New Book Details Stories of US Soldiers Who Fought in Ramadi

  • Anthony Deane, a retired U.S. Army colonel, is out with a new book called, “Ramadi Declassified: A Roadmap to Peace in the Most Dangerous City in Iraq.” (Image courtesy Tony Deane)
    Anthony Deane, a retired U.S. Army colonel, is out with a new book called, “Ramadi Declassified: A Roadmap to Peace in the Most Dangerous City in Iraq.” (Image courtesy Tony Deane)
  • Anthony Deane, a retired U.S. Army colonel, is out with a new book called, “Ramadi Declassified: A Roadmap to Peace in the Most Dangerous City in Iraq.” (Image courtesy Tony Deane)
    Anthony Deane, a retired U.S. Army colonel, is out with a new book called, “Ramadi Declassified: A Roadmap to Peace in the Most Dangerous City in Iraq.” (Image courtesy Tony Deane)

Anthony Deane was a young U.S. Army officer when he deployed to Iraq during the first Gulf War.

In 1990, he was among the 26,000 soldiers who served with the 24th Infantry Division during Operation Desert Storm and participated in the 96-hour battle that became known as the "left hook" attack and a major victory for then-Gen. Barry McCaffrey.

In 2006, Deane returned to Iraq as a colonel during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Given his previous tour of duty in the country, he felt like he had the necessary experience to carry out his orders to "take back Ramadi...but don't make it another Fallujah." He recalled thinking, "Well, I've been in combat, I understand how this works."

That changed when Deane and the incoming and outgoing company commanders drove in Humvees on a patrol around the city, which extends along the Euphrates River.

While the officers were conducting final checks to validate the company relief in place program, a suicide bomber rammed a dump truck carrying a 500-pound bomb into a security control point set up by Iraqi security forces in the southern end of town. Insurgents began mortaring the troops and shooting at them from across the river in a complex attack.

"[We] were the first three to show up for help," he said. "We find ourselves in this firefight...and we're getting attacked from two sides, and I was like, 'This ain't at all what Desert Storm was like.'"

Deane is the author of "Ramadi Declassified: A Roadmap to Peace in the Most Dangerous City in Iraq," which was published in May by Praetorian Books. He joins a growing list of authors who have written about the U.S. military's involvement in that strategic city.

This year, Kevin Lacz, a former Navy SEAL who in 2006 served alongside the late "American Sniper" Chris Kyle in Ramadi, penned, "The Last Punisher: A SEAL Team Three Sniper's True Account of the Battle of Ramadi," which was co-authored by his wife Lindsey and former Marine Corps combat correspondent Ethan Rocke and published by Simon and Schuster.

Five years ago, Jim Michaels, a reporter for USA Today who worked with Deane and then-Col. Sean MacFarland while they were in Ramadi, wrote, "A Chance in Hell: The Men Who Triumphed Over Iraq's Deadliest City and Turned the Tide of War." MacFarland, meanwhile, went on to become a lieutenant general who oversaw the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Deane, who recently sat down with Military.com to discuss his experiences in Iraq, said he decided to write his own book in part to tell the stories of the soldiers with whom he served. During his tour, 17 American service members were killed in his unit and several dozen more were wounded, many with life-changing injuries, he said.

"I thought the story of my soldiers needed to be told," he said. "They just fought heroically...It sounds kind of corny to say uncommon valor was common, but it really was."

In just one example, Deane recounted how Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Folks, a tanker assigned to the advisory team, left the safety of a forward operating base to join a firefight after hearing that a Marine, Chief Warrant Officer Jason Forgash, was injured while traveling with an Iraqi patrol that was ambushed by insurgents.

"Folks in one Humvee leaves the FOB, drives into the firefight, finds him in all this chaos, throws him in the back and gets him to the hospital within 10 minutes, which saved his life," he said.

In writing the book, Deane also wanted to explain the difficulty of the challenge to convince Sunni tribal shieks in Anbar province to stop fighting American and Iraqi forces, a movement that became known as the Awakening and, combined with the surge of U.S. troops into Iraq, was credited with helping turn the tide of violence in the country.

"The story of Ramadi has been told, but it's been told in pieces, especially the Awakening," he said. "There was really two groups fighting us: al-Qaeda and local mujahideen who were just angry that we were there and that the government in Baghdad wasn't Sunni anymore.

"We always thought if we could split the mujahadeen from al-Qaeda, things would go pretty well, he said. "I used to tell my guys, 'It's almost like some sort of weird Iraqi Red Dawn going on here," he added, referring to the 1984 movie about a Soviet invasion of the U.S. "They're just mad we're here. We just got to get them pointed in the right direction."

Deane pointed to difficulties, such as the deaths of sheiks who decided to collaborate with the Americans. After his deployment, one of the sheiks he worked with, Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, who had recently met with then-President George W. Bush, was killed in a bomb attack in September 2007.

Deane also highlighted successes in recruiting local Iraqis to join the security forces, including one recruitment drive at a sheik's house that added 200 policemen to the ranks -- despite a mortar attack on the compound the same day. While the figure wasn't the 500 police as promised, it was "twice as many as we had the day before," he said.

Even so, Deane said he regrets the decision made at the time by the chain of command to compensate the fighters for their willingness to lay down their arms.

"When we started paying the Sons of Iraq, I think that might have been a huge mistake, instead of forcing them into reconciling among themselves," he said. "There's a lot you can do with military power, but until you get the political reconciliation between the people, you're just going to be out there killing people."

Deane also said he wishes the U.S. kept a larger military footprint in Iraq. American troops left the country in 2011 -- only to return a few years later amid increasing violence. To combat the rise of ISIS, President Barack Obama in 2014 authorized U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and, more recently, the deployment of up to almost 5,000 American troops.

"We had such an opportunity after the Awakening, after the surge," Deane said. "By 2010-2011, things were going pretty well and we just kind of let that go away."

Last year, nearly a decade after Deane's second tour in Iraq, Ramadi fell to Islamic militants. While the city center was retaken by Iraqi forces, it sustained heavy damage in the fighting and remains in dire condition.

"When Ramadi fell, I think most of us were pretty mad about it," Deane said. "We fought for it and Americans lost their lives on the ground. It just symbolized for me the opportunity that was lost.

"If you look at the recapturing of Ramadi, it's flattened," he added. "There's a humanitarian crisis down there. Buildings are booby-trapped. The whole town's rubbled. So it's gone for at least a few years until it's rebuilt -- if it's going to be rebuilt."

--Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

Related Video:

Col. Tony Deane, U.S. Army (Ret.) sat down with Military.com to discuss his new book "Ramadi Declassified".

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