Saturday, December 1, 2007

Words from the CSM ...

Dateline: November 30, 2007

FOB Blue Diamond, al Anbar Province

By Command Sergeant Major Larry Johnson

Good wishes friends and family, it has been a moment or two since my last reflection from the Land of Oz. Incidentally, we here refer to where you live or anywhere remotely like it as Disneyland.

The troop surge is succeeding and the kinetic operational activity is taking an extreme toll on al-Qaeda (AQI) and on the Jaysh al Mahid Army (JAM). On a better note, to date this month there have been 27 US combat deaths in Iraq; I believe last month there were 39. This is the six consecutive month this year in which a decline in combat deaths has been posted since a high mark of 120 in May. Of the 27 KIA this month, 24 were a result of IEDs and 3 were inflicted by small arms fire. The decline in US and Coalition Forces losses gives rise to cause the stress level for everyone to roll back a notch or two, but events still remain perilous here in the most violent providence in Iraq. There are still many affairs hereabouts to be anxious about. The good news is that the weather for now is no longer one of the reasons for concern.

For now, our biggest apprehension is whether or not our legislative leaders will ensure our troops have the resources to continue to safely do their jobs and complete the mission. For whatever reason, one faction of that leadership does not want to acknowledge advancement forward as a consequence of the troop surge on the combat front here in Iraq. Subsequently, the principal action for the nay-sayers to pull off is a cut back to funding and to transform the lives and well being of thousands of US Service Members into a political football. We have enough to fret about day to day without agonizing about whether or not there are enough bullets, fuel, or food to do the job. Whatever happened to the moderates and doing what is best for the country as a whole. Should anyone reading this communication have the inclination to call and or write their personal legislative representative and chat about the matter one way or the other; it would be appreciated by those of us here at the tip of the spear.

On a personal note, I returned to duty about a month ago from a great R&R visit to the states for 21 days. The experience could not have worked out any better; the travel, the weather, and the wonderful time spent with my family and friends was fantastic. I told Terri that I was determined to eat my way through California and I nearly did. I think I gained 3-4 pounds while at home. Regrettably, upon my return all 21 days of predicaments were here waiting for me. You all know the feeling on Monday after you have just returned to work from a three week vacation. I missed a class reunion in October; however I was blessed to receive cards and well wishes from several of my favorite classmates. My special thanks to Joanne and Dennis Seibel, Kay, John, Sharon, and Terry. I will not reveal which year I (we) graduated nor will I admit how long I have been out of school. A good friend of Terri and I named Zan Monroe has a great saying, “show me your five best friends and I’ll show you who you are”. If that is the case, I do not know where that leaves me because I could not possibly limit the number of my best friends to less than 50 and maybe more. He also is responsible for my personal favorite sergeant major saying that goes something like this, “nobody rides me like a rented mule”. Anyone who really knows me will get a big kick and laugh out of that.

In the pressing future the catchphrase around here at the PRT is transition. The composition of the PRT is evolving from a Department of Defense framework to one structured of primarily Department of State and contract personnel. Before long the civilians from DoS will replace the military personnel entirely. In fact Ambassador John Negroponte the Deputy Secretary of State was here at Forward Operating Base Blue Diamond this week paving the way for just such an undertaking. In addition, the II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) our parent unit is transitioning out and being relieved in place by the I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) and a whole new force structure. That transfer of authority in and of itself is a major mission and will be the source many hours of mid-night oil being spent. Finally, we are approaching a substitution to a circumstance in which the Iraqi Army (IA) and the Iraqi Police (IP) will provide the inclusive provincial security and the coalition forces will move into an over watch mission. Needless to say the next 4 months will be very demanding and we will experience many adjustments. Everyone here will be struggling to keep several balls aloft at one period in time.

That is it from Ramadi for now. I will attempt to be a little timelier with my next report. Perhaps I’ll send a holiday message. There is nothing on earth like Christmas week and the New Year celebration in a combat theater. Please reflect on the significance of that reality as you and your family rightfully and freely take pleasure in your Holiday Season together.

God Bless You All.

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