Wednesday, January 04, 2006
A Marine's Marine - Captain Phillip Ash, Kilo Company CO, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, Ramadi, Iraq. December 31, 2005
An Iraqi jundee (soldier), practices fireteam tactics in Ramadi, Demember, 2005
Former enemies, future allies - Iraqi Officers and staff posed for a photo, Ramadi, Iraq. December 31, 2005
December 31, 2005
This afternoon, I left Hurricane Point and traveled via up-armored HMMWV (UAH) to Camp Phoenix, the training ground for two Iraqi Army (IA) Battalions operating in Ramadi. Camp Phoenix is a training ground for the IA Battalions, and both receive mentoring and training from USMC mobile training teams, or MTT’s. MTT Marines live among the Iraqis and develop solid working relationships with the IA throughout their deployment.
Today’s journey to Camp Phoenix was by invitation of 3/7’s Kilo Company Commander, Captain Phillip Ash. Captain Ash, a former enlisted sailor who later wised up and quit the Navy to join the Corps, is one of those “poster” infantry Officers – a square jawed, outspoken, confident individual who eats, sleeps and breathes infantry in the offense. Following his interview this morning, the Captain asked if I’d accompany him to Camp Phoenix to receive a briefing from the IA regarding an upcoming mission they would be conducting in the city of Ramadi. This will be the first mission commanded entirely by an IA Battalion with the Marine Corps acting strictly in a supporting role.
Our arrival at Camp Phoenix was watched closely by a number of Iraqi soldiers and Officers preparing to brief their Colonel. A crude sand table was constructed on the ground with blocks of wood representing buildings and police tape simulating roadways and MSR’s. The briefing was conducted primarily by the IA officers through the use of an interpreter and went smoothly. A joint practical exercise was conducted for the next hour and it was quite amazing to see the IA actually practicing fire team and squad tactics without the strict oversight of Marine MTT’s. I was seing firsthand the postive results of our presence in Iraq.
Just as the practical exercise wrapped up, the screech of a rocket passing over our heads took us by surprise, immediately prompting us to find the closest cover. The rocket failed to detonate and soundlessly plowed into the dirt, a portion of its tail fin exposed. Turns out it was a 57 mm rocket, probably Chinese or Russian. We couldn’t quite figure it was launched from, but it had been aimed pretty well, as it sailed rather closely over our heads. We were lucky it was a dud, as the large number of IA and Marines present would have inevitably invited casualties. We did not wait around to see if any more rounds would be fired our way and buttoned up inside the HMMWV’s, hitting the road for the Camp Ramadi chowhall.
After chow, we geared up, chambered our weapons and drove back to Hurricane Point. Throughout the trip, I was as “useless as teats on a boar-hog.” Lacking my set of night vision goggles (NVG’s), nothing was visible outside my Hummer window. Had a “Muj” aimed an RPG my way, I’d have missed it completely, ignorant of the impending danger. Thankfully, all 4 of the Kilo Marines in my vehicle were wearing their NVG’s and were carefully scanning the route for bad guys. Another lesson learned - always assume you'll be gone longer than expected.