Saturday, June 23, 2007
With a quick smack from my right hand the magazine slides into place, my left hand pulls the upper receiver of my pistol back and letting it slide forward it goes home with a click driving the first round of the clip into the chamber, 15 left in the clip, locked and loaded. With the command of "Condition One" all weapons loaded the three other Marines and myself all climb back in the HUMMER. I feel the sweat dripping down my back and down my ribs as the flack jacket I am wearing hugs my upper torso, with my helmet and goggles strapped on the sweat just keeps coming, partly from my heightened heart rate and the increasing heat at only 10:00AM. I am riding with the Marines of 2nd Battalion 5th Marines through the streets of Ar Ramadi. These mean streets have for the past couple of years been a hard and brutal fight for Marine Battalions rotating through here with heavy insurgent activity and lots of fighting. As we move down the streets my eyes are wide and scanning everything, my heart racing looking at everything with a critical eye, any car, the people, the road and everything in my view, all with my right hand resting on my pistol. We are outside the wire and traveling through the city, if nothing else I will be over cautious. I am keenly aware that I am not in Southern Maryland anymore.
We arrive at one of the numerous Combat Outposts (COPS) in the city, this is where the Marines live among the locals and work patrols with the Iraqi police and Army slowly restoring peace and security to this former wild west town. I spend the day out in the city at the COPS and talk with several Marines on the changes that have taken place in Ramadi. It was a great week of getting out to the tip of the spear of this war with the men of 2/5. Today under the command of 2/5 and with added Marines from the “surge” effort Ramadi is a different place. I visited the COPS within the city and saw first hand the changes taking place. The reasons, Good old Marine Corps perseverance, the effects of the “Anbar Awakening” combined with outstanding leadership have paid huge dividends in this city. Attacks are on the decline, in direct fire on the base has been reduced considerably and 2/5 has done an amazing job in working with the local Iraqi Police and Army here, assisting them to take control of their city. The Marines living in the COPS here are out among the locals getting to know the neighborhoods and the people who inhabit them. This has also forced the enemy to rethink their strategy and has them losing ground.
There is a much different story to tell out here in the Al Anbar province than in Baghdad. We are winning out here but news of the gains and successes here never seem to make the 6:00 news. I was told by a Colonel awhile back " I worry that we are close to winning this war but will the American people have the patience to let us?". This western part of Iraq is at a tipping point, but will we have the time?
Even with all the good news I will add never let your guard down, after being back inside the wire of camp Ramadi I stepped outside of the vehicle to a loud earth shattering explosion that caused everyone to pause and look around as if we were receiving incoming. I later found out it was a suicide vehicle attack right outside the wire. Lesson learned, never let your guard down this is still a very dangerous place.
I also hit the Marines of 5th ANGLICO and had a good day with them, perfect timing as they had just come off a long mission and had some great stories to tell. When the topic of Ramadi came up we discussed the same issues I had with 2/5 and the turn around that is taking place here and all seemed to be in agreement. Tribal engagement, The surge, AQI overplaying their hand and the local Iraqi’s seeing a better way to live have made for success in this city.
The attached pictures for this post show my view traveling down the streets of Ramadi from my seat in the HUMMER. The other is of a group of Marines preparing to do a foot patrol out in the neighborhoods from one of the COPS.
Of note also I have linked my office and can mate (Room mate) Capt Tony Licari's blog now to my page, when you get a chance check out his thoughts and opinions under blogs of interest.