Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Bradley Johnson, July 8th, 2011

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


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00:00:00 - Introduction / early life

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Partial Transcript: Okay. And we are rolling. Anytime.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson gives some basic information about himself and talks about his childhood in Richmond, Kentucky.

Keywords: 2123rd Transportation Company; North Carolina; Richmond (Ky.); childhood; farm work; farmers; farms; grandfathers; influence

Subjects: United States. National Guard Bureau.

00:01:56 - Education / interest in joining the military / September 11th, 2001

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Partial Transcript: So did, uh, anything or anyone early in your life influence you to want to join the military later on?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses his education and describes his early interest in joining the military. He also talks about the influence of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Keywords: "playing guns"; GI Joe; GPA; baseball; college; enlistment; fishing; football; grade point average; hobbies; interests; math; military; recess; roommates; school subjects; science; social studies; sports; students; toy guns

Subjects: Education.; September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.

00:05:48 - Joining the military / early misconceptions about being in the military

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Partial Transcript: So you're in the shower, your buddy busts in the door saying, "We're under attack."

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about his decision to join the military, how he went about it and what he thought it might be like at that time.

Keywords: Full Metal Jacket (movie); Hurricane Katrina; M*A*S*H* (TV show); deployment; diet; enlistment; family; fear; friends; grandparents; military; military jobs; options; parents; recruiters; running; weight loss

Subjects: United States. National Guard.

00:08:58 - Military entrance processing station

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Partial Transcript: Okay. So pre--how, how long after you decided to join and talked to your recruiter did you actually go to basic training?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about his experiences in MEPS (military entrance processing station), especially regarding the person he was staying with at that time.

Keywords: MEPS; birthdays; military entrance processing station; strange people

Subjects: United States. Army.

00:10:17 - Basic training at Fort Jackson

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Partial Transcript: Um, so after MEPS, you go to basic training.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson shares his basic training experiences and tells the story of his first day. He compares what he experienced to movies about the boot camp.

Keywords: "grenade day"; Fort Jackson (S.C.); Full Metal Jacket (movie); bags; breaks; cadences; chaos; drill instructors; drill sergeants; expert infantry course; fighting; injuries; marching; overachievers; overcrowding; push-ups; reserve drill sergeants; shooting; singing; training

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


Map Coordinates: 34.05507, -80.83224
00:17:05 - Graduation from basic training / advanced individual training

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Partial Transcript: Yeah. So, um, you go through basic training, you learn your skills. Do you remember graduation?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about his graduation from basic training and his experiences in advanced individual training.

Keywords: AIT; Fort Bliss (Texas); Full Metal Jacket (movie); South Carolina; Texas; advanced individual training; air defense; drill instructor; expectations; food; graduation; heat; pride; tan line; transportation; uniforms

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


Map Coordinates: 31.80755, -106.42166
00:20:29 - Current events during Johnson's training / military culture / advanced individual training

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Partial Transcript: So, um, what's going on in the world at this time?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses the current events of a few years ago and their influence on him while he was in basic training and advanced individual training. He talks about the trash-talking that is common to military culture and his experience in advanced individual training.

Keywords: Fort Bliss (Texas); MOS; current events; deployment; driving; military culture; military occupation specialties; preparation; slander; soldiers; time of war; training; transportation; trash talk; truck drivers; units; war

Subjects: Afghanistan.; Operation Enduring Freedom, 2001-; United States. Army.

00:24:21 - First drill with Johnson's unit / thoughts on the Iraq war

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Partial Transcript: So after that, I take it you went back to Kentucky to your unit?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses his first drill with his unit in Kentucky, typical drills for him and preparing for deployment. He also gives his views on the Iraq War, which began around that time.

Keywords: deployment; drills; driving; lack of sleep; military drills; oil; preparation; sense of duty; units; vehicle maintenance

Subjects: Basic training (Military education).; Iraq War, 2003-2011.; Iraq.; Kentucky.

00:28:04 - Reaction to battles shown on the news / Johnson's learning about his deployment

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Partial Transcript: So, do you remember any of the famous news scenes of the initial push, or...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses his reaction to firefights shown on the news and gives his views on why such things shouldn't be viewed as entertaining. He also shares the story of a call he received to tell him that he would be deployed.

Keywords: CNN; Full Metal Jacket (movie); Saddam Hussein; death; deployment; drills; entertainment; firefights; marriage; military culture; movies; news; perception; soldiers; spouses; telephone calls; war

00:32:46 - Training for deployment / arrival in Kuwait

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Partial Transcript: So how does your unit prepare you for your deployment?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about the training that was done to prepare him for deployment. He gives his feelings on Kuwait and talks about some of the vehicles used by the army.

Keywords: Bradley fighting vehicle; Camp Arifjan (Kuwait); HET; M1 Abrams; convoy operations; equipment; heavy equipment transporter; humvees; medevac; missions; sand; scenarios; sleep; training; units

Subjects: Ambushes and surprises.; Iraq.; Kuwait.; United States. Army.


Map Coordinates: 28.86862, 48.16318
00:36:03 - Missions from Kuwait to Iraq and back

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Partial Transcript: Okay. So you get to Kuwait. Do you go straight into missions?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses his units' mission transporting troops to and from Iraq. He also discusses preparations that he made before each trip.

Keywords: Gatorade; MREs; beef jerky; driving; meals ready to eat; missions; motivational speeches; tobacco; trail mix; transportation; travel; trucks; units; weapons; weather

Subjects: Iraq.; Kuwait.

00:39:38 - Being a 50 cal gunner / vehicle safety

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Partial Transcript: And, um, you said you were a .50 cal gunner.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about his duties as a 50 cal gunner and the lack of protection that the humvee he rode in provided. He also discusses ways that he and others tried to improve their vehicles to provide the occupants with more protection.

Keywords: 50 cal gunner; Bradley fighting vehicle; Donald Rumsfeld; HET; ballistic vest; communication; convoy commanders; equipment; flac vests; gunners; headsets; heavy equipment transport system; helmets; humvees; mechanics; protection; radios; safety; sheet metal

Subjects: Military weapons.

00:45:34 - Missions into Iraq / encounters with the Iraqi people

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so tell us about your equipment. What's the first leg of your mission like?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson describes some of the missions that he was a part of in Iraq. He also describes some of the interactions that he had with Iraqis.

Keywords: Iraqis; MSR Tampa; amenities; bases; border crossings; camps; children; cities; driving; friendliness; landscape; missions; mortars; night driving; procedures; searching; showers; sirens; tents; transport

Subjects: Baghdad (Iraq).; Fallujah (Iraq).; Iraq.

00:52:33 - Getting lost while on a mission

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Partial Transcript: Right. Um, you ever get lost?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson tells a story about getting lost in Baghdad and some of the hazards associated with it.

Keywords: alleys; escorts; getting lost

Subjects: Baghdad (Iraq).


Map Coordinates: 33.32500, 44.42200
00:54:27 - First combat experience and improvised explosive devices

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Partial Transcript: Um, so I got a pretty good idea of what your average mission was like. Um, obviously you're in a war zone...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson describes his first combat experience, which happened at the Baghdad International Airport. He also discusses the dangers of improvised explosive devices.

Keywords: BIAP; Baghdad International Airport (Iraq); Easter Sunday; M16 rifle; Spades (game); bases; berms; bullets; combat; danger; flak vests; mortars; rocket-propelled grenades; shooting; sounds; taking cover

Subjects: Baghdad (Iraq).; Improvised explosive devices.


Map Coordinates: 33.25892, 44.21946
01:00:07 - Basic training preparation for combat / Johnson's finding out about his wife's pregnancy

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Partial Transcript: So at the BIAP thing and afterwards, did you feel like you were adequately prepared for that situation?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson shares how his basic and advanced training prepared him for combat. He also talks about his first conversation with his wife after being deployed and his reaction to finding out that she was pregnant.

Keywords: "R&R time"; AIT; advanced individual training; bullets; camps; conversations; dodging bullets; family; guard tower; memories; pregnancy; preparations; sense of duty; spouses; wives

Subjects: Basic training (Military education); Military weapons.

01:05:07 - Being cheered for by the United Service Organizations / witnessing the birth of Johnson's son

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Partial Transcript: So what was that trip like?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson tells the story of coming home for two weeks to see the birth of his son. He also discusses being cheered for at the airport by around seventy United Service Organizations (USO) members.

Keywords: "R&R"; Atlanta (Ga.); Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; USO; United Service Organizations; airplanes; babies; birth; illnesses; neo-natal ICU; sons; traveling; uniform


Map Coordinates: 33.74900, -84.38798
01:09:31 - Looking for conex boxes in Kuwait / learning about someone killed in action

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Partial Transcript: So you go back from leave...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson describes a mission involving looking for spare conex boxes. He also talks about finding out that someone had been killed in action.

Keywords: KIA; Lieutenant Henderson; armored vehicles; bases; bullets; conex boxes; conexes; containers; death; grief; killed in action; platoon sergeants

Subjects: Kuwait.

01:13:17 - Finishing up a deployment / transition back to civilian life

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Partial Transcript: Coming to the end of your deployment, what do you do to leave?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson describes the procedures involved in preparing to return to the United States. He talks about some of the welcoming ceremonies he was a part of and his transition back to civilian life.

Keywords: Alumni Coliseum; Kentucky; Louisville (Ky.); VA; Veterans' Affairs; deserts; equipment; inspections; medical problems; nightmares; packing; screening; smuggling; trucks; washing; welcome home ceremony


Map Coordinates: 38.25266, -85.75846
01:17:34 - Lack of work after returning to the United States / marital problems

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Partial Transcript: Speaking of that, did you still have your job when you got back?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson tells how he was essentially unemployed after returning from Iraq. He also talks about his marital problems and how they were worsened by his deployment.

Keywords: adopt-a-highway program; boxes; children; commission; crowds; deployment; divorce; insurance agents; jobs; marital problems; money; relationships; spouses; transitions; trust; unemployment; work

Subjects: Improvised explosive devices.

01:22:31 - Disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina / leadership experience

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Partial Transcript: So you get--you got these things going on, but you're still in the Guard.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson describes his involvement in the disaster relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. He also talks about his leadership experience in the military.

Keywords: E6; FEMA; Federal Emergency Management Agency; Hurricane Katrina; Mississippi; NCO academy; New Orleans (La.); deployment; disaster relief; drills; infrastructure; leadership; logistics; natural disasters; non-commissioned officer; staff sergeant; supplies

Subjects: United States. National Guard.

01:26:27 - Subjects studied / Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard / thoughts on joining the military / lessons learned

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Partial Transcript: So you got out in March 2008.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson briefly discusses subjects that he has studied and career interests. He talks about his work with the Legion Riders and his disgust with people who picket military funerals. He also gives advice on joining the military and tells what lessons he has learned from it. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Legion Riders; Patriot Guard; advice; attitude; chefs; culinary school; graduation; helping out; homeland security department; materialism; protesting funerals; stress; wars

Subjects: Eastern Kentucky University.; United States. National Guard.