By Noah Smith
Best Defense Council of the Former Enlisted

I deployed to Iraq in 2012. On the way over, I was 27 years old and eager to fight. I headed into the international zone in the center of Baghdad. My mission to advise the Iraqi Special Operators to help them adjust to an environment in which they did not enjoy direct U.S. military support. We were their advocates and confidantes. I spent the next six months working with their commando school.

Little did I know I was heading into a deeply frustrating experience, perhaps the most confusing of my life.

It soon became clear to us that our mission would not succeed, because no matter what we did, Iraq was drifting toward civil war. Al Qaeda in Iraq was conducting assassinations and morphing into something powerful. ISIS was beginning to emerge.