(A letter home from a Marine currently serving in Iraq)

Dear Dad –
I know that you have been asking for an update as to what we are up to over here.  Hopefully this gets to you on Thanksgiving.
As you know, we are aligned along the Euphrates River south of Lake Qadasiyah.  The area of operations we are responsible for is known as the TRIAD.  It is a series of townships that include Haditha, Barwanah, Haqlaniyah and a number of smaller towns.  All told, the task force is close to 2000 men (and a few women).  Even with this many men, we are stretched pretty well.
Like all of Anbar, the violence dropped of significantly in 2007.  Since we have been here, we have not had a single IED detonate on us. 

We have found a number but compared to 2006 numbers, even the IED’s have dropped off tremendously.  Believe it or not, we have had no direct firefights since our arrival and only one indirect fire attack that was ineffective.  Suffice to say, it is a different world than the one I left in April 2005.
Honestly, the progress has been paid for in the blood of the units that were here before us.  However, there was no great battle fought here that decimated the enemy.  Instead, there was a massive change in our former opposition’s strategy.  The guys we (here in the Anbar) have been fighting for the past four years have been a combination of Sunni insurgents who were largely tribesmen that were fighting to ensure that the early vision of Iraq post Sadam (Shia dominated/Sunni subservient) was avoided.  They partnered up with Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups that flocked to Iraq following the invasion in 2003.
Initially Al Qaeda was largely foreign fighters but over time, they were able to substantially recruit here.  Because Al Qaeda was so brutal on the local people, and because of other political options that have become more appealing to the local Sunnis, they broke with Al Qaeda and somewhat partnered with us.  Over time, this partnership has grown.
The local tribes breaking with Al Qaeda left Al Qaeda without the sanctuary they needed to continue operations on the same pace they had been.  In turn, we have been grinding them down and are still hunting
them.   There local recruiting has been critically damaged as well.  In
short, we are attriting the remaining enemy while improving the standard of life for the population.  The tribal insurgents have been ordered into a temporary cease fire buy the same guys that we are now partnered with.
Therefore, there is little danger of Al Qaeda making a big come back here.  They have blown it with their wacked out version of Islamic purity.  However, the tribal insurgents could turn back on if the local leaders decide that it is in their interest to do so.  Every day we continue to make progress on a variety of fronts, this scenario becomes less and less likely.
That said, not everyone is "coming on board for the big win."  There are many former fighters who are abiding by tribal orders to stand down only begrudgingly.  It seems like everyday, we are dealing with releases from our major prison down in Bucca that pumps very dangerous guys back onto the streets.  Unfortunately, like many US prisons, these guys only got more dangerous and committed to their cause when they were locked up.
Even the local Iraqi leadership knows that they cannot control them.  We are still finding weapons caches on a regular basis that include thousands of pounds of home made explosives, intact sniper rifles with armor piercing rounds, suicide vests, mortar rounds, etc.  Clearly, this is still a very dangerous place.
My take is that the only reason that we have not been attacked successfully is that we are beating the enemy to the punch as a result of our pre-deployment training and more importantly, our partnership with local security forces (key to any successful counter-insurgency).
The enemy is having a hard time breathing inside of our secure zone right now and is relegated to operating out in the desert where he has relatively free range.  Because of the progress made inside the secure areas, we are about to start taking more risk and projecting out into the desert to hunt down the remaining active cells.  It is a delicate dance full of assumed risk and balanced operations.  Much more complex than my last tours.
Instead of organizing purely for traditional offensive operations, we are now organized for true counter insurgency operations.  Think of the big blue arrow on a map that you see when reading about historical military attacks.  That arrow indicates the axis of attack.  Instead of a single big arrow, we are now organized on five separate but parallel axis’ of attack that actually make up our "big blue arrow".  The current
jargon denotes these axis’ as Lines of Operation ("LOOs").   The LOOs
consist of Security, Economy, Governance, Transition, and Communication.
To make it simple, we are trying to improve along all of the lines of
operation simultaneously in order to further isolate the remaining
enemy.  The concept is that if the economy improves (happening) while
the government and security forces gain legitimacy (happening) it is
much harder for the enemy to recruit fighters and gain funding needed to
continue the fight.
I have been blessed with very talented officers who we recruited hard
over the past couple of years.  It is paying off in the approach laid
out above.  These guys are professionally agile enough to move between
raids and traditional offensive operations to complex planning and
negotiations regarding the economy and government.
The squads are constantly conducting robust patrolling.  They have
partnered with Iraqi police and army and are having great success
thwarting the enemy’s continued attempts to infiltrate back into the
areas that we consider secure.  The squad leaders are truly handling the
security end of this fight.  At the same time, they are raising the
competency, professionalism and confidence of the Iraqi forces.  I
travel around the area of operations daily and have the pleasure of
checking on the squads and platoons.  It is a true inspiration to see
the way they are working.

Living conditions vary.  Some guys live at the dam and have all the
amenities any Marine could ever dream of.  Other guys live in bunkers
out in the desert like something out of WWII.  None of them complain
with any gusto.  However, I know that the squad leaders would love to
get a chance to get out in the desert and find the remaining Al Qaeda
cells.  Currently, they are doing a great job of rolling up the sleepers

No doubt the enemy will get a say in this before too long as he has an
uncanny ability to adjust.  The art is to adjust faster.  However, this
is still a war and there will be days ahead that are not as good as what
we enjoy today.  As always, I have the utmost confidence that the
Marines will respond as they always have.  Unlike years past, I now
believe that the Iraqis also can withstand the most severe blow and are
coming out of the "fragile success" stage.

Hope all is well at home,D


  1. It is a darned shame the papers don’t print things like this letter.
    Our military has done such an excellent job both militarily and on a person to person level with the Iraqi people.
    This young man is not only articulate he has a good grasp on the war.
    With gratiude to our Military

  2. Despite an enormous anti-US feeling toward the cut and run Europe, the Web has became the new counter-power for Europeans concerned about the War on Terror, the triumph of the idea of freedom and for all the Europeans who deeply admire President George W. Bush and see him as a new Ronald Reagan.
    Just take a look on this blog :
    Let a message under the article (“commentaires) to support Republican revolution in Europe. It certainly needs a lot of courage to refuse political correctness and US hatred and to look for the truth about the USA and the party of conscience.

  3. God bless our Marines! I shake my head in wonder..where do we get such men, and why are we so blessed to have them!? Thank God for them every day.

  4. I am so happy to have found this web site. It’s a real encouragement to read a letter like this one. I think that cadets like myself need to hear stuff like this more often. It revives that feeling of pride in our boys. God bless Marines!

  5. Thank you for this story, and for everything You and the Marines do to keep us safe here at home.
    Your devotion to this country is deeply appreciated by Myself and my Family.
    Steve Tammy and Katie

  6. This is very encouraging to say the least. I would much rather read this in the media than have celebrity so-called news mixed in the news ad nauseum instead of on the entertainment show where they belong, if there. Thank God for blogs like yours, Major.I am full of gratitude for this young man and his brothers and sisters around the world. His Dad can be very proud of him.

  7. Awesome! I never believe the ridiculous media, they’re just a bunch of clowns. You Marines rock! God bless each and every one of you and please remember that there are still many patriotic Americans supporting you all. CRUSH THE ENEMY!!

  8. Major Pain….
    Happy Birthday!!!
    I’m sure America will join me and salute you on this very special day..
    You are the very best!
    We are all looking forward to your in country blogs…
    Also, Merry Christmas my friend.

  9. Hope you had a happy birthday. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year too. Did not send you a Christmas card this year because I don’t know your current location.

  10. Thanks for posting this letter and happy birthday to you Major. Hope the remainder of this day is a good one for you- wherever you are today. Merry Christmas !!

  11. A very happy birthday to you, Major, and a very safe Christmas to you and your family and Marines and our troops around the world.

  12. Ex-navy, myself in the first gulf war,, glad you guys are finishing what should have been finished then. A world of thanx. I sleep well at night just knowing we have more brave men fighting for my freedoms now like I did. GOD BLESS!!! and come home safe

  13. Hope you are very busy kicking the ememy’s butt and are well and doing fine! Thanks for the wonderful blog. It is quiet kewl.
    Thank you for all you and the Marines do to keep us safe and defend freedom.

  14. Hope you are very busy kicking the ememy’s butt and are well and doing fine! Thanks for the wonderful blog. It is quiet kewl.
    Thank you for all you and the Marines do to keep us safe and defend freedom.

  15. Semper fi Major!!
    I’m so glad and so damn PROUD of our fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am an Army Vietnam veteran who still feels to this day that the liberal media and the bleeding heart crybabies of the 60’s made it so that over 58,000 of my comrades died for nothing! If it takes my dying breath, it won’t happen this time!! When the mission is done, Then and only then can we depart. Your upbeat post makes me think that we are getting closer to that day. You have this Americans heart felt THANK YOU! Please pass it along to your men and women.
    One more thing; could I possible have your permission to have this post printed in the local media?
    Joe (a John McCain supporter).

  16. Hope All the Packages to You and your Guys are making it quickly from All the Great Troop Supporters who requested your name over at http://www.Anymarine.com. The last request count was 91 in just less than a week’s time.
    You are going to have a “Marine Mart” over there very soon 🙂 Great Job to All the Supporters!
    Have a Good Weekend to You and Your Unit.
    Take care.

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