Family Letter from Marine in Iraq

Marine General Michael Sullivan sent this with the comment: "This email is appropriate for Memorial Day as we honor those who have paid the price for the freedom we enjoy.." Subject: Family letter (slightly abridged)

Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Letter to 2/2 Families
Hello Warlord families!> We miss you! I'd like to take a few minutes to pass on what the battalion has been up to during the past thirty days. To say that we have been busy would be the understatement of the decade and I must tell you that your Marines and Sailors have been amazing not only with their flexibility and ability to adapt to changing missions and locations, but they have been amazing in terms of their courage and tenacity.

As of the 19th of April we were still in our original location of Mahmudiya (about 30 miles South of Bagdhad) and we were making significant progress in developing and improving the relationships and security situation in the four major urban centers of Mahmudiya Qada (county). Easy Company had been working in Mahmudiya city proper, Fox had been focusing its operations in Latifiyah, Golf in Yusafiyah, Weapons in Rasheed, CAAT across the AO in a Quick Response Force role and our H&S always focuses everywhere supporting every conceivable facet of our operations. Simultaneously, the 81mm mortar platoon had been making significant strides in training and conducting operations with the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps Battalion that had been started under our predecessors in the US Army's 82d Airborne Division.

We had seen an increase in both security and "winning the hearts and minds" through the diligent and compassionate work of our Marines and Sailors, but because we also had pushed our forces into areas that had until now, been unaddressed, we also saw a significant increase in combat operations. The events in Fallujah, Najaf and Karbala that occurred right before and just after Easter resulted in a significant spike in activity as many radicals and terrorists began to take action wherever they could to try to stir up hate within the populace. The Warlords responded and at one point the comment of our enemies was that "The marines are everywhere.we can't do anything." At that point the battalion had been conducting intense 24/7 operations since about 4 April to provide a secure environment for the Shiite Arbaeen celebration (40 days following any Muslim holiday-the traditional mourning period-Muslims celebrate an "Arbaeen").

The terrorists changed tactics to try to stop traffic along the major highways and the battalion responded by refocusing its efforts along the main artery running through our area and shut the enemy activity down there completely. Just as we were getting ready to re-energize our efforts throughout the Qada, we received orders to re-embark the entire battalion, move to a completely different base and then begin operations in an entirely new area. We moved our force from Mahmudiya to "Camp Fallujah" west of Baghdad and immediately began split operations. Golf Company assisted 2d Bn, 1st Marines to the Northwest of Fallujah at a place called Saclawejah, Easy assisted
1/5 along the southern portion of Fallujah and the remainder of the Battalion began operations to the Northeast of Fallujah at a place called Al Kharma (also commonly known as "Bad Kharma"). At any rate, each part of the battalion executed combat operations that included some violent engagements with the enemy and the recovery of significant amounts of terrorist weapons, ammunition and bomb making material.

After only about five days, H&S performed miracles again and the battalion then moved in force to the southern portion of Fallujah and slammed the back door on the terrorists operating in the city. Almost immediately upon our arrival, the battalion became decisively engaged and built on the situation Easy Company had been developing over the past five days. Easy and Fox, supported by Tanks, Armored Vehicles, 81mm mortars and our superb snipers began to wreak havoc upon the terrorists within Fallujah.

After only 48 hours of fighting, the battalion had succeeded in killing between 100 and 200 of the terrorists, leveled a portion of southern Fallujah and in the words of our Regimental Commander "broke the back" of the resistance in Fallujah. Within hours, the terrorists were at the negotiating table proposing a solution that developed in to what is now known as the Fallujah Brigade. Throughout those intense days, the battalion performed magnificently and earned a very key place in the history of the Regiment's history.

As the Fallujah Brigade entered the city, we reluctantly departed our positions and entered what would be our fourth operating area in less than a month. We are now conducting operations east of Fallujah in an area that had, until now, been largely ignored. Our presence alone brought the rats scurrying out to engage. The result of our operations has been the virtual elimination of indirect fire attacks against key coalition facilities, the development of millions of dollars of civil affairs projects, the disruption of terrorist operations in what was once one of the most volatile areas in Iraq, and, through the superb efforts of Golf Company and our Counter Intelligence Teams, the discovery of the largest series of weapons caches in Iraq to date!

Throughout the past month, the Marine's living conditions have varied from a firm base in Mahmudiya where they had access to a gym, internet, showers and two hot meals a day, to fighting holes and 100 degree heat, to bombed out buildings in Fallujah to abandoned buildings and open fields. Operations have been at once defensive and offensive and have reflected what has become known as the "three block war" where your Marines and Sailors are conducting full up combat on one block, peacekeeping on the next and humanitarian operations on the other. Access to the internet has > been spotty at best, but we are now in a situation where we can rotate platoons back to our current location for showers, hot chow, and a brief period of rest and refit before they re-attack the missions we execute every day.

Snail mail has been regular for the most part given our hobo status, and your cards, letters and packages have been the most welcome thing you can imagine. Mail and the occasional hot shower are the highlights of our existence here and your support through the mail is literally the rock upon which we draw our strength. Thanks! Throughout one of the busiest months in the storied history of the battalion, the Warlords acquitted themselves in the finest tradition of their predecessors from Tarawa and you should all be incredibly proud of them. As a result of those intense operations, we have had many wounded, and tragically lost two of our own to the cowards that do not have the fortitude to fight us openly. I ask that each of you remember their families in the prayers that you say for all of us every night and keep the faith that we are talking care of each other and that we are doing what Marines do . we are winning!

I am honored to know each of you to have been given the rare privilege of leading your husbands under difficult conditions. It is an honor that I will never forget and a debt that I can never repay. Please know that we miss you and love you all. God Bless each of you, God Bless America, and Semper Fi from your Marines and Sailors in Iraq.

Humbly, Giles Kyser, LtCol USMC, "Warlord Six"

Marine General Michael Sullivan sent a family letter from a Naeine in Iraq with the comment: "This email is appropriate for Memorial Day as we honor those who have paid the price for the freedom we enjoy.." It was posted, and elicitednthe usual divergence of comments. Dwight Peterson said "Beautiful! Thanks, Mike". An opposite view came from John Heelan in the UK: Kere is a quote from the letter: "We had seen an increase in both security and "winning the hearts and minds" through the diligent and compassionate work of our Marines and Sailors, Humbly, Giles Kyser, LtCol USMC, "Warlord Six"." John comments: "Somehow that does not ring true, given the eye-witness reports of the action between US military and their opponents in Falluja in remarkably difficult fighting terrain. Regrettably, the letter sounds like yet another pre-election psy-ops ploy aimed at Middle America. This comment in no way diminishes my respect for the bravery of the Marine Corps doing a difficult job. It is sad that they are being let down by their political masters. [A Google search suggests that before his current assignment, Lt. Col. Kyser was one of the main players in Special Ops. Section of Marine HQ in the Pentagon and has been regularly in the news.] RH: What does 'being let down by their political masters' mean? Whatever one's opinion of the war, this is unfair. I admit that the words "Humbly" and "Warlord Six" struck an odd note.

Adriana Pena writes: "While my admiration for Lt. Col Kyser and the men and women in uniform doing a difficult job is great, I cannot agree with the optimistic assessment of the situation in Fallujah. According to President Bush, we were going to kill or capture the ringleaders and disband the militias. The latest agreement was that the ringleaders were neither killed nor captured, and the militias were not disbanded, but that they conducted an orderly retreat to allow the US troops entry...Somehow the Irak policy is sounding suspiciously like "We declare victory and leave."

John Heelan writes: "Ronald will confirm that on reflection that I thought I was being a little unfair and had sent him another note seeking to withdraw the original before it was published. Unfortunately I was too late.

The additional research that made me change my mind was a recent posting from a Marine that said, among other things;" I went to a school in Al Mahmudiya the other day and helped the Army give the school officials presents and school supplies sent from children in America. They were very surprised and thankful. Iraqis are very polite and accommodating people. However, it is very difficult to tell what they really think. For Arabs, the truth is usually in their eyes. I feel much more prepared this time around for dealing with the people after the battery of cultural classes I’ve sat through recently."

It read like a genuine letter, not a well-honed piece of propaganda, which some of the other "home letters" indicate. In particular, I was struck by the phrase "However, it is very difficult to tell what they really think. For Arabs, the truth is usually in their eyes."- it is not what a spin doctor would write. I am also impressed by the "battery of cultural classes". [I agree with Ronald that the "Warlord" tag is unfortunate as it does not give an appropriate feeling that the military are supporting democratic aims. Neither can I imagine a Marine consciously being "humble". :-))]


Ronald Hilton -