Saturday, July 21, 2007
I had a whole week in Fallujah due to some scheduling problems, so I took advantage of the time and got a lot of my writing done and enjoyed a week with no travel. Felt good to be sleeping in my can for a solid week and enjoy the comforts believe it or not of Camp Fallujah.
I did go and get some interviews completed during the week. I had a good visit with the Personnel Retrieval and Processing (PRP) Marines. If you read my blog you will remember I interviewed their commanding officer in Al Taqaddum a while back. This is an interesting group; PRP is the old Mortuary affairs unit, although now they have been assigned a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) and also have a formal school to attend. This is an all volunteer unit based on the work that they do, and you can leave the MOS upon request as well. This was not always the case as many Marines were randomly selected from various backgrounds and assigned to Mortuary Affairs, having no background in it but Marines were needed in times of war for the duties of processing deceased service members. The USMC has now formalized the field and assigned it a MOS for continued consistency in the field. Although I did learn that of the 35 members of PRP who were deployed last year to Iraq only 4 have returned for this deployment. This is a very difficult and emotional job, retrieving and processing deceased service member’s for their final flight back home. The unit also processes Iraqi Army and Police if needed. It proved to be an interesting collection of interviews all PRP Marines are reservists out of Anacostia in Washington D.C. and Marietta Georgia.
I also spent my time planning for my final weeks here in Iraq, as next month I will be completing my tour and headed back to Maryland. I looked at specific people and units I want to cover to get the bigger picture of what is happening right now. Units like the Military Transition Teams (MTT) who are Marines living and working with the Iraqi Army to help train them to pickup the mission when we leave. Also the Marines of the Police Transition Teams (PTT) who work with the Iraqi police and train them to be better qualified to do their jobs so we can leave. The Provisional Reconstruction Teams (PRT) and just as the name their name sounds they are a reconstruction team to help the Iraqi people rebuild basic infrastructure destroyed by 4 years of war. The work here is not all shooting now but training and rebuilding. A restoration of some sort of normalcy and stability, which is occurring in many cities in the Al Anbar province.
This will be my focus in the weeks ahead, I think it will complete and round out the collection I have gathered. I have covered the air wing and spent a good amount of time with the ground infantry units, spent time outside the wire and been to the out posts and check points, Interviewed the higher headquarters and now I plan to move on to the stability and long term phase that will complete this mission.
Pictures for this post, the first one is of a sand storm we had on Wednesday, the sky at about 4:00PM turned completely orange and blocked out the sun. The dust was blowing everywhere and made visibility so bad flights were cancelled. It was pretty amazing as the sun normally sets here around 9:00PM but to be so dark and have this surreal orange sky caused by all the fine dust in the air was something to experience.
The second is of Fallujah Surgical, which is where the wounded are brought for treatment in the Fallujah area of operations.