Last month I posted a review of A Table in the Presence by Lt. Carey H. Cash, a Navy chaplain who was among the first troops to enter Iraq. In the review I mentioned that a current Pennsylvania congressional candidate served with Cash and promised details later. Today is the day!
Dr. Manan Trivedi, one of the Democratic candidates for the 6th congressional district, was at that time Battalion Surgeon Lieutenant Manan Trivedi, with the First Battalion, Fifth Marines. At times Trivedi and Cash camped in the same tent. If you want to know about Trivedi's war time experience, reading this book will provide a good background. It is from Cash's perspective but the overall environment will be the same.
Trivedi makes a few appearances by name in the book. On p. 27:
Dr. Trivedi was one of about fifty U.S. Navy personnel permanently assigned to the battalion including the RP, another medical officer (MO) Erik Koppang, roughly forty-five corpsmen (or "docs" for short), and me.
If you are wondering why a Navy doctor is serving with the Marines, it seems the Marines is a division of the Navy (there is a joke about what division -- ask any Marine and I'm sure they will tell you), but is considered a separate entity in the military command structure. Cash tells us that that in the photograph of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima five of the six men in the picture are Marines and the other is a Navy Medical Corpsman.
For those who wonder just how close to battle the battalion surgeon might be, Cash describes the formation of the troops crossing the border on p. 12:
"I was in the section called the combat train. We were fifteen vehicles strong and consisted of the battalion's surgeon medical corpsman, ammunition, food resupply personnel, vehicle maintenance personnel, nuclear / biological / chemical experts (NBC folks for short), and the battalion's chaplain and RP. the combat train's job was simple: follow directly behind the lead combat elements of our battalion with ready resupply materials."
On page 28 Cash ribs Trivedi about not knowing all the Marine customs (which Cash did not know either when joining the battalion) he would need to follow.
On pages 56 and 57 Cash provides some information on their living conditions just before they crossed into Iraq, watching oil fires lighting the night sky, and the unease they felt when they found strangers loitering near their water containers and kitchens. There had been explosions in the area and the troops were understandably concerned about potential sabotage.
Later in the book, on page 138, Cash describes the efforts he and Trivedi made to calm an Iraqi family that had been caught in the crossfire. "We offered blankets, food, and water, hoping to assure them that we did not intend to hurt them. Dr. Trivedi and tried for about an hour to let them know that we were their friends and would let them go as soon as possible."
A sad final appearance on p. 194 when Cash and Trivedi "snatched the perforated paper from the and of the regimental aid [sic] and immediately pored over the names. In all, seventy-six Marines had been injured in the hours between 4:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. that day."
Those interested in Trivedi's military service might wish to read the whole thing.