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February 15, 2005

Scenes From the War On Terror

In Shannon International airport, David Brooks runs into some Marines returning from Iraq:

A bunch of us were milling about in the airport bar, holding little Irish coffees, when hundreds of marines started flooding into the terminal. This was their first chance at a beer after eight months of mayhem in the Sunni Triangle. They streamed in looking thick-necked and strong, but they also had wide-eyed, tentative expressions on their faces, like people trying to reacclimate to the manners of normal life.

This unit had lost 22 men, including several in the last weeks. I talked to one kid who had a craggy scar running across the side of his skull. He was proud of how Election Day went and said Iraqis were working harder to take care of their own streets.

Back in Iraq, Captain Griffin from 2nd LAR remembers how it was that day...

An older gentlemen, apparently well educated, made it a point to get the attention of every Marine, Solider and Sailor along the VCP, motion him to come over, shake his hand and say "Thank you. This is the first time in my life my vote actually means something. I hope you never leave."

My translator approached me about mid-morning and I could tell he was ancy about something. He asked "Sir, can I go vote now." I told him "Hell yes, Jimmy. Go vote." He replied "Thank you, sir. It is my right now. Thank you."

While the second was obviously more personal to me because I have come to respect Jimmy for all he has done for this company and in turn his country, I believe today was historic. And we were glad to just do our part. It has made so much of this deployment worthwhile and hopefully we honored all the Marines, Soldiers and Sailors who have paid all in this mission by accomplishing what we have done today. To think that just two months ago we were attacking the city with lethal, overwhelming firepower and now a democratic election rose from the ashes of the city defies reality. This is the power of America. This is the power of the human race who can be brutally suppressed by a regime for 30 years and terrorized in their homes by selfish cowards. The resiliency and the survivalist mentality of the Iraqi people makes it easy to believe that we are in the right fight.

I hope CNN's 30 second sound bites were able to capture this.

Back at Shannon, Brooks thinks about a security conference he just attended in Munich. What can he tell these Marines about it? The good news is that, Democrat or Republican, their Senators seemed willing to confront the tough problems associated with the war on terror. And then there were what John Kerry likes to call our "real allies":

...I didn't hear too many Europeans giving specific ideas on how to make Iraq a success. Instead, I heard too many speakers evading this current pivot point in history by giving airy-fairy speeches about their grand visions of the future architecture of distant multilateral arrangements.

I heard the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, in his soaring, stratospheric mode, declaring that we need the "creation of a grand design, a strategic consensus across the Atlantic." We need a "social Magna Carta" to bind the globe. His chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, proposed a vague commission to rebuild or replace NATO. His president, Horst Köhler, insisted, "Unless we tackle global poverty, long-term security will remain elusive."

Fine, let's tackle global poverty and have new arrangements. But maybe democracies should be contributing to Iraq now. That's called passing the credibility test.

It occurred to me as we left Shannon that it's always been true that American and European politicians have different historical experiences and come from divergent strands of the liberal intellectual tradition. But now there's something else different. American politicians meet combat veterans all the time. They make the calls to bereaved families.

That concentrates the mind.

Half a world away, the fight continues...

We surged in our operations, both offensive and defensive, in the past ten days making our positions stronger, developing better force protection plans, conducting aggressive patrols to keep the enemy off balance, extending our security zone and doing a lot of what the Marines enjoyed the most - kicking in doors in the middle of the night, capturing bad guys and delivering them to justice. While AMZ and UBL are still loose, we have been rolling up bad guys at the cyclical rate. We have taken down so many insurgent fighters, IED makers and emplacers, financiers, harborers of terrorists, rocket and mortar men, leadership at all levels relative to our area, that the enemy ceased to fight in our zone on election day. We have earned tremendous accolades from the regiment for disrupting and taking down insurgent cells and groups. While these missions are the more desirable, "sexy" missions that my platoons are just so masterful at accomplishing, this is a team fight. The company motto is "Everyone fights. No one quits." It has clearly come to signify who we are. All the Marines in the company participate in the offensive operations but that is not our only mission.

But it wasn't consensus, the elimination of poverty, or global daisy-chain-making that brought election day to Iraq. Of course, you'd never know it to hear the fence-sitters. It's all about teamwork. And leadership. And believing in something with all your heart:

The latest stars to rise from this company are the Marines we now refer to as call sign "Lion." One of our key missions is to defend critical infrastructure - in this case a dam that sits on the Euphrates River. Initially I had been given an Iraqi platoon with a Marine captain and Marine SNCO to help advise the platoon. These advisory billets are referred to as ASTs. They did a good job for us but didn't bring that Apache passion to the team. This is not to belittle the efforts of my fellow Marines - not in the least bit. I admire their efforts and their role is a key piece in the strategic success of the overall mission here in Iraq. But there came a time in December when the Iraqi platoon was to be replaced and I would not get any ASTs. So I chose two Apache Marines that I thought would be up to the task to replace a captain and a staff sergeant - I chose a sergeant and a lance corporal (Sergeant Jackson and Lance Corporal Ellison). I was unsure of what level of success they would achieve. I never doubted they would accomplish the mission but not having the benefit of training that the ASTs had received, not having received any Arabic language classes, not having the benefit of years of experience and troop handling that a captain and a staff sergeant bring to the table - how much would they accomplish being in charge of Iraqi soldiers in which some of the Iraqis out rank them.

Not to be cliché, or slang, or conversational but - oh my God have these guys delivered. These two Marines accomplished more with less than anyone I have ever seen. The expression "no rest for the weary" pales in description to what these Marines have endured and accomplished. These guys have not only "advised" the platoon, they have constructed a well positioned defense, run regular security patrols and IED sweeps, conduct convoys, teach the Iraqis classes, ensure the place is squared away, run the guard, deal with senior officers and officials from the US and Iraqis who come to visit the platoon on the dam and so much more.

This platoon went from being a positive neutral in the mission accomplishment equation to positive success. These guys are out there - alone and unafraid. On top of that, the platoons of Iraqis get switched out about every two weeks, generally unannounced and these Marines start from ground zero over and over again. And yet, every time I go down to see them or they come up to the CP, they are smiling and positive about their mission. They have become such a positive influence on this command that I added three more Marines to the team and the addition has been exponentially more successful. I was a former enlisted Marine who was once a lance corporal, a corporal and then a sergeant. I am almost embarrassed to admit that seeing what these five guys who have earned the same rank as I did have been able to accomplish. Compared to these guys and what they have been able to do, I should never have qualified to leave recruit training.

Of course, had we listened to the 'experts', Saddam would still be in power and we'd all be wringing our hands about what to do next.

Posted by Cassandra at February 15, 2005 08:48 AM

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Marine "Tiger Teams" did the same thing in RVN during the Southeast Asian Unpleasantness and were very effective; unfortunately, the Few were Only A Few and were stuck in mud forts spread too far apart to make a strategic difference. Maybe this time the Puzzle Palace will do things right...

Posted by: cw4billt at February 15, 2005 09:39 AM

I am glad they are home.

Welcome home, gents. A job well done and a big Thank You.

Posted by: Cricket at February 15, 2005 11:21 AM

If I was in an airport while hundreds of Marines flooded in, I'd definitely have a SERIOUS case of the vapors, whereas I've only joked about it before! (~;)

An aside and different Mil branch, but I thought it was cool that they had 3 genuine Mil guys in the Superbowl/Anheuser-Busch "Thank You" ad!

FWIW--Here's the commercial

Cass, I'm thinkin' this is one of those entries that should have had a hanky advisory. EXCELLENT! [EXCELLENT subjects, too.] Meanwhile the manicured, soft handed LINO's (*leaders* in name only [foreign & U.S.]) remain forever clueless. Perhaps the first clue the clue train should deliver to some o' them is: be a MAN!]

God bless em ALL!

Posted by: CKCat at February 15, 2005 01:55 PM

Cat, these guys never cease to amaze me.

I got a neat picture in the mail the other day - a platoon of pretty silly-looking guys at Christmas. Pretty cool. It's on my computer now.

We so owe them.

Posted by: Bush Ate My Soul... at February 15, 2005 02:05 PM

Joschka F8cking Fishmonger... Argghhh! That sleazy b*st*rd gave aid and comfort to the people who planted the bomb that knocked my young ass flat as a kid in Frankfurt - and gave me a scar. It throbs every time I read that $*%&#()$%*$%#)#$&*%!'s name.


"Okay, get the strait-jacket on 'im and get 'im trussed-up and we'll get him back in the padded room so he won't hurt anybody..."

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at February 15, 2005 02:24 PM


We SOOOOO owe them. I am in constant amazement when I read stories like this..and there's TONS of them. It makes me that much less shy about quickly telling disparaging whiney hineys to just shut UP! I am so totally smitten by REAL MEN! (~;)

Is that pic one of them with Santa hats?---standing in front of a big honkin' vehicle, if I remember correctly?...(some were sitting on it, too) I forgot where I saw that. Maybe Debs. You CAN send it ya know. (~;)

(*whispering*)Pssstttt...is Prozac one of those drugs that users can't simply get off of by going cold turkey? Uhm...if so, it might be kind of you to tell that to Joan of Arckggg, or maybe inform his SU of his whereabouts.

Posted by: CKC at February 15, 2005 02:52 PM

How chuckular that the ladies gush over sojers on the tube and disparage the ones who appear on these very 'lectrons (and comment, albeit a tad frenetically) with veiled references to antipsychotic medications...

*sigh* Rudy Kipling had it right.

Posted by: cw4billt at February 15, 2005 03:47 PM

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