The major from Swindon leading US marines in Iraq
By Oliver Poole at Camp Ripper
An officer from the Royal Marines has been put in charge of American troops to make use of the counter-insurgency expertise Britain gained in Northern Ireland.
Major Richard Maltby, 34, is seconded to the Second Marine Regiment, deployed in the troubled province of Anbar in western Iraq. He is the first foreign officer to be responsible for US combat troops in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
This month an operation was launched in the city of Hit, which had been effectively controlled by insurgents since November. As more than 1,000 US marines conducted house-to-house searches, Major Maltby, from Swindon, led 408 men in a sweep of the Euphrates valley to the east.
They uncovered arms caches containing 24,000 rounds of ammunition and hundreds of mortars, rocket launchers and machine guns.
"They sometimes have difficulty understanding what I am saying on the radio because of my accent," said Major Maltby. "But I believe I have gained their respect in a difficult situation."
He was sent to California in August 2003 to teach cold-weather warfare, but when the regiment was sent to Iraq in February a different set of skills were needed.
"He was the most experienced man out here as a result of the Troubles," said Col Stephen Davis, his commanding officer. "You need great sensitivity to deal with the multiplicity of complex situations we face."
How often does this sort of thing happen?