"Wild, Wild West"
(c) Roger Leo
A convoy travels from al-Asad to Haditha Dam through desert in Anbar Province.
ANBAR (MAY 2006) – A visit in May to Iraq’s Anbar Province, to the area assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine Division – “America’s Battalion” – found very different conditions than encountered on trips to Baghdad in September of 2004 and February of 2005.
Conditions also were very different from those found on a visit to 3-3 Marines in Afghanistan a year ago.
Anbar Province, called “the wild, wild west” by the U.S. commander on the ground there, is enormous, remote, dangerous and seemingly ignored to a degree by the Iraqi government in Baghdad.
Daily foot and motor patrols take Marines of Kilo Co., 3-3, out of their firm base – a fortified compound in the middle of Haqliniyah – into city streets and surrounding villages.
Each foray brings danger of attack, most dangerously from roadside bombs which so far have accounted for all but two of 3-3 Marines 12 deaths since arriving in Iraq in February.
Pitched battles always end in favor of American troops, but they are few and far between in most parts of Anbar, where the remotely detonated bombs are a daily occurrence, and take a toll on men and morale.
One facet of this war is the repeated deployment of the same troops, sometimes to Iraq, sometimes between Iraq and Afghanistan, with some time in the United States between deployments to train and refit.
Many of the Marines now in “the Triad” – an area of Iraq along the Euphrates River northwest of Baghdad – with 3-3 also were in Afghanistan last year. They were deployed there for seven months, returned to their base in Hawaii in June 2005, then deployed to Iraq in February.