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Back to Iraq for Special Report – Steve Russell, Brian Bennett, JD Johannes



Steve Russell, Vets for Victory Founder, interviews Iraqi soldiers in the Rashid district of Baghdad.  Photo by JD Johannes

Veteran crew returns to Iraq


Vets for Victory in partnership with Vets for Freedom, traveled back to Iraq to report on the state of affairs five years after Saddam's capture.  

Steve Russell, Chairman of Vets for Victory and board member of Vets for Freedom, was joined by Brian Bennett, award winning journalist from TIME Magazine and JD Johannes from 'Outside the Wire' to look at several aspects of Iraqi society and also to report on the continued work of soldiers in post-surge Iraq.

They made some amazing discoveries along the way and discussed Iraq's future with General Ray Odierno in an exclusive interview.

Read and watch the reports below.



Flying the Friendly Skies of Iraq

Baghdad, Iraq - Steve Russell Reporting for Black Five

Flying on a safe, commercial airline into Iraq has gotten easier thanks to Gryphon Airlines, a Vienna, Virginia based company....I found my own experience on Gryphon Airlines to be a welcome change to the route that one might have to take to enter Iraq if not serving in the military. The airline went out of its way to assist us with the sometimes difficult paperwork required to enter Iraq. The plane was staffed by a friendly South African crew. Unlike the ninety minute flights in the states, this flight actually provided a meal. We were able to board directly from the Kuwait International Airport. When we landed in Baghdad, we saw....Read the entire article HERE



Baghdad's Bayaa Market

Baghdad, Iraq - JD Johannes Reporting for Outside the Wire

The biggest threat these days may be food poisoning if you are not used to the local "flora" of the Kebabs and Smoothies. Secondary threat--a septic infection from a cut at the barber shop.

But, with some Immodium and an up-to-date tetanus shot, you should be fine...


Watch the video HERE


Baghdad, Iraq - Steve Russell Reporting for KWTV 9

....Walking the streets, my instincts as a former combat infantryman in Iraq were tuned to view the alleys, the balconies and the lounging men in recessed corners. Before long, with men relaxed moving arm and arm in conversation, or women bustling to look at shoes or handbags, and kids scurrying from place to place, my eyes became tuned to different things altogether. Mannequins stood adorned in trendy fashions, a wide selection of cell phones filled a display case, a fruit smoothie shop offered refreshment to passersby and music pounded from local CD shops. Rather than stare in fear or hate, the locals offered their wares or tasty morsels with smiles and waves....

Read the entire article and watch videos HERE


A Son of Iraq - Shia Style

Baghdad, Iraq - JD Johannes Reporting for Outside the Wire

All the picture will tell you is that he is an Arab. But the man, Firas, is much more. He is an Iraqi, a Shia Muslim. He was a leader in Jaish Al Mahdi--the Shia insurgent group. Even more, Firas as JAM Special Groups. In the photo he is sitting on the back patio of Combat Outpost Attack in Baghdad's West Rashid District. He is not under arrest or being detained, but he was recently questioned at length by TIME Magazine writer Brian Bennett and LTC Steve Russell (USA--Ret.)

Read the entire article HERE


Business Booms Behind Baghdad's Security Walls

Baghdad, Iraq - Brian Bennett Reporting for TIME Magazine

Over the past year, the U.S. military and Iraqi Army have walled in over six neighborhoods across Baghdad. Some, like Saidiyah in south Baghdad, had been caught in the crossfire between Al Qaeda in Iraq-backed Sunni fighters and Iranian-backed militia. Other locales, like Bayaa in west Baghdad, had become safe havens for cells manufacturing deadly armor-piercing explosive devices to attack U.S. troops. But the security walls have brought calm, and prompted many families who had fled the gunfights and murders to return to their homes....

Read the entire article and watch videos HERE


Retracing an Ambush in Tikrit

Tikrit, Iraq - Brian Bennett Reporting for TIME Magazine

Retired Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell returns to the scene of an ambush in Tikrit, where he and his driver killed four insurgents in a gun fight

Watch the video report HERE (WARNING: Contains graphic images)


One on One with General Ray Odierno

Baghdad, Iraq - Brian Bennett Reporting for TIME Magazine

....As commander of the 4th Infantry Division, despite orders to pull back, he kept small outposts in neighborhoods among the residents, ensuring better surveillance and quick response to insurgent attacks, which helped him shut down the fedayeen on Saddam's home turf. The outposts have become one of the cornerstones of the surge strategy....If Petraeus gets credit for ushering in the surge, it was Odierno who "made it work...."

Read the entire article and watch a rare one-on-one interview arranged by V4V HERE








Steve Russell is a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. He commanded a battalion that was central to the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein. He now serves as chairman and founder of Vets4Victory.  He was elected to the State Senate of Oklahoma in 2008. 

Brian Bennett is an award winning journalist that has covered the Iraq War extensively for TIME Magazine. He covered the hunt for Saddam in 2003. More of his work can be found HERE.

JD Johannes is a former Marine, television news producer, US Senate staffer, political campaign manager and Assistant to Kansas' Attorney General. His reporting from Iraq has appeared in TIME Magazine, National Review Online, and many other syndications.More of his work can be found HERE.

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