Saturday, July 01, 2006

Dispatch from Ramadi 
David Bellavia, a blogger at Vets For Freedom who spent some time with a MiTT (Military Transition Team) in the crucial battleground of Ramadi, has this to say:

This is amazing. I have not spoken to wade in three days. And I have to return this laptop to its owner in two mintues... the Iraqi army is taking real estate from the enemy. Seeing these men in action is amazing. The people of Ramadi trust them. THey give them bread and tea. Kids are playing soccer and riding donkeys in the street. THe unit I am with (1st Iraqi division) is the oldest of the Iraqi army units. They have literally fought in every named and unnamed operation in Iraq. From Sadri City, Najaf, Fallujah, Haditha, Baghdad.. you name it. It is unbelievable. This unit has been bloddied... but more impressively they have bloodied the enemy 10 to 1. They drive their own Humvees, conduct their own patrols and plan their invidual movements.

I am warmed to see that the future of Iraq is not only in trusted hands, but their lethality and their relationships with the locals proves to me that there is a bright future for a competant hand over of all military combat operations in the future.

There is loss being taken in Ramadi. THe enemy's days of confidence in this city are over. I can't tell you what seeing this mission first hand has meant to me. What a great experience. What a great Army.

Just as significantly, I've written here about the importance of building a strong corps of professional NCOs within the Iraqi army.

David Bellavia writes:

A few hours later two iraqi soldiers outside in the compound began shouting at each other. Then punches were thrown. Before I knew it the 1st Battalion Sergeant Major sprang up and ran out the door. His voice boomed over the fighting soldiers. THe men snapped into what I assume must be parade rest in teh Iraqi drill and ceremony manual. Both sweaty and pissed at each other, the sergeant major grabbed their ears and slapped each of them on the face. THey then began carrying sand bags from teh wall to the compound. Other soldiers laughing at their suffering. This was the greatest treasure to date. No great army can exist without an NCO corps. I am seeing the budding of a strong NCO corps, one that understands its responsiblities to discipline and account for equipment and men.

The sergeant major came back into the main room and began laughing with the other senior NCOs. The men fighting, although armed, although hot and ill tempered... did nothing but snap to the rank of their leadership. And in combat that discipline builds endurance that can withstand any enemy fire. The junior NCO rank in the IA is not at all where it needs to be. Officers still have way too much responsibility are depended upon for almost every menial task. But there is a bright light.

More here:

As a veteran of the Nov 2004 offensive in Fallujah I can tell you that Ramadi today is no Fallujah. Ramadi today is not even Ramadi of two months ago. For the first time in this war in Iraq I see leadership on the ground that understands a counterinsugency. The plan from the x's and o's down to the trigger pulling grunt is simple, it's about the people of Ramadi. Win the people and the insurgents have no safe haven.

When I got on the ground in Ramadi the Iraqi 1st Division of the IA advised by MiTT (Military Transition Teams) teams consisting of 5 Americans per battalion, had already moved the lines almost 2 km closer to East Ramadi. The MiTT's responsibilty is different than their predecessors in Vietnam. When the term "Advisor" is tossed about one instantly thinks of the slow escalation that led to calamity when the American people lost support during the Vietnam war. Rather this program has been initiated after occupation, after stabilization forces have identifed trouble spots. This MiTT program holds on its shoulders the future of victory in Iraq.

"We're not in charge. We don't lead them (Iraqis). We are a conduit for readiness and combat maneuver support", said Virginian Tim Powers, an Army Reserve Major who is in charge of the MiTT operations of the 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Divison.

To say that the 1st Iraqi Division is tested is a vast understatement. These boys have fought in Fallujah, Ramadi, Solmon Pak, Baghdad, Sadr City, Najaf, Tele Far, Mosul, Hit and almost every other named operation since 2004. The are comprised of Christian, Sunni, Shia and Kurds. The lack of attention given to these units baffles me. Not only am I witnessing Shia soldiers giving aid to Sunni civilians, but it is happening in the "worst" Sunni real estate. Surely, if a sectarian civil war was as close as we are told, there would be some sign amongst the people here. I guess immediate security trumps future designs.


There's lots more. Just keep scrolling around.

Splash, out


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