Iraq war veteran Erik Swabb ’09 recently returned to Iraq and was embedded with a U.S. combat unit, hoping to gain an informed assessment of the security and political situation in the country. The trip was organized by the non-partisan group Vets for Freedom, which is aimed at educating the American public about the importance of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

“It’s incredible to go back and see it [the changes] with my own eyes,” Swabb said in a television interview about his trip. “The security situation is completely different. You have Iraqi security forces increasingly able to control and patrol their own neighborhoods. You see economic development occurring because of those security gains. You see reconstruction, you see basic services being restored, and all of these positive developments are creating the political reconciliation you hear so much about.”

Swabb was originally planning to return to Ramadi, in the Anbar Province, where he served as a Marine infantry officer from September 2004 until March 2005. But, due to transportation problems, he remained near Baghdad, joining the Army’s 10th Mountain Division to observe their operations at Camp Victory.

During his week-long stay, Swabb said he was shocked to see the “ease with which the U.S. forces interact not only with the Iraqi people but also with the Iraqi security forces.” Iraqi commanders are beginning to take the lead, which is a huge change from where the country was three years ago, he said.

Swabb also said he witnessed a return to normalcy for the Iraqi people. Civilians are no longer afraid to go outside to the market, to go visit a neighbor, or to have large events like weddings, he said.

Swabb is affiliated with the National Review, and his dispatches from Iraq can be read on the Vets for Freedom website. He has been outspoken on the war since ending his active duty, publishing articles and op-eds in the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, and the Baltimore Sun. He has also made television and radio appearances on BBC World News, BBC Radio, National Public Radio, New England Cable News, and several local stations.