I've got multiple items to cover in this post, so I hope you'll bear with me... after 5 years, I have some more things to cover.
I just finished reading a couple of books that I thought I'd review for you- On Call in Hell by Richard Jadick, and We Were One by Patrick O'Donnell. Both were excellent reads, and I recommend them both. What is becoming more interesting is how these books both cover the same battles in Fallujah (On Call more so Fallujah I) but seem to be very separate battles; very different perspectives, and this is why I enjoyed reading them back-to-back.
On Call can best be described as a 'Battlefield Surgeons Guide to War'. It details how the good doctor was able to convince his superiors that bringing the aide station into the battle was the best way to save lives. Given the urban combat environment, and the close-order of the conflict, this was indeed a fortuitous decision to implement. But even more so, it gave a ring-side view of what the Marines were facing, and how this type of battle was impacting them. As any one of them can attest to, some of the most fearless and selfless acts were performed by the 'docs' in the units- I can't see a medic from the Marines ever having to buy a meal again :).
What was especially touching was how he described the care given both the wounded and the mortally wounded Marines and Soldiers fighting in Fallujah. Sometimes, this type of care even extended to the enemy as well as civilians in the area. Anyone that thinks we are cold, heartless killers needs to read this book. Again, a recommend.
Now, We Were One has a different perspective on Fallujah, one far closer to the heat of the barrel. The author, embedded starting with the 509th, then to the 2d RECON Battalion, and finally the 3/1 Marines, describes in excruciating personal detail the dangers faced by the Marines sent in as the point of the spear for Fallujah. While the book starts out, in my mind, somewhat stilted and disjointed in the narrative, it finishes quite well, and has some marked passages:
"How many of you are veterans from OIF I [the push into Baghdad]?" Over half the Marines raised their hands. "How does this compare to OIF I?" "It doesn't- this is the shit," responded the tired Marines in unison.
One entry refers to intel reports that said ''over half of Fallujah's 99 mosques were used as arsenals and fighting positions.'' My personal experience there reflects that there were 89 identified mosques, and all but 10 had been found to contain weapons by mid-December of '04. A far greater percentage than the author states.
The experiences of these men were grueling, costly, and courageous to a man. One squad lost all but one man, and better than 40% of one, Lima, had become casualties. It compares to Bing West's book, but details Fallujah II better than West. It details what Marines do best: take care of each other, and kill bad guys. But not indiscriminately- even given their youth and experience prior to the battle, they react and adjust very well to the conditions they were facing. I actually wish the book were longer, covering the unit's follow-on exploits in western Anbar along the Syrian border.
Now, for a little editorializing. A couple of things have come up that I truly want to comment on. Pardon the interruption, but damn, I'm pissed.
I spent a great evening this week with a compadre' I served with in Baghdad. He's done 2 tours, including one as a commander of troops. He's spent nearly the same amount of time over there as I, and has done a fantastic job. I can imagine he's one of the better commanders troops could have had there.
A couple of things that he mentioned got my blood boiling mad. The first one was when he was describing his REFRAD time, setting up the awards for his unit. When putting in several soldiers for the medals they deserved, ALL of the units medals were downgraded, regardless of circumstance, because the Special Troops Battalion told them ''we are over-quota. You're Guard, so the AD guys come first''. I would STILL be in jail had they told me that- and the Soldier would still be in the hospital.
When the HELL did they put a ''quota'' on performance? WTF, over? And since when does being a Reservist or Guardsman make any friggin' difference? While 'medal inflation' certainly can be a concern, to limit anything to a 'quota' is one of the most insulting things I've ever heard. Recall, the MOH that Sgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble's family recently received was due to some 'quota' some puke had put on them.
This brings me to my second concern- my buddy, who has served in the Pentagon recently, stated that there have been many Soldiers who consider it an 'honor' to have gone 7 years without a deployment resulting in a combat patch. Well, to you f****s, don't you DARE ever, EVER to mention that you've 'gotten over' and not deployed. I asked my friend what his reaction was to so many there that had no combat patch- he admitted to have some feelings of pity, nay, revulsion in seeing so many there. I asked him this because I just returned from a trip to the AO and visiting a large headquarters in DC. I was quite surprised at the number of NCO's and officers who had no patch, which in effect says they have not deployed, not once, in 7 years. While many (Medical corps, Acquisition) have duties and careers that don't lend themselves to that kind of deployment, I have a VERY hard time understanding why any of the others haven't served at least 6 months on a deployment.
Yeah, I have a prejudice here about it. There may be some who medically cannot do it. But beyond that, I cannot fathom ANY reason a SOLDIER cannot do it. Hell, guys with one leg/arm, still in, are begging to go back, yet some here can't get over a toothache (which prevents deployments).
I got real, real heartburn with this folks.
Now, the next books up for reading: From Baghdad, With Love by LTC Jay Kopelman, and McCoy's Marines, by John Koopman. From Baghdad was a gift from the Neely's, who's pups we brought out last month. Folks, you are far too kind. I look forward to reading this!