A reader forwards an update from Marine Lt. Col. Phillip Chandler to the families of the Marines serving in his unit, among whom is our reader’s son:
Since my last email update in late July, we have passed the four month mark in our deployment and are fast approaching the five month mark. We have also passed our original 60 day deployment window for operations in Al Anbar Province and are now finishing up our 30-day extension here in AO Anaheim. Your Marines and Sailors continue to amaze everyone that comes in contact with them. Over the last 30 days, the BLT has hosted numerous General Officers to include: the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Conway; the Commanding General, Multinational Corps-Iraq, LtGen Odierno; MARCENT CG, LtGen Mattis, and MNF-W CG, MGen Gaskin and each had one common theme – the unbelievable performance of the Marines and Sailors of BLT 3/1 (LtGen Mattis used the term magnificent no less than a dozen times). Your BLT has denied our enemy sanctuary, interdicted insurgent supply routes and removed accelerants (IEDs, IED making materials and weapons) from the hands of our enemies. These efforts have made an immediate and positive impact on the Al Anbar Province (and the greater Baghdad region). Unfortunately, as a result of their Herculean efforts the Marines and Sailors were rewarded with the 30-day extension to continue the mission. If it were left to the General Officers mentioned above, the BLT would remain in Iraq indefinitely because of the results we are producing. That said, we are scheduled to withdraw from AO Anaheim on schedule next month and there is no talk of another extension, so rest easy.
We are currently integrating the 1st and 3rd Battalions from the 2d Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division into AO Anaheim. They will take over responsibility of our area once we depart next month. They are battle tested Iraqi soldiers who have spent the last two years fighting along side Marines in Fallujah. We are working extremely hard right now to ensure the battlespace is ready for turn over to our Iraqi partners. We want to do everything in our power to ensure they are set up for success. We are currently training, coordinating and conducting combined patrols with these soldiers with the ultimate goal of eventually handing over all operations in AO Anaheim to the 2d Brigade.
This still puts us returning home just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday on or about 19 November. This is great news as we could all use a good home cooked meal and we all know there is no better home cooked meal than the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. Please forgive our manners though as we will likely engulf our food and pass out on the couch (actually what’s new, right).
With that said, I must remind you all that we still have a bit of work ahead of us here and our AO remains extremely dangerous. Our enemy does not have a deployment window and he will continue to seek to do us harm until the last minute of the last day of our time in AO Anaheim. I continually remind our Marines and Sailors that we must maintain an aggressive offensive mindset until the day we depart and we must continue to relentlessly pursue our enemy. Sadly, since my last email, the BLT has lost two additional Marines to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Cpl Sean Stokes and Sgt Jon Bonnell, Jr. paid the ultimate sacrifice to make a difference here in Iraq. As a Marine, it is painful beyond belief to lose a fellow Marine, but we seek solace in knowing that out cause is just and our actions righteous. I continually remind the Marines closest to these fallen warriors (as I personally was to Cpl Stokes) that these are our generation’s heroes. Marine Corps’ history is replete with charismatic leaders and valorous heroes and these Marines now take their place among that honored few. Personally, I no longer need to reflect back to those heroes of past historic battles to find motivation for I am surrounded on a daily basis by my true heroes, your Marines and Sailors. These are not pages in a book, but live history in the making and I am humbled to be a part of it all.
I will close with a passage from General George Washington describing the actions of his men after a near miraculous victory at Trenton during our American Revolution. His words most aptly summarize my feeling towards the Marines and Sailors of BLT 3/1. After the battle, the General remarked, “The officers and the men that were engaged in the enterprise behaved with great firmness, poise, advance, and bravery, and such as did them the highest honor.” I truly am honored to be associated with such men of high moral and physical courage and I love each and every one of them. I thank you for your continued love, prayers and support. We think of you everyday and long for the moment of our reunion. Please remain strong and hang tough for a couple of more months. It will be here before you know it.
Please feel free to forward this email to the families of our single Marines as they may not be directly tied into the network.
Semper Fidelis and God Bless,
LtCol Phillip W. Chandler
BLT 3/1, 13th MEU, MNF-W
COP Golden, IRAQ