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RAMADI, Iraq — It had all the makings of a reality TV blockbuster — drama, violence and do-it-yourself home improvements.
Like some combat version of "This Old House" or "Trading Spaces Iraq," U.S. soldiers, Marines and Navy SEALS seized two houses in Ramadi's deadliest neighborhood Tuesday and converted them into a fortified patrol base.
As Apache helicopters circled the dusty, bullet-pocked neighborhood and sniper teams dropped insurgent attackers with blasts from their .50-caliber rifles, the banging of hammers and the whine of electric saws echoed throughout the seized houses.
Insurgents began lashing out at sunup, presumably once they realized U.S. troops were building an outpost in the middle of their turf.
In recognition of the SEALs' role in helping to tame Ramadi, commanders dubbed Tuesday's action "Operation Vicksburg." MacFarland said that the famous Civil War battle of the same name was a shining example of cooperation between the U.S. Army and the Navy.
"Vicksburg also cut the Confederacy in half," MacFarland said. "And what we're doing right now is cutting the enemy's safe haven in half."
Throughout the mayhem, the engineers kept working, cigarettes permanently attached to the lips of some of them.
"This is routine for us," said First Sgt. Jerry Bailey, 42, of Athens, Ga. "We'll take a break if we get attacked and then go back to work. We don't stop till we're through."