Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Jim's Letter

Here is a letter from Jim that was pretty interesting. Some of you may have already read it through email, but some may have not read it.

Good morning from Camp India home of the mighty 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Division, New Iraqi Army. It is a nice morning here as temps are in the high 60s and a delicious breeze is flowing across the camp. Speaking of temperatures, the weather here is slowly but surely changing its tune. Each day the comfortable temperatures last longer and longer. We’re expected to dip below the 100s next week. That makes the patrolling, and just about everything else we do here, much easier.

So, busy week for Task Force 2/2. We had the memorial service for 2ndLt James Cathey. It was a simple service. The battalion commander, Capt Schmidt and a couple of the lieutenant’s Marines gave comments. I had another aspect of this story that you definitely will not hear on the evening news. It seems that Lt Cathey had, in a very short time, made quite an impact on a young Iraqi major. Golf Company works with the 4th Company from the Iraqi battalion. The 4th company commander is Major Raad. He’s a 22 year old major...much, much younger than any other major in the army. He was likely given his rank by US forces immediately following our invasion in 2003. When we got here, 3/8 (the battalion we relieved) said that Maj Raad was worthless, lazy, etc, etc. So, we didn’t completely write him off, but we were not too hopefully of his improvement. That’s where Golf 2/2 comes in. Capt Schmidt and his staff did a complete 180 with the soldiers of 4th company. In a short time they bridged the cultural and language gaps and immediately we have reports of Major Raad’s vast improvements. He was active in mission planning, active in taking care of his soldiers, etc, etc.

Well, apparently he and Lt Cathey had become very good friends in the month that we’ve been here. Major Raad was on vacation when Lt Cathey was killed. Last week, as we staged the convoy for our rotation to all the Iraqi posts, the Golf Company XO informed Maj Raad about Lt Cathey. Maj Raad, in the typical Arab response to tragic news, went ballistic. He ran around yelling, and was obviously visible upset. For a few minutes, we didn’t know if he was going to even make the convoy. I approached him after a few minutes to comfort him or just to chat. He speaks pretty good English. He said, “Lt Cathey was my brother. I had even purchased him a gift in Baghdad while I was on vacation.” He had purchased the gift because he did not know that Lt Cathey had been killed. Gift giving is not uncommon here between US and Iraqi forces...but not after four weeks! There was a connection there. A bond between to men serving their country. We’ll never know the full impact of our presence here, but I do know that at some level, US Marines like Lt Cathey are respected and appreciated by our brethren here...and obviously the feeling is mutual.

Moving on to lighter topics...I got shot at yesterday! I trust you’ll find the humor in that since I didn’t even know how close the impacts were! I had just finished a patrol in Nassar Wa Salaam with an Iraqi squad and three of the MiTT. We were back in the front gate and were getting into our HMMWV when we heard “Crack!” The Marines in the tower at the gate yelled down to us that the impacts were about 50 meters away. No worries! They “Crack, Crack!” I was behind the armored! HMMWV and the two other soldiers in the MiTT were moving to behind some barriers that were about 15 feet from our vehicle. They were crouched down behind the barriers...I decided to be a little more proactive and determine if there was anyone he needed me to “return the favor” if you know what I mean. Alas, I couldn’t see anyone and after a few minutes we all jumped into our vehicle and proceeded to the back part of camp. I found out from the MiTT, that the last two rounds impacted on the back side of the barrier they were leaning against...i.e. about 15-20 feet from us. They didn’t sound that close initially, but the MiTT, felt the rounds hitting the barrier. Anyway, exciting times.

This is my first trip to Camp India in about 10 days. I did not come last week because Captain Sadeq (their S-3) is on vacation and I also wanted to give the new Army Military Transition Team (MiTT) the opportunity to get settled in, etc. With Sadeq being gone and the new MiTT getting squared away, I figured there wouldn’t be much for me to do. Turns out I was correct. This week was a good time to come. The new MiTT is going to be very good for the Iraqis. The old MiTT was good, but they were just flat worn out. That’s the problem with the Army’s one year rotation system. One year is tough to sustain over here. Yea Dad, I know, “one year tours in Vietnam...” blah, blah and of course many WWII vets would have been thankful for just a year. However, just making an observation. The good thing is that I get to reap the benefits of the aggressive new MiTT and boy does it make my job easier.

That’s about it. I guess I didn’t have as much as I thought. Maybe I’ve got “writer’s block.”

Oh yea, yesterday while on patrol, an Army 1stSgt and me had a fun moment. A little Iraqi girl grabbed our hands and we swung her like Troy and I always do with Hannah. You know what I’m talking about? She wouldn’t let go of my fingers! I had to practically pull my glove off to get it out of her hand! She was so cute! I loved it...and the salty 1stSgt did too. One of the Army captains on the patrol saw the whole thing too. He dropped back in the formation and approached me with a sheepish grin on his face. He said, “Lively, you do have a heart...I think I saw a smile on your face! And I thought Marines were stone-cold killers!” Yeah, yeah, whatever...

Anyway, miss you guys!


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