Heavy Metal is the compelling Iraq War memoir of then-Capt. Jason Conroy, commanding officer of Charlie Company. During the Iraq War, coauthor Capt. Jason Conroy commanded Charlie Company, which was part of Task Force 1-64 of the 2d Brigade Combat Team, part of the U.S. Army’s 3d Infantry Division. A tank unit equipped with mammoth M1A1 Abrams tanks, Conroy’s company was literally at the tip of the U.S. Army’s spear and one of the first elements into Baghdad. Veteran journalist Ron Martz was embedded in Charlie Company.
Together, from the unique perspective of an armor unit that was in nearly continuous combat for four straight weeks, Conroy and Martz tell the unvarnished story of what went right and what went deadly wrong in Iraq. Conroy and his soldiers were able to overcome supply shortages, intelligence failures, and miserable weather to battle their way into downtown Baghdad, a place where they were told they would never have to fight. Heavy Metal evaluates the Army’s performance, including its use of tactics that were developed during the war but for which the soldiers had never trained.
Through the exciting personal stories of the young troopers of Charlie Company—who experienced a very different war from what was seen back home on TV—Heavy Metal tells us much about the qualities of today’s American soldier, about twenty-first-century desert and urban warfare, and about how the Army should prepare to fight future wars.
THE ARMORED STRIKE TO
". . . .a relevant and timely text, written in the tradition of Platoon Leader. For the armor community, especially company grade officers seeking to understand leadership lessons not taught in the classroom, this book is both compelling and insightful."
"Shows the war from the fighting soldier's point of view. . . . This is an excellent book with great insight into how a tank company gets the job done. It proves that despite all the training and technology, no plan ever survives contact with the enemy and soldiers have to succeed on their training and critical thinking. Heavy Metal is not too technical for the average reader and is a must read for anyone in the armor branch."
"It is a story from the commander’s perspective, how he prepared his company, what the company expected, how they fought, and what he thinks his unit accomplished. But more than a military report, it is a story of the humanity and endeavor of men fighting for a cause in which they believe. It is also a tale of young soldiers in battle and the proud story of a famous division once again on the leading edge of our national policy. . . . Heavy Metal is the new gold standard for the junior leader’s book. In it, you will find timeless principles and a realistic look at the future."
-- From the foreword by Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (Ret.)
"Captain Jason Conroy and veteran combat reporter Ron Martz have produced a powerful story of courage and flexibility by America's armored soldiers at war in Iraq."
-- Gen. Barry McCaffrey, USA (Ret.)
"Heavy Metal has all the elements of a successful novel--admirable heroes, terrific plot, exciting action, and valuable insights about motivation, dedication, and determination. What makes [it] so special is that it is rooted in reality and, for a nonfiction account, written in wonderfully engaging, escriptive prose."
-- The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA)
"Heavy Metal is powerful storytelling that is a tribute to the American soldier."
-- Phi Kappa Phi Forum
As commander of Charlie Company of Task Force 1-64 of the division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, I was given the job of taking my tank company through the suburb of Mahmudiyah to kill any Iraqi tanks or other armour we found. Charlie was the only tank heavy company in the task force. Alpha Company, a tank company, got a platoon of infantry from Charlie Rock, the mechanized infantry company, and gave it a platoon of tanks. That mixture gave the task force more versatility.
But the task force commander, Lt. Col. Rick Schwartz, kept Charlie Company intact. We were to be his knockout punch with our 14 tanks and one Bradley fighting vehicle that served as our fire support vehicle.
Through the first two weeks of the war, Charlie Company was often third in the task force line of march.
The exception was at our first battle at a place called Objective Rams, where we ran into several hundred near-fanatical Iraqi fighters that our intelligence reports told us were not there. Now we would have another chance to live up to our company motto: “Cobras lead the way.”
It was a last-minute mission, but the orders given by Schwartz were clear and succinct: “Find tanks and kill them.” This is what we as tankers train to do: kill tanks before they kill us. We spent six months in the desert of Kuwait getting ready for this.
Not since World War II had there been tank battles in cities involving American forces. There were tanks at Hue City during the Vietnam War, but that was largely American tanks against North Vietnamese infantry. Tank-on-tank warfare in an urban environment was not something any of us expected to see. Or wanted to be a part of.
We were exploring new territory here, literally and figuratively. Even though we did not realize it at the time, we were about to take all the modern doctrine of tank warfare and stand it on its ear. But what we were to discover this day about ourselves, and about how to fight with tanks in urban areas, would help convince division officials just a few days later to make the final push on Baghdad. And it would set new standards for the use of tanks in a city fight.
The task force’s primary mission was to destroy units of the Medina Division and here was a perfect opportunity to do it. But it was getting late in the day and we still had to make our way back through some built-up areas before dark. I radioed Schwartz and asked if he wanted us to continue moving south, or turn around and head back north through Mahmudiyah.
He thought the town was too much of a chokepoint and we ran the risk of getting stuck in there. We were all familiar with the book “Black Hawk Down,” and many of us saw the movie version of what happened to a handful of American soldiers caught in the middle of an unfriendly city and surrounded by thousands of enemy fighters. That was Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993. This was Mahmudiyah, Iraq, in 2003.
We had no desire for a repeat performance a decade later. As we moved back onto Highway 8, the road made a wide left turn and began pulling us back into built-up, populated areas.