Monday, July 16, 2007
I do the time conversion in my mind, I am 8 hours ahead of the east coast, as I glance at my watch it is 4:00pm my time so 8:00am back home. My wife and daughter should be seated on a United Airlines flight right now leaving Dulles bound for the Midwest. They are headed to spend time with my wife’s parents, a break for my wife while I am deployed and an opportunity for my daughter to spend time with her Grandparents and Uncle.
Strangely I am more concerned about them getting out safely than I am about myself as I glance down at the M4 carbine fully locked and loaded between my legs. I also have my 9mm on my right leg locked and loaded as well. The vehicle I am riding in also has a gunner manning a .50 caliber right above me zeroing in on anything that looks suspicious and he is constantly on the move scanning everything as we drive along; we are a 5 vehicle convoy, with enough firepower to make hell explode right here on earth. I can not help but find the irony in my thoughts as I ride on in a combat zone ready for anything, my hands resting on the stock of my M4. My mind drifts to my family going on their trip and hoping that all goes well for them. No doubt my thoughts and perspective on life in general have gone through some changes while I have been out here.
I am riding on through the streets of Habbaniyah with the Marines of 3rd Battalion 6th Marines. We ride on and stop at numerous combat out posts (COPS) and I move among the Marines and take pictures and do a couple of interviews. My job out here “get this now” so people will remember what is being done here so we will not forget the sacrifices made and years from now their story can be told to the next generation.
This week I am out with the “Teufelhunden” Battalion. This is a perfect name for the Marines of 3/6 due to their involvement with dogs; “Teufelhunden” is translated from German to mean Devil Dogs. The Marines of WW I when engaged in combat with the Germans were described by the German Army as fighting like Devil Dogs. A term that has stuck for all Marines down through the last 90 years and to this day is used as a greeting by Marines to each other.
I get the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with one of the local Provincial Security Force (PSF) commanders at one of the COPS during this trip. He brings in a lot of food and all the Marines gather and we “break bread” together. The discussion moves to operations to be done and how the Marines and the PSF will conduct them jointly. I have heard it said numerous times the winning of “hearts and minds” here in Iraq will not work, but what does is a relationship of “respect and trust”. This is the reason I would argue for the great success the Marines have had in the Al Anbar, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is the rule for the day, and is working. Counterinsurgency warfare will create changes in doctrine and force units to adapt and be flexible to the situations that arise; in the Al Anbar province the Marines have mastered this. Across the Area of Operations Marines continue to make significant strides in securing this former western badland to restore some sense of security for the local populace.
We continue to move this day and will spend 10 hours rolling through Habbaniyah to the various COPS. I join the Commanding Officer of 3/6 in his vehicle on one leg of our journey and we discuss the changes 3/6 has seen since arriving in country in Jan, he points out areas on the ride of the various IED explosions and firefights the battalion has been involved in on their tour.
As the sun is starting to move westward over the desert sky we head back to Camp Habbaniyah, past the first check point we exit the vehicle and drop our magazines and put weapons in a safe condition. I glance at my watch again, the United flight should have landed by now, and for me I am looking forward to some food and something cold to drink.
Pictures for this post, the first is yours truly on the roof of one of the COPS out with 3/6.
The second the emblem of 3rd battalion 6th Marines at their headquarters.