Brayin Candy

A Marine's Tale

My next door neighbor Marine Corps hero Corporal Justin told the most amazing story about the turning point of the war in Iraq. He was stationed in the middle of the transformation from a shooting war to a war to win the hearts and minds of the people. Thanks to some miraculous events they succeeded while everyone including themselves thought they would fail.

Justin volunteered for the Corps out of HS as an 18 yr old to fight for his Country as an Eagle Scout he wanted to become a Marine. He wanted to fight and kill and break things like any good Marine to help win the war. He got lucky since his first deployment was going to the heart of the battle against Al Queda into Riadi. Riadi was owned and controlled by AQ and was on the western end of the war which was the wild, wild west Achmed style, as his platoon was going right into the belly of the beast.

When they arrived as the first wave of the Surge they were told they were going to attempt a new type of fighting called COIN which was Counter Insurgency tactics. What this meant is they were going to try to make the area more livable for the locals and use them as an ally to fight the terrorists. They all said this was BS for the Marines to do rebuilding when that was an Army function. They were trained to fight and kill not to nursemaid a bunch of local Iraqis. These Marines were going over there to "get some" and this was just the opposite. COIN and the hopelessness of the situation brought their morale to an all time low.

They walked through their orders and grumbled about doing such garbage rather than going and killing the enemy and spreading some lead. Meanwhile one of the key components of COIN was to find the main Sheik of Iraq.

This is a closed society as the unofficial leadership is secret as well as the different cultures makes finding information more complex. Amazingly it happened.

Justin was assigned as the security patrol for his head Commander which allowed him firsthand knowledge of all that happened in the area. He met such people as Katie Curic, Colin Powell and Eye Condi Rice among others.

One day shortly before he arrived an Iraqi walked in and told them he was the head Sheik of the region. He had been hiding for 4 years, living in fear of what would happen if he cooperated with the Americans. His breaking point was when AQ killed his son and cut off his head, then killed his grandson and disemboweled him dumping them on his front yard. He came to the Marines and said he didn’t care anymore what they did to him and just wanted the killing to end; he was tired of hiding in fear. He wanted parents to have kids living normal lives and not putting on suicide belts to kill people. He had enough of the oppression of the terrorists.

The Sheik met daily with the Commander, Justin was always there and a right hand man. He was a Sunni in a Shiite area yet was the head of all the people. He explained to them how the different cultures worked and how to work with both of them without offending either. He explained their cultures and differences to help understand what the people needed and how to respect them. He was mostly tired of the war and didn’t want any more bloodshed, especially on his people. He loved the Marines and Justin and his troop were his sons he would feed and treat like his family. It was a mutual respect since they needed each other and he was confident the Marines wouldn’t abandon him to the wolves.

He also was the go between for the rebuilding of the city. Tribal leaders would come to him and tell him what their neighborhoods needed to make the area work and he would tell the Marines. They may need a generator or sewer pipes and the Marines would get them by hook or by crook and the people slowly began to trust them. The people in the neighborhoods then began to give them information on the terrorists.

To an Iraqi, they can spot a Syrian or Jordanian just by talking or looking at them like we might spot a Mexican. They started telling the Iraqi Police or Iraqi Military or even the Marines and then they could be picked up for questioning. Soon the town was beginning to function and the AQ were getting pushed out into the desert as the violence began to drop. This caught the eye of Petreus and quickly Washington. The Sheik decided he wanted to talk to President Bush even though he was warned it would be his death warrant.

Due to a wedding he moved his meeting up with President Bush a couple weeks and met with him explaining his plan to really make COIN work throughout the Country. He assured Bush he could make the Sheiks work together and end the terrorism ravishing his Homeland. While they were talking Condi Rice and Colin Powell were given a tour by Justin’s platoon, touring the markets and city of Riadi showing the progress they were making. They explained with hard work this could be repeated throughout Iraq.

President Bush was impressed and they agreed to go forward with the Sheik’s idea. The Sheik returned home a couple days later was at the wedding when a woman with a suicide bomb got past his bodyguards and detonated it, killing herself and the Sheik. The news traveled quickly through the city and the Marines had no idea what this meant. President Bush called from Baghdad asking the Commander what this meant and what was going to happen. The Commander told "The Boss" he had no earthly idea, his men were gearing up expecting the worst. The Sheik had told them before he expected to become a Martyr and when he did he would go to Allah, but so would the terrorists; and it will be taken care of there. The Marines were crushed such a great man who loved them very much and they loved too had been killed. This was not only a death to a family member but the death of their infant COIN.

Amazingly, nothing happened that day and the leaders of Riadi invited the Marines to walk in the funeral procession. This is unheard of honor having a non-Muslim let alone Americans walk in such a religious event. The Marines didn’t know if AQ would use this as an attack yet they wore no body armor or helmets and only carried pistols on their hips. They felt if they were going to die they would die with their friend since they were essentially helpless. The entire city except for 100 IM who was securing it were at the funeral for this brave man. Nothing happened other than weeping and sorrow for this martyr.

The death of this great man had a major affect on Justin and the Marines. No longer was COIN a BS operation, they were going to make this work or die trying. They were now resolved to bring peace to Riadi and make this Sheiks death a legacy for all to see. They felt one of them had been killed and they were not going to let his death succeed in the death of his vision for Iraq.

What followed was absolutely miraculous; the people went on a vengeance against AQ. They came out of their houses and turned in anyone who had the slightest to do with terrorism. The IP and IM would shoot on the street anyone identified as AQ. Often AQ would wear colorful clothing showing they were AQ which was no longer tolerated. The Marines would see them talking to someone from another Country and turn down another block as they heard the shot ring out and pick up the body later. Fathers and Mothers were turning in their sons and cousins if they were with AQ to be taken off and put in prison or worse. They were pointing out where the weapons were and where the EIDs were hidden. Within a couple months all of AQ was basically rooted out of the city. Killing the Sheik had just the opposite effect of what they expected it to have. The martyring of the Sheik infuriated all of Iraq to eliminate AQ.

Rather than terrifying the people they all decided just like the Sheik they were tired of hiding. They realized terrorists only have their power if you allow them to have power. The people found their power was provided by hiding in the shadows and when the people all stood up and raised their torches to expose those shadows AQ’s power disappeared. All of the sudden with the help of the Marines and IM the terrorists became the hunted and now they were afraid of the consequences. Acts of terror only solidified the people and began to have the opposite effect of controlling them by fear and intimidation. The people and the armies became the ultimate weapon against AQ and the people were winning.

It has taken a long time and a lot of 20 hour days by our Marines and the Iraqis to turn Riadi into a relatively safe city. Riadi became a city where the kids returned into their streets to run and play soccer again. The schools have been opened including 2 girls’ schools have never been open before. By the time Justin left for home he and his buddies were able to patrol the streets with no body armor or helmets and were greeted as heroes by the kids and locals in the community. They had a very good relationship with the Iraqi Police and Military turning most of the actual military work over to them as the Marines trained and oversaw.

Riadi was the turning point of the war and all of the Generals over there will say it. The death of the Sheik was what lost the war for AQ and the other terrorist groups. The systems Justin’s platoon established have been written into numerous military books and have been repeated throughout Iraq. This model has been repeated throughout Iraq with the help of the tribal sheiks to blend our military with their tribes. This has become the blueprint of how to make Counter Insurgency work. Because of one man a fire is burning across Iraq lighting the Darkness raging against the oppressors as Lady Liberty raises her torch proudly. Despots cower at the thought of men like the Sheik throwing off his shackles of fear to feel the cool breath of Freedom.

Pray for America and Our Troops