It's been far too long since I last wrote here. Between the internet service, which is spotty at best, and a rough mission schedule this week, I just haven't had much time. Ah, well... enough excuses.
I had the opportunity this week to be a part of several good things. It all began almost a month ago. A local sheik came to the Army unit in charge of the sector he lived in, announced his desire to fight the insurgents, and asked for help in doing so. He was received with some healthy skepticism- many people in this part of the world will say whatever they think you want to hear in order to profit from you. To demonstrate his commitment, he organized his militia and began to attempt to quell some of the violence in the sector. Within days, indirect fire attacks against US bases from his area dropped to nearly zero over the next three weeks, from a former rate of multiple attacks per day. IED attacks and other insurgent activity was also down. By all appearances, this sheik was a legitimately good guy, stepping forward and doing his best to bring peace to Ramadi. Those appearances were confirmed three days ago when the local insurgents mounted an all out campaign to kill or humiliate the sheik, his family, and as many of his fighters as they could find.
The sheik got the help he had asked for before he began his pro-government activities. Coalition operations are still ongoing, so I'll leave it to the news to reveal the details (if they deign to do so). Suffice it to say that we grabbed some very bad men, found some bombs and some arms caches, and generally repaid the favor he did us. The military has failed both allies of chance and longstanding friends in conflicts past. This time, I was proud to see we did the right thing.
The second good thing that I got to be a part of this week involved one of those bombs I mentioned. While clearing a route that we expected to be heavily used by coalition vehicles later in the night, we found a possible buried IED. It took quite some time to unearth it, but in the end we pulled from the hole our largest single IED to date. Once again, I won't go into specifics because of operational concerns, but I will say that this one was big enough to make some family's holiday season very, very bad. All of us know for a fact that we saved multiple lives with our work that night, and that's the best reward we can have in this job.