The EFM Feature

How surreal is it for me to drop the kids off at school, go to the gym, make coffee, and log onto National Review, only to see that my husband (whose voice I’ve not heard since Christmas) has an article there?

Mansuriyat al Jabal, Iraq — JAG officers like me tend to be a bit nervous whenever we go “outside the wire,” and last Thursday’s kerosene-delivery mission to the small Diyala River Valley town of Mansuriyat al Jabal (or “MAJ”) was no exception. The 2d Squadron, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment (Lieutenant Colonel Paul T. Calvert, commanding) was deep into the second week of “Operation Raider Harvest,” a complex operation designed to deny al-Qaeda one of its last safe havens. As the squadron cleared the local towns of al-Qaeda, we also brought much-needed supplies, including humanitarian assistance (rice, flour, etc.), medical care, and kerosene (vital for cooking and heating on cold northern Iraq winter nights).
The Squadron Operations Officer, Major Cameron Cantlon, had asked me to ride along on the kerosene mission. It is important for staff officers (yes, even lawyers) to see the “real Iraq” so that the decisions they make in the relative safety of a forward operating base (“FOB”) are effective and productive for the troops on the line. So I grabbed my body armor and my M4 and headed for the nearest Humvee.

As a wife securely at home in Tennessee, this is not what you want to read. But it continues:

The trip from the FOB to MAJ was short and uneventful, but once we arrived, I was shocked by the scale of the need and the size of the crowd. No less than 800 Iraqis — most of them desperately poor — were lined up, each holding empty 20 or 30 gallon jugs. Very young children stood patiently in line, holding containers as tall as they were. The town had gone without fuel for some time, and the villagers were hungry and cold.
Because we knew that the town was formerly dominated by al-Qaeda (before we arrived, al-Qaeda committed atrocities against the former town leaders, killing many and destroying their homes), and because a fuel truck full of highly flammable kerosene would make an excellent target, the lawyer wasn’t the only nervous soldier out there. “Doc” Allen, a medic who had seen just about everything, leaned over and said, “I’ll be surprised if nothing happens today.”

Read the whole thing.


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