Good ole ‘Castle Gate’… hearing of or passing through it again was never something I considered since my last visit in ’04. But after winding through checkpoints along a route all too familiar from before, I was back. Welcome to Taji! All of the sights and sounds of a place I had once feared to call home for several months of my deployment in OIF, bounded through me once again. This time though, after shaking off some of the initial jitters stemming from the realization that I was in fact back, I came across a sense of relief. After taking in several accounts from those currently serving in Taji, I discovered the general mood towards their mission was positive. Referring not only to the benefits of handling operations through a camp the size of Taji, but also the reports of significant drop in mortar and RPG attacks, the general consensus expressed was a feeling of being productive. With all that said, the temperature reached 130 degrees and wiped me out big time. Will be pushing out early again tomorrow, so more highlights from Taji to follow.
While security continues to be a priority across Iraq, a substantial shift has occurred in the methods used to create it. Coalition forces had been swinging from attack to defense, partly in response to the styles of terrorist warfare, but we now operate with a greater depth of understanding and rapport. 2nd Platoon showed me just that as the sun rose this morning. Armed with intelligence gathered from locals, and our own intuitions of notable area suspects, we patrolled through Bennezaid seeking out men of ‘military age.’ Not surprisingly, there were none to be found, so onward we went raiding several homes. I am proud to say that not only was I too, able to lend a sharp eye in uncovering contraband (a hidden letter from Al Qaida to be specific), but how adept those I embed with are! These professionals know the drill.They know what should be where and why. They know both from past experiences, and also from the tips of surrounding Iraqis no longer willing to jeopardize themselves on account of their neighbors. These established relationships are fundamental to winning the war. After uncovering fake ID’s, hidden pistols and AK-47’s, potential detonators for IED’S as well as wired battery packs ready to be packed with C4 explosive material, we packed up and headed home. This may not have been a big hit on a large cache, but it’s shakedowns like these that continue to quietly remove the weapons and their owners from the street. Just another typical day on the job…
Making it happen,