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Monday, February 07, 2005

Ramadi 
To those of you who were following along in your programs, this 60 Minutes spot really captured the flavor of combat in Ramadi.

(Click on the picture at the left for the video.)


The real estate is exactly the same, and I drove up and down Route Michigan literally hundreds of times. There were a whole bunch of times I was all by myself in the back of a 2 1/2 ton truck, as part of an unarmored, unescorted 2-3 truck convoy. Stuck in rush hour traffic in downtown Ramadi. Those were in the early days, in the summer of 2003. There was already near daily fighting, and the IEDs were starting to show up, but the resources were just not yet available.

I'll never get frustrated by a traffic jam again.

I knew every building in the video, and exactly where it was on the street. The blue bridge near one of the IED incident is called Adams's Bridge, so named because SSG Adams was grieviously wounded in almost the same spot in Sept. 2003.

The large palace-type building in the background was where I lived most of the time. Actually, I lived outside, in a walkway overlooking the Euphrates river for the most part, until almost everybody but me had air conditioning inside.

I'm pleased to hear that the peninsula between the Euphrates river and another smaller tributary running to its south upon which we made our home from May 03-February 04 is still called "Hurricane Point." It's named after my National Guard battalion callsign (and indirectly, after the U. of Miami).

Combat Outpost, across the city, also kept our "C" company call sign. ("Combat." Begins with "C." Get it?)

The French U.S. Marine Corps captain featured in the article looks like he was a fine officer, and his loss is certainly a grievous one. Fox troop from one of the 3rd ACR Squadrons lost its commander a couple of miles away, in June or July of 2003, and it was a tough blow to that unit. Love him or hate him (it's always a bit of both for the best ones), it's a devastating psychological blow to a unit to lose anyone, but especially a good combat leader. And at the company level, it's still a very personal connection.

The part about the Captain never making eye contact with the reporter outside the gate is exactly right. I got a chuckle out of that, actually. I remember a time commanding a small element with the mission of delivering a water trailer to a bank prior to a mass currency changeover (one of many items on my checklist that day). For some reason, we had to park the water trailer on the road briefly, on Route Michigan, not 500 yards from where they interviewed the French Captain in the story.

I pulled security myself, pushing a 249 gunner to take shelter at a bus stop firing to the west, another M249 gunner behind a piling firing to the east, and I settled behind the water trailer, where I had a very pleasant conversation with a 10 year old boy named Mohammed in a pidgin Arabic English.

We chatted for 5 or 10 minutes, but I remember feeling a little guilty because other than scanning for a weapon or grenade or backpack, in the whole time I don't think I ever once looked at him.

If the captain had conducted the interview looking intently at the camera, I would have immediately thought he was brand new or nuts.

Anyway, that's what Ramadi looked like and felt like for me during that time, although we saw rather less action, ultimately.

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