View Full Version : U.S. Warplane Fires on Fallujah Targets

04-29-04, 05:54 AM
U.S. Warplane Fires on Fallujah Targets <br />
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FALLUJAH, Iraq - U.S. warplanes pounded Fallujah with 500-pound laser-guided bombs Wednesday and Marines battled insurgents near a train...

04-29-04, 05:55 AM
Politics rears head in Fallujah


FALLUJAH, Iraq ---- Not long after dawn's crowing roosters were silenced by Fallujah's smothering heat Wednesday, the sounds of jihad once again filled the air.

Monotonous, militaristic chants rang out in Arabic from mosques throughout the northern rebel-held neighborhoods, all praising Allah and urging residents to slay the American infidels in Fallujah's dusty streets.

The calls for holy war did not go unheard by Marines around the city; nor were they unheeded by insurgents.

Wednesday was another day of so-called cease-fire in Fallujah. Another day that rebels tried to kill Marines with rocket-propelled grenades and rifle fire. Another day that Marine snipers picked them off, helicopters mowed them down, and jets blew them up with 500-pound bombs.

Still, the insurgents kept coming.

'Even the president ...'

While most Marines say they want to move on the city and finish off the rebels they believe are trapped inside, they seem acutely aware that such a decision may no longer be in the hands of military leaders.

Fallujah has become the focus of America's war in Iraq, they say. And what happens in the flat river town could paint a picture of America's future in Iraq.

"Even the president is thinking about Fallujah right now," said Lt. James Vanzant, a spokesman for the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.

The Marines of that Camp Pendleton-based battalion have fought some of the fiercest battles in Fallujah over nearly a month and have held their ground about a quarter mile inside the city for more than three weeks.

Its leaders say they've been ready for weeks to finish off the rebel strongholds in the tough Jolan borough along the Euphrates River.

"We would all love to go in and finish the job," Vanzant said, after answering reporters' questions about the latest Marines killed and wounded in Fallujah. "But it's political now. It's not our decision to make anymore. It's way above our heads."

Far from the advertised cease-fire ---- called to give peace a chance to penetrate the hatred on both sides ---- the deadly game of cat and mouse continued along the military cordon around the city.

But in the murky gray of the cease-fire and the spotlight of mainstream media coverage, the violence remained confusing and the troops' day Wednesday was another one of uncertainty, danger and simple pleasures to pass the time.

Some of their friends have died or lost limbs in some of the recent battles with rebels, and most of their days are spent fighting stupifying boredom and swatting sticky black flies, but the troops on the front seemed to have made the best of their lives on Fallujah's front lines.

Rules shift like sands

Around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, about 10 rebels attacked Marines from Fox Company in a former Iraqi Special Republican Guard compound on the northwest corner of town near the Euphrates.

The Marines fought them off with machine guns and small arms until the rebels either died or broke contact. A couple of hours later, Marines in another position saw men running down nearby streets carrying AK-47 rifles. When snipers fired on them, commanders nearby questioned why they would shoot armed men in the streets of Fallujah. They were told to go review the "rules of engagement."

The troops shrugged, relaxed and went back to searching for an enemy that they may ---- or may not ---- be allowed to shoot that day.

Now that Fallujah is a household name and the world seems to await the conflict's climax, the rules of war have such wide swings that Marines are free to bomb neighborhoods to oblivion one day, but are kept from shooting armed men running in the streets the next.

It's a confusing, dangerous place, and young leaders say keeping busy is the key to staying alive and sane.

One more sandbag

Later that day, a long silence in a Marine-held home was broken by giddy laughter and rapid boot stomping on the stairs.

Marines, all sweaty and smiling, rushed up to the bombed-out, second-level deck with full sandbags drooping from chiseled and tatooed forearms.

Even in the soggy midday heat, they turned the drudgery of filling and hauling the heavy sandbags to their defenses into a boys' game ---- a simple competition and team effort full of laughing and taunting and encouragement.

It was the kind of fraternal spirit that seems to push the Marines through the long slog of each day in the field, gets them through the dark valley of night, and helps them reach the peak of the next day together to face whatever comes next.

"Laughing about it helps," said one Marine, panting after the climb.

"Itmakes the time go by fast," another said with a sigh.

''It keeps the Marines on their toes," said Cpl. Peter Madrigal of the effort to bolster the troops' defenses on a rooftop where rebels have tried to land mortar rounds day after day.

Madrigal, of Tucson, Ariz, was one of the young leaders who recently led Marines on a deadly ambush. On Wednesday, he led them in a boyish game.

"We try to do something to improve things every day," he said as huge explosions sent mushroom smoke clouds climbing the sky in the east. "It helps us stay on top. We can't get complacent."

On Wednesday, they had some rewards to look forward to after toil and stress: a rare hot meal and mail.

The televised offensive

While the daily violence along Fallujah's northern border has become the norm for the Marines here, it apparently was news to a film crew from CNN.

A crew from the 24-hour cable news network arrived a couple of days ago with apparently little in the way of context to prepare them for what they would see, according to military officials.

On Monday, they were on the scene to film much of an intense firefight in which a Marine was killed and American tanks brought a mosque minaret tumbling down.

And late Tuesday night, the crew captured the near-nightly visit from the Air Force AC-130 Spectre gunship as it blasted vehicles and buildings where suspected insurgents were hiding.

Military officials Wednesday said the footage was played over and over during Tuesday's news reports in the states and was being billed as the much-ballyhooed "big offensive."

It was no such thing.

Nearly every night, with the exception of a few quiet nights in the last week, any combination of three gunships that work around Fallujah rock the dark city with thunderous blasts.

But the fury of "Slayer," as the gunships are known by the grateful troops on the ground, was apparently too much for prime-time audiences and politicians when it broadcast on international news ---- even though, in reality, it has made its presence known over Fallujah for weeks.

Military officials on Wednesday said the TV footage caused such a stir on Tuesday that even some international leaders were making statements condemning the offensive that never was.

The trouble with success

With time to contemplate during the bloody cease-fire, some military officials say they have started to rethink the Marines' aggressive posture in Fallujah and to ask themselves whether a military victory could end up a humanitarian and political disaster.

"We could level the city and kill all the bad guys, but what then?" asked a key infantry officer.

Others, from officers at the regimental level down to a lance corporal behind a machine gun, say they're sure they could take the town, but they question what an American military victory would mean.

They say Marines might find themselves finally controlling the rubble of a town they never really wanted, whose homeless residents could forever resent them for the death and destruction they've caused. It could inspire the next generation of insurgents, they say.

Without at least the appearance of participation from an Iraqi force, how would the new Iraqi security forces ever gain the legitimacy and moral authority they need to back a new government? Some of the trainers said earlier this week that they would need months to train the Iraqi forces to be able to fight alongside the Marines.

Just dealing with day to day

And even if the situation in Fallujah resolves peacefully, "what's to stop them (insurgents) from coming back," said the infantry officer who did not want to be named.

The officer agreed that even in a best-case scenario, the situation might just return to how it was when the Marines arrived in March ---- when they were only hit with the occasional mortar or roadside bomb.

But for the guys on the ground, in the streets and on the rooftops of Fallujah who daily are fighting off rebel attacks and trying to stay somewhat in the deniable bounds of the cease-fire rules, politics seemed to mean little Wednesday.

Marines from Fox Company ducked behind their doubled-up sandbag barriers when rebel mortar rounds crashed to the ground 100 yards away around sunset.

They'd tweak and add to the defenses tomorrow, they said. First, let's get through the night.

Mail arrived, then hot chow. Then it was dark again and the second shift slept or read letters from home while the first shift donned helmets and flak vests and headed upstairs to their posts.

Rebels struck up the jihad tunes from local mosques and, at 9:45 p.m., the gunship "Slayer" arrived for its nightly rounds over Fallujah to enforce the cease-fire with cannon.

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.



04-29-04, 05:56 AM
April 28, 2004 -- Fierce fighting broke the so-called Fallujah ceasefire yesterday, with a U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship hosing down sections of the city and causing spectacular explosions.
Alas, the Tuesday deadline for the town's insurgents to surrender their heavy weapons passed - yet the long-awaited final assault on the town never materialized.

Ba'athist thugs, allied with Arab mercenaries from abroad, have been thumbing their noses at the United States since Fallujah's security was entrusted to Iraqi police in late February.

After these thugs murdered and mutilated four U.S. contractors on March 31, the Coalition promised to pacify it.

So far, nothing

It's not clear exactly what the objective of yesterday's action was; maybe aerial attack was meant to soften the way for a long-overdue assault on the city.

For that assault must come, and soon.

Each postponement - to say nothing of the ceasefire itself - has played into the hands of the enemy.

The terrorists in Fallujah have been able to boast that they stared down the American Marines, and - because that's simply the way Arab culture works - they have therefore gained great status, further undermining the general security situation in Iraq.

At the same time, the unilateral ceasefire - maintained despite massive provocation - has reinforced two dangerous stereotypes of the United States:

* That America's armed forces are fearful of close-in combat; and,

* That post-Vietnam American politicians are so fearful that heavy casualties will affect the polls that they would rather undermine military missions and abandon U.S. allies.

The thugs of Fallujah need to be disabused of these notions.

Each additional day of the "ceasefire" gives them more time to prepare to kill more Americans.

These courageous Marines have taken extraordinary care to avoid civilian casualties, even while fighting for their lives against terrorists who fire at them from mosques after arriving at the battle in well-marked ambulances.

The Marines are ready for business, that's for sure.

Keeping them on the leash sends a very dangerous message to America's enemies around the world: That America, despite the rhetoric, isn't serious about winning the War on Terror.

That's a prescription for more blood, and more misery.

The standoff needs to end. Now.



04-29-04, 05:58 AM
Submitted by: Headquarters Marine Corps Media
Story Identification Number: 2004427135352
Story by Donna Miles -- American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (April 27, 2004) -- WASHINGTON - Coalition officials in Baghdad today defended the U.S. Marines' decision to call in a strike on a minaret in Fallujah April 26 after determining that insurgents were using it to launch attacks with small- arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

"We very reluctantly go after holy sites, but when those holy sites are used to store and fire weapons, we must take action if our Marines are pinned down," Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, told reporters at a news conference.

The Marines confirmed that insurgents were using the minaret as a staging platform following an attack earlier in the day. After cordoning off the area, they entered the mosque and found "a significant number of ammunition shell casings," Kimmitt said. Following the search, the Marines returned to their positions without damaging the minaret.

Kimmitt said the Marines called in the strike only after taking fire from the minaret the second time that day and realizing that their return fire was not enough to take out the enemy. This, he said, left the Marines with a choice: "Am I going to let my fellow Marines die, or am I going to recognize that that minaret has lost its protected status under international law and is being used as a firing platform and needs to go away?"

The Marines "made the right choice," Kimmitt said, by calling in precision strikes that toppled the minaret but inflicted "a minimal amount of collateral damage ... to any other part of that mosque."

"On the few occasions when we must attack a holy site when it has lost its protected status under the Geneva Conventions, we have used the minimal amount of force necessary to protect our Marines," he said.

Kimmitt said the perpetrators may not have been residents of Fallujah or Iraq, but rather, foreign fighters trying to drag the city's people into the fight "to create a wedge of animosity between the coalition and the people of Iraq."

That, he said, is why it is important for everyone to take a stand to prevent insurgents from using mosques to store and fire weapons and execute military operations aimed at derailing progress in Iraq. "We cannot passively sit by - whether we are the coalition forces, the Iraqi security forces or the people of Iraq - and allow these people to drive a wedge between what we collectively are trying to do as this country moves to sovereignty and democracy," Kimmitt said.

Just as the Marines took every precaution before calling in the attack on the minaret, Kimmitt said, he expects to see them working to rebuild it after stability is restored in Fallujah.

Kimmitt said the Marines have unilaterally suspended their offensive operations in the city for almost 17 days. "They have sat there in their positions within a cordon, peacefully waiting until a resolution has been established with the people of Fallujah to end this hostage situation ... by the foreign fighters and terrorists," he said.

"A peaceful situation is what we seek," Kimmitt added, while emphasizing that the coalition is prepared to use force and has "more than sufficient force" in place should the need arise.

Kimmitt said he expects joint patrols by coalition and Iraqi security forces to begin in the city after commanders on the ground determine that the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and Iraqi Police Service are properly trained for the mission. Kimmitt said that while the patrols could begin as soon as April 29, "we'll let the commander on the ground use his judgment about when that happens."


04-29-04, 05:59 AM
Marines, Iraqi police patrol streets together in western Iraq
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification Number: 200442955345
Story by Lance Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.

KARABILAH, Iraq(April 27, 2004) -- Iraqi police who were trained by Marines just a couple weeks ago are already walking the beat here.

Recent graduates from Al Qaim Police Academy's first class conducted a week-long on-the-job training program. The police patrolled the streets with Marines from Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

Forty-two police spent a week using a buddy system with Company K after finishing a training course with Marine military police. They conducted patrols, using the skills taught to them to eventually assume full responsibility for security here.

"I think these guys will be ready when we leave," said Lance Cpl. Mark Edward Dean, a team leader from Owasso, Okla. "The difference in these guys compared to those who haven't gone to the school shows a lot. The MPs did a great job."

Only a fraction of the nearly 700-member police force has been to school, but Marine have high hopes. Marine-trained Iraqi police are working with those still awaiting training and are already passing along lessons.

"Everyone knows they have a long way to go," said 1st Lt. Rudy Salcido, executive officer for Company K, from Tucson, Ariz. "My guys are already impressed with them. They're applying what they learned and using it out on the patrols."

The graduates wear a gold pin on their shoulder to differentiate themselves from those who have yet to complete the training.

"Our goal was to get them all out here and help the MPs give them some on the job training," Salcido said. "We're not going to be here for long, so they need to know this."

The academy, now a live-in formal school, has just a little more than one hundred new recruits. The training there is designed to give the Iraqi Police force basic fundamentals of being a police officer.

"Just by the way they handle their weapons you can tell who's been and who hasn't," said Lance Cpl. Joshua P. Carbajal, squad leader from Newhall, Calif. "I let some of the guys set up checkpoints by themselves and they do it correctly."

Marines have patrolled alongside Iraqis for the past three days completing as many as twelve patrols a day. They turned the town's police station into a patrol base, operating inside the city of Karabilah.

"We do four hours on, eight hours off," Dean explained. "When we're not patrolling with them, we're standing post.'

Many Marines enjoy patrolling with the Iraqi Police, helping them add something different to their normal everyday routine.

"I like this," said Lance Cpl. Finnis Le, an Atlanta motor transportation Marine attached to the battalion. "They'll teach me some Arabic and I'll teach them some English. It's fun and makes things a lot less boring."

Marines were starting to warm up to the Iraqi police. Seeing them on the street earned their respect and reassured them they would stand and fight against terrorists.

"I'd take these guys with me in a firefight," Dean sad. "I believe they're all good guys and have good training."

There is a still a long way to go, though. Marines aren't expecting overnight changes and take pride in the small progress the Iraqi police demonstrate.

"At first they'd leave their post," Salcido explained. "Now they'll stand post and do it with enthusiasm. That's all we ask, is that they do things with enthusiasm. They're a volunteer force and, as we know, it always works better that way - having someone there who wants to be there."


Marines and Iraqi Police conducted joint patrols in the streets of Karabilah April 27. The class of some 42 students spent a week using a buddy system with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, conducting patrols and learning skills to help prepare them for an eventual turn over of responsibility. Marines enjoyed patrolling with the Iraqi Police helping them add something different to their normal everyday routine.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Jose L. Garcia) Photo by: Sgt. Jose L. Garcia



04-29-04, 06:01 AM
IRAQ: No time for panderers <br />
By William Safire <br />
The New York Times <br />
04/27/2004 <br />
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U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, the Bush administration's great Arab hope to appoint a...

04-29-04, 06:02 AM
U.S. Says Has Rushed Tanks to Iraq to Crush Rebels

By Fadel Badran

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - The U.S. military has rushed more tanks and other armored vehicles to Iraq (news - web sites) after requests from commanders in the bloodiest month for American troops since Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) was toppled.

That armor is either (in Iraq) now or is arriving as we speak. So those requests were quickly filled," U.S. Marine Corps Major General John Sattler told reporters at the Pentagon (news - web sites) by phone from the Gulf state of Qatar on Wednesday.

Sattler said the requests were made by commanders battling to stamp out guerrilla attacks in the so-called "Sunni Triangle" north and west of Baghdad, including the flashpoint city of Falluja where U.S. Marines launched new air and ground attacks.

As U.S. helicopter gunships and jet aircraft pounded several districts across Falluja, west of Baghdad, President Bush (news - web sites) said in Washington: "Our military commanders will take whatever actions necessary to secure (the city)."

The previous 24 hours saw the most devastating display of U.S. warplane firepower since American forces encircled Falluja three weeks ago after the killing of four American contractors and the mutilation of their bodies in the city.


Bush, seeking re-election in November with Iraq a burning campaign issue, said there were "pockets of resistance" in the city but "most of Falluja is returning to normal."

Black smoke rose above the palm-dotted Golan district and heavy firing echoed elsewhere, but U.S. officers said they were holding back from an all-out assault on the city of 300,000 in hopes that guerrillas might yet agree to turn in heavy weapons.

Sattler said there were "somewhere around 1,500" guerrillas in Falluja, including former members of Saddam's Republican Guard military units and foreign Islamic militants.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (news - web sites), whose organization is helping form an Iraqi government in line with a planned U.S. handover of power in Baghdad on June 30, urged restraint by American forces.

"The more the occupation is seen as taking steps that harm the civilians and the population, the greater the ranks of the resistance grows," Annan told a news conference in New York.

With Falluja doctors saying some 600 people have been killed in the siege, U.S. forces are wary of further bloodshed in the city -- about 50 km (30 miles) from Baghdad -- inflaming public opinion across Iraq and the Arab world.

There were no reports of major civilian casualties in Falluja in the latest fighting.

In Falluja a year ago, U.S. soldiers killed and wounded dozens of demonstrators, angering Sunnis in a city that has become a byword for resistance to the U.S.-led occupation.


A year after the fall of Saddam, who spent his 67th birthday in the custody of U.S. forces on Wednesday, American troops are trying to quell twin threats to the new order in Iraq -- from the Falluja guerrillas and Shi'ite rebels in the south.

More than 115 U.S. soldiers have been killed in combat this month, higher than the number killed in the three weeks it took to topple Saddam. Since U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in March last year, 524 U.S. soldiers have been killed in action.

The combat deaths of a U.S. soldier and two Ukrainian troops were announced on Wednesday.

U.S. forces face a possibly even more delicate dilemma in the southern city of Najaf, where a radical cleric from Iraq's Shi'ite majority, Moqtada al-Sadr, has taken refuge among the shrines with his several thousand strong Mehdi Army militia.

A Sadr aide, Qais al-Khazaaly, said a U.S. incursion into Najaf would "transform the situation into a Shi'ite Islamic confrontation with the Americans."

But U.S. commanders believe they can isolate Sadr, wanted by an Iraqi judge in connection with the murder of another cleric, as many Najaf residents are impatient with the violence because it has frightened away pilgrims who drive the city's economy.

"We are tired of what is happening here. Look around you. Most of the shops are closed," said Ali Khalid al-Unezi. "Who will pay the bills?

(Additional reporting by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad and Gleb Bryanski in Najaf, Michael Battye, Tom Perry and Nadim Ladki in Baghdad, Will Dunham in Washington, Evelyn Leopold at the United Nations



04-29-04, 09:21 AM
Truck Company keeps 1st Marine Division rolling
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification Number: 20044286910
Story by Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq(April 27, 2004) -- They've got diesel running through their veins. Their language is as raw as the throaty rumble of the huge engines on which they turn wrenches. Skinned knuckles and faces smeared with grease are testament to the work that keeps the 1st Marine Division rolling.

Marines of Truck Company, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division are taking on the task every day of keeping Marines and supplies moving across the Iraq's Al Anbar Province. They chalk up hundred of miles a day moving through a zone as big as North Carolina and brave attacks just trying to keep the engines, and the division, in smooth running order.

"We usually have about 50 trucks in some phase of the maintenance cycle at any given time," explained Cpl. T.J. Maglio, one of the company's mechanics.

Maglio, of Madison, Wisc., said the mechanics have fixed "everything imaginable" since being here.

"In conditions like these," Maglio added, "anything that can go wrong with the vehicles will go wrong."

The company, comprised of four operations platoons and one mechanic platoon, is here providing vehicular support to various units operating from the Al Anbar Province in western Iraq.

Three of the operations platoons are attached to infantry units in the area. The fourth platoon is here providing support to Headquarters Battalion.

From transporting cargo and troops to other camps to revamping broken vehicles, Truck Company works round the clock to make sure its mission is met at the end of the day.

Some of the company's warriors serve as the drivers for the scores of convoys leaving here day-in-and-day-out. Others stay behind and use their truck-repairing know-how to keep the division's transportation assets up and running.

According to Staff Sgt. William J. Pinkerton, 4th Platoon Sergeant, between 25 and 40 vehicles are dispatched from the camp's motor pool everyday.

"The operations platoon makes sure the vehicles leaving here are in good condition before they go out," said Pinkerton, of Marion, N.Y.

Maintenance of the trucks is no easy task. The Marines must give each vehicle a thorough "quality check" everyday.

Those trucks classified as unfit for travel are left behind for the company's mechanics.

The mechanics see a lot of engine breakdowns and brake problems. According to Maglio, the malfunctions don't usually come as a surprise to the Marines.

"A lot of the vehicles have overheated engines because of the heat, so we expect it to happen," he said.

Each week the Marines go through about 30 gallons of oil and change more than 40 tires per week.

Still, not all the vehicles are brought in for common mechanical problems. Some need to be repaired following enemy attacks. Razor-sharp shrapnel from mortar explosions and improvised explosive devices shred rubber tires. But it's not just vehicles traveling on the roads that are affected. Even the trucks in the camp's motor pool are not spared from the effects of enemy action.

Maglio said a mortar round recently exploded near a seven-ton that had just been fixed. The mechanics had to replace several tires.

"It gets frustrating when we fix a truck and then something like that happens," he said. "But that's our job - to fix the vehicles."

Once the trucks are ready for the road, they are used to transport troops and cargo to other camps in the province.

"We use humvees and seven-ton trucks to move Marines and supplies around the area of operations," said Staff Sgt. Gregory S. Britt, operations staff noncommissioned officer. "If a unit needs transportation support, we're here to support them."

Depending on where the convoys go, those convoys can last a few hours to an entire day. The Marines know leaving the security of the camp is dangerous work, but Britt said they are more than prepared.

Before leaving, the Marines rehearse procedures for enemy attacks.

"Every time we go out we do immediate action drills to make sure everyone knows what to do if we are attacked," explained Britt, of Goldsboro, N.C.

Marines like Lance Cpl. Lindsay M. Zella know how quickly things can go bad. She sometimes serves as a driver for the convoys.

She got her first taste of combat a few weeks ago during a trip to the eastern portion of Al Anbar Province. Her convoy was hit twice by enemy small-arms fire.

"We got hit on our way back here from (Baghdad International Airport)," said the Painesville, Ohio Marine. "The Marines in back of the truck, my assistant driver and the gunner all returned fire, but my mission was to drive."

Zella said she was pleased to get to put all her training to use. Fortunately, no one was injured during the attacks.

"It doesn't matter who you are or what your job is," she added. "The chance Marines here will see combat is just as great as any infantryman. Being a driver, I'm just as much of a target."

Maglio believes the mechanics and operators of Truck Company play an integral role in the division's mission in Iraq.

"When I see the vehicles pull out, I know without us the convoys wouldn't be able to leave," he said. "It's rewarding to actually get to see that what we do is important."


Marines from Truck Company, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division repair almost 50 vehicles per week. The vehicles are used to transport Marines and cargo to the other camps in the Al Anbar Province in western Iraq. Most trucks are brought in for common mechanical problems, while others are brought in after being damaged during enemy attacks.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald) Photo by: Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald



04-29-04, 10:19 AM
Marines Find Faith Amid the Fire

Four members of Echo Company are baptized on the battlefield in Fallouja -- at a school from which they've been fighting insurgents.

By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer

FALLOUJA, Iraq — On Monday, Echo Company battled insurgents for two hours. One Marine was killed and 15 were wounded in the latest and bloodiest of numerous skirmishes.

Then four Marines — from the battle-hardened company, part of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment of the 1st Marine Division — asked a Protestant chaplain to arrange a battlefield baptism.

"I've been talking to God a lot during the last two firefights," said Lance Cpl. Chris Hankins, 19, of Kansas City, Mo. "I decided to start my life over and make it better."

To give the occasion even greater significance, the Marines chose to have Wednesday's baptism in the courtyard of a bullet-riddled school that they used in their fight with insurgents.

Two Marines died and several were injured in the same courtyard when a mortar round landed among their group April 12. A small memorial has been erected in the courtyard to the two: Lance Cpl. Robert Zurheide, 20, of Tucson and Lance Cpl. Brad Shuder, 21, of El Dorado Hills, Calif.

After Monday's battle, a memorial was added in the courtyard for the Marine killed in that fight: Lance Cpl. Aaron Cole Austin, 21, of Amarillo, Texas.

Battlefield baptisms are not unusual among front-line troops, said Navy Lt. Scott Radetski, the battalion's Protestant chaplain. So many service personnel on deployment request to be baptized that the military even has a two-page sheet on how to create a battlefield baptismal font, called the Field Immersion Baptismal Liner Instructions.

Radetski said he performed one ceremony in Kuwait when Marines were waiting to move into Iraq. Three Marines at another encampment in Fallouja also have asked to be baptized.

"When chaos shows its head," Radetski said, "we need an anchor for our faith. You need that rock that God promises to be. I consider it an honor to fulfill their request."

For Wednesday's ceremony, Radetski had boxes containing MREs, or meals ready to eat, arranged to simulate a smallish bathtub. A large piece of plastic was placed inside, and water from 14 five-gallon Marine Corps cans was poured.

Sgt. Andrew Jones, 25, of Sullivan, Ind., said he had been considering getting baptized before he left for Iraq. His combat experiences convinced him that the time was right.

"With everything that has happened here, all the good friends I've lost, I thought it was a good place to be reborn," Jones said.

The fight Monday, in which insurgents hurled grenades and fired rockets and machine guns at the Marines, left many of the young men of Echo Company shaken and emotionally drained.

Protestant and Roman Catholic services held in the Marine encampment hours after the battle drew heavy attendance. On Wednesday, little of the initial pain was evident.

Capt. Douglas Zembiec, commander of Echo Company, said he had tried to console his Marines while reminding them that they have to continue to do their jobs, including launching a possible assault on insurgent strongholds in the center of Fallouja.

"There's no room for self-pity out here," he said. "It will get you killed faster than the enemy."

The four Marines — Hankins; Jones; Lance Cpl. Kenneth Hayes, 22, of Redding; and Lance Cpl. Michael Fuller, 20, of Spring, Texas — stripped to their skivvies and removed their combat boots before being dunked individually by Radetski.

Two dozen Marines stood quietly. Radetski, honoring the four Marines' request, said the baptism was also being performed to show respect for the fallen and wounded Marines.

The elementary school shows the ravages of three weeks of fighting.

Its windows are broken, debris is strewn about, furniture is broken and books thrown to the dusty floor. Bullet holes cover all surfaces. Windows are boarded or sandbagged to hinder snipers.

Insurgents are holed up in houses a few hundred yards away, their weapons aimed at the school, hoping to kill Marines with a well-timed shot.

Still, the four Marines thought that the courtyard was the ideal spot to make a public profession of their religious belief.

"What better place to do this than here, in the middle of hell," Fuller said.




04-29-04, 04:11 PM
Lejeune Marines perform in Fallujah
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification Number: 200442954611
Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(April 22, 2004) -- Eighteen-year-old Lance Cpl. Justin Tygart checked and rechecked his gear as the evening sun set here.

"The thing you have to watch out for here is complacency, it's what will kill you and your fellow Marines," said Tygart, from Swansboro, N.C.

Marines of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment needed to be alert on this patrol. The rural area has been quiet for a while, but they know that can change in an instant. This is, after all, Fallujah.

"Our purpose on the patrol was to survey the area and watch for anyone trying to set up mortar positions or explosive devices," said Cpl. Travis J. Lowis, 24, a squad leader from Iron Mountain, Mich. "We chose a position with good cover and tactically positioned our vehicles. After everything was in place, listening posts were pushed out."

The LPs consisted of two- or three-man teams, watching the road in front of them and the surrounding area using night vision and thermal goggles.

"Some of our Marines noticed someone watching us pulling in," Lowis said. "Later during the night we saw him approaching our position with a weapon in his hands."

Lowis added the Marines noticed him signaling others in a house behind him with a white light.

"Him signaling people and carrying a weapon let us know his intentions weren't good," he explained. "We were ordered to take him out, and I pushed up to the LP with one of the sergeants and waited for him to appear again in our NVGs and then I took the shot."

The night sounds of barking dogs and the occasional bird were stopped as the crack of the shot rang through the air. The Marines waited anxiously for some retaliation from the surrounding buildings, but none came.

"We waited for daylight and then searched the surrounding buildings. Our interpreter said the man we killed was a known insurgent," Lowis said. "The people in the houses said he was a 'bad guy.'"

After the houses were searched, the Marines returned to the company command post to await their next mission.

Lowis didn't let the single shot linger in his mind. It's a mission - cut and dry.

"I have to make sure my guys stay safe," he said.

The all-night missions are routine for the Marines here. Moving closer to Fallujah only increases the cycle. For now, it's more operations and less rest.

Still, Marines know they have the training and camaraderie to stick together through missions lasting days on end.

"These guys are working with the Marines that they trained with, the guys they know. That's the best part about keeping together as a platoon," said Sgt. James M. Bank, the platoon guide from Logan, Utah. "The hardest part is hearing reports of the casualties we're taking inside the city. Even though there is fear, our guys know they can keep pushing to get the mission done."


Treating wounds in the field doesn't stop with bullet wounds. Even minor cuts and fevers, if left untreated, can take a Marine out of the fight. Lance Cpl. Bradley Maguire, 20, a rifleman with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and from Waldorf, Md., receives an IV to help keep him hydrated. Holding the bag of fluid is Lance Cpl. Louis Wallace, 22, also a rifleman from Bronx, N.Y. Also a from the Bronx is Navy Seaman Jay C. Juarez, 23, a hospital corpsman.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes) Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes



04-29-04, 09:39 PM
April 29, 2004

In Fallujah, Marines adjust to changing plans

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Eleventh-hour negotiations late Wednesday cancelled planned joint U.S.-Iraqi security patrols here and put combat-ready Marines on standby.
News of the change came Thursday morning as Marine Corps commanders told their men that they would pack up and await new orders and a new, albeit temporary, home.

Under a tentative agreement yet to be finalized, they would make room for the Fallujah Protective Army, a force being fashioned with 900 to 1,100 soldiers and led by former Iraqi generals, a Marine Corps commander said Thursday. The Iraqi force is expected to report to the I Marine Expeditionary Force, but largely operate on its own.

“The plan is eventually the whole of Fallujah will be under the control” of the FPA, said Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, who commands 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton, Calif. “The Marines will be prepared to come back if the situation requires it.”

This new force would supplant the previously planned joint U.S.-Iraqi patrols that were to begin Friday in several parts of Fallujah, which U.S. military officials believe is home to as many as 2,000 insurgent fighters.

At one battalion’s headquarters camp, which has endured a roller-coaster of lulls and short, fierce battles, the news came as a surprise to some, an afterthought to others.

“We were as close as the engines were started, and then the lieutenant came in and told us the word,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Lou Villanueva, a 23-year-old hospital corpsman from Oxnard, Calif., who had never expected he “would be on the front lines.”

“All we know is we’re pushing out,” said Marine Lance Cpl. David Cutler, a mortarman with 1/5 from Loma Mar, Calif. “There’s not much going on here. It’ll be good to go somewhere else.”

Twelve hours earlier, Marines of 1/5 were braced for potential fallout from the start of the joint patrols, which were to begin after three days of basic rifle and patrol training for 30 Iraqi police and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers that would operate in the battalion’s sector.

And so Thursday, the Marines waited, some longer than others.

The men of 1st Tank Battalion’s Bravo Company arrived in Iraq on April 19 from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. The company’s 2nd Platoon rolled its beefy, armored M1A2 Abrams tanks into 1/5’s camp earlier this week expecting to join infantry forces in new offensive operations inside Fallujah. But the new offensive never materialized.

“As they come down, we’ll adjust as they have before,” Staff Sgt. Chris Willenbecher, 27, the tank platoon sergeant from Lancaster, Pa., said as he relaxed in the shade of “Club Outlaw,” a makeshift plywood shack, as four Marines joked their way through a game of Spades. “They’re ready to roll, either way.”

Some Marines and sailors said they were proud of what they’ve accomplished so far during their month in Fallujah. In the weeks since Marines cordoned off the city, troops have discovered and destroyed huge weapon caches amid ambushes, sniper fire and rocket and mortar attacks.

“I think we’ve cleaned this place a lot,” said Lance Cpl. Brent Goldstone, a 19-year-old mortarman from Glenview, Ill. “I think a lot of it is the Iraqis are going to have to do themselves.”

Capt. Wil Dickens spent the morning talking to his men with Charlie Company, 1/5, about the changing orders.

Dickens, a 16-year Marine veteran from Murfreesboro, N.C., tried to help them understand. “I have to explain to my Marines the whole political process,” he said. The Marines understand there are political considerations behind the decision, but “they don’t fully understand the whole political process.”

Whatever happens next, there is some frustration within the battalion, which has lost 10 Marines in combat, about the fate of the insurgents in the city.

“If we pull out, they think that they defeated us. We all really want to finish these guys off,” Dickens said. “I don’t want to give them a chance to fight another day.”