Michael Yon is an independent journalist and former Green Beret who was embedded in Iraq for nine months in 2005. He has returned to Iraq for 2007 to continue reporting on the war. Here is a portion of his latest dispatch exclusively for FOXNews.com.
In Iraq, I was allowed to accompany a British Army unit called “The Queen’s Royal Lancers,” whose motto is “Death or Glory.” It seems appropriate to tribute this dispatch to Her Majesty. And so I will take special care in the writing, on the chance that Her Majesty might read about her soldiers at war, as viewed through the eyes of an American.
British soldiers truly are fighting in Iraq. On three consecutive missions with three different British units, their soldiers killed roughly 40 enemy in combat action that also saw two British soldiers killed in action, and three wounded. The enemy apparently is attempting to paint a perception that the long-planned draw down of British soldiers in southern Iraq is actually the result of a successful "rout," and they are stepping up the tempo of attacks.
My days with the Queen’s Royal Lancers began on 18 April after a pass-and-review parade marking the handover of Maysan Province to Provincial Iraqi Control (PIC). Our enemies were about to make good on their promise to mark the occasion with some form of spectacular attack. Large Merlin helicopters and ground transport siphoned away the dozens of journalists who had come to cover the PIC ceremonies, although few major newspapers in the U.S or U.K. published anything about the handover.
After the PIC ceremonies, I waited on the landing zone at FOB Sparrowhawk with Lt. Col. Richard Nickersl-Ecershall, the Battle Group Commander of the Queen’s Royal Lancers, who was returning to his soldiers living in the desert.
The Queen’s Royal Lancers have been living out in the desert for about six months, like nomads moving from place to place, sleeping under the stars, getting much of their resupply of food and water by nighttime parachute drop as they patrol the Iran-Iraq border. They were living out there, as some officers had told me, in true Lawrence of Arabia style, wearing shamals, sometimes taking camel rides when Bedouins would wonder through their camps with great herds of camels. Some soldiers would go for weeks without bathing, while others would wash-down with a bottle or two of water. Water is strictly rationed.
Lt. Col. Nickersl-Ecershall would say that their job was to melt away into the desert, providing the eyes and ears that monitor the border. They’d apparently done their job well. I had been on many patrols with American forces along the Iranian border, but had no idea that Brits were out on desert safari. Although there had been some fighting, the Queen’s Royal Lancers had not lost a single soldier to combat during this tour.
I have learned to pay very close attention to the opinions of American Battalion commanders. Lt. Col. Erik Kurilla's battlefield instincts were so uncanny that they seemed bizarre; his own soldiers called it the “Deuce-Sixth-Sense.” Kurilla could practically smell a bullet from a hundred yards away before it was fired.
And this is why I pester battalion commanders with so many questions. Nobody seems to have a sense for the ground situation here like the good battalion commanders, and now here was British Lt. Col. Nickersl-Ecershall, who after nearly half a year in Iraq had not lost a single soldier to combat, making plainly clear to me that his gut instinct was that something might happen very soon. He expected combat. In about 18 hours, the commander’s instincts would prove accurate.
Independent journalist Michael Yon’s dispatches from Iraq appear exclusively on FOXNews.com. Click to read Yon's online magazine MichaelYon-online.com