BLACKFIVE: Thundering Third - Part 7

Thundering Third:

Don't miss the letter from the CO of the "Thundering Third" -- that is, the 3/1 Marines -- over at BlackFive's place. It's a long piece, but includes some discussion of the USMC/Iraqi Army joint training and ops:

These distinguished gentlemen, and many other senior officers, have continuously demonstrated support of our efforts to create a viable Iraqi Security Force, which will assume the mission of security in Iraq upon our departure. I was on the range with them today and marveled at the level of proficiency they demonstrated in dry fire and movement training. Working side by side with Marines who live with them and know all of their Iraqi names and can give them basic commands and encouragement in Arabic, these men moved with aggressive enthusiasm and all stated that they are ready to go to Fallujah if called upon. This particularly special type of duty has matured our young Marines beyond their pay grades... looking across at the men who surrounded me for a few remarks, I couldn't help but think that I was looking at a group of NCOs instead of PFCs and LCpls with just a couple of Cpls in a crowd of over 20 men.

Your Marines are doing great things out here for Country, Corps, and the people of Iraq. We are also working with the Iraqi Specialized Special Forces (ISSF), led by an incredible officer, BGen Khalis. General Khalis is the former commander of the Iraqi Special Forces, where he commanded at every level up to Brigade and was director of the Special Forces Academy and Command and Staff College. This charismatic and exceptionally patriotic officer has formed two battalions from the old Iraqi Army. He has done this by carefully vetting and selecting his leaders for the challenges at hand. BGen Khalis has selected some superlative officers and soldiers, and the ISSF we are working with in the Thundering Third are superb Soldiers. These men share every hardship with us, are out patrolling everywhere we are, and have already shed their blood at our sides. They are particularly valuable at recognizing situations and especially people that are out of the ordinary (reminiscent of the old British expression, "absence of the normal, presence of the abnormal"). Unlike their ING counterparts, the ISSF are mainly composed of career special forces soldiers who received specialized training and were part of a small, elite group during the Saddam period. These men are from over 50 separate tribes across Iraq and have no political stance other than to support the Interim Iraqi Government. I would respectfully disagree with Ms. Ozernoy in her article below regarding the term "militia" as these men are career professionals who have returned to Army service in defense of their nation.
There has been some expression of concern in the 'sphere that these people might be using the US for training purposes, but intending disloyalty; or, that they might in time come to hate America and back the insurgents. That would seem to be a special concern with former Saddamite Special Forces, would it not?
What is perhaps most laudable about all of the Iraqi Security Forces personnel, is the fact that every one of these men faces grave and imminent danger to their families as they carry out their duties. Indeed, BGen Khalis' family was abducted some weeks back by terrorists, who set fire and placed explosives at his home after taking his family away. Efforts to recover them are ongoing and they remain in our thoughts and prayers every day. Major Awda, our India Base ING Company Commander was also attacked by terrorists with automatic weapons on his way to his command post at India Base. Major Awda keeps his son with him at all times to ensure his safety when he is not at home. The terrorists here are ruthless, savage, and do not play by any rules. It takes an extraordinary level of sacrifice, determination, and heroism that most Americans cannot imagine to serve in the Iraqi Security Forces and government. Men like BGen Khalis and Major Awda, and many others, are serving in these conditions every day to bring freedom to their fellow Iraqis (please see the attached news article below about our brothers in the Iraqi Special Forces).
It doesn't sound like the insurgency is winning hearts or minds. What we are seeing is the development of a genuine alliance; the first steps in the transformation of the Middle East that we all dream of seeing. It should be a source of great hope, and a cause to which we are all devoted.

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