This is the fourth installment in our ongoing oral history project. You can view previous chapters here.
The fourth season of the OIL saw many changes and a lot of drama. Not just petty trade controversies, either: life and death drama. Remember, the 158 returned to Iraq in Fall 2008, and they were there risking their lives until August of 2009. That was the year many of us were reminded that our opponents each week were soldiers and friends first, rivals second. And that's where any discussion of that year has to begin.
As the 2008 season ended and 2009 began, the 158 was still in Iraq. Although Betchan, Bruesch, and Purdue were able to compete from Ramadi in 2008, the league was well-aware that their brothers-in-arms were in harm's way. Then, in May, the point really hit home when SECFOR member and future OIL manager Adam Schuster was shot by a sniper.
CLIBURN: What do y'all remember about that?
JESSEN: I was on base walking to the chow hall when Schuster's squad came flying in off mission. SPC Bentley came running over and told me Schuster had been shot. I ran into the TMC to see him, but somebody kicked me out of the room. Parra showed up shortly after and we both were trying to figure out his status was and what was going to happen. Then they took him to a chopper in a body bag which was pretty rough, because we didn’t know what was happening. All we knew was what they kept telling us that he was going to be okay. That was probably the worst day of my whole military career.
BALDWIN: I was on that mission, too. It was a horrible day. I was in First Platoon and Bravo Battery with Schuster on the SECFOR mission, and we'd been really close.
While the OIL was born in Baghdad, the Hangovers/Arrogant Americans rivalry evolved slowly over multiple locations. The franchises were rivals long before the league permanently matched them up for Rivalry Week. And it came naturally. They prepare the entire season for their annual matchup.