By Ann Rubin
(KSDK) - In the last week, violence in Iraq seems to be escalating. So does the political discussion about the war. But what do the troops think?
A commander in the U.S. Army Reserve gives his thoughts on the troop surge, the suicide bombings and the chances for success in Iraq.
Army Capt. Eric Coulson has spent the last six months in Iraq. He arrived home on leave Sunday, still as certain of his mission as the day he left.
Still he said, he can't completely disengage, especially considering what happened Feb. 8, when three soldiers in his unit were killed.
Members of the 321st Engineer Battalion were headed to a helicopter crash near Ramadi. Their job was to clear the route of IEDs. Along the way, two exploded.
Still, Coulson forces his unit to look at the successes of their mission.
"I keep telling my soldiers this because we have to keep going out and doing it. If you look at the big picture for that mission, we had two IEDs go off. But we found ten,” said Coulson.
The successes are especially important in a time when it seems violence in Iraq has escalated. This week near Baghdad, a suicide bombing killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded 17.
And outside Ramadi, an attack killed nine bystanders.
Still, Coulson said from what he's seen, things in Ramadi are improving.
"It doesn't mean it's all sunshine and roses. But we can go in any part of Ramadi that we want to. When I got there you could probably go into about 40 percent of Ramadi permissively,” said Coulson.
In addition, Coulson said Iraqi police forces are taking a more active role.
"It's like getting ready for the big game. You want to get in. You don't want to sit on the sidelines. You want to get in. I've met a lot of Iraqi police, particularly in Fallujah where I also operate out of, and they want to take the lead,” said Coulson.
Coulson wants people to know what it's really like in Iraq. He has both a written and a video blog.
"I keep up with what the media reports. But my husband obviously having his blog, I also try to keep up with what the soldiers are saying and the two don't always meet,” said Karen Coulson.
The Coulsons believe more troops are needed. They believe progress is being made and they still believe in the war.
"It's still very hard to hold on to those sort of theoretical ideas about it when you've stood in a morgue over the body of someone you care very much about,” said Coulson.
After his leave is up, Coulson will go back to finish what he started.
"There is the mission and there is the oath I took as an Army officer. There are people I care about who are counting on me to come back and get us all home,” said Coulson.
Coulson plans to spend the next few days with family and friends. He'll head back to Iraq March 6.