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Gates of Fire


Published: August 31, 2005

The top leaders of the Deuce Four: CSM Robert Prosser and LTC Erik Kurilla making the call to Daniel’s Mom outside the hospital

Mosul, Iraq

Combat comes unexpectedly, even in war.

On Monday, while conducting operations in west Mosul, a voice came over the radio saying troops from our brother unit, the 3-21, were fighting with the enemy in east Mosul on the opposite side of the Tigris River. Moments later, SSG Will Shockley relayed word to us that an American soldier was dead. We began searching for the shooters near one of the bridges on our side of the Tigris, but they got away. Jose L. Ruiz was killed in action.

Although the situation in Mosul is better, our troops still fight here every day. This may not be the war some folks had in mind a few years ago. But once the shooting starts, a plan is just a guess in a party dress.

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Jungle Law


Mosul, Iraq
The first person to use a shield might have been a hairy man who, days earlier, barely survived a barrage from the stone-throwing man in the cave next door. As the use of weaponized sticks and stones spread, improved shields probably were not far behind. Throughout recorded history, bigger and better shields always play catch-up to their bigger and better ballistic brethren. Common wisdom posits that defense systems are preventative measures, but in fact, they are reactive. Every castle wall can be defeated. Somewhere along the line people realized, “the best defense is a good offense.” Adherence to this maxim provided at least one of the philosophical rubicons to our landing in Iraq.

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Little Girl


First Published May 14, 2005

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Major Mark Bieger found this little girl after the car bomb that attacked our guys while kids were crowding around. The soldiers here have been angry and sad for two days. They are angry because the terrorists could just as easily have waited a block or two and attacked the patrol away from the kids. Instead, the suicide bomber drove his car and hit the Stryker when about twenty children were jumping up and down and waving at the soldiers. Major Bieger, I had seen him help rescue some of our guys a week earlier during another big attack, took some of our soldiers and rushed this little girl to our hospital. He wanted her to have American surgeons and not to go to the Iraqi hospital. She didn’t make it. I snapped this picture when Major Bieger ran to take her away. He kept stopping to talk with her and hug her.

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Thursday in Mosul

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12 May 2005

It was noisier than usual last night on Marez; our soldiers were firing 120mm mortars. When large cannons or mortars are fired around you daily, like they were in Baquba, it’s easy to start sleeping through the racket. But since outgoing fire is not common on this FOB, the booms kept some people awake. Then, shortly after sunrise, two rockets flew into base and exploded nearby, causing more sudden noise and injuring a few civilians.

0063Surrounded by IEDs

Deuce Four headed downtown this morning with several items on their to-do list. One task was to recon a gasoline station that was attacked and destroyed a couple of weeks ago. While we walked around the rubble of the abandoned station, the commander noticed two artillery rounds on the ground. A minute or so later, someone spotted a radio command switch for a very large booby trap.

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Michael's New Book

Strength and CompassionOrder your
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Michael Yon’s New Book
Moment of Truth in Iraq
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Here’s what Michael says about his new book:

“Moment of Truth in Iraq, due out in April 2008, will be packed with battlefield coverage, including some I have never published before.

“But it will also include more from behind the scenes, as I travel up and down the back country to systematically report on the astounding campaign of 2007 to snatch Iraq back from the abyss. . . . I’ll introduce you to key American and Iraqi commanders who are making it happen in a place most were writing off as a crash site.”

In Moment of Truth in Iraq, Michael sends a strong message: In 2007 we averted disaster and made great progress. But we still face grave dangers—and critical moments just ahead. That’s why he is returning to Iraq and will continue reporting exclusive material until the day the book hits the presses.

Please click here for the Moment of Truth in Iraq advance order page

Read more: Michael's New Book

Al Qaeda is on the run


Major operations against al Qaeda have begun in northern Iraq. Al Qaeda is in serious trouble. These are not ad hoc operations, but are deliberate, systematic, well-planned and working. I’ve been watching this unfold for months but have not reported due to sensitivity, but the real shooting has started and Maliki has announced it. There is every indication that this series of operations could be the death blow for al Qaeda in Iraq. AQI can continue to murder people here and elsewhere for years to come, but their grip on Iraq is weakening faster than I can track. The Iraqis and Americans have seized the initiative. Al Qaeda is on the run. Due to these operations, I anticipate an increase in US casualties, but the operations are working.

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News Flash: Frontline Blogger With a Soldier’s Eyes

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New York Times reporter Richard Pérez-Peña interviewed Michael and numerous sources in both America and Iraq to complete a profile on Michael that is featured on the cover of the Business Section of the 21-Jan-08 edition of the New York Times.

In “Frontline Blogger Covers War in Iraq With a Soldier’s Eyes” Pérez-Peña writes:

“… he has spent most of the last three years in Iraq, writing prolifically and graphically, and racking up more time embedded with combat units than any other journalist, according to the United States military. He has been shot at, buffeted by explosions and seen more people maimed — fighters and civilians, adults and children — than he can count.

Read more: News Flash: Frontline Blogger With a Soldier’s Eyes

Moment of Truth in Iraq


In a counterinsurgency, the media battlespace is critical. When it comes to mustering public opinion, rallying support, and forcing opponents to shift tactics and timetables to better suit the home team, our terrorist enemies are destroying us. Al Qaeda’s media arm is called al Sahab: the cloud. It feels more like a hurricane. While our enemies have “journalists” crawling all over battlefields to chronicle their successes and our failures, we have an “embed” media system that is so ineptly managed that earlier this fall there were only 9 reporters embedded with 150,000 American troops in Iraq.

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Critical Nodes: Too Close for Comfort

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[Note: Readers who have been tracking this morning’s news reports about a “serious confrontation” between the US and Iranian Army in the Gulf, might recall that I was the first to report on the Iraqi oil terminals in the North Arabian Gulf during my first embed in 2005. The security of these facilities is the shared responsibility of the Navy’s of several Coalition member nations. The dispatch, called “Critical Nodes,” is published in its entirety below:]

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Danger Close - Chapter One


JULY 29 WAS a night of celebration for many people. It was, for instance, peak tourist season and the twenty-third birthday of a man who was about to enter and forever change my life. He had dropped out of high school after a run-in with a teacher, and then drifted around the country for five years until our paths crossed on the Atlantic coast.

Read more: Danger Close - Chapter One

Second Chances


July 9, 2007

Photo-2General David Petraeus visits Baqubah.

When distinguished visitors come to almost-where the action is, it can be disruptive to the point of wasteful. I’ve heard commanders grumble all over Iraq about the steady streams of VIPs who, while intending to be seen observing operations, instead seize the mechanics with their clumsy footprint. These are called “dog and pony shows.”

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Be Not Afraid


 Published: 18 June 2007

Be Not Afraid

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst. You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way. You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand. You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid.
I go before you always;
Come follow me, and I will give you rest.

[From a prayer card I found on a base in Anbar Province, Iraq.]

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The Last Device

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Chapter 39: The Last Device 


A COUPLE OF years before the manslaughter charge, after a temporary retirement from the creation of bigger and better bombs, we pushed our luck one more time.

We decided to combine our skills to build a monster explosive device, and set the date for it’s unveiling to coincide with a Saturday night high school party that would take place on a ranch owned by the wealthy parents of a friend. There was a lake on the ranch that was large enough for us to detonate a major device on without the chance of someone being injured.

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Desolate Roads Part 2 of 2


January 28, 2007

I once knew an old man who saved everything that might have an eventual use, especially old lumber and nails. He’d tear down old fences or sheds, and rip out the nails with a claw hammer. The nails squeaked as he pried them from the dry, gray wood, weathered by years of sun and rain. The man would work steadily through the heat, sweating but never slowing, dropping each nail into an old coffee can. When he’d finished sorting and stacking the wood, he’d turn to each nail, and hammer it straight as it would go.

Read more: Desolate Roads Part 2 of 2

Desolate Roads Part 1 of 2


I pulled off the helmet and went to work. After settling on a tattered weight bench, Cavalry soldiers who did not recognize me politely challenged with a few direct questions, watching closely for the answers. Apparently I passed, and the soldiers relaxed while my fingers kept fumbling with a new dummy-cord. Just then, a Specialist wearing a uniform and clear ballistic glasses walked up and asked: “Need help with that?”

Read more: Desolate Roads Part 1 of 2

There Be Dragons


Afghanistan in the News

01 lgDeep in the Desert: Camp Bastion being swallowed.


If the fire is not completely out, it’s completely burning.

The population of Afghanistan is significantly larger than that of Iraq: about 26 million in Iraq, 31 million in Afghanistan. Yet the roughly 21,000 troops in Afghanistan (according to Combined Forces Command—Afghanistan) are exceeded by the number of troops in Iraq by a factor of about seven. The Coalition and NATO have so few troops in Afghanistan that wide swaths are left totally ungoverned and uncontrolled.

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