraqis think about themselves too much and are sometimes really selfish people.

“As much bad as they (American public) seem on T.V. there is a lot of good going on over there,” commented Montgomery. “It’s getting better over there. They have food, schools are open and their lives are safer and better.”