Report From the Front
Sent: Friday, October 05, 2007 3:45 PM
Family, friends, and Fellow Marines,
As promised, here is my first "update" from this tour in Iraq. I will try and get one of these out about every month. I hope this finds you all doing well. It has been a very fast moving month and a half as we moved the 1,000+ Marines from 1/7 and literally tons of equipment and material half way around the world through Kuwait and eventually into Iraq. We have inventoried and signed for well over a hundred pieces of rolling stock, thousands of pieces of electronic equipment and computers, joined a few hundred more reinforcements to 1/7 (making us now "Task Force 1/7") and then we put everyone in their new positions, spreading us out over 500 square kilometers. Needless to say, the Marines of the First Team have been busy!
Here is the million dollar question I have been asked repeatedly since I have arrived, "How is it compared to the last time you were in Iraq?"
Well, I was in Hit, the main city within our AO, last October and daytime operations were limited to tanks and BFVs driving around the outskirts of the city because to venture inside meant a certain attack by an IED, RPG, small arms, or all of the above. Recently, I went on a 3 hour dismounted patrol through town in the middle of the afternoon and my biggest worry was having enough candy for all the children that came up to me to say hello and shake my hand. I stopped in stores and talked to the merchants to see how business is doing. They told me business is good and improving everyday. I even went to a few shops to look for a carpet for my office and enjoyed myself as I tried to get the price lowered from "rich" American prices to normal Iraqi prices. I wasn’t successful but will keep trying! I stopped in one of the police stations in the city so I could make plans with the Station Chief to remove a number of the cement barriers on the street in order to open traffic back up. Those barriers were a must before as there was a constant threat of a suicide vehicle ramming into the station in an attempt to kill as many of the police officers as possible. While that threat still exists, the security provided by the police and my Marines has allowed us to take risks in certain areas as we try and balance security needs and normalcy.
U.S. Soldiers, Marines and Iraqi security forces walk through the
market district of Hit, April 25, prior to attending an
Al Anbar Provincial Council meeting. This photo was taken by
Marine Corps Sgt. James R. Richardson and can be
found at http://www.army.mil/
I spend many hours working with the numerous city counsels and Mayors in my AO to address and solve many issues, problems, and to plan for the future. A year ago, the city councils would not show up to work because if they did, they were killed as they were seen as "agents" of the Americans by AQI. Now, they look forward to my arrival so issues like schools, rubble removal, water treatment plants, sewage repairs, repairs of the electrical grids, infrastructure modernization, and an assortment of other issues can be worked out, prioritized, and assets allocated for them to begin work. I also spend a great deal of time with the major Sheiks in my AO. They are some of the most gracious hosts you have ever met. My Marines and I are treated liked royalty every time we arrive.
U.S. Marines from 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment patrol back to Expeditionary Patrol Base Dulab in Dulab, Iraq, after completing a weapon cache sweep in Al Aliyah, Iraq, on Sept. 27. The cache sweep was a joint effort with Iraqi doldiers from 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division.
Delicious lamb, goat, sheep, kabobs, fresh fruits and vegetables are served in amounts we could never finish and we always eat first and get the seats of honor closest to the Sheik. We then adjourn for Chi tea and discuss issues that require my attention such as security, economic stimulation, tribal reconciliation, local government issues, and of course stories of past battles and fights…all embellished but they make great stories anyway. Three brothers in the town of Baghdadi, one of whom who happens to be the Police Chief and is known as the "Lion of Al Anbar", are particularly gracious hosts . They were some of the first to stand up against AQI and to stand with the Marines. They have suffered greatly for choosing to fight AQI and for freedom. The Police Chief, Colonel Shab’an has had no less then 7 direct assassination attempts against him. I was here last year and saw him after one attack against him was nearly successful. One of his brothers was killed, a brother-in-law was tortured and beheaded, and one of his younger brothers lost his legs in a mortar attack. Yet, he remains committed to a free and independent Iraq. His talks to me about freedom, democracy, and his loyalty to Iraq and justice are inspiring. Colonel Shab’an has become a sort of folk hero to his community and his willingness to stand up for their freedom and safety has inspired thousands of Iraqis. His two brothers, one a Sheik and the other a local businessman are also servants to their community. The Sheik is the City Council Chairman and has almost single handedly reorganized the local government from a board of obstructionists to a functioning and effective governing body who work almost non-stop to improve the lives of the people within their area. The other brother is a very successful businessman who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to fix water treatment plants, to pay of the salaries of the police before the national government could or would, and his source network has led to the successful capture of many terrorists and criminals. The nights in their neighborhood are particularly enjoyable as we sit outside to eat and the children in the neighborhood run around, laughing, and sneaking up to listen to me talk or to try and get some more candy from me. They are so proud of the security they have established for their families, their tribe, and the people in their community. I am proud just to be considered their friend.
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