ON Point Articleshttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/default.aspxen-USCommunityServer 2.0 (Debug Build: 60217.2664)Super Bowl Sunday in Ramadihttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2008/02/08/25809.aspxFri, 08 Feb 2008 13:26:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:25809ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/25809.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=25809<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/25804/500x349.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P><STRONG>JSS Sacatash:</STRONG></P> <P>Last year this building was known as the 17th Street Security Station, but last January Ramadi was a different city. The building’s name in Arabic reflects the new situation; these days the Marines provide “presence patrols”, “sweat patrols” and managerial advice to their district councils while the IA’s handle the vast majority of the security.</P> <P>The system works; there has not been a shot fired in anger in Ramadi in some 255 days.</P> <P>We stepped out with a Marine ‘presence patrol’ on Sunday morning. Led by Sgt Michael Mulherr (Medford, NJ), the mission was simply to maintain a boots on the ground presence; to see and be seen by the locals. “Malazza Mike,” as Sgt Mulherr is known to the locals, would smile and talk to the locals as we passed by. He was approached by an elderly lady in a bourqa who was requesting medical assistance, he politely wrote a note for her, and had his ‘terp explain to her what she needed to do. As they chatted, the usual crowd of children gathered and begged for candy, and to have their pictures taken. “Sura, meester, sura” (picture, mister), and 25 photos were quickly taken.</P> <P>Patrols like this are the norm in Ramadi these days, and after another mile of walking through the city, the patrol returned to base.</P> <P>The Marines at this JSS (joint security station) is commanded by Capt Christopher Steele, CO of Golf Co., 2/8, and he led a patrol out into a different sector a few hours later. This patrol was both memorable and forgettable; it was forgettable due to that nothing kinetic or dangerous happened, and memorable for watching the locals materialize on the doorsteps and harangue Steele about their electrical problems and sewage in the streets. It was also memorable for being able to shop in the local souk and buy a present for my girlfriend – Ramadi has certainly changed when one can purchase gifts in the bazaar.</P> <P>On our return, we sat down and talked about the current sitrep in Ramadi.</P> <P>“The I/A are a great source of intel,” he said, “and it’s excellent. We’re able to synchronize our intel with them, and it’s very effective.” The Marines and I/A’s caught a low-scale suicide bomber and his local ‘facilitation cell” a few weeks back off; it was I/A intel - and their handling of the arrest – that led to rolling up and arresting the local facilitation group.</P> <P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/25805/450x287.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Steele went on to explain that it’s a different fight than that of 6 – 12 months ago. “Marines are problem solvers,” he commented,” this is an NCO effort now. Our NCO’s get posted to a neighborhood and want to improve it. Improvements are often common-sense and initiative, and our NCO’s excel in this.” He’s right; after watching “Malazza Mike work the streets, it is obvious that civil affairs and common sense go hand in hand.</P> <P>Steele spends much of his time working with the North Ramadi District Council. Similar to Capt Chris Westhoff (Echo Company) a mile away, Steele works with the council members of governance and explaining the rule of law. It’s working; both the sheiks and imams are beginning to realize that they are no longer above the law – their own people are holding them to a better standard.</P> <P>Later in the afternoon Steele received two visitors from the local Ministry of Education; they wanted his help in reopening the dorms attached to the Dental College and new Vo-Tec school, and they needed both fuel and the bathrooms rebuilt. Steele agreed to help them on both.</P> <P>Professor Raheem, from the local district council, accepted Capt Steele’s invitation to talk. Fluent in English, Reheem is blatantly and proudly pro-Marine; during the vicious 2005 fighting, his son Mustapha (5) was trapped outside in a Marine – AQI firefight. As AQI opened up with a machine gun, a young Marine threw himself on Mustapha, was wounded, but saved the boy. Short of working as a recruiter, Raheem is as pro-Marine and pro-American as anyone in the city, and his work on the district council reflects his attitudes.”We need the Marines to do even more,” he preached,” the governor is bad, the mayor is ineffective – we need Capt Steele to cut through the problems for us.” That’s not always going to happen, Steele indicated later.</P> <P>Raheem was equally enthusiastic about one of the Marines from Lima Company, 3/7 (the unit preceeding 2/8 in Ramadi), who brought Marines into the mosques, and started a dialogue with the Imams. The two groups shared breakfasts and discussions, and now the Imams both understand and support the Marines. “It’s jobs and fuel,” he repeated as he left,” who needs the mayor and the governor?”</P> <P>And the game? With the time difference, the game started here at 0230 Monday morning. About half the Marines stayed up in order to watch, and that number dwindled as the game progressed through the boring first 3 quarters. By the time the 4th Q fireworks occurred, it was past 0530, and most everyone had packed it in for the night. There were patrols due out in the morning, and one could always see the game repeated on AFN.</P> <P><STRONG><EM>Next: The CMOC, or Judge Judy in Ramadi.</EM></STRONG></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=25809" width="1" height="1">“Meet the Needs of the People” - With Task Force Marne &amp; Maj.Gen. Rick Lynchhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2008/02/04/24335.aspxMon, 04 Feb 2008 14:01:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:24335ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/24335.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=24335<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/24331/500x315.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>In today’s irregular war, it takes a commander who thinks out of the box to motivate his troops to do the same. The lessons learned in officer training at Fort Sill or Fort Benning ten years ago bear little resemblance to the situation on the ground in Iraq, and it’s the successful commanding officer who recognizes this today.</P> <P>Today we accompanied Maj.Gen. Rick Lynch, CG of Task Force Marne (and the 3rd ID ) on a battlefield circulation tour of al-Musayyid, a small town south and west of Iskandariyah. Located in the southern part of Babil Province, MG Lynch was visiting his 4th Div., 3rd ID troops fighting under Col Tom James and LTC Tim Newsome, as well as the local IP leader and the town’s mayor.</P> <P>Our two BlackHawks landed on the outside basketball court of a school, one of the few paved surfaces available in the muddy January rainy season.&nbsp; Met by CPT Steven Capehart, the local company commander, Gen Lynch listened as Capehart gave him the rundown on the local atmospherics:</P> <P>“This is a town of some 3,000 people,” Capehart explained, “and I’m controlling it with only 38 Task Force Marne soldiers. I use my CLC’s aggressively, and put them in the field in order to halt IDF against FOB Kalsu. We patrol constantly, and often we sleep in town.”</P> <P>As in many parts of Iraq today, the CLC’s, paid by the US, are the best and only job in the area. LTC Newsome was concerned at the rate of his cash burn; he pays the CLC’s, funds projects, and doles out emergency cash as needed. Lynch cut him off. “Meet the needs of the people,” he emphasized, “this is classic COIN. This is a common-sense battlefield he reminded everyone within earshot,” the staff is supposed to assist you, not run the place.”</P> <P>Cpt Capehart understands this better than most. Self-taught in Arabic, he and his soldiers patrol the town daily as they buy food and sodas from the local shops. They interact daily with the townspeople as friends, instead of as occupiers, and their efforts pay off handsomely.</P> <P>“We have tremendous public support here in Musiyebb,” he said. “Most of our tips come from the citizens, who even give us the cell phone numbers of the bad guys.” Capehart went on to discuss how he is negotiating the surrender of two insurgents with them by phone. “I told him that he could either turn himself in, or my Soldiers and I would visit him at 0200 some morning.”</P> <P>Capehart has assiduously cultivated relationships with LTC Mohammed, the local IP leader, as well as Mr. Jabir, the city manager. Taking Gen Lynch on a tour of the city, it was obvious how well the three interacted as our retinue walked through the marketplace; locals talked to Capehart, LTC Mohammed chatted with the IP’s on duty, and businessmen constantly approached Mr. Jabir who shook hands and made notes for the future. “I only spend 30 % of my time on military ops,” Gen Lynch explained later.” Once we get the security in place, then it’s time for rebuilding and governance; they want schools, sewage, and roads, the same as we have.”</P> <P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/24332/450x300.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Gen Lynch emphasized to LTC Newsome that if he needed more cash for projects, he had only to ask. “We’ll do the big projects through channels,” he said, “but you’re out here on the street, you know what’s important to get accomplished – get it done.”</P> <P>This is “Clear-Hold-Build” in its purest form. This is the joint Iraqi-American approach that turned Ramadi, and it’s working here.</P> <P>“Nakeeb Steve”, as Capehart is known in town, has been adopted by the local tribe, the al-Chimery. A major part of the “Classic COIN” that Gen Lynch preaches is the rapport that the Task Force Marne Soldiers have cultivated&nbsp; that makes the elders and their citizens want to co-operate with “Nakeeb Steve al-Chimerie, otherwise known to his wife and three young children as Major-Select Steve Capehart.</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=24335" width="1" height="1">With 1-30 Infantry: Clearing Out the Belts – 2http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2008/01/30/22167.aspxWed, 30 Jan 2008 13:53:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:22167ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/22167.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=22167<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/22161/500x272.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P><STRONG>Patrol Base Al-Mazin</STRONG></P> <P>The base seemed to be overrun by Iraqi locals this morning, and it was a good thing.</P> <P>Some 40 locals, ranging from dirt-poor farmers in bare feet and plastic sandals to a few very well-dressed sheiks, turned out today to join the Concerned Local Citizens group.</P> <P>They’d already been vetted by the local boss, General Mustapha, and now were undergoing American security.</P> <P>Under the direction of Cpt Michael Fritz, the Soldiers of 1-30 IN ran a biometrics op as they signed up the locals. With two trusted locals eyeballing each prospective joinee as far as being current AQI, the Americans photographed and fingerprinted each one and then gave them a retinal scan; with a database that hold the records of some 10,000+ Iraqi’s, the bad guys are quickly and easily found.</P> <P>Fritz is the CLC Project Manager, and responsible to LTC Adgie for the governance in the area. He speaks better than beginner Arabic, and speaks briefly with every new CLC.&nbsp; He also works very closely with the local “birddogs” who point out the active AQI members who try to infiltrate.</P> <P>“We pulled 20 guys out last week.” Fritz said,” they tried to infiltrate us, but we got them all.” The system was working fine today also as one prospective CLC “tested positive” for being AQI. But he’d served his time and been released, so was signed up anyway. Another however, was ID’d and detained; flexi-cuffed and hooded, he was moved later for questioning.</P> <P>“There’s AQI and there’s AQI,” LTC Ken Adgie had told me the day prior.”While 1-2 % of them are truly bad guys, most just did it for the money. We’re working on jobs and economic as soon as we get the security under control in an area.”</P> <P>Each CLC earns U.S. $ 300.00 /month, paid in cash, and it’s demonstrable that as the economy in a town-area improves, attacks fall-off measurably and drastically.&nbsp; In an area where both employment and security are of paramount importance, being a member of the CLC is a job of considerable worth. A small ruckus broke out as a group of prospective recruits tired of waiting in line and pushed forward; within a minute order was returned – the CLC’s standing watch contained the situation easily.</P> <P>With a minimum age of 18, the locals ranged in age from the minimum to easily 60+. Many are former soldiers, and have organized their CLC accordingly. Primarily they stand guard on the dirt roads in the area as well as the neighborhoods around their and watch for AQI, but the more experienced go out on patrol with 1-30 IN and have participated in the air assaults Adgie uses to advance his perimeters.</P> <P>Once in the door, each local was fingerprinted, scanned, and photographed. Then he’s sent off to a waiting room while his info ran through the database and within 5 minutes he was given his new CLC ID card and a reflective vest marked with his CLC registration number – wearing the vest while on duty is required, plus being a CLC has become an honored position in here.</P> <P><STRONG>The CLC “Boss”</STRONG></P> <P>In the absence of any government of Iraq governance, General Mustapha is “The Man” in Arab Jabour.</P> <P>With 35 years in the Iraqi Army on the logistics side, Mustapha knows how to get things done. Prior to the war, he was also the local headman. This is his home area, and he and LTC Adgie work closely together in improving the security, driving out AQI, and rebuilding this shattered area by creating jobs.</P> <P>“We receive no help from Baghdad,” Mustapha said.” Everything we have here, from the jobs to re-opening the schools to paying the CLC’s, comes from us working closely with my friend Col Adgie.”</P> <P>When AQI moved in, they took away his power and his status. But as they began killing civilians and then blew up the power line, the locals realized that AQI offered them nothing for a decent future. The arrival of 1-30 IN and LTC Adgie was an opportunity for Mustapha, and the two of them clicked immediately.</P> <P>“Mustapha brings in 75 hard-core fighters to every fight,” Cpt Fritz said.&nbsp; “His guys get killed and wounded along side of ours.” Today was no exception as a CLC’s were caught by a dismounted IED and lost a leg below the knee.</P> <P>There is an Arab Jabour City Council now, with 10 members, and it has received some initial training in governance.&nbsp; All the schools have re-opened. Through the judicious use of CEPR funds, streetlights have been installed – much to the relief of the locals, and construction and rebuilding projects have been started.</P> <P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/22162/400x285.aspx" border=0></P> <P>In conjunction with the CLC program, 1-30 IN also conducts weapons buy-backs, as well as pays rewards for bringing in IED’s. The programs are important; IED’s have caused the majority of 1-30’s deaths (12 of 14), so any effective plan to stop the IED’s is welcomed, plus getting weapons and weapons caches off the streets simply makes the area safer for both Americans and locals.</P> <P>The CLC’s, many of whom were reluctant insurgents last year or Iraqi military are very effective in spotting IED’s; on the way to relieve his Soldiers at another new patrol base, we stopped and LTC Adgie “bought” 2 IED’s a CLC roadblock had discovered. They brought him pressure plates, fuses, and two large containers of&nbsp; HME – ‘homemade explosives’ made from nitric acid and fertilizer. “It’s simple to make and extremely effective,” Adgie said. “We’re leaning hard on our CLC’s to find out where the bomb-maker is located.”</P> <P>The EOD unit blew the HME a few minutes later; even from 50 yards+ distance, the explosion made the Humvee rock – it was a well-spent $ 200 to get these bombs off the street and another small victory for the CLCs and 1-30 IN.</P> <P><STRONG>Next :&nbsp; With 1-30 Infantry.</STRONG></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=22167" width="1" height="1">Clearing Out the Belts: With 1–30 Infantry South of Baghdadhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2008/01/28/21443.aspxMon, 28 Jan 2008 15:30:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:21443ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/21443.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=21443<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/21439/500x290.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P><STRONG>Patrol Base Al-Mizan</STRONG></P> <P>We were awakened our first night at this forward base by the sound of the machine guns pounding from the Apaches flying overhead. This is Patrol Base Al-Mizan, opened two days ago by the 1-30 Infantry, LTC Ken Adgie commanding.</P> <P>Out of Fort Stewart, Ga., Bravo Company and HAC Company started building this forward base, the latest in a series, just two days ago.&nbsp; Taking over an abandoned house, the Soldiers have been filling Hesco barriers, putting electricity and lights into their new FOB, pushing out into the countryside, and working on expanding their very aggressive and very competent Concerned Local Citizens group in the opening days of Operation Coliseum.</P> <P>But up on the roof, talking to the Soldiers manning the sandbagged watch-points, they made the point that 1-30 is the new government in the area. “We’re out patrolling all the time,” said SPC William Terry, “we’ve been fighting since we arrived here in June.” “What you’re hearing tonight is no big deal,” added Pv2 Mike Kelly,” it’s just terrain denial.”</P> <P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/21441/450x281.aspx" border=0></P> <P>But terrain denial is a big deal to the locals, who have suffered terribly from the lack of governance and attention by the Government of Iraq. We are approximately 15 miles south and east of Baghdad in an area known as Arab Jabour. The area is agricultural, fairly poor, and 99% Sunni.&nbsp; The al-Jabouri’s are the main tribe, and not only has there has been no functioning government since Saddam’s fall in April 2003, but until 1-30 IN, the last of the “surge brigades” arrived, there was no American presence either.<BR>The result was four years of terror and killing.</P> <P>For a while Jaysh-al-Islam (JAI), a Sunni insurgent group, tried to control the area.&nbsp; But when AQI emerged from the local unemployed and began denying basic services like clean water and food, and started their too-common practices of kidnapping, torture and killing, they drove JAI out of the area.</P> <P>Not long ago AQI waited outside a mosque in order to deliver a lesson: when the service was completed they took the 10 brothers and sisters of a Concerned Local Citizen and executed them in front of their brother.&nbsp; In another recent incident, four locals were beheaded. With such total intimidation, the net effect is that the AQI members need to be killed for the local citizens to feel that they are truly secure – and for the locals to feel secure, then a relatively permanent base needs to be built in a conspicuous spot so the locals will know that the Americans and their Concerned Local Citizens are available to defend them as necessary.</P> <P>Adgie’s soldiers have been fighting since their May-June arrival “in-country.” They pushed south and built their main base, FOB Murray in June, took over &amp; expanded Patrol Base Red, built PB Hawkes, built OP 3, and now Al-Mazin. In the next week they’ll build another base another mile or so south.</P> <P>The mission is similar to that which was so successful in Anbar; it’s “Clear-Hold-Build” – and then push further out south the countryside and do it again.</P> <P>“This has been an extremely kinetic fight”, said Adgie. “We’ve had 14 Soldiers KIA’s, fired some 800 mortar rounds, and called in 2,000 rounds 155mm&nbsp; howitzer fire from the gun battery in Mahmudiyah.”&nbsp; Adgie was not exaggerating; up on the roof&nbsp; SPC Terry, Pvt2 Kelly and I watched and listened as Apaches buzzed thru the night air; off in the distance we listened to their machine guns firing, along with the subsequent explosions from the IED’s they exploded.</P> <P>With security provided by 1-30 Infantry, plus 1,140 Concerned Local Citizens providing a very decent local security, Adgie is able to provide the necessary services that most definitely win the “hearts &amp; mind” campaign that helps solidify the local’s turn away from AQI.</P> <P>“We’ve done about 10 MedCaps where we examine and treat the locals,” explained LTC Sam Lee, the battalion doctor.” As the security improves, the locals gain enough confidence to want to bring us their children.” “In the town of Al-Buaytha, we’ve-opened the Ar-Nasr Clinic, Adgie added, “and it’s staffed by local Iraqi doctors who returned because the security is better now.”</P> <P>The improvement in security also helps the economic rebuilding efforts; the local gas station is open for the first time in 2 years, four of five fresh-water pumping stations are operating, and the canal system is bringing water to the farmers.&nbsp; In his six month tenure here Adgie and his Soldiers have rebuilt and improved the road system, and the schools have also reopened.</P> <P>In his six month tenure in this AO, his Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT) has approved 56 micro-grants, and has approx 100 additional applications currently under review. Between the micro-grants, and hiring contractors for the roads and schools, Adgie is the largest employer in the area.</P> <P>An unexpected yet successful corollary to these programs – all of which help win the hearts and minds of the locals, is that many of the locals enthusiastically join up as members of the Concerned Locals Citizens; one does not have to be a Shia or a Sunni to want to defend your home and family, and LTC Adgie says that some of his CLC’s are now amongst of his most ferocious fighters.</P> <P>“The CLC’s have knowledge of the terrain, the towns, and the people,” Adgie explained.” They go out on patrol with my men, and frankly make it safer for us.” Adgie lets his CLC’s – all of whom are from these little villages - name the bases; Al-Mazin translates to “Scales of Justice.”</P> <P><STRONG>Wednesday: A Concerned Citizens Recruiting Drive</STRONG></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=21443" width="1" height="1">BACK TO IRAQ!http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2008/01/16/17763.aspxWed, 16 Jan 2008 16:34:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:17763ON Point9http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/17763.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=17763<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/17761/500x309.aspx" border=0></P> <P><STRONG><FONT color=#000000>**Update: Andrew is south of Baghdad, and hopes for Internet access in a day or so.**</FONT><FONT size=2></P></FONT></STRONG> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>Finally - I’m off to Iraq!</P> <P>Writing about the efforts of our Marines and Soldiers&nbsp; at war is an honor, but doing it from the safety of my desk is a bit embarrassing. But tomorrow evening I’m off again to Iraq for approx a month, from where I can report back to you from out in the field.</P> <P>It’ll take me a few days to get out in the field, but from approx Monday, I’ll have three reports for you weekly.</P> <P>I’ll be in the “Bagdad belts” for a week; going out in the field with the Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 30th ID continue to drive AQI from their area. Working from here, I’ll be reporting to you on their efforts, as well as the follow-on work of the Provisional Reconstruction Teams help the locals rebuild the economy. Especially in Iraq the cry is “Its job’s, stupid!”</P> <P>Then I’ll be up in Bagdad, up in the Green Zone for a few days. We’ve got interviews planned with MajGen Rick Lynch, CG of MNFI-Central, Government of Iraq Spokesman&nbsp; Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, and then down to talk with MajGen Douglas Stone and BG Michael Nevin about their successful detainee program.</P> <P>From early Feb onward I’ll be returning to Anbar Province, from where I’ll be spending more time in Ramadi (with their Mayor and new Ramadi City Council), and then back to Fallujah as the Marines of 1st MEF roll in and maintain the control and stability won by their 2nd MEF predecessors.</P> <P>It’ll be an awesome trip, so come join me <STRONG>OnPoint</STRONG>!!</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=17763" width="1" height="1">Iraqi Police Take the Fight in Baghdadihttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2008/01/09/14257.aspxWed, 09 Jan 2008 17:18:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:14257ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/14257.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=14257<P><EM><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/14255/500x321.aspx" border=0></EM></P> <P><EM>The war in Iraq is winding down. As the Marines in Anbar Province help organize 5-K races in Ramadi, a Youth Soccer League in Fallujah, and other events that are as non Marine-like as they could have ever imagined, in the western part of Iraq they’re turning over battle-space to the Iraqi Security forces. </EM></P> <P><EM>But let’s be serious: This is Iraq, and there will never be a perfect security situation. But as the Iraqi people want to regain control of their own country, and their own future, their need for the Marine Corps will dwindle as their own forces improve in professionalism and enthusiasm.</EM></P> <P><EM>Today’s <STRONG>OnPoint</STRONG> Feature is sent to us by Cpl Adam Johnston. Writing from RCT-2’s PAO shop in al-Asad, Cpl Johnston sent us this dispatch yesterday.</EM></P> <P>Cpl. Adam Johnston<BR>Combat Correspondent – Regimental Combat Team 2</P> <P>COP BAGHDADI, Iraq – How many Marines does it take to secure Baghdadi?&nbsp; Last year, it took an entire company.&nbsp; Then, as the situation improved, that number dropped to a platoon.&nbsp; And now, with the onset of 2008, the grand total is zero.</P> <P>The Marines of 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, have completely pulled out of Command Outpost Baghdadi.&nbsp; To the pleasure and pride of the local citizens, their replacements are already hard at work.</P> <P>In a monumental step toward Iraqi sovereignty, the Baghdadi Police force has taken sole responsibility of security within the city limits.&nbsp; They are the first to do so in all of Al Anbar Province.</P> <P>“In the past, battalions were measured on how many battle positions they established during a deployment,” said Lt. Col. J.J. Dill, commanding officer, 1st Bn., 7th Marines.&nbsp; “It showed they were moving out into the community, partnering with (Iraqi Security Forces) to make things happen.&nbsp; But in this stage of the counterinsurgency battle, it’s not how many we put up – it’s how many we take down.”</P> <P>The transfer of authority comes as a direct result of the Baghdadi IP validation, which is determined by U.S. and coalition forces.</P> <P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/14256/250x321.aspx" border=0></P> <P>“It’s a checklist of where they’re at,” said Capt. Craig T. Douglas, the company commander of Co. A, 1st Bn., 7th Marines.&nbsp; “Can they run their own investigations, conduct security patrols, etc.?&nbsp; Are they self-sufficient?”</P> <P>In control of their own battle-space, the Baghdadi IPs face their toughest challenge yet.&nbsp; Can they do it alone?</P> <P>“The IPs of Baghdadi are ready to take over,” Douglas said.&nbsp; “They want the bad guys out of here just as much as we do.&nbsp; With logistical support from the government of Iraq, they should be ok.”</P> <P>If, however, Baghdadi should need emergency assistance, the Marines of 1st Bn, 7th Marines, won’t be far behind.</P> <P>“The COP is in the middle of our (area of operation), so we’ll still be in an over-watch capacity,” said Douglas.&nbsp; “But they know that one day, we’ll be gone.&nbsp; They’ll need to be able to do things for themselves.”</P> <P>The building itself, upon completion of the new police station, will become host to city council meetings and other government functions.</P> <P>“Many people back home think the Anbar awakening happened overnight,” Dill said.&nbsp; “But where we’re at today is the culmination of four years worth of hard work and dedication by Marines and Iraqis alike.&nbsp; I want this city to stop looking like it’s under siege.&nbsp; This is a huge step toward the return to normalcy.”</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=14257" width="1" height="1">“I Died Doing a Job I Loved”http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2008/01/07/13924.aspxMon, 07 Jan 2008 19:08:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:13924ON Point1http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/13924.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=13924<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/13923/500x205.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Maj Andrew Olmstead</P> <P><EM>On 3 Jan Maj Andrew Olmstead was killed by small arms fire in Sadiyah, a dirty little city some 100 miles northeast of Baghdad. He was one of the first “milbloggers” writing from Iraq; his first posts stretched back 5 years to his first deployment.</EM></P> <P><EM>Articulate, funny, and a loving husband of 10 years, Maj Olmstead wrote this piece last June-July 2007, on his return to Iraq. </EM><STRONG>OnPoint</STRONG><EM> takes this opportunity to bring you his last article so the reader can appreciate the type of Soldier the United States has fighting in Iraq.</EM></P> <P><EM>This was posted Friday:</EM></P> <P>"I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here."<BR>G'Kar, Babylon 5</P> <P>"Only the dead have seen the end of war."<BR>Plato*</P> <P>This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits. And so, like G'Kar, I must say here what I would much prefer to say in person. I want to thank hilzoy for putting it up for me. It's not easy asking anyone to do something for you in the event of your death, and it is a testament to her quality that she didn't hesitate to accept the charge. As with many bloggers, I have a disgustingly large ego, and so I just couldn't bear the thought of not being able to have the last word if the need arose. Perhaps I take that further than most, I don't know. I hope so. It's frightening to think there are many people as neurotic as I am in the world. In any case, since I won't get another chance to say what I think, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Such as it is.</P> <P>"When some people die, it's time to be sad. But when other people die, like really evil people, or the Irish, it's time to celebrate."<BR>Jimmy Bender, "Greg the Bunny"</P> <P>"And maybe now it's your turn to die kicking some ass."<BR>Freedom Isn't Free, Team America</P> <P>What I don't want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I'm dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren't going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I've enjoyed in my life. So if you're up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw 'Freedom Isn't Free' from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can't laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I'm dead, but if you're reading this, you're not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.</P> <P>Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer. The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven't agreed with them. If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their political opponents rather than simply seeking to crush them. While the blogosphere has its share of partisans, there are some awfully smart people making excellent arguments out there as well, and I know I have learned quite a bit since I began blogging. I flatter myself I may have made a good argument or two as well; if I didn't, please don't tell me. It has been a great five-plus years. I got to meet a lot of people who are way smarter than me, including such luminaries as Virginia Postrel and her husband Stephen (speaking strictly from a 'improving the species' perspective, it's tragic those two don't have kids, because they're both scary smart.), the estimable hilzoy and Sebastian of Obsidian Wings, Jeff Goldstein and Stephen Green, the men who consistently frustrated me with their mix of wit and wisdom I could never match, and I've no doubt left out a number of people to whom I apologize. Bottom line: if I got the chance to meet you through blogging, I enjoyed it. I'm only sorry I couldn't meet more of you. In particular I'd like to thank Jim Henley, who while we've never met has been a true comrade, whose words have taught me and whose support has been of great personal value to me. I would very much have enjoyed meeting Jim.</P> <P>Blogging put me in touch with an inordinate number of smart people, an exhilarating if humbling experience. When I was young, I was smart, but the older I got, the more I realized just how dumb I was in comparison to truly smart people. But, to my credit, I think, I was at least smart enough to pay attention to the people with real brains and even occasionally learn something from them. It has been joy and a pleasure having the opportunity to do this.</P> <P>"It's not fair."<BR>"No. It's not. Death never is."<BR>Captain John Sheridan and Dr. Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5</P> <P>"They didn't even dig him a decent grave."<BR>"Well, it's not how you're buried. It's how you're remembered."<BR>Cimarron and Wil Andersen, The Cowboys</P> <P>I suppose I should speak to the circumstances of my death. It would be nice to believe that I died leading men in battle, preferably saving their lives at the cost of my own. More likely I was caught by a marksman or an IED. But if there is an afterlife, I'm telling anyone who asks that I went down surrounded by hundreds of insurgents defending a village composed solely of innocent women and children. It'll be our little secret, ok?</P> <P>I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I'd prefer that you did so.</P> <P>On a similar note, while you're free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I'll tell you you're wrong. We're all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was.</P> <P>"What an idiot! What a loser!"<BR>Chaz Reingold, Wedding Crashers</P> <P>"Oh and I don't want to die for you, but if dying's asked of me;<BR>I'll bear that cross with honor, 'cause freedom don't come free."<BR>American Soldier, Toby Keith</P> <P>Those who know me through my writings on the Internet over the past five-plus years probably have wondered at times about my chosen profession. While I am not a Libertarian, I certainly hold strongly individualistic beliefs. Yet I have spent my life in a profession that is not generally known for rugged individualism. Worse, I volunteered to return to active duty knowing that the choice would almost certainly lead me to Iraq. The simple explanation might be that I was simply stupid, and certainly I make no bones about having done some dumb things in my life, but I don't think this can be chalked up to stupidity. Maybe I was inconsistent in my beliefs; there are few people who adhere religiously to the doctrines of their chosen philosophy, whatever that may be. But I don't think that was the case in this instance either.</P> <P>As passionate as I am about personal freedom, I don't buy the claims of anarchists that humanity would be just fine without any government at all. There are too many people in the world who believe that they know best how people should live their lives, and many of them are more than willing to use force to impose those beliefs on others. A world without government simply wouldn't last very long; as soon as it was established, strongmen would immediately spring up to establish their fiefdoms. So there is a need for government to protect the people's rights. And one of the fundamental tools to do that is an army that can prevent outside agencies from imposing their rules on a society. A lot of people will protest that argument by noting that the people we are fighting in Iraq are unlikely to threaten the rights of the average American. That's certainly true; while our enemies would certainly like to wreak great levels of havoc on our society, the fact is they're not likely to succeed. But that doesn't mean there isn't still a need for an army (setting aside debates regarding whether ours is the right size at the moment). Americans are fortunate that we don't have to worry too much about people coming to try and overthrow us, but part of the reason we don't have to worry about that is because we have an army that is stopping anyone who would try.</P> <P>Soldiers cannot have the option of opting out of missions because they don't agree with them: that violates the social contract. The duly-elected American government decided to go to war in Iraq. (Even if you maintain President Bush was not properly elected, Congress voted for war as well.) As a soldier, I have a duty to obey the orders of the President of the United States as long as they are Constitutional. I can no more opt out of missions I disagree with than I can ignore laws I think are improper. I do not consider it a violation of my individual rights to have gone to Iraq on orders because I raised my right hand and volunteered to join the army. Whether or not this mission was a good one, my participation in it was an affirmation of something I consider quite necessary to society. So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle; I can (if you'll pardon the pun) live with that.</P> <P>"It's all so brief, isn't it? A typical human lifespan is almost a hundred years. But it's barely a second compared to what's out there. It wouldn't be so bad if life didn't take so long to figure out. Seems you just start to get it right, and then...it's over."<BR>Dr. Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5</P> <P>I wish I could say I'd at least started to get it right. Although, in my defense, I think I batted a solid .250 or so. Not a superstar, but at least able to play in the big leagues. I'm afraid I can't really offer any deep secrets or wisdom. I lived my life better than some, worse than others, and I like to think that the world was a little better off for my having been here. Not very much, but then, few of us are destined to make more than a tiny dent in history's Green Monster. I would be lying if I didn't admit I would have liked to have done more, but it's a bit too late for that now, eh? The bottom line, for me, is that I think I can look back at my life and at least see a few areas where I may have made a tiny difference, and massive ego aside, that's probably not too bad.</P> <P>"The flame also reminds us that life is precious. As each flame is unique; when it goes out, it's gone forever. There will never be another quite like it."<BR>Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5</P> <P>I write this in part, admittedly, because I would like to think that there's at least a little something out there to remember me by. Granted, this site will eventually vanish, being ephemeral in a very real sense of the word, but at least for a time it can serve as a tiny record of my contributions to the world. But on a larger scale, for those who knew me well enough to be saddened by my death, especially for those who haven't known anyone else lost to this war, perhaps my death can serve as a small reminder of the costs of war. Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I'm facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn't have a sense of humor?</P> <P>But for those who knew me and feel this pain, I think it's a good thing to realize that this pain has been felt by thousands and thousands (probably millions, actually) of other people all over the world. That is part of the cost of war, any war, no matter how justified. If everyone who feels this pain keeps that in mind the next time we have to decide whether or not war is a good idea, perhaps it will help us to make a more informed decision. Because it is pretty clear that the average American would not have supported the Iraq War had they known the costs going in. I am far too cynical to believe that any future debate over war will be any less vitriolic or emotional, but perhaps a few more people will realize just what those costs can be the next time.</P> <P>This may be a contradiction of my above call to keep politics out of my death, but I hope not. Sometimes going to war is the right idea. I think we've drawn that line too far in the direction of war rather than peace, but I'm a soldier and I know that sometimes you have to fight if you're to hold onto what you hold dear. But in making that decision, I believe we understate the costs of war; when we make the decision to fight, we make the decision to kill, and that means lives and families destroyed. Mine now falls into that category; the next time the question of war or peace comes up, if you knew me at least you can understand a bit more just what it is you're deciding to do, and whether or not those costs are worth it.</P> <P>"This is true love. You think this happens every day?"<BR>Westley, The Princess Bride</P> <P>"Good night, my love, the brightest star in my sky."<BR>John Sheridan, Babylon 5</P> <P>This is the hardest part. While I certainly have no desire to die, at this point I no longer have any worries. That is not true of the woman who made my life something to enjoy rather than something merely to survive. She put up with all of my faults, and they are myriad, she endured separations again and again...I cannot imagine being more fortunate in love than I have been with Amanda. Now she has to go on without me, and while a cynic might observe she's better off, I know that this is a terrible burden I have placed on her, and I would give almost anything if she would not have to bear it. It seems that is not an option. I cannot imagine anything more painful than that, and if there is an afterlife, this is a pain I'll bear forever.</P> <P>I wasn't the greatest husband. I could have done so much more, a realization that, as it so often does, comes too late to matter. But I cherished every day I was married to Amanda. When everything else in my life seemed dark, she was always there to light the darkness. It is difficult to imagine my life being worth living without her having been in it. I hope and pray that she goes on without me and enjoys her life as much as she deserves. I can think of no one more deserving of happiness than her.</P> <P>"I will see you again, in the place where no shadows fall."<BR>Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5</P> <P>I don't know if there is an afterlife; I tend to doubt it, to be perfectly honest. But if there is any way possible, Amanda, then I will live up to Delenn's words, somehow, some way. I love you.</P> <P>Andrew</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=13924" width="1" height="1">The Ghosts of Fallujahhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2008/01/04/13694.aspxFri, 04 Jan 2008 15:11:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:13694ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/13694.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=13694<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/10951/500x182.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>Today's Feature is a video written and shot Monday by the Marines in Falluah. The war is changing; from the opening gambit of March 2003 when the Arty bubba's of 1st Battalion 10th Marines levelled the city of An-Nasiriyah, to the Marines fighting door-to-door in Fallujah in November 2005...now we're writing and reporting about civil affairs, government meetings, and trash pick-up.</P> <P>But the ghosts of Fallujah remain, and as 3rd Battalion 5th Marines return to Fallujah for yet another tour, these Marines wonder about the future of the city as they remember the horrors and heroics of November 2004.</P> <P>These are your Marines in Iraq today - let your News Years Resolutions for 2008 include them.</P> <br> <br><br>Video Courtesy of: Multi National Force-West <img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=13694" width="1" height="1">Marines in Anbar: from war to a wary peacehttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2007/12/31/13419.aspxMon, 31 Dec 2007 13:57:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:13419ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/13419.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=13419<P><FONT face=Times size=4><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/13420/500x331.aspx" border=0></FONT></P> <P><FONT face=Times size=4>There is a reason why the New York Times has earned its reputation for excellent reporting, and today's feature brings our readers of those articles. Written from Fallujah, our Feature bring you the trials and conflicts that our Marines are dealing with every day in Iraq:</FONT></P> <P><FONT face=Times size=4></FONT><FONT color=#000000 size=5><B><BR><FONT face=Times>A Tall Order For A Marine: Feeding The Hand That Bit You<BR></P></FONT></B></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4></FONT> <P><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>NYTimes, 12/30/07 - &nbsp;Damien Cave</FONT></P> <P><FONT face=Times size=4></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><BR>FALLUJA, Iraq--CAPT. SEAN MILLER shook his head like a big brother. He and his marines had just walked by a cluster of large orange garbage bins, American-bought, from which thieves had ripped the wheels, and now they confronted a cemetery entrance that Captain Miller had paid an Iraqi contractor to fix. It was still broken.<BR><BR>He snapped a photograph and moved on.<BR><BR>It was one more day on the job here in Anbar Province, where fighting has given way to fixing. But reconstruction was hardly the only thing on the captain’s mind. Falluja’s past as the epicenter of the Sunni rebellion was with him too.<BR><BR>“The road we just walked down, I lost three marines on that road,” said the captain, a compact 32-year-old company commander from Virginia. “I was wounded in Falluja too, so walking down these streets — it’s not easy.”<BR><BR>“Reconciliation,” he said, eyeing some Iraqi policemen nearby. “It’s a hard pill to swallow.”<BR></P></FONT> <P><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>Since long before this war, forgiveness has been Iraq’s greatest challenge. What does it take for an abused, angry population to move on after so much suffering? Can they ever learn to trust one another?<BR><BR>In 2007, more than before, the same questions became central for Americans like Captain Miller. This was the deadliest year of the war for American troops. But it was also the year of a sudden shift in Sunni loyalties throughout Iraq, overnight turning enemies of America into allies against more extreme Islamists.<BR><BR>The Americans welcomed the turnabout, which has helped decrease violence throughout the country, but they were not prepared for it. It has been 25 years since another generation of marines failed to separate the sides in Lebanon’s civil war, and the Middle East, with its long history of about-faces and betrayals, where allegiances are shallow and enmities deep, often still defies American logic.<BR><BR>Battle-scarred marines and soldiers are now doing what they couldn’t fathom less than a year ago, working beside Iraqis who may have tried to kill them. Ordered to act as mentors and honest brokers, to suppress personal feelings for the common good, the troops are surrounded by a language they don’t speak, rejiggering alliances they don’t quite fathom, while they try to rebuild a broken, politically immature nation on bedrock American values of enterprise, tolerance, hard work and optimism. Horatio Alger and Audie Murphy — those archetypal “can do” Americans — once again are hearing “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”<BR><BR>The Iraqis are wary, too, because they think, perhaps mistakenly, that they recognize the Americans’ behavior. Seventeen years ago, the first President Bush turned furiously against the Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, only to abandon Iraq’s Shiites when they rose up against Mr. Hussein. Then, after toppling Mr. Hussein, marines stormed the Sunni stronghold of&nbsp; Falluja three years ago, subduing its rebels by decimating the city and leaving hundreds dead.</FONT></P> <P><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><BR>Mutual distrust is what remains. Iraqis resent American power but also say they fear that the Americans will leave without making the country stable and prosperous. Hearing such contradictory attitudes is part of what bewilders the Americans, who continue to wonder if their old enemies are just playing them — snatching all the money and arms they can in preparation for a future battle.<BR><BR>The uneasiness shows up throughout Iraq, but it is particularly acute in Anbar, the desert province in Iraq’s far west where the shift from war to tentative peace has been most abrupt. Ask an American infantryman where he served and when he answers “Anbar,” he’ll rarely say more; one word is enough, a shorthand for horrors.<BR><BR>Captain Miller commands Kilo Company, in the Third Battalion of the Fifth Marine Regiment, which suffered 194 casualties — roughly one of every six marines — in its last rotation in Anbar, from January 2006 to May 2006. His old platoon had it worse; one in four killed or wounded.<BR><BR>Captain Miller, who displays an easygoing charm in his new role as diplomat and city planner, cajoler and referee, was himself injured when his Humvee hit a mine in September 2006. The explosion threw him from the vehicle and temporarily blinded his left eye. He had to cheat on his eye exam to get back to Iraq (“I used my good eye when the doctor turned around,” he said) and what he found on his return was vastly different from what he had left. Three months into deployment, the battalion has yet to suffer a casualty from hostile action.<BR><BR>Captain Miller said that he, like most marines, was immensely relieved that the violence had subsided. But spending time with him also reveals a deep ambivalence about the new bond with Anbar’s Sunnis, and ultimately with Iraq.<BR><BR>One recent day began with smiles and easy handshakes as he greeted the tribal sheiks and local officials of the Falluja District Council. He and his battalion commander had come to lend support and to speed the delivery of services.<BR><BR>But getting Iraqis to take the lead was a challenge. When discussion turned to a heating fuel shortage, Captain Miller scanned the room for a contractor he had asked to stand and address the issue. The man hadn’t shown up. When he explained later, through an interpreter, that he had expected a more formal invitation, Captain Miller just rolled his eyes.<BR><BR>That is the way things have gone in Iraq for years, and often the root of the problem can be traced to Saddam Hussein. His paranoid totalitarian rule crushed initiative, set neighbor against neighbor and injected fear into nearly every interaction. The regime’s abuses can still be seen in Sunni-Shiite antagonisms: Sunnis were favored under Mr. Hussein, and do not relish their loss of status; Shiites feel they are finally getting their due and have little interest in sharing.<BR><BR>The divide shows up in the streets.<BR><BR>&gt;From the council meeting, Captain Miller drove to a command center near a school where another contractor had left a job unfinished. The school department’s chief engineer offered an explanation: the contractor was a Shiite and knew that his bosses at the Education Ministry — also Shiites — wouldn’t mind the lapse in a Sunni city.<BR><BR>Whatever the reason, the chief engineer now finds himself following Captain Miller to meeting after meeting, pleading for assistance, a reluctant supplicant to a foreigner half his age.</FONT></P> <P><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><BR>Falluja has become a city filled with such relationships. Around lunchtime, Captain Miller and his marines walked to a second school, where the captain was treated like the mayor of a poor American city. He had expected to discuss awards for students who had recited passages from the Koran. But in the principal’s office, he found a handful of strangers.<BR><BR>“Who are these guys?” he asked.<BR><BR>For the next hour, they bombarded him with demands. Two men asked about a relative who they said had been detained several years ago.<BR><BR>A bearded man seeking work pushed forward a contract that included a $50,000 charge for a generator that Captain Miller knew he could buy for $8,000.<BR><BR>Captain Miller listened, initially calm. He took notes. But as the requests kept coming, he grew more annoyed, firing baffled glances at a marine sitting next to him.<BR><BR>Then a man in a leather jacket leaned forward. He told Captain Miller that another marine had promised to pay him for burying 535 Iraqis killed during the American assaults on Falluja in 2004.<BR><BR>“So someone told you we would pay you to bury dead bodies but never gave you anything in writing?” Captain Miller said.<BR><BR>The man nodded.<BR><BR>And Captain Miller lost his cool.<BR><BR>“Those guys were trying to kill me,” he said, his voice just shy of a yell. “You want me to pay to have them buried?”<BR><BR>The room went quiet. Old, searing memories — of shattered bodies and dead friends — seemed to hang in the air.<BR><BR>Marines are not known for emoting. They fight wars. End of story. But a businesslike approach to nation-building can’t always mask a gut-level anger, barely suppressed, at working with Iraqis who may be former insurgents.<BR><BR>Less than two weeks ago in northern Ramadi, a knife fight broke out between an American marine and an Iraqi policeman. It left the Iraqi dead.<BR><BR>In the principal’s office, Captain Miller simply changed the subject. He returned to awards for the students, and agreed to tour the school so the bearded contractor could explain his proposal for the generator. Captain Miller, who hands out between $500,000 and $1 million to Iraqis every month, told the contractor that he would have to weigh the cost against other needs.<BR><BR>He did not say — but it is also true — that the marines struggle to measure whether the money they hand out is getting them any closer to stability or reconciliation. Any serious assessment would have to include a count of work done and redone. The schoolyard Captain Miller visited next had been cleaned repeatedly with the help of payments from the Americans. But when the marines looked at it that day, they found that papers, plastic and foam had returned.<BR><BR>AND again, Captain Miller’s easy manner slipped. Looking up, he saw a man on a roof installing a pipe that might have been connected to his bathroom. “Hey,” Captain Miller shouted to the man. “I’ll get a pipe and put my own sewage in your house if I see a pipe pouring sewage into this school.”<BR><BR>The principal stood beside him, silent. Pleased by the threat? Embarrassed?<BR><BR>The afternoon bell rang. Children as old as teenagers poured out of the school, and some of the marines grew skittish. “Should this be happening?” one asked himself.<BR><BR>The squad moved on. Near a mosque being rebuilt after it was destroyed by American bombs, Captain Miller stopped at a cafe and listened to young men say they would have to pay $800 to $1,000 in bribes to get a job on the police force. It was clear they were frustrated, but it wasn’t clear whom they blamed — Americans or fellow Iraqis.<BR><BR>Up ahead, a green steel bridge straddled the Euphrates. In 2004, from that bridge, insurgents had displayed the charred bodies of two American contractors after killing and mutilating them. If the marines were thinking about that, they didn’t show it. They walked by without incident, turning onto a side street where children began blurting out two English phrases:&nbsp; “Give me money,” and an obscenity. The marines of Kilo Company looked neither angry nor surprised. The bridge, the mosque, the children — they were all signs of a city in transition from insurgency to pleas for help.<BR><BR>By the time Captain Miller reached the garbage bins without wheels and the empty doorway by the cemetery, the unit seemed to have calmed. The sun was setting. A call to prayer rang out.<BR><BR>A young marine told me that he was in Iraq for the first time, thrilled to be here and eager to see action. It is like that in many units. There is a divide between those who have learned the costs of combat — the past that colors the present — and those who have not.<BR><BR>Captain Miller’s thoughts had already turned to the three marines he knew who had been killed by snipers in the area last summer. “This was the Colosseum of Falluja,” he said. “It was where the warriors and insurgents came to fight.”<BR><BR>He clearly didn’t want to relive the memories. Things had changed. On this night, a crowd of young men had gathered by a well-stocked grocer. Another group, fixing a sewer line, was up ahead.<BR><BR>Captain Miller kept walking. He said he would talk to the contractor about the doors to the cemetery. Rather than hold a grudge, for his own psyche and for Iraq, his goal was simple. He just wanted to see the job completed.</FONT><FONT face=Geneva color=#000000 size=2></FONT><BR><BR></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=13419" width="1" height="1">Pakistan After Bhuttohttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2007/12/28/13235.aspxFri, 28 Dec 2007 16:22:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:13235ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/13235.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=13235<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/13233/500x218.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>Less than a day after gun and suicide bomb attack that killed Pakistan’s popular opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, her death has already spurred more violence. Current accounts are 23 dead, hundred’s injured, with the police patrolling the streets as the Army remains on alert, but (currently) in their barracks.</P> <P>News reports taken from local stringers report violence in cities across Pakistan today, as hundreds of thousands marched in Bhutto’s ancestral village for her funeral procession. As reported yesterday in <STRONG>OnPoint</STRONG>, CNN filed a story in which Al-Qaeda claimed credit for the assassination. Mrs. Bhutto, the first woman to lead an Islamic state, had hoped to win a third term as prime minister in the elections scheduled for January 8. In addition to her death removing the chief opposition candidate, the manner of her death leaves major questions as to the continued viability of Pakistan as a country.</P> <P>Signs of political uncertainty and trouble are surfacing already as analysts try to guess at President Musharraf’s next move. When he announced a 3-day period of mourning, they also reconfirmed the elections of 8 January, but former president and opposition candidate Nawaz Sharif said last night that he would boycott the elections. His supporters had been attacked this past weekend&nbsp; by government goons at a rally in Islamabad. If the January election comes off with no viable or serious opposition, as is expected, then the value of Musharraf’ legitimacy will be questioned by the increasingly vocal Pakistani middle and under-class.</P> <P>While Pakistan is best known for it’s offering safe haven to Osama Bin Laden and the resurging Taliban, as well as it being a home of the ‘Islamic Bomb,” Pakistan also has a large and educated middle class. In every election, the various Islamic fundamentalist parties only gather some 6-7% of the vote. Overall, Pakistan could be a moderate country, should a viable leader be elected to replace the current military dictatorship.</P> <P>Bhutto’s death is a major blow to President Bush’s hands-off strategy.</P> <P>The United States will have to rethink it’s policy for pushing a real democracy in Pakistan. It had been pushing for a deal between Musharraf and Bhutto in the hope that if Bhutto could become Prime minister, she would lend legitimacy to Musharraf’s increasingly unpopular government. Additionally, her pro-western and anti-fundamentalist leanings were needed to help contain the Army and ISI’s increasing slide towards Islamic fundamentalism.</P> <P>Facing a great deal of criticism for its support of Musharraf, the United States condemned the attack. President George W. Bush called it an attempt to “undermine Pakistan’s democracy,” but refused to comment on Musharraf’s wasting of the $10 billion given to him in order to rein in the Taliban and halt their spread.</P> <P>“Her death brutally exposes how little success Pervez Musharraf has had in cracking down on the jihadists,” writes Max Boot in <EM>Commentary</EM>. “They have only grown stronger on his watch.” Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have questioned the effectiveness of nearly $10 billion given to Musharraf in the war against terrorism. Last week, it imposed new restrictions on U.S. assistance to Pakistan.</P> <P>Bhutto’s assassination was clearly intended to destabilize Pakistan. Bhutto, speaking in New York this August, referred to repeated threats to her life from Islamic militants as well as the Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI), continuing to assist the Taliban. Not coincidentally, on the day of her return from exile in October, Bhutto narrowly escaped death when her convoy was attacked by two suicide bombers that left some 160 dead in Karachi.</P> <P>American influence in the country is likely to diminish. “Bush's continued focus on extremists in Pakistan, rather than on reform of the Pakistani military, is likely to create more muddled policy says <EM>Business Week</EM>. The 160 million Pakistani’s continue to resent the military dictatorship that they blame the United States for supporting, and the Pakistani Army and ISI continue to take American aid money and work with the Wazieri warlords and Fundamentalist leaders in the North-West Frontier.</P> <P>And one more question remains unanswered – where are the 30 Pakistani nuclear bombs hidden, and who controls them? President Musharraf’s past assurances that they are “safely under Army control” is increasingly worrisome, especially as he gave the same assurances to the late Benazir Bhutto.</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=13235" width="1" height="1">An Anbar Holiday Message from the CGhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2007/12/26/13045.aspxWed, 26 Dec 2007 15:30:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:13045ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/13045.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=13045<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/13043/500x326.aspx" border=0></P> <P>During this holiday season, I would like to express my gratitude to you, the men and women of Multinational Force – West, for the professionalism, diligence, and courage you demonstrate each day in our efforts to bring security and stability to Al Anbar Province. Your service and sacrifice serve as an inspiration and have brought hope to a people whose lives have been ravaged by war.</P> <P>I encourage each of you to take a moment to reflect upon the many accomplishments we have achieved together. Take pride in these accomplishments and understand that, through your efforts, you have transformed Al Anbar into a province with the capacity to succeed along all lines of operation. Although you are far from home during this special time of year, stay focused on the mission and continue to drive forward.</P> <P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/13044/400x253.aspx" border=0></P> <P>May God bless you and your families during this holiday season. </P> <P>Semper Fidelis,</P> <P><STRONG><EM>Major General W. E. Gaskin</EM></STRONG></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=13045" width="1" height="1">Our Holiday Messagehttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2007/12/24/12780.aspxMon, 24 Dec 2007 14:25:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:12780ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/12780.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=12780<P><FONT size=5><EM><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/12795/499x375.aspx" border=0></EM></FONT></P> <P><FONT size=5><EM>The Management and Staff of ON POINT and US CAV ask the you give a thought to the efforts of our</EM><EM>&nbsp;men and women serving overseas, and we wish you and your families all the best in this Christmas Season !!</EM></FONT></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=12780" width="1" height="1">An Iraqi Torture Center – AQI Doesn’t Quithttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2007/12/21/12598.aspxFri, 21 Dec 2007 17:21:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:12598ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/12598.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=12598<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/12597/500x320.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>Muqdidiyah, Iraq. Acting on tips from the newly-empowered concerned citizens of this town, American soldiers found mass graves, a torture chamber, and nine arms caches containing some of the heaviest weapons captured in some time.</P> <P>In an interview Wednesday with <STRONG>OnPoint</STRONG>, Col Donald Bacon filled in the details. “This&nbsp; was a 3-day operation. This area, and Diyala Province in general, have been AQI strong-points, especially as they get pushed out of Anbar and Baghdad.”</P> <P>An Iraqi Police pick-up was found on the grounds, with multiple bullet holes in it. The graves contained 26 bodies, all with their arms bound behind them, and all had been shot in the head. Col Bacon surmised that the bodies were all Iraqi Police.</P> <P>In a room with blood-splattered walls, the soldiers discovered bloody whips, chains, and knives, as well as a metal bed frame. The frame was still hooked up to an electrical outlet so AQI could torture their prisoners.</P> <P>Col Bacon said they suspected the torture house was run by AQI, and it was found through tips from the local Iraqis in the area, where the al-Qaida insurgents are very active.</P> <P>In a written statement MajGen Mark Herltling, commander of MNFI-North, added “We discovered several (weapons) caches, a torture facility that had chains, a bed — an iron bed that was still connected to a battery — knives and swords that were still covered in blood as we went in to go after the terrorists in that area.”</P> <P>The arms caches discovered were notable for what they contained, Col Bacon said. “Soldiers found a total of nine caches containing anti-aircraft guns, a surface-to-air missile launcher, sniper rifles, 130 pounds of homemade explosives and numerous mortar tubes and rounds, among other weapons.”</P> <P>Bacon said that the operation also saw multiple battles between U.S. troops and militants “We killed 24 insurgents and detained 37 others,” he said.</P> <P>Despite a nationwide decrease in violence of nearly 60 %, Diyala province is still one of the most active in Iraq. As “The Surge” has pushed the Shia insurgents out of Baghdad, and the Marine – Sunni combination pushed them out of Anbar, they have congregated north. The insurgents are fighting to stay relevant in Diyala, Ninevah, and Salahuddin Provinces, as the Iraqi “Concerned Local Citizens” join forces with the American Army and push to fight them out. While attacks on American and Iraqi forces are down by almost 50 % in the last year, Gen Hertling added howeve that al-Qaida in Iraq was still capable of massive violence.</P> <P>“You know, there’s going to be continued spectacular attacks,” Hertling said. “We’re trying, along with the Iraq army, to protect all the infrastructure of Iraq. These people who are fighting us, who are fighting the Iraqi people, continue to just destroy with no intent to contribute to what Iraq is trying to be.”</P> <P>But as the Concerned Citizens continue to work with their American and Iraqi Army counterparts,&nbsp; in time AQI will be pushed from Diyala Province also.</P> <HR> <img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=12598" width="1" height="1">3rd LAR in the Deserthttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2007/12/19/12307.aspxWed, 19 Dec 2007 16:50:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:12307ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/12307.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=12307<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/12304/500x292.aspx" border=0></P> <P>By Cpl. Adam Johnston<BR>Combat Correspondent – Regimental Combat Team 2</P> <P>COP TIMBERWOLF, Iraq - (Dec. 18, 2007)<BR>&nbsp;<BR>Pepperoni or sausage? Regular or super-sized? Six-inch or foot-long? These are just some of the “tough” decisions Marines at Al-Asad face on a daily basis. Currently the largest U.S. military installation in Al Anbar Province, this former Iraqi airbase is anything but rustic. </P> <P>Al- Asad boasts a variety of creature comforts, including: in-room cable TV and internet, multiple souvenir shops and an Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool. People don’t call it ‘Camp Cupcake’ for nothing. </P> <P>For the Marines of Bravo Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, however, life is a little different. Contrary to popular belief, not all deployments are created equal.</P> <P>As opposed to the luxuries of Camp Cupcake, 3rd LAR’s home away from home is Command Outpost Timberwolf. Established eight months ago, Timberwolf is nestled in a mountainous patch of terrain near the town of Baghdadi on the east side of the Euphrates River, opposite Al-Asad.</P> <P>“In the past, insurgents were using this high ground to launch indirect fire attacks on adjacent coalition bases,” said Capt. Max Stapp, the company commander for Bravo Company, 3rd LAR. “Our presence here has eliminated their ability to do so.” </P> <P>At the same time, Timberwolf’s strategic location also brings with it a unique set of challenges. Though close in proximity, Al Asad might as well be back in 29 Palms.“The nearby bridges aren’t sturdy enough to handle any military traffic,” Stapp said, “so all re-supply is done via helo.”</P> <P>Laundry, mail, chow, spare LAV parts – you name it. And with birds coming in-and-out on a regular basis, the flightline can be “hectic as hell.”</P> <P>“Unloading and distributing supplies from the flightline is a task in itself,” Stapp said. “I like to think of it as organized chaos; my guys know what they’re doing.”</P> <P>Stapp is referring to the company’s Headquarters element. In addition to their normal duties, these Marines are responsible for the general upkeep of COP Timberwolf.</P> <P>“Working parties are part of everyday life around here,” Stapp said. “For security reasons, continual improvement of the COP hasn’t stopped since we arrived. Laying new razor wire, upgrading overwatch positions, etc.”</P> <P>They also handle the day-to-day stuff: collecting and consolidating trash in the burn pit, refueling the power generators, disposing of WAG bags (human waste) – things most people take for granted.</P> <P>During combat operations, the job only gets harder.</P> <P>“With so many Marines outside the wire, it only means that much more work for those who stay behind,” Stapp said. “We can’t just close up shop due to lack of personnel.”</P> <P>Operation Rat Hunt, a 20-day evolution, was the most recent test of their collective resolve.</P> <P>Approximately 181 Marines and sailors were part of the overall effort, including combat engineers and scout snipers from 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, military working dogs from Regimental Combat Team 2 and air support from 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.</P> <P>“We wanted to take advantage of our additional forces and use them to surge the [area of operation],” Stapp said. “Not only does it disrupt the enemy’s ability to operate, it shows the local populace our resolve to keep security, which is critical in the counterinsurgency effort.”</P> <P>The operation was broken up into three phases: Phase One – Interdiction and census operations; Phase Two – Cache sweeps and reconnaissance; and Phase Three – Exploitation.</P> <P>“Intel points to a number of [high-value individuals] who call this area home,” Stapp said. “They’re constantly on the move, using family connections to hide out and operate in the surrounding villages. Our AO is so large, it can be difficult to cover at times.”</P> <P>At 565 sq. miles, Bravo Company’s battlespace is more than twice the size of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.</P> <P>“We try to stay out there as long as humanly possible,” said Staff Sgt. Mark F. Erhardt, the platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon, Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “It’s all about keeping the enemy on their toes; making it harder for them to do business.”</P> <P>An infantryman by trade, Erhardt’s second deployment to Iraq has proved considerably different than the first. “This is the first time I’ve ever spent more than 24 hours outside the wire without returning to base,” Erhardt said. “Once we’re done for the day, we try and find an easily defendable spot to go firm for the night. It definitely adds a bit of realism to this deployment; there’s nowhere safe out there to lay our heads.”</P> <P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/12305/359x252.aspx" border=0></P> <P>As Bravo Company’s dismount element, Erhardt and his Marines have the best of both worlds. </P> <P>“Working with the LAV’s has been nothing but positive,” Erhardt said. “As a mobile assault force, we can move two squads of Marines anywhere in our AO within a short amount of time.”</P> <P>The biggest adjustment for Erhardt is dealing with the aptly-nicknamed “moon dust”, which surrounds the entire base.“At the end of the day, no matter what happens, weapons maintenance is a must,” Erhardt said.</P> <P>This particular variety of Iraq’s finest seems to stick to anything and everything it touches.“An instant sugar cookie,” Stapp said.</P> <P>Unfortunately, Timberwolf’s shower system isn’t exactly state-of-the-art. Shielded from onlookers by the shell of an empty HESCO barrier, Marines hang up a bag of water and let gravity take care of the rest.</P> <P>During the hot summer months these showers aren’t so bad that bad. But with winter upon us and temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, Marines often go with plan B.&nbsp; “Baby wipe showers it is,” Erhardt said. “I’d rather skip the whole pneumonia piece altogether.”</P> <P>When all was said and done, Operation Rat Hunt yielded the detention of three individuals with direct ties to an HVI ( hi-value-target), multiple weapons cache finds and the discovery of three IED’s.</P> <P>“The Marines out here are truly roughing it,” Stapp said. “COP Timberwolf is one of the last real ‘field’ environments left in this area. No offense to anyone at Al Asad, but when my Marines look back on this deployment, they’ll be glad they did."</P> <P>Clearly, there’s more to Marine deployments in Iraq than Pizza Hut, Burger King and Subway.</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=12307" width="1" height="1">Christmas Spirit in the AORhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/archive/2007/12/17/11929.aspxMon, 17 Dec 2007 18:58:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:11929ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/comments/11929.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/onpoint_articles/commentrss.aspx?PostID=11929<P><IMG src="/photos/onpoint_article_gallery/images/11919/500x188.aspx" border=0></P> <P>Andrew Lubin</P> <P>Almost every senior officer with whom we talk finishes the conversation by saying “you’ve got to mention our soldiers..” or “don’t forget that it’s our young Marines who are making the difference over here…” and then they talk about the actions of their young enlisted men and NCO’s who are doing such an incredible job. The usual stateside inter-service rivalry doesn’t exist here – between the Marine’s having men here on their forth deployment and many readying for their fifth, and the Army’s exhausting 15-month tours, these young men and women need all the support they can get.</P> <P>And so...</P> <P>Today we bring you a website where you, the <STRONG>OnPoint</STRONG> reader, can help support the troops. </P> <P>Here’s to adding a “Semper Fi” and a “HOAAH” to your Ho-Ho-Ho!!</P> <P><A title=https://www.ecarepackage.org/filterSoldier.asp href="https://www.ecarepackage.org/filterSoldier.asp" target=_blank>https://www.ecarepackage.org/filterSoldier.asp</A></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=11929" width="1" height="1">