December 5, 2005

Ask The 3/25

Hatched by Sachi

An all too familiar headline spreads across the AP news stream: Ten Marines Killed by Roadside Bomb. "Worst in Iraq since Aug." it crows. God, they are so giddy to report the deaths of American troops, aren't they?

A couple of months ago, I stumbled across a MilBlog whose author was a soldier writing from Iraq. He had just lost five of his comrades within 48 hours in two separate incidents. He was devastated, morose and angry. But the one thing he was not was despairing: he was proud of his buddies who sacrificed their lives to protect our country.

I don't know which unit (if any) Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) was talking to, but the warriors I read about are not "broken." If anything, after living through the deaths of their friends, they are more detemined than ever to finish what they started.

The Belmont Club frequently introduces such soldiers; for example, Wretchard links to this post:

"We know we made a positive difference," says Cpl. Jeff Schuller of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, who spent all but one week of his eight-month tour with Mayer. "I can't say at what level, but I know that where we were, we made it better than it was when we got there."

It is the simplest measure of success, but for the marine, soldier, or sailor, it may be the only measure of success. In a business where life and death rest on instinctive adherence to thoroughly ingrained lessons, accomplishment is ticked off in a list of orders followed and tasks completed. And by virtually any measure, America's servicemen and women are accomplishing the day-to-day tasks set before them.

Cpls. Jeff Schuller and Stan Mayer
Cpls. Jeff Schuller and Stan Mayer

The 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines -- the "3/25" -- is the unit that lost 15 marines in less than a week - nine of them in one of the deadliest roadside bombings against U.S. forces during the war.

The 3/25 has seen the worst of the war. But the yarns they want to tell us are not stories of loss and futility but fond memories of the Iraqi people whose lives have turned around because of Americans like these soldiers.

Their conversation could be a road map of the kind of stories that military folks say the mainstream media are missing. One colleague made prosthetics for an Iraqi whose hand and foot had been cut off by insurgents. When other members of the unit were sweeping areas for bombs, the medics made a practice of holding impromptu infant clinics on the side of the road.

They remember one Iraqi man who could not hide his joy at the marvel of an electric razor. And at the end of the 3/25's tour, a member of the Iraqi Army said: "Marines are not friends; marines are brothers," says Lt. Richard Malmstrom, the battalion's chaplain.

In Hit, where marines stayed in force to keep the peace, the progress was obvious, say members of the 3/25. The residents started burning trash and fixing roads - a sign that the city was returning to a sense of normalcy. Several times, "people came up to us [and said]: 'There's a bomb on the side of the road. Don't go there,' " says Pfc. Andrew Howland.

For Mayer, who joined the reserves because he wanted to do something bigger than himself, and for Schuller, a third-generation marine, Iraq has given them a sense of achievement. Now when they look at the black-and-white pictures of marines past in the battalion headquarters, "We're adding to that legacy," says Schuller.

This is what they wish to share with the American people - and is also the source of their frustration. Their eight months in Iraq changed their lives, and they believe it has changed the lives of the Iraqis they met as well.

One example of the progress we should focus on is that more and more Iraqi citizens are opening up to American troops. I read a similar story in Bill Roggio's report from Husaybah --

On the way to Hue, 1st Platoon encountered a possible IED. Buried in the ground, tail up, was a mortar round. An Explosive Ordnance Disposal team was called in to destroy the device. The round was not rigged to explode. “Lots of times the locals find rounds and bury them in clear view so we can find them”, said Corporal Gauls.

Ask The Soldiers, which lets ordinary soldiers post thoughts unedited, also talks about this phenomenon.

[A]s far as how do ppl [sic] respond to us, they seem to warm up to us as each passing day. They now realize that we are not here for any other reason but for their independence and for them to be able to be free and have a voice.

Another contributer wrote:

[M]ostly all Iraqi citizens like having us here for example the waving hello as opposed to the finger. Yet, most of them understand that we are here for them not against them.

But the MSM is too busy reporting al-Qaeda's anti American "demonstration" to ask the American soldiers themselves what they think:

An AP Television News video showed the insurgents walking down a shuttered market street and a residential neighborhood, as well as firing four mortar rounds. The masked men, however, appeared relaxed, and the U.S. command dismissed the video as little more than a publicity stunt. [Emphasis added]

If you were actualy in Iraq like this next Marine, you could have seen yet another "publicity stunt" in progress:

Oh, there was a story a few months ago about this "huge protest" in the streets of Ramadi demanding that America leave Iraq forever. To tell the truth about that one; it was about 40-50 bad guys grouped in front of cameras to make the "crowd" seem much bigger than it was and as soon as Humm-Vee's rolled up to the scene, they scattered and seemingly vanished. Yeah, tough dudes alright.

So if mere civilians, who only catch a glimpse of this reality, are frustrated by the MSM's negative crusade against the war, how do you think the troops who are actual eyewitnesses to history? Ask The Soldiers answers that rhetorical question:

If you just read the daily paper and watch the MSM, you would think that we are losing this war on terror and that we are making no progress whatsoever. I say BULL****! Everyday that passes we make progress. We are training the Iraqi soldiers and police forces so that they can deal with this insurgency and the normal problems of a country. [Expletive deleted by Big Lizards.]

As for Murtha's broken-army comment, one more Marine, Major John Tamms, has this to say: (Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds for the quote):

Unmitigated crap. And I don't say this out of defensiveness or service pride - I'll tell you about how far we have had to come in a bit. First, though, a little material for you to mull over. . . .

The constant stream of re-enlistments was a revelation to me. When I was the Executive Officer of the garrison at Bagram Airfield (a job I gladly traded away after 5 months) I had to find room to more than double the size of the Retention Office. I personally administered the oath of re-enlistment to an E-5 and an E-7. The E-5 was a mother of two young children and the E-7 was eligible to retire when we got home!

Broken? Hardly. Is it difficult work? Yes.

Do not mistake hard work for foundering. Respectfully, Rep. Murtha - you are wrong. Dead wrong. [Emphasis added.]

If you really want to know how the war goes, send not for the politician, the protester, or the newspaper man. Just ask the 3/25.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, December 5, 2005, at the time of 2:36 AM

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