2014-11-06 / Front Page

Marine colonel to address crowd on Veterans Day

By Ken Shane

Michael Mooney Michael Mooney Marine Col. Michael Mooney has been an infantryman in the military for 30 years, serving several combat tours in the Middle East during the war on terror. Now a resident of Jamestown, the Naval War College professor will address the East Ferry crowd during the annual Veterans Day ceremony on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Mooney, who teaches strategy and policy at the Newport school, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1985 and was commissioned from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1992. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mooney was deployed to the region. He returned to Iraq several years later as part of the “surge” designed to put down the rebellion that had risen after the initial invasion. Mooney was deployed a third time following the insurgency.

Mooney, who spent the majority of his time as a reconnaissance Marine working with special ops, saw the entire spectrum, he said. He was overseas during the liberation of Iraq in 2003, during the rise of the rebels in 2006, and during the aftermath in 2009.

Mooney was on the ground with the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion when the unit crossed the border into Iraq and ended up in Nasiriyah. The world would come to know the town as the place where American soldier Jessica Lynch was ambushed and kidnapped. Mooney’s regiment met Lynch’s lost convoy as it was retreating from the city.

“We got into a big, big fight in Nasiriyah,” Mooney said. “It was really the first big fight of the war in an urban environment.”

Mooney’s regiment found traces of where the ally POWs had been kept. After a week in Nasiriyah, American forces broke the resistance, and special operations forces were able to rescue Lynch from her captors.

The American public had been told by government leaders that U.S. forces would be greeted as liberators by Iraqis. According to Mooney, the resistance in Nasiriyah was significant, and no one had foreseen the type of “asymmetric” campaign that the enemy was waging. American forces, with overwhelming superiority, were prepared for a toe-to-toe encounter.

After Nasiriyah, Mooney said, U.S. troops were greeted as liberators everywhere they went in Iraq. Mooney recalled being able to ride around in Humvees with no doors, something previously unheard of. He said the atmosphere reminded him of stories about the liberation of France in World War II.

The goodwill didn’t last long, however. Mooney’s unit was sent home just a month after American forces reached Baghdad. That’s when things started to go wrong, he said. Missteps by the government in the post-hostile phase of the operation allowed for the insurgency to grow.

When Mooney went to Afghanistan, it was as commander of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. His mission was to disrupt Taliban forces in areas where there had been no coalition. The first stop was in Marjah, where the battalion set up an operation on the east side of the city. The task was to stop the flow of fighters and weapons into the city.

Although the city was occupied by Marines, they were fighting something of a “commuter war.” Enemy forces would leave the city at the end of each day and live in bordering villages, only to return the next day with more weapons.

“We were there about three months,” Mooney said. “We disrupted their command and control, gained the trust of the locals, and helped to stand up some of the Afghan forces.”

A similar mission took the battalion to a place called Sangin in northern Afghanistan, a central location of the opium trade, which the Taliban had been using to generate money. British forces had suffered many casualties and were driven out of the area, but Mooney’s battalion arrived on helicopters and successfully disrupted enemy activities.

Although Mooney’s battalion was involved in “kinetic” operations around dangerous areas, he is proud and grateful that not one Marine in his unit was killed in action. There were sufferers, however, with up to 25 percent of the squad being wounded. Mooney said it’s a testament to the skill of young Marine corporals and sergeants who were able to treat the wounded on the battlefield, especially since they all survived.

“It’s an honor to be around those guys,” Mooney said. “They really took it to the enemy in our time in Afghanistan.”

Mooney lives in the Jamestown Shores with his wife, Bethany, and two daughters, Bowdyn, 8, and Callie, 5. Both girls attend Melrose School. Mooney previously lived in town when he was a student at the Naval War College four years ago. His current teaching assignment began in 2013 and is expected to last three years.

“We absolutely love Jamestown,” Mooney said, “and everything about it.”

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