The authentic story of an American teenage girl…
patrolling the streets of Baghdad.
Based on true-life stories of young women
serving as military police officers in Iraq.

Army SPC Sandra Werth, 19 years old, is with the 1287 Military Police Company of the Oregon National Guard. She joined up to get a college education and to compete with her older brother, a police officer in Portland. Sandra is a state champ in track and field events, a bit of a tomboy, but she also can be
a “girly” girl and is cute to boot. Her duties in Iraq, however, are not what most would call feminine. Protecting U.S. convoys, Iraqi police stations, and street patrols regularly puts Sandra in harm’s way.

Her most dramatic firefight comes on November 30, 2003. Several dozen Iraqis use rockets and machine guns to ambush trucks transporting money to Iraqi banks in Samarra. MPs, along with infantry and armored forces, wage an intense firefight with the Iraqi attackers, some of whom wear the black uniforms of the Fedayeen militia.

No U.S. soldiers die in the clash, but six are injured — including Sandra, who receives a Purple Heart. She is credited with killing one of the Iraqis.

During Sandra’s tour of duty, she has a fling with a charming young bureaucrat of the Coalition Provisional Authority. This gives her a glimpse inside the barricaded American Sector of Baghdad. Known as the Green Zone, it’s a surreal slice of American lifestyle in the sprawling grounds of Saddam Hussein’s former government complex and surrounding neighborhoods.

Back in the Red Zone, Sandra is a favorite among many in the Baghdad neighborhoods she patrols. However, events such as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the policies of the CPA begin to sour the Iraqis’ attitudes toward Americans.

As the mood of the populace changes for the worse, so does Sandra’s mood, especially after her year-long tour is extended by four months as part of a “stop-loss” program.

But any resentment is pushed to the back of her mind as she gets new orders. A police station is under siege, and three Humvees, one with her manning the exposed 50-caliber machine gun, are sent to reinforce the station.

Sandra writes an e-mail to her sister before the squad moves out: “Every convoy that’s gone to this part of Baghdad so far has taken fire or been ambushed. The question of whether we’ll get hit isn’t even really a question, more like a guess as to when and how bad.”

Sandra Werth of “MP: IRAQ” is a composite character based on several real-life National Guardsmen. Here is just ONE of these MPs:

The true story of Army SPC Michelle M. Witmer,
assigned to the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 32nd Military Police Company.

On the night of April 9, 2003, Michelle’s squad was called in to help protect an Iraqi police station that was being overrun by insurgents.  Michelle, who usually drove the vehicle, instead acted as gunner that night.  Minutes before she headed out, she sent an e-mail to her twin sister Charity (a medic in Baghdad), about their sister Rachel, who was also an MP stationed with the 32nd MPC in Baghdad.

The e-mail said, “Hi, sweetie bear.  I love you.  We are about to head out.  Things have gotten really bad.  I’m really worried about Rachel.  She is [patrolling] in a bad part of town.  I hope you will be ok.  I just want you to know I love you for ever.”

Michelle and Rachel saw each other before they left that evening, in vehicle convoys headed for different parts of the city.  Here are their own words about the events of April 9, taken from e-mail messages and interviews.

Michelle wrote, “We had a briefing telling us to prepare ourselves as best as possible for what lies ahead.  I guess every convoy that’s gone up north so far has taken fire or been ambushed.  The question of whether we will or not is not even really a question, more like a guess as to when.”

Rachel said, “I was in a gunner truck.  I remember looking over and seeing my sister as a gunner.  That’s odd.  She’s usually the driver.  I smiled at her.  She smiled back at me.  To this day I will kick myself, I had an urge to run over to her and hug her and tell her to be safe.”

There was something different in Michelle’s face, Rachel says.  “It was more stoic than usual and she just—I don’t know if people know what’s going to happen to them, but she just—she had this calm, stoic look on her face.”  Then Michelle waved goodbye, and it was the last time Rachel saw her.

Looking back, Michelle’s sister Charity also noticed something different about her twin sibling.  “She just was so—at peace with herself, and with life.  And [in] retrospect it’s just incredible to me.  It was like she knew.”

“As I understand it, the patrol that Michelle was with was three Humvees, and they found themselves in the middle of a three-block-long ambush.  All hell broke loose and there was fire from every direction.”

Michelle returned fire with her 50-caliber rail-mounted machine gun.  Although she wore extensive protective gear, a single enemy bullet found an Achilles heel, striking below her arm and piercing her heart.

When Michelle was killed, she was supposed to serve only five more days of patrol duty before preparing to leave Iraq.

Above: Michelle with children of Baghdad.
A fellow MP, Shizuko Jackson, wrote: "The children LOVED Michelle, and they literally chanted her name every time we pulled up to the station, 'Michelle! Michelle! Michelle!' Months after we left Al-Quanat for another mission, whenever we came back to visit, the kids still remembered her and asked for her 'Where is MY Michelle?!!"

Left: Michelle and her sisters Rachel and Charity.

Learn about the realities facing our troops in Iraq:
"MP: IRAQ" © 2004, 2010 Paul Guinan, B&W illo by David Hahn.





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