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Marines in Afghanistan take 'The Village' to heart
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Marines in Afghanistan take 'The Village' to heart

Comparisons of Afghanistan to Vietnam are usually negative, but Marines in Helmand believe there are valuable lessons in the experience of 15 Marines who lived in a Vietnamese hamlet for two years.

 
Reporting from Helmand Province, Afghanistan - In political terms, any rhetoric linking the Afghan conflict and the Vietnam War is usually meant to be poisonous -- like the charge that Afghanistan has become President Obama's Vietnam.

But for the Marines in this former Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan, a book about the war in Vietnam has become a guide for how to wage a counterinsurgency campaign on a small scale. Though the overall U.S. effort in Southeast Asia ultimately failed, the Marines believe that lessons learned there could help in Afghanistan.

"The Village," by Bing West, first published in 1972, is the story of 15 Marines who spend two years in the remote hamlet of Binh Nghia, protecting villagers and joining with local security forces in trying to thwart a violent insurgency. Seven of the 15 were killed in action.

Although the geopolitical ramifications may be widely different, the missions given those long-ago Marines and the Marines assigned here are roughly similar: Live amid the populace, partner with local forces and together drive a wedge between the populace and the enemy.

Marine Gen. James Mattis, who led Marines into Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 and now heads the U.S. Joint Forces Command, says "The Village" is a must-read for troops "to understand the role of the small unit in the sort of war we're fighting in Afghanistan."

"Cohesive small units, well trained in more than fire and maneuver, and living among the people, are fundamental to victory," Mattis said. "Today's Marines saw how fast they were able to shatter an enemy in Iraq once the people of Al Anbar [province] turned against Al Qaeda."

"The Village" is on the reading list issued annually by Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway. Many commanders also recommended the book to their troops before deploying here; some held group discussions.

Dog-eared copies are common in the living quarters at Marine outposts spread among the farming communities of Helmand province. One company named several of its outposts after the Marines killed protecting Binh Nghia.

Until the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, returned last month to Camp Pendleton, 1st Lt. John Schippert commanded a patrol base in Helmand where Marines and Afghan soldiers lived side by side. The outpost was near a village that had been controlled by Taliban fighters until the Marines arrived in the summer.

Schippert asked his officers and senior enlisted Marines to read the book in preparation for the counterinsurgency mission.

"It helps you get out of the mind-set of conventional war," he said. "In a conflict like this, the center of gravity is the people. When you're neighbors with someone, their problems become your problems."

"The Village" does not underestimate the difficulty of counterinsurgency. In the book, written in novelistic style, the Marines are often suspicious of their Vietnamese partners. One squad member goes berserk and tries to kill villagers.

The Marines become complacent and lose several members in an ambush; top brass is too quick to declare victory and move on. "The Village" preaches the principles of constant awareness, persistence, respecting but not fearing the enemy.

The Marines at Binh Nghia faced some of the same challenges Marines encounter in Helmand: corruption and shifting loyalties among local forces, an enemy that can move undetected among the populace, and villagers afraid that the Americans will desert them.

In the book, the villagers slowly begin to trust the Marines and side with them against the Viet Cong, much as today's Marine command wants rural Afghans to turn against the Taliban.

"There was no awe of the unknown in the villagers' dealing with the Marines," West has written. "They were not the anonymous giants of the tanks, jets and helicopters. These Americans lived in their village, ate their food, worked with their men, died in their paddies."

Generals and other visitors have come to Helmand to evaluate the Marines' success. Among the visitors was West, who as a Marine captain in Vietnam was sent to evaluate efforts at Binh Nghia. A former assistant secretary of Defense, West has written three books about Marines in Iraq.

On the verge of a return trip to the front lines in Afghanistan, West said recently that when he wrote "The Village" he thought that "no one would read -- or care -- about what we had accomplished.

"It's gratifying to know that grunts in faraway hamlets today have 'The Village' in their rucksacks."

tony.perry@latimes.com
USS ARIZONA Marine Remembrance At Pearl Harbor
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UPDATE:    We saved the Marine Corps Rememberance Memorial in Pearl Harbor From The National Park Service.

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From:    Colonel John R. Bates USMC (ret)     jrbatesusmc@aol.com
 
UPDATE:   A couple of years ago, I was the Operations Officer for the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, on the waterfront between the USS ARIZONA and the USS BOWFIN. The Commandant of the Marine Corps was the featured speaker at the dedication of the USS ARIZONA Marine Remembrance, 10 November 2006. The National Park Service, which administers the USS ARIZONA Memorial is renovating all of Halawa Landing, the site of the Marine Remembrance. The Regional Director of the Natl Park Service Western Region, Jon Jarvis, stated on the local TV news that the Marine Remembrance would be removed. I challenged him on that statement and convinced him that would not happen without a fight. I passed the word to (disabled CAP Marine vet) Jack Cunningham (Americans Working Together), who in turn asked his readership to email Jarvis that the entire USMC would make every effort to have him relieved of his duties if he moved that monument. I was copied on many of the emails to him from Marines, their friends and their families that it nearly fried my computer. And...it worked. In order to save his job, Jarvis backed down. The Remembrance now belongs to the USMC and has its' rightful place in direct view of the USS ARIZONA.

 

COLONEL JOHN BATES

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Now, Jack Cunningham can use our help himself, as he fights for his due process against a corrupt law firm and state officials who are protecting them.
 
 

A state Supreme Court attorney ethics Vice-Chairman Robert Correale misuses his high level government and court office to Cover-Up and block ethics violations and legal malpractice charges against his own law firm, Maynard & Truland.  After eight years, the Cover-Up leads all the way up to the Governor's Office, the Attorney General's Office, the state's Supreme Court and Superior Court.

Disabled Vietnam vet, Jack Cunningham's ethic complaints start with Robert Correale's and his law firm's gross negligence, over-charging per hour, false billing, lack of communications, coming to court unprepared and open perjury to the New Jersey Supreme Court and Superior Court systems.   (Evidence are Maynard & Truland's own contact, invoices, court-filed letters, court-filed documents and court-filed sworn statements, NJ Supreme Court attorney certifications, etc.)
 
Thanks to some dedicated, honest State Legislators, Jack Cunningham is no longer in this battle alone.   Please read the below letters. 
 
It's going to another level.  It's proof that in America, the little guy can win, if he or she does not give up...

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"The CAP is alive, US forces are better off because of your efforts nearly two generations ago, and (from the Iraqis I still talk with) the conditions in Iraq are much better today than several years ago."
       LtCol P.C. Skuta, USMC    
Read what CAP is doing today: http://www.capveterans.com/cap_marines
 
 
 
 
 
Email:   Webmaster  ProudCAPMarine@eathlink.net 
 
 
Please press the next three pictures for larger copies.
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Three tour veteran of the Vietnam War, Sardo Sanchez (center stage) is welcomed to Crossville, Tennessee's Welcome Home to Vietnam Veterans.  Sardo Sanchez was the representative of New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson and announced to the crowd that the State of New Mexico has also named March 29 Vietnam Veterans Day.
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Left to right:   Sardo Sanchez, webmaster Jack Cunningham, Bob Tuke
All three Vietnam Veterans served in the Marine Corps Combined Action Program (CAP).  Sardo served three tours in Vietnam and two tours in CAP.
 
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Right, former Marine CAP Veteran (CAP 3-4-4), Johnny J. Howard of Tennessee (28 miles from Crossville).  The night before this picture was taken, Johnny Howard was notified that his grandson was wounded in Iraq and was coming home.
 
 
Please press the next link to read more details about Crossville, Tennessee's Welcome Home / Vietnam Veterans Day.    http://www.ccvietnamvets.com
 
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