IT’S A TEAM EFFORT… Over the past two months, I have had the honor of interviewing more than 250 Marines all across I MEF’s area of operations in Al Anbar province. It is typical to spend a few minutes just chatting informally Marine to Marine after an interview. Knowing that I have had the good fortune to see what our Corps is doing across its AO, Marines often ask, “How are we doing?” Younger Marines sometimes also ask, “How is my job making an impact?”
I will share with you what I tell them. We are making an impact here. Little by little, the Marine Corps is making this part of Iraq safer and more secure and setting the conditions not only for greater prosperity, but for eventual Iraqi control of the area. In some places, progress is rapid, measured by vast numbers of Iraqi police taking up posts in cities or dramatic reductions in the threat levels in an area. In other cases, the progress is more subtle, perhaps measured by a reduction in the number of IEDs being laid by insurgents or an increase in tips by the local population. As I look at the aggregate though, one thing is clear from my perspective; whether quickly or gradually, things are getting better across Al Anbar.
Why is this? The two most common themes I hear from commanders and senior officers are: 1) Patience is a virtue in Iraq, and 2) Our successes are due to amazing young Marines who put their heart and soul into their jobs every day.
The patience point is an important one. There are no quick fixes in Iraq. As much as all of us here and in Washington might wish for one, it doesn’t exist. From my vantage, a major cause of the Marines’ success here is the steady approach they have taken. Whether training Iraqi security forces, conducting operations against insurgents or building relations with the Iraqi people, the “long view” is being taken in every instance. This is paying off.
The credit for this success which commanders have attributed directly to their Marines speaks directly to that question asked by so many young Marines. They are so immersed in doing their job well, that they don’t have the opportunity to see its broader influence. Trust me, Marines – EACH OF YOU IS MAKING AN IMPACT. The young rifleman on patrol whose courtesy to a local civilian leads to a tip about an IED and saves a life. The helicopter mechanic who keeps that bird in the air to conduct the raid which takes an insurgent off the street. The fork lift operator who unloads the mail or essential supplies that give fellow Marines the boost they need to keep performing. The intel analyst who helps put that last piece of the puzzle together to find the IED cell… Each of you is doing your part. Individually it doesn’t seem to add up to much… put when you look at the whole team’s effort, the trend is clear. What they’re doing isn’t quick and it isn’t easy, but it is working. Keep up the effort, team.