Friday, January 27, 2006

Embedded With U.S. Marines

"AP Correspondent Antonio Castaneda is embedded with U.S. Marines in Ramadi, one of the most violent cities in Iraq. This is the first of his periodic blog on his experiences there.


FRIDAY, Jan. 27, 7:05 p.m. local


Ramadi - A portrait of a scorching Iraq made of oceans of sand, sagging and nondescript buildings has been etched into the public mindset. But there's another side of Iraq that slowly takes form over the winter: one of freezing nights and occasional rainstorms that turn swaths of the country into giant mud puddles.

Here in Ramadi, possibly Iraq's most violent city, weather should be the last thing on anyone's mind as the city endures urban shootouts and daily explosions. But weather is morale, remarked a colleague to me as he trudged through a mud landscape and tentatively tested the depth of murky pools of water with the tip of his boot. A usually annoying inconvenience took on new dimensions as tanks and multi-ton armored vehicles plowed down the narrow streets of this military base, creating ravines hidden by sheets of cold, standing water. The mud stuck on boots, socks, jackets, hair, mattresses and brought a dull chill to everything.

"Everything else isn't so bad but it's the mud that gets to you. Look, you've only been here two days and you're already packed in it," said Sgt. Rich Scaricaciottoli as he escorted me through Camp Ar Ramadi, which looked mostly the same since my last visit in May. I wondered how Korean war veterans had endured tours through similar weather - and more casualties - over longer periods of time."


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