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Back to Ramadi

By Michael Fumento

Camp Corregidor, Ramadi, Iraq

My luck has improved. I got out of the IZ by Black Hawk at about midnight, which is by far the earliest I've ever flown. Usually you leave at about 2:30 a.m. and get in perhaps at 5:00 a.m. because of all the stops along the way. This time there was only a refueling stop. At one point shortly after leaving the ground there were two blinding yellow-green streaks coming from the helo, then a third. My vision didn't clear up for ten minutes. I had no idea what they were. Turns out they were flares shot from the bird to distract potential ground fire.

My luck continued at Camp Ramadi where I was able to catch a truck into the city of Ramadi that very evening. Usually you need to wait for a whole convoy called "The Dagger," but this was a huge vehicle used by engineers who destroy IEDs called a Cougar. I first saw them on my first trip, when I was embedded with an explosives ordnance disposal (EOD) near Fallujah but the transmissions were out of order so we used weakly-armored Humvees. That proved a great misfortune, as that EOD team rotated out a few months later and within days the new unit ran over a pressure-plate IED that ripped it apart, killing both men inside.

M2 Bradleys at Camp Ramadi
So faster than I had dared to think, I was back at Corregidor. Good old nasty Corregidor. Endless clouds of fine dust that get into everything, especially your lungs. The order to wear body armor everywhere because of the frequent mortar attacks. But lots of earnest, hard-fighting men who continue to keep the enemy on its toes and not only keep the city from being overrun -- as the MSM would have you think it already has been -- but to actually try to squeeze the "AIF" (Anti-Iraqi Forces) into smaller and smaller areas where they can move around with relative freedom.

Actually, the camp has improved in one way in that it now has a small post exchange and a "Haji mart" operated by locals with a small selection of items but items that are in great demand like batteries.

The men seem genuinely glad to see me. I knew they would kid me about my "drop and roll" during my last firefight. "Well excuuuuse me!" I said. "But I was taught that when you're taking direct fire, that's what you do!" Came the retort, "Not in the middle of the street, though!" "Hey, trust me, I didn't choose for them to open up on me in the middle of the street!" View the drop and roll video (.wmv file, Fumento Hits the Dirt, 2,844kb)

A few asked: Why the hell did you come back here? "Still figuring that one out," I said.

I sleep in a little cracker box of a room, with my current roommate a public affairs soldier who works exclusively for the 506th Infantry Regiment. That brings him down here a few times a year. One of the other forward operating bases he goes to is next to Sadr City in Iraq. He says people always have an awed look on their faces when he says he goes there but that in terms of sheer brutal violence nothing matches his stays and romps with the troops here in Corregidor.

Terrorists are everywhere at Camp Ramadi
It's Ramadan now and nobody bothered to tell me before I started making plans to come here that orders were for no patrols during Islam's holy month. But the bad guys wouldn't accept the offer of a truce so as it happens I was briefed today for two patrols. One is tonight. Usually night patrols are safe and boring, but this will be a long one and with it being Ramadan we may see action. We have a list of nine specific targeted individuals, all insurgents rather than Al Qaida. My guess is we won't nab a single one, but these patrols are always multi-purpose.

The secondary purposes here will just be to show the flag (or the flags, as it were, of both the US and Iraq) in areas Al Qaida likes to say belong to it, and to draw out the bad guys and kill them. It's an interesting twist on counterinsurgency here in that while in most such wars such as Vietnam you mainly use ambushes with the occasional counter-ambush, here it's always counter-ambush. We present a tempting target, an offer they can't refuse, and we kill them.

The second patrol will be considerably longer. This blog will probably be posted before then so I can't really comment on its objectives. It looks like a good chance to see action, though. And yes, I did get my loaner body armor. It's considerably heavier than what I brought in, no doubt about that. But I trained with the appropriate amount of weight and I'm reassured by the ceramic plates covering my sides.

Unfortunately, there's been another death in the SEAL family. Just a few days ago after I was already in-country. That makes two deaths in the platoon of only 19. The remainder will be with us on the patrol tonight, but apparently they've taken the death pretty hard. They seemed untouchable when they first deployed here but between deaths and injuries they've had a recent spate of really bad luck.

I'm still hoping to get a chance to interview some of them but have been told to give them a chance to recover a bit more psychologically before doing so. On the other hand, I know they want to honor their fallen and if they don't do it through me it probably won't get done. Not a whole lot of other civilian reporters out here.

I've been taking a billion notes and have much more to write, but I need to wrap this and start getting my gear ready. Actually, what I really need to do unfortunately is stand in line for one of Corregidor's nine Internet-connected computer terminals to open up. I went over there earlier today to check email and was very irritated to find at least one soldier hogging a terminal to play solitaire! Apparently nobody ever told him that you can actually play that game with a deck of cards and shouldn't be using Internet-connected terminals to do things that can be done offline.

Nine computers for 500 men checking for email from loved ones and sending it back, not to mention those who like to keep up on the news, and not to mention the occasional milblogger who needs to upload his latest dispatch, aren't very much.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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October 8, 2006 12:25 PM  ·  Iraq