Below is an email via Seamus from a Senior Marine Officer involved in several Operations in Iraq. It touches on many things - what's really happening, the media's portrayal of our forces, etc.
Vocabularly: MSR is a Main Supply Route (ie Major route into and out of an area).
BN is Battalion. RCT is a Regimental Combat Team.
By now you've all seen the oft-repeated footage of the fires in Haditha under the header of our 'new offensive' Operation New Market. Figured it was about time for an update...
First "NEW MARKET." As the press is reporting, we commenced operations a few days ago in the Haditha area - a critical crossroads from west to east in the country. At Haditha the MSRs meet and provide high-speed asphalt North towards Mosul and east towards Baghdad. It is a fair size city, often referred to by locals as the 'capital of west Al Anbar province (Ramadi being the provincial capital). Some of you might remember that about 3-4 weeks ago, insurgents took the Haditha hospital and burnt it when Marines came in and took it from them -- that's the fire footage you keep seeing (The press forgets that we took that hospital back then; instead, they only remembered that we lost a few Marines there in the initial ambush - not this time however).
Over the past few months, following our 1stMARDIVs magnificent actions in Fallujah (Operation AL FAJR) we have seen elements of the insurgency scatter along the 'green belt' of the Euphrates. Because of the strategic crossroads aspects, Haditha has been a problem. Following Matador, a lot of good intel had been developed on the insurgent 'underground railroad' moving to key cities. Intel, particularly in the counterinsurgency ops (COIN) as you know drives the operations -- operations develops more Intel - and we get the 'perfect circle' that lets us continue aggressive action...see we did learn from our VN-veteran Marines!! Remember, I started this journey in '73 so all y'all were the guys that taught me how to do this -- I owe ya!
We planned a series of operations in the west -- not unusual - to exploit information gained in previous operations and from some great atmospherics from the local(s) who are, as we are, fed up with terrorists using their villages, recruiting their young, etc...Essentially, each battalion assessed their respective battlespace and, as Marine BNs have done forever, planned operations to close with...
We kicked both 3/25 (New Market) and 3/2 (Mongoose) operations off. Ironically, as we were discussing embeds (reporters) the other day – what makes one news is the ability of the embed to get the story out - that is the real insider view of New Market. It is a BATTALION operation – a series of Cordon and Search/Knocks that, found some bad guys early and hit them hard. We continued doing firm bases (kinda a kinder gentler name for COMBAT BASE or COMPANY FIRE BASES) and work through the night to whack on identified and located enemy. No shock to any of you, 1st Force had their own target sets and with its sniper and Direct Action capability has had great success in their missions – nothing here out of the ordinary -- it's how Marines do business. Bottom line is that, while we appreciate the attention, we can't explain why we're getting all this press for a 'regular' operation -- maybe Harry Truman was right about the 'best PA machine since Stalin. My personal opinion is that with all the 'reactive' actions around the major cities - the sensing the enemy has somehow gotten more powerful or aggressive -- maybe the press is fascinated by the fact that the Marines take the fight TO the enemy and make them the ones paying!!!
Wish we could claim credit for this but, we are building on 1st Divisions initiatives and foundation and, as Marines, if we know (or find out) where the bad guy is, you don't have to kick us in the ass to get us to go and kill them...THAT is one things we are still awfully good at!!!
Would like to bring you up to date on the rest of our units ---
RCT-8 that works around FALLUJAH is continuing to discover innumerable caches and, as recently reported, underground command structures. They have expanded to the surrounding cities of Fallujah (places the bad guys went to ground) and are the principals for training, integrating and operating with our ever-growing Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). We have some great units and a RECON Bn down there that have been pushing the enemy hard and have followed it up with the 'other' leg - the non-kinetic including building an Arabic newspaper, civil affairs projects and, as Marines often do, working to better the schools and children - the future of Iraq. They have rolled up some key players recently and this has provided some interesting targets...Many of you saw the fraudulent report on FOX regarding the dead civilians at Fallujah hospital - well, as was later reported (after the firing of he producer and photographer) that NEVER happened - people were killed by the insurgents in the area and it was our Marines who came in and made them pay for killing the innocent...
Finally, here in the center of the province -- Ramadi, the capital – our Army Brigade, a kick-ass unit from the 2dID (gotta like the patch that Gen Lejeune designed for 'em) has been working hard. They have commenced the training of their ISF (new units without the experience of the guys around Fallujah) and have integrated the ISF into operations in the city of Ramadi -- more coming each day. Many of you know that our 1/5 Marines are in Ramadi and, for all the old 5th Marines folks -- this unit is doing us real proud...nearly daily contact including at least 3 coordinated attacks repulsed by well placed, flanking, grazing enfilade fire...These lads are real heroes -- on a daily basis!!!!
Still a lot to do here -- no rose-colored optimism yet; rockets/mortar fire continues nearly nightly in Ramadi and across the AO. We had our first casualty <...> the other night - one of my <...> Sergeants running an enhanced marksmanship course (sustainment training in combat) was killed by 122mm rocket fire; thankfully, no one else was injured...Good Marine, will miss him...
Well, long diatribe in what I hope will be a longer lull in the fighting. Of course, it is the enemy's decision to be quiet -- as I write this to you, rest assured your Marines are moving into position somewhere in preparation to take out another aZ-hole. For all, stay tuned for more as we continue to ramp up ops and convince them that the adage is true -- "Old breed, new breed? No difference as long as it is the MARINE breed..."
Wanna thank all of you for your support - got the offer of candy and packages -- all extremely generous...