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.
Where did they go?
On June 29, American and Iraqi soldiers were again fighting side-by-side as soldiers from Charley Company 1-12 CAV, led by Capt. Clayton Combs and Iraqi soldiers from the 5th IA, closed in on a village on the outskirts of Baqouba.
The village had the apparent misfortune of being located near a main road — about 3.5 miles from FOB Warhorse — that Al Qaeda liked to bomb.
Al Qaeda had taken over the village. As Iraqi and American soldiers moved in, they came under light contact, but the real threat were the bombs planted in the roads and maybe in the houses.
The firefight progressed. American missiles were fired. The enemy might have been trying to bait Iraqi and American soldiers into ambush, but it did not work.
The village was riddled with bombs, some of them large enough to destroy a tank. One by one, experts destroyed the bombs, leaving small and large craters in the unpaved roads.
The village was abandoned. All the people were gone. But where?
As often happens in Iraq, the first time I meet American combat soldiers, we are invariably about to go off and do something serious. Although the soldiers usually do not know me from Adam, they are courteous and professional, and always watching out for me.
And so it was with Lt. Baxter, who was commanding the M-1 tank that I’d be riding along in, and who made sure I didn’t break my neck getting into the tank. I nearly pulled him off getting up, but luckily he was strong.
The tankers drove off FOB Warhorse, and only a few miles later, we arrived at the outskirts of the abandoned village.
American soldiers began unloading dozens of body bags, and the Iraqi soldiers, with grim looks, carried them into the village.
Capt. Combs has been fighting hard in Diyala for about 10 months, much of it side-by-side with Iraqi soldiers from the 5th Division. Each time I’ve come into contact with the 5th, they seem better than the rest, and American officers and sergeants who work with them have good things to report about them, saying that although the 5th still has far to go, and cannot sustain itself logistically, it can fight.
Capt. Combs said the 3-25 has never run away from combat, and never refused to close on the enemy.
“I’ve fought with 3-25 [this Iraqi unit] for 10 months in Diyala and they have always come when I am in trouble," Combs said. "They always go on patrols when I ask. They never back down.”
I asked Capt. Combs to repeat what he said, making sure he realized I was planning to quote him directly. A veteran like Combs would be unlikely to append his name to such words if he weren’t dead serious.
Capt. Combs repeated his words and stuck by them. He then demonstrated that faith when we took off into the danger zone with nine soldiers from 5th IA: just Capt. Combs, Iraqi soldiers and me.
As we passed through the village, Captain Combs pointed out the nice houses, saying the people had been simple farmers with comfortable homes and lives.
Until Al Qaeda came.
Independent journalist Michael Yon’s dispatches from Iraq appear exclusively on FOXNews.com. Click to read Yon's online magazine MichaelYon-online.com.