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Afternoon with the Azerbaijani

HADITHA DAM, IRAQ: When I first arrived at the Haditha Dam, troops in U.S. Army patterned desert camouflage were marching in formation to dinner. It was odd, as it was the first time I witnessed troops marching in Iraq. Upon closer inspection, the soldiers were carrying folding stock AK-47, and it dawned upon me that these are the Azerbaijani soldiers assigned to guard the dam.

Azerbaijan is a country of about eight million located on the Caspian Sea. Its population is predominantly Muslim, and its primary industries are oil and tourism. There are about 80,000 soldiers in the Army, and service is mandatory at age 18. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan was the first republic to adopt democracy.

The Marines at Haditha Dam describe the Azerbaijanis as tough, disciplined and fearless. Major Sam Carrasco, the Operations Officer at the 3/1 states, “We are very happy with the Azerbaijani troops. They are very competent, very professional. We are happy to have them as a Coalition partner.” Chief Warrant Officer Pitchard operates closely with the Azerbaijanis on a daily basis, and communicates with Captain Rashad Gararev, who serves as the liaison between the units and speaks impeccable English.

The company of 150 Azerbaijani troops provide perimeter security, escort duties and other security functions at Haditha Dam. They are commanded by Major Ramiz Eyubov, who wishes to expand their mission; “We have requested to go on patrol and missions” outside the confines of the dam, but “only at the government level can we expand our mission.”

Major Eyubov explains their role in Iraq; “We have a strong relationship with the Iraqis and they know we are doing our job. We are here to help the Iraqi people. We have to do our job for the Iraqi people to have democracy.” He also has hope for the Iraqi people, “The future will be good for Iraq. Accepting the constitution and democracy, and the December 15th Election will be great for this country.”

The close ties between the Marines and the Azerbaijanis are visible, and the respect is mutual. “We have a very strong, a good relationship with the Marines. It is a nice feeling to see how Marines operate and how they serve”, says Major Eyubov.

I had the pleasure to sit down with Major Eyubov, Captain Javadov Rimini, the company’s Executive Officer, and Captain Gararev. We drank tea, had a conversation about our homes, and families, and Captain Gararev showed me photographs of the beautiful countryside outside of his home city of Baku. We took photographs and exchanged handshakes, and Major Eyubov kindly gave me a gift of Azerbaijani champaign, which will be a fine treat for New Years Eve celebrations.

War is an ugly business, but it is also a place where men and nations forge bonds where they may not have done so.

Azerbaijani Unit Crest

Azerbaijani Unit Crest.

Captain Javadov Rimini, Major Ramiz Eyubov, Bill Roggio and Captain Rashad Gararev.

Captain Javadov Rimini, Major Ramiz Eyubov, Bill Roggio and Captain Rashad Gararev.

Feedback

Aren't you glad you didn't let this chance slip away! Pursuing a dream is a noble challenge. Making new friends half way around the world...priceless. Keep your head down and God Bless.

The Azerbaijani have had a very hard time. Because of that they are a very tough and hardened people.

Some info is here.

http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/aj.html

The influance of the US is critical at this time in their development of their nation.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

very appreciate for all, my friend Bill! thanks for all

I'm glad the Azerbaijani reputation is continuing.

I really enjoyed having them with us in Hadithah. If you read these comments, please give Captain Gararev my regards, he's a very good man.

The Azeri soldiers are very, very disciplined. They get no mail for the year they are deployed. We used to share our care packages with them.

http://www.realtime.net/~rentner/Blog/B97335170/C1760035014/E872493775/index.html

Thank you Rashad, for your warm hospitality and friendship. I do hope we can meet again. Please give Jadavov and Ramiz my best.

"War is an ugly business, but it is also a place where men and nations forge bonds where they may not have done so."

Absolutely. Can there be any better ambassadors on this day than the Marines and Azerbaijani Soldiers, side by side with mutual earned respect on a common battlefield?

Our two countries are richer for it.

Azerbaijan is a semi-democracy with voter intimidation and opposition suppression. Unfortunately their bountiful oil makes democracy so much more difficult to have in Azerbaijan, and their state irresponsible.

The Azeri military is a ray of hope for them. I am sure these army officers are fed up with Aliev's strongman president-for-life despotic methods and with his clique.

The Azeri military must step in and demand that the ruling circle respect the constitution, that power be shared and allow democracy to flourish.

just a great read. Thankyou, so much

Cool little dispatch.

Hope you can run into some other coalition troops. Would be interesting to compare the chemistry with soldiers from other countries.

Since I'm in Japan, and also have friends in South Korea, I always wondered how other coalition troops interact with them.

But since Japanese troops are in the south and Korean troops in the Kurdish north--both in non-offensive operations--you probably won't be running into them anytime soon.

Fortunately, PM Koizumi has confirmed Japan will stay through the end of 2006 on a conditional basis.

Hamidreza, we didn't talk about politics with the Azerbaijani soldiers. I wouldn't dream of speculating on their potential for fomenting rebellion.

All I know is that they are good men, representing their country and very interested in aligning with the US as opposed to enforced reliance on the Russians.

The ones that scared me were the Ugandans that did some kind of duty in Al Asad. I never saw them with weapons, to my relief. I will never be able to disassociate them from the images in my mind of Idi Amin.

Geo Politics are no match for freedom oriented men of common bravery.

Bill, your beard is looking rough in burlyman country! The news is constantly interesting and can't wait for the big election to happen. Then there will be a great cheer. Well done all coalition soldiers.

Just when I was wondering why we almost never hear about other Coalition troops, at least in the MSM....Good interesting post. Neat opening image. Soldiers who actually march to guard duty? Wow.

gringoman

Keep up the great work Bill. We shall keep you in our prayers for a safe return. Being a Philly Guy I probaby will get to hear some of your adventures when you interview on the local radio shows.
A big Semper Fi to you.

Great pictures Bill. You are looking exceptionally attractive. Be careful and come home soon. We miss you.

Bill,
Once again, great post.

Mike,
The Ugandans you saw around Al Asad are contract security guards, and yes, they are armed. The ones I have seen are the professional, courteous, and relatively squared away. The word is that they are well paid by Ugandan standards and, in my humble opinion, doing a decent job increasing our security on base while freeing up Marines for other duties.

Idi Amin was ruthless tyrant and I would be hesitant to tar our Ugandans with that brush.

Another outstanding entry Bill. Continue to keep your head down.

One question though. Is that guy with the mustache holding your hand?

Excellent interview yesterday on 770. it was heard by many Medford seniors who were playing pinochle at the time. there was much appreciation that you were there telling the full story. people that i didn't know are disgusted with the biased, defeatist media.

Dear, Mike!
Sir, Thanks for your good words about us. Say hello to your family. We love you.

Thank you Bill for your excellent reporting, please give my regards to the Azerbaijani Soldiers and those great Marines there, specially to Mayor Carrasco. May God Bless and guide them as they give so much of themselves to accomplish the asigned duty!

Great post Bill, I was wondering if the Azerbeycan troops will be deployed to the North.

In a recent "Soldier of Fortune" edition there was an article about the 3 million Turkmen of Turkmeneli situated around Northern Iraq. Having theIR Azeri Turk brothers there could be a great diplomatic move by the U.S, as they are the same people, of the same religion and speak the same language.

We should really continue improving relations with the Azerbeycan army. It could really benefit us and themselves in the future against the menace Iran poses to both our people.

What isnt very well known in our region of the world is that the Azeri Turks are the majority population of Iran and are over 30 million including the Turkmens. These people are oppressed and ruled by the tyranical Persian Mollah regime, who hide their Extreme Persian Nationalism through their abuse of Religion.

Infact what is known to these Turks as Southern Azerbeycan is ruled by the Persian regime.

For both American and Azerbeycan interests closening the ties will benefit both our people in the future.

Very good and truthfull comment John Allen, Im impressed to read that the western civilization is aware of the occupation of Azeri by Persians and the 2nd occupation by armenie. I just hope in the future we can free our own brothers aswell. but for now Im looking forward in coörporation between US and AZ. God bless all.

Is unfortunate that there are people like Mike out there who will keep certain myths going round in Pepetuity.

The Ugandan soldiers are there to do a job like any other contractor.To the best of my knowledge (i have been following stories all over the net) they are professional and courteous.

I do not understand it when you say they freaked you out and reminded you of Amin. I don't know if you had ever seen Amin and if you did let me remind u that he was kicked out of Uganda (to everybody's relief) 26 years ago and he has been dead for 3 years now. I can't understand why people like you are forever linking Ugandans to Amin.