Thursday, September 08, 2005

Team update - 08 Sept 05

Sorry again for being late. Busy again, but it is really amazing how quickly days pass when you are as busy as we have been. More than a week has already passed since my last update, and it feels like only a few days.

First things first: a small mailing address change. Since more Iraqi units (and MTTs) have arrived, we are going to shift our mailing address to the one the 1/110th uses. We are still checking the CMATT address, but it is getting held up for a few days at TQ for pickup now. Here is the new one:

Name (e.g. Maj Erik Peterson, USMC)
3-2-1 IA USMC MTT
HHC 1/110th, 2/28th BCT
Camp Habbaniyah, Iraq
APO AP 09381

Many, many patrols and one more battalion-sized operation down. This time went out with 1/110 and some companies from other Iraqi Army battalions who have moved down to Habbaniyah. We were tasked with setting up two Traffic Control Points on MSR Michigan (“MSR” stands for Main Supply Route), stopping and searching traffic coming from and going to Ramadi while other units swept the area for insurgents and weapons caches. While relatively boring, there were some exciting moments, which I won’t go into now. Suffice it to say that from where I was, I never felt the need to take my rifle off safe. We did have some Army soldiers from Bravo Co 1/110 attached, as well as some female soldiers and one female Air Force captain to assist with searches at the checkpoints, and an Air Force dog handler with his explosive-sniffing dog, Vicki (I think). Point is, it was a full-up, all-bases-covered, well-thought-out TCP, which is a new op for our guys. Again, I think our team did a really great job, which means that it wasn’t perfect, but we accomplished the mission, overcame any difficulties thrown in our way, advised the Iraqis, walked the ground with them, and all came back OK. Again, all of us went out on this one. While we never left the MSR, the other units involved in the search found a SIGNIFICANT amount of ammo and ordanance, which are now off the streets. My most exciting moments were while I drove the dog handler’s HUMMV blacked out on NVGs, racing down Michigan in convoy. Man, for you former military guys out there who have done that, you know how stressful that can be. For the kids at home, to simulate this, take two toilet paper rolls (just the cardboard), put dark green tinted glass on one end, fix them to your head along with a weight so they constantly pull you helmet down, and then race down a highway at about 50 mph. Oh yeah, keep on the lookout for concrete Jersey barriers in the road, concertina wire, tanks, and occasionally cross over the median into the other direction of travel (when we travel early morning, there is a curfew on all civilian traffic, so if we run into a car, he will get more than a traffic ticket). Attached are some pictures of the op.

Everyone is doing well. SSgt D has had his company out on the rifle range, MSgt Radke and Gy Ellis will be following suit. Which is good, because one thing the guys DO need is weapons training. Their army is still somewhat based on the Soviet model, and boy, do they believe in volume fire, and hardly any of it well-aimed. Luckily, this is something that Marines are all pretty good at, so we are trying to preach the gospel of sight alignment, sight picture, stock weld, and FIRE DISCIPLINE. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. All the other team members are fine too, just can't think of anything specifically to say.

Weird moment of the week: (In order to get this story, you have to understand the jundee have some inability to get out of the way of approaching cars. The will be walking four abreast, facing traffic, down the middle of the street, and will STILL not get out of you way until you have slowed down and almost have the bumper on their chest. They will have formations in the street, the will squat in the street in the evenings and smoke with their friends, they will do everything IMAGINABLE except stay out of the damn street). While on this last op, at about 0630, the very first car of the day cleared SSgt D’s checkpoint. It is the only car on the road, moving very slowly (because there are armed men everyhere and two M1A1 tanks running up and down the road). As I watch this car approach, I see one jundee begin to cross the road, crossing the east bound lanes, the medians, approaching the west bound lanes. The car continues on at about 10-15 mph. I then realize that this jundee is about to cross directly into the path of literally the only car on the road. And by God, he did just that, stepping into the street right in front of it, not maliciously, but as if it were just part of his nature, which I can confirm after two months here, it is. Amazing.

Not much else to report. The weather has turned downright cool in the mornings, probably about 78. I can not tell you how excited I was to come back from patrol the other day, having hardly broken a sweat. May sound minor, but after weeks where you sweat so much that you trousers are soaked to the knees, this is big, big news.

One last thing: I want to thank everyone reading. I just don’t have time to answer everybody’s comments, but the blog is set up so that each comment is e-mailed to me when they are made, so I do read them. Thanks to the trooper out there suggesting how to “knock” on a Bradley next time, thanks to Gy Marr for noting that the jundee weren’t carrying their weapons outboard while on patrol (believe me, we are happy with finger out of the trigger well, and simple muzzle awareness). I forward them to specific Marines if they are directed to someone in specific (such as the discussion about Gy Ellis, a.k.a. “Friend of the Jundee”, and his cold weather clothing). We all do appreciate all of the comments. And to the anonymous guy who wants less pictures of vehicles, enjoy the shot of the M1A1 running past me on this past op. Piece of advice: I encourage requests, not demands. When you get deployed, have the camera, take the pictures, stand up the blog site, patrol each day, and do the write-ups, then you will have full editorial discretion like I do. One reason I don’t take many pictures while on patrol is because I am carrying an M4 carbine with a round chambered, scanning rooftops for insurgents. On base, action shots of us at chow or in meetings just don’t seem very photogenic. I will try to get more shots of the team, but you get what you get. If you want shots of or from the guys, then e-mail them and ask them to take some shots too. They know that they can borrow my camera anytime they want.

Gotta run; duty calls.

P.S. For those of you who get the Marine Corps Times, look at the August 8 edition; it has an article about the IA (Iraqi Army) in which our predecessors – the MTT team we relieved here at Habaniyah - were interviewed. If you want an enlightening view of life here from the June time frame, then look it up. They weren’t far off the mark. I will try to post it later, but don't have my subscriber number on me.

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