January 27, 2008

The Final Mission, Part I

Iraqi Police Covered Face Fallujah.jpg


Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 27, 2008 10:58 PM
Great article.
Thank you
Posted by: leo at January 28, 2008 5:51 am
Great article, as always. "Somewhere off in the distance a dog barked" isn't that a tired old writing cliche? Still, it reminded me of a Far Side I once read and I smiled. Be safe, Michael.
Posted by: jakemonO at January 28, 2008 5:58 am
Another great article.
Interesting that "Crash" is going to become a Marine. I know several Iraqis who serve in the US forces, including one who is a fighter pilot who participated in the first and second Gulf wars.
Posted by: Marc at January 28, 2008 6:12 am
Another fantastic article Michael! I have one question/thought given your extensive on-the-ground experience.
You have consistently given us a relatively positive picture of Iraqi politics on the ground, particularly in predominantly Sunni cities. Intercommunal violence seems to be on the wane, al Qaeda appears to have lost most if not all popular support, and institutions of local governance look as if they are slowly being rebuilt.
Here's the question: do you see this being replicated at the state-level? The thing that really concerns me is that even as the Sunni, Shi'ite, and Kurdish communities are rebuilding in their respective regions, violence that once predominated at the local level may simply be shifted to the regional level.
Do you see prospects for a functional ethnofederal state or are the three main "ethnicities" consolidating their gains and setting the stage for civil war and secession?
Keep up the great work.
Posted by: zellmad at January 28, 2008 6:27 am
Marines, Marines, Marines. How about some love for those other American forces who served there and don't get to stay when it becomes peaceful? The U.S. Army's 3rd Division, 1st Brigade, 5-7 CAV is now in their third major mission of this 15 month tour. The 5-7 CAV worked for the Navy Seals and Marines first in Ramadi in January 2007 when it was "hot", were moved to Fallujah to assist Marine BCT6 later in the year when it was burning, and now have been personally requested by the commander of 3rd ID, 2nd Brigade to help "pacify contested areas south of Baghdad". The 5-7 CAV has been used like a rented mule this tour, never under their own command, and then the Marines get the glory. A little recognition for the non-Marine warriors who were in the same battles is overdue.
Thanks for the reporting, though somewhat tunnel-visioned it is. Semper Fi, Marines. Top of the Rock!, 5-7 CAV.
Posted by: twolaneflash at January 28, 2008 6:57 am
Nice report Michael! Thanks. It's good to see that the gains made by 2/6 haven't been lost. For twolaneflash, Marines (2/6) were the ones who pacified Fallujah in Operation Alljah, Golf Company, and mainly 3rd Platoon. April 2007 - October 2007. Many bad guys killed, worked out of FOB Reaper. No army to be found, RCT-6 at Camp Fallujah. 2/6 Golf Company did it. That's it.
The Army contributed to much in Anbar (Ramadi), but not in Fallujah. Sorry. As they say, "facts is facts."
Posted by: Herschel Smith at January 28, 2008 7:34 am
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/28/2008 A short recon of what
Posted by: David M at January 28, 2008 10:41 am
Hi Michael,
Another great post. Thank you for being over there and giving us a real unbiased view of what is going on over there. I always forward your reports to everyone in my office. Keep doing what your doing!
Posted by: socalinfidel at January 28, 2008 10:43 am
Word, Herschel Smith. Word. I got nothing but mad props for 2/6. With another unit from October 2006 to April 2007, many of us often found ourselves questioning the logic of how we were doing certain things, and positing "why can't we do such and such." 2/6 came in and, well, did such and such. During the relief-in-place with the company that replaced us replaced my faith in the U.S. Marine Corps; I've never been more impressed. This is all personal, and highly anecdotal, of course.
As always, thanks for the article, Michael. Here's one of my questions:
The sponge theory of insurgency: you put the squeeze, one way or another, on one area, and the insurgency spills out turning other areas more active. All this talk about how great Fallujah is now is one thing, but what about Mosul, a formerly more pacified city? My question for you is, to what extent to you believe we have squeezed the insurgent sponge of Fallujah to drip or flood fighters into other areas of Iraq? Have you gotten any idea of this from other Marines or Iraqis? In other words, has the insurgency in Fallujah been eradicated, or moved out?
Posted by: PDK at January 28, 2008 10:45 am
It wasn't a .762 casing. That would be a pretty big round in Western notation, not a hand-held weapon, and not any weapon I've ever heard of.
Rather, I'm certain it was a 7.62mm casing. That's the standard metric notation for Warsaw Pact AK-series rifles. It also is the same diameter and NATO designation for our own .308 rifles (like the M-14, M-1 Garand, WWI-era Springfield, etc).
Posted by: Nathan of Brainfertilizer Fame at January 28, 2008 11:06 am
It's not often there's anything worth laughing about in your pieces, but the parts about Crash and the Pomeranian were awfully funny. It was great to see some levity injected into an otherwise serious subject.
Great journalism, as always.
Posted by: Nate Francis at January 28, 2008 11:30 am
Nicely done.
Pomeranians are outstanding watch dogs, as are all of the Spitz family of dogs. They are like car alarms, lots of noise, nothing to back it up, and not much gets past them without notice. My 27lb American Eskimo (basically a 15" tall white Pomeranian) is the fiercest thing on 4 legs, on HIS side of the fence.... Totally harmless face to face.
That little sucker had US Marines snowed! Not bad.
Posted by: Lindsey at January 28, 2008 11:47 am
Nathan: I'm certain it was a 7.62mm casing.
You are right. Decimal error. Fixed, thanks.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 28, 2008 11:55 am
Allow me to get a bit more specific on your comments about the 7.62 round. The round that the AK-47 uses, as well as a lot of former Warsaw Pact weapons, is NOT the same round that the NATO forces uses.
The bullet diameter is indeed the same size but the shell most certainly is not. The NATO metric round is the 7.62 x 51 whereas the Warsaw round is a shorter 7.62 x .39.
I like the AK-47 and have used it many times, but I prefer the NATO version as I like the added power and versitility it provides in distance shooting. I am a distance man.
Besides, I think the decimal placement on Michael's part was a typo.
Posted by: Marc at January 28, 2008 12:05 pm
PDK: In other words, has the insurgency in Fallujah been eradicated, or moved out?
There is an element of whack-a-mole going on. Some insurgents are killed/jailed while others run away to blow up stuff somewhere else. But the nation-wide insurgency trend is sharply down.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 28, 2008 12:12 pm
Zellmad: Here's the question: do you see this being replicated at the state-level?
No, but I don't learn a whole lot about Baghdad politics when I'm in Iraq. It's hard to do from anywhere outside the Green Zone.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 28, 2008 12:14 pm
They know we have what they perceive to be the best medical care in the world. Most Americans don't believe that, but the Iraqis do. So there's a perception there.
We have the best medical care in the world, we just don't have the most evenly distributed medical care in the world. There might be a few specialties that you can get marginally better treatment for in Switzerland or someplace else, but generally if you want excellent treatment and can afford it you come to the US.
While Iraqi's have any number of superstitions, and their faith in US meds is undoubtedly exaggerated, they aren't far wrong.
Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at January 28, 2008 12:51 pm
We do have the best medical care in the world. There is a reason why pre-9/11 Saudi princes and other with riches from the Persian Gulf would come here to the Metro DC area and reserve entire floors of hospitals for their own personal care.
They didnt go anywhere else in the world when they could have. They came here. Since 9/11 this has gone down dramatically due to the fact it is harder for them to come by visas.
I have a friend who is a doctor and she said the hospitals miss the millions these people spent on care here.
Posted by: Marc at January 28, 2008 12:56 pm
Herschel Smith,
Au contraire, mon frer. Son, FastLaneFlash, worked with Navy Seals outside Fallujah kicking ass during that period of 2007, closing the rat lines leaving the city. The city "pacified" before the surrounding areas. Marines no where to be found at FOB Viking. That's it. Facts are facts.
Posted by: twolaneflash at January 28, 2008 12:57 pm
Almost every American troop in Fallujah is a Marine at this point. I didn't see any Navy SEALs, let alone embed with them, so I cannot write about them. Sorry.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 28, 2008 1:26 pm
You wouldn't see the SEALS, would you? They would blend in with the dirt and cloud the minds of the people around them using standard ninja mystical practices!
OK, I know several SEALs and while they are impressive warriors capable of tremendous accomplishments, the Hollywood BS surrounding them is BS. I do think the last seven years of war developed the SEALs in a variety of capacities. When I was on Coronado a year and a half ago I saw a lot of outstanding sailors making the effort to become SEALs. I also saw a number of actual SEALs practicing helicopter insertion and extraction. I am glad that these people are getting a lot of money to train far beyond the capacities of our enemies.
Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at January 28, 2008 1:53 pm
Previous comment said nothing about FOB Viking. Mentioned FOB Reaper from which all kinetic ops were launched into Fallujah (except for when Marines were embedded with IPs at combination combat outpost / IP Precinct). I'm not making this up, friend. It's all well documented. Google "Operation Alljah" (my article comes up first page, along with Matt Sanchez, and others, etc.). Also, many debriefs of Marines.
Main point here is that it is nice to see that the gains have not been lost. Very good. Makes me happy.
Posted by: Herschel Smith at January 28, 2008 1:54 pm
Another very good article Mr. Totten.
Funny thing; I attended another Terrorism Conference today (Anti actually) and it has been fairly consistent that I usually have a better understanding, such as it is, from my spending 2-3 hours a day reading blogs like yours then that provided by many of the "experts" who tell those of us in various areas of the security field about what is happening in the ME.
When I ask most of the various "experts", whether from the private sector, academia or from DHS/CIA/FBI/TSA/... if they read your material, or Roggios, John Burn, Yon, Blackfive, CQ, military.com/blog, .... the answer is usually: "who?" A few exceptions, but only a few. On the other hand, the same is true for most of the attendees also.
A bit depressing.
Posted by: rsnyder at January 28, 2008 3:03 pm
Marines, Marines, Marines. How about some love for those other American forces who served there and don't get to stay when it becomes peaceful?
Check the archives for summer 2007, when MJT was in Baghdad. He's talking about the Marines now because that's who he's embedded with. Back when he was embedded with the Army, he was talking about the Army.
Here's a good place to start-
Iraq's a big topic, you can't cover everything in just one article.
Posted by: rosignol at January 28, 2008 3:40 pm
Thanks for writing this, Mr. Totten. Another great article. I just have a question: Do you worry that by posting information like this, that there are 250 Marines in Fallujah, that some terrorist cell might read it and swamp the area? Is that possible? Is that a stupid question? Now one of them is going to read my comment and the cartoon light bulb is going to pop up over their head (Fuck you terrorist scum!).
Posted by: James at January 28, 2008 4:31 pm
AQI desperately wants back in Fallujah already. Nothing I publish will make them want to get back there any more than they already do.
I am exposed to information that would endanger operational security, and the U.S. military makes it explicitly clear when that happens. I never leave their op-sec exposed, and I could be thrown out of Iraq if I do. That happened to Geraldo Rivera.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 28, 2008 5:00 pm
I don't think you have to have to worry about pulling a Geraldo; you are discrete and good at keeping confidences by nature. You remember how you kept quiet about that thing that time when that stuff happened.
Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at January 28, 2008 5:12 pm
Ah, military jealousy. How new, how original.
Guys, all this talk about who is better - Marines/Army/Navy/Airforce ...
Here is the secret. You all are good and none of you can do away without the other. Let's drink to that.
Posted by: leo at January 29, 2008 5:24 am
Here is the secret. You all are good and none of you can do away without the other. Let's drink to that.
As much as possible, the media has been trying to push the accomplishments of our military down the memory hole during this war. I really can't blame my fellow service members for their efforts to establish a clear record of their accomplishments, even when those efforts become a bit fractious.
I am unclear why the media refuses to see our troops who daily confront roadside bombs, mortar attacks, and deadly atmospherics as afflicted persons deserving of comfort. I suspect it is because the people who make it to executive positions in the media advanced more through guile than talent, integrity, or courage.
Regardless, on this blog the veterans have some hope of the story coming out straight, clear, or for that matter...at all. If they want to put a shout out for those who sacrificed much to achieve victory, let them yell a bit.
Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at January 29, 2008 9:10 am
Patrick S Lasswell,
"I am unclear why the media refuses to see our troops who daily confront roadside bombs, mortar attacks, and deadly atmospherics as afflicted persons deserving of comfort. I suspect it is because the people who make it to executive positions in the media advanced more through guile than talent, integrity, or courage."
I have personal theory us to why. Not necessarily correct one, though.
Because media sees our military as extension of Bush's power and influence.
Most of them blindly hate Bush and therefore everything remotely associated with him.
Bush cannot do well no matter what, so is 'his' military.
Posted by: leo at January 29, 2008 11:42 am
I think it goes much deeper than that, though I will admit the connection is strengthened in many cases by BDS. Before WWI there were intellectual giants of exceptional integrity who could and did defend the military character in the public sphere. After WWI, most of those exceptional men, their adherents, and otherwise uninterested fellows who happened to be stuck in trenches were fully engaged fertilizing the soil of western Europe. Since the same soil was poisoned by chemicals and trapped by unexploded ordnance, even that legacy was compromised.
After WWI, the trauma the West inflicted upon itself critically injured the military identity. Others came to the fore of public approval after the war, including an image of dedicated newsmen. Superman is created with a secret identity of a reporter, not a soldier in 1932. I think that the media has viewed the military as Kryptonite ever since...
Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at January 29, 2008 12:10 pm
I also have another idea about this subject. I grew up as a military brat. Both of my parents were officers in the military. I was born abroad and basically grew up in the military.
More and more as time goes on it seems that the military in the USA is almost becoming a society in itself.
My ex wife was in the military and I worked for the DoD. Often it seemed that we lived almost completely in a different world. We shopped at the PX/BX, got our food at the commissary, attended almost solely military social functions and all of our friends were related to the military in one fashion or another. When we had the chance we lived in military housing, we ate at restaurants on base, went to the club on base. Our life was pretty much centered around the base and the military.
I know better than most that this runs in certain families and often impact certain regions of the country more than others. Now that I am divorced and no longer work for the DoD my interaction with the military has dwindled to almost nothing. If not for the area I work in (metro DC) I might never have any contact with members of the military, aside from friends made whilst "attatched" to the military and former co-workers.
It is entirely possible to work and live in the USA and never know someone who has been in the military or who is currently serving. The closeness of military life has it's ups and it's downs. I don
Posted by: Marc at January 31, 2008 12:44 pm
A lot of that gap is also self-imposed. The troops aren't allowed to go out in uniform very many places anymore and socialize. The burden of supervising all those people and cleaning up all those messes just makes it unwise to have guys in uniform getting puke-drunk. The decision to encourage the troops to transit to and from Iraq in camouflage was brilliant.
Nevertheless, there are a lot of people in the reserves and the active duty component has been more vigorously exposed to experienced veterans who have a civilian life as well. This kind of mixing hasn't really happened since Korea and I really think it is doing some good for military. We have a lot of reservists going abroad, and we have a lot of active duty people getting exposed to grown-ups.
(On the negative side of this, some reserve-only communities were handling so complex a mission that newly formed active-duty units failed to match their competence. It turns out that a bunch of thirty to fifty year olds can do a lot of things easily that twenty year olds can't do at all. This is negative for me because the Navy decided to grind my community into sausage and re-form us...and then Congress cut off our funding. Welcome to the fun of making bricks without straw.)
I think we need an expansion in the military to get a good bit closer to Cold War levels. I think it is key that we offer incentives a lot closer to the original GI Bill than the swindle they dropped on kids in the 1990s. We also need to pay the troops better than what untrained construction workers make. Money doesn't buy happiness, but it sure helps keep a lot of unhappiness distant. More to the point, it makes a military career a more rational pursuit for talented people. It also lets the troops show themselves in public with pride.
Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at January 31, 2008 11:46 pm
I agree Patrick with what you have said. As to the pay issue, it is getting better. The bonuses handed out now are pretty handsome even to what I saw back in 2001 when I was last around the military full time.
One of the reasons I got out of DoD work was the extensive travel and time away from home. For those people who can make much more money outside of the military this fact kind of renders the bonus idea irrelevant. I can make more money doing several things outside of the military than I ever could inside of it even if they double the bonuses plus I don
Posted by: Marc at February 1, 2008 5:58 am
I heard a report the other day that said that about only 80% of current enlistees had a high school diploma.
I can assure you that either you heard it wrong or they reported it stupidly. The number 80% might be accurate in describing a derivative, like the percentage increase in the percentage increase of GED recipients, but it is not direct number. The perception the report might have wanted to leave you with, easy through offering one firm number to fix on and the rest of the statistics mumbled about, was that MacNamara idiocy was back in season. I am certain that is not the case.
My best friend has a GED and the major reason he didn't get into the military when I did is that he is 6'4" and was over 260# as kid. The military doesn't make charts to describe his size; big people don't exist to modern military medicine. Diversity advocates apparently can't get funding from people of different physical size groups, so they get no hysterical representation.
Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at February 1, 2008 8:15 am
The weight/size thing was always an issue with the people I worked with. I worked with one sgt who was a competitive bodybuilder. He far exceded the weight the military said he could have. It was pretty insane considering the guy had a body fat of probably 4%.
Anyway, the report I heard mentioned talked solely about 2007 recruits. Even at 80% I think it puts the percentage of people in the military with a High School diploma at higher than the national average, which is 75%.
I still think we need to work on a way to get national service, whether it be military or otherwise, to be more appreciated.
Posted by: Marc at February 1, 2008 9:09 am
Back in the 90's the Marine Corps let go a builder because he couldn't complete pullups. His arms and lats were so big that he couldn't bring them down far enough to clear his chin over the bar. Guy was built like a wedge, just couldn't show full range of movement. I'd have a lot more sympathy if he hadn't done it to himself.
I am less concerned about the value of the diploma over the GED for recruits. The US military has much greater incentives, tools, and skills for adjusting wayward youths than the NEA. The social failures that GEDs indicate are much less important in the military where we have our own socialization process.
I am strongly opposed to involuntary national service. I would love to have a voluntary national service that earned a capping on your tax rate later in life. It would be kind of fun to have an excess of Wharton School graduates in Supply instead of the talent pool we draw on now...
Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at February 1, 2008 4:31 pm
Great article Michael. If there are only 250 Marines left in Fallujah, where is the rest of 3rd batallion/5th Marine regiment? My son is with India, and says there is a batallion there. Is this not about 1000 men?
Posted by: dzookie at February 26, 2008 8:47 am
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