Former POW Learns Value of Military Training
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
FORT CARSON, Colo., Oct. 8, 2003 Just 10 months after he went off to Army basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., in May 2002, U.S. Army Pfc. Patrick Miller got a first-hand lesson in the true value of military training.
Like many of his fellow soldiers, Miller acknowledges he never thought he'd have much use for the classes he received about being captured by the enemy. As a combat support soldier assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company at Fort Bliss, Texas, he assumed that if ever had any experience with prisoners of war, it would be as the captor — not as the captured.
That all changed after Miller's unit deployed to Southwest Asia in February. He was part of a convoy navigating through southern Iraq in late March that took a wrong turn and got ambushed by Iraqi troops.
Army Pfc. Patrick Miller, a former prisoner of war in Iraq, understands first-hand the importance of military training. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
During the firefight that followed, Miller said he had too much adrenaline pumping through his bloodstream to be afraid. "I wasn't worried about anything but getting everyone out to safety," he said.
Nine U.S. soldiers died in the skirmish, and Miller and four of his fellow soldiers were captured, taken by a truckload of Iraqis to an outpost in Nasiriyah. They were held there for 21 days before their rescue by the Marines.
Miller, now assigned to the 2nd Transportation Company, 68th Corps Support Battalion, 43rd Area Support Group here, said the events of his capture and POW experience "really didn't sink in" for several days.
He said he can't talk about his treatment by the Iraqis because the case remains under investigation, but acknowledges it "wasn't pleasant." He and his fellow POWs lived on small rations of boiled chicken and rice "not a lot," he said, "but enough to survive."
He recalls that it felt "degrading" when the lights of an Iraqi television camera glared into his face, but said he felt a tinge of relief as well. "They were putting us on TV, so I knew they wouldn't do anything to us," he said.
His biggest source of comfort, he said, was being able to hear coalition forces moving closer and "just hoping that they'll find you and that they won't (mistakenly) drop a bomb on you."
Three weeks after his capture, Miller and six other American POWs got their wish. The Marine Corps' 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion was moving north for an attack on Tikrit when Iraqis tipped them off about the POWs.
Following a heroic rescue mission, the Marines flew the newly freed POWs to an airfield in southern Iraq, then transferred them to a C-130 transport plane that flew them to Kuwait.
Miller said he received medical care at a U.S. military hospital in Kuwait before being flown to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. Finally, on April 19, he and six other former POWs returned to Fort Bliss for a rousing welcoming ceremony at Biggs Army Airfield.
Despite his harrowing experience, Miller said he tries not to think about it, although he admits that "later down the road, I might."
Not surprisingly, he's become a big advocate of more training in how to handle yourself if you're captured. "Everybody needs it," he said.
His advice to fellow soldiers? "Don't joke around when it comes to training. You never know. Even if you're combat support, you just might have to use it."