Reed Magazine May
Life in the military, days in Iraq
By Nadine Fiedler ’89

capital T imagehere’s a Reed face on the war in Iraq,

and it’s that of Larry Doane ’99.


Doane leads a platoon of 40 soldiers in Mosul, northern Iraq, in the Army’s first Stryker Brigade (Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division). They spend their days sweeping roads for bombs, visiting police and defense forces, patrolling neighborhoods and engaging the local populace, and trying to fix the infrastructure of the country. At night he and his soldiers raid suspected safe houses looking for terrorists. He calls his job “one part Peace Corps, two parts SWAT team.”

“The conditions here are not too bad, excluding the RPG attacks and occasional mortar rounds,” he says. “For the most part, the Iraqi people are happy to see Saddam go and are excited about the future of their country. It is interesting to watch the nascent political process here, and I get a front seat to watch the beginnings of their attempt at democracy. I should still be here for the first set of elections, and we look forward to handing more and more control of the city over to the Iraqis.” He is scheduled to return home in June.

Doane, a chemistry major, left Reed after his junior year. “I wish I had finished up at Reed (that will gnaw at me for my lifetime), but there’s no going back,” he says. He went back home to Vermont and started working as an emergency room technician by day and tending bar at night. When he returned to Reed for a friend’s commencement, he talked to then-president Steven Koblik about joining the military. Doane spoke to an army recruiter, enlisted in November 1999 as a combat medic, and shipped to basic training in South Carolina.

Doane and tank photo

In Balad, just north of Baghdad

He hated basic training and wanted to quit. His officers saw his potential, though, and urged him to take responsibility for his life. “I realized how much of my life I had wasted. I kept going at basic and started learning how to not give up,” he says. Doane’s commander decided he was officer material and sent Doane to Vermont to train in mountain warfare and attend St. Michael’s College. Doane earned his B.S. in biochemistry and completed the officer training program, taking his commission as a second lieutenant in the infantry.

Doane says he’s happy that he joined the army, but he’s thoughtful about what that means. “I figure at least 80 percent of Reed students despise what I do. I can’t say that I blame them: there is nothing more irrational than war. . . . Reed taught me, above all else, to think for myself. It taught me the value of a good argument and that truth and learning only come in a free environment. I strongly believe that I can help create such an environment here and that such an environment will greatly benefit the region. Can I make the honor principle work in Iraq? Not yet. Can I get the Christians, Muslims, Kurds, Arabs, Shiites, Sunnis, Turkomen, and Wahhabis to get along? Probably not. Can I keep them from killing each other?”

Doane isn’t sure what he plans to do when he gets back. He might stay in the military and join Special Forces, but in his long nights in Iraq he also contemplates a career in science or in public service: “I look forward to the day when someone will tell me to put down my rifle and go back to being a biochemist,” he says. He welcomes email from classmates at End of Article

Nadine Fiedler ’89 is assistant editor of Reed.

Reed Magazine May