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An Interview with Major General Huck

RAMADI, IRAQ: Here in Ramadi, where the insurgency is at its strongest, Major General Richard A. Huck, Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Division, leads the fight against the insurgency and reconstruction efforts in the bulk of Anbar province. The 2nd Marine Division’s area of responsibility is vast: it spans from east of Fallujah all the way out to the Syrian border, and as far south as Rutbah on the Jordanian border.

His command is fully joint and combined, made up of active duty, Reserve and National Guard units, as well as multiple divisions of the Iraqi Army and police forces. The U.S. Regiments and brigades under the division are made up of two Marine Regimental Combat Teams, RCT-2 and RCT-8, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, the “Iron Brigade” of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Division, which is in charge of Ramadi and the surrounding regions. Technically, Major General Huck commands the equivalent of an Army Corps, but he is not daunted by the numbers in the least.

Major General Huck has presided over perhaps the most important operation in Iraq since the fall of Fallujah in November of 2004. In what I have referred to as The Anbar Campaign, the Coalition and Iraqi troops systematically took over the various cities and town along the Euphrates River Valley which were once strong points of the insurgency, and seeded them with Coalition and Iraqi forces to provide a permanent presence.

The successful Coalition operations in Western Anbar, which culminated in Rivergate and Steel Curtain, were due to a shift in focus by General Casey, the Commander of Multinational Forces Iraq. “We didn’t have the people to [establish] a permanent presence, which was needed. He gave me the forces”, says Major General Huck. The Iraqi Security forces were the linchpin in establishing this permanent presence. “It’s all about the Iraqis.”

In June of 2005, there were only 34 Iraqi Security Force soldiers in AO Denver, the western section of Anbar province under Colonel Stephen Davis’ command. Today, there are over two Iraqi Army brigades operating in the battlespace, well over 4,000 troops. In Anbar province, there are over 15,000 Iraqi Security Force personnel overall.

There were worries about the capabilities of the Iraqi troops and their ability to integrate with Coalition forces. “In March, I was concerned if they would fight”, says Major General Huck. Today, this is no longer a concern, and U.S. and Iraqi forces operate jointly and live on the same posts throughout Anbar Province.

Major General Huck explains the impact of the Iraqi troops out west is just beginning to be felt, as the Iraqi Army is still ramping up its capabilities. “People have to understand it takes patience; You don’t build Iraqi Army battalions and brigades in a week or month.” The process to develop the Iraqi Security requires the Coalition to “train, integrate and operate” with Coalition forces, and “repeat the cycle.”

He sees the calls for a premature withdrawal from Iraq as folly; “Are you kidding me? We are getting closer to where we want to be, why would we want to withdraw now? These tigers just took five towns on the western Euphrates, why would we want to leave?”

Major General Huck illustrates the level of difficulty in transitioning from hot operations to classic low level insurgency warfare; “The kinetic piece is checkers, the stabilization and reconstruction piece is chess… We are in what is called phase four [of the counterinsurgency operations], stabilization and security is the hardest part.” Colonel Stephen Davis has described the reconstruction phase as “playing chess on a fourteen level board.” Both state the Marines, soldiers, airmen and navy personnel in their command are well prepared to deal with this transition.

From what I have seen while embedding at the platoon level in Western Anbar and Ramadi, they are right. The leadership at the junior officer and Non-Commissioned Officer level are well in tune with the importance of fighting a low level insurgency in Iraq. The “Strategic Corporal” is alive, well and operating in Iraq, and executing a mission outside of the range of combat operations, and venturing into the realm of Civil-Military Operations.

Feedback

Excellent input Bill. The range of duties our military performs is amazing. That they do so with such competence is even more amazing. Keep up the great work and watch your six.

Thanks Bill. Winning the war and winning the peace are always two different institutions - sounds like the first one is established and the Marines and Iraqi's are well on their way to building the second. Stay safe and keep up the good work. I thoroughly enjoy your posts.

Great job Bill.

If you get a chance ask the troops in the "Iron Brigade" if they are "broken" as suggested by Rep. Murtha. I would also ask them if they feel they are the primary target for the enemy or if the enemy tries to avoid contact with their unit.

Is Murtha worth another query? His latest: "We are the enemy in Iraq!"

Any reaction to this old Marine-cum- Democrat- politican?

bill,I've been copying and printing some of your blogs and reports and sending them to the cons at the Arizona state prison at Florence, Az. My oldest son is serving time there. He's been posting the information on the bulletin for the rest of the inmates to read. They love it, they are the marines' biggest cheerleaders and they do not get any of this fromthe media. So far the administration at the prison hasn't stopped this. I hope they won't.

Bob Hemmerle

Remember that old war movie Dirty Dozen where the military hired criminals to do some hard-core behind the lines operations? I believe it was based on a true story.

I wonder if we let our cons loose against the 80,000 cons Saddam let loose, who would win? Do it just like in the Dirty Dozen.

Thank you again for some more great reporting.

Most of America is unable to read the letters we get from our sons' in Iraq or hear their voices when they call. You are the voice of our Soldiers, Marines and Sailors.

And what a voice that is!

Really excellent reporting Bill, going from patrolling with the troops to interviewing the generals. Exactly the opposite of the 'soda straw' view the MSM is claiming the troops are seeing while they report the 'big picture'. What bollocks, as my grandmother used to say.

Winning the peace is absolutely 4 diminsional vulcan chess.

It is way beyond having the wife and mistress showing up at the same bar at the same time.

Kudo's to the men and woman that are managing it.

I have just read about your site in our local rag. It's about time they gave some good info. Will be checking stories.
Geno
ABHCS USN (ret)