Here is a letter from my cousin, Capt. Jim who has been in Iraq and is coming home this next week. We are very proud of him.
Today is February 4, 2006 and in a few days I will make one last trip ‘’outside the wire’’ when I travel with my company to a nearby airfield for a flight to Kuwait. That convoy will take us through the city of Fallujah, so there is always the potential for some last minute “excitement.” I wanted to send you one last word from Iraq to express my gratitude for your support and to give you one last update on the Warlords of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.
During this deployment, we've faced bullets and explosives from those who seek to do us harm...but you back home are facing the true weapon of this war. That weapon is the enemy’s use of the media - and it is aimed at affecting our nation's will...your will. Rest assured that the Warlords' will is unshaken. But our enemy is very intelligent and he has done a fine job in his quest for the hearts and minds of Western culture. He cannot, and will not face us conventionally; so he fights us unconventionally...and uses videos and other media to broadcast his perceived successes across the airwaves and into the often receptive arms of Western media. The enemy uses highly visible and shocking attacks and kidnappings to capture headlines and evoke fear. This is the way he believes he can win. But, he will not defeat our forces here on the ground.
Our commanding general has encouraged us to share “our story”. We’ve been encouraged to let people back home know what we’ve accomplished here. Most people back home know that Marines’ weapons and tactics are very effective against the enemy. The combined effects of M16s, artillery and close air support from Marine aviators are lethal and efficient. However, I think our story, and the stories of every unit that comes to Iraq are our most effective weapons. These personal accounts are what will steel our nation's resolve, bolster her perseverance and erase her doubts. The Warlord’s story is one of courage, bravery, pain, suffering and determination. We've seen the best and worst of this war in all its brilliant colors and darkest hues. We’ve seen the death of friends and comrades and we have seen the successes of an Iraqi national army as it took its roots in defending democracy. Our story must focus on the Iraqi Army. Our battalion commander made the Iraqi Army the Warlords’ number one priority. The success and advancement of our partnered Iraqi Army battalion was our main effort. The second priority was providing a safe environment for the national elections and the third priority was killing the enemy. I point out those priorities because they form the thesis for our story. Our mission was to improve the Iraqi Army and I can confidently say, “Mission accomplished.”
The soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division (1-4-1) were our battalion's first priority and they are our battalion’s greatest success story. Truthfully, the story is 1-4-1’s story. As our battalion’s Iraqi Army Liaison officer I had the privilege of seeing this story unfold first hand. 1-4-1’s soldiers proved their merit time and again. During our deployment here, 1-4-1 became the first Iraqi Army battalion in the tumultuous Al Anbar province to assume its own battlespace. That means they independently controlled every operation in their area. Iraqi units independently controlling battlespace is our way out of this war. Every square kilometer that the Iraqi Army controls allows U.S. forces to move to other trouble spots and focus on other Iraqi units that need further development.
During their tenure in Iraq, the Warlords trained over 400 Iraqi soldiers in enhanced infantry tactics. We saw a young battalion of sometimes disorganized units begin to operate in cohesive formations. When attacked by enemy fire, they executed skillful actions to repel attacks instead of firing haphazardly. They showed resolve and determination. One Iraqi soldier insisted that he be allowed to finish the patrol after he had a bullet literally bounce off the protective plate across his chest. Soon after that another soldier in the same patrol had a bullet skip off his helmet. He too insisted that the patrol continue. There were repeated incidents of bravery and solid tactical decision-making. We also trained over 100 soldiers in advanced lifesaving skills. We call it the “Combat Lifesavers Course.” This course gives them the ability to provide initial or ‘’first responder’’ care to their wounded comrades. This improved their confidence as they operated against the enemy in their area of operations.
1-4-1’s officers consistently impressed us with their discipline and military decision-making. Their leadership proved crucial to helping our battalion answer its second priority - securing the national elections. During our deployment, Iraq held two historic elections. The first, on October 15, was the constitutional referendum. On December 15, Iraqis elected their representatives to the national congress. During both elections, 1-4-1 provided security for key election nodes. They were able to make lasting and positive contributions to the future of their country. The Iraqi Army helped us maintain a high level of security in our zone and made those two days extremely successful.
The third priority - killing the enemy, is what every Marine is trained to do. Fortunately, our Marines are highly disciplined and are able to use great skill and precision in fighting an enemy that blends in so well with civilians. We did affect the insurgency here. We pulled over 200 ‘’bad-guys’’ off the streets and sent them to Iraqi prisons. Our combat engineers pulled thousands of pounds of explosives and ammunition from hidden weapons caches. We disrupted enemy operations time and again and saw a noticeable decrease in enemy activity in our zone.
I could add many of my own tales to the Warlord’s story, but I’ll save those for when I get home. The Warlord’s story is a great one and one that I hope you’ll share with family and friends. This story is not without its tragedy however. During this deployment, 15 United States Marines and one United States Sailor from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines paid the ultimate price in service to their country. Another 100 were wounded. One Iraqi Army soldier in 1-4-1 was killed and another 20 were wounded. These brave Marines, Sailors and Iraqi soldiers would not want us to focus on their loss, but on their battalions’ successes. Their efforts helped us fulfill our battalion’s priorities. Their actions and sacrifices helped a long beleaguered nation begin to experience freedom and democracy. They were phenomenal warriors and true patriots. The will never be forgotten. Please pray for their families as our battalion returns home without their loved ones. Pray for those who continue to recover from injuries. Pray for peace, for understanding and for healing.
I want to offer a special word of thanks to those of you that supported my little “Iraqi shoe drive.” With your help, over 1000 Iraqi children now have a pair of shoes. I wish that you could have seen the smiles on their faces…smiles that transcend language barriers…they were simply beautiful. Those gifts were a part of this story. Most of those shoes were actually distributed by 1-4-1 to Iraqi citizens in the cities were 1-4-1 conducted operations. Those gifts helped the Iraqi battalion commander gain trust with the locals. They helped him build rapport between the citizens and the Iraqi Army that has been non-existent for decades. They helped restore hope in the Iraqi people that its national Army could be the hand of mercy and care instead of the tyrannical and lethal hand of a violent dictator. Just know that you played an important part in that story. Thank you.
In closing, I want to thank all of you for being a part of this story. Your prayers, letters, emails and packages were what we call “force-multipliers.” They sustained us…they sustained me. Please continue to support other Marines, Sailors, airmen and soldiers that you know. Continue to support their families. As I mentioned earlier, our enemies here definitely want to hurt our military personnel that our here supporting the Iraqi people. But even more, they want Western countries to give up…they want America to give up. They want us to lose heart. My prayer is that we will defy the enemy at all costs.
God bless! Semper Fidelis! See you all soon.