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We had unarmored HMMWVs in the early days. We removed the useless plastic doors and the tarp over the bed so that we could bring our weapons to bear on all sides. Fallujah did not get the memo that the war was over, and my unit was one of the "lucky" first ones that learned that the hard way.
The US Army was spread very thinly all over Iraq at the time and there were only a several hundred troops in the area spanning Fallujah to Ar Ramadi, the heart of Anbar Province. The Marines did not arrive until nearly a year after this foto was taken. The insurgency literally sprang-up around us, with such guys as Abu Musab Al Zarkawi operating there. Al Zarkawi, a Sunni, first made a name for himself organizing attacks on us in the Fallujah area. He later rose to fame as a world-class psychopath by organizing suicide bombings on hapless Shiite Iraqis in the local marketplaces of Baghdad in the dreadful Summer of 2006.
It took months before we got reinforcements in Habbiniyah, our base just West of Fallujah. Eventually, only armored vehicles were allowed on the roads but I was never in an armored vehicle in those days - we rolled completely exposed on my tour.