Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Ian Jennings Abney, January 26, 2010

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Introduction and field of study / childhood

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Partial Transcript: ...like-- like I said before, um, we're here doing um, or-- oral and obviously video interviews, um, for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Segment Synopsis: Ian Abney gives some basic information about himself, including his majors at the University of Kentucky and why he chose them. He also talks briefly about his childhood.

Keywords: Arabic; Arabic language; Islamic studies; Model Laboratory School; Richmond (Ky.); age; college; discipline; farms; government; livestock; political science; student veterans; studying; veterans

Subjects: Lexington (Ky.); United States. Marine Corps.; University of Kentucky.; Veterans--Education (Higher)--Kentucky.

GPS: Richmond (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.74786,-84.29465
00:03:35 - Interest in joining the military / impact of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks

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Partial Transcript: What made you--

Segment Synopsis: Abney shares how he had an interest in joining the military from an early age. He talks about the impact that the September 11th terrorist attacks had on him and gives some of his reasons for wanting to enlist.

Keywords: 9/11; Army rangers; GI Joe; Richmond (Ky.); duty; enlisting; enlistment; high school; infantry; memories; military; military service; recruiters; sense of duty

Subjects: Afghanistan.; Iraq.; September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.; United States. Army.; United States. Marine Corps.

00:07:34 - Family members in the military / parents' reaction to joining

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Partial Transcript: Did, um, did-- are you the first generation from your family to go into the military?

Segment Synopsis: Abney talks about family members who have been in the military. These include his two grandfathers and his younger brother, who recently (at the time of the interview) had joined. He also talks about his parents' feelings on both of their sons being in the military.

Keywords: Korean War; MOS; Parris Island (S.C.); advice; boot camp; brothers; family; grandfathers; military occupation specialty; military service; parents; proving oneself; safety

Subjects: World War, 1939-1945.

00:10:48 - Basic training / swim qualification

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Partial Transcript: Um, well, speaking of that, what was your boot camp experience like?

Segment Synopsis: Abney talks about his experiences in basic training. He discusses his swim qualification in particular and shares what the requirements were to pass it.

Keywords: August; boot camp; bugs; confidence; confidence building; drowning; heat; humidity; insects; media portrayals; movies; pressure points; recruits; rescues; self-reliance; swim qualification; swimming; teams; techniques

Subjects: Basic training (Military education); United States. Marine Corps.

00:16:35 - Military occupation specialty as a machine gunner

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Partial Transcript: ...After boot camp, um, you went on to, uh, infantry training. Uh, can you explain to us, uh, what your occupation was?

Segment Synopsis: Abney tells how he was chosen to be a machine gunner. He talks about his lack of interest in the position and how he differed from other machine gunners.

Keywords: MOS; O3-31; automatic grenade launchers; basic rifling course; demolition; infantry; infantry training; machine gunners; machine guns; military occupation specialty; physical fitness; strength; tactics; tanks; testing; training; weight

Subjects: United States. Marine Corps.

00:20:56 - Decision not to stay in the marine corps

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Partial Transcript: Um, so you had-- you had spoke about, um, how you wanted to stay in for life, um, when you first got in the military.

Segment Synopsis: Abney gives his reasons for not reenlisting in the marine corps, even though he planned to originally. He discusses what he sees as some of the major failings in how the marine corps is operated, and how they have led to the disillusionment of many qualified marines.

Keywords: Camp Geiger (N.C.); Camp Pendleton (Calif.); E4; NCOs; Parris Island (S.C.); administration; boot camp; challenges; corporals; deployment; disillusionment; fire teams; infantry school; leadership; mental strain; motivation; non-commissioned officers; promotions; reenlistment; squadrons; training; winter

Subjects: Basic training (Military education).; United States. Marine Corps.

00:25:45 - Others who have left the marine corps

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Partial Transcript: Do you think in your experience, do you feel that those guys or men or women, um, they get out, they go on to do big things?

Segment Synopsis: Abney talks about some of his peers who left the marine corps, as he did, and what they have accomplished since they left. He shares the advice he would give to someone considering reenlistment and briefly touches on what he did after he left.

Keywords: "brain drain"; civilians; deployment; education; ex-marines; experience; marines; peers; stress; veterans

Subjects: United States. Marine Corps.

00:30:57 - Abney's unit / learning about deployment

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Partial Transcript: When you found out, the first time, that your unit was being deployed-- first off...

Segment Synopsis: Abney describes his unit and what it specialized in. He also discusses learning that he would be deployed, though he doesn't remember the event specifically.

Keywords: India Company, Third Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division; North Carolina; boat companies; boats; deployment; school of infantry; special operations; specialties; units

Subjects: Afghanistan.; Iraq.

00:34:23 - First mission in Iraq / the base in Al-Karmah

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Partial Transcript: So when you first deployed, um, tell me about your first mission...

Segment Synopsis: Abney describes the first mission that he was a part of while in Iraq. He also describes the American base of operations in Al-Karmah, which was actually used as a schoolhouse for much of the year.

Keywords: 2004; Al-Anbar Province (Iraq); Al-Karmah (Iraq); alertness; bases; heat; heat stroke; insurgents; patrols; schoolhouses; seasons; snipers

Subjects: Insurgency.; Iraq.

GPS: Al-Karmah (Iraq)
Map Coordinates: 33.58333,43.93333
00:38:33 - Interactions with Iraqi civilians

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Partial Transcript: What about the people? Did you feel that you had a, um, a good cultural lens when you went over there?

Segment Synopsis: Abney describes how he and other marines related to the Iraqi civilians they met. He talks about their general unwillingness to be seen helping Americans.

Keywords: Iraqi civilians; Iraqis; aggressiveness; children; civilians; distrust; insurgents

Subjects: Iraq--Armed Forces.; Iraq.

00:40:59 - Media portrayal of combat / being shot at in Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about the first mission that you went on where you were engaged by the enemy.

Segment Synopsis: Abney describes combat in real life and compares it to its portrayal in action movies and other media. He also relates an incident in which he was nearly shot and tells how he was saved only by the sandbags that had been strapped to the makeshift roof of the vehicle he was in.

Keywords: "Route Elizabeth"; IEDs; action movies; armored vehicles; being fired on; bullets; casualties; combat; confusion; enemies; flak jackets; humvees; medevac; media; movies; patrols; roadside bombs; sand; sandbags

Subjects: Fallujah (Iraq).; Fallujah, Battle of, Fallujah, Iraq, 2004.; Improvised explosive devices.; Insurgency.

GPS: Fallujah (Iraq)
Map Coordinates: 33.35000,43.78333
00:45:21 - The Battle of Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: ...I think, you know, whether you're, uh, or in the military or not, I think a lot of people knew the battle of Fallujah.

Segment Synopsis: Abney describes the battle of Fallujah, the preparation for it and his own personal experiences during it. He talks about the disappointment many marines felt at the lack of initial resistance against them.

Keywords: "fighting holes"; Al-Karmah (Iraq); DFP; Kevin Sites; air assaults; civilians; defensive fighting position; disappointment; eagerness; enemies; fighting back; insurgents; leaflets; machine guns; reporters; schoolhouses; shooting; standby; waiting

Subjects: Counterinsurgency--Iraq.; Fallujah (Iraq).; Fallujah, Battle of, Fallujah, Iraq, 2004.; Insurgency.; United States. Marine Corps.

GPS: Fallujah (Iraq)
Map Coordinates: 33.35000,43.78333
00:53:18 - Stories about the Battle of Fallujah: AC/DC, kill cards and stray dogs

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, um, so, you know, what's these stories about AC/DC playing and kill cards...

Segment Synopsis: Abney discusses some of the stories that have been told about the Battle of Fallujah. He especially addresses the stories of the Americans playing AC/DC during the attack, using "kill cards" and shooting the packs of stray dogs that roam the city.

Keywords: "kill cards"; AC/DC; Apocalypse Now (movie); corpses; diseases; dogs; heavy metal music; marines; rock music; sci-ops; stray dogs

Subjects: Fallujah (Iraq).; Fallujah, Battle of, Fallujah, Iraq, 2004.; United States. Marine Corps.

GPS: Fallujah (Iraq)
Map Coordinates: 33.35000,43.78333
00:55:56 - Urban warfare in Fallujah

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Partial Transcript: For the rest of-- the majority of Fallujah was house as house, um, fighting.

Segment Synopsis: Abney talks about the fighting that went on in Fallujah. He discusses some of the tactics that were used in urban warfare and the difficulty of fighting an enemy who had nothing to lose.

Keywords: Caterpillar D9; D-9s; MOUT; bulldozers; combat; desperation; drugs; hand to hand combat; houses; insurgents; military operations in urban terrain; suicidal tactics; surgical tubing; tactics; tanks; tourniquets; urban combat

Subjects: Fallujah (Iraq).; Fallujah, Battle of, Fallujah, Iraq, 2004.

GPS: Fallujah (Iraq)
Map Coordinates: 33.35000,43.78333
01:02:46 - Injured marines in Abney's unit

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Partial Transcript: Did you have any-- tell me about some of the times where you had to go into a house and you had to use your machine gun...

Segment Synopsis: Abney talks about some of the injuries that other marines suffered, both in general and during the Battle of Fallujah. He states that he himself was physically unscathed.

Keywords: combat; driving; fighting; houses; humvees; injuries; machine guns; marines; purple heart; rounds; shooting; shrapnel; squads; urban combat; wounds

Subjects: Improvised explosive devices.; Insurgency.

GPS: Fallujah (Iraq)
Map Coordinates: 33.35000,43.78333
01:06:13 - Marines killed in action

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Partial Transcript: What about, um, can you recall a, uh, a particular time when, one being, you know, the worst time...

Segment Synopsis: Abney discusses casualties within his unit, especially within the Fallujah area. He talks about McCleese, a popular marine who was killed by a grenade.

Keywords: AO; KIA; McCleese; area of operations; death; killed in action; marines

Subjects: Battle casualties.; Grenades.; Insurgency.

01:11:59 - Reaction to casualties / survivor guilt

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Partial Transcript: ...how do you-- how do you feel now about going through some of those...

Segment Synopsis: Abney discusses the reaction that he and other marines had to the death of their comrades. He talks about the idea of survivor guilt and gives his perspective on it.

Keywords: McCleese; faith; friends; guilt; safety; survival; survivor guilt

Subjects: Battle casualties.; Fallujah, Battle of, Fallujah, Iraq, 2004.

GPS: Fallujah (Iraq)
Map Coordinates: 33.35000,43.78333
01:14:20 - Returning to the United States after the first deployment / training in between deployments

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Partial Transcript: So when you all-- you all got back after Fallujah, what was-- what was everybody's mood?

Segment Synopsis: Abney discusses returning home after his first deployment. He also talks about the training that he did at that time and why it could not adequately prepare anyone for actual combat.

Keywords: alcohol; combat; deployment; excitement; experience; family; heat; importance; marines; mood; reflection; training; work

Subjects: Counterinsurgency--Iraq.; United States. Marine Corps.

01:19:28 - Abney's second deployment / improvised explosive devices and humvees

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Partial Transcript: Yeah. Um, so then your next-- your next deployment, um, tell me about, uh...

Segment Synopsis: Abney talks about his second deployment and where he was stationed. He discusses in detail the danger of improvised explosive devices, and tells how little protection the humvees used at that time provided.

Keywords: Al-Anbar Province (Iraq); Haqlaniyah (Iraq); IEDs; Lake Tharthar (Iraq); armor; armor plates; artillery shells; deployments; doors; driving; humvees; learning; metal sheets; shrapnel; teaching; turning

Subjects: Hadithah (Iraq).; Improvised explosive devices.; Insurgency.; United States. Marine Corps.

GPS: Haditha (Iraq)
Map Coordinates: 34.1333,42.38333
01:25:34 - A mission involving a spy for the insurgency

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Partial Transcript: Um, you had talked about your second deployment, it was just, um, more of, training...

Segment Synopsis: Abney talks about a mission that involved apprehending an insurgent, who turned out to be an Iraqi whom he knew well and had spent quite a bit of time with.

Keywords: "Fallujah marines"; EPW; First Persian Gulf War; Iran-Iraq War; QRF; chai tea; enemy prisoner of war; intimidation; missions; patrols; quick reaction force; reputation; spies; training; trust; veterans

Subjects: Counterinsurgency--Iraq.; Fallujah, Battle of, Fallujah, Iraq, 2004.; Hadithah (Iraq).; Insurgency.

GPS: Haditha (Iraq)
Map Coordinates: 34.13333,42.38333
01:29:57 - Third deployment / insurgent snipers

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Partial Transcript: Um, well tell me about experience, um, on your third deployment.

Segment Synopsis: Abney discusses his third tour in Iraq and some of the dangers that he faced, such as snipers.

Keywords: Al-Karmah (Iraq); Chechens; IEDs; KIAs; captures; deployments; drive-by shootings; humvees; killed in action; marines; shootings; snipers; training

Subjects: Improvised explosive devices.; Insurgency.; Iraq War, 2003-2011.; Iraq.

GPS: Al-Karmah (Iraq)
Map Coordinates: 33.58333,43.93333
01:33:04 - A comparison of Abney's three tours / coming home after the third tour

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Partial Transcript: If you were to very briefly talk about, um, the difference between your first tour...

Segment Synopsis: Abney compares his three tours in Iraq and the experience that he gained during them. He also describes the several months he spent after returning to the United States.

Keywords: IEDs; World War II; boredom; casualties; civilian life; civilians; communication; friends; insurgents; leadership; learning; machine gunners; machine guns; readjusting to society; readjustment; training

Subjects: Counterinsurgency--Iraq.; Improvised explosive devices.; Insurgency.; Kentucky.

01:38:41 - The dress code and general attitude of marines / traditional college students

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Partial Transcript: So that was-- you know, that was your life for four years.

Segment Synopsis: Abney shares several ways that marines or former marines can easily be identified in civilian life, and how he avoided these things. He also describes the typical college student and how he differed from them as a student veteran.

Keywords: California; GPA; Southern California; anger; attitude; classmates; college students; dress code; grade point average; grades; lack of experience; learning; marines; obliviousness; priorities; students

Subjects: United States. Marine Corps.; University of Kentucky.; Veterans--Education (Higher)--Kentucky.

01:44:14 - Adjusting to college life

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Partial Transcript: Well, what was the biggest challenging in transitioning into, to-- to college life or-- or purely from Marine to--

Segment Synopsis: Abney describes his transition to being a civilian and a college student, and shares how the University of Kentucky's Military Veterans of America student organization has helped him do so. He discusses the stress that some veterans experience, but states that he hasn't experienced much of it himself.

Keywords: MVA; Military Veterans of America; civilian life; civilians; classes; college degrees; combat; stress; student programs; student veterans; support; transitions; veterans; work

Subjects: Kentucky.; Post-traumatic stress disorder.; University of Kentucky.; Veterans--Education (Higher)--Kentucky.

01:49:32 - Goals and future plans / counterinsurgency in Iraq

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Partial Transcript: Um, are you proud of your service?

Segment Synopsis: Abney describes his academic and career goals related to Islamic studies and political science, and shares how he hopes to use that information within his future career. He gives his opinions on President Barack Obama's stance on terrorism and on the way the marine corps deals with insurgency. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Arabic; Barack Obama; Islamic studies; combat; cultural knowledge; goals; knowledge; marines; military; military service; police; political science; pride; strategy; tactics; terrorism; writing

Subjects: Counterinsurgency.; Iraq War, 2003-2011.; Iraq.