Saturday, April 02, 2005

Update from Fallujah - A Marine's Perspective

I am proud to share with you a first-hand account of life in Fallujah as a Marine. The writer is a friend of the family, and though I have not included his name, I will say that he is a warrant officer, he comes from a USMC family, and he is one of the good guys over there. I hope you enjoy his letter home; for more information, check out the official USMC OIF site (that stands for Operation Iraqi Freedom).

His instructions to me about posting info from him are, verbatim:
As far as posting pics, I do not mind except I would rather not have a pic of me or my team that I sent. And as far as information posted, please keep it general. There is a $50,000 bounty out for intel guys here in Iraq and since even the insurgents have access to the internet, I don't want to give them any opportunity. Call me paranoid, but it is better to be safe than sorry. When I went through a survival school a couple years ago (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape [SERE]) the instructors were able to find pictures of students once they were captured and used for propaganda purposes.
Last comment before I share his letter -- this is a no-bashing post; I am not interested here in debating the merits of the war or the goals of the campaign; this is a letter from a friend, and I respect him and his work. If you wish to debate policy, let's do it some other time, OK? Thanks.

Hello everyone,

How's it going in the land of the big PX? It is hard to believe that I have already been here a month. It is starting to get pretty damn hot here. I think the weather says 80s and 90s but it is more like 100. It is hard to stay cool. I (me and my team) have our own little office with an air conditioner. The air conditioner doesn't keep it that cool during the day. That is because our office is a shipping container, the kind you see on big ships; hence the name: shipping container. You ship stuff on it and it goes on ships.  It is metal, but the guys before us build wood walls and put a rug on the inside. I have a desk and a chair.  My Staff Sergeant and I went to the PX and bought a microwave and we have a refrigerator. It isn't that bad, because we are away from all the staff of the battalion.

I get a shower every couple of days which is really good. Usually there isn't any hot water but it doesn't matter.  I just run the water; enough to get wet, lather up and then rinse off.  They serve hot food every couple days for breakfast and dinner.  It really isn't hot but it sure beats MREs. Today they had wheat tortillas, mexican rice, chicken/beef fajitas, mixed vegetables and corn on the cob. For dessert there was apple pie. This may sound good but it is not really.  About once or twice a week I make it over to a bigger base that has three chowhalls. They have two lines for food, one for real food, the other for fast food. I have yet to eat the real (kinda healthy) food. When I do eat, I eat like it is my last meal, because it has to last me a couple days. I don't like to eat MREs if I don't have to. Cheeseburger (made out of some kind of meat), soggy stale french fries, cold grilled cheese sandwich.  They have a salad bar, pasta bar, potato bar, ice cream bar, pizza bar--just not a real bar with beer. I am glad I am not aboard that base or I would look like a sailor. Because of the stress and lack of meals I have noticed my trousers are a little looser.

Today, like all days, was very busy. The insurgent activity is beginning to pick up and the bad guys are getting brave. The political process seems to almost be at a halt and I think the people are getting pissed. It is hard to believe we have been here two years and the situation seems the same. I don't know what the news reported today, but none of the Marines in our unit were hurt in any of the attacks. There are a lot of car bombs, improvised explosive devices, indirect fire (mortars), and small arms fire. Luckily we are finding a lot of them before they go off. Our unit has detained like 40 people in the last couple days, which keeps me and my guys busy. Today I witnessed something really cool. Right next door sits an artillery battery which mostly conducts counter battery fire. That means that when their radar picks up enemy mortar fire, they are locked on to the location and then conduct fire missions. Well the enemy fired something today and arty replied in kind.  BOOM!!!! BOOM!!! Over and over. Dark rain clouds started to move in, the wind picked up, and dust was filling the air.  Looking up in the sky I saw what looked like a shooting star. It was actually the artillery round flying through the sky. You could hear the rounds scream through the air and then they lit up a bright yellow as they soared overhead destined to kill the enemy. The Marine Corps calls it "Steel Rain," and those who are in artillery consider it the King of Battle. They kept firing mission after mission. It was almost like the Forth of July.

I haven't been out in the city for a couple days, but that is fine with me. Fallujah is in rubble and it will be a long time before it is rebuilt.  I think the Fallujans should have started over somewhere else. I think the prettiest thing in the city is the Euphrates River. It is a beuatiful green color that snakes through the run down, sandy landscape. When we drive [location-specific information deleted] you see this little green bridge. That little green bridge is known as the Pedestrian Bridge. But it hits closer to home because it was the same bridge that the people of the city used to hang and burn the bodies of the four Americans last year.

This week looks to be busy and fun at the same time. [Operations details deleted.] It is a neat process that I never got to see as an enlisted Marine. I was always told to do something and I did it. Knowing I am part of the planning and execution of [deleted]. Sometimes I think of what it must have been like during the Civil War when the Commander and his staff would gather around the map and decide how to fight the battle.  I am now part of that staff.  My piece of the pie is not big, however the impact of our operations are humongous. Our information is what drives the operations. For a senior high ranking officer to say, "What do you think, [name deleted]?" is a pretty good feeling. Of course this is the only time that I am not a smart ass.

Well, I just noticed it is after midnight and I must go to bed. I could stay up all night to take care of work, but I am not going to. I hope everyone is doing well and that you are enjoying the nice weather in your respective locales. I will try to give frequent updates and send more pictures soon. Take care.

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