restricted access Here We Stand, in Baquba
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Historically Speaking · September/October 2004 HEREWE STAND, IN BAQUBA Joseph Morrison Skelly On the morning ofSaturday, September25th , I arrived in Baquba, myfinal destinationin ayear-long deployment to Iraqwith the United States ArmyReserve. The city fies forty miles northeast ofBaghdad , in Diyala province, on the eastern edge of the Sunni Triangle. Its population of 280,000 is a mixture of Sunnis, Shiites, and even some Kurds who have drifted down from the northern part ofthe province. Ithas been a volatile place attimes over the past six months, the scene ofmajor battles in April andJune. These flare-ups were sparked by a small, disgrunded minority—an angryassortment of ex-Baathists, Al Qaeda operatives, foreign agents, and some local opportunists who cast their lot with the insurgency. This motley crew made a fatal mistake. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division ("The Big Red One" ofSicily, Normandy , and the Bulge), quickly put down both uprisings. Known as the "Dukes of Diyala," the 3rd BCT controls the city and its hinterlands, and has made great progress in stabilizing the province since its arrival in February of2004. In fact, beneath the radar screen ofcable news networks and twenty-four hour news cycles, normal life has returned to manyparts ofBaquba. The vastmajorityofits people are decent, hardworkingcitizens who are glad to have the Americans here, ecstatic to be rid of Saddam Hussein, and eager to turn their country around. Many are supporting the reconstruction efforts of the United States and its Coalition partners. Some do so publicly , others privately. Several personal conversations over the pastweeks have unequivocally confirmed these sentiments. So, too, have the actions ofnumerous men, women, and children that I have witnessed firsthand. That said, the insurgents, as reported in the press, sometimes target Iraqis who workwith the Coalition. These Iraqis remain undaunted. Their courage is inspiring. Yet the full telling oftheir tale may have to await the final defeat of the insurgency. Perhaps historians will one day reveal the complete truth. My duty station in Baquba is at a location called the CMOC, the Civil-Military Operations Center. It is a joint headquarters. The Army personnel at this center work closelywith the local and provincial governments , the State Department, and some NGOs, under the command of the Army leadership at brigade and division levels. Army officers and enlisted troops, working closelywith Iraqi experts and administrators, tackle a variety ofprojects, all geared towards stabilizing the province. These missions include restoring public works, upgrading the transportation system, streamlining the energy distribution network, reconnecting communications links, improving public education facilities, and enhancing civil-military relations. These essential activities constitute an integral part offull spectrum warfare on the 21st-century battlefield. In the coming months, my duties will focus on higher education (including the reconstruction of one of the local universities, which was damaged in the June uprising when insurgents commandeered a nearby stadium), government relations, and other projects that may arise. The CMOC is a compound of several buildings situated on approximatelyone city block. It has a high-visibility presence in the city. It is accessible. These features are necessary to attract locals and to build trust in the community. They also mean that the installation is sometimes a target ofthe insurgents. Occasional mortar rounds, echoes ofimprovised explosive devices, and sporadic AK-47 fire punctuate the days and nights. Indeed, the CMOC was attacked in early October, when three Russian-made rockets slammed into the neighborhood, with two near misses and one direct hit on the compound. There were no American casualties, but several innocent Iraqi civilians were injured, which was ofno concern to the guerillas, ofcourse. The next three nights the CMOC and the nearby offices of the Iraqi National Guard and Iraqi police were mortared, without any reported damage. On the night of October 12 insurgents fired several RPGs at the seat of the provincial government several blocks away, known locallyas the Blue Dome. These attempts atmtimidation failed. TheAmerican troops stationed at the CMOC remained rock solid throughoutthis brieftest, passingitwith flying colors. They are determined to hold this ground. Down the street, the Blue Dome opened for business as usual on the morning of October 13. In a nutshell, this city is...


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