Greetings all,I've been deployed a bit short of two months, returning home about a day and a half ago. It's very nice to be back stateside. Some of what we did, due to the nature of Special Operations, remains classified - what follows is what is releaseable.Elements of my unit, the 1st Ranger Battalion operated throughout Iraq in an unprecedented fashion, from the remote Western Desert to Nasiriyah in the South, to the center of Baghdad, and finally, to the north to Tikrit, the ancestral home of Saddam Hussein and the base of power of his regime. During all operations, Rangers have acquitted themselves with honor, completing every mission and truly adding laurels to the Regiment's already distinguished history. Shortly after our arrival and the initiation of hostilities, A Co moved 100 miles into Iraq to seize a remote desert landing strip (DLS) to further enable Special Forces teams to operate in this critical region. They conducted a follow on mission to seize a nearby key village and airfield, facilitating our operations further. The weather was atrocious; they conducted these operations despite enduring a two day Shamal, or sandstorm. Visibility was that of a thick fogbank, with winds upwards of 50 MPH and blinding, biting sand. Despite the difficulties, the Rangers were able to destroy Iraqi Air Defense systems and command and control nodes targeting our coalition aircraft.C Co arrived along with elements of Headquarters shortly thereafter to defend this landing strip and village. Shortly after, the Battalion was ordered to participate in Operation Restore Freedom, the POW rescue mission of Private First Class Jessica Lynch. This was a tremendously successful mission, as within three days of notification, the Battalion returned from the DLS they seized, moved to Talil Airfield near the rescue site to prepare for the mission, and executed it on the night of 01 April. The intelligence we received from our assets as well as Marine Force Recon, other Marine assets, and various ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaisance) assets. We conducted the operation with other Special Operations Forces and support from elements of the 2d Regimental Combat Team (Task Force Tarawa of the Marines) and elements from the 16th Marine Air Group. These are organizations that we had never met until this mission, but due to everyone's professionalism and high levels of performance we integrated an operation that included elements of every service to rescue PFC Lynch and recover the remains of 9 US service members. We went into the city well forward of any Marine positions, and prior to the rescue the Marines faced stiff resistance from within the city just to get to their current positions. They were still under constant enemy fire prior to our execution. Our intensive training and specially selected personnel enabled us to adapt rapidly to execute complex, sensitive missions like this under extreme stress. We own the night - no enemy can touch our night fighting skills. This was the first POW rescue Ranger forces have conducted since WWII - there is a fantastic account of the rescue of POWs from a Japanese camp in the book Ghost Soldiers, which I recommend.The city of Nasiriyah has a population of one million. However, any similarity between it and any large city in America ended with that size. The stench was incredible; sanitation seemed largely nonexistent and the streets were lined with ditches that ran freely with human waste. The hospital where PFC Lynch was held poured off their waste into an adjacent field that was essentially an enormous cess pool. Medical waste was left out in the open. The Rangers that drew the mission to recover the remains - a task we had not templated but executed when we learned of their location - truly accounted for themselves in an incredible fashion. They dug the remains out often with their hands, as we had few shovels. One man would be digging and when the stench caused them to become sick, they would trade out with the next man. None objected and though many got sick, they worked furiously to get them all out before light. The returning of the remains is a critical task, unsavory as it may be. It is essential for families to have closure for their missing loved ones, and we were able to aid in this.As the main ground offensive closed on Baghdad, C Co and elements of HHC were repositioned deep in Iraq to prepare for operations designed to cut off the escape routes of regime members fleeing out of Baghdad and other strongholds. A Co and the remainder of the Battalion followed shortly, with B Co being attached for missions in Baghdad with 2nd Battalion. Shortly after their arrival, A Co moved 80 miles further into Iraqi territory and seized an Iraqi Army training facility only 30 miles from Tikrit. They served as a force that would block the regime's final escape route as they were flushed by the encroaching conventional forces moving north from Baghdad.Following A Co were elements of the Battalion headquarters, C Co, other Special Operations forces, and a tank company - C/2/70th Armor from the 1st Armored Division. They completed a long motor march, unprecedented for our forces, and linked up with A Co. They followed with interdiction missions along the critical routes. These attackes were successful, but not without a cost. One airman attached to our battalion lost his lifeMeanwhile in Baghdad, B Co moved into Baghdad International Airport as part of the 2nd Battalion Task Force and conducted missions searching for regime leadership and weapons of mass destruction (WMD). They participated in operations that captured a number of key regime figures to include an international terrorist who was seeking refuge from the international community in Baghdad - Abu Abbas - who in 1985 masterminded the capture of the Achille Lauro, an Italian cruise ship. Terrorists killed wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer and dumped him overboard before the seige was over.We continue to stand ready for whatever our leadership asks us to do, and I'm immensely proud of our Rangers. The profound maturity and skill that these men display makes them truly the highest quality infantry in the world, and I'm inspired by them daily. Their ability to conduct sustained combat operations in harsh conditions with absolutely zero contact with their friends and family is beyond description. During this time they had no email, phones, snail mail, and their loved ones had no idea how long they would be gone. Despite all of this, they lived up to the standards embodied in the Ranger Creed and again validated our motto...Rangers Lead The Way!Mark
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