AL ASAD, Iraq -- Imagine you are walking through a thick Vietnamese jungle in the spring of 1965; the temperature is a sweltering 130 degrees and rising with 100 percent humidity. You are surrounded by a seemingly invisible enemy in their country and they want you dead. The Vietnam War is in its early stages with soldiers and Marines hard at work locating, closing with and destroying a fierce enemy.
You are a war correspondent for United Press International with little training in the art of war, but with the 9th Marine Regiment on your first of four arduous tours in Vietnam, you feel somewhat safe.
This atmosphere set the stage for Joseph L. “Joe” Galloway, co-author of “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” to become known as “the finest combat correspondent of our generation – a soldier’s reporter and a soldier’s friend,” according to retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
“The Marines taught me how to sleep standing up, and run lying down,” said Galloway. “They taught me that there was a right way, a wrong way, the Marine way, and that the Marine way was the only way.”
Galloway is making multiple stops in Iraq in an effort to get the total picture of what is going on in Operation Iraqi Freedom from the perspective of the soldiers and Marines on the ground. He landed at Camp Al Asad Jan. 5 to spend time with Col. Stephen W. Davis, the commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team – 2, and the Marines, soldiers, and sailors of this regiment.
The best way to make a fair and impartial assessment of what is going on is to walk the same ground the Marines and Soldiers walk on a daily basis, which is exactly what he did in Haditha.
Galloway arrived at Haditha Dam, located on Lake Qadisiyah and received an operations brief from Maj. Samuel H. Carrasco, the operations officer for 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.
This briefing was followed by a trip to a base located in downtown Haditha. In order to get to the base, one must pass through Market Street, which was jam-packed with merchants and shoppers enjoying the beautiful, crisp January day. Children greeted the passing military vehicles with smiles and waves.
Upon reaching the base known as Sparta, Galloway was given a tour and an update of the current situation by Capt. Lucas M. McConnell, Company K’s commander. Galloway walked around, chatted and posed for photos with Marines who were eager to meet the legendary author.
Marines consistently asked him questions about the movie, “We Were Soldiers,” based on his book, which starred Mel Gibson. Galloway said that 80 percent of the movie was accurate, and he and Lt. Gen. Harold G. “Hal” Moore fought tooth and nail for the other 20 percent. He mentioned that the scene where he was given an M-16 by the sergeant major was “total Hollywood,” because he brought his own, and that he was much better looking as a 24-year-old than Barry Pepper, the actor that portrayed him.
When asked about the scene at the end of the legendary Ia Drang Campaign, where a helicopter lands and drops off a load of media, Galloway says it was true. “The reporters would only come out under the agreement that the Army would have them back in Saigon before dark.”
When asked about his feelings on leadership, Galloway said he must defer to quotes from his good friend, Moore, who said: “Three strikes and you are not out. Life is not baseball. You need to keep swinging.”
Moore also said, “Hate war, but you must love the warrior.”
Galloway is best known for his coverage of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry’s air assault into the Ia Drang Valley Nov. 14, 1965. The battalion was commanded by then Lt. Col. Hal Moore, whose mission was to find and kill the enemy.
RCT-2 has been carrying out the same mission by finding and killing the enemy in western Al Anbar province since March 2005.
For more information on the Marines, soldiers, and sailors of Regimental Combat Team-2, go to: http://www.lejeune.usmc.mil/2dmardiv/2marreg/index.html