RAMADI, Iraq -- "We're here to win." That's how a U.S. Marine corporal put it when I asked him what he was doing in Iraq. He spoke looking squarely into our TV camera -- a more intimidating experience for him than the RPG fire he had just faced on the streets of this beleaguered city. When I pressed this 20-year-old from the heartland of America to tell me what "winning" meant to him, he was straightforward: "That's when these people don't need me to guard this street so their kids can go to school -- when they can do it themselves."
The young corporal and I were standing outside a small elementary school in this shattered city, the capital of the largest province in Iraq. Al Qaeda terrorists had told local authorities -- on pain of death -- not to allow this female academic institution to un-shutter its doors. Apparently, little girls learning math and science pose a significant threat to radical Islamic jihadists.
Defiant parents appealed to the newly reconstituted Iraqi police for protection from the terrorists, and the police turned to Lt. Col. Bill Jurney, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. The little school is in his "A/O" (area of operations) in downtown Ramadi -- a city of more than 400,000.
Jurney told the police that if they would man a new security sub-station in the same block as the school, his Marines would "back-stop" the cops. Despite murderous threats from Al Qaeda thugs, the police agreed. Aided by U.S. Navy Seabees, soldiers of the "Ready First" Combat Brigade of the 1st Armored Division and the Marines of 1/6, a police sub-station was constructed, literally overnight, in an abandoned building.
When the terror cell that had ruled this neighborhood for months attacked the new Iraqi police post, their battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jabbar Inad al Namrawee, led an all-Iraqi QRF (quick reaction force) into the battle. In the ensuing gunfight, Jabbar was shot through the calf by an AK-47-wielding terrorist. By the time the battle was done, more than a dozen terrorists were dead and the police, who call themselves "The sons of al Anbar," earned new respect from Ramadi's war-weary civilians.
Now, little more than a week after the fight, Jabbar is back at work, with fresh scars on his leg. His policemen patrol this neighborhood's streets, the little school has re-opened and Jurney's Marines are providing pencils, notebooks and backpacks to the children, as well as kerosene to heat their classrooms.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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