Inside Bravo Company

What American Soldiers Are Saying About The Looming War

We've all heard from the president, from the protesters, and from the French about the war.

You probably know how your distant cousin feels about the war.

But what about the men who will have to fight it, the rank-and-file soldiers who could end up on the front line invading Baghdad?

Recently, 60 Minutes II got a rare glimpse into the world of those everyday soldiers by spending two days and two nights living in Kuwait with the men of Bravo Company of the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. They let us into their tents, and into their lives, around the clock. Some of what they had to say was surprising, and surprisingly candid.

It's at night, away from the blazing sun of the desert and the glowering eyes of officers, when soldiers let down their guard.

In a group, they act light-hearted. Alone, each can reveal his true feelings.

The journalist conducting these interviews was Jeff Newton. 60 Minutes II asked him to join up with some U.S. troops and to become a fly on the wall with his home video camera to try and get inside the lives of a U.S. Army company:

Newton explained to CBS News Correspondent Dan Rather: "I went out there by myself and acting as camera, sound person, reporter, producer -everything all wrapped into one. We take miniature DV cameras, sit by the light of the Humvee, put headlights (little camp lights) on our heads and really close to the soldiers and light them up as best we could, roll the camera and hold it up to our chest and try to keep them in the frame the best we could and say, 'Tell us what you know'."

Newton spent two days and two nights in and among the 200 or so men of Bravo Company in mid-January. By then, these men had been living in the desert for four months. Newton followed them through every step of their day and night.

He was with them when they trained, he was with them when they relaxed, and he was with them in their quieter moments to hear their thoughts.

Specialist Shawn Pike, 24, from Hermitage, Tenn.: "It is real lonely out here. I miss my family a lot. I have a real hard time with missing my family."

He told Newton that his biggest fear is not of chemical weapons.

"Tell the truth," he said, "I have been well trained in my three years in the military, and the only thing that really scares me is the guys above me, as far as officers way above me, using me as just a tool and putting me a situation that will be impossible for me, no matter how well trained, to get out of it."

Specialist David Cruz, 28, is married with children. This is his second tour of duty.

He said, "I was in military for three years and got out and came back in just after 9/11. I came back in with the idea of the possibility that I might go to war."

And Pike explained, "Out here, I am trying to defend the policies of the United States regardless if they are right or wrong, and all these soldiers beside me basically feel the same way. We are going to defend our country, hopefully not to our death… Just, I don't know, we are doing a good thing out here."

In fact, Pike and Bravo Company expect to be among the first American soldiers into Iraq if war begins. That is what they are thinking about all the time. And when the time comes, platoon Sgt. Chris Ogawa says he will be motivated by an old creed he heard years ago from his sergeant when he was a private: "A man who has no patriotic feeling is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

It was Ogawa's 40th birthday.

"Just another day," he said. "Anniversaries, Christmases, New Years. They all add up. It's just another part of being a soldier."

The first day of training documented by Newton began with soldiers practicing an attack on an Iraqi trench. The assault was practiced without live ammunition, for their own safety. In the afternoon, they did it all over again, this time firing away. Once inside the trench, they trained to hold onto it and turn back any counterattack.

Every once in a while, these men training to be combat killers turned into boys having fun.

When you see them close up, you get a real sense of just how young so many of them are. And, like Private Ben Carter from Tacoma, Wash., a lot of them never finished high school.

"I am 18," said Carter. "I just got out of the house, and I am making friends."

His army buddies probably want Carter next to them in battle: he hit 39 out of 40 targets the last time he was at the shooting range. and Carter is not only the company sharpshooter but also the company clown. he loves showing off his Arnold Schwartzenegger imitation.

The men of Bravo Company repeated during night drills what they had practiced all day - first without live ammunition…then with the real thing. when training stopped for a moment, their challenge turned from firing at targets to capturing a mouse.

It was well past midnight when they finally got some rest.

After four hours of sleep, it was time to begin a new day with a hot breakfast. Then, training started again. Out there, even shaving is part of the training, because of the gas masks that the soldiers would have to use in the event of chemical warfare.

"Your mask won't seal properly if you are not shaven," explains Private Sean Hinton, 23, of Hinesville, Ga., who is married with two children. "Chemical -- that is a scary thing. There's not much I've been in two years, and I hear some of the older guys say when we go into chemicals areas, you know. But what if you don't?"

The war games of Bravo Company on Newton's second day were a replay of the first, and repetitious of the weeks before, all happening 20 miles from the Iraqi border at Camp New York, named after 9/11 – the reason many of these men enlisted in the first place.

"After 9/11, I did not have anything to do," said Private Michael Coffey, 18, of Green River, Wyo. "I was thinking about what I would do for my country, instead of what they could do for me, and I said, 'I may as well do something with my life,' and so I joined the Army."

Coffey considers himself religious. Newton asked if his strong faith would get in the way of him firing his weapon.

Said Coffey, "I believe in God and believe in Him. I am Christian. I really do not have a view on that, but if He decides that what I am doing is wrong and I go to hell, so be it."

Specialist David Cruz believes just as strongly in a theme repeated often around the camp: that Saddam Hussein must be defeated.

"The guy that is there needs to be taken care of," he said. "If we don't do it, who is? If we don't do it now, then when are we? Obviously, he is not ready for us now, so I think it is a good time. But not up to me. I train for war and pray for peace."

But what we also heard in these quiet moments were reservations about the war from Specialist Shawn Pike: "Sometimes, I feel we are not going about it the right way. I don't think we should be over here, pushing ourselves around, because I do think we do that as the USA. We are a very cocky country, we are a very arrogant country and we are a self self-centered country."

As ready as Pike is to question U.S. policy, he also says he thinks it is the only option we have to fight terrorism, and he leaves no doubt when asked his thoughts about his country: "I can sum that up real easy: Every time the American flag goes up, I cry. Every time. I salute and tears go down my eyes every time. My country. No matter what happens, it will always be my country."


Exactly one month after reporter Newton left Bravo Company, we went to see for ourselves how the men were holding up. They had been there longer than expected. We were hearing that some of the solders were getting restless.

Specialist David Springer, 27, who grew up in Florida, had a typical soldier's complaint: "They really don't have a lot of stuff for us to do. They have to come up with some stupid stuff. We have been training for four months, and everything is getting redundant."

Before meeting us on this day, Springer and his squad had been practicing how to take a fallen prisoner. Training, they told us, was becoming more tedious. The desert was getting hotter. Time was working against them. They will never be more ready than now. President Bush knows it. So does Mike Christian, a 20-year-old private from Earl, Texas, who told us the worst thing about being there: "Probably the heat and extensive training."

Private Jason Deal, 29, of Las Vegas, Nev., added, "I think it's just taken too much time. And I wish they'd make up their mind. Sounds like they're indecisive yet there-- there's always resolutions, and we just need to take that step and get this done, because I believe it's inevitable."

Deal wants no more talk of war, but the real thing.

"I know the American people are ready," he said. "I just don't know if our Chiefs of Staff are ready, but we're ready, so I'd rather go now. "

Deal is the best-trained private in Bravo Company. That's because he spent four years as a U.S. Marine. He got out and went to college for a while, and then came back into the Army, expecting to fly helicopters. Instead, he was sent to Bravo Company – infantry.

But he said, "I love America. I'm very proud to be here... I would die for my country in a heartbeat."

Specialist Springer says he enlisted in 1999 because Army pay and insurance were better than he was getting as a roofer. But with Army benefits come battlefield risks, and Springer has written his family a goodbye letter, just in case:

He said, "I wrote one to my wife and one for each one of the boys, each of the times when my boys were born. What I wrote to my wife was that… I love her…"

Said Jason Deal, "I'd like to tell my family I love 'em. And I hope to see you…in a better place someday."

Has he discussed that with them?

"I have never discussed that, but I plan on writing letters to people, like a death letter, just in case something does happen. Just in case, 'cause I can't predict anything. I'm just two feet, you know, runnin' north."