Face of Defense: Childhood Chums Serve Together in Iraq
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP TAJI, Iraq, April 10, 2009 As boys growing up together in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy Moersch and Army Spc. Brandon Kosky played cops and robbers, fighting "bad guys" and putting them behind bars in an imaginary world.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy Moersch and Army Spc. Brandon Kosky, who grew up as childhood friends in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, are deployed together in support of the Iraqi justice system at Camp Taji, Iraq. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lionel Castellano
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Now, more than 15 years later, they’re deployed here and doing something similar. But it's not a game now, and their actions are helping the Iraqi judiciary system.
Moersch, a member of the 732nd Expeditionary Intelligence Squadron, is a document media exploitation analyst assigned to an Army unit, the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, in a joint expeditionary tasking assignment. Kosky is an infantry soldier and driver with the 56th Stryker BCT.
"I work primarily on the cell phones. I get all the information off them [and] give them to whoever needs the information," Moersch said. "In general, it is the whole capturing bad guys, putting them behind bars and keeping them there." The information from the cell phones can provide soldiers with forewarning of attacks, he explained.
"It may provide information as to where [the enemy] may have weapons caches,” Moersch said. “We'll let them know, 'Hey there are weapons over there, go get them.' That's fewer weapons that [enemies] have to shoot at [Kosky]."
Air Force Capt. Eric Allen, 56th Stryker BCT’s document and media exploitation officer in charge, also a 732nd EIS member on a joint expeditionary tasking assignment, explained it further.
"We are the document media exploitation team here at Camp Taji,” the captain, deployed from Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., said. “What we do is support the brigade support team. We support them with intel.
"What they do is go out and conduct missions trying to find the bad guys, and they will bring back any equipment that they find with the bad guy, on their person or the place they may be living in. They bring that stuff back, which may include documents, media, or any type of communication equipment, and we exploit all of that for further intelligence value. Then, we give it back to them so they can use it for evidence to convict insurgents or use it for additional warrants and to go out and conduct additional raids."
The so-called DOMEX process of using cellular phones and other items as a means of gathering information is a fairly new procedure in Iraq.
"What we are doing right now, since Jan. 1, has really changed from the U.S. forces going out and doing any mission," Allen said. "Now, we are really working with the Iraqis through a rule-of-law process, a judiciary process, and so we are providing the evidence to support all that."
The goal, he said, is to provide the Iraqis with a process they can use when the time comes for them to be on their own, the captain said. "Right now, we are working together with them," he added.
Kosky said he and Moersch are an example of how the DOMEX team and the servicemembers outside the wire make the process work.
"Generally what's supposed to happen, is we'll gather the information from people, or if we find a weapons cache, we'll turn it in and [Moersch] gets it," Kosky explained. "Then he ends up turning it into information that he can give back to us, so that we can find more weapons and actually find the bad guys who planted [the weapons cache]. Indirectly, basically, we work together in order to catch the bad guy."
Kosky said he also is able to gather information from local residents to help the Iraqi judiciary process in convicting criminals.
"If [local people] know that someone is planting [improvised explosive devices] and they can get hurt with the aftermath just as much as we can,” Kosky said. “They come up to us gladly and tell us, 'Hey, this person is doing this,' and we can go out and get them. Then we bring that stuff back to the intel guys. It's a big circle."
Moersch, deployed from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, said he hopes he can find something that may potentially save Kosky's life outside the wire.
"If I could do that, it would be incredibly wonderful," Moersch said. "I just want to help him out as much as I can. We are here together in Taji. I'm doing intel, [and] he's out doing the infantry thing. It's the classic case of I got his back, he's off fighting the war, and I'm going to help him do that.
"It's just coincidence we are here together," he continued. "It's been incredible for morale. I couldn't ask for more. I hope we can catch some bad guys together and make some great stories for later."
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala serves with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.)