A friend of mine is currently deployed in Ramadi, Iraq with 6th Marines. This is his second one-year tour with the regiment, with one "dwell time" year sandwiched in the middle. Just prior to his first one-year tour with the regiment, he did a seventh-month stint as an embedded advisor in an Iraqi Army unit in Ramadi (prior to the tribal awakening). In other words, this guy will have spent more than twice as much time from 2006-09 in Iraq than he will have spent in the U.S.
As I receive updates that start to answer the burning question of "What's really going on over there?" I will post them here. Of course, there isn't any one answer to that question -- no big picture, just lots and lots of little ones that would change greatly based on who you talked to, and where they were.
One thing to mention before you jump in -- Al Fajr is Arabic for "The Dawn" and it refers to the combat operations that took place in Fallujah in November 2004.
Kinetic activity in Al Anbar has slowed down quiet a bit from even the end of 2007. The biggest threat to us right now are bored Marines that are getting creatively stupid. The Marines coming in that thought we were going right back into Al Fajr are disappointed they missed out on the 'fun,' and the guys coming back for their 3rd or 4th are looking forward to hitting the gym or just earning that combat pay.
The elections are big news, and despite the Obamafest all over the cable news, it seems like the Iraqis don't really care about it. The Iraqis have their own election to worry about, and they are looking forward to getting on with their lives. There is a spirited debate regarding the candidates. Despite being a very young and inexperienced democracy, the Iraqis seem to be embracing the ideals whole heartedly. The old maxim was that in Iraq, politics = violence, but you don't see a lot of that these days. There are more campaign posters on the walls than bullet holes, and those bullet holes are being patched as well. Surprisingly, there has been little defacing of political posters despite the strong opinions about some of the candidates, even Aifan's posters.
I like the campaign posters around here. They look better than the ones we see stateside because they are simplistic, and sometimes fit right into our preconceived notions. Take for example, the poster for Aifan Sadun Aifan. Aifan was one of our first and best allies in the Falluljah region. He tries to live up to his image as a warrior by going everywhere wearing his kneepads and combat boots, even when he's wearing a suit. On his campaign poster, I swear I saw him wearing ESS ballistic eyewear, and a better pair than what I was issued. It was only a picture from the chest up, but I'm sure he had his kneepads and combat boots on at that time. Did I mention he has better hair than John Edwards? Greased back like the cool kids at school, not layered and feathered like a televangelists'.
I must sign off for now. I still have a few things to review before my shift ends, and I'm enjoying the election commentary.
Captain Scott Wise