I grew up in Baghdad in the 70’s.
My father was a defense officer and it was a great place to live.
The Iraqis were incredibly hospitable and allowed me to ride my bike wherever I wanted in the city. On weekends, we went camping in the desert and roasted a giant river carp on the banks of the Tigris.
Iraq, where I returned to in 2007 as commander of the 4th Battalion,
Rifles were a very different place.
A young rifleman, whom I had the privilege of commanding, immediately called the Basrah Palace base “probably the worst palace in the world,” after a Carlsberg advertisement of the time.
From May to September of that year, we fired thousands of rockets and mortars. We were hit by about 100 roadside bombs.
We faced snipers. We faced small arms fire. Almost 100% chance of getting caught in a gunfight when you enter the city.
In that year alone, 47 British soldiers were killed and 202 were killed in action.
injured. Many of the dead were from my own regiment.
So, as we mark the 20th anniversary of the Iraq conflict, I would like to
Understand why many veterans remember it with mixed emotions.
It took a long time to return from what the regiment experienced.
I’ve been to some dark places. But, in my view, a review of Operation Terik, the name given to the British operation in Iraq, gives us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
For veterans who still carry the physical and emotional scars of difficult days, it’s an opportunity to speak about our experiences.
It wasn’t until I started having those conversations with my friends that I realized my feelings were normal. Their empathy and understanding helped me to lift my eyes and move forward.
The benefit of hindsight also brings foresight. Anniversaries are a chance to remember what worked and what didn’t.
Op Telic is an extraordinary effort and one of the largest British deployments since the end of World War II.
This included all three services. About 46,000 troops were initially deployed, of which he included 9,500 reservists.
Britain sent 19 warships, 14 Royal Fleet auxiliaries, 15,000 vehicles, 115 fixed-wing aircraft and nearly 100 helicopters to the Gulf.
Despite being the first “heated battle” for many, the early successes of the British army were extraordinary.
They quickly captured the port city of Umm Qasr. With the liberation of Basra, the British won the largest tank battle since World War II.
And with our glorious U.S. allies, they ousted the brutal dictator.
Having lived in Iraq before Saddam, I knew how much the Iraqi people suffered under his regime.
And I knew how happy they were that he was gone.
It’s been a tough year. The flames of rebellion were kindled and many lessons were learned thanks to the late Sir John Chilcott.
But let us not forget the bravery of our soldiers. I watched them learn. I have seen them adapt. I saw their resilience and fighting spirit building despite being hit so hard.
Private Michelle Norris became the first woman to receive a military cross.
Only 19 years old, with little basic training, and under severe attack, she successfully rescued a badly wounded patrol commander.
Private Johnson Behari was awarded the first Victoria Cross of the Order
into the 21st century.
Despite being severely injured by an enemy rocket-propelled grenade, he was able to save his wounded comrades from danger.
Many Iraqi veterans are still serving today. Michelle Norris is now a Sergeant at 22 Field Hospital. Johnson Beharie was recently promoted to Sergeant Major.
The Iraq War still provokes strong opinions. But today we put those arguments aside.
Wreaths are laid alongside the Iraq and Afghanistan War Memorial in Whitehall and at the National Memorial Botanical Gardens in Staffordshire.
Like any veteran, my thoughts are with an old friend.
Those who continue to serve, those who have long retired, those who have never been able to return home.
Thousands Wounded in Eight Years, Many Innocent Iraqis Wounded
Dead, 179 British soldiers paid the final price.
Their sacrifices were not in vain.
Their service laid the foundation for a strong partnership with the Iraqi government. A partnership that will continue to help rebuild the proud country I remember from my childhood and bring stability to the wider region.
And today, even in times that are more dangerous than any military uniform I know, the Desert Warriors remain a true inspiration. , tenacious determination, and an aggressive spirit are always needed.
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