by DAVID AXE
First Lieutenant Wesley Gray was a Marine Corps reservist assigned to a team training the Iraqi army in Haditha, western Iraq, in 2006. His excellent new book, Embedded, from Naval Institute Press, recalls his experiences and teases out some important lessons for future advising missions. It’s an important book, as the Marines re-organize to make foreign military training a core mission.
Embedded is also deeply, darkly hilarious in places. Consider chapter 11, “Death Operations,” where Gray found himself hauling around, Weekend at Bernie’s-style, the dead body of an Iraqi soldier who had been killed in action. The Marines called the Iraqi KIA, “angels.” It was Gray’s job to make sure the angel’s body reached the next of kin, as soon as possible. But incompetent Marine Corps bureaucracy, fickle helicopter schedules and the labyrinthine geography of Gray’s Haditha-dam base kept interfering.
At one point, Gray’s superiors had relieved him of the body until a flight could come in to pick it up. But the flight arrived early. Gray had 10 minutes to find the body and get it to the chopper.
“Where is the angel’s body?”
[A Marine] responded, “Uh, I’m not sure. The S-4 said you guys would have it with you.”
My jaw hit the deck.
At a loss for where to look, Gray asked one of his enlisted men, nicknamed “V.”
V, being the designated chow Marine for the [training team], knew of only one set of freezers on the seventh deck — the chow freezers. “Dude,” I asked him, “you think they would be sick enough to store the body with all the meat, milk and other perishables?”
They were. Gray found the angel’s blown-apart body in a stack next to the frozen hamburger patties.
Good book. Check it out.