While the situation in Baghdad appears to be deteriorating, I want to take a moment and brag a little about the job the Marines are doing in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province. It’s important for Americans to understand that there are two different battlefield scenarios in Iraq. In Baghdad, sectarian strife plagues the security situation, but in Fallujah, it is a full-fledged counter insurgency battle. The battle there is fueled by support from Al Qaeda elements that have entered Western Iraq to wage war against us and undermine the Iraqi government. And our Marines are doing an incredible job of maintaining stability despite some setbacks and adversities.
I like to call it “CSI Fallujah.” The men of Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion, 24th Marines have adapted to fighting an invisible enemy that lays improvised explosives on the roads and takes cheap shots with snipers before running away. And for obvious reasons, this enemy knows that they can’t win “going toe to toe” with United States Marines. The Marines are constantly changing their tactics and successfully taking the fight to them. But it is more resembling of state-of-the-art police detective work with violent street gangs than the full-scale engagements that I saw at the outbreak of the war in March of 2003.
Some of the missions that they conduct are akin to “census operations.” Marines go out on patrol, knock on doors and find out who lives where and where the bad guys sleep at night. Alpha Company created a database that is constantly updated by “the Hobbits” or the Intel guys based on the information returned by the patrols. Additionally, they get information from talking to detainees who are more forthcoming than you might imagine. Interrogations are very professional as I witnessed our guys gather important information. Thus the end result is a profoundly bad message for the enemy: We know who you are, where you are and we will come to get you soon!
So while I took a moment yesterday to highlight the lighter side of the guys for whom I am so proud, it occurs to me that I haven’t even begun to convey the amazing work that they do. And they do it with a smile. They are dedicated, motivated and entirely selfless in their commitment to “making a difference” for the citizens of Fallujah. (Sorry Greco, I couldn’t resist the dart story yesterday – that’s what you get for blasting me in Cricket, you Grunt!)
Their story is truly impressive. Alpha Company of 1/24 works like a well-oiled performance machine, night and day, and while there is pessimistic talk from the pundits about the situation in Iraq, in the case of Fallujah – the bad guys aren’t winning. And of all the Iraqis that I talked to while I was there (both Military and Civilian), no one is ready for the Marines to leave. They have a job to do and they are getting it done.
So to the families of Alpha Company – your husbands and sons are doing great. They are high in spirit and are making history on a daily basis. They are real American heroes.
And I look forward to chronicling their continued success in this blog.
I can be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.