Q&A with Capt. Gregory Grossman, Soldier author.
Capt. Gregory Grossman, operations officer with the 831st Transportation Battalion, served with a team from 2007-2008. Recently, he published a book, "Dreams of Hope: A Transition Team's Adventures in the Iraq War" documenting his experiences.
Tell us a little bit about the book.
It's a roughly fifteen-month account of my team's intense experiences in Iraq. The story spans our initial training and formation at Fort Riley to the final battles in Sadr City, Iraq, prior to redeployment in mid-2008. The battles in Sadr City during the time covered in the book most people now refer to as "March Madness" or "The Battle of Sadr City."
Why did you write the book?
I had always wanted to write a book about my experiences in the Army. Like most people who say they want to write a book I found it difficult to get started. On deployments I keep a green book of my notes and thoughts about what is going on during my tour. During my last tour in Iraq I found that I was filling up the notebook at about three times the rate that I would usually write in my journal.
I was in a briefing from the division commander with my team at the Phoenix Academy in Camp Taji Iraq in 2007. The division commander's main point was essentially that this tour in Iraq would be what we made of it. We were making history. He said, "Do your pre-combat inspections, do your mission rehearsals before every mission, stay in shape, and you might even want to write a book during your tour." After that I walked down to the Internet cafe and sent my sister an email about all the crazy things that I was experiencing and she said the same thing, "write a book." So I did.
As I wrote the various chapters in the book I found that it was almost therapeutic to write these things down. I also wanted to somehow document what our team and many other teams like ours went through during that time. The media at the time focused on the large surge of forces in Iraq in 2007, but very little was mentioned about the surge of transition teams during that same time.
How long did it take?
It took about three years by the time the book was finally available through a commercial publisher. I am still on active duty, and therefore had to have the book vetted and reviewed by Multi-National Security Transition Command--Iraq Security, Public Affairs, and the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Department of the Army. This review process took about a year and the rest of the time was spent on a few editorial revisions. Overall, I would say I re-wrote the book in its entirety about three times during the entire process.
Many months after we left Iraq and the team was on to our different assignments, our team noncommissioned officer in charge received a message from the brigade sergeant major about our team medic's award. Doc received his Permanent Change of Station award but he had been submitted for an Army Commendation Medal after the final battles in Sadr City prior to our redeployment. The brigade sergeant major sent a note to our NCOIC that Doc's award was upgraded to an ARCOM with "V" Device for Valor. I immediately sat down after reading the email and wrote one of the final chapters of the book about Doc. The title of the chapter is "Valor." I also wrote about this in the Epilogue.
The book was published August 4, 2010 and is now available from Authorhouse.com, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.
Excerpt from Dreams of Hope: A Transition Team's Adventures in the Iraq War:
It is the second day since the Jeesh aI-Mahdi (JAM) attacked Sadr City in one of the biggest offensives in years. The Iraqi battalion executive officer (my current Iraqi counterpart) is dead, shot in the back of the head at a checkpoint in Sadr City. My anxiety level is as high as I can ever remember. My thoughts are clouded with the strange dreams (more like nightmares) and restless sleep from multiple nights of listening to barrages of incoming and outgoing mortars, artillery, and rockets firing. The battalion $2 from the Iraqi battalion stops at our building at 3:00 a.m. to inform us that JAM elements are attacking the perimeter. The buzz of multiple large-caliber automatic weapons in the distance confirms his report. Exactly two weeks are left until we redeploy. Our replacements are on the ground in Iraq, but they cannot get to us because all the helicopters are being diverted in direct support of combat operations. I wonder aloud to myself, is this all just a really Iong, bad dream? If so, how do I wake myself up? Pinching myself hurts. This must be real.
By Capt. Barrett Michel, 595th Transportation Brigade