Friday, July 22, 2005

Enon Hall

on a completely different topic, i just rediscovered a website i had not seen in months: Enon Hall. watch a family restore their 250-year old family seat in rural tidewater Virginia. a great story of rediscovering the old pile and making the commitment to get it back on its feet. i remember emailing them from iraq last year, after seeing an article in the washington post. they said i was the first to contact them and were very kind in answering all of my numerous questions (the wife and i are This Old House addicts).


Better to have and not need... UPDATES

two substantial updates to the disaster preparedness list:

a small bottle of hand sanitizer, and small bottle of water. both suggestions are courtesy of my sister, a daily traveler on the DC metro.

i'm going to scratch my words on cell phones; bring the damn things. by way of doc russia comes this suggestion: on your cell phone address list, add an entry ICE-- In Case of Emergency-- with your next-of-kin's phone number. (see also this article in the washington post.) a very good idea, though not without some pitfalls.


Rule 308, applied

welcome news from London. although i expect, just based on the article, that it was really "rule 9" that was applied, the principle is the same. a gratifying spectacle, as we used to say at VMI. the casual observer might wonder what deterrent value it will have. the answer is none; these enemy operatives cannot be deterred from their purpose, they can only be stopped. the only deterrent in this case is that this one individual has been well and fully deterred.

it reminds me of one of ltcol cooper's pithier observations: "in 1492 we threw the moors out of spain; apparently we didn't throw them far enough."


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Father Dan Mode, USN

blackfive has a great post about a Navy chaplain, father dan mode, in afghanistan. i met father mode a couple years ago at a Marine Corps birthday celebration here in DC; he is a true credit to country and church.

fr mode is also the author of The Grunt Padre, the story of another Navy chaplain, father vincent capodanno, who received a posthumous Medal Of Honor in vietnam. that is a great, moving story, and i highly recommend it.



Med-Fah update, 21 July

maj erik peterson has posted a good update (w/ photos) of Med-Fah's goings-on in and around habbaniyah. go ye there, read and heed.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Immigrant success story

from the roanoke times, a great success story of a fellow VMI graduate.

it contains the line, "He said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have made recruiting more difficult for the Army, offer a call to arms for Americans who believe in democracy. He opposes a draft but is puzzled why more young people don't voluntarily pick up a rifle, which he considers necessary to protect American values and to advance U.S. anti-terrorism policies."

i say AMEN. that puzzles me too. i wonder almost daily why the youth of America, especially young men, aren't beating down the doors of recruiting stations.



Sunday, July 17, 2005

Crowley Chronicles, Part 4

part four. warning: some of the content might be a little rough for some people.


It only seems right to have each edition of the Chronicle dedicated to our much deserving fighting men and women. The 4th edition is dedicated to my gun crew that I served with on the morning of July 3, 2005. Although we had early 4th of July fireworks that day, thanks to their fast actions and professionalism we all lived to see the real fireworks the next night.

After reviewing the last edition I realized it must have been very late in the night because I never finished what took place on June 25, 2005. And so the 4th edition picks up where the last one left off:

25 JUN – My real journal is a small green notebook that I carry in my pocket everyday. It is full of journal notes, points of contact information, flight and convoy times, and tons of other valuable information you need as you travel around Iraq. On this date I wrote “this week was my greatest and most powerful week in the USMC serving with the grunts and hearing their amazing stories”. My first interview of the day was with a “salty” (means he has been around the USMC and has seen a lot) 22 year old Corporal who described in details the horrors he saw earlier that week. Their convoy consisting of nine gun trucks was hit by a huge IED and ambushed. The lead vehicle took a direct hit and as he approached on foot he was unable to tell which end was the front, it was also flipped over on its roof. They were looking for the five Marines who had moments before been leading this powerful fighting force. None could be found. Suddenly a Marine yelled out “look, look, tell me what you see!” They spotted one of their brothers still in the vehicle on fire. They tried desperately with fire extinguishers to put the flames out; they used shovels to fill their helmets with dirt to put on the flames. The Marine and vehicle continued to burn. Marines stripped off their flak jackets and tops while still taking small arms fire from the ambushing insurgents. They wrapped their uniform tops around their hands and were finally able to drag their friend out. It was too late. They bagged the warrior so their fellow Marines would not have to see the charred remains of yet another fallen Marine. They had to wait another hour or two before pulling additional Marines from the burning vehicle. After the ammunition inside stopped burning off, a wrecker flipped what remained of the HMMV over. The gunner who sits with his head sticking out of the top was “melted to the turret”. His roommate came up from the rear of the convoy and stated that he wanted the honor of bagging his best friend. His gear was still aglow with hot embers as they placed the Marine in the body bag. He was remembered as an individual who loved to play Playstation, would always grin, and made everyone smile. The next morning the roommate woke up and realized his friend was really gone. The Marine told me he tells his family not to worry because he is Superman. He tells them all they do is drive around meeting and greeting people in Ramadi. He tells his family to “stop asking stupid questions and send snacks instead”. He closed by saying “I pray for the families back home and to those who have lost Marines. We signed up for this and know it is hard for those back home. I’ll do my best to keep their loved ones safe.” The young warriors continue on with their mission with a renewed purpose to eliminate the terrorists.

On this date simultaneous attacks occurred all over Ramadi. It was one of the few times the insurgents would attack the Marines all out. The insurgents have learned from numerous attacks not to gather in large numbers when attacking, they have learned never to attack Americans at night due to the butchery that befalls them through use of our night vision capabilities, and they have learned that unmanned weapons such as IED’s is the greatest way to hurt us.

I had the distinct honor of interviewing LtCol Smith from 1st Bn 5th Marines for nearly two hours today. During the interview we were interrupted numerous times and even had the power go out. I did have to stop him at that point to track down a light so I could take my notes. During interviews I record notes in a large green military record book. As a fellow LtCol, I understand the power and highest level of respect he commands as a Commanding Officer. The combat leaders in the Marine Corps are a step above the rest of the officers. They make the hardest decisions and deal with the greatest losses. I do not envy their position but I bow to their greatness. For it is these leaders and their young Marines who make us the greatest fighting force in the world. During the interview I asked him about our policy on Mosques. The simplest part of his answer came from an Iraqi Colonel he had talked to. The Colonel put it this way: “Americans are stupid not to search and attack terrorists in Mosques. Look at the chair I am sitting in, you call it a chair because it has four legs and supports my weight, but if I pick it up and hit you with it the chair becomes a weapon. If a Mosque is used by terrorists it becomes a bad place and is no longer a holy place. It should be a military target.” The Mosques are used to broadcast anti American rhetoric from their load speakers, used as insurgent meeting spots, and used to store insurgent weapons. LtCol Smith continued by saying insurgents spread misinformation by telling Iraqis that Marines rape their women and burn their schools. We have to win the people over one at a time – we have to win their hearts and minds. Many of the people we face are paid ten to thirty dollars by insurgents to plant IED’s or to shoot RPG’s at us. He compared stopping the flood of weapons and explosives that enter Ramadi to the drug war we fight in the United States. You can plug the holes but there will always be leaks. He told the story of an all out insurgent attack where a large group of well over twenty insurgents attacked the Marines’ North Bridge. It is a fortified position and after a thirty minute gun battle the bodies of twelve insurgents littered the street, ten were captured, and an additional five were found dead at a local hospital. No Marines were killed during the attack. LtCol Smith summarized himself as “not the funniest man”. He said, “I drive my commanders hard, harder than you can imagine; you can not-over task the Marines. Marines here are the same guys that fought in WWII, they just have different last names. I make sure they are okay. They bounce back after the horror they have seen by talking with their loved ones.” In a final closing statement he concluded: “Marines here with 1/5 are amazing. They get blown up by IED’s and go right back out there looking for blood. They are incredibly talented. The salt of the earth making it all happen for approximately $1100 a month.”

After the interview I convoyed back to Camp Ramadi and then onto Camp Ali which is an Iraqi Security Force (ISF) base. Here I interviewed the Marines responsible for training and providing guidance to the ISF. I also had the pleasure of eating dinner with approximately twelve senior ISF officers. Communications were tough to say the least until someone located a contractor who could translate for us. The officers are proud men who are all career military men. They have fought in numerous wars besides the two against us. We were strangers who became friends and I have gone back to visit as well as to conduct interviews with them. Now I make sure to bring a translator! Conducted twelve interviews today and got to bed at 0130.

26 JUN – Conducted interviews with Alpha Company 1-9, an Army unit with tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. Once again I had tears forming in my eyes as I listened to story after story about the young soldiers having their friends die in their arms. All still believe in our mission. A young Army Specialist who is a gunner for a Bradley Fighting Machine described his encounters with insurgents in brutal details. One night three men with RGPs engaged his Bradley. He was able to see them clearly from 700 meters away with his thermal scopes. He returned fire with twenty rounds of high explosive rounds. Through his thermal night sites he saw “lots of smaller hot spots from what was left of the larger hot spots and lots of smoke”. His best friend was recently killed by a sniper while in a Bradley. He can’t wait to get home to Texas and float down the river for a few days in an inner tube, and then he plans on riding his horse around the whole state. His final comment was “I have a month left and hope I don’t get blown up.” I sat in as the Army briefed members of the ISF concerning a patrol they were going on in an hour and I made arrangements to go on their next mission. After eating dinner I happened upon a softball game in which the USMC MP’s were beating an Army team. I heard later the Marines won even though they almost blew a ten run lead.

27 JUN – Today was a catch-all day conducting interviews with a lot of cats and dogs. I met with the Ramadi Base Fire Department (at their place – no fire or fumes this time), interviewed EOD, ANGLICO, Combat Stress, and the bases’ Charlie Medical staff where all casualties are seen.

28 JUN – I went on my foot patrol with the ISF members I had met earlier in the week. We all received a brief – the mission was to be a presence patrol combined with raids and interviews of opportunity. We arrived at our position in a suburb south of Ramadi and disembarked our vehicles at 0950. At 0959 the first AK-47 shots echoed through the city streets approximately fifty feet from where I was standing. Another five minutes passed before the next AK-47 rounds gained my attention. The ISF soldiers who comprised the majority of this patrol were very aggressive and impressed me throughout the course of the two hour patrol. When we go on foot patrols our vehicles provide close cover each being equipped with various weapons. Some have .50 caliber heavy machine guns that are capable of taking out vehicles and can even punch through cinder brick walls, others have medium machine guns that can be removed and carried if needed, another weapon of choice mounted on the HMMVs is called a Mark-19 grenade launcher. The Mark-19 has always been a favorite of mine because it shoots like a machine gun but grenade rounds are going down range. You can actually see the rounds traveling through the air and they make quite an impact. Also in the vehicles we carry AT-4’s, Javelins, SMAWs, and several other various weapons that can destroy bunkers, armored vehicles, and buildings. Our convoys have an amazing amount of combat power. Besides weapons we have coolers full of bottled water and Gatorade which seems to be the unofficial - official drink of the US military in Iraq. During the patrol we searched a number of suspected houses and seized several illegal weapons. What is an illegal weapon in a country like Iraq you ask? You’ll never guess. Each house by law is allowed one AK-47 and one magazine of ammunition; I believe these are utilized for deer hunting in the beautiful woods that cover Iraq. Handguns and additional ammunition/magazines are illegal and the police aren’t even allowed to take the work guns home with them. In my eyes this is a real problem when you see how many Iraqi Police Officers are being killed. I guess you run as fast as you can from work to your house where you have an AK-47. Believe me, I don’t think I have been in a house yet that didn’t have at least one AK-47. During the patrol through the middle of the city herd after herd of sheep passed us. They eat anything and everything. Often they are chewing on candy bar wrappers and other trash which is plentiful. I learned a new term today during interviews and have since heard it hundreds of times – Fobbit. A Fobbit as defined by the US military in Iraq is a person who does not leave the forward operating bases. Not to get confused with a Hobbit who is a short adventuresome creature in the Lord of the Rings. Today there were numerous incoming IDF in the morning and evening on Camp Ramadi. I finished the day by conducting interviews at the 2-BCT Tactical Operation Center. I’m not sure if you are safer being a Fobbit or out on patrol. This base catches tons of IDF.

29 JUN – Waited for my convoy that never arrived. I learned my lesson; make sure someone in the convoy besides the Colonel knows to pick you up. He has too many other things on his mind. Ended up with a bonus day on Camp Ramadi and conducted a few more interviews then watched the first movie I had seen in a month. I always end my nights no matter what time I stop working by reading a western book.

30 JUN – Waiting for a convoy or flight to Combat Outpost and Camp Corregidor located in East Ramadi. Toured the detainee facility, Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) facility, and finally pinned down the Brigade Chaplain who had been dodging me for a week. He must have thought I had left and he came out of hiding. My convoy tonight was cancelled.

1 JUL – Slept in, did my laundry, read western, and finally pinned down the Brigade Sergeant Major who was harder to trap then the Chaplain. He must have thought I had left as well and came out of hiding. Some people just do not like being tape recorded. Well, I caught a convoy that took me half way to my destination and I ended up at Camp Mustangville. I actually rode in an up-armored Suburban with Justin Bulluck who works for ITT, a communication company. The Suburban had a higher class of armor then our HMMV’s. If the vehicle is destroyed, the passenger compartment is like a rescue capsule. It was the most comfortable ride in Iraq so far – almost like being home in my own Suburban. Our convoy hit a number of delays and we did not reach our destination until 0430. My next convoy was scheduled for 0700 but I decided to sleep through it.

2 JUL – Skipped the first convoy and tracked down another one leaving at 1500. This was the most unprofessional group of soldiers I have run into. They were sad – bitching and complaining, their vehicles were full of trash, many were far overweight and overall it was my first negative experience in Iraq. The vehicle taking Gatorades to the front line soldiers was stacked too high and cases were falling off before they lined up for the convoy. When I pointed it out to the Army convoy commander he said it wasn’t his problem – real professional. I ended up making brief stops at two ISF bases – Camp Tiger and Camp Lion to refuel their generators. One of the “bases” didn’t have any security posted. Finally arrived at Camp Corregidor the home of the Army’s 1-503rd. At the CO’s meeting one of the funny items that came up was that a soldier told the Iraqi workers that there are pork byproducts in Gatorade which they have all been drinking. A near riot ensued and force had to be brought to bear and translators had to explain the truth.

3 JUL – The day of the early fireworks! Went on a vehicle patrol with Bravo Company 1-503rd Battalion. Our mission along with the ISF was to snatch a high ranking insurgent responsible for numerous US deaths. The ISF was to be the main focus while US troops provided security for them. We moved in on the location and utilized our gun trucks to set up a perimeter of several city blocks in east Ramadi. We placed warning signs written in Arabic and English stating, “Do not enter - deadly force is authorized”. The signs are approximately 75 - 100 yards away. Between the signs and our vehicles we have a line of orange cones; once this line is violated we open up. The unit I was with has been in this section of Ramadi for the past eleven months and they know the streets. Security gun trucks started calling out on the radio about a vehicle conducting surveillance on our locations and they were probing around to see how close they could get. At my HMMV we saw this vehicle meeting with other vehicles and people two blocks north of us. About this same time a small boy of about five came out of his gate and sat on a bench between us and our signs. A minute later his father carried out his 2-3 year old brother and sat him on the bench as well. I tried to wave them out of the area but they didn’t understand. I spoke to my crew about fields of fire to make sure if we had to engage they could avoid the children. Within several minutes of that conversation all hell broke lose. The soldiers with me were ready as a white Caprice came around a turn just in front of our warning signs. The driver with only death on his mind gunned the engine and went up on the curb around our sign. The SSgt fired the required warning shots as the vehicle barreled down on our position at top speeds. Guns came alive and our .50 caliber machine gun opened up. In the Marine Corps movie Heartbreak Ridge, after shooting an AK-47 at his Marines, Clint Eastwood states that it makes a very distinct sound. Well I am here to tell you that the .50 caliber heavy machine gun in a narrow city alley makes a much, much, much more distinct sound. The driver was physically cut in half by the barrage of rounds and the vehicle crashed into a wall near where the children had been sitting only moments before. The vehicle was fully engulfed in flames and within twenty seconds the car detonated in a massive explosion that sent four of us flying to the ground as shrapnel danced past. As I laid there and wondered if I had been hit a Staff Sgt said, “Sir are you alright?” I replied that I was fine but I was still laying on the ground at which point about two seconds later the SSgt asked again, “Sir are you sure you are alright?”. As I was laying there sore and battered, I looked up at him and replied, “When you get to be my age it takes just a little longer to get up after being blown up”. I was able to capture three pictures and videos of the event. One picture shows the kids sitting on the bench, the next shows the car ablaze, and the third shows the total destruction and devastation on the street.

The call sounded for “medic” at which time we learned four US Soldiers were down. My gun truck provided security for the medical evacuation vehicle. I was able to follow our wounded through the medical aid station where earlier that morning I had conducted interviews. The last thing I had told them was that I didn’t want to see them later in the day but here I was. The quiet aid station had come alive while we were racing the wounded men back. When I had been there earlier in the morning there had been five Soldiers on duty. As we pulled in I saw at least 25 medical personal ready and waiting, some in uniform, others in their physical fitness clothes. Once the soldiers were stabilized I was allowed to take photographs and a couple minutes later a USMC medical evacuation helicopter took them away to a better equipped surgical unit. The injuries included multiple shrapnel wounds, one soldier lost a large number of his teeth, and others were sliced open in numerous locations by flying glass. None were in critical condition (that’s easy to say when you’re not the one lying there). Since I left with the medical evacuation I did not get to examine the blast site up close. I never did see the two young boys again but sadly I learned that there were six civilian casualties resulting from the SVBIED blast. This is the kind of enemy we fight.

That night I called my wife and two sons to say I loved them. Carolyn knew something was wrong because I had called the night before. After being married for fifteen years it becomes easy to read each other - although I told her everything was fine she knew otherwise. She will learn what happened that day as she reads this. It was a true honor to be side by side with the soldiers who acted so swiftly and saved so many US lives.
I took the rest of the day off and my head would not clear back towards normal from the blast for the next several days.

4 JUL – Independence Day and a new lease on life. I jumped back in the saddle and conducted interviews with Delta Company 1-503rd. Through these interviews I learned the best kept secret in the area. But first I have neglected to tell you about the living conditions at Camp Corregidor and Combat Outpost which is located across the street. When USMC LtCol (Retired) Oliver North visited he stated he hadn’t seen such deplorable living conditions since serving in Viet Nam. Time Magazine went one better naming it as the most dangerous place in the world to live. Life in East Ramadi is no picnic whether on the streets or on the base. The civilian contractors that used to work on the compounds were all killed and since that time no one will take the jobs. You can’t even find a Port-A-John here. If you have ever seen the movie Platoon and laughed as the Soldiers burn the human Sh--, let me tell you I know a bunch that will never laugh at that scene again. The only way to get rid of the human waste product is by burning it in barrels twice a day. Needless to say there is an odor in the air. When you have to pee there are pipes dug deep into the ground that you pee into. Living conditions are tight and I had the pleasure of staying in a storage room without air conditioning. My last night there a dozen new soldiers packed into the same room with me to sleep (as you can see I’m quite the VIP). The two places I sweated the most while there was not while getting blown up on patrol, but rather in the chow hall and the shower tent. Both had to run temperatures around 120 degrees. The sweat poured down my face as I ate. And guess what, there was a Gatorade shortage there thanks to the convoy I rode in on. For breakfast I had to choose between a biscuit and an Iraqi jelly roll. Food is very limited, no ice cream, pasta bars, or deli bars here. Back to the secret I learned during one of my interrogations, I mean interviews. There is a “pool” on the base but they don’t want the world to know or they may be labeled as the best resort in East Ramadi. Camp Corregidor is an old Iraqi Agricultural College that they were not using when we took it over. There is a large cement pool that they used to water the crops and animals. Now it is the greatest invention there since Vic’s Vapor Rub under the nose (use with burn barrels). I took a plunge into the pool and it actually felt as close to refreshing as you will get in Iraq. What a world of difference it makes to the Soldiers when they come back from a patrol and can kick back in the pool or play killer football – which is what they were doing while I hid in a corner. So much for a relaxing swim. For dinner we had grilled burgers and steak, inside the chowhall was a table set for our fallen brothers so no one would forget. I know no one there needs to be reminded of all their friends shot down at such a young age. That night additional illumination rounds were fired at 2300 to provide a safe 4th of July show. For a change no one fired back and it was a nice end to a wonderful holiday in Iraq.

5 JUL – Caught a convoy to Camp Habbaniyah to interview members of the Army 1-506th Battalion. I conducted fourteen interviews and reminded Colonel Clark, the CO, he owed me for leaving me at Camp Ramadi when his convoy drove off and forgot me.

6 JUL – Interviewed Colonel Clark as well as other members of the unit. Went on a tank patrol for the first time in my life. What a thrill riding in 72 tons of steel. Our mission was to check out a possible VBIED – if you haven’t caught on yet that stands for vehicle borne improvised explosive device (a parked car with bombs). If you add an “S” to the front that makes it a suicide vehicle and an IED is usually concealed or buried explosives. Our patrol consisted of my tank where I was performing the mission as gunner responsible for loading the main tank gun as well as firing a machine gun. There isn’t room for passengers so one of the crew had to stay behind. We also had several HMMV gun trucks and EOD. Most people tend to get out of the way as a tank is traveling at 45 mph up the road. The kids love the tank. When we deal with the kids a number of them are looking for candy, soccer balls, MRE’s, or just to try and speak a little English. 99% wave but I have seen a few throwing rocks at our convoys – boys will be boys. The vehicle was parked in a very rural type neighborhood although it was still in the city of Habbaniyah, lots of donkeys, cows, chickens, sheep, and goats. The patrol went smoothly and the Captain whose tank I was in was preaching his thanks to God. Captain Christopher Plekenpol was scheduled to go to Seminary College to become a chaplain when he received orders for Iraq. He wrote a Christian book about his experiences in Iraq titled The Power In-Him. In this book he relays stories about losing his soldiers as well as other stories and how his belief in Christ has helped him through the tough times. If interested his email is: or at (Dad I have a copy for you that you can share with Joe.) The tank ride was definitely another highlight of my career. Back in the 1980’s I had tried to become a tank officer but ended up with communications.

7 JUL – 0630 my ride for a Civil Affairs mission knocked on my door. Today I went on a Marine Corps CAG mission escorted by Army gun trucks. Our first visit was to a family who had several young children wounded by a SVBIED that missed a US convoy and detonated in their neighbor’s house. The house was leveled and the residents were all killed. The medic had stitched up several kids and a doctor had stapled one of the girl’s head wound closed. The medic removed the stitches and we looked at the staples to make sure there wasn’t an infection. The family refused the $200 we tried to give them to help with damages. Many people are afraid to take money because the insurgents may find out and kill them. $200 is much more then your average Iraqi makes in a month. We gave the children shoes, stuffed animals, soccer ball, and school supplies. There were approximately 30 people living in the home.

Our next stop was to visit a neighborhood where insurgents had fired RPG’s at Captain Plekenpol’s tank three nights earlier. The tank engaged the insurgents and fired their main gun which went through everything in the neighborhood to include the only power transformer within blocks. Besides the whole area being out of power, several children had been hurt. The more seriously wounded children had been evacuated to treatment facilities in Baghdad. The USMC arranged transportation for the families to visit the kids as well as providing small payments to other families that had wounded children. We gave out several other soccer balls and radios to wounded children. I ended up playing soccer in full combat gear with about ten kids for a good fifteen minutes. I learned not to head the ball while wearing a helmet. It hurts but the kids loved it so I must have headed about fifty balls. The neighborhood is really suffering without electricity. Most only have fans to keep cool - now they have nothing. The CAG Major had ordered a new transformer but it still had not come in. During the patrol we seized five weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. After returning to base I received a tour from the Battalion Chaplain – Camp Habbaniyah was a British base during WWII. Tonight I caught a C-130 plane ride back to Al Asad Airbase to wrap up an incredible twenty-one day adventure. There is no doubt in my mind that they were the best three weeks of my career!

8 JUL – Feasted like a king at the Al Asad chowhall. For the past 21 days I was limited and the selection was slim as to what was available to eat. I loaded up with a burger, pizza, chicken wings, Jell-O, Gatorade, 2 sodas, all followed by ice cream. A month ago I weighed 215 pounds and today I weighed in at 201. I was only able to hit a weight room a couple of times due to my hours. All the bases have them available so next time I need to make the time – no excuses. The new office I got prior to leaving sat in the same condition as the last time I saw it. Still no air conditioning and the walls don’t go all the way to the ceiling. Since it is by a door that stays open all day, the sand constantly fills up the office covering everything and the temperature hovers around 115 degrees. A merciful young Marine did bring me a fan the other day that helps to evaporate my sweat.

9 JUL – Day to settle back in and hit the PX to buy some videos and a bike.

10 JUL – Caught a ride to pick up my bike since it comes in a box – oh no, flashback to multiple Christmas Eves. I learned long ago to pay extra to have the stores assemble such items. Unfortunately the PX would not do it even though I was offering up to a quarter of the bikes price. I put the bike together and it was time for the maiden voyage. The front brakes do not work and both brakes tend to rotate on the handle bars. As I started off I noticed the wheel and handle bars were out of alignment so I fixed it. I was ready with my Leatherman. Only this time I didn’t tighten the screw quite enough. As I started off again in front of a vehicle check point where a number of civilian truck drivers were sitting, my handle bars did a 180 degree rotation. Luckily I’m still fast enough on my feet to catch myself. If the bystanders thought it was funny, they weren’t laughing when I glared in their direction. The locals know Marines are fierce fighting machines and they wanted no part of me. I’m sure they had a good laugh after I rode away.

11 JUL – The now famous room painting day, see 3rd edition of the Chronicles.

12 JUL – Cleaned my sandy office again and spent all day building my historical database. Started typing the 4th edition and now I find that it is 0315 on 13 JUL and I haven’t read my western book yet. The good news is I’m caught up on my journal. I will spend the next few days typing my interviews into the historical data base and then I can get back into action. After all, work can not be all fun and games here in sunny Iraq.

As I reflect back over a very positive trip for my historical mission and for myself as a person, I am reminded of all the reasons I signed the contract with the Marine Corps back in 1987. Some family members and friends thought I was crazy when I joined a bunch of “women raping and baby killing crazed killers”. Once again when I told my wife, sons, family, and friends that I volunteered to come to Iraq many thought I was crazy again. Both times I knew it was the right thing for me. You can list the usual words such as patriotism, honor, courage, sacrifice, duty, wanting to make a difference, to find a direction in your life, add meaning to your life, and thousands of other reasons. It isn’t until you are really out on the front lines as a Marine that you feel all of the reasons come together in a feeling that can not be put into words. I have said it before but I need to say it again that being here is a true honor to represent our nation and to serve along side the most amazing weapon in the world – a young Marine. Not only are they an incredible weapon but they are caring individuals who after losing their best friend will continue on with their mission and pause at the sight of a young Iraqi child to reach into their own pocket and give the child a five or ten dollar bill to help brighten the child’s world for a day or two. Not only does the child smile but the war hardened 18 year old Marine feels like he is alive with a smile once again for a short period of time. Only it will not be long until the next explosion, next burst of gunfire, and next call for corpsman shatters that one moment of peace. He is a warrior here to lay his life on the line to make a better country for the young children he encounters daily. The future is theirs and we as Marines will make sure it is bright.

Semper Fi,

LtCol Tim Crowley


Required Reading

the washington post today has two (2) articles on professional military reading, both by Marines. the first is this-- Books and Battles-- and the second is this-- Expert’s Picks.

i’m an insatiable reader, especially on military subjects. i agree with my fellow Marines on Seven Pillars and the Small Wars Manual (except that, from what i have been told, mules are still a viable logistics tool) and Gates Of Fire. however, there are others that should have wider attention. here’s my addendum to the required reading list, emphasizing middle eastern and central asian topics:

Bugles And A Tiger; John Masters. this should be required reading for lieutenants, in fact it ought to be subtitled, “the joy of being a lieutenant.” masters (later a well-known novelist) served in a gurkha regiment in the years just preceding WWII. in addition to exceptional writing, it contains a valuable description of fighting on the frontiers of what are now afghanistan and pakistan.

The Story Of The Malakand Field Force; Winston Churchill. another the-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same description of combat on the “northwest frontier.” dated yet timely. unequalled prose from an eyewitness and participant.

The Story Of The Arab Legion; John Bagot Glubb. A FORGOTTEN CLASSIC. few Marines i have met have ever heard of this book, much less read it. also beautifully written, it is almost an instruction manual on how to raise, train and lead Arab forces; to match their particular (and not inconsiderable) martial traits to the ways and means of modern war.

The War Of The Running Dogs; Noel Barber. one of the more popular and comprehensive accounts of the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960). the theme is how the British turned a losing counterinsurgency in malaya into a resounding victory. parallels with iraq are not exact, but the central lessons stand out: the primacy of the civil power over the military in a counterinsurgency; the need to raise, train and employ competent local forces; the importance of achieving an indigenous political solution to isolate the insurgents; the particular role of what was called “psychological warfare” then but is better called “information operations” today.

The Art Of The Rifle; Jeff Cooper. this is required reading before you go to the range. written by an acknowledged master of the art, it describes the elements of practical rifle marksmanship in simple terms and photos. cooper eschews mechanical complexity and technology in favor of simplicity and human skill, and presents the rifle as the ultimate precision-guided weapon.

your thoughts??