Bless the Beasts and Children
Where did they go?
On 29 June, American and Iraqi soldiers were again fighting side-by-side as soldiers from Charley Company 1-12 CAV, led by Captain Clayton Combs, and Iraqi soldiers from the 5th IA, closed in on a village on the outskirts of Baqubah. The village had the apparent misfortune of being located near a main road—about 3.5 miles from FOB Warhorse—that al Qaeda liked to bomb. Al Qaeda had taken over the village. As Iraqi and American soldiers moved in, they came under light contact; but the bombs planted in the roads, and maybe in the houses, were the real threat.
The firefight progressed. American missiles were fired. The enemy might have been trying to bait Iraqi and American soldiers into ambush, but it did not work. The village was riddled with bombs, some of them large enough to destroy a tank. One by one, experts destroyed the bombs, leaving small and large craters in the unpaved roads.
The village was abandoned. All the people were gone. But where?
As often happens in Iraq, the first time I meet American combat soldiers, we are going off to do something serious. Although the soldiers usually do not know me, they are courteous and professional, and always watching out for me. And so it was with LT Baxter, who was commanding the M-1 tank that I’d be riding along in, and who made sure I didn’t break my neck getting into the tank. I nearly pulled him off the tank while climbing aboard.
Captain Clayton Combs has been fighting hard in Diyala for about ten months, much of it side-by-side with Iraqi soldiers from the 5th Division. Each time I’ve come into contact with the 5th, they seem far better than most. American officers and sergeants who work with the 5th have good things to report about them, saying that although the 5th still has far to go, and cannot sustain itself logistically, it can fight.
Captain Combs said this particular Iraqi unit, the 3-25, has never run away from combat, and never refused to close on the enemy. Combs said, “I’ve fought with 3-25 for 10 months in Diyala and they have always come when I am in trouble. They always go on patrols when I ask. They never back down.”
I asked Captain Combs to repeat what he said, making sure he knew I was planning to quote him directly. A veteran like Combs would be unlikely to append his name to such words if he weren’t dead serious. Captain Combs repeated his words and stuck by them. He then demonstrated that faith when we took off deeper into the danger zone with nine soldiers from 5th IA: just Captain Combs, Iraqi soldiers and me. As we passed through the village, Captain Combs pointed out the nice houses, saying the people had been simple farmers with comfortable homes and lives.
Until al Qaeda came.
Read it all. He deserves to be read.