Ramadi

Aug 1, 2012 by

I wasn’t supposed to go back to Iraq. I had spent almost a year and a half overseas, two tours back-to-back, and I had orders to a sweet gig in northern Virginia. I was supposed to go to the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity in Quantico. It was an assignment I had to fight for, one I thought I deserved. No combat, no long deployments, just an easy few years until I got out of the Marines. And, being near the Beltway I would be perfectly positioned to network with other intelligence professionals in the area and easily find a government or contractor job post-Marine Corps. Maybe even more importantly the girl I’d started dating, and fallen in love with, had chosen a graduate school in northern Virginia so that we could be together when...

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Summer 2003

Jun 7, 2012 by

Sitting in Al Kut through the summer of 2003 was endless, and the sun in southern Iraq was a merciless god. By June the heat in southern Iraq was a physical enemy. Temperatures drove upwards of 130 degrees fahrenheit. 130 plus. Anytime we left our little operating base outside of Al Kut we wore full armor, carried all our weapons. We didn’t have a lot to eat to begin with, and the heat killed our appetites. We didn’t have much in the way of a laundry, so our uniforms became so crusted in the bleach white salt from our sweat they were almost brittle, you could smack your blouse or trousers against a wall and see flakes of salt break off. We did our jobs, but there was never an end in sight. We...

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A Proposition

May 23, 2012 by

This excerpt is, again, jumping around in terms of chronology. After Tikrit we ended up in Al Kut, in the southern Iraq province of Wasit. This would be the end of our time in Iraq, but it dragged… I have lots of stories about Al Kut, too many. Nastiness, like a detainee escaping Marine custody. I’d collected intel saying he was the one who had hired a hitman to throw a grenade at the police station, severely wounding one of the American soldiers. The motherfucker cost a soldier guarding the police station his legs. He wasn’t talking in the Iraqi jail, he just professed his innocence, so I ordered him moved to a more secure facility on the Marine base across the river at the nearby airfield. His escape and follow-up investigation with his...

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Tikrit – Where We All Nearly Died...

May 15, 2012 by

the box on the right was our toilet.    Taking Tikrit turned out to be pretty easy, it had been almost entirely abandoned. We rolled into a ghost town, the night after we rescued the POWs. So, the next day, we began to explore… The palace compound stretched for miles along the Tigris River. While exploring we came upon several locals fishing in one of Saddam’s private fish ponds. Just days earlier they would have been executed for fishing there, had they been caught. We were alone, just one truck, but even so they were scared at first. Johnny jumped out and started talking as soon as we stopped, and within minutes the Iraqis were laughing with Johnny, and effusively showing their gratitude for invading and overthrowing Saddam. They had caught several monster fish,...

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April 13th – The Rescue

Apr 13, 2012 by

From the time we crossed the Kuwait/Iraq border with Third Battalion/Fifth Marines on 20 March 2003, Human Intelligence Exploitation Team Three (HET 3, callsign Jesuit 3) had driven with almost no sleep, fought alongside the grunts, and slogged through dozens of interrogations for almost three weeks. On 11 April we rested for a day after taking the Azimiyah Palace. There were six of us, plus our two linguists; 1st Lieutenant Nate Boaz, SSgt Matt Leclaire, SSgt Randy Meyer, Sgt Chris Kieffer, Sgt Jason Jones and myself, Sgt Joel McCollough. Ra’ad was our volunteer linguist from Kuwait, and Johnny Nano was our contractor linguist – an Iraqi refugee from Detroit.  A lot of conflicting accounts of the rescue appeared in the media in 2003, I’ve never read a completely accurate one, and I don’t claim this...

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