Update: The Marines received over 30,000 emails and are requesting no more emails. (We crashed their server a few times.)
We spoke with Col Simcock of Regimental Combat Team 6 on the same day as the bombing in Samarra. While the conversation was overtaken by events, it was one of the best we've had. The transcript is here.
RCT-6 has a blog, by the way.
After the jump, how Anbar is succeeding... how we need fewer heavy weapons and armor than ever... and how the Colonel wants you to support our Marines. The short form? He wants email.
I trust you folks can provide some email.
GRIM: I promised a group of Marine wives I would ask you this. They tell me that the Semper Fi Injured Marine Fund has had to lower its ceiling on grants and that the Marine Corps has had to cut back on the per diem they can give to families to fly out to be with injured Marines. That being said -- and of course, we understand the reasons for that -- we would like to know what more we can do to help the regiment and the units keep in touch with their injured Marines, help them out and kind of serve as a bridge between the regiment, the injured Marine, his new unit and the family.
COL. SIMCOCK: I can't comment on the per diem being reduced as far as families being supported to come out and see their injured Marines. But I will tell you this -- my wife volunteers for the wounded Marines program. She's a certified public accountant by trade, and I know that she gets -- because she is the accountant, she takes care of the books. We get a tremendous amount of donations that are made to support this organization, obviously tax-deductible type donations, and it's been a very, very successful operation for us in supporting what needs to be done.
Now, I would just say, to get the information regarding your question, if you call Headquarters - Marine Corps Public Affairs, they can give you details on how family members or anyone interested in supporting this very, very successful program -- what they can do to help out in that regard.
GRIM: Is there anything that you and your Marines need that we could send you?
COL. SIMCOCK: (Chuckles.) I'll tell you what, the one thing that all Marines want to know about -- and that includes me and everyone within Regimental Combat Team 6 -- we want to know that the American public are behind us. We believe that the actions that we're taking over here are very, very important to America. We're fighting a group of people that, if they could, would take away the freedoms that America enjoys.
If anyone -- you know, just sit down, jot us -- throw us an e- mail, write us a letter, let us know that the American public are behind us. Because we watch the news just like everyone else. It's broadcast over here in our chow halls and the weight rooms, and we watch that stuff, and we're a little bit concerned sometimes that America really doesn't know what's going on over here, and we get sometimes concerns that the American public isn't behind us and doesn't see the importance of what's going on. So that's something I think that all Marines, soldiers and sailors would like to hear from back home, that in fact, yes, they think what we're doing over here is important and they are in fact behind us.
The Colonel didn't give me an email address to which to direct our email. UPDATE: RCT-6's PA team has now set up an email for the purpose. Direct your letters to this address. Thanks, Public Affairs!
Otherwise, the conversation was highly encouraging. Mike Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard asked a good question about the use of heavy weapons.
MG: I would just be curious to hear a little bit about what kind of -- since our call this morning was about strategic effects, or at least it was supposed to be, I'd be curious to hear what kind of firepower you guys are calling in on a regular basis. Are they using artillery or air power? How frequently? Or just -- if you could sort of give us a sense for what kind of engagements you guys are finding yourselves in there.
COL. SIMCOCK: As I told you, we've been here now for about six months. As we progress further, we're using less and less artillery, less and less combined air support, weapon systems, combined arms-type activity less and less; our armored assets have been pulled out of Fallujah. Engagements, if you will -- the enemy that we're fighting here, there is nothing on the ground here that a Marine rifle squad can't quickly take care of. If they stand up and fight us, they're going to lose and they're going to love very, very quickly. Their chosen tactics right now are the improvised explosive devices that they plant on the roadways. Other tactics that we're seeing are suicide vests that they'll use, and a lot of these -- and also, I know you're very familiar with the vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, but those tactics we're seeing more and more aimed at the Iraqi security forces vice the coalition forces. That's for, I think, for a couple reasons.
One, the success that the Iraqi security forces are having. The terrorists, the enemy that we're fighting here, they see that the tide is changing, that the support of the Iraqi people are coming over to the coalition force side, and the enemy are trying to use murder intimidation tactics and it's just not working against them. They won't -- the people of Iraq are standing up and they're fighting the terrorists, and it's good to see.
But the quick answer to your question is we're using less and less combined air-ground-type weapons and artillery and things like that. The environment here just doesn't require it.
MG: If I could just ask a quick follow-up. Could you tell me with regard to the IED threat, do you guys MRAP vehicles on the scene there, a good number of them? And how effective have you found them to be?
COL. SIMCOCK: We do have a pretty good number of the MRAP vehicles here. We use them with some of our engineering and route- clearing units. They have been extremely successful for us. They're outstanding vehicles. We've got more inbound. They are a tremendous asset for us, and we look forward to more of them arriving.
Not much more to say there than Ooh-Rah. But that was the general tone of the conversation, which is what you expect when you talk to Marines about their mission. More from the Colonel on Anbar:
[W]e've been over here for about six months. We took over authority of Area of Operations Raleigh back in January 24. And the experiences we've had over here have been amazingly positive. The Iraqis have really gotten on board as far as supporting the operations that we're doing over here. I'll give you a quick example, and that's the city of Fallujah, which is central within our area of operations. That city is in Iraqi battlespace. The 2nd Iraqi Brigade has responsibility for that. The brigade commander, who is a Shi'a, works shoulder to shoulder with the city chief of police, which is a Sunni. They work to provide security to the duly elected mayor, who is supported by a 20-seat city council.
Fallujah is a city that has a long history, some very deadly battles have gone on there the last four years, starting with Al-Fajr, where anyone in the city at that time was either killed or captured. The city today is nearly 400,000 in population. It is economically up and running. Commerce is an ongoing process there on a daily basis. And they're making a lot of progress there.
But I will say to you, it's still a long way from being a secure city. Still a lot of violence going on within Fallujah, but it is on the road to success, and really all it requires now is just the time that it's going to take to finally finish that.
Nobody here has to be told that Fallujah was hard fighting. The Marines, who shed much of the American blood shed there, have high hopes for it. Surely the rest of the country ought to believe, if they can.