3-11 News from Iraq

3-11 News from Iraq

30 July 2004

Dear family and friends of 3/11,

Well the month of July has flown by for most of us here, I hope the same is true for all of you waiting patiently and working diligently to take care of all the projects I and every other father, son, and brother in this Battalion have evaded this past five months. Thanks for all you are doing.

If you?re watching the news it is evident that peace didn?t break out all over with the transition of sovereignty. In some ways things haven?t changed much, in others there is great progress. Of course don?t believe everything you see on the news. We continue to work with the Border Police, Iraqi National Guard, and Iraqi Police in our area of operations, providing training, infrastructure support, and equipment to improve their capabilities. They have responded so well that we have been able to modify some of our operations to address other issues. I just came back from Mudaiysis where I spent two days with India Battery. They are doing great work and everyone was motivated. While I was there the Deputy MEF Commanding General visited and like most of their visitors, was astounded at the high level of morale and performance in such an isolated outpost. It?s simple, great men with great leaders, working, as a team to accomplish any mission and making it look easy. MP Company continues to run the most professional detention facility in the country and meet every other task with characteristic pride. Kilo and Lima Batteries continue to conduct convoy security escorts all over Western Iraq, engaging the enemy when he presents himself and always successfully delivering their convoys. Additionally, when convoy missions have allowed, Kilo Battery has been conducting Civil Military Operations in the small town of Rahaliyah, located on the eastern side of our area of operations. Headquarters has a platoon that conducts convoys, as well as running the Command Post, providing logistics and maintenance support, and communications. This convoy security duty is dangerous and difficult duty and in the last month we have had five Marines wounded or injured in engagements with the enemy. Three of them were returned to duty and all of them will recover. Regardless of the dangers, your Marines and Sailors remain in high spirits and ready for the next mission. We remain thankful that St. Barbara is praying for us and that the Lord continues to bless us with success.

I just returned from a softball game between our Logistics Section and our Headquarters team, it was a bit lopsided with HQ upsetting a spirited Log team. While we stay very busy with all of our missions, softball has become an excellent release for the men. Despite the heat, our Marines and Sailors are exercising when they can, running, playing softball, lifting weights, and practicing Marine Martial Arts. We haven?t had any issues of mass illness often associated with close quarters tent or barracks living. I attribute this to disciplined Marines practicing good hygiene, exercising, eating well, and plenty of fresh air. The Sergeant Major walks through the living spaces daily, reinforcing the importance of clean and orderly spaces. Our Corpsmen and Doctors have done a great job treating the wounded and ill, and taking preventive medicine measures to control insects and maintain hygiene.

We have roofs on all of our tents now and that made a difference the other day when mortars exploded not far from one of our tents. Just as important, those roofs now allow our Marines and Sailors who conduct many missions at night, the opportunity to sleep during the day. The Morale Center continues to be a big hit, despite a couple of nicks from a couple of rockets this month.

Down in Mudaiysis India Battery continues to prosper. We continue to pursue a phone and Internet package for them, and the Hajji Mart continues to provide souvenirs and other small things. We have relocated the platoon from Ar Ar to Mudaiysis. Those Marines were almost nostalgic about leaving the Marine House on the border but it won?t hurt our operations and will improve the Marine?s quality of life. With 3rd Platoon on board, the India team is reunited.

As we approach the end of this deployment, we will be very busy with additional tasks to ensure continuity of operations and planning to reconstitute the Battalion for artillery operations. We cannot afford to take our minds away from our combat operational tasks but we will conduct transition training and reunion briefs prior to returning home. I encourage all of you, who can, to participate in similar reunion briefs for the families that are coordinated by MCCS. Your Marines and Sailors have served magnificently through very stressful combat operations, risking their lives daily. Most of them have been attacked by and have attacked the enemy. Some of them have seen horrific scenes. Similarly, you our courageous families have been under the stress of separation, caring for your families alone, and worrying for your men. I urge you to be patient with your men; I will urge them to patient with you, as you reunite your family. Likewise, I urge you to seek counseling from a health professional, pastor, or priest, if after a few weeks life has not normalized. There is no shame in this; it is the unfortunate result of war that about 1 percent of our service members will experience some form of post combat stress upon completion of combat operations. The good news is that the large majority will recover completely with minimal effort. Don?t let your families or marriages become casualties, work through it together and seek help, the leaders of this Battalion stand ready to assist in getting you that help.

There are rumors flying by now about the training plan and deployment schedule for the future. Upon our return there will be 7 to 10 days of classes and debriefs that we must conduct, the Battalion will change command and then commence thirty days of leave. The following few months will focus on progressive training from individual, section, and battery through battalion level. Most of this training will take place during the working day, but there will be short field operations beginning in December and we are planning for a longer Regimental Firex in the spring. No final decisions have been made on deployments, but be assured that everyone from the Commandant down to the Battalion understand that the Division will need time to rest, reorganize, and reconstitute. We must keep in mind however, that the Global War on Terrorism will continue for years and that sometime in the near future we may be required to deploy again in the defense of freedom. Right now there are no plans for our batteries to deploy until the summer of 2005. Enjoy the time, because the enemy always has a vote.

As I sign off, I want to thank Rhonda McDaniel and all of our Key Volunteers for the wonderful job they have done keeping the lines of communication open and information flowing. We are also thankful for all of our courageous families that have kept the home fires burning, lit candles, and said prayers for our safety and success. I also have to wish my daughter Michaela a Happy Birthday. God Bless you, God bless this great Battalion, and God Bless America,

Semper Fidelis,
T. J. Connally
LtCol of Marines

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