View Full Version : Iraq Militiamen Clash With U.S. Troops

05-04-04, 06:03 AM
Iraq Militiamen Clash With U.S. Troops


NAJAF, Iraq - U.S. forces in Najaf came under their most intense attack yet by Shiite militiamen in a clash Monday that may have killed up to 20 Iraqis. Meanwhile, Thomas Hamill _ the Mississippi truck driver who escaped Iraqi kidnappers after three weeks in captivity _ flew to Germany for a reunion with his wife.

On Sunday, Hamill fled a house where he was being held north of Baghdad and ran to a passing U.S. patrol _ his first appearance since his captors released a videotape April 10, a day after his abduction, threatening to kill him.

Back in Najaf, the military still held back from going after the militia's leader, a radical cleric, to avoid angering Iraq's Shiite majority. Instead, the U.S. turned to a new commander for an Iraqi force taking control of Fallujah, considering Maj. Gen. Mohammed Latif _ who opposed Saddam Hussein _ to replace another general.

In Baghdad, insurgents opened fire on U.S. soldiers guarding a weapons cache, killing one soldier and wounding two, the military said. Elsewhere, a Marine was killed in by enemy fire in Anbar province, the western Iraqi province where the turbulent cities of Ramadi and Fallujah are located.

The deaths brought the U.S. toll to 153 since April 1 _ including 15 in May. At least 755 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

U.S. troops battling insurgents in west Baghdad pounded rebel positions with artillery fire Monday night, a series of eight or more heavy blasts that resounded through central Baghdad, the Army said.

U.S. troops in Najaf, south of the capital, clashed for hours with Shiite militiamen who barraged the Americans' base with mortars overnight, then opened fire in the afternoon from several directions. Tank and machine-gun fire demolished a building that troops said was the source of shooting, raising a pillar of smoke. Apache attack helicopters circled but did not fire.

Before dawn Monday, militiamen shelled the troops with about 20 mortars, hitting in and around the base where U.S. troops replaced Spanish forces a week ago. There were no casualties.

The U.S. military is deployed at the base and outside Najaf to crack down on radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia. But the troops have held back because the military fears angering Shiites Muslims, whose holiest site in Iraq _ the Imam Ali Shrine _ is about three miles from the U.S. base.

Lt. Col. Pat White said American troops would "maintain our defense posture" until someone "much, much higher than me makes a different decision."

He estimated 20 militiamen were killed in the battle and said there were few civilian casualties because troops were using precision fire. "I think every soldier here understands the sensitivities of the situation," he said.

At a Najaf hospital, one slain Iraqi policeman and 16 wounded civilians were brought in, including a woman, who hospital officials said were hit by American fire. Razzaq Hussein, 22, a construction worker, was wounded by shrapnel from a shell he said was fired by the Americans.

Al-Sadr's forces have stepped up attacks recently _ apparently either to pressure U.S. officials to negotiate or goad troops into retaliating. On Saturday, al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army militia attacked a military supply convoy outside the southern city of Amarah, killing two American soldiers.

The U.S. military has vowed to capture or kill the cleric, whose militia launched an uprising across the south in early April. Al-Sadr, who is accused of involvement in the killing of a rival cleric, is in his office near the Imam Ali Shrine, making any move to capture him risky.

Al-Sadr has sought negotiations through tribal mediators in Najaf but seeks a resolution that would avoid his arrest. U.S. officials insist he be brought to justice.

Fallujah residents have been celebrating what many saw as a victory over U.S. forces as Marines pull back from their monthlong siege of the city and an Iraqi force _ made up of former Saddam-era soldiers _ moves in. U.S. officials have acknowledged they did not screen Iraqi commanders for their ties to Saddam before letting the brigade take over.

The U.S. move to have Latif lead the Fallujah Brigade came amid complaints from some Iraqis that the current commander, Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh, a former member of Saddam's Republican Guard, may have been involved in past repression by the ousted regime.

Hoshyar Zibari, Iraq's Kurdish foreign minister, said there were reports Saleh was involved in crushing the 1991 uprising by Kurds against Saddam's rule.

Latif does "not have such problems" and at one point was imprisoned by Saddam, Zibari said.

The U.S.-picked Governing Council warned against giving military posts to ex-generals involved in the former regime's crimes. Using officers who "participated in shedding the blood of the Iraq people ... especially Republican Guards, Saddam Fedayeen militia and the remains of the dead regime is strongly condemned," the council said.

A senior U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Latif would likely step in as commander, once he is vetted, while Saleh may take a junior position.

U.S. officials have acknowledged they did not fully check out the leaders and members of the new brigade to see how close their ties were to Saddam's regime _ a sign of the military's eagerness to find an "Iraqi solution" to the siege, which prompted an international outcry and strained ties with Iraqi leaders.

The new brigade has taken up positions around southern Fallujah and is due to replace Marines on the northern side and start patrols in the city soon.

U.S. officials say the Fallujah Brigade will crack down on guerrillas _ although the force is likely to include some of the gunmen who last month fought the Marines. Since Friday, insurgents have moved freely in Fallujah, sometimes standing alongside Iraqi police.

Associated Press writer Jim Krane in Baghdad contributed to this report.



05-04-04, 06:04 AM
Who wins in the Fallujah handover?

As marines cede control of the city to a new Iraqi security force, local insurgents are calling it a victory over occupiers.

By Scott Peterson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

FALLUJAH, IRAQ – Iraqi insurgents are celebrating their "victory" in Fallujah - broadcasting it from mosques while residents rejoice in the streets - as US marines over the weekend pulled back forces encircling the city.
Marine commanders, too, are lauding the deal, which empowers soldiers of Saddam Hussein's former army to take over security, forestalling an all-out assault on Fallujah that promised to be bloody.

But even as the Marines gamble on the promises of an untested former Republican Guard general and his fledgling unit of some 1,200 soldiers, they are weighing the costs of their solution. Among them: Concerns that widespread perception of a US defeat may fuel more unrest in Iraq; and that the Marines have ceded control of an estimated 200 foreign fighters, holed up in the city they call the "nexus of evil" of Iraq's insurgency.

"Is it going to be seen as an encouraging sign for the resistance?" asks a senior US Marine officer, who requested anonymity. The guerrillas, he adds, could say: "We fought the US military machine to a draw, come join us, get on the winning team."

Despite plentiful US intelligence about the presence of foreign fighters in Fallujah during the conflict, Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh, the Iraqi first tipped to lead the new force, told the Reuters news agency Sunday that "there are no foreign fighters in Fallujah, and the local tribal leaders have told me the same."

US officers think otherwise. "Of the things we're giving up [with this deal], the ability to control the fate of the foreign fighters is a big minus," says the senior US officer. Fallujah is "the last urban sanctuary you could hide in without people disturbing you - loading a car with explosives without any one bothering you."

Though these fighters may have slipped away, there may still be a silver lining, says the officer. "If we got the foreign fighters out of the sanctuary, and on the move, they're more vulnerable," he says. "Now you've got them on the run."

Military leaders here say they have halted an offensive that would almost certainly have further galvanized anti-US sentiment, already hardening in the past month. If it works, there is an Iraqi face on efforts to quell the Fallujah insurgency - a result that the US says has always been its endgame, as it eyes the June 30 handover of sovereignty to Iraqis. Over the weekend, marines cut their area of control from one-fourth of the city to just 10 percent.

Lt. Gen. James Conway, the top US Marine officer in Iraq, praised the "formation of a military partnership" that could bring a "lasting, durable climate of peace."

The former Iraqi soldiers "share in our sense of urgency in stabilizing Fallujah and are willing to share in the danger in making that happen," General Conway said.

Media characterizations that the deal is the "first stage of a Marine 'withdrawal' or 'retreat' " are wrong, Conway added. "Let me tell you that both of those are dirty words in the vocabulary of a marine - and nothing could be further from the truth."

That wasn't the view from some on the ground in Fallujah, however. "God has given this town victory over the Americans," blared loudspeakers from one mosque minaret, Reuters reported. "This victory came by the acts of the brave mujahideen of Fallujah who vanquished the American troops."

"The reasons for the resistance go back to the American provocations, the raids, and the abolishing of the army, which made Iraqis join the resistance," said General Saleh, adding that he had so far found 1,200 members for his force.

Gen. Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cast doubt on Saleh's final appointment, telling ABC news Sunday that Saleh, along with another Iraqi general, still need to be vetted.

Some marines have bristled at the pullback, after ramping up for an offensive that appeared inevitable a week ago.

"No one wants to give up territory that they paid for with blood," says one junior Marine officer, who declined to give his name.

"I think [the Marines] are frustrated," says another. "If this fails, they're going to have to go right back in there."

It is not yet clear how the new force, dubbed the 1st Battalion of the Fallujah Brigade, will fit into the new Iraqi Army. Also uncertain is the degree of influence the former soldiers have over various insurgent groups.

The Iraqi generals, Conway says, "understand our view that [foreign fighters] must be killed or captured. They have not flinched."

Questions still remain about the makeup of this new security force. Background checks through US databases, which officers here admit are "incomplete," yielded "a few hits," said Conway. "Most of these guys may not be squeaky clean, but they're pretty clean." Any evidence that they have "blood on their hands of any sort ... could crash and burn the program," Conway added.

Still, the Iraqi officers - who were first identified by an intermediary that came to the Marines on April 20 with an offer to help end the Fallujah standoff - were "rumored to be involved in anticoalition activities, involved enough to have some credibility with the people fighting us in Fallujah," says the senior US officer. "Bringing in an exile from Amman or London wouldn't have worked. It had to be someone from their side."

Opting for the deal may have saved US and Iraqi lives, despite other negative repercussions, says Charles Heyman, a senior defense analyst for Jane's Consultancy Group in London.

"Not going in [militarily] shows an outbreak of common sense - it was the right decision," says Mr. Heyman. Still, he says, it's likely to embolden the resistance. Many Arabs now say that "Fallujah is an Arab Alamo. "We are only 24 hours into 'Free Fallujah,' and it is already moving into myth status ... that will do a lot for insurgency in Iraq and across the Arab world."



05-04-04, 06:06 AM
Submitted by: Headquarters Marine Corps Media
Story Identification Number: 20045394042
Story by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON(April 30, 2004) -- Commanders on the ground in Iraq are getting all the armored protection they determine necessary to do the job, the operations chief for U.S. Central Command told Pentagon reporters today.

Marine Maj. Gen. John F. Sattler, speaking via teleconference from U.S. Central Command's forward headquarters in Qatar, said ground commanders' requests for additional M1A1 tanks, "up-armored" humvees and kits to up-armor vehicles already in the theater are being filled quickly and completely.

The requests came from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force operating in western Iraq and the 1st Infantry Division in north-central Iraq.

The last of 28 additional M1A1 tanks requested in Iraq are expected to arrive within the next three days, Sattler said. "There is a time and place for those, and they send a very valuable message just by pulling one up to the front lines," he said.

But Sattler acknowledged during an April 29 teleconference that tracked vehicles aren't always the most appropriate vehicles to do the job. "Counterinsurgency requires you to get up to actually engage and work with the population, and that is tough to do from inside a tank or Bradley (fighting vehicle) or armored personnel carrier," he said.

In these situations, Sattler said wheeled vehicles and warriors on the ground provide the necessary "speed and agility."

Based on the current security situation, Sattler said commanders on the ground increased their initial request for 1,000 up-armored humvees to 2,500. Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Larry DiRita said the Pentagon has "significantly surged production" to provide commanders in Iraq the additional 2,000 up-armored humvees they have requested. By December, Sattler said, the U.S. military will have 4,500 up-armored humvees in Iraq.

Commanders in Iraq also requested 8,000 up-armor kits to reinforce "soft-skin" humvees, he said. Up-armored humvees are used in higher-threat areas, primarily to conduct patrols and provide convoy security. Vehicles that travel exclusively on military compounds and other low-threat areas don't require the additional armored protection, Sattler said.

Sattler said the military is supporting all commanders' requests as quickly as possible. "They made the call, and we supported them based on the situation at the time," he said.



05-04-04, 06:08 AM
Area residents seek to do their part for Marines
29 Palms troops receive socks, toys, food from across the valley

By Jennifer Larson
The Desert Sun
May 2, 2004

Amalia Geller’s mission to collect supplies for military personnel stationed in Iraq began with a trip to buy socks at Kmart in Desert Hot Springs.

The constant reports of troops serving and sacrificing in the Middle East tugged at the heart of the Palm Springs pediatric neurologist. So, when her husband, Marc, suggested shopping for supplies to donate to the Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms for care packages, she jumped at the chance.

It didn’t matter to her that she doesn’t personally know any of the Marines serving in Iraq.

"This is something that every American needs to be doing," Amalia Geller said.

Deanna Simpson, coordinator of Twentynine Palms’ Single Marine Program, was touched to receive the Gellers’ box of medicated powder, sunscreen and socks.

"A ton of socks. It was awesome," she said.

Geller is one of many people around the Coachella Valley and the high desert who are helping the Marines deployed from home. Many of them say they hope their actions will inspire others to pitch in, too.

That’s what a group of neighbors from The Lakes Country Club in Palm Desert hopes to do. Since the beginning of the year, they’ve been devising ways to reach out to the Marines, starting with a golf tournament.

About 40 club members, including some decorated former veterans, organized a three-round golf tournament with some Twentynine Palms Marines earlier this year.

But they still wanted to do something for the Marines who don’t play golf, so a group of residents came up with the idea to collect donations to buy items to send overseas.

"I don’t know anybody that’s in the war, and I don’t have any personal connections," said Judy Van Benthuysen, a Lakes resident. "So the war becomes kind of distant to most of us. By doing this, we are going to have a personal connection."

After collecting nearly $2,500 from their neighbors, Van Benthuysen, Annabelle Nothdurft and several other women went shopping at Costco, Wal-Mart, Ralphs and ToysRUs. They bought hand wipes, canned tuna, eye drops, beef jerky, lotion, batteries, cookies, sunscreen and toys for the Marines to give to Iraqi children. They turned over a van-load of supplies to Simpson’s program on April 15.

"We wanted to put the word out there that this is something everybody can do," Van Benthuysen said.

Inspiring others to give has become a key goal for Amalia Geller, who decided that her one big box of donated goodies wasn’t enough. Despite not having any military ties, she decided that it was her responsibility to encourage others to help out, too.

Geller set up a donation box in her office at Las Palmas Medical Plaza to collect items from patients, colleagues and others, and started passing out fliers to let people know about the drive. She and her husband have planned twice-monthly trips to Twentynine Palms to deliver the goods to be shipped overseas.

"It’s something that comes from the heart," she said, even if it’s something small.

For some, the desire to help grew out of a personal connection.

A number of military families from Twentynine Palms attend Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel in Yucca Valley. So the war in Iraq has hit pretty close to home for the members accustomed to sitting next to Marines and their families in the pews each Sunday.

"Everyone really cares," said Jerel Hagerman, the pastor. "They stand with the Marines, the Navy and all of our armed forces."

In just a couple of weeks, the congregation managed to amass 590 pounds of supplies, including, razors, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, batteries and, of course, Bibles. They sent 30 large boxes, complete with notes signed "your family in Christ," overseas through Marine Corps programs.

Many of the people who have committed themselves to collecting money or supplies for the Marines in Iraq say they plan to continue.

Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel is dedicating a special prayer service to the military personnel in Iraq. Held on Wednesday, the evening before the National Day of Prayer, the service also will feature patriotic hymns and special prayers for military families. A chaplain from Twentynine Palms is scheduled to speak to the congregation.

The church is also taking around-the-clock prayer requests for the military personnel in Iraq at its Web site, www.joshuasprings.org.

Geller wants to set up donation boxes at grocery stores to make it that much easier for people to buy and donate items. She also recently talked to a bookstore manager about setting up a collection box for books.

"I know people would do more if they knew about this," she said.

Cynthia Giannico of Thermal, who started making care packages for a Navy man and also has sent packages for Iraqi children, agreed. "We’re so fortunate over here, and we have so much available to us. We have to give people hope," she said. "I was just trying to pass along a little bit of what I’ve learned."

Jennifer Larson covers the city of Palm Desert for The Desert Sun. She can be reached at 360-6477 or by e-mail.

How you can help
Suggested items for care packages for military personnel:


Food: beef jerky, trail mix, packaged peanuts, hard candy, granola bars

International phone cards

Small travel games


Playing cards


Eye drops

Small toys to share with Iraqi children, such as Frisbees or Yo-Yos

Contact Information
Single Marine Program Office at Twentynine Palms, 830-4767. Contact for more information about making donations.

Desert Mail Call, P.O. Box 6145 Twentynine Palms, CA 92278 Send letters and postcards to Desert Mail Call to be added to care packages that are shipped to service members abroad.



05-04-04, 07:52 AM
Gearing up isn't easy
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification Number: 20045355750
Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

FALLUJAH, Iraq(May 1, 2004) -- The standard fighting load for Marines in Iraq is anything but "standard." Sure, there are the "must-have" items - weapon, first aid kit, helmet and flak jacket - but when it comes to the "nice-to-haves" it's every Marine for himself.

"We're leaving on a patrol in five minutes! Get your gear together!" said Staff Sgt. Christian B. Amason, a platoon sergeant for Company G, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, assigned to the 1st Marine Division.

That used to be a cut and dry order, but with today's gear, combat loads are tailor fitted. Even packs come with detachable pouches, adding and taking away space for gear. It's a balancing act. Too much gear, it weighs the Marine down. Too little, and they suffer needlessly.

Take Amason, for example. He's a former Army Special Forces soldier and Marine sniper. He's got a good number of patrols under his belt. He knows what he needs and what he can live without when he takes to the field.

"I always take what I call my catch-all-gear," explained Amason, a 32-year-old from Elora, Tenn. "Those are the basics like your weapon, ammunition, optics, navigational equipment and flak jacket and helmet. With a water supply, that makes for at least 30 pounds on your upper body. If you're a (machine) gunner, then it could easily be 50 pounds you're carrying."

Amason knows what will keep him alive in the field, but there is one item with which he never parts.

"No matter where I go in the field, I always take my 'woobie,'" he added. "That's what my wife calls my poncho liner."

According to Amason, the poncho liner is the best piece of gear he has, keeping him warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. Other Marines have different necessities they insist on carrying.

"I'm the go-to-guy on a patrol, a regular walking 'Saigon Sam's,'" said Lance Cpl. Ryan P. Taylor, in reference to the military supply store just outside Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The Dumfries, Va. rifleman is known to always have a steady supply of chemical lights, parachute cord, fly tape, shoe-goo used to repair boots and superglue, among other things in his pack.

"You never know when you're going to need something, so I try to bring it with me," he added.

The mainstay of infantrymen in the field is undoubtedly chow. If not carrying the Meals, Ready-to-Eat they are issued, many Marines have a good supply of junk food.

This is especially true for Sgt. James M. Back, a platoon guide from Logan, Utah. Known as 'Snacks' to his platoon mates, the Marine always has a steady supply of food.

"I blame it on my wife," he said "She really takes care of me with care packages, so everyone knows to come to me for junk food."

Back also knows how to pack for a patrol. Carrying extra sergeant chevrons, zip ties, caffeine pills for late patrols, different sized-batteries, spare socks, a whistle, sunscreen and a flashlight, Back feels prepared for whatever may come.

"Marines learn from the experience of their squad leaders and then find out for themselves what works for them," Back said. "It really comes down to what you're willing to carry to be prepared for whatever you could get into."


Pfc. Jayson Rebimbas, 20, a radio operator with Company G, 2nd Battalion,
2nd Marine Regiment gears up for a patrol near Fallujah, Iraq. The
Carteret, N.J. Marine regularly hauls more than 30 pounds on his back for
every patrol. Learning from his experienced squad leaders what to take to
the field keeps Rebimbas safe and well supplied for combat operations.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes)

Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes



05-04-04, 09:39 AM
7115 South Boundary Boulevard
MacDill AFB, Fla. 33621-5101
Phone: (813) 827-5894; FAX: (813) 827-2211; DSN 651-5894


May 3, 2004
Release Number: 04-05-06



AR RAMADI, Iraq - Marines oversaw the shipment of more than 100 AK-47 rifles destined for Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers in Fallujah May 2.

Marines are continuing their work to ensure ICDC forces and Iraqi police are equipped and trained for assuming security operations in Fallujah in coordination with the Fallujah Brigade.

Marines near Fallujah met with three contractors to arrange payment for projects completed during the last two weeks. Payment was delayed due to the security situation. Marines paid about $17,000 for renovations for three separate schools.

Marines and Navy Seabees met in Ramadi to finalize plans for renovations to the soccer stadium there. Once these plans are finalized, the contract will be put out for bid. City officials identified the soccer stadium as a key project for improvements for the citizens of Ramadi.

Marines also worked with a contractor in Ramadi to plan for repairs to two schools and a water treatment facility.

The 1st Marine Division is focused on destroying anti-Coalition forces in the Al Anbar province. They plan to establish a patient, persistent presence in key areas throughout the province while supporting the development of competent, trustworthy, Iraqi security forces and conducting civil military operations.



05-04-04, 10:34 AM
Issue Date: May 03, 2004

In Fallujah, Marines find myriad weapons

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Something about the bathroom mirror didn’t look right to Pfc. Luis Landeros.
The decorative mirror, which measured 4 feet by 3 feet, was larger than Marines were used to seeing in Iraqi bathrooms, especially in a modest home tucked in the back of a shop in Fallujah’s industrial wasteland.

What’s more, the mirror hung crookedly from one screw. Landeros removed the mirror and found a metal panel secured with a heavy-duty lock.

Landeros and several other Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, cut the lock.


“We saw a room full of [rocket-propelled grenade] launchers, potato-[masher] grenades, we saw a couple of mortar rounds and tubes,” said Landeros, 23, of Yuma, Ariz. “It was a pretty stacked room.”

The weapons in the room, and another big batch found in a building across the street, are among the largest caches the unit has found. The battalion, from Camp Pendleton, Calif., is one of three Marine infantry battalions battling Iraqi insurgent forces here.

Discovery of the arms depot offers a window into what a well-armed enemy the Marines face.

“I was just happy that we got that stuff off the street,” Landeros said. “It saved a lot of lives, I think, just taking that out.”

Marines of 1/5 have spent three weeks checking and clearing hundreds of auto shops, convenience stores, storage rooms and warehouses in a vast zone along the city’s eastern edge.

“The industrial sector of Fallujah was a key supply point and a cache area for terrorists and anti-coalition forces,” said battalion commander Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne.

Nearly every day, his men find assorted rifles, rocket launchers, mortar tubes and ammunition. And at each new cache Marines are surprised by the quantity and types of weapons they find.

In some cases, Marines have found improvised explosives, cell phones, explosives-laden “suicide belts,” rifle scopes and night-vision equipment, as well as terrorist training videos, CDs, manuals and materials that mention al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

Battalion leaders recently displayed some of the more unusual weaponry the unit collected. As he stepped over the piles of rifles and eased his way through stacked cases of ammunition, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dave Bednarcik was impressed by what he saw.

Snapping away with a digital camera, the battalion’s weapons expert recorded the unit’s finds. A mortar base plate and tube, tripods, several metal cases containing new night-vision goggles. A black suicide belt. A trio of olive, knit masks.

“Very crude indeed,” he said, looking over one unusual looking rifle. “Crude, ingenious.”

An MP-44 submachine gun caught his eye.

“That sucker is German, a piece of history,” he said.

He looked over an M-79 grenade launcher before something stole his attention.

“That’s a freaking 105mm recoilless rifle there,” said Bednarcik, 36, of Temecula, Calif., as he pointed to a nearby pile.

The sources of such weaponry aren’t clear, although he said some might have come from supply points kept by the former regime. Even Byrne, the battalion commander, is impressed by what his unit has collected so far.

“We have found an amazing amount of stuff,” he said. “It’s sobering, really.”



05-04-04, 12:12 PM
ICDC trains with Marines for Fallujah patrols
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification Number: 200442771514
Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(April 26, 2004) -- Teams of Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers and Marines began practicing patrols here Monday in what is shaping up to be the shining hope for decayed security situation in Fallujah.

Regimental Combat Team 1 Marines, who have largely been in Fallujah since the beginning of April, spent the day teaching Iraqi soldiers infantry basics for foot-patrols in urban environments. Joint patrols between Marines and ICDC forces are due to begin in days.

Marines used an abandoned brick factory near Fallujah as a training camp. The obstacles, hemmed-in alleys and building mirrored what Marines expect in the urban sprawl.

"We want the ICDC to be self-reliant... to train them ultimately to an end-state to where they're responsible for security for their country," said Capt. Morgan N. Savage, commander of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

For now, Savage added, there would be more evaluating than actual training.

"We're taking small steps right now," he explained. "Assessing their capabilities is important. What we're working for is to do joint patrols with the ICDC so that civilians don't just see Marines, but the Iraqis as well."

Marines demonstrated patrol techniques and formations while ICDC soldiers observed from the sidelines. After seeing the example, they mimicked the Marines.

"We're also going to rehearse patrols integrating the Marines and ICDC, to see how they move through the streets," explained 1st Lt. Frederick K. Stokes, Company K's 3rd Platoon Commander.

The plan is for the ICDC and Iraqi police to lead the patrols, with Marines following in trace.

"We're training together to get a feel on how they will react under enemy contact," Savage said. "So that it's not chaotic when we take fire and we don't have weapons pointing in different directions."

This isn't the first time ICDC soldiers worked with U.S. forces. The Iraqis trained with the Army's soldiers last year. Still, it's a matter of confidence and familiarity both groups want before they head out into Fallujah.

"I think it's a good thing that we get them spun-up and trained to get them ready to fight their own war," said Lance Cpl. Jacob T. Nelson, an assault team leader.

"For now, they're also going to learn simple basics like hand-and-arm signals and making sure they know how to walk in town," said Lance Cpl. Dustin J. Landendorf, a fire-team leader. "After a couple of days of training, we'll find out what kind of trust they have in us."

Marines training with the ICDC soldiers are anxious for the Iraqis to begin to control the situation in Fallujah for themselves, Stoke explained. The Iraqis aren't all green troops. Many have past military experience.

"Some of the guys are military experienced - one guy's been in for 19 years," Stokes said. "They seem enthusiastic because they came here today and did everything we asked."

Savage explained the real challenge would be on the streets of Fallujah.

"We'll find out if they're up to it when we make contact with the enemy," Stokes added. "It should be interesting."


Left) Capt. Morgan N. Savage, commander for Company K, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1 and 1st Lt. Frederick K. Stokes, platoon commander for 3rd Platoon, talk over the day's training plan with an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps lieutenant outside Fallujah. The two forces trained side-by-side in a brick factory compound that provides obstacles expected in the city for joint patrols.
(USMC phot by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen) Photo by: Sgt. Jose E. Guillen



05-04-04, 03:12 PM
May 04, 2004

New Iraqi Fallujah force does its job, Marine commander says

By Katarina Kratovac
Associated Press

FALLUJAH, Iraq — A senior Marine officer in Fallujah said Tuesday that the new Iraqi military force that is taking over from U.S. troops in the city is “meeting expectations” in bringing calm to the city.
An all-Iraqi force began moving into positions from withdrawing Marines last week as part of an agreement to restore order in the city, the site of a nearly month-long siege that left 10 Marines and several hundred Iraqis dead.

The Iraqi force of up to 1,100 is to be led by one of Saddam Hussein’s former generals. Many of the fighters are former soldiers and the force includes several who are believed to have fought against the Marines.

“If some of those individuals have now decided there is an alternative way ... then all the better,” said Col. John Coleman, chief of staff for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in the western Anbar province that includes Fallujah.

Coleman, speaking at the Marine camp a few miles from the center of Fallujah, said that Marines were monitoring the progress of the force.

“We are measuring the reality on the ground, we assigned them, we monitor them,” he said.

Coleman would not discuss military activities in Fallujah but said “there is a percentage of (the city) where normalcy has returned,” he said.

Coleman said the newly formed Fallujah Brigade was an initiative of former Iraqi officers.

“They didn’t come asking for money or anything else, just a chance to serve their nation,” Coleman said. “They had been sitting on the sidelines too long, we hadn’t given them the opportunity to come forward before.”

“But they heard our message ... They came forward saying they can deliver certain things,” he added.

U.S. military authorities struck an agreement to end the fighting, which included the deployment of the new force. U.S. commanders had been extremely reticent to storm the city, fearing casualties on the both sides and inflaming public opinion in Iraq, where many regarded the gunmen in Fallujah as heroes for holding off the Marines.

Marine commanders and liaison teams have been meeting Fallujah Brigade leaders in what Coleman described as “a military discussion among military men about a military mission.”

Coleman also said he met with Maj. Gen. Mohammed Abdul-Latif — the Iraqi general likely to take command of the Fallujah Brigade — who has been in the city in the past days.

Abdul-Latif is a former military intelligence officer who was imprisoned by Saddam.

Abdul-Latif “has good leadership qualities,” Coleman said. “I know enough of his current activity to know that he is a man of his word and delivers what he says and I know enough of his background to know that he was not in favor of the things that went on this country before.”

“He spent time in prison here and was exiled because he didn’t approve of the way the country was run,” Coleman said. “That’s about all I personally know and that’s enough for me, measured against his current words and deeds.”

Jassim Mohammed Saleh, a former officer in Saddam’s elite Republican Guard, had earlier been identified as head of the force, but apparently his ties to the former regime led to his being replaced.

Coleman said that Saleh will be a member of the Fallujah Brigade.



05-04-04, 06:44 PM
General's gift to squadron lifts spirits, boosts morale
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification Number: 20045452549
Story by Staff Sgt. Houston F. White Jr.

AL TAQQADUM, Iraq(May 4, 2004) -- The unconditional love and loyalty of an 11-week-old Iraqi puppy named Melissa has softened the hearts of the battle-hardened "Rhinos" of Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Marine Wing Support Group 37.

"I believe all Marines, in their hearts, are dog lovers," said Maj. Gen. James F. Amos, commanding general, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, "so it's easy to have compassion for a dog who is out in the middle of a war zone. I felt that maybe a dog would pick their spirits up and be something the squadron could identify with and get a touch of home."

The arrival of Melissa as a gift however, was quite unexpected, said Lt. Col. David R. Leppelmeier, commanding officer, MWSS-374.

"I received an e-mail from Gen. Amos back in April saying that he was going to bring me something, but I really had no idea what was going on," said the 44-year-old native of Babylon, N.Y.

The "something" Leppelmeier didn't know about, almost turned out to be a personality mismatch for the squadron, said Amos.

"My original intention was to give (Melissa's mother) Luci to Lt. Col. Leppelmeier in Taqqadum as a squadron mascot," said Maj. Gen. Amos, "because he'd lost two Marines early on and the unit was right in the middle of a pretty tough mission there."

After witnessing the stubborn and independent nature of Luci, due to her rough upbringing in Baghdad, the general decided that Luci's offspring would be a wiser selection for the squadron mascot.

Luci was left without a family when an Army unit departed Baghdad, said Maj. Gen. Amos. This presented the general with the perfect opportunity to assume responsibility for the courageous dog and her sole surviving puppy from a litter of five.

"Luci was working with Army Special Forces on the streets of Baghdad and over a period of time, she kept following them around whenever they went on patrols," the general said. "Luci was credited with saving their lives a couple of times because of her ability to sniff out an ambush and bark to alert them."

When 3rd MAW went into Baghdad about a month and a half ago to drop off some wounded Marines, Luci and the pup were brought out to the airplane and were taken back to Al Asad, the general said.

Following the general's decision to send Melissa to Al Taqqadum, the plan was quickly put in motion.

"We fly in and out of Taqqadum on a regular schedule, so it was pretty simple for us to piggy-back the puppy on a flight and present her to Lt. Col. Leppelmeier," Maj. Gen. Amos said.

The positive effects on the unit since Melissa's arrival have been very noticeable, according to many "Rhino" Marines.

"Having Melissa around keeps my morale high," said 24-year-old New York City native Lance Cpl. Pamela O'Donnell, operations clerk. "She's just a happy addition to the family and she brings a smile to everybody's face."

"That puppy is absolutely incredible," added Staff Sgt. Sandra D. Magallanes, wire chief, and Cody, Wyo., native. "She's intelligent, she's a fighter and Melissa is really a representation of the job that we're doing over here."

Perhaps no Marine is as smitten with the precocious pup as her commanding officer-turned-adopted father.

"I know that having her around has changed the atmosphere around the unit, because everybody knows that she lives here in the compound and everybody pets her. She might get in their way sometimes or gnaw at their feet, but no matter what, Melissa is the one little distraction that reminds them of their pet at home," said Leppelmeier.

"Melissa is great. She knows how to play me like a fiddle," he chuckled. "She's really changed my whole world and helped me out a lot. She's just like a daughter to me and I can't imagine waking up and not having her around."


Melissa anxiously awaits the return of her adopted father, Lt. Col. David R. Leppelmeier, commanding officer, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, April 28. The puppy was a gift to the 'Rhinos' of MWSS-374 from 3rd MAW commanding general, Maj. Gen. James F. Amos. Photo by: Staff Sgt. Houston F. White Jr.


Lt. Col. David R. Leppelmeier, commanding officer, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, says hello to his 'little friend', Melissa, before heading to an early morning meeting, April 28. According to Leppelmeier, the puppy, which was a gift from the 3rd MAW commanding general, Maj. Gen. James F. Amos, has helped boost the morale of the entire unit in only a short amount of time. Photo by: Staff Sgt. Houston F. White Jr.


Lance Cpl. Pamela M. O'Donnell, operations clerk, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, finds out very quickly that Melissa is a real 'chow hound', April 29. The 24-year-old native of New York City said that the puppy is a happy addition to the 'Rhino' family. The 11-week-old mascot, a gift from the 3rd MAW commanding general, Maj. Gen. James F. Amos, brings a touch of home to many of the Marines and Sailors serving in Al Taqqadum, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by: Staff Sgt. Houston F. White Jr.