Sunday, August 26, 2007

Celebrating w/ the Sheik & another trip to the market

26 August 2007
FOB Blue Diamond
Al Anbar

Dateline-Ramadi Well the last few days have certainly have been interesting to say the least. My travels began Thursday, 23 August 07 with an invitation to have a late dinner with one of the local sheiks. A number of the of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) members were invited by Marine Task Force 3/7 to join one of the local power brokers, Sheik Awath of the Bagode Tribe; a sub-tribe of the larger Alwani Tribe, for dinner. The dinner began around 22:00 and ended somewhere close to 02:00.

The security was quite tight because it would have been great for Al Qaeda Iraq (AQI) to ambush or attack such an event. The Bagode Tribe was one of the first of the Al Anbar Provincial Tribes to join the “Al Anbar Awakening”, a movement of the local tribes in the Ramadi area to join with Coalition Forces to fight AQI. They were involved in some of the most violent and bloody fighting in Ramadi against AQI. COL Salam, known as The Lion of Ramadi, a popular local hero who was killed in the fighting for Ramadi was a member of the Bagode Tribe. He was one of eleven sons and almost all of his brothers are top members of the Iraqi Police (IPs) and very well thought of by American Forces. This was kind of a thank you dinner for all the support and help provided to the Bagode Tribe by Marines and Army Forces. There were lots of speeches and a good deal of interaction between all the players in the political arena.

On Friday, 24 August 07 myself and Mr. Tate, one of my PRT team mates, were picked up at dark up from FOB Blue Diamond by the “Riverines”, USMC assets and we traveled down the Euphrates River in a Zodiac raft to the USMC stronghold at Hurricane Point near the center of Ramadi. It is much safer to travel on the river than on the roads because of the IED danger.

Mr. Tate and I then convoyed by armored vehicle with the Marines to a 23:30 meeting at Joint Security Station (JSS) Sabatash with a local national involved with youth sports in the Sabatash, Jumayah, and Azzizziah neighborhoods of Ramadi. That meeting lasted until 02:00 and we finally got to bed at Hurricane Point around 03:00. We were up again at 06:00 for a convoy back to JSS Sabatash for a foot patrol to the Souk (market) with other members of the PRT. The patrol began around 08:00 and terminated around 12:00.

At around 18:00 we departed again on foot patrol to the farming area along Euphrates River and ended up at a coffee house that we and our Marines had visited previously. To our disappointment it was closed for remodeling, but as nearly always happens here in Iraq the owner heard that we were there and arrived shortly thereafter. He insisted on providing dinner for all of us (my 4th Iraqi meal in 48 hours). For any of you who know me, this is a big joke with my team and Terri, because “if it don’t come from Safeway Johnson don’t eat it”. We had dinner at dusk, outside on the Euphrates River; the Cradle of Civilization without a McDonalds within 5,000 miles, just my luck. Anyway, by the time we made it back to Sabatash and then on to our home base at FOB Blue Diamond it was 23:30.

I was physically spent from the physical difficulty of the patrols, the heat, and from zero nourishment (I am not eating that!!). That sums up my last 48 hours; and oh-by-the-way I will be eating lots of ice cream in the chow hall tonight (Sunday night). Signed: CSM Larry Johnson

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