We flew in to Habbaniyah on a C-130 out of Kuwait, and the pilot juked on the way in, just in case. Once on the deck, we were dispatched into an Army-Marine Corps convoy headed to Ramadi. On the way out the gate of the laager, a VBIED detonated next to one of the lead security vehicles, killing two soldiers. It would be an interesting eight months in Iraq. The First Marine Division, led by MajGen James N. Mattis, whose ADC was John Kelly and Chief of Staff Colonel Joe Dunford, was one hell of a team (that included the Army’s excellent 1-16th Infantry).
The 1st Marine Division (not including Army casualties) suffered 118 killed and more than 1,400 wounded in those eight months in places like Fallujah and Ramadi, Haditah, and a lot of other dusty villages and towns nobody could find on a map except the men who fought there. A high price was paid to hold the line in Anbar, to hold elections, and cultivate conditions for the Awakening. For the Marines and soldiers who did so, recent events with AQ flying flags in Anbar’s cities and towns are particularly maddening. It was clear that the “cut and run” philosophy of the White House was an exceedingly poor one, and subsequent events show that the so-called “zero option” is as descriptive of the President’s credibility as force levels in Iraq. And we are set, with the same litany of excuses, to do it again in Afghanistan.
I wondered then what all this would be like, ten years on, should I be fortunate enough to survive. Some things remain very vivid, the sights and smells, and the faces of comrades. Others I am sure I would have to be reminded of. And a few memories, thankfully few, are seared into the memory for the rest of my time on this earth.