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.
These words come with more news about the passing of Gen. Wayne Downing, one of America's finest. This rare man was highly respected by the best of the best. I had the honor of talking with Gen. Downing on several occasions in Iraq earlier this year. He was still leading the way, providing his seasoned analysis on the air with NBC's Brian Williams. At the time, I wrote of meeting Gen. Downing in a dispatch entitled, Ernie is Dead:
Morning came, and then night again. During the evening, as I walked back to my tent, there was a crew of 14 from NBC. Sound people, cameramen, a big satellite dish, the works. Three producers. It was all there—the face of the “evil” mainstream media in the personages of Brian Williams and Richard Engle. And standing in the dark with them as a military analyst for NBC was retired Four-Star Gen. Wayne Downing, a legend in special operations. (Think Delta Force and all the rest of the gang.) Wayne Downing graduated West Point in 1962. Served in Vietnam and everywhere else under the sun. He might have killed more terrorists directly and indirectly than any man on the planet.
I had to rub my eyes. Was that Gen. Downing?
The Gen. Downing?
When presidents called 911—Downing probably answered the phone. And there he was before me. I walked up and started a conversation without mentioning my name. But Gen. Downing asked, and upon hearing it immediately lit up saying he actually reads this website, and from our conversation it was obviously true. Of course, I said that I was going to take that and run with it, and tell the world that Gen. Downing reads this site.
Among his many other accomplishments, Gen. Downing had commanded the 2nd Ranger Battalion, one of the most difficult and prestigious jobs in the entire military. Today, LT. Col. Erik Kurilla, formerly commander of the Deuce Four and totally recovered from his last gunshot wounds, is now commander of 2nd Ranger Battalion. Small world.
As a warrior of renown in the Special Operations community, Downing might have been expected to keep his knowledge clandestine. But as a scholar of COIN, Downing knew the powerful role that media must play in fighting the Great War on Terrorism. And so he became one of the first—and certainly the most prominent—special operations experts willing to give all journalists the benefit of his insight. This willingness extended even to those practitioners of the so-called "alternative media," or blogs. In fact, he and I had exchanged emails just weeks ago, about the reports I'd been publishing on Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Baqubah.
Independent journalist Michael Yon’s dispatches from Iraq appear exclusively on FOXNews.com. Click to read Yon's online magazine MichaelYon-online.com.