Sunday, November 19, 2006

BATTLEFIELD REUNIONS AND WARRIOR DIPLOMATS... I recently spent a day with the Battalion Commander of 1st Battalion, 24th Marines and his security detachment as they visited their company positions and outposts around the city of Fallujah in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. LtCol “Odie” VanOpdorp, a TBS (Marine Officer Basic School) classmate and old friend, and his Marines were great hosts, giving me a first-hand view of their AO (area of operations) and the diverse challenges they face there each day.

The “Wolverines” of 1/24 are a reserve unit from Detroit, Michigan which has been “plus’d up” with augments from the active forces as well as other reserve units, including a number of veterans from previous Iraq tours. Each day the Marines and sailors of 1/24 fill multiple roles; always warriors, but also ambassadors, teachers, and peacemakers as the mission requires. Their task is to counter the activities of insurgents and enhance overall security in the area. Enhanced security will, in turn, lead to improvements in the economy, local governance, education, and other factors.

Fallujah has made great strides since the all-out war to wrestle the city from insurgent in the fall of 2004, but there is still a significant hostile presence. This reality makes sharp eyes, heightened awareness and quick thinking necessities for the Marines who call Fallujah home. Signs reading “complacency kills” can be seen everywhere on Marine bases, particularly at the gates leaving their secure compounds. There is no such thing as a “routine convoy.” Every Marine is highly focused during each moment of their trips in and around the city - scanning for potential IEDs or snipers and alert for any unexplained shift in “atmospherics” which might reveal that something is amiss.

Their daily duties call not only for razor sharp reactions but also for wisdom and discretion. They must balance the necessity of self-defense and “force protection” against the moral and strategic imperative of not harming the innocent civilians they are here to help. Young Marines are required every day to make life and death decisions (and the life in danger is most often their own). Thousands of these decision points happen every day. Incredibly, these young warriors make them with 99.9% accuracy. So please don’t judge too harshly when an error is made. Any of us would be hard pressed to do better.

Amidst all this, the Marines of 1/24 (like their counterparts across the country) carry out their duties with a resiliency and esprit that is truly inspiring. LtCol VanOpdorp summed it up at the onset of my visit, “It is a privilege to lead men such as this.” For me it is a privilege to just be around them and to do my small part to ensure their actions will be remembered.


At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"always warriors, but also ambassadors, teachers, and peacemakers as the mission requires."

You guys are amazing! Stay safe and alert.

At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Billy Reed, just giving you an update on the class, everyhting is going great and I will be presenting my summer project tomorrow. Ms.Harod has been doing a great job and the whole school, community misses you. Safe travels and come home soon!
God Bless
Billy Reed

At 11:38 PM, Blogger Camp Design said...

This is Kevin and Amy in Caz!
following your travels and awaiting your return!

happy thanksgiving!
be safe.

k@a henry and charlie


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