...our current success is a result of nearly 5 years of counter-insurgency operations. A general officer recently summed it up perfectly last week as we toured the industrial area of Hit, an area that just a few short months ago was abandoned and now is by all accounts flourishing and improving everyday, by stating, "Every step we took, every footprint we left over the past four years have allowed us to get to this point today." It was not chance or luck. The Sheiks and tribal leaders didn't just wake up one day and decide to join the CF and risk their lives to fight against AQI and the insurgents...we had to earn their trust, prove to them that our objectives were genuine and noble, and we had to fight the enemy with everything we had to show our determination.
So what is it that I think about? I think about the emails and letters that I wrote to my adopted soldiers and marines. I think about the times I struggled with what to say, especially in late 2006 when one of my soldiers was beyond frustrated with the apparent futility of his efforts. The frustration was aggravated but increasingly frequent changes of duty. No consistency in his day to day activities and no apparent progress being made. It saddens me just a little that he returned home in early 2007, before he had a chance to see the fruits of his labor, the impact of his persistent presence for over a year. While things weren't going well and progress seemed ellusive, his steps in the sand and his truck's tracks down the road were part of what got Iraq to where it is today. As his frustrations were peaking, Bill Roggio was posting about the Anbar Salvation Council and the Anbar Awakening (The Anbar Tribes vs. al Qaeda, Continued, November 2006) and solid glimmers of hope. I continued to write letters and emails, offering encouragement, gratitude, and cookies, and prayers.
A year on... Well! My soldiers and marines (yes, they're "mine" forever) and all the others who have done one or many tours in the desert have helped give the Iraqis a chance. A chance that the Iraqis seem to be embracing.
I hope that my soldiers and marines (and all the rest!) who've done duty in Iraq can see that from wherever they are today.