March 13, 2021

13 - Michelle Murray

13 - Michelle Murray

For this episode, I sit down with Michelle Murray, a former soldier and veteran of OIF I, (that's Operation Iraqi Freedom phase one, or the invasion of Iraq). We talked about dealing with our Arab allies and their biased views of women, how to talk to your kids when you're a military parent, and she filled me on what happened to the famous 507th Maintenance Company.

This episode supports the Veterans Business Association in El Paso, Texas. They support veterans in two ways. First they help veterans who own their business, or vets who are looking to start a business, with education and access to critical resources. Second, they assist vets in the community, and make sure that the business community is working to aid veterans in crisis.

You can find out more about Michelle at her website, or listen to her interview with StoryCorps.

Transcript

  Chris: [00:00:34] Hi everyone. It's Chris here with The Long War Interviews. Two quick things before I introduce today's guest. First, if you haven't already, please subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, wherever you listen to it. When you subscribe these platforms then recommend the show to other people who might be interested. So. Please help me spread the guests' stories and subscribe today.

Okay. Second quick note. Uh, I spent a lot of time working on my new editing software and hopefully this episode sounds a lot better for you.

I work on websites for my day job. So all of this has been new for me. I really appreciate you all listening, despite the pretty rough production values. All right. So today's guest is Michelle Murray she worked with the Patriot missile system and is a veteran of OIF one, which for those of you who don't know, , was the invasion of Iraq. Operation, Iraqi Freedom phase one.

Michelle talked to me about the difficulties of working with some of our middle Eastern allies and how their cultural views of women complicate things for the military. She also talks about the 507th Maintenance Company. Now, for those who don't remember during the invasion, an army unit was ambushed near the town of Nasiriyah after they made a wrong turn.

Nine soldiers were killed and six were captured by the Iraqi army. The most famous was Jessica Lynch, who's rescue was a prominent news story in the beginning of the war. What happened to the 507th is an important story and it provides a lot of context to the official history of the invasion. So I'm grateful that Michelle talked about it with me.

Now, before we get to Michelle's interview, I want to talk about the organization she brought to my attention. The Veterans Business Association in El Paso works with veterans in two ways. First, if you're a veteran and a business owner, or you want to start a business, they're there to help set you up for success.

Do you need some advice on sales and marketing, how to organize your books, how to find financing, they can help you out with all of that and much more. They also work to make sure that the business community works to support veterans in need. And they were instrumental in establishing a veterans court in the area.

So even if you're not in the El Paso area, reach out to them, they can help you out. All right. Now let's begin the show.

Michelle Murray: [00:03:18] Okay, so well, I'm Michelle Murray, and thank you so much.   I am a native Texan and I, I actually, I first joined the army in 1988 and. But that was the time where they were kind of just getting used to the notion of ladies in the regular army.

And I broke my wrist. I was going from basic to AIT, but I broke my wrist and they said, you have to go home and I didn't want to go home. I fought it. I get to my unit, my first sergeant says you're going home. And the commander says you're going home. So I went home. But then I came back in a few years later and you know, I laugh about that now, but that's.

That's the way it was back then, you know, if any, cause you know, you're delicate. So if anything happened, you gotta go home. You gotta go home. And originally I was a medic. I was coming in as a medic, but when I came back in a few years later, if anybody remembers the movie Patriot Games, and this is so funny, but if anybody remembers the movie Patriot Games, that's really what caused me to come back in.

I had a friend. I was, I was in college and I had a friend who was a, he was a recruiter, but he was in one of my classes and I kept saying, Oh my gosh, this tuition, this tuition, this tuition. He said, well, you could come on in the military again. And so we talked and when I went to select my job my scores were pretty high and.

I did the one that caught my eye. I said, well, what is this Patriot missile crew member? What, what is that? And he said, have you been to the theaters lately? Have you seen Patriot Games? And I had, and he says, remember when they went to push that red button and I said, yeah, yeah. He says, you're that person!

And I said, really? And I said, sign me up right now. And just let me say, I though I loved my job. It was anything but that it was anything but that lots of time in the dirt, lots of time in the middle East and, you know, pushing everything, but the red button. So you know, and I, I always say if he's listening, God bless him.

Because I, you know, I had some adventures thanks to him. So that's kind of what enticed me to come back. But then, you know, I love my country. I love the people I served with and that's what kind of, what kept me in, you know, and it was, it was a way to contribute to the world. So, so that's what kind of kept me there.

Chris: [00:05:38] Would would you mind kind of talking, you know, I'm familiar with the Patriot missiles, but say maybe someone who's listening that's 20, you know, they didn't, they weren't watching movies with you and I back in the nineties could you talk about Patriot missiles, kind of what they do, how they, you know, how they work in so much as you can, that, you know, you're, you're allowed to talk about.

Michelle Murray: [00:05:56] So kind of with, with, I can tell you it's not classified. So I think most people understand the concept of a missile you're, you're kind of blowing things up a little differently from a bomb, you know, you're kind of blowing things up and it can, it can go much further than a bomb. It has a kill radius that's you know, pretty wide compared to a bomb, a bomb might destroy your neighborhood where a Patriot missile might destroy your town or your state. Kind of put it in perspective like that. But one of, one of the things that I think is pretty cool, I guess we altered the way that we use the Patriot missile system totally by accident.

You know, it was designed to be a missile, like let's shoot it at that thing and kill it. But we started doing these things called proximity kills. We found out in Desert Storm that, Hey, if it just gets close enough to it, we can detonate it without touching it. We can detonate it up in the air and it, you know, it it'll kill it.

And so that's, the more common use of the Patriot missile system is to kind of intercept like a Scud missile or something like that before, you know, while it's up in the air before it reaches someplace and does a lot more damage. So that's the really cool thing about the Patriot missile system.

Chris: [00:07:06] In the nineties, obviously the Scuds were such a problem, you know, 30 years ago now in the Gulf War, Saddam was shooting Scuds left, right, and center. So when you come back in the army in the nineties was, was that kind of considered like a primary mission is like, if we end up having to go back to the middle East or Iraq in particular, like we're going to train as the, kind of like an anti-Scud mission.

Was that like your primary mission?

Michelle Murray: [00:07:30] And with that job, we like, like, that's where we live back then. You could only go to Fort Bliss, Texas on it stateside. You could only go to Fort Bliss, Texas, because there's lots of desert and it simulates where the Middle East and then you were deployed a lot. So you were either at Fort Bliss or you were deployed somewhere in the Middle East.

Because that was our mission. And this much isn't classified either a lot of times the Patriot system, defends particular assets. Like if there's, let's say a palace, you know, you, you put, you might station one to the East, one to the West and there's, something's coming in. You know, you've got that, that crossover, or you may have something on, on all four sides.

So often, you know, there were assets that we defended like that in the Middle East. And a lot of people don't know this part. And I like to educate people on this part, you know, those tiny countries over there in the middle East, they don't have standing armies or they have teeny tiny armies and they can't really defend themselves.

So they pay our government to protect them, you know? So, so we come over there and we protect their countries and that's one of the reasons why you know, we were, we've been there so long and so frequently, and, and that kind of thing. And we've even trained some of the countries like Saudi Arabians, the Kuwaitis, we've trained them to establish their own air defense systems, a little different from ours.

Not, you know, not as proficient as ours necessarily, but we've trained them through the years to stand up their own systems.

Chris: [00:09:02] And it makes sense when I think about it. Um, I think it was end of 2019, maybe there was a, a drone attack from Yemen on a Saudi Arabian oil refinery. And you start thinking all these oil countries Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar they have such delicate oil drilling equipment, you know, refining equipment.

Of course they, you know, a missile strike would just be catastrophic to the whole country, you know, environmentally, fiscally, economically. So. Yeah, that makes makes a lot of sense. Did you, did you ever go to any of those countries to train people?

Michelle Murray: [00:09:35] All of those countries!

Chris: [00:09:37] Yeah. How's that work?

Michelle Murray: [00:09:38] I have some very interesting stories because, cause I'm a girl. So, so things are different for women. They're very, very different. You know, I've, I've been there as a soldier who just participated with somebody else led the training and I've been the one in charge and had the Saudi General say, I'm not working with a woman. I won't deal with a woman. You know, I have a picture where basically this general, just goes to some kind of modified parade rest, a Saudi, because he didn't want to take, he didn't, he didn't want me in the photo next to him. And he was very, very upset and but then he said, okay, okay.

Okay. We will take the photo. But then he just made sure to be like, kind of off to the side at this modified parade rest. And that like resonated with me, you know, like a lot. And that was more than 15 years ago, but that the attitudes are very different. Like when OIF I started, you know, we, we got split up into a whole lot of different places and, and, and my boss went North before I did.

So I was in charge and so, of course, so I was there with some of the Saudis at one point. Oh my goodness. It was, it was so interesting because they absolutely did not, weren't going to take any direction from a woman. Absolutely unheard of. Would just call off the whole deal and do nothing before they dealt with a woman.

And I remember at one point it was just to me, so ridiculous. I wanted to like go to the embassy, go to the command. I just wanted to tell the whole world, like can this stop? Like this. How are we going to function like this? But at that time, you know, it was myself and a female captain. And then there were two other female E-7s at the time in our unit.

And basically it boiled down to, there's not so many of us, there's a whole lot of them and we got disagreements but don't make an international scene about it, but I mean, they heard us, they absolutely, they, I, my, my leadership listened to me. Okay. They, you know, they listened to us, you know, over at the, at the embassy they listened, but that's just kind of like the way it is over there.

And I remember like that last time when I, when Operation Iraqi Freedom started, we went through customs and it was almost like they went out of their way to attempt to embarrass female troops. But like, I don't embarrass easy. Like there's. Jokes on you. I'm not going to embarrass, but I remember like the guys went through and they just kind of peeked into their duffel bags and pass along peeked into their rucksacks and passed it along.

But for each of us females, I remember they took the time to dump everything out and then they would like, hold up our underwear and they were passing it around. And I had a Bible with me. And I had a, like a geography book on the country of Kuwait. And then I had like a, I guess you would call it like a study Bible, but it was the Koran because I that's where I was going.

So I wanted to understand it. They seized all of my items, all of my items. They seized them, absolutely took them. And my leadership helped me go through the process to get it back. But when we got it back, it was a box of,  it was just, pieces. Like, I don't, I don't even know how you cut books up like that, but it was just pieces, lots of paper, lots of just pieces.

And, you know, I filed a claim with the government and the government bought me a new Bible and we're good, but you know, that's just one of many stories. Sergeant first-class Sharon Wallace, if she's out there anywhere, listening to your show. I remember we had a we had a soldier that got killed in an accident.

And so we were in charge. We were in charge and we had to go get the soldier. And the female captain came with us because we were going to war like people weren't available. And so we went, but that's when we really appreciated the fact that women were not allowed to drive there. We had to go out to the airport and we got the ugliest.

Like, it was just terrible people. Like spat toward us and gave us ugly, nasty looks. And we're like, well, what's the matter? And I remember the captain that was with this. She said, well, there's a Pizza Hut. Let's just go over there, get some drinks, stay out of the way. Okay. Until so-and-so arrives, they wouldn't service figure out what was going on.

And ultimately what it was like, we were perceived as like some kind of street walking women because we marched into the front door of the restaurant. We were supposed to go around to the back. And ask to be served because unless your man is there with you and man can be your brother, your husband, whatever.

Some, some gentlemen needs to be with you. You're not supposed to just pop into the front door. And so that kind of resonated with me in the opening days of the war. I was like, are you serious? I'm like, why are we protecting them? And they treat us like this. But you know, it's made cinema, I'm a writer now.

So that's made some interesting material for books and things that I write, but. You know, overall, I, you know, I have to say I had excellent leadership. I really did. I had excellent, excellent, excellent leadership. Who definitely, we were heard, we weren't ignored. Our voices were heard. They didn't like the wrongs that happened either, but I mean, it's a game of politics at that level, so there wasn't a whole lot, anybody could have done.

But yeah, lots of, lots of interesting tales.

Chris: [00:15:05] I'm sure. That's nice that you can take that and put a positive spin on it, you know, include it in your writing. It, it sounds, what I'm hearing is that uh, the command structure of the army or the leadership is, has come a long way since 1988, when you first joined in, is that, is that right?

  Michelle Murray: [00:15:22] Absolutely. And, you know, I would say it's just the evolution of society. So when I first came in and the younger people, they're going to say, wow, when I first came in, we still had like certain posts were females went to basic training, certain places where the males went to basic training.

And I remember like when, when I went home after getting hurt, when I came back, they said, well, you know what? They're looking to integrate. The ER, you know, the basic training they're looking to put the men and women together. And I remember I said, Oh no, what? You can't put the women with the men that scandalous. And so when, when I came back, I only, I didn't have to do all the basic training over, but they did make me come for the last two weeks.

I had to do like the bivouac part. And I think now if you're out more than a certain amount of time, you got to do the whole thing. But back then, I just had to do the last two weeks. And it, like, for me, it wasn't the guys, I was the one that was like, I can't believe we're here with these guys. How dare they have us like this?

What is happening? You know, and so it's, it's funny now, but it was interesting that, you know, really it was the girls. We were the ones that were kind of like, I can't believe we're all mixed up what's happening. And you know, now, but yeah, absolutely things have evolved quite a bit. And you know, women are taking on much different roles than they would have 30, 40, 50 years ago.

Even my job Patriot missile was a combat arms job and. You know, I was not the first but I was one of the first women into that arena. Maybe. I'm going to say like seven or eight years before me, I can't remember the exact date, but they had really just started letting women come into that MOS. And I remember my first assignment, I had this first Sergeant who was from Vietnam and he'd never, he'd heard a women in the army.

He'd never seen a woman in the army. And I know I was a thorn in his side every day. Like my first formation I had lipstick on and he lost his mind, you know, just like little things, but, and he was always really gruff, but. He was also very kind. And he, he, he mentored me on the backside, but when we were in front of people, he was that gruff gruff person.

But you know, away from the whole formation, you know, he always made sure I was straight and Hey, you know what you should think about going to this school or that school take this opportunity. And you know, and I can truthfully say that throughout my career. I never had anybody discriminate against me because I was female.

Now. I, I. Like I said, and basically I may have discriminated said, well, why do I have to be here with all the guys? But I never had them. And I, you know, I've, I've heard stories and I don't take away from women that's happened to you, but that never happened to me. I've always, always was blessed with excellent leadership.

You know, in the spots that mattered. There's some onesy twosies that probably not, but You know, and who, who blessed me with lots of wonderful opportunities. I mean, I got to do all sorts of stuff. I got to go test out the stinger missile system. When they were thinking about putting women there. I got to jump with the Golden Knights.

I got to do like so many cool assignments, any, I mean, if you think about it, even visiting a place called Saudi Arabia, like how many people get to do that? Like that's abstract to most human beings. They, they don't even, you know, so but yeah, no, I had a wonderful time in, in for the most part. I mean, there's ugly days.

Nobody wants to be in the field for 30 days and all that kind of stuff. But I mean, overall I enjoyed my time.

Chris: [00:18:49] Yeah, that's great to hear.    The way I always describe it to people. You know, the average day in the military is not always great. You're cleaning, you're out training the field, you're getting yelled at, you know, think things, roll downhill onto you. But when a great day in the military is like the best job you could ever have and just really, you know, shooting missiles for a living. That's, it's pretty, pretty cool.

Michelle Murray: [00:19:10] exactly. And I always say, you know, that's true. And like when some, I got to make a, after I jumped with the Golden Knights, I got to make a commercial for the recruiting command. And that was one of the things in my commercial that they put was like, how cool is it that you get paid to just go have fun today, or to go do something that somebody else can't do or to push your limits.

And that's. That's really true. And I, you know, and I have to say, I think that's why a lot of times when we exit the military, that's why civilian life sometimes maybe a little harder to adapt to because it doesn't necessarily always push us to our limits. And we're used to looking for the challenge and seeking that challenge and doing more and more and more.

And then, you know, the civilian world is not always set up like that. So it makes it a little difficult sometimes. So when you first get out yeah. When you first get out.

Chris: [00:19:59] I certainly hear that. Would you mind talking to me a little bit about kind of what the army was like, say like post September 11th and kind of in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, you know, how, what was kind of going on? Cause like Patriot missile systems, you know, your is more conventional war, it's more of a defensive or like a large scale offensive unit.

So kind of like how, how are things. Yeah. How kind of, what, what was your life like in that, you know, 2001 to late 2002 period.

Michelle Murray: [00:20:28] So, so the day, September 11th, 2001, I was actually clearing from Germany, headed back to the States. And so it was evening time for us.  And I remember we just kept waiting and waiting and, you know, the first Sergeant was pacing and the commander was pacing, we were like, w what's going on?

And nobody would, nobody knew, nobody would say, and I was like, Oh, Come on for the love of God. I got a little baby at home. What's happening. Let's go. And finally they came out and the first thing they did was tell us that we weren't going to go home for the day that everybody was restricted to the day room.

And it was kind of like, excuse me, what what's going on? And everybody would have one hour to return home, get all their gear, bring all their stuff. And we're like, but what's happening. And then finally, maybe an hour later, that's when they disclose America's been attacked. You know, this is what's happened.

And I remember everybody was kind of like, cause we had this first Sergeant, it was just like a practical joker. And we said, first Sergeant, no way, like what's really going on. And he said, no, seriously, America's been attacked. And it just, I remember it just like, we were all in shock, like how dare somebody attacked us?

Like that's not supposed to happen, who had enough audacity to do that. And and I just, it was just really quiet. It just really somber, like kind of mood. Cause we like, literally from, from E-1, you know, to captain, I think everybody was kind of in shock and then it was like, okay, so what's that mean for us?

And, and then, and for me I was like, okay, cause I'm in the middle of clearing and now you're telling me I can't go home and all my furniture is gone. So, so, and I'm supposed to go move into this hotel tomorrow. So what is going on? And. Thankfully, my father-in-law was there. He was visiting. And so he was there with, with my son who was an infant.

I had just had him, he, so he was there. So I didn't have to worry so much that cause both my husband and I got restricted right away. And they said, well, we don't know. You may go to Afghanistan or you might wind up somewhere in Saudi Arabia or something. And we were like, but why? Because we still didn't know because they automatically cut off AFN, like the American channels.

And the only thing we had access to was the German channels, but they didn't, they didn't turn it on. So we still didn't really know at that point what was happening and it wasn't until maybe three days in, when we really knew no, it was the second day. The second day is when we really found out details.

It know, perhaps has Bin Ladin behind it, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and on and on and on. And so, that made a lot of us angry because a lot of us, you know, you have to think just a couple of years earlier, just seven, eight years earlier, he hit, he had attacked previously. And most of us recall that and we're like, why didn't they do something with him then? They should have went after him. They shouldn't have left it alone. And so then like the mood kind of changed. It was like, let's do this, let's go get this guy. Let's get him out of our hair. He's a nuisance like that kind of became the mood. And so then it was like, everybody's kind of impatient, like, okay, what's happening, what's happening, what's happening.

And so my unit actually. Did head toward Afghanistan for just, just for a little bit at that time, just for a very little bit, but not to do our typical Patriot stuff. Not, not for that. And fortunately though, for me, I remember my our battalion CSM came up to me and he says, Hey, you're S you were supposed to leave here.

And I said, yeah, I know. So what happens? One of us has to send the kids home or something like, I don't know what's happening. And he said, you got 24 hours. If you can clear and get out of here, you and your husband can go back stateside. And so we cleared that whole installation in 24 hours and went stateside just because for us, it was a matter of, you know, when somebody tells you, you might be going to war, you want to put your family in the best position.

And it, you know, it, it would be better to have my kid in America where there's lots of people who can help God forbid if something were to happen to us. You know? So for us, that was a better move. So we did. We went backstage side and then of course we get stateside and, and only the. The units that were already forward, started moving into different places.

They didn't send anybody right away from most state side installations like Bragg sent some people, some other people did. But when we got to our unit and we went to Fort Bliss, when we got to our unit, they were prepping. You know, they, they weren't as hyped as us. And then they were like, Oh my God, you were in Germany.

Tell us about it. And then we're like, but you were in America. Tell us about it. What happened? So when, you know, there was a lot of, for us, there was a lot of catching up because we, we didn't see the news anymore while we were in Germany. It was like, it was cut off from us. We were restricted from it. So it wasn't till we got back stateside.

And then we're like, what? Oh my gosh. But it was kind of like the same attitude, like  everybody in the military was kind of like, let's go get these people. Let's get them out of our hair. Let's do this. You know, I've trained my whole life to do my job. Let me go do my job. And, you know, eventually we went, I was, when we were in a unit that was one of the first ones over, we actually went over in June of 2002 is when our unit went, but they just said, you know what?

For now? It's it's just, the deployment is just probably peacekeeping. Don't worry. It's going to get better. And then, you know, things kind of decompressed a little bit, so, but, and we were supposed to go home at Christmas time. About two weeks before Christmas and the installation commander, the commanding general came over to where we were deployed and we were in I was actually in Kuwait at that time.

We were in Kuwait and. You know, he gathered everybody. So we're thinking, okay, you know, it's just typical VIP speech like that whole speech, but he says, I need to tell everybody you're not going. We don't know when you're going to go home. And just like, I dunno, it's just like this black cloud came over everybody because that's when things became real, that were forward deployed.

We, we don't ever that's exactly what he said. He says, we don't know when you're going home or if you're ever going home, that's exactly what he said. And then he said, commanders, leadership, I want you to give these people time to call home. They need to let their loved ones know before I announced it officially.

And so I was a brand new platoon Sergeant. A brand new platoon Sergeant. And I remember just looking back at it, my troops in their faces and some of them just babies, just babies, you know, and I, I had my nephew and he was 16. And I remember looking back at some of them and I was like, Oh my God. You're like his age. And, and just like saying a little prayer, I'm like, well, If we do go to war, like I got to bring you guys home, I got to bring you home. And I just, I me personally remember thinking that and and, and it, it was kind of somber for a little bit, but then people were like, okay, let's just do this so we can go home.

You know? And, and that was the atmosphere. Everybody just wanted to like, do this. And So it was still a little bit, that was Christmas time. Cause we didn't actually go to war until March. And so the, the unit I was in was actually the higher headquarters for, you know, everybody knows Jessica Lynch and, and the 507 maintenance company.

Like we, they were one of our subordinate units. So when it kicked off in March, I remember that like right before the war kicks off. So you have to remember, so for the young people watching this, we didn't have cell phones. We didn't have, you know, internet wasn't internet was something you did at work and we didn't call it that, you know, it w it was still called, you know, like the worldwide web or like different things.

People called it, but it was something you did at work. You didn't have it at home. You know, chats and all that kind of thing. They weren't popularized yet only, you know, it was very rare. If you ran into somebody who had the internet kind of thing, people, we still use landlines to make all of our phone calls.

And I remember being in a platoon Sergeant office and we have these, these field computers. So I had an AMD dues. If anybody doesn't know what that is, it's just a field computer. Those kids that play video games and you have like the portable case to carry him in, to think of it like that. That's what it is.

That's exactly what it is. Only it was a lot bigger and heavier because you know, we're talking 20 years ago back then. But so I remember setting up my field computer and monitoring some of my messages and I get this thing. This, this message that says the ground war will begin at zero, zero hours, 19 March.

That a lot of that. And I read it like 172 times because I said, really, this is how you're going to notify me that we're going to war. But you know, as the platoon Sergeant, yes, that is how many of us got the word. And there was a meeting. And interestingly at that point, because our S-2 had gone forward.

Already he'd already gone North. I had the task of doing the daily BUB, the update brief to everybody. So I was like, well, I'm the one that gives a brief, why am I finding this out this way? But, so I remember that's when it became super real, that was on the 17th of March. And, you know, as. I was lucky enough to still serve with some people who actually were around during the Vietnam era.

And definitely people, you know, from the first Gulf war. So I was blessed to have a lot of experience around me versus inexperienced because some units did have that, but I was blessed to be kind of experienced heavy. And I remember just me personally, cause I was a brand new, I was a brand new platoon sergeant.

Like literally I got promoted  16 days before we went to combat. And so the guy that I had taken over for, I was like, okay, I need some mentorship here. Like we need to talk. And, you know, we just kind of all talked and prayed and, you know, they talked about their experiences and, and I remember each of us. Because we were pretty tight as platoon sergeants usually are, but I remember each of us gave the other platoon Sergeant something, you know, like one of the platoon sergeants gave me a dime. Like if you get scared, pull out that dime and I got you. You know, each of us did that for the other to remember that they weren't alone.

And it might sound silly because you know, we're growing people, but platoon sergeants, get nervous, commanders, get nervous, like, you know, you do, but it's just a matter of, you still have to operate . You still have to do your job. So, and I just remember for two whole days, I just, I prayed, I prayed. I prayed because I wanted everybody to come home.

I w I wanted everybody to come home. You know, it's one thing you go from being a squad leader where you have a handful of people's lives in your hand. Now, all of a sudden I got 56 Joes that I'm, you know, directly responsible. I need to make sure that you all get back home to your families. And then there was this, there was a lot of unknowns.

I was like, I still don't know. Tell me some more about this Bin Ladin guy. And I remember I was just doing lots and lots of research cause I was like, I need to know what is happening. And then on. So that was the 18th. No, that was the 17th. So on the 18th they said, okay, we're going to have this brief come to it.

That's when they told us we're taking Patriot into Iraq. And as soon as they said that, I was like, excuse me? Like, do you know how much do you know how much those missiles weigh? There's sand out there, sir? What are you talking about? How are we going to do that? I was like, sir, that's one of those things that looks good on paper. Yeah. That makes no logical sense. And they were like, yeah, we're going to do it. And at that time we So we ha we had formed a combined task force that day. So the other commander and Sergeant major, they're just like, Oh, let's do this. I mean, just, just hype, just super hype. And I'm like, they're crazy.

They clearly, they're not Patriot people they don't understand is what we, you know, and we're just all thinking what is wrong with you? People, we can't do it because Patriots are very heavy, very, very, very heavy. You know, you're looking at about 44,000 pounds. They'll say those jokers don't move fast on those trucks.

Normally Patriot either w we'll go in advance and set up. Before everything starts or we'll hang back and wait until, until there's like a break in the action. And then we come and set up, but we were going to be first, first in the shoot is what we were told. And we did it. There's a bit general Tommy Franks wrote a book about it, and it's called On Point in any even wrote a sequel on On Point 2 and pretty much kind of what happened if you think of it like this is.

Cause you have your air force and you've got the bombers and all that kind of stuff. And this is why Shock and Awe. And if any young people don't know what that is, it's like this brilliant light show that you should go study. But so you've got us and then all these other vehicles that are a little more slow moving right up the roads of the roads.

And so as the air force is dropping bombs you got the Marines who are doing their cool stuff. It was like a three layer kind of thing. And it was really super cool. So we were protecting the Marines, but then the air force was taking care of us with the bombs. And so it's like, everybody's. Just moving and shooting and moving and shooting and moving and shooting.

And it was interesting because I remember the Iraqi news was reporting, the Americans are not here, stay in your homes. They're not here. It is false news. They are not here. And I just remember thinking, wow, these people look out, their windows, Americans are here people, like we're here. We're not going anywhere.

You know, and so that's like the opening days of the war, but so I only like. You know, I moved for just a little bit, but then, so I was in Kuwait. I moved forward for a little bit, but then I wound up coming back to Saudi Arabia with one of the defended assets that, that was there. And so it was kind of like everybody was all over the place.

Like, like really everybody was moving and moving and moving, like nobody was stationary. But there's so many, you know, so many lessons learned and I, and I. I always try to pay honor. When I talk about this stuff to the 507th, because I would tell you the 507th was some of the bravest. Because see you and I, we know how this stuff works, right? Well, you, and I know how this works. We know who gets ammo. We know who has their weapons, but like the general public didn't know that. And so, you know, a huge lessons learned huge lesson learned from the 507th, because when we came in country, remember how I said the customs was taken our stuff. They had taken our ammo. Customs took our ammo. And so what happened there was like this long drawn out process and we had to use what was there and general Tommy Franks. He talks about that in his book a little bit. So we quickly had this much ammo as opposed to this much ammo, right. And some decisions had to be made and the decision only E-6 and above gets ammunition. Only E-6 and above. So when people say, well, how did they get taken? And this and that? Well, who was an E-6, that was with them? You had some E-5s with them. The part of that convoy they got taken was led by an E-5 led by an E-5. He didn't have ammo. I was there. I know he didn't have ammo because that wasn't a distribution plan.

Those privates, they didn't have ammo. Those specialists, all they had was a weapon with empty magazines in it. Right. So when people started shooting at them, what can you, what can, what can you really do? What can you do? You know? And I mean, so there were lots and lots of lessons learned, but I will tell you they're the real heroes because they moved forward knowing the worst could happened. Knowing they weren't prepared, but they moved forward anyway. So my hats off to all of them, every single one of them, not just the ones that died or got injured, but to everybody in that, in that unit, because I remember this is another, so if we backtrack back to the 17th before the war started, when we got our brief, they said, we're not going to tell the soldiers that we're going to war.

We're not going to tell them that we're going into Iraq. And I remember I raised my hand. They were like, yes. And yes, I said, well, don't you think they're going to notice like when the signs change, because they, they do change, we have blue signs in Saudi, they go to green in Kuwait, and co you know, they change. And they said, well, we'll just deal with that.

And I remember thinking that is so stupid. Like, we need to be telling these people what's going on so they can prepare. So you also have to think about that. They didn't actually know, you know, they're told, follow Route Blue, do this, do that. But nobody actually briefed them. You're going to war. You're going up into hostile to it.

Like nobody actually said that they knew it wasn't you know, they knew it wasn't just training. They knew it was something bigger than that, but the soldiers weren't told and then you throw in that they didn't have ammo. So that was one of many, many lessons, you know, and I think. Sending our, our ammunition on a ship and allowing customs to seize it.

That's obviously another lesson learned lots of lessons I learned, you know, that will stay with you throughout your career, as far as preparation and planning.

Chris: [00:37:47] Man. I, I didn't know that about the ammo. I mean, yeah. Everybody remembers Jessica Lynch being captured and you know, the rescue mission to save her. But wow. I had no idea that that's what had happened. That's yeah. Good on them. That's incredibly brave to keep marching forward like

Michelle Murray: [00:38:06] Yeah. I definitely say God bless those heroes in that unit because you know, and that's a maintenance company, so they were still moving forward. Keeping all of us good to go, keeping our vehicles, fueled, keeping our vehicles in, in repair and No. Yeah. They're, they're absolutely the heroes. And I, and I just, I remember that convoy before we went, I went out with my first Sergeant and we were inspecting that convoy before we went and I can, like, I can see the vehicles in my head right now.

Like it was yesterday. I had never in my life. Seeing so many military vehicles, but we had over 600 vehicles in our convoy. So that was another lesson learned. It was another lesson learned because, you know, and I mean, you know how this stuff works. So that was a huge lesson learned that came out of that too, about having, you know, how the convoys are set up and sleep management and all that could, you know, cause some, some units I was in a unit that, know, Did good sleep hygiene.

We forced sleep and did that kind of thing. Some units didn't do that. So people were tired. You know, we had people, we had a supply Sergeant, God bless her heart   because, so it was weird at that time you either had like these people who had seen lots of combat been to Vietnam, been to the original Gulf war, or you had people that didn't see anything and didn't think they were, and you know, it's all rainbows and ice cream. And so we had the supply Sergeant who had never seen that thought it was, and, and God love her. She was a good person, but on the 17th, when I knew we were going to war because her platoon Sergeant had already gone forward. So I was covering down on the headquarters platoon as well.

And I, when I asked her, I said, I need the inventory sheet. I need to know how many MREs this that and the other thing. And when I looked at it, I said, no, We should have more work. I was sitting in a meeting last month when you were told to order blah, blah, blah. And she said, yeah, we don't have any room to store that. But I had just been told, I can't tell these soldiers that we're going to combat.

Right. And I was like, Oh my God, what do we do? And so I remember like I called her actual S-4 actual, and so I had to tell him, and there really wasn't anything, you know, what can you do? And we're going to combat in two days and we're already in country. And so that was a huge. Concern. Fortunately for me, thank God people.

Sometimes people make fun of me because I used to always tell my platoon, like you always keep an extra gas can you always have two extra MREs on my vehicle? I want two boxes of MREs at all times, Aye Sergeant Murray blah, blah. But you know what? That kind of stuff saved us a little bit in his opening days of the war, because it was, it was about maybe two and a half weeks before they could get proper stuff.

So, you know, so that concerned me a lot that we had soldiers, you know, leadership, everybody moving into combat with not enough water, not enough food. So like that was a lesson learned. That was a huge lesson learned and, and, you know, believe me that. Person that was in supply. I know she learned from that immediately, and I know she will probably regret that to the day she died.

So I'm not even beating her up about that anymore because I know for a fact she has remorse over it, but I mean, there were just a lot of lessons learned, a lot of lessons learned, but the energy in the air was always let's do this. I don't care if it was the Marines that even the air force, everybody gives the air force a hard time, but all of us, we were like, let's do this, let's get these people, you know, Taken care of, so we can go home, you know, let's knock out this threat to America so we can go home.

And so I will tell you, like, we all kind of had that, that adrenaline rush about doing our jobs, you know, and that's something that like, I briefed my soldiers when they move forward. I'm like, you know what, every time you get nervous, cause you're going to get nervous. You know, you T you remind yourself that, you know, you are in the best army in the world, you are highly trained, you are highly skilled.

And I mean, like, as a leader, that's something that I just kept pumping into my soldiers because I know they're going to get scared, but I just want them to remember. You're very skilled at what you do and you'll be fine. You're very skilled at what you do and you'll be fine. You know, and it was demoralizing of course, when the 507th was captured, because first of all, they were friends.

These weren't just abstract people. You know, first Sergeant Dowdy who got killed. He was my instructor when I went to PLDC, which is a leadership course for those not in the army. You know, and, and we got to friends afterward, the warrant officer was somebody that I knew well, you know, and lots of, lots of friends.

And so it was quite demoralizing when, we heard the news that they were captured. And then when you hear that people have been killed. You know, that was, that was terrible. That was, that was, that was horrible, but it inspired us all. I, I think I speak for everybody when I say it inspired us all to go do our job, to go do our job, because then it was already personal when America was targeted.

But then it's like, it, it was internalized somewhat when it, when it was our friends. You know, it was like, how dare you? Like you just hit our house. And and so yeah, everybody of, kind of had that. And even though we never, like, it was just, we were held indefinitely. And then finally we got the news a year later.

Okay. Your unit can go home. But at the end of the day, I don't think any of us minded that I think we were all, honored in a way to be able to go do our job and take care of things

Chris: [00:43:59] yeah, absolutely.

Michelle Murray: [00:44:01] Yeah, that's ultimately what we're here for.

 There's so many thousands upon thousands upon thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. That really each built a piece of history. If you think about it, what you did in the military is historical because you contributed to some mission or multiple missions that are historical.

They changed the course of history. They shaped how America is viewed in the world and, and you know, things that your children, your grandchildren, your great, great, great, great, great grandchildren will be able to do. And I don't think that everybody fully appreciates that, but. You know, I do. And, and, and I absolutely salute every person who's ever come in the military and given so much of themselves because you, again, you and I both know you give a lot of yourself, you give up a lot, you sacrifice a lot.

Whether it's your time, your marriage, you, you know, whatever it is, family, free time, whatever it is, there's, you know, There's lots of sacrifices, but we all make choices over what's important to us. And so thank God for the men and women in the military who decided America was important. You know, thank

Chris: [00:45:15] Yeah,

Michelle Murray: [00:45:15] that. I, and I'm and I mean that, yeah, I mean, I thank God for the people who decided America was important.

Chris: [00:45:22] Do you ever um, do you talk to your son about the Wars and you know, what it was like to, you know, leave a baby at home as you head off to fight overseas? 

Michelle Murray: [00:45:32] Yeah. It's even made me cry before, as I, as he gets older, he's 20 now, but as he gets older, I began to talk to him,  so at one point, like I was a brigade Agilent and like I was working crazy hours and a lot of times my son would come with me.

Right. And it'd be like, be quiet. Cause mommy's at work. You can't give me a trouble. You gotta be well behaved kind of thing. And so he could see, he could get eyes on. So. Some things he was there or he would hear the stories firsthand, you know, and I know when he was little, he'd always kind of do this kind of lean in and just listen.

Right. And, and I asked him one time, does this for you? And he was like, no, it's interesting. And I was kind of feel sad for kids whose parents don't talk to them about that stuff. And so, you know, when my kid was little, I used to take him to the motor pool. You know, we would have days where family could come.

To the motor pool, the installation would have days, our unit would have this and I'd always make it a point to bring him, or as he got in school, I'd bring his whole class and let them crawl around on a Patriot missile launcher, like play with it. This is the radar, you know, what is it doing? So he probably has a little, you know, Probably many military kids have his experience, but definitely lots of kids in America have never experienced that sort of thing.

And especially as he got older, I had made it a point. To make sure he understands those trade-offs and why they were made like, okay, now mom can spend lots of time with you because she did this when she was younger over here, you know, now we didn't have to worry about as much college money because we did this, this thing over here for you.

Like, you know, I think it's important for parents to talk to their kids and explain to them what they do do let them see your job, you know, let them know you get scared. Sometimes let them know, you know, you're a human, I think that's very important because oftentimes military parents. The world might hold us up as a hero, but sometimes too, our kids where we're just that absent parent and they don't even know us very well.

They can't figure out why the world thinks so much of us. All they know is, you know, we missed dinner 17 nights out of 20. So I think it's important that we really talk to our kids. And and, and that facilitates us doing our job when they know what we're doing. And they are well behaved and they do their homework and they do the right thing because that does help us do our job.

So I think it's very important that, that we talk to our kids about that kind of stuff.

Chris: [00:47:57] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.  I'm Having every guest talk about an organization that they support that works with veterans does anything kind of jump up to your mind that you would like to promote it? 

Michelle Murray: [00:48:08] Absolutely. And I'm sorry. Hear me out. Cause this might sound strange at first, but the veterans business association, that's an organization I actually started working with when I was still active duty. They kind of like recruited me. I don't somehow I don't even know how they got my information, but they kind of recruited me.

But let me tell you why I love this organization. So obviously as the name implies, it helps veteran business owners from, you know, from idea to inception, right? Any kind of resource you need business plan, marketing plan. You need us to point you in the direction of finances. They've got that. But on the flip side, one of the biggest components of that organization is being a responsible business owner by serving your fellow veterans. And so. Homelessness is one of the issues that we address as is not just hunger, like people who are starving, but people who are underfed, maybe you ate today, but you only eat one time a day because you know, you're living on your disability pension. And so, so we provide resources, but this organization is just so vested, not only in the community where we all live.

But in the world, like any place where there's a veteran, a veteran can reach out to us from the moon. And if we have the resources we're going to help. And I love that because, you know, sometimes they say, Oh, we only service veterans in this zip code or this area where we're not like that. And, you know, I just, I love that because it's a group of very humble servant leaders who truly care for their fellow veterans.

And I know veterans that come in contact with us, typically feel very free to share and they know like, Hey, these are my people. I know if something's going on at two o'clock in the morning, I can call them and they're going to be there. So I really love that organization. And it's mostly member funded.

Every once in a while they'll get a grant. We don't have a grant writer is part of the issue, but it's, it's mostly member funded, which amazes me even more, the caliber of things they're able to do within the community. I love it that the organization makes sure that there's somebody, a veteran on every single County or city board, anything that impacts veterans, they make sure that there's a veteran there and we actually got a veterans court.

Because of this organization, the president at the time saw that they were doing veterans courts around the country. They weren't doing it in this part of Texas where I am and he set up everything, he got it together and got a group of volunteers. Got it staffed. And the judge said, okay. And it's been running for about nine years now.

And so I just, I love everything that they do because it's, it's. It, you know, it's not restricted to one area or the other. So the veterans business association, you can Google it. They have a Facebook there's there's a website that's not so active, but the Facebook page is pretty active. And within that group, there's , the current president started something called the veterans business or the veterans resource center.

I'm sorry. And so you can say, you know what, I need a loaf of bread until payday. They've got you, you know, I need a pair of shoes. They've got you. You know, like whatever the need is, we send the alarm, send the alarm and just like being in the barracks, you know, or, or whatever, you know, somebody's got you.

And so I love that because that comradery is there and. And veterans know that it's really somebody who can, who cares. It's not just, you're not going to just be a number. You're not some, some abstract that, Oh, we just wanted a photo op with a most of the time. We don't do photos of anything really, to be honest.

But so I, I absolutely, I love that organization. I give a lot of time. I give my kid gives his time to it. You know, he's in, it, let's face it 20 year olds. Don't often like to do a lot of stuff like that, but. You know, he sees the value even in what they do. And so to me that says a lot that a kid can see value in, in what they do in serving others in that way.

So, so the veterans business association and, and you can join from anywhere, even though it's located in El Paso, Texas, you can absolutely be like a satellite member and You know, members travel and we'll absolutely be agreeable to doing something in your area, but thank you for letting me share about that.

Chris: [00:52:37] Thank you. I appreciate it. And thank you for talking to me.

Michelle Murray: [00:52:40] Oh, thank you.

Chris: [00:52:42] Okay. I want to thank Michelle for talking to me. She's obviously a wonderful storyteller and she's definitely the kind of person who's a pillar in their community. The sound editing was a little better this episode. Once again, thank you for continuing to listen to the show. I really appreciate it. And I hope you're enjoying it and make sure you subscribe to the podcast so that other people can find it more easily. Okay. Thanks for listening. And I'll see you next time.