“I’d Get a Static-Filled Line and a, ‘Hey Dad; I’m Not Dead’”

Memories from Iraq: Anbar Province WMD’s…Saddam…Marine Artillery turning the tide at An-Nasiriyah…Hillbilly armor…Ramadi…IED’s…Sheik Sattar. The academics and think-tank folks who study war from a distance will lecture about Operation Iraqi Freedom for generations; let’s talk instead about those who did the fighting and dying.

Over multiple trips from 2006-2008 I embedded with various Marine units throughout Anbar Province. I met Marines ranging from the commanding generals for Anbar Province, brave young LCPL’s who later burned in humvees blown apart by propane tank-enhanced IED’s, and a corpsman who took me under his wing because “Jeez Sir; you’re older than my dad.” I came back; Doc was later killed in a mortar attack while covering a wounded Marine with his body.

Ramadi stands out because it’s where the Marines recognized how this wasn’t a WW2-style conventional war; America invaded Iraq to ‘liberate’ it from Saddam – and once we deposed Saddam and didn’t establish the normal society we’d promised, the US morphed from liberators to occupiers. The casualty toll mounted hourly as America found itself entangled in a tribal vs. fundamentalist fight for control.

It was a combination of Sunni frustration and Marine initiative that turned the tide. When Sattar approached the Marines about joining together in order to drive out the mostly-foreign fundamentalist insurgents, they agreed; with Sattar providing his tribesmen to patrol their own streets and identify the bad guys, the Marines provided the weapons and training necessary – and the two groups were soon fighting side-by-side.

“It’s Clear-Hold-Build, but all done at the same time”, then-LtCol Bill Jurney (1stBn, 6 th Marines) explained to me one hot Ramadi night in October 2006 “The idea is to kill or drive out the bad guys, keep them out, and simultaneously provide the jobs, clinics, and schools that enables the locals to see the advantages of cooperating with us.” It worked; in September 2007 with half of Gen Petraeus’s ‘Surge troops’ still in America, the Marines and Sunni’s cooperated to run a 5-K race in the middle of Ramadi. As the Marines handed out water bottles and operated the time clock; 185 Iraqi runners participated. That’s success!

I also remember my son’s phone-calls during his 2nd deployment. In addition to participating in the March 2003 invasion and battle of An-Nasiryah, he shipped out again in 2004 to fight those pesky insurgents Sect Rumsfeld so wittingly called "dead-enders." Except those dead-enders could fight, and when the phone would ring at zero-dark-thirty I’d get a static-filled line and a ”hey Dad; I’m not dead; but let me tell you what happened this time….” That was in addition to learning how they searched for IED’s-they’d probe trash with their bayonets and hope nothing exploded. Too many calls like that.

It’s these lessons-learned in honor, courage, and commitment that I remember.

This post originally appeared on the Truman Project's "10 Years in Iraq Project."

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Andrew Lubin

I'm an author and foreign policy-defense analyst who writes on current military operations, international relations, and serves as an advisor to the Truman National Security Project. My work appears regularly in such professional magazines as “Leatherneck”, “The Gazette,” “Jane’s Defense Weekly," and the Huffington Post. I served as the military consultant to Stephens Media Group for their “Valor Series” and wrote for PS's “Regarding War” and U.S. Naval Institute’s “Proceedings.” I'm a member of the Marine Corps Combat Camera Association, and have 14 embeds with USMC in Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Asia, and Beirut. I'm producing "Bootsteps," a documentary re: Marine ops in Afghanistan, for PBS. My first book, “Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq” won the 2007 Gold Medal for best Military Non-Fiction from the Military Writers Society of America, as well as Best Memoir from the University of Virginia’s “Festival of Books.” I'm a co-author of “Saluting American Valor” along with “Uncle John Salutes the Armed Forces”, which was nominated in 2009 for “Best Anthology” by the Military Writers Society of America. My latest book, “Keep Moving or Die; Task Force Tarawa at An-Nasiriyah” is due out next year. I've appeared on ABC, CNN, CBS, FOX, and Patriot Media, and is a regular guest on VFW’s “The National Defense,” In November 2004 I was the Military Analyst for WPVI (ABC) Philadelphia during Fallujah-2. I've spoken at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School, the Clinton School, the Thunderbird School of Global Managment, Villanova University, and other universities in the US and Canada. I'm a graduate of Allegheny College, and the Thunderbird School.

MORE FROM

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Driver charged with human trafficking after 30-40 people found locked in fatally hot tractor-trailer

The charge against James Matthew Bradley, the alleged driver of the vehicle, could carry a punishment as severe as the death penalty.

Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight to continue treatment for terminally ill son

The parents have withdrawn their request for Charlie to receive treatment in the U.S.

10th person dies after 38 found locked in sweltering tractor-trailer outside Texas Walmart

8 were found dead at the scene; 2 more died after being rushed to the hospital in critical or serious condition.

Dozens killed in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

‘Hot Mic’ podcast: Democratic brand, WH Communications Director, Jared Kushner to be questioned

Here are the important stories to know for Monday, July 24

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Driver charged with human trafficking after 30-40 people found locked in fatally hot tractor-trailer

The charge against James Matthew Bradley, the alleged driver of the vehicle, could carry a punishment as severe as the death penalty.

Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight to continue treatment for terminally ill son

The parents have withdrawn their request for Charlie to receive treatment in the U.S.

10th person dies after 38 found locked in sweltering tractor-trailer outside Texas Walmart

8 were found dead at the scene; 2 more died after being rushed to the hospital in critical or serious condition.

Dozens killed in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

‘Hot Mic’ podcast: Democratic brand, WH Communications Director, Jared Kushner to be questioned

Here are the important stories to know for Monday, July 24