In May I was embedded with a detachment of the 8th Engineer Support Battalion Explosive Ordnance Disposal [EOD] at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, headed by Navy Lt. Cameron Chen, and later wrote about them. In a war in which most U.S. casualties are caused by bombs, no unit is more important – or more hated by the enemy – than EOD. Upon finishing his deployment, Lt. Chen sent out this eloquent letter which (with his permission) I share precisely because it is unlike what you're accustomed to reading in the newspapers.
Dear Family and Friends,
I am sitting on the flight line awaiting a helo [helicopter] to take me away from Fallujah. Our time here in Iraq is quickly coming to an end.
We have had an outstanding deployment. The number of responses we have conducted has been absolutely astounding. As a detachment, we conducted 1,009 EOD response missions. We neutralized 327 actual IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and 3 VBIEDs [vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices], investigated 69 post-blast scenes, cleared 209 UXO [unexploded ordnance] calls and eliminated 146 weapons caches.
Fallujah looks completely different from when we first arrived. The progress in the city has been frustratingly slow but impressive nonetheless. A steady stream of people flow in to re-inhabit its neighborhoods. The new police force is on every street corner.
Every effort is being made to get the Iraqi people able to manage themselves. The Marines are still omnipresent on the streets but you see more and more Iraqi police replacing them. A lot of the trash has been removed, reconstruction is occurring everywhere, and the bustle of people on the streets engaged in commerce is refreshing.
I noticed a gaggle of young girls in uniform blue dresses, pig tails, and white shirts on their way to school. The number of families implies to me that people are fleeing to the security provided by the Iraqis and Marines inside the checkpoints that limit access to the city.
We are still wary of the environment and the surge of incidents correlating with the beginning of Ramadan confirms that the Wild West has yet to be tamed. Detachment 9's [his unit's successor] arrival corresponded with a renewal of activity. They hit the ground running with 30 calls in the first 3 days.
Michael Fumento is a, journalist, and attorney specializing in science and health issues as well as author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology is Changing Our World .
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