Update from Iraq
Friends, while we are safe at home, doing our daily business, fretting about the increasing cost of gasoline, are bombarded with incessant media trash e.g. Anna Nicole Smith, and even the $400 haircuts of a Presidential candidate....there are Americans doing their best to preserve whatever life we are trying to live, because they believe our freedom, with all its trivialities, is worth risking their lives. I am suggesting we should be getting down on our knees regularly to thank God America STILL produces such guardians of the flame of freedom.
/s/ LeRoy Collins////////////////////////
Subject: Fw: [U] Update from Iraq
Another update from a friend in Iraq, LtCol Beau Higgins USMC, Commanding Officer of the 1st Recon Battalion. (He was the MEU Intel Officer on one of my deployments.) I have received writings from him over the years and he consistently maintains perspective and impartiality. I am grateful for these connections to the field to balance Fox News or CNN or wherever else we gather our information, and also to glaringly remind me that while we live these lives we do and no matter what we think of the war, there are so many good people in Iraq right now who have chosen their service, who live day after day in a way those of us who have not been there cannot even start to comprehend...LT
From: "Higgins LtCol Beau (GCE RCT6 1ST RECON BN CO)"
Sent: May 9, 2007 12:35 AM
Subject: [U] Update from Iraq
Greetings once again from Camp Fallujah and I hope this e-mail finds you well and having successfully celebrated another Cinco de Mayo. The festivities here in Iraq left a lot to be desired as what is cinco de mayo without Coronas and sombreros, but they did put on a nice meal at the chow hall.
Since my last e-mail the Marines of my Battalion have been extremely busy working on a wide variety of operations trying to maintain and enhance the security situation here in Iraq. It is hazardous and difficult work, but my Marines always meet and exceed my expectations and they truly are a national treasure.
In the big picture I continue to get good reports on the situation out West and in the town of Ramadi which is the provincial capitol for Al Anbar province. The hope is that the improvements will continue to move West as more and more Iraqi's buy into the future. I tell my Marines all the time that during our time here we cannot expect to win the war. Our job is to move the ball 5 yards down the field and the field may be more than 100 yards long. It is important to understand that the good news stories that are coming out of Al Anbar province today are not the result of 6 months of work, but instead the progress is based on the efforts that began 4 years ago. Everyone (the Marines included) has made mistakes in Iraq, but the critical element to our recent success is that we have learned from our mistakes and adapted our approach and we are now seeing the fruits of our labor in many cases. To look at this success as something that has occurred because of 6 months of work would be like opening a book half way through and reading it from that point. This has been and will continue to be living and breathing process but I am convinced that we are making progress after several years of trial and error. I am attaching below a quote from the Iraqi Foreign minister that I thought summed things up very well.
"We remain determined in spite of our losses. Spectacular attacks may dominate foreign headlines, but they cannot change the reality that Iraq has made steady political, economic and social progress over the past four years. We continue to strengthen our nascent democratic institutions, pursue national reconciliation and expand Iraqi security forces. The Baghdad security plan was conceived to give us breathing space to expedite political and economic development by "securing and holding" neighborhoods across the capital. There is no quick fix, but there have been real results: Winning public confidence has led to a spike in intelligence, a disruption of terrorist networks and the capture of key leaders, as well as the discovery of weapons caches. In Anbar province, Sunni sheikhs and insurgents have turned against al-Qaeda and to the side of Iraqi security forces. This would have been unthinkable even six months ago."
When we first began Operation Iraqi freedom back in 2003 one of the biggest challenges we faced was trying to get the Iraqis to believe in the future. Life in Iraq for many under Saddam Hussein was a day to day existence and most people did not have a long term view of life. For years now we have tried to create an environment that allows the Iraqis to believe in and be part of the future. They as well as we know that we won't be here forever, and it is critical that we set the Iraqis up for success before we depart. I have heard many people say that we can't do this for them and that we need to put an Iraqi face on everything we do. An Iraqi face is part of the solution but the real way forward is to put an Iraqi back behind everything so they are pushing this process forward. Are we there yet, certainly not, but the situation is undoubtedly improving at least in my limited view of Iraq.
Sadly this progress also comes with a price. On 29 April I had one of my Marines killed in the town of Fallujah. Lt Travis Manion was a Naval Academy graduate on his second tour here in Iraq. He was an incredible man and Marine and we will all miss him dearly. That is by far the hardest part of this profession. I will add that when I spoke to his Father he re-iterated how proud he was of Travis and of his service to the country. As Marines we all join up knowing that the possibility exists that we may lose our lives for our country, although never really believing it will happen to us. We certainly do not join this profession for the money or the glory. I think instead we join the Marine Corps and stay in the Corps because of the people. Travis is one of those people that represent all that is good in our Corps and I ask you all to keep Travis Manion and his family in your prayers. Semper Fidelis, Beau
LtCol Beau Higgins
Commanding Officer, 1st Recon Bn
/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr.