New Band of Brothers

Michael Fumento, a former paratrooper (1978-82), has a feature in the Weekly Standard describing his time embedded with the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, the unit made famous by Stephen Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers.” A few excerpts:

To most of the media, Baghdad is where Iraq begins and ends. So naturally, they think Baghdad is the most dangerous part of the country. Wrong.


Like every officer I spoke with, [battalion commander LTC Ron] Clark bemoaned the lack of coverage for the tremendous job his men were doing. Even when Ramadi makes the news, reporters generally manage to overlook 1st Battalion. Two days before I arrived, the enemy launched a coordinated, three-sided attack on the governor’s compound in the Marine sector of central Ramadi, including firing rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and machine guns from a mosque and its minaret. Both CNN and the AP covered the event in detail; neither reported that it was actually part of a coordinated series of attacks throughout much of Ramadi including against the 1/506th. Why? The reporters were near the governor’s compound. No reporter; no news.


The U.S. strategy in Ramadi is to improve relations with the civilians–who are more sympathetic than you might think because they passionately hate the foreign Arabs and their efforts to impose radical Islam on Iraqis–and to keep the insurgency in check as the size and abilities of the local Iraqi army and police improve. The coalition inflicts grossly disproportionate casualties–1st Battalion and its support elements routinely kill more jihadists in a day than the entire unit has lost since arriving. Yet this incredible kill ratio is also disturbing. It seems that no matter how readily they’re mowed down, the bad guys just keep on coming and coming.


Inside the men kick a few doors. As a rule, they don’t rip out of the wall as that gate did; but the locks are usually busted. They’re trying to knock in a really beautiful hardwood one when a woman pops out of nowhere with the key. The soldiers don’t like messing up people’s homes but they also don’t like guys popping out from nowhere and hosing them down with lead. So once you enter a house, each room gets checked. Once you get to the roof, the first thing you do is lay down a bright fluorescent flexible sheet of plastic. It’s friend-or-foe identification in case air support is called in and you’re not in the mood to have a 500-lb. bomb dropped down your windpipe. Only friendlies know the color of the day.

An interesting read. Not surprisingly, this cohort of Currahee are living up to the traditions of their grandfathers’ generation.

Hat tip: David Adesnik, who analyzes the piece through the framework of “What if the media were conservative?”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.