Skip to comments.Soldier recounts Saddam's capture
Posted on 12/15/2007 9:45:28 AM PST by mdittmar
A day after the fourth anniversary of Saddam Hussein's capture, Chico veterans and others welcomed one of the participating soldiers on Friday.
Now retired, Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell of Oklahoma City praised American soldiers for their role in the Iraq war, and their families for making sacrifices.
His appearance came during the Red, White and Blue Christmas dinner and fundraiser for local National Guard families at the Elks Lodge. More than 500 attended.
The unit that Russell commanded was one of the central players in Hussein's capture.
"It was one of the proudest days in my life," Russell said of Hussein's capture on Dec. 13, 2003, the result of a long journey of pursuing leads and enduring the deaths of American soldiers.
"It was the result of six months of hard work on the part of regular soldiers." Twelve-hundred soldiers took part in the raid.
Russell's speech was interrupted by continual applause as he recounted the hunt for Hussein. As searches and then the early capture of Hussein's bodyguards and assistants increased, so did tips provided by the Iraqi people, but it was still a combination of technology, intelligence and dogged persistence that resulted in success, he said.
In a November conversation with his wife, Russell received a message from someone back home who'd seen him on news coverage. The caller said he knew Russell was a praying man, and that God knew where Saddam was. So members of his unit starting praying. Days later, a teen boy came to say he knew where "important people were hiding."
Captures and arrests began. Following tips, the search narrowed to a sheep ranch outside Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. Repeated searching of the area proved nothing, but a kicking gesture by one of Hussein's captured bodyguards brought attention to a rug covering a dirt patch and the underground door of Hussein's hiding room.
A flash-bang grenade was thrown into the room, and when the smoke cleared, Hussein's weaponless hands could be seen. While he resisted, he was finally "roughed up" to remove him from the hole, Russell said.
His appearance and a sunburst tattoo on the back of his right hand identified Hussein. He admitted to being the dictator.
A hood was thrown over his head, and he was flown by helicopter with little pomp to Tikrit. It was done quietly and quickly so that soldiers didn't know who had been captured to avoid chaos.
A call from a superior that "Caesar Romero" had been captured gave Russell the news. The Iraqi president had a certain resemblance to the Hollywood actor.
"I said, 'Thank God for giving us this victory,'" Russell said.
Russell also had words for the country, saying Americans couldn't support the troops, and not the war.
"If Americans want to support the troops, then let them win.
"What can America do? America has to give the soldiers the tools and the funds to get the job done," Russell said to a standing ovation at the end.
The money from the fundraiser is deposited in a bank account, and paid out when local families need help to pay bills or during emergencies.
Contributions can still be made to "Chico National Guard Family Assistance" and dropped off at California Water Service Co., 2222 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.
“If Americans want to support the troops, then let them win.
I remember the Sunday morning I got the GLORIOUS news that Saddam was FINALLY captured. And now, he has FINALLY met his reward.
I remember it well. It was the day before I began outprocessing to come over here. I was dancing around my living room that early morning.
This was true back then and is every bit as relevant today:
"If Americans want to support the troops, then let them win. "
I had the honor of meeting a member of the Joint Special Operations Group who actually had his hands on the dictator at his capture. He shared with me a hand written note from Saddam and other documentation that convinced me the guy was for real. He gave me a 10000 New Iraqi Dinar note for a tip. You meet some interesting people doing home improvement work.
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