The following is an email that I received from LtCol "Willy" Buhl who's battalion just entered Iraq and is settling in around Fallujah:
Sent: Thursday, June 24, 2004 12:10 PMI'm working on getting a list of units to send care packages to...more to follow later.
Subject: THUNDERING THIRD ON THE GROUND IN IRAQ
The Thundering Third is completely on deck in Iraq, with our rifle companies moving out to firm bases. Our main firm base was rocketed the first day we had the entire Battalion together, which generated the "Fallujah Shuffle" to bunkers and shelters - by the Grace of God there were no casualties. This was a first class wake up call for our Marines to let everyone know we're in a combat zone. The attack was coordinated with rockets coming from two directions just a minute apart... the enemy appears to know that the Thundering Third is on deck!!
Our Division CG, MGen Jim Mattis and our Regimental Commander, Col John Toolan have spoken to the men and given their commander's intent. We are currently conducting right seat/left seat training with our Brothers from 1/5 and have already begun assuming responsibility for various functions like the BAS, camp guard, etc.
I have been out and about extensively throughout our sector, have visited all of the firm bases, have sat in on several city council meetings with local sheiks, imams, etc., have met with ICDC and Iraqi Police, etc. Fascinating area with many complexities and challenges. Our Marines and Sailors went right to work despite 22-hr trip from Riverside. Temps around 110, with added heat in flak and helmet. Equipment is pretty good shape but will require close supervision, care, and maintenance in harsh environment. Interpreter support better than expected. Living conditions better than expected with decent chow. Marines can contact home through Internet and Internet phone connections.
In my observations over the first week here, I've seen mixed reviews from locals around our sector. Many do appear to be upbeat and friendly to us and all of the city councils and tribal leaders have pledged to help us if we continue to show tangible civil affairs projects and improvements. We are working closely with ICDC (which will now be called National Guard) and Iraqi Police Forces in the Karma, Abu Ghraib, and Nasser Wa Salem areas. Some Iraqi security units are better than others and we have to take this one step at a time - there are many Iraqi patriots serving at great personal risk to themselves and their families, others are suspect, and still others immediately appear incompetent. In saying all of this, I have a more positive impression and outlook than I did coming in to this mission. Regardless, we have a lot of work to do and the experiment is very fragile. This area of operations is at the same time fascinating and very dangerous - "absence of the normal, presence of the abnormal."
I have been busy as heck with all the immediate duties expected, to include turn over with LtCol Brennan Byrne, CO 1/5. More to follow as time permits - your Marines and Sailors are doing great things for our Nation and the Iraqi People.
God Bless and Semper Fi,
LtCol W.A. Buhl, USMC
3d Bn., 1st Marines