View Full Version : Clean socks a boon to infantry in Fallujah
04-17-04, 08:11 AM
Clean socks a boon to infantry in Fallujah
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification Number: 200441645438
Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen
FALLUJAH, Iraq(April 14, 2004) -- The gruff bark from the platoon sergeant was music to the ears of the infantrymen of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.
"Your dog-gone packs are here, now lets get a working party going," said Gunnery Sgt. James E. Dinwoodie, platoon sergeant for Weapons Platoon, Company E.
After days of gunfire, sweat and grime, there's something to be said for the luxury of changing into clean socks, shirts and skivvies. Simple pleasures in life, such as sleeping bags and toothpaste caught up to the Marines who fought against enemy forces in the city for more than a week.
"It's about time we got our packs because we stink," whispered Cpl. Jeramy Whitley, an infantryman in 1st Platoon.
Water, meals and other supplies are arriving more regularly now. Earlier supply convoys were reserved for essentials in combat - food, water and ammunition. Marines, until now, just had to make do without.
"Well, it's nice to have our packs now because we have our sleeping bags," said Cpl. Justin M. Rettenberger, a squad leader in 1st Platoon.
Still, Marines found ways to make life as comfortable as possible. They established shower rotations with a Navy hospital corpsman's approval, after finding running water in some of the abandoned buildings in the city. That water, though, was only good for a quick wash. Drinking water was coveted.
"Now we can shave and we haven't brushed our teeth for over a week, so it sucked," Rettenberger explained. "But we're grunts, so we're used to it."
Living without even regular change of socks wasn't a morale breaker, Rettenberger explained. Getting the gear though, boosted spirits.
"This is a great platoon. The morale of my Marines is high," Rettenberger said. "We're out here doing alright, and we're accomplishing the mission that we got out here to do."
Lance Cpl. Steven J. Barnes III reaches into his pack for clean socks, shirts and skivvies during the suspension of offensive operations in Fallujah. Barnes is a machine gunner with 1st Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen) Photo by: Sgt. Jose E. Guillen
04-17-04, 08:12 AM
Intelligence discoveries paint picture of enemy in Fallujah
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification Number: 20044165945
Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen
FALLUJAH, Iraq(April 14, 2004) -- Marines operating in Fallujah are gaining a clearer picture of the enemy they face. Intelligence gathered from enemy dead, daily patrols and documents is proving links between terrorists and former regime elements loyal to deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.
Marines of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division remain at the ready in the city. The cordon of Fallujah is still in effect. Fighting between Marines and terrorist forces has simmered during the unilateral suspension of offensive operations. Still, occasional firefights are heard and Marines continue to refine their picture of who the enemy is.
"What we've discovered on the northern end of town are still people seemingly loyal to Saddam," said 1st Lt. Edward M. Solis, who has led numerous foot-patrols leading to the discovery of enemy intelligence.
Solis is the platoon commander of 1st Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
Some homes that Solis' Marines swept had pictures of Saddam hanging on their walls, telling the Marines some locals still had some reverence for the fallen dictator.
"If we suspect a family to be pro-Saddam, still latching onto the Ba'athist Party, and you find out they're former military, you realize what assets these insurgents have," Solis explained.
Marines with 1st Platoon also recovered useful documents such as identification cards, birth certificates and countless pictures of Iraq's former dictator. Each piece of information allowed a "connect-the-dots" map of what kind of enemy the Marines are facing.
"The 'intel' we've found were former military, friends of Saddam that participated in functions standard in this area, and a network of who's involved in terrorist and criminal attacks," Solis said.
Some of the intelligence has come from searching bodies of dead enemy fighters.
"When we walked up to a body of an insurgent shot the other day," Solis said "He had paperwork indicating he was a former military mortarman, which tells us he might be bringing the mortar capabilities to the enemy. He also had an AK-47 and binoculars."
The intelligence discoveries are evidence to Marines on the line that they are continually gaining ground against the enemy. Sgt. Jeremy Miller, a squad leader with 1st Platoon, said the motivation of the platoon has been at an all-time high.
"They're excited about doing what they got to do," Miller said. "The Marines can march through Fallujah from one side to the other, and keep pushing. Morale is very high."
"If the enemy only knew of the will of our Marines they would've given up by now,"
1st Lt. Edward M. Solis, platoon commander of 1st Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division finds a portrait of Saddam Hussein, which was cut out from a school text book and pasted inside a dresser. Solis and his men cleared abandoned buildings of terrorists as they made their way to a new location during a suspension of offensive operations in Fallujah.
(USMC photo by Sg.t Jose E. Guillen) Photo by: Sgt. Jose E. Guillen
04-17-04, 08:14 AM
U.S., Fallujah leaders hold negotiations
FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) — U.S. military and civilian officials met Friday with leaders from Fallujah, the first known direct negotiations involving Americans since the siege of the city began April 5. Nine civilians died in violence elsewhere in Iraq.
Also, the Arab TV station Al-Jazeera broadcast video showing a U.S. soldier, Pfc. Keith M. Maupin, 20, in the custody of five masked gunmen. Maupin, of Batavia, Ohio, was reported missing after an attack on a convoy a week ago. (Related story: Al-Jazeera airs video of U.S. soldier)
In the south, the most influential Shiite cleric in Iraq warned the Americans not to enter the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. A U.S. commander said there were no such plans.
The military said U.S. soldiers fought back after they were attacked near Kufa, which neighbors the holy city of Najaf. Some 2,500 U.S. soldiers are deployed outside Najaf to kill or capture radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and dismantle his al-Mahdi Army militia.
Large explosions were seen by the river in a sparsely populated area on the edge of Kufa. Five civilians caught in the crossfire were killed and 14 wounded, hospital officials said.
During the talks in Fallujah, the United States agreed to move its soldiers so residents would have direct access to the city's main hospital. Both sides agreed to continue dialogue on Saturday, said Ambassador Richard Jones, the civilian head of the U.S. delegation.
Until Friday, U.S.-allied Iraqi leaders have been holding talks with city representatives trying to find an end to the violence.
"We have agreed as a sign of good faith to continue the talks tomorrow morning," said Jones, the chief political adviser to L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq. He added that a military team was being sent to survey the situation at the hospital and disinfect the building.
On another front, Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, warned of a strong Shiite response if U.S. forces enter the holy cities of Najaf or Karbala to capture al-Sadr.
The two cities are a "red line," Mahdi al-Karbala'i, al-Sistani's representative in Karbala, said during a sermon. "We are calling for peaceful solutions, but if the coalition forces are to cross the red line, then will take a different stronger position."
Al-Sistani, a moderate who has opposed anti-U.S. violence, holds enormous influence among Iraq's Shiite majority.
Maj. Gen. John Sattler, director of operations for the U.S. Central Command, said there were no plans to go into the city.
"We're not planning at this time to move any offensive operations into an Najaf," Sattler said. "Sadr is there, we know where he is, but right now we're letting him to continue to marginalize himself and we're not focusing any combat power or combat operations into Najaf."
U.S. commanders said they expect to rotate some of the troops surrounding Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, a sign that imminent combat was not expected.
Iranian envoy Hossein Sadeghi was in Najaf Friday, but representatives of Muqtada al-Sadr said the envoy had no meetings with the anti-American cleric. Sadeghi's visit was arranged by Britain and appeared to have the approval of the United States, reflecting an eagerness to find a solution that would avert a U.S. assault on the city.
Meanwhile, the number of foreigners missing in Iraq rose after a man from the United Arab Emirates was abducted Thursday from his hotel in the southern city of Basra by kidnappers disguised as policemen. A Danish businessman was believed kidnapped earlier in the week.
Two U.S. soldiers and seven U.S. civilian contractors have been missing in Iraq since their convoy was attacked April 9 outside Baghdad.
Three Czech reporters missing since Sunday were released by their kidnappers. A Syrian-born Canadian was also freed.
Despite the talks in Fallujah, fighting continued in the city Friday. A U.S. F-16 warplane dropped a 2,000-pound bomb in northern Fallujah, destroying a building where gunmen had been seen, Marines said. The giant blast sent up a huge spray of dirt and smoke that clouded an entire neighborhood.
Also Friday, an Arab from the Persian Gulf was snatched from his hotel by gunmen disguised as police in the southern city of Basra on Thursday night, the hotel owner and Iraqi police official Col. Khalaf al-Maliki said.
The victim was carrying a passport from the United Arab Emirates that had U.S. travel stamps in it, leading to earlier incorrect reports that he was American, al-Maliki said. The hotel owner, who refused to be named, said gunmen broke into the hotel and pulled out the man.
The Danish man was in Iraq to start up a company that deals with sewage projects, according to Denmark television station DR-1. He was missing after his car was stopped Tuesday on a highway near Tadji, 20 miles north of Baghdad.
Kidnappers have released a Chinese citizen who was abducted Wednesday, said Muthanna Harith, a member of the Islamic Clerics Committee, which earlier had worked to win the freedom of three Japanese hostages.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the man was an employee of a Chinese company and was traveling from Jordan to Iraq when his car was stopped by Iraqis at a checkpoint.
At least 21 foreigners have been abducted in the past week in a wave of kidnappings. The most occurred on roads west and south of Baghdad, where gunmen have run rampant the past week, attacking convoys and battling U.S. troops.
Gunmen on Thursday assassinated an Iranian diplomat in Baghdad. Iranian Embassy officials were investigating whether the assassination was linked to the Iranian envoy's visit. Diplomat Khalil Naimi was not a member of the Iranian negotiating team.
Shiite Governing Council member Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he saw "flexibility from al-Sadr's side" and urged Americans to show "similar flexibility."
Top U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer was involved in "multiple channels" to try to negotiate an end to the standoff in the south and in Fallujah, said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
But Myers warned there was a limit as to how long the Marines can wait. "At some point somebody has to make a decision on what we're going to do, and we certainly can't rule out the use of force there again," he said.
A U.S. soldier was killed Wednesday in Samarra, north of Fallujah — raising to 88 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in April, the deadliest month for the Americans in Iraq.
U.S. commanders have vowed to "kill or capture" al-Sadr, but have limited their actions to small skirmishes on the outskirts of the city.
Maj. Neal O'Brien said the units at Najaf "will not complete this operation" and will likely be replaced by other troops — a rotation that suggests that an assault on the city is not imminent.
Sadeghi met with current Governing Council president Massoud Barzani on Wednesday and traveled to Najaf for talks on Thursday.
Iran is overwhelmingly Shiite and has enormous influence with the Shiite majority in Iraq.
Although the United States and Iran are bitter enemies, the political process in Iraq is likely to end with Shiites as the dominant power.
Tehran and Washington have been communicating behind the scenes on how to restore order in Iraq, Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Wednesday, although he said they have been "going nowhere."
Both countries want to avoid a U.S. attack on Najaf, site of the holiest Shiite site — the Imam Ali Shrine, near the office where al-Sadr is located, surrounded by armed gunmen.
Negotiations appeared focused on dissolving al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army militia — a demand he has refused — and how to deal with al-Sadr himself. He has been charged with involvement in the assassination last year of a rival Shiite cleric.
Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
04-17-04, 08:15 AM
Marines Said to Tighten Iraq-Syria Border
Fri Apr 16,12:00 PM ET
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON - By putting a bigger force along Iraq (news - web sites)'s border with Syria, the U.S. Marines have been able to slow the infiltration of foreign fighters, a senior U.S. general said Friday.
U.S. officials have frequently cited the Syrian border as a source of foreign extremists who make their way east to the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, and in some cases to Baghdad, and attack U.S. forces.
Maj. Gen. John Sattler, the director of operations for Central Command, said in a telephone interview with Pentagon (news - web sites) reporters that the Marines have at least one-third more troops along the border than did the 82nd Airborne, which turned over the operation to the Marines last month.
Sattler spoke from Central Command's forward headquarters near Doha, Qatar.
The Marines have managed to "shut that border region down," Sattler said, later tempering his assessment by saying some foreign fighters continue to elude detection at the border.
"Is the border totally shut down? I won't make that statement because it is a large border and at nighttime there are a lot of wadis and places where individuals can work their way across," he said.
The Marines' success has come at a high price, however. Sattler refused to provide specifics, but he said, "This is, as we all know, a very dangerous business and the Marines did suffer some casualties there."
As a matter of policy, the Marines since arriving in Iraq last month have withheld details about their casualties, including the location and the nature of the hostile action that caused them. One exception was an announcement on March 19 that two Marine privates were killed the day before in hostile action in Qaim, a city about six miles from the Syrian frontier.
Sattler's largely upbeat assessment of progress in sealing the Iraqi-Syrian border was in contrast to comments made Thursday by Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
During a news conference in Baghdad, Myers talked about the problem of foreign fighters entering Iraq.
"We know for a fact that a lot of them find their way into Iraq through Syria for sure. I mean, we know that. The ones we've captured, the ones we've detained, we know how they get here," he said, adding that "to some extent the same thing happens on the Iranian border as well."
Sattler said the Marines have focused much of their border-sealing effort in the vicinity of Qaim. He would not say how many Marines are operating along the border, but he said they are using a variety of firepower, including helicopter-borne troops and fixed-wing aircraft.
"They have a substantial-size force that is dedicated out into that western region that has shut that border region down," he said, "and it is not only at the legal crossing points where we do have Iraqi border police, but it is those longtime traditional crossing points where foot traffic and some mobile traffic comes across."
He described the Marine operations as "very intense" and said they have made major progress over the past week.
"We had an extreme amount of success on the front side, meaning that we did find, fix and ultimately finish a number of cells that were up there that were facilitating" the infiltration of foreign fighters, he said. He would not say how many people were in these cells or how many were captured or killed.
04-17-04, 11:24 AM
Troops fortify their positions while they wait
By: DARRIN MORTENSON - Staff Writer
FALLUJAH, Iraq ---- U.S. Marines spent much of the day Thursday strengthening their positions in this embattled city and coming to grips with their surreal surroundings at the edge of this ghost town that continues to fight back.
A Marine sniper who claimed 22 "kills" in the past week got his 23rd Thursday, finally silencing a rebel gunner who he said had harassed his unit for days.
Goats have taken to rooftops, and cows lounge in the streets like dogs. A Marine sauntered down an alleyway holding a chicken by the feet. He said he planned to pluck it and prepare it for supper in the kitchen of his squad's commandeered home.
Another Marine on guard atop a roof marveled at the gang warfare waged by wild dogs in the empty streets below where farm animals are now without the protection of their owners and easy prey for the canines running amok.
Two troops traveled the long way from one position to another, detouring through a small cemetery and over a trash heap in the blowing sand to get a peek at "George" ---- the name they've given to an especially bloated and torn body propped up against a wall near a dead dog.
Another corpse is right up the street, they say. The neighboring houses also have their bodies, and stories, if you take the time to look.
While Thursday was probably the quietest day in Fallujah in more than a week, it was still the scene of some fighting as both sides fired from windows and rooftops and insurgents shot mortars at the Marines from positions inside and outside the cordon.
A Marine was seriously wounded Thursday when a roadside bomb exploded near a humvee. And a rifle company of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment was hit with mortar rounds fired from within the city where, Marines say, between 1,000 and 4,000 insurgents are trapped within the cordon held by the Marines for more than a week.
Rockets struck other Marine units to the south later Thursday, but there were no reports of Marine casualties.
The attacks continue to illustrate the failure of a fragile cease-fire arranged last weekend to give tribal and political leaders time to avoid what many say will be a bloodbath if Marines have to take the city by force.
The Marines say they stand ready to take the offensive.
"We're sticking with the cordon," said Lt. Col. Gregg Olson, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, based at Camp Pendleton. "We've basically locked down northwest Fallujah and remain focused on that mission."
Olson said that because the Marines have been committed in large numbers to the rural neighborhood on the fringes of Fallujah, more and more locals are coming forth with information on the whereabouts of insurgents' supply routes.
"That's the kind of cooperation this will take," he said, "working hand in hand with the Iraqi people who believe in a peaceful future for a free Iraq that is governed by Iraqis."
Late Thursday night, a U.S. Air Force Spectre gunship, which is at the disposal of American special operations units and the Marines in Fallujah, pounded several targets with howitzers, cannon and Gatling guns.
Like terrible thunderclaps, the gunships struck at the city below.
Sparks shot from distant impacts and columns of thick, black smoke rose from the darkened city.
Koranic verses blared from several mosques, providing a soundtrack to the violence.
Officials say there's no way to verify what "he" or "Spectre" ---- as the troops reverently call the gunship ---- has destroyed.
It was another night in Fallujah, a place where sunrise is greeted as often with gunfire as it is with the crows of roosters and the days are marked by tallying the day's mortar attacks.
Staff writer Darrin Mortenson and staff photographer Hayne Palmour are reporting from Iraq, where they are with Camp Pendleton Marines. Their coverage is collected at www.nctimes.com/military/iraq.
04-17-04, 03:10 PM
April 16, 2004
Marines battling insurgents on Syria’s border; CentCom operational update
By Vince Crawley
Times staff writer
Marines are conducting limited, small-scale offensive operations in the encircled Iraqi city of Fallujah. Meanwhile, in Najaf, U.S. troops are trying to wait out rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a top U.S. official said.
Between 200,000 and 250,000 U.S. troops remain on combat duty throughout the U.S. Central Command region, which includes Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and the Horn of Africa, Maj. Gen. John Sattler, director of operations for the command, told Pentagon reporters in an operational update Friday.
Marines also have stepped up combat actions along Iraq’s border with Syria to try to halt the infiltration of foreign fighters.
On Thursday, the Germany-based 1st Armored Division formally transferred control of Baghdad over to the 1st Cavalry Division, Sattler said in a telephone news conference from his headquarters in Doha, Qatar.
Now that President Bush has given the go-ahead to keep the 1st Armored Division in Iraq 90 days longer than its planned one-year tour, the division will be used as a mobile combat force and sent to locations chosen by Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commands land forces inside Iraq.
In Afghanistan, where more than 12,000 U.S. troops are deployed, elements of the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division on Thursday formally took over from the New York-based 10th Mountain Division, Sattler said. Troops in Afghanistan continue to operate along the rugged Pakistan border, where renegade Taliban and al-Qaida members are believed to be hiding.
In addition, Sattler said, about 1,200 U.S. and multinational troops are in or near the Horn of Africa. The Americans are working with local authorities in an effort to limit the movements of terrorist suspects between Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen.
Iraq, with more than 135,000 U.S. troops, makes up the bulk of Central Command operations. Every 24 hours, American troops conduct 1,200 to 1,500 patrols across the country, Sattler said.
He also clarified the mission of the Marines who have encircled Fallujah for more than a week following an anti-American uprising. Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Thursday the Marines were ordered to halt their offensive in part because they had battled their way so deeply into the city that the risk of harming civilians had grown too high.
Reports from the region say at least 600 Iraqis have been killed inside Fallujah this month. Across the country, more than 90 Americans have died since uprisings began March 31, and the Iraqi death tolls reported by local media have been 10 times higher.
Sattler said the Marine offensive was halted at the request of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council so Iraqi officials could negotiate with town leaders.
“The Marines went into an offensive operational pause,” Sattler said. “But they still retain the inherent right to self-defense, which includes proactiveness” in the form of “short offensive operations.”
For example, he said, “If someone’s setting up down the street and preparing to take you under fire or set up a mortar position … the Marines are able to go ahead and take some limited — as they see fit — offensive action to preclude that.”
In little-reported but intense action along Iraq’s border with Syria, Sattler said Marines have increased their force presence compared to the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, which patrolled the area earlier this year.
“The Marines put a pretty sizeable force up along the border,” Sattler said.
He said foreign fighters and other infiltrators were believed to be crossing the border into Iraq to join the anti-American uprising.
“To stop that at the source, the Marines did put in a very intense effort, and it still continues up there,” Sattler said, declining to specify how many troops were involved.
Reports from embedded journalists suggests the fighting along the border accounted for a substantial portion of Marine casualties this month.
“We had an extreme amount of success” when the operation began earlier this month, he said. “We did find, fix and ultimately finish a number of cells” of people believed to be helping foreign fighters move into Iraq.
“The Marines did suffer some casualties there,” Sattler said, because they were conducting offensive raids against defended positions. “But in the end, they were able to go ahead and calm that area down.”
In the past six to eight days, he added, “we’ve had some sporadic fighting up in that area, but very limited casualties on the part of the Marines.”
He described the area now as “relatively calm.”
South of Baghdad, U.S. troops also are massed near Najaf, the holy city where Shiite cleric Sadr has taken refuge after American authorities accused him of trying to incite rebellion against the U.S.-backed reconstruction effort. Sattler insisted there is no immediate plan to storm Najaf or take military action against Sadr.
“The Shia population has not rallied around him,” Sattler said. “He has had, I believe, his day in the sun. He continues to marginalize himself.”
Iraqi authorities have issued a warrant for Sadr’s arrest in connection with the alleged slaying of a rival religious leader.
“We’re not … at this time moving any offensive operations into Najaf,” Sattler said. “So Sadr is there. We know where he is. Right now we’re letting him continue to marginalize himself, and we’re not focusing any combat power, combat operations into Najaf. But we do have forces present to make sure we keep the situation stable.”
04-17-04, 04:08 PM
Corps' top brass ride with VMGR-234, VMGR-352 to greet Marines near Fallujah
Submitted by: 3d Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification Number: 200441765221
Story by Sgt. Rob Henderson
AL TAQADDUM, Iraq(April 17, 2004) -- The commandant and sergeant major of the Marine Corps flew with Marines of the composite Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron from Al Asad, Iraq, comprised of reserve and active-duty Marines from VMGR-234 and VMGR-352, April 6.
General Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps John L. Estrada, were in Iraq to visit with Marines involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
"We are here to visit the Marines," said Hagee. "We have 25,000 Marines in Iraq. I'm here to visit with them to see how they're doing, and if there is anything I can do for them."
Hagee and Estrada are on a tour to meet Marines deployed in support of the global war on terrorism and operating in various theatres worldwide. So far on the tour, which has included stops in Afghanistan and Iraq, the commandant has had a chance to speak with reserve and active-duty Marines, and he has had a hard time telling them apart.
"All of the Marines have performed magnificently - both active and reserve," said Hagee. "I can't tell the difference between an active-duty and a Reserve unit out here which speaks highly of the Reserve units we have operating in our different areas of responsibility."
During the hour-long flight from Kuwait International Airport to Al Taqaddum, Iraq, Estrada took the opportunity to speak to the aircrew aboard the KC-130. He talked about the Reserve forces' role in Operation Iraqi Freedom II and what their role will be in upcoming operations.
"The reserve Marines have performed as outstandingly through OIF II as they did through OIF I. We, the Marine Corps, could not do what we do without them," said Estrada. "We are going to continue to use the Reserve forces to augment the active-duty Marines in the future. Since they have proven themselves to be well-suited for the challenge, we are going to continue using our Reserve forces as we need them."
The reserve Marines of VMGR-234, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, and VMGR-352, headquartered at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., have flown under a single squadron banner throughout OIF I and II. With missions focusing on resupply, troop transport and aerial refueling, it was a welcomed change of pace to fly the Corps' top brass into a combat zone.
"It was really nice to see that the two most important men in the Marine Corps care enough about Marines to fly into harm's way just to visit them," said Cpl. Nathan E. Dietsch, flight mechanic, VMGR-352. "To be part of the aircrew that got them where they needed to go to visit Marines was a good experience."
General Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps John L. Estrada, meet the crew of the KC-130 they flew on from Kuwait International Airport to Al Taqaddum, Iraq, April 6. The commandant and sergeant major of the Marine Corps are in country to visit Marines who are supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Photo by: Sgt. Rob Henderson
04-17-04, 09:18 PM
6 Marines, scores of Iraqis killed in fierce battle
BY RON HARRIS
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
HUSAYBAH, Iraq - (KRT) - Six Marines were killed and scores of insurgent Iraqis slain in a fierce 14-hour battle Saturday between Marines and mujahedeen fighters who slipped into this town near the Syrian border.
According to Marines, an estimated 300 Iraqis from Fallujah and Ramadi launched an assault against the Americans in Husaybah around 8 a.m. local time, beginning with a roadside bombing and a flurry of 24 mortars.
When Marines responded to the bombing, they were met with small-arms and machine-gun fire as they neared a former Baath Party headquarters.
Marines responding to the call for help were mortared and strafed as they made their way into the city. Additional Marines then joined in the fight.
Fighting continued late into the night as Marine Cobra helicopter gunships strafed enemy positions near a downtown soccer stadium and Marine helicopters continued to take wounded to their main base 22 miles away at Camp Al-Qaim.
At least nine Marines were injured and about 20 Iraqis captured, Marines said. The detainees were taken to Camp Al-Qaim late Saturday night for questioning.
All of the Marines were killed in the first hour of the fighting, four of them when they went to clear out a house where Iraqi fighters were hiding.
The battalion commander, Col. Matthew Lopez, said he believed the Marines had crushed the insurgents' attack.
"I don't think they expected us to retaliate as hard as we did," said Lopez, 40, of Chicago, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.
© 2004, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.