Skip to comments.Jim Brown Commander 18th MP Brigade (MUST READ End of Tour Report)
Posted on 12/02/2005 7:31:56 PM PST by Stultis
Subject: Commander 18th MP Brigade Observations From a 12-Month Tour
A great after action report by the Commander, 18th MP Brigade in Iraq.
Camp Victory, Iraq 4 November 2005
It is my last night in Iraq. Tomorrow night I will begin the long journey home as we depart BIAP and fly to Kuwait and then fly on to our homes in Germany at 0300 the next day.
Cindy has forwarded me a lot of your discussions of strategy in Iraq, discussions about Nate Sassman, the media and questions about the way ahead. I just wanted to share with you some observations that I have now in my 12th month here and on the eve of our redeployment.
I commanded the 18th Military Police brigade for its second rotation to Iraq. We were among the first brigades to return having served in OIF I. 45% of my unit was returnees-tremendous heroes. Several of them were stop-lossed from approved retirements. I looked them in the eye and told them that we needed them and they never complained. In fact the two that this applied to did incredible feats in supporting our team here. The morale of our Soldiers in the mission was very high. Only three of our Soldiers in the headquarters chose not to reenlist and all three have clear plans for their futures. All our other eligible Soldiers reenlisted here among us in Iraq.
Our mission in Iraq was to support all Iraqi Police Services in Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniya, Kut and Hillah (ancient Babylon). We were charged with developing the Iraqi Highway Patrol into a Federal Law Enforcement Agency and establishing a training academy for the highway patrol, building a national headquarters for the Highway Patrol and contracting for the construction of all Iraqi Highway Patrol Headquarters. We also were in charge of the security of our Corps Main Supply Routes in the most embattled areas of our lines of communication and the escort of convoys. Finally, we were in charge of Abu Grhaib and Camp Bucca Detention Facilities. In the Fall, our mission changed dramatically to where we ran all detention operations for all theater level detainees in Iraq.
As with most units in the Army, we accomplished our mission with excellence, values and the compassion that has marked American Soldiers since our inception as an Army. We had no scandals due to NCOs and Officers selflessly serving with our Soldiers 24/7 and enforcing standards and combat disciplines that keep Soldiers alive, alert and successful. If something didn't look right we investigated right away and took immediate action to correct any minor deficiencies before they were allowed to fester and create the impression that the standards were not enforced. Our Soldiers responded to their NCOs and junior officers with pride and confidence-they represented you well 24/7.
Leading a brigade that included up to 4,000 members of Army Reserve, National Guard and Active battalions as well as two active U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Security Forces Squadrons (Battalion equivalents), two US Marines Corps companies, and one Airborne Battalion Task Force, my CSM and I committed ourselves to a program of leader development sessions to insure that all leaders had a common understanding of standards and that we professionally grew as a joint team. It was an amazing ride. In order to lead, coach and mentor this team, we were on the road constantly and we logged just over 40,000 miles in our HMMWVs to do this. This gave us a tremendous situational awareness and experiences that were perhaps not completely unique, but are shared by a fortunate few who got to traverse Iraq as we did. I'd like to offer some insights into the strategy here, the media and our enemy here that I have formed over the past year.
Who ever designed the plan for the transitional government here is a genius. The employment of three elections in one year, while frenetic, has first taught the value of voting and then has allowed those who didn't previously vote to step forward and join in the process. When the first election occurred in the end of January, I had been here two months. Up to the 30th, I had seen very few women in public. On the 30th of January, I was in Najaf, Karbala, Hillah and Diwaniya and I saw thousands of excited citizens streaming to the polls to vote. Many of the voters were women. It was so exciting to see them finally have a voice in their future. The Iraqis did a great job of securing their country that day and it was the first true democratic election in Iraq. The election resulted in an Iraqi Transitional Government that had the charter of drafting a proposed Constitution for the Iraqi people. The government achieved this and the second election on 15 October was a referendum to see if the people would approve the document. Participation in the second election now included large numbers of Sunnis-many who would oppose it, but they were voting to let their voice be heard. Two days before the nation-wide referendum, we conducted the referendum actually in our major detention centers at Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca where half of our detainees chose to vote on the referendum as well! The vote was observed by UN workers and went extremely well. The election throughout Iraq was more successful than the first as it included a growing number of participants. People like to be heard. They like to vote and we are seeing democracy move forward here in Iraq. The evening before the election, I stopped in a village just South of Scania near Najaf. I had the opportunity to speak with a village elder who told me with great pride about the fact that he now had a cell phone, red car and TV with satellite. He showed all off to me and told me that "without the American Army, none of this would ever have been possible, Sadam never allowed us to have these things." He was so excited about the vote the next day and he insisted that we join him for his Ramadan supper as the sun was just setting. I thanked him, but told him I had to be heading on---the reason I had stopped is that the temperature in my vehicle had been over 140 degrees for several hours and we needed a break! I also was fascinated to see his village as it looked like it came out of the pages of the Bible, the only differences being electricity, satellite dishes and cars!
The third election this year is now coming and it will be to elect the first true Iraqi Parliament-I expect that due to the trend with the past two elections that the turnout for the next one will be the highest yet. It is too costly not to vote and to risk going under represented. This is why I think the framers of this process were geniuses. They have educated the populace as to the value of participating in democracy all prior to actually electing the first government. The momentum of democracy is gathering steam and people want their voices to be heard.
We have learned a lot about our enemies this past year. One of the most significant events was the interception of the Al Qaeda strategy letter from Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan to Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq. The letter demonstrates that our enemies are waging a global war against us and all free peoples. The desired endstate of our enemies is to take us from a multi-cultural society with freedom of religion and thought to an eighth century caliphate dominated by a religious zealot who will tell us what to wear, what to think and how we are to worship. This war has truly become one of good versus evil. We are fighting an enemy that threatens the whole world and he has declared that this is the decisive battleground for the struggle: "As for the battles that are going on in the far-flung regions of the Islamic world, such as Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Bosnia, they are just the groundwork and the vanguard for the major battles which have begun in the heart of the Islamic world." (Letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi p. 2). What I have seen of our enemies here tells me that we are fighting in the right place. We have all seen people butchered because they worship in different mosques than those of our enemies men, women and children. My personal experiences here have shown me an enemy far more evil than I have encountered anywhere else.
On 20 March 2005, one of our squads was involved in a very famous fight against an ambushing element of 45-50 highly trained insurgents that sought to annihilate a supply convoy. Fortunately, our squad was only three minutes behind the convoy and immediately attacked into the flanks of the enemy. As the squad of 10 initially attacked, they were going at 1 to 5 odds. The odds changed immediately with the loss of the third team to rifle fire that critically wounded the team leader and driver of the third vehicle while wounding the gunner as well. The medic of the squad was in this vehicle and fought to hold the attackers at bay while kicking the wounded bodies under the vehicle to save them from further injury. The lead vehicle of the squad had been hit by an RPG right as they turned into the enemy and the gunner was thrown down into the vehicle. Thinking he was dead, the squad leader, SSG Timothy Nein, began to climb towards the gun when the gunner came to and jumped up on the .50 Cal and returned fire. The enemy was filming this attack up to this moment when the .50 caliber machine gunner killed the cameraman with his first burst of fire. SSG Nein and SGT Hester both charged into the enemy positions and killed many of the enemy in close quarters combat. At the end, 27 enemy were killed, 7 WIA and one was captured with no injuries. This heroic action, which resulted in three Silver Stars for valor including the first to a woman since WWII, has been well reported in the Washington Post and now Soldier of Fortune Magazine. What is not reported is that in the cameraman's pocket was another film. It was of a beheading that these same insurgents had done in the day prior. The victim was a man of different religious belief. He was also bound with hand-cuffs. The insurgents we fought and killed were extremely well armed and they were all carrying hand-cuffs. Their vehicles, which were destroyed by the .50 cal gunner as well, were all parked with trunks and all doors open. It seemed that the enemy wanted to take US hostages and they clearly showed what they intended to do with them.
This summer, one of our squads came across three vehicles on the side of the road. 15 people had been taken out of the vehicles and machine-gunned. Five were already dead, but the squad called for a MEDEVAC and began to treat the wounded. What they didn't realize at the time was that only two of those vehicles belonged to the victims. The third was a VBIED that had been placed there waiting for our MPs to lend life-saving aide. When it went off, it wounded 11 of our heroes, but miraculously killed none.
Just last month, my squad and another MP Squad were intended victims of a similar ambush when I saw three men hooking up a tow truck to a broken vehicle shot by a sniper. As the men fell and pleaded for help, an MP Squad directly in front of me responded right away, pulling the men from the scene. I moved my security squad into a security position guarding the MPs as they went to work. We had pulled our vehicle next to the victims in a blocking position. Scanning for the sniper, I told my Soldiers to keep stay in the vehicles and scan for the enemy. Right then an explosion went off in the median. My gunner shouted "IED!" It seemed like a plausible tactic, but it wasn't a very large IED. Right then another went off and we realized we were being mortared. We took several more hits and shrapnel damage before reinforcements tipped the scales our way. What an evil enemy we face. LTG Vines reminds us that this is an enemy who would kill every man, woman and child attending a sports event in the US and call it a good day. I'm thankful that I have been here with my brave and heroic Soldiers to face this enemy and stand up for freedom here. It is my belief that we are fighting an enemy who has both the capability and the will to follow us home if we don't win this fight here. I don't want my grandchildren to face the terror that our enemy would want to impose on them.
There has been much concern about our media reporting only the bad in this war and not what is going well. I have had the opportunity to work extensively with our media and I have almost always found them fascinating, informed and engaging. I have not been overly disappointed with our coverage. I do get a sense when I see CNN playing in a mess hall that you will see much more gore in one week of CNN than the average Soldier in a year of service here. There are some exceptions among us, but you get a lot more of it bombarding you there at a faster rate than most of our Troops have here. When the media reports bad news about Soldiers it is because that is the exception. American Soldiers are expected to be moral and to employ their weapons and force in accordance with our Rules of Engagement and the vast majority do. So when an aberration occurs it does make the news. I found out personally that the thing that most disturbs the American people is when our Soldiers are undisciplined. The average troop may be college aged, but he/she is expected to act like a Soldier and not a sophomore on Spring Break. Fortunately we haven't had a problem with that here, but I did get some high adventure when the antics of some troops prior to our arrival here hit the news after we were here!
There is a lot of good news to report on here and to see how much the Iraqi Army and Police have improved in a year is simply miraculous. In late September, I was driving from Um Qassr to Baghdad and was just north of Basra where our FM communications were in a momentary blackout. We came upon a bus of religious Pilgrims that had been returning from Najaf to Basra and the driver had apparently fallen asleep and flipped the bus. It was a tragic scene of carnage with the roof of the bus crushed in and one woman still pinned inside and another man dead inside. An Army medic was applying emergency measures to try to establish an airway for a woman whom we were fighting a losing battle to save. A team of our Soldiers worked feverishly to cut the trapped woman out of the bus and we set up two casualty collection points. I was able to get a MEDEVAC request out through my FBCB2 Computer in my vehicle and we where now working to stabilize patients and calm them. Right then the Highway Patrol showed up in the trucks we had given them and began to evacuate the wounded to local hospitals. They did everything that you would expect of the Highway Patrol in California or New York! It was so wonderful to see the team that we had raised, trained and outfitted doing exactly what we had envisioned! Together we saved more than a few lives that day. There is much good news indeed.
I just want you all to know that I leave here in the continued belief that it was very important to come and work to transform this ravaged country to a democratic representational government. There is much hope ahead for Iraq. The output of fuel is only 40% of its possible capacity at present and in the future they will be much more able to stand on their own. The true wealth of Iraq is not oil though...it is fresh water and soil. I have been amazed how much land the people here can cultivate using Nebuchadnezzar's canals and ancient farming methods. I have no doubt that in the future-with modern irrigation and farming methods, Iraq will feed most of this region of the world.
This war will go on for some time in my opinion. But it also has been going on for some time as well. Our enemies tried to blow up the World Trade Center in February 1993 and they never stopped till they achieved their evil objective. This war has actually been going on since the late 70s. We must continue this fight until we have won it. The cost is very real. For the 18th MP Brigade this time it was 10 more heroes who have given up their lives for our Freedom. The 18th MP Brigade has now lost 28 heroes in the Global War on Terror and there are many who have been wounded. Please keep their sacrifice and their families, loved ones and comrades in your hearts. I ask that you specifically pray for:
SGT Leonard Adams, HHD 105th MP Bn
SPC Jonathan Hughes, B/1-623 FA
SPC Eric L. Toth, A/1-623 FA
PFC Michael R. Hayes, 617th MP Co
SPC Ryan J. Montgomery, B/1-623 FA
SSG James D. McNaughton, HHC 306th MP Bn
SGT William A. Allers, 617th MP Co,
A1C Elizabeth N. Jacobson, 586th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron,
SGT Steven Morin, A/1-133 FA,
SGT Christopher T. Monroe, HHC, 785th MP Bn
Well, tomorrow we begin movement back to our wonderful families. I wish you could see these heroines and heroes whom we know as our best friends, encouragers and confidants. Just today, Cindy was back at Landstuhl visiting and ministering to our newest wounded. The incredible strength, patriotism, sacrifices and service of our spouses is most humbling to me.
I hope that my comments have helped some of you to at least see some more of the perspective that our great teammates and heroes like Casey Haskins, Kenny Dahl have been sharing.
God bless you all, and God bless our wonderful Soldiers and Spouses,
--Jim Brown Baghdad, 4 Nov 2005
James B. Brown COLONEL, MILITARY POLICE COMMANDING 18th Military Police Brigade CAMP VICTORY APO AE 09342
MANNHEIM, Germany Soldiers from the 18th Military Police Brigade were welcomed home during a ceremony at Coleman Barracks on Monday. About 70 soldiers were returning from a yearlong deployment to Iraq.
"Who ever designed the plan for the transitional government here is a genius."
Brave 18th MP Brigade Warriors with their families again.
The link goes to the pictures. Where is the story?
Bush doesnt have a plan !
That what the Media tells me.
Bravo, excellent post.
Latest Article "Cutting them off at the knees"
It's great to read about these heroes coming home.
Well Done! 18th MP Brigade Warriors!
On the other side of the coin however, another unit has deployed recently. A necessity for Freedom.
May God continue to Bless and Protect our Armed Forces.
Thank you for posting this.
Thanks for the post. Thank you Col. Brown and thank you 18th MP Brigade!
ping for later
Save for later reading.
I was honored to adopt the 18th MP Bde this past year. What a blessing to send letters, packages, prayers, etc. to these fine warriors. Welcome home, 18th MP Bde. If anyone is interested in adopting, please got to www.soldiersangels.org, a great organization.
This says a LOT about the media.
Blood sucking leeches that feed on death.
Grist for the Dems surrender mills!
Awesome military, bump!
You might want to send this to John Murtha and Nancy Pelosi, somehow I doubt they've read it.
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