Friday, February 9, 2007

Fallujah Day 1: Generals and more generals

Camp Fallujah, Iraq with Bravo Company 2/136 - Camp Fallujah is the headquarters of Multinational Force West, and the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) responsible for Anbar province. Most Army forces in Anbar report to the Marines, and Bravo Company is no exception.

Today marked the official "transition of authority" from the Marine Corps 1 MEF to 2 MEF. At the top of the chain of command that meant that Major General Zilmer was replaced by Major General Gaskin. This change also meant transitions for most subordinate Marine Corps units. This means that the Marine group Bravo Company reports to is now headed by a new colonel, and a new sergeant major.

This also means that a group of Marines that arrived in Fallujah after Bravo Company arrived, is going home before Bravo Company. As you can probably imagine this is a bit of a sore spot with some Bravo soldiers.

As is common with military events like this there was a major ceremony to celebrate this transition, held in the base chapel. Ooriginally built in the Sadam era, the chapel was originally designed as a large auditorium.

The ceremony brought dozens of Army and Marine Corps generals and sergeants major from all over Iraq to Fallujah. There were enough generals in the audience that some of the one star generals were sitting in the third row of seats. There were also quite a few civilian VIP's in the audience, including the US ambassador to Iraq and the Iraqi governor of Anbar province, as well as the most senior sheik in Anbar province.

Most of Bravo Company has been out in the field since before we landed her last night, and so we didn't have much else to do this morning, and so we went to cover the transition ceremony. The ceremony itself was very predictable, if you've ever been to a military change of command, but afterwards I was able to participate in two in-depth interviews with the outgoing Major General Zilmer, and the most influential sheik in the province.

Most of the questions were asked by Tom Bowman from NPR, and a reporter from the Associated Press, but I managed to ask a couple of questions too, and shot the only video of both interviews. Very in depth stuff, with some decent potential for national news interest, in my opinion.

I was also able to ask General Zilmer the outgoing commander if he would be willing to make an on camera comment about the Minnesota National Guard's contributions to his command, and he had some VERY complimentary things to say. I'm sure you'll see that clip on KSTP in the next week.

Later in the day there was a separate transition of authority ceremony for the Marine Corps Group that Bravo Company reports to directly, and the outgoing Colonel Bristol gave a very stirring and colorful talk to the troops, which included glowing compliments for Bravo Company. You'll be seeing these on TV also I'm sure.

Meanwhile the majority of Bravo Company was out in the field hunting terrorists, and missed all the ceremonies and the glowing compliments from their outgoing chain of command. That probably has a lot do with why they deserved the compliments.

The Bravo company mortar section, which is permanently emplaced here on Camp Fallujah fired multiple HE (high explosive) fire missions through the day in support of the Bravo troops in the field. And the Marine Corps 155mm howitzer battery also ran a fire mission in support late in the afternoon.

As I was finishing typing this, CPT Rankin, and LTC Parks, the battalion commander just walked in. It is 10:15 pm here, and they are just getting in from well over 24 hours on a mission. The short situation report was no Bravo casualties, and lots of IED's and small arms fire. CPT Rankin is going to give me a full briefing on the mission in the morning, and I'll hopefully have time to post it later in the day. LTC Parks is staying across the hall from me tonight, and I'm going to interview him tomorrow also.


Anonymous said...

Karen Francis(ghost editor for Lappegaard....) Some typos in your article, the one that HURTS and will cause some real angst here, is mortal when you mean mortar. This is going to hit some of the family members pretty hard. sorry to be persnickety, but then I get paid for that in real life.

Otherwise a good piece, and thanks for the heads up on the COC ceremonies. Sounds like enough brass to sink a battle ship. Ego's checked at the door?? HA!

Karen Francis

wood said...

Hi, my nephew is in fallujah, if you run into Sgt Anderson let me know how he is. Tell him he is supported by all our prayers every day.I am uncle Tim. I know it is just another day in Iraq, and I can'twait till there is no more days in Iraq. God Speed, HUaa11111... Love You Man.Yoiu Hoim

Day by Day, by Chris Muir (updated daily)

Chris Muir is the cartoonist that I met in Kuwait. He spent two weeks in Iraq at the same time I was there in February 2007, and so thought it would relevant to showcase his work on my site. Here is a link to Chris' humorous travelogue of this Iraq trip: