It seems like the war in Iraq has been somewhat of a generally muddled mess since the thunder runs of early 2003. It appears that that might be changing in one of the most difficult areas of the country--Ramadi in the Anbar province.
When I was in Ramadi, Iraq, it seemed like there was little rhyme or reason to the way we conducted operations. Patrols would go out and patrols would return to the operating base. Observation posts were always manned, but for the most part they were just observation posts--there was very little positive contact with the people. On a higher level there seemed to be progress; battalion and brigade commanders met with sheikhs and mayors and planned for the phased withdrawal of coalition forces.
But the results never seemed permanent.
In Ramadi today there is a different feeling. Coalition troops, including Iraqi military forces, as well as Iraqi police are beginning to see the fruits of labors that have a rhyme and a reason.
"When they told me I have to go to Ramadi, I told myself 'this is not good,' but now I believe it is better here than in Baghdad," said Alaa Mohammed, one of the Iraqi soldiers.
"The battalion is moving east, where the danger comes from. Building observation posts deny freedom of movement for the enemy," said Captain Kyle Sloan, Alpha company commander.
As a result, people within the ever-expanding safe zone are beginning to be able to live lives of increasing normalcy. Iraqi police are now able to operate with a modicum of order and independence. According to proven counter-insurgency tactics, American soldiers are developing relationships of trust with not only Iraqi military and public safety officials, but also with many other Iraqis.
To one side of the post, a school has reopened, and Marines say that more people are daring to venture out into the streets and that their attitude towards the Americans has changed for the better.
"Every squad has a favourite family. When on patrol, they are making a point of going to the house, see if they need anything, give stuff to the kids," said Corporal Joshua Barrett.
Excellent. That is what Serving Iraq is all about.