Monday, August 13, 2007

Novelist Visits Baqubah for Inspiration

1 Aug 07
By Spc. Armando Monroig
5th MPAD.

BAQUBAH, Iraq - Sgt. Richard Galli carried a pistol, two magazines and never a radio. While he used guides he didn’t know, and often traveled to places he had never been, his commander expected him to come back alive. That was 1971. Galli was a linguist who worked for a civil affairs unit in Hue, Vietnam.

Thirty-six years later, Galli, now a lawyer and novelist, is in the Diyala province to find inspiration for his next book. He’s here to see how civil affairs Soldiers get their jobs done in, what is currently, one of the most dangerous places in Iraq.

“It’s just an enormous difference between the way civil affairs is done here and the way I did it back in Vietnam,” said Galli.

Galli has written several books, including “Rescuing Jeffery,” based on a tragic life experience with his son who was paralyzed from the neck down after a swimming accident, and “REMFs: Rear Echelon Mother (Expletive),” based on his experience as a civil affairs Soldier during the Vietnam War. He also writes short stories and columns for The Providence Journal in Rhode Island.

“I’m catching up with old business,” he said. “I’m trying to find out what the new generation of civil affairs Soldiers are like and what kind of problems they have in this war.” Galli said that when he asked to be embedded with a unit, he requested to go where civil affairs units are most active and the job is hardest to accomplish. He got what he asked for: Baqubah.

After spending a few days with members of the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion, from Little Rock, Ark., Galli found a few similarities. “The dominant characteristic of me and the people around me back then wasn’t anger, it was humor,” he said. “We were young guys trying to have a good time, even though we were at war.”

Galli also learned that civil affairs conducts missions similar to those he participated in more than 30 years ago: medical visits to local hospitals, handing out much needed supplies, such as water and medicine, and improving agriculture. Galli said he knew it was more difficult to conduct civil affairs missions in Baqubah, but didn’t fully realize how difficult until he observed what the 431st CA Bn. goes through to get the job done.

To deliver rice in Diyala, he said, he would have to have a sizable security force. “Sometimes there’d be two of us (in Vietnam). At the most there would be three of us,” said Galli. He said many back in the U.S. don’t understand what it’s like to be in Iraq and don’t realize how hard it is to conduct any type of mission.

“If you were to tell somebody that somebody died on a mission in Iraq, they’d be thinking, ‘Oh, well, they went to a village to have a fight with some terrorists, to arrest somebody. But anything can be a mission here – delivering mail, going to talk to somebody.”

“I look at this and say, ‘Wow, this is so much tougher,” he said. Galli said the material he gathers during this visit to Iraq will be added to his previously-written book about civil affairs in Vietnam or used for writing an entirely new book. “I came with an idea for an outline, kind of a core – I’m not sure about it anymore because I’m not sure that my preconception of what I’d find here matches reality,” he said.

Photo - Richard Galli, Vietnam War veteran, lawyer and author, poses for a photo at Forward Operating Base Warhorse near Baqubah, Iraq, June 14. Galli was in Diyala province to gather material for a book he is working on. Galli was part of a civil affairs unit during Vietnam. He came to FOB Warhorse to embed with the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion, from Little Rock, Ark., and to see how the new generation of CA Soldiers work. Photo by Sgt. Armando Monroig, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

Source: Another one of CENTCOM's article's that has moved. I did find another source who has a very nice site at Asymetric Military. Check it out when you get the opportunity. Have a blessed day.

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