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02-08-06, 11:10 AM
Laura's Iraq Journal
Laura Ingraham's Web Site ^ | 8 Feb 2006 | Laura Ingraham

Day 3: Feb. 7th, 2006
I started the day with a pre-patrol briefing for an 18-soldier Humvee convoy to a local village near Camp Victory. When we arrived at the village, children swarmed around our vehicles, waving and laughing. The kids were absolutely gorgeous-especially the girls with their big, curious, almond-eyes. I became their instant new American friend when they saw I had my helmet filled with Tootsie Pops. (Big mistake to bring only two bags!)

I then observed CPT Mike Tess and LT Emily Siegert in a meeting with the local mayor about ongoing infrasture projects-a new water tower, secondary school, and sewage pipes. This village doesn't look so hot by our standards-shabby buildings and bad drainage-but it it's very liveable by Iraqi standards. Mayor Abdul Hyder told me that the life now, compared to life three years ago, was "like a dream" for most Iraqis. "Yes, there are problems," he said," but there is also freedom." His gratitude for all that Coalition forces have done for Iraq seemed heartfelt. At the same time, he told the patrol leaders that villagers were sometimes afraid when troops they didn't yet know well entered the village on foot patrol, rather than in vehicles. (This particular unit had recently moved from a very dangerous region in Iraq and were still getting to know the locals.) This sort of one-on-one diplomacy is critical to the long-term success of the mission here.

When we returned, I hit the mess hall with more soldiers from 1-320 FAR, and heard about some of their toughest battles when they were deployed at Camp Taji. The unit lost six brave men in their two months, but in that same time period, also found and destroyed the largest amount of munitions by any artillery unit in Iraq. These kids-and some older than I am-are soft-spoken and humble, yet more deserving of praise and acknowledgment than all the celebrities in Hollywood. I capped off a fantastic day with broadcast in front of a group of rowdy soldiers from as far away as Iskandaria. Many of you had the chance to talk to them directly on air. This has never before been done on national radio. I saw up close that they really appreciate the support and prayers. They believe in what they are doing here-and they know how hard it is better than anyone.

(Special thanks to my new friend MAJ Chris Lambesis, who helped me with this post.)
Day 2: Feb. 6th, 2006
This 24-period began with my hitching a late night Blackhawk ride up to Camp Taji, north of Baghdad. After a few hours sleep in former barracks of the Republican Guard, Laura and her team woke up, hit the mess hall to get a briefing by Col. James Pasquarette, who explained the goals and daily ops of his brigade, complete with a Power Point presentation on of satellite maps, IED reports, and overnight terrorist activity. He reiterated that every American soldier who drives off base does so in an up-armored vehicle. And the concern about body armor, he said, is totally misplaced.

All his men and women have advanced body armor. I met up with the fine men and women of the Army's 4th Div. First Brigade, 7th Squadron, 10th U.S. Cavalry. Led by Squadron Cmder David Thompson, the 7/10 Cav has seen some stiff terrorist resistance, losing one of their officers a few days ago in an IED hit. The terrorist responsible has already been apprehended-he was an IED cell leader.

You wouldn't know it by reading the New York Times, but IED attacks are actually down since December. I headed over to the Iraqi side of the base, where I saw the Iraqi troops being trained, with interpreters on site, of course. The men-about 30 of them-were friendly and seemed dedicated. They also risk their lives just by being part of the new Iraqi security forces-so most didn't want their pictures taken. Their American counterparts seem genuinely fond of these men-and not happy that the whole story is not being told by the "major media." More of the battlefield control is being turned over to the Iraqis later in the spring. "When the Iraqis see one of their own on top of a tank, they seem really proud," said one of the military trainers. "We need that to be the norm, as quickly as possible," commented one of the smart young majors riding with us. After checking out the the 4thID Aviation Brigade's helicopter fleet, chatting with the pilots (all of whom are poised and impressive), and seeing the Air Force's digital weather center, I was driven back to the air field for the Blackhawk flight back to Baghdad.

"Thanks for coming here, Laura," Brigade Cmdr. MacWilley said, as he waved goodbye. "How do we get the rest of the country to see the great work these men and women are doing here?" "You just did," I said. The flight over Baghdad gave us a great view of the invasion damage, and of the platform where the old Saddam statue used to be that we pulled down. The road ahead is hard but rest assured we're getting there.
Day 1: Feb. 5th, 2006
First let me repeat what I already knew--the troops serving over here are a stellar, inspiring group. I have been thoroughly impressed from the moment of our first contact with the 4th Infantry Division personnel who helped faciitate our trip into Iraq. In the middle of the night we were whisked off to an undisclosed location, and a few hours later flown to Baghdad by a great Air Force crew out of Alaska and a trusty old C-130. A number of government contractors were on board, all with the requisite body armor and kevlar helmets. The pilot was kind enough to invite me to sit on the flight deck for the flight, so I had the chance to see Baghdad's early morning sky. His co-pilot, navigator and engineer were funny, smart, and very upbeat about their role in the mission. Everyone here at Camp Victory and Camp Liberty are taking good care of us.

The mess hall experience--two meals already--has been a blast. Of course the security situation here is still terrible. The continuing terrorist threat is obvious by the number of cement barricades and checkpoints, the practical limits on where we can go, and the security sweeps even inside military bases. The asymetrical warfare being waged by the Islamo-fascists continues to be a difficult challenge.

The good news is that training of Iraqi forces continues apace and more of the security operations are being turned over to them every month. I will meet some of these brave men on Monday. I wish every American could see even the small part of the operation here that I've seen so far. They'd be more proud of our military and more grateful to be Americans.