Clayton Bradford and Janice Bradford
DescriptionClayton Bradford, 24, tells his mother Janice Bradford, 54, about his experience in the United States Marine Corps and his two deployments in Iraq.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Clayton Bradford
- Janice Bradford
Recording LocationMobileBooth West
Venue / Recording Kit
- beliefs on military
- Chico, California
- cohorts (groups of friends)
- craft, skills, and procedures
- family characters
- family heroes
- family naming and nicknames
- fellow soldiers
- historical events/people
- military enlistment
- Military families
- Military life
- military release
- personal experiences
- political beliefs and practices
- relationship break-ups
- social beliefs and practices
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00:04 My name is Janice Bradford. I am 54 years old today is February 18th, 2011. I am in Chico California and I am here with my son Clayton. My name is Clayton Bradford. I'm 24 years old. Today's date is February 18th, 2011. I'm in Chico, California, and I'm here today with my mother.
00:28 Clayton wanted to share with you his time in the military and what led him to decide to do that and his experiences there. So Clayton wanted to share with us what branch of the military and why you chose that specific Branch listed in the Marine Corps the summer between my Junior and Senior High School in July of 2004 and I chose the Marine Corps cuz it just it seemed right for me. It seemed like it was going to be the most difficult Challenge and I really needed a challenge and it just seemed right for me.
01:03 The time that you enlisted in the Marines there was a war going on.
01:09 Right yesterday. There is a war in Iraq. And the war in Afghanistan. Both were going on. The war at the time the war in Iraq was a lot more heated in the war in Afghanistan and I join the Marine Corps and I chose a job that I knew was going to put me in Iraq.
01:28 And I knew that that's where I needed to be.
01:33 In in signing up during a time when there is a ward. Was there any any hesitation on your part to to do that? Did you talk with other people who been in the service? No, not really. I I'm sorry that gave you any advice about yes or no or no? Not really. I just talked with the recruiters and my dad he was in Vietnam a little bit. But for the most part I just I just knew that that's something I need to do and I couldn't leave fast enough and you finished high school and then you went into the Marines Gonzalez just briefly about your time in basic training and what that entails I've left for boot camp and the beginning of May of 2005 and boot camp for the Marine Corps is 3 months long and during my second months there. I broke my foot the second metatarsal on my right foot and it got me drop to What's called the medical Rehabilitation platoon where I spent two months healing.
02:34 And then after my foot healed I returned to training to where I can finish boot camp and graduate.
02:40 Did you have any specialized training too so that you learned a skill or I didn't I didn't have any specific training. My job was just a regular Marine Corps calls it a 311 Rifleman. It's just your basic infantryman and I like to think that their Jacks of all trades masters of none cuz we really know how to do everything. I was trained in room clearing demolitions some orders radio operations. Just more less everything that I needed to know to survive.
03:18 Once you've finished your training and you were deployed to Iraq, what where were where were you stationed in the beginning there? When I when I first went into Iraq, we flew into the large air base their analysis on which is the Amy Allen Bar Providence and then we spend a couple days in al-assad getting acclimated to the weather and we flew from al-asad to a city called alkaline. And from there. We were convoys out in large trucks to a city called scrobbler and sudah we were there for a multiple. We were there for about 5 months and we left to move to a new city by the name of hit to assist the army battalion was stationed there.
04:03 And then after that we move to a city called Anna that's what we finish out the remainder of our deployment and how long a deployment normally about 7 months in the six months that we were there. We were told that we were did our deployment was being extended anywhere from 60 to 90 days and it ended up just being extend 30 days. So we did it at 8 months employment. Okay during the time that you were there for your first appointment cuz I know that you did do a second deployment. We able to communicate back home. I was able to make phone calls not as often as I liked or I'm sure you would have liked but there was always mail for email for outgoing and there was we had some internet access, but for the most part of his mail and occasional phone call, I remember those mostly 3 a.m. Phone calls.
05:00 That's a lot different than previous Wars when they know your father was not able to call home and he just in the mail was much slower and it it meant a lot to me to be able to hear from my son.
05:14 While you were there, did you were you involved in fighting working with the Iraqi people? Can you tell us a little bit about what you did a few people both the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police as well as the Iraqi civilians we would do what was called census taking and we go out and we can see how many people live in a house how many men women how many children how many working males and then we just move on to the next house we'd see if there was anything we could do to help them out why we were there.
05:50 And with working with the Iraqi Army in the Iraqi police, we train them as much as we were able and just basic tactics not just pulling the trigger and spring all over the place and basic room-clearing in your work with the araki people and what you might be able to do for them were there instances where there was a specific needs that these people had that you were able to meet either individually or as a Marine Corps group or as people humanitarian.
06:26 I've never really talked with him as far as what their needs were doing the census taken out as normally on security and somebody who was a bit higher rank than me would do would be the one that was taking a census in finding out what they need. But on occasion we would be able to stop and do a house and there be a kid with a scraped up me or something cuz he fell off his bike and I'd be able to put a bandaid on it or some Neosporin or something just to put a smile on his face and put a smile on his parents face and your time in Iraq, both deployments. I do recall that we sent you goodies and you would say sometimes that you did give them to kids.
07:05 Was that something that happened on a regular basis or did you take that with you into houses or with it kids you saw on the street? And what kind of things did they like to pick at walking down the street the kids would come up to us and they ask you for anything that I ask you for a football to soccer ball. And obviously you're not walking around with a football or soccer soccer ball in your pocket, but majority of the time that ask for a candy you wear your watch if if we recently had a care package come in there was always someone that had candy in their pockets and he just reaching him give out handfuls in the kids it either divvy it up or just one person would take it and run.
07:47 After you did your first deployment about 787-8 months during that time. Were you involved in heavy fighting or do you have memories of being afraid? Did you have to face some of those fears or overcome the need to possibly hurt or injure or kill someone the army during the month of December and the month of January of 2006 and 2007. We were in the city the city of hit was
08:22 Very violent city, we were working strictly under the Army's chain of command. So we're only allowed to move out throughout the city during the day. I'm sorry throughout the night and we go out and we can sit in that either an occupied house or a vacant house anywhere from 24 to 96 hours.
08:40 And during the day of wish we would be shot at anywhere from two to three times a day and it could be anywhere from three rounds to an hour-long fire fight.
08:49 And thankfully there were was nobody killed during that time. Where we working with the Army? There were a couple people injured and they were sent home for medical attention.
09:03 While you were
09:06 So you were being shot at but you felt safe or did you fit where you afraid? Were you when we were just how did you feel during the last couple of firefights when we were in Hayti was actually downstairs on security guarding the doors making sure that nobody can come in and the firefights consisted up on the rooftops of the city or on ground level shooting up at the roofs the the building the we were in however after we move from that City into the city of Honor there were a couple times where are our base was attacked and I was on post so I was forced to return fire and there were a couple times when we were engaged in a firefight and an ambush walking down the street and it's a very unreal feeling being shot at like that because I wasn't afraid or worried. I was content. I knew what I had to do.
10:06 And I knew what was going on and I wasn't afraid everybody did exactly what they were supposed to do. We got down. We took cover and when you return fire and we advance down the street as as we've been trying to do and we started cleaning the the buildings house-by-house about the third house. We cleared we held up in that house to call for backup ARA mobile assault platoon, they rolled out and Humvees and why we're waiting waiting for them to roll up. There was a fire in the upstairs bedroom from one of our Tracer rounds that he laid a wooden dresser on fire and we were perfectly safe in that house and everybody was watching doing their own thing. So I grabbed the bucket and fill it up with water and ran back and forth and put the fire out and kept everybody at the room cuz it was filled with just horrible smoke as well as submarine.
10:59 After you finished that appointment then you came home to the states and you were stationed down in Southern California at 29 Palms. Did you have a particular role while you were there during that time in between deployments?
11:15 Arjun the timing between deployments when we return from our deployment. We had what we call a boot drop and that's what we had right before we got back. We had a bunch of Marines that just graduated boot camp and the school of infantry and they were sitting there waiting for us to come back and train them more and just get them ready for the next appointment in our time between appointments is usually spent building up for the next appointment whether that's classes in the hallway out of somebody's no pad or classes in the theater off of PowerPoint projection or maybe doing a ranged it's all we were always spent building up for the next appointment, but it's it's much like a nine-to-five job, except it's more 529
11:58 Did you did you do that type of training of new soldiers after your second appointment as well? I do not when I when I return to my second appointment. I was what's called a t a d temporary assignment of Duty and my Battalion sent me to another unit to make room for the new guys and I spent working with the support Detachment issuing out trucks to training units is they had the equipment they need to do so they can build up for their deployments to sound like motor pool assignments. Yes. Was that another 7 month to her that you did? My second appointment was was another seven months and it was it was a very calm 7 months. I think we found an occasional ID. But nobody nobody in our Battalion was killed. There was an army unit that was attached to my Battalion and one guy from them was killed and actually during my second appointment.
12:58 We we spent the first three months in a city called bharwana and that city was so calm that we actually left and turn it over to the Iraqi police to maintain and we went back to the city of hit which was the most violent city that I've been in on my first deployment and it was probably one of the, cities in the country at the time. You people were going out on gay patrols convoys. We're going out and it was a relatively calm City for being so violent less than a year ago. Do you feel or did you get any feedback that that might be a direct result of the military presence that had been there and it's part of it during the time that you were there. We heard a rumor shortly after we left shortly after we left on my first deployment and we went to the city of Anna we heard a rumor going around that about three weeks after we left the people that started going out on Dave patrols because of our actual presence there and coming things down.
13:54 That you mentioned IEDs and of course, that's what we hear a lot about here in the states. And I know that every time I drove down a rutted road and Chico, I was always grateful that it wasn't caused by an IED or some type of roadside bomb what causes a lot of consternation for people here, but I always felt for the soldiers over there. Did you run into those? Were you ever exposed to those in a vehicle while you were traveling or on the side of the road or I was I was never in a vehicle that was hit with an ID. But I found I found two ordinances that had not been rigged to blow. So they were fine. And then I I did have an ID go off on my patrol. I was the closest man to it when it went off and I was really lucky because they buried it really deep and so the bathtub last was shaped directly up and they used to 84 mm orders and they were really worn out rounds that had been well taken care.
14:54 They had cracks in them and wonders for an an explosion. You need two things you need heat and you need pressure and because of the crack they lost some of the pressure did they needed and it was called a low-order detonation and only one of the rounds exploding and it sent the other one. Just flailing through the air in a big ball of fire and Iraq. What are you doing? Did he say I was never injured during Iraq any of my Reich appointments, but when I was in boot camp, I did have a broken foot and then when I was when I was in as to why I did have a fractured collarbone from just kind of being a young kid and horsing around in the squad Bay. You send many people do know what those are. Could you tell us what an IED is ideas. It stands for improvised explosive device and it's more or less crude homemade version of a landmine.
15:54 What time is Widow uses? Hme which stands for homemade explosives which is just something that they do it is sin explosive. Did they made in their garage? Whether they're using fertilizer or bleed sometimes chlorine and they had those resources available then over there. I guess absolutely you can buy those anywhere.
16:14 Well, you were over there you talk about by those anywhere where you able to shop at local markets. Did you did you do that or did you just mostly should chop when you were on the bigger bases? I know they have some large vases that had pretty much everything an American would want could you go into the villages? And Shop are we did when we were patrolling throughout the city that was one of our interaction so we would do with the local people as we would stop in Kennett shop at the marketplaces or check them out and see what's going on there. We'd stop and people would hold up security so that we could be free to walk around more or less we go in and we can see what they were doing. Maybe buy some food or a drink and a lot of times they would just give us things like a soda for each person in the patrol or soda for every two people. See you have a nice cold drink on a hot day.
17:06 Did you feel that they were trying to Express gratitude to you for being there or they were just reaching out one person to another it's a hot day and you need a cold drink. I always felt a combination of everything. Sometimes it seemed like it was it was gratitude. Sometimes it was just that they were just it's hot here is a cold drink because one thing I notice to my deployments is that the Iraqi people are just wonderful caring people. They wouldn't invite you to invite us into their homes and give us what little food they had if we needed it and sometimes it seemed like they were just giving us the drinks out of fear because they thought they'd maybe if they didn't did something bad was going to happen because the US has not been the most Pleasant people to have around.
17:51 You mentioned the heat. Can you tell something about what the weather was like during your times there? I was there throughout all the seasons winter summer fall and spring and during the summer a she's hot and dry miserable occasional Breeze comes around and when it does it feels good until you know, get sand all over the place winner is miserable. It's cold. It doesn't rain very often. But when it does it rains hard and the streets flood because they're not used to the rain in so they don't soak up the water is fast and that's that's another Hazard because they put IDs in the large puddles so that you can't see him and all I have to do is just drop it. They don't have to dig a hole.
18:37 I don't really remember the spring too much have for the most part. It was just really windy and the temperatures were low and gets it gets really cold at night and really hot during the day in the summer.
18:51 While you were there you I know that you because you brought it home a couple of times you had a vest that you wore that was in a like a bulletproof vest only. I think it weighed about a hundred pounds.
19:04 How is that wearing that in the heat it was Miss rule a lot of times. What we do is we would take the shirt that he wore underneath our long sleep Cami blouse. We would take that off and that's just one less thing that we wear to.
19:21 Keep down the heat how how heavy was that best. And what was it made of another place the we're inside were made out of porcelain.
19:31 And I'm not sure what the rest of the best was made out of I'm not sure what the best itself Wayne but on average we carry about anywhere from 90 to 115 lb on a daily Patrol, depending on what you were assigned to carry after you came home from your second deployment and you spend some time. 29 palms and then you you got ready to decide if you were going to stay in the military or leave you did make a choice to leave. Did you ever think that you might sign up for another tour or did you want to
20:10 I was I was really close to re-enlist in the Marine Corps. I actually had a re-enlistment package. I'll put in I turn down they were offering $64,000. I could have gotten it tax-free. If I didn't enlisted while I was still in-country. I was got was guarantee that I was going to go to What's called Hertz Masters school which stands for Hilo rope suspension training and I was going to be instructed on how to properly Rappel out of helicopters and teach other people how to properly would repeal out of helicopters and I was going to do with deployment Afghanistan and then I was going to do was call Marine security guard or MSG for 3 years, which is I would go and gardening Embassy in the world. I would have my choice of the duty station and I would live in that that City Garden at Embassy like a regular job and then I'd be able to travel throughout the city and kind of see the world when I wasn't working and you chose not to do that because you were
21:10 Young and in love and you were going to get married and that didn't work out did it it didn't I decided that I wasn't going to re-enlist so that I could be with my fiance the time which is a little funny cuz she wanted me to re-enlist. She said that I should stay in however in order to do Marine security guard you have to be single at unless your Staff Sergeant or above because when you're a young Lance corporal and your station, you know on a totally different country and you have the freedom to go out and see the bars and the local markets in that country. It's a lot more difficult to remain faithful to whoever you have at home in the Marine Corps frowns on infidelity. And so you have to be single to do MSG, which is what I wanted to do. So, I turned all that down so that I could be with her and I know because you're my son that that didn't work out for you and you come back to Chico
22:11 And you enrolled in school and that first semester didn't work out so well for you. Can you tell us about your adjustment back to regular Society from being in the military shortly after I got out of mine core?
22:26 Me and my fiance broke up and we spent a good while harassing each other if it went both ways.
22:34 That was based mostly by cell phones with cell phone calls voicemails text messages emails pretty much any way we can communicate to each other we did and we harass each other and it went a step too far and she filed for a restraining order and in the restraining order. She profile me isn't angry unstable Iraqi War veteran. She said since he's returned from Iraq, he's been angry and unstable all the time.
23:00 And I was never really angry or unstable. It was just the way that she can kind of get back at me and when I went to the court hearing I was profiled by the judge as well. He said that he believed the Marine Corps has programs to help people like me.
23:17 And that I should seek help because the things that I'm saying or not. Okay, and I will admit that I said some inappropriate things, but I was never angry violent towards her at all.
23:29 And I
23:31 After the restraining order, I really just left her alone and I enrolled in school and I had with you and with a really bad vomit alcohol. I was drink two for 5 in the morning and then have school today and I'd wake up and just kind of still be drunk for school and I realized that wasn't working out for me. And so I withdrew from the semester and kind of work on getting my stuff together.
23:58 Just straightening out my life. Okay, and then you've I know that you have since you had a job for a while and then you've re-enrolled in school and finish the semester and you're you're going to school again or is there an emphasis of study that you picked up on not at the moment? I'm using the GI bill to go to school and I have a student Ed plan with a specific major picked out. So for the moment, I have histories my major picked out, but I'm thinking that I'm going to drop that major in go through the fish and game Academy next semester and see if I can get a job working for the fish and game.
24:40 How has being in the military affected the way that you think and act do you think that you're drinking was a reaction to your time in the service or just sort of some down time and you didn't have to work?
24:57 I was there was a combination of both I definitely felt this sense of entitlement.
25:02 Due to my time in the military, but there's also I was on unemployment and so I had all this free time. And so I just finished drinking I go to sleep at 4 in the morning and wake up at 2 a night before I was going to school in.
25:18 Or two in the afternoon and I wake up and grab a beer and hop in the shower. And then I finished the beer while I was in the shower and get out and grab another beer and be drunk by 4 in the afternoon and I slowly realized that wasn't working out for me and I needed to do something about that. Have you thought about re-enlisting in the military or the Marine Corps is no longer taking prior service. They look at it is I had my chance to be in the Marine Corps, and now that I'm out and there's a bunch of new people that are graduating high school that want to try the Marine Corps. They're taking them.
25:55 Over me, which that's understandable. But at the same time it doesn't make a whole lot of sense because I'm a combat veteran. I have that combat experience. I have that leadership experience. I already have the training. I'm ready to deploy all these new guys. They have to go through boot camp. They have to go through their school for their job. I'm ready to go. I tried to read I tried to enlist in the army.
26:21 And they wouldn't take me because of some Choice tattoos that I got while I was in the Marine Corps. I'm not ashamed of them and I don't regret getting them because at that point I'm that's exactly who I was and that's exactly what I wanted. I wish I didn't have them now, but I can't change that and I also tried to enlist in the Army National Guard and they wouldn't take me because I had a restraining order and so I talked to a lawyer and he said that I could get what's called a non-flat order. I don't fully understand that but it's just more less of mutual understanding the two people that we won't talk to each other and my ex just want to have it all.
27:01 So yours you're going to school on your GI Bill and thinking about a law enforcement category. Basically, then if you're going into Parks and Wildlife you said fishing game fishing game type thing. So do you see yourself as working in some type of law enforcement cuz military is to some extent law enforcement. Is that something that you'd like to pursue? Yes or no? I can't see myself just being like a regular Beat cop driving around town. I don't think that would be very much fun for me at all. I I think I would enjoy doing something like SWAT, but I think at this point in my life, I'd much rather be working with fish and game and hopefully be working with law enforcement, but also not being in the city being out.
27:53 In the outdoors and just kind of being out there looking for people to Breaking the laws out there.
28:01 During your time in enlisting in the military being in the military in your time home. You've had a support group. Obviously, you've got friends that are still in the military. Perhaps you got family. You've got other people that you rely on for feedback on your behavior on choices. Can you share with us a little bit about who those people have been for you? My family has always been there for me. I know that if my family wasn't a supportive and understanding is they are that I would be one of the many homeless veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and that's simply because in any military everything so straight they tell you what to do, when you move from one chain of command to another chain of command they give you a check out sheet. They say you need to go see these people when you get these signatures and when you get to your new chain of command this the same thing you go see these people need to get these signatures, but once you're out you're on your own,
29:00 And it's just a totally different feeling to have all that structure and then just have it taken away from you and it takes a good long while to get adjusted to the civilian life. Once you've been in the military, and I know that if my family hadn't been there for me as much they had that I would definitely be homeless.
29:19 And your family tell us a little bit just a little bit about your family. I have two older brothers, and I have a younger brother.
29:31 And my cousin Preston he's
29:35 He's live with us since he was roughly about 13 years old because both his parents are really heavy alcoholics and they just couldn't take care of him and he's actually in the National Guard right now currently on a deployment in Afghanistan.
29:50 Do you feel with someone so close to you and in your own family that you were able to pass on any words of wisdom or advice to him? No, I don't think so. We both did two different jobs. I went in to do infantry to go to war to fight and he went in it seems to me like he went in for the educational benefits and for the train. He went in and he's doing motor T. So he's not going to be right there in the combat looking for the bad guys. He's just going to be working on the truck and making sure that the guys looking for the bad guys vehicles are up-and-running. I'm so there wasn't much if I said I could give him a much wisdom that I can pass on to him.
30:35 For what he's doing.
30:38 You had mentioned that your father had been in the military in the Vietnam war did any of his experiences that you heard growing up influence you to join the military or was it just sort of a reaffirmation that you were on the right track. There was definitely a little bit of that involved in my decision-making in joining the military was
31:03 I I think I did a lot of people kind of live in their father's Shadow and they're kind of want to live up to be the man that he was and is the same thing with a lot of daughters wanting to live up to being whose mother was and I was a little bit of a screw up when I was a kid and once I got older and I realized, you know where my path was going on, you know realize that I needed to straighten myself out and
31:28 I've decided that the military was just where I need to be. Have you been able to share your experiences with other veterans combat veterans as well as with your own father about the similarities and the differences. I don't think I've ever talked with really any Vietnam veterans about my deployment to Iraq, but I have talked with other Iraqi War veterans about our experiences. Mostly the jokes that we play on each other and just how immature things that we do on deployments to keep our sanity. I'm in the military having to be shot at to shoot at others to have to worry about IEDs and other things good experience.
32:16 It was a wonderful learning opportunity and I think more people should do it. It definitely instills a lot of discipline and it force you to work with and interact with people that you normally wouldn't interact with and it brings everybody closer together and as much as people are against the military, I think if more people were involved in the military that the world are at least this country would be a better place.
32:43 Do you feel that some type of service on for most people would be beneficial absolute learn that discipline to feel more committed to their country. Absolutely. I think it would be a great thing if our military was a lot like the military in Israel were when you turn 18, it's mandatory to serve time. I think if we made it so that in the u.s. Everybody out upon that you know after they've turned 18 they have a certain amount of time to choose which branch they want to join and so on and then I just have to do to two or three years not a full four-year enlistment just a little time. I think it would bring everybody closer together and you would
33:25 Just really help this country out from my point of view is mom maybe not so much the military as being service to country that you'd like to share with us before we're through here.
33:43 I know that about covers it. Thank you so much Clayton for sharing this story with me today. There are some of the stories that I've heard from you but to get to know more of your feelings and to be able to share them with those who come after thank you. Thank you for being here with me and helping me and allowing me to share the stories with you and hopefully with the rest of the world.