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October 27, 2004
A Voice From The Front, Part I

A good friend of mine has served in the Navy as a SEAL, both active-duty and reserves, since the Vietnam War. Mike most recently spent the better part of the past three years in Iraq before, during, and after the war. After serving as an active-duty SEAL handling Arabian Gulf interdiction missions, he took a leave of absence to work as a civilian security contractor inside Iraq, including some of the toughest areas in the Sunni Triangle, such as Fallujah and Tikrit. As a private contractor, Mike spent most of his time securing and destroying captured enemy ordinance at ammunition supply points like Al Qaqaa, which has found itself the center of attention during this presidential election. However, Mike worked on sensitive missions during his time in the Gulf, and for the safety of his family has asked that he not be identified by name.

I interviewed Mike twice, once for Captainsquartersblog.com and once on the Northern Alliance Radio Network Network in Minneapolis, MN. Ive combined the two interviews to share Mikes first-person perspective on his missions, the ongoing American effort, and the effect our election is having on the Iraqi people.

Q: When did you first to go to Iraq and in what capacity?

A: I got called up to Enduring Freedom in November 2001, from my civilian job. Im a reservist with a naval Special Warfare unit. Im a SEAL corpsman, and my first assignment was to train up SEALS to deploy, and then I was put in an active-duty role to go forward with a special boat team that does ship takedowns in the North Arabian Gulf.

What were doing is stopping smuggler vessels in the middle of the night that were smuggling for Iraq prior to the war. We did 32 direct-action missions against blacked-out ships that were trying to get away from us. They were loaded with every kind of contraband you could think of. Everything coming out of Iraq was carrying illegal oil. Anything coming in was carrying weapons and other kinds of things.

Q. Mike, you and I were talking about that earlier. Where did these illegal weapons come from that you captured on these interdiction missions?

A: Anything that came into Iraq in the mid-90s, no matter where it came from, was illegal because of the embargo, which leads to my next job. Russia, China, France were all the countries that were supplying Iraq in the last decade or so.

Q. When you were running these missions, thats what you were finding, and the weapons were coming from those three countries?

A. Some. You know, its difficult for me in my SEAL role to know where a lot of it comes from. If you have AK-47s all over the place and theyre made in Russia, you can only assume at some point it came from Russia. You dont know at what point the smuggler got hold of them. The smugglers were either merchants from India or Pakistan or various other places, or some of them were terrorists. There were a couple of high-value targets that we actually did stop they werent all just people trying to make a buck on terrorism. That was pretty interesting.

Q: What else besides oil got smuggled out of Iraq?

A: Most of the time theyd be smuggling oil. My group alone got 9,000 metric tons of oil that was smuggled out in violation of the trade embargo.

Q: Who kept the oil?

A: We would either confiscate the ships or send them back up to where they came from. In the middle of the night, you cant always get people to come baby-sit, and once we take them down, were not going to just sit there for hours until morning. Usually [the Navy] sends someone out to take care of the ship. If they cant do that, we send them back. The smugglers tell us, Oh, Saddam will kill us if we go back, and we tell them thats not our problem, and if you dont go back, well kill you ourselves. That was our mission, nighttime black-out interdiction. During the day, the Coast Guard would stop anyone stupid enough to try it during daylight. At night, they sent SEALs out to do it.

Q: What did you do after that?

A: For the last year, I was a contractor in Iraq, and my role was to be a shooter or security guy, along with being a primary medic. I frequently would be the only medic for about a hundred people, most of which were Iraqis who were injured or severely sick. Our project was captured enemy ammunition. Our job, the Captured Enemy Ammunition Project which is still going on today, its not classified is very underreported in the left-wing press because its an example of something thats going very well over there and it absolutely needs to be finished before we leave. It wont be done for another two years, Im guessing, at the very least.

When I first got over there, a year ago September, there was an estimated two million tons of captured enemy ammunition. What I mean by ammunition is bombs, missiles, land mines, RPGs, tank rounds, artillery rounds all the kinds of things terrorists are using for IEDs [improvised explosive devices]. All of it is usable for terrorists. Very little of it was usable for the Iraqi Army even when we went to war with them, because we had taken away the Iraq Air Force, so all these 2,000-pound bunker busters were of no use to their army; they were only of use to terrorists. That arsenal is still there today. Im guessing we havent even blown up half of it yet.

Our job would be to go get the ammunition from different cache sites, take it to forward operating bases, and detonate it to the tune of over 100 tons in a single shot.

More on ammunition destruction later ...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 27, 2004 11:38 PM

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