View Full Version : Combat engineers build morale in Iraq

06-13-04, 06:11 AM
Combat engineers build morale in Iraq <br />
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing <br />
Story Identification #: 200461313420 <br />
Story by Staff Sgt. Houston F. White Jr. <br />
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AL ASAD, Iraq (June 13, 2004) --...

06-13-04, 06:13 AM
Soldiers with 3rd MAW attack MCMAP training
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 200461362449
Story by Sgt. J.L. Zimmer III

AL ASAD, Iraq (June 13, 2004) -- Two soldiers serving with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, here, were recently afforded the opportunity to participate in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and earn gray belts by completing the requirements for the second stage of MCMAP.

Spcs. Aaron J. Davis and Isreal G. Alday, are both multi-channel systems operators and maintainers and are presently operational attachments to MWCS-38 from their parent command of the 313th Signal Company, 3rd Signal Brigade, which is currently stationed in Baghdad, Iraq.

According to 1st Lt. Michael J. Staunton, a 29-year-old communications officer with MWCS-38, and Boston native, the soldiers were included as part of the MWCS-38 family almost as soon as the Marine Corps arrived here.

"When we showed up here, (Davis and Alday) had their equipment set up as part of the current network," said Staunton. "We were going to use their gear as a backup plan for communications and in the process we kind of adopted them."

Once integrated into MWCS-38, Davis, a Santa Rosa, Calif., native, discovered the MCMAP training was available to him and Alday.

"We were told the Marine Corps would be teaching martial arts when they got here," said the 31-year-old. "I've always been interested in martial arts because I did it when I was a kid."

Alday, a 29-year-old Tallahassee, Fla., native, took advantage of the opportunity to learn something he has always been interested in, but never had the option of learning in his branch of service.

"The Army doesn't have anything like this," Alday said. "They have hand-to-hand, bayonet and pugil stick training, but once you finish basic training that is it. So, when the Marines afforded me the opportunity, I jumped on it."

Davis remarked that he enjoyed what he learned during his gray belt qualification.

"I love it and had a blast doing it," exclaimed Davis.

Alday mentioned that the level of intensity was something that was new to him, although he understood why the pressure was so high during the training evolution.

"They put us through hell the first couple of days," he said. "The instructor made simple things as rough as possible (to simulate combat), but it was all worth it. In the Army we do (physical training) in PT gear, but in combat we won't be (in PT gear)."

The instructor for both soldiers was Sgt. Joshua J. Dean, radio supervisor, MWCS-38 and MCMAP instructor.

Dean commented that the pair learned quickly and did not need as much remedial attention as some of the other students he has instructed in the past.

"I trained them for their tan and gray belts," he said. "They learned as fast as some Marines I have taught."

Dean has a personal belief that he hopes Davis and Alday will take back to their units when their tour here is complete- one he hopes will influence other military organizations to adopt the MCMAP program.

"The other branches of the military protect the country the same as the Marine Corps does," said the 23-year-old San Diego, native. "If they become captured, they should be able to use the same techniques we do."


Spc. Aaron J. Davis (right), 31-year-old Santa Rosa, Calif., native, performs a hip throw on Spc. Isreal G. Alday, a 29-year-old Tallahassee, Fla., native, during their test for the gray belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, June 5, at Al Asad, Iraq. Davis and Alday are both multi-channel systems operators and maintainers, operationally attached to Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Their parent command, the 313th Signal Company, 3rd Signal Brigade, is currently located in Baghdad, Iraq. Photo by: Sgt. J.L. Zimmer III



06-13-04, 06:14 AM
Aiding wounded soldiers
Arches owner involves the community in supporting recovering injured troops.

Lolita Harper, Daily Pilot

Four words printed on a banner on the side of the Arches spell out more than just a catch phrase for the restaurant's owner. They define a way of life.

"We support our troops."

The sentence, framed by pictures of the American and Marine Corps flags, greet each patron of Danny Marcheano's historic diner as they pull into the parking lot.

For Marcheano, the definition of that phase is tangibly defined by the heaps of books, puzzles and board games he collected to donate to servicemen and servicewomen recovering from war injuries.

"It is important because there are people out there who think they can't do anything to help," Marcheano said. "But they can, you know; it's right here in the neighborhood."

Last week, Master Sgt. William Bonney, of the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, picked up two truckloads of donated items to distribute to soldiers, sailors and Marines at the Camp Pendleton base hospital and the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego.

Marcheano and fellow retired Marine George Tepich organized the drive to make sure that the servicemen and servicewomen were taken care of after their tour of duty. Tepich, who speaks in a gruff, stern voice, and Marcheano, who talks with a New Jersey accent, present tough-guy personas, bolstered by their respective stories of combat.

But when the subject of supporting America's troops comes up, the look in their eyes softens, and they speak in a no-nonsense tone.

"Some of these kids are so badly beaten up," Tepich said. "You just wouldn't believe it. You wouldn't make it through a tour of that hospital without a tear in your eye."

They are too old to be deployed, but Marcheano and Tepich refuse to stop fighting. In addition to collecting the books and games for Marines, they have joined an effort to build up the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, created to fill the gap of services between active duty and veteran benefits.

Karen Guenther, the president of the fund, works as a nurse at the Pendleton hospital and witnesses the recovery process firsthand.

"I saw these Marines as they first came in, and I think my life has changed forever after that," Guenther said.

Guenther said military support is crucial not only during war but in peace time as well.

When this war is over, the veterans will still have battle scars, Tepich said.

"What happens afterward?" he asked.

Sgt. Jason Whittling lost the use of both his arms and legs in combat, Tepich said. He was cared for at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in La Jolla but needs more than what the government can offer. The fund is working to equip him with an electric wheelchair and a van with a lift so that he can lead a productive life.

"It saddens and angers me that our government can send billions in aid to other countries but can't buy an electric wheelchair for an injured Marine — someone who gave his limbs for his country," Tepich said.

Marcheano and Tepich said they hope to drum up local support for the fund, which is based in Oceanside near Camp Pendleton, while still gathering tangible items to send to the hospitals.

"They asked me to re-enlist, you know," Marcheano joked. "I can't do that, but this I can do."



06-13-04, 06:14 AM
Another Iraqi Government Official Killed

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Gunmen killed the Education Ministry's cultural affairs officer Sunday, the second attack on an Iraqi official in as many days, authorities said. Kamal al-Jarah was ambushed outside his home as he was leaving for work at about 7:30 a.m. The attack happened in a predominantly Sunni Muslim neighborhood of northwest Baghdad where support for Saddam Hussein's regime had been strong.

U.S. convoys have often come under attack in the neighborhood of Ghazaliya.

Al-Jarah died of his wounds at the Yarmouk Hospital, said Abdul Khaliq al-Amri, a ministry official.

The attack came only one day after gunmen killed a deputy foreign minister as he went to work. Bassam Salih Kubba was Iraq's most senior career diplomat.

The attack on Kubba, a Sunni, was the second assassination of a senior Iraqi figure in the past month. The head of the now-disbanded Iraqi Governing Council, Izzadine Saleem, was killed in a suicide car-bombing May 17



06-13-04, 06:16 AM
Insurgents and Islam Now Rulers of Fallouja

By Laura King, Times Staff Writer

FALLOUJA, Iraq — More than 10 weeks after the grisly killing and mutilation of four U.S. contract workers turned this town into an emblem of Iraq's wildfire insurgency, Fallouja has become a symbol of a different sort.

In the wake of a truce last month that averted an all-out assault by U.S. Marines, the conservative Sunni Muslim city west of Baghdad has taken on the trappings of a mini-republic that lives largely according to its own rules, in defiance of the potent American military force that remains poised on its doorstep.

Fallouja's status as an autonomous fiefdom — where local people say insurgents rule the streets and an increasingly austere brand of Islamic law has taken root — could embolden other towns, particularly in like-minded Sunni tribal areas, to challenge the legitimacy of the country's transitional government as a scheduled hand-over of power to Iraqis approaches.

And the woes of a U.S.-sanctioned security force in this city on the banks of the Euphrates could bode ill for efforts by the American military and occupation authority to appease rebellious pockets of Iraq by setting up locally recruited forces intended to co-opt insurgents. In the dusty streets of Fallouja, the early May pullback by the Marines to stave off close-quarters urban combat and the likelihood of heavy civilian casualties is touted as a glorious victory for the insurgents, who enjoy overwhelming support here.

"The mujahedin are taking care of Fallouja now — this is our reality," said Saad Duleimi, a well-to-do businessman and member of one of the area's most influential tribes. "They control all the affairs of the city. And that is what the people want."

The principal U.S. aims under the truce, which was reached in the wake of three weeks of fierce fighting between Marines and insurgents, do not appear even close to being achieved.

Those include collecting heavy weapons from insurgents, establishing a climate in which Western contractors could work in relative safety to help rebuild battle-wrecked parts of the city and bringing to justice the people behind the gruesome killings of the four workers from the Blackwater USA security firm.

Instead, the city remains awash in weaponry and a virtual no-go zone for foreigners, where on-the-road ambushes and abduction attempts are common.

No arrests have been made in the March 31 ambush in which the workers were killed and their corpses beaten and burned by a mob. Some of the victims' body parts were strung from a bridge over the river.

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters in Baghdad on Saturday that "we are not satisfied we are making active progress" in the case or toward other truce objectives.

Rather than moving in to make arrests themselves, the Marines have handed a list of suspects to the Fallouja Brigade, a special force created under the truce whose ranks include former members of Saddam Hussein's army as well as former insurgents.

But so far, the brigade has been able to assert only extremely limited authority, Falloujans and U.S. military officials said. Last week, its men came under mortar fire that left 12 wounded.

"There are areas where, obviously, the brigade is not in control," said Maj. T.V. Johnson, a spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which is camped on Fallouja's outskirts. "If we want a Western timeline — we want this or that done today, or done yesterday — we'd be disappointed."

In Fallouja, locals describe a complex power structure in which the roles of Sunni clerics, tribal chieftains and young insurgents are closely intertwined, with often overlapping agendas.

Imams, or mosque preachers, have consistently spread a strongly anti-occupation message from Fallouja's pulpits, one that is also voiced by Sunni clerics in the mosques of Baghdad and elsewhere in the Sunni heartland of central Iraq that supported Hussein and greatly benefited from his rule.

Although many Fallouja tribal leaders have played a more conciliatory role, taking part in truce talks and having regular contacts with the Americans, most speak bitterly of the affront to tribal traditions posed by U.S. forces.

"The hatred toward the Americans was heightened when they started to arrest the sheiks and insult them in front of their people — even in front of women," said Sheik Hammad Mutlak, a chieftain of the Jumali tribe. That, he declared, had helped contribute to a breakdown of the sheiks' authority, which in turn drove young tribesmen into the insurgency.

Fallouja has always had a reputation for being devout, with its social mores derived from deeply conservative tribal codes and Islamic teachings. But local people say adherence to Sharia, or Islamic law, has taken on a distinct new rigor in the wake of April's siege, which left 10 Marines and hundreds of Iraqis dead.

"It is not allowed to break the rules of Islam," said Sheik Aboud Mohammed, the imam of Fallouja's Maadhidi mosque. "These laws might not have been fully followed prior to the occupation of our city, but the fact that Americans attacked our holy sites … has made us more sensitive about these issues."

Vigilante-style enforcement of religious edicts by the insurgents has been on the rise in recent weeks. Barbers have been warned not to shave men's beards. Several beauty parlors have been shut down, and four purveyors of illicit alcohol were publicly flogged and paraded through town in the back of a pickup truck last month, according to witnesses.

Townspeople insist that the insurgents' presence has all but quelled the outbreak of lawlessness that had beset the city as local authority broke down during the months of U.S. occupation.

"Fallouja is the safest it's ever been — you don't even have to lock your doors because no one will dare to steal," said Hamza Dari, a taxi driver. "I feel much more secure than before."

That sense of safety, of course, in no way extends to outsiders. The stalking of foreigners who venture into the city is aided, some residents say, by Iraqi security forces who report the presence of any Westerner to the insurgents.

The insurgents scour the city as well, carrying out armed patrols in narrow alleyways and crowded marketplaces. They man checkpoints where young fighters, sometimes masked, scrutinize people entering or leaving town. Particularly ambush-prone are sport utility vehicles used mainly by foreigners.

Even if one is traveling in a nondescript, battered car and accompanied by a local escort, entering Fallouja is a heart-pounding experience. Last week, however, a car carrying an American journalist swathed in an all-enveloping black abaya and a hijab, or head covering, was waved through without incident.

"You are welcome in my house, but you are not safe here or anywhere in Fallouja," one local host admonished during the visit. He warned against making eye contact with anyone at a checkpoint or those traveling in nearby cars.

There are signs that Fallouja's insurgents are a fragmented lot whose internal divisions may eventually come to the foreground — a development sought by military and coalition officials. Manifestos and pamphlets regularly appear in the streets, signed by more than a dozen factions.

But in a city long known for its overarching mistrust of outsiders, residents uniformly express support for those who fought the Americans. No one entertains the possibility that the Marines could have crushed the insurgents if ordered to do so.

"I believe the U.S. forces went through one of their toughest times here, meeting the resistance they did," said Abdul Latif, a government worker. "We believe God saved our city. And we believe they learned a lesson: not to mess with Fallouja."



06-13-04, 08:08 AM
Leading the Horse to Water <br />
Tim Blair has an insider's account of the Al Qaeda attack on expatriate workers living in and around the Oasis apartments in Khobar on May 29. It provides more detail than...

06-13-04, 10:51 AM
June 11, 2004

Marines will help replace 1st Armored Division in Iraq in July

By Jim Krane
Associated Press

BAGHDAD — The U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division, the unit delayed from leaving Iraq when a pair of rebel uprisings flared in April, is scheduled to depart Iraq by July 15, the head of U.S. military operations in Iraq said.
Replacing the Germany-based division will be a brigade combat team from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and a pair of U.S. Marine brigades, said Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz. Those units will start arriving in Iraq by the end of June, Metz said.

Earlier, Army officials had said the South Korea-based 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division would arrive in time to replace 1st Armored, but that unit won’t reach Iraq until early fall, the military said.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there was a small possibility 1st Armored’s stay in Iraq could be extended again, but Metz said that possibility was “infinitesimally small.”

“We’re doing everything we can to have all Task Force 1st Armored out of harm’s way by 15 July,” Metz said on Thursday. “We’re on the glide path to achieve that.”

The task force includes the Army’s Louisiana-based 2nd Armored Cavalry regiment, which has been attached to 1st Armored, and support elements.

The division, which rolled into Baghdad in May 2003 — just after President George W. Bush declared major combat at an end — and occupied the Iraqi capital until March, when it handed control to the Texas-based 1st Cavalry Division.

1st Armored was already leaving Iraq in April when U.S. ground forces commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez called it back and sent it to fight a Shiite Muslim uprising in south-central Iraq.

The overall number of U.S. troops will drop from around 138,000 to roughly 130,000 when the 16,000 or so soldiers with 1st Armored are replaced. They’ll be replaced by about 12,000 soldiers and Marines from the Fort Drum, N.Y.-based 10th Mountain Division and two Marine brigades, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and the 24th MEU from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Metz said the major upcoming troop rotation that begins this fall would be done far more gradually than the previous one, which refreshed almost the entire U.S. military presence in Iraq in a three-month period, putting about 250,000 personnel on the move to and from Iraq.

That rotation, the largest single troop movement in U.S. history, left the military vulnerable to enemy attacks, Metz said.

“We created a risky period for ourselves by trying to flow hundreds of thousands of troops in two different directions over such a narrow window of time,” Metz said. “Regretfully we lost kids who thought they were on their last week or those who were on their first week. We’re not going to recreate that risk period.”

The next rotation, known as Operation Iraqi Freedom 3, will be stretched out over a year.

The first units to leave Iraq will be the Army’s so-called Stryker Brigade — 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division based at Fort Lewis, Washington — followed by the Germany-based 1st Infantry Division, Metz said.



06-13-04, 01:57 PM
Marine brothers from Milton deployed to Iraq

By Carla McCann/Gazette Staff

MILTON-Arlene Koniecki trusts the Lord to watch over her two sons, Josiah and Matthew, while they serve with the Marines in Iraq.

"I have perfect faith that God will take care of them," Arlene said.

So do Josiah and Matthew.

"If I live, I have a strong purpose for living," Josiah said. "I will live to serve Jesus Christ. If I die, my time of service is up, and I can enjoy heaven."

The Milton brothers are members of the 2/24 G. Company Marine Reserves based in Madison. Their unit was deployed Tuesday to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Although Josiah and Matthew are in the same company, they are in different platoons.

"We won't be on the same patrols," Josiah said.

They also have different jobs. Josiah, a corporal, is a machine gunner. Matthew, a lance corporal, is a rifleman.

Josiah has been a reservist for five years. Matthew joined the reserves right after 9/11.

"It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision," Matthew said.

He said he has no regrets.

"I feel pretty good about this," Matthew said. "I'm looking at it as an adventure."

At times, Josiah sits back and wonders what he got himself into, he said.

"I'll miss my friends and family," he said. "But the time will pass quickly. I have a lot of hope and confidence in the future."

Josiah also views his tour of duty as an adventure.

"I've got an adventurous attitude," he said. "I'll have interesting stories to bore my grandkids with for years and years."

The Konieckis are a deeply religious and patriotic family.

Josiah, 23, graduated from North Love Christian School in Rockford, Ill., in 1999. He teaches Sunday school and is a youth group leader at Whitewater Bible Church.

Matthew, 21, is a 2001 graduate of Utica Christian School in Utica.

The family, which includes the men's father, Jon, and their 18-year-old sister, Elizabeth, moved to rural Milton from Whitewater six years ago. But neither Matthew nor Josiah wanted to attend a public school. They both drove to their parochial schools for classes every day until graduating.

Elizabeth graduates today from Milton High School.

The two brothers are college students. Josiah just finished his junior year at UW-Whitewater, and Matthew just completed his second year at UW-Rock County.

Matthew is following in his big brother's footsteps. They both plan to become physical therapists.

The Konieckis could be a poster family for the true meaning of patriotism.

At least one of their ancestors has fought in every war, beginning with the Revolutionary War.

One of Jon's ancestors, a many times great uncle in Germany, took a walk on his wedding night to allow his new bride to change from her wedding finery into night clothes and ended up fighting for King George III in the colonies.

"He literally was bopped over the head and conscripted to the colonies to fight in the war," Arlene said.

He became a prisoner of war and didn't return home until 10 years later. By then, his bride had declared him dead and she was remarried with children, Arlene said.

One of Arlene's ancestors fought in the 1836 battle at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, and Jon's great-great grandfather served with the Wisconsin Infantry in the Civil War.

Their relatives also have served in World War I, World War II and during the Vietnam War.

Josiah and Matthew have had the best military training in the world, Arlene said.

"They've been gearing up since 9/11. They are as ready as is humanly possible," Arlene said.

For Arlene, loaning her sons to help fight the war in Iraq was as natural as the motherly love she sent with them. She believes it is her sons' duty to serve in Iraq to keep America free and to keep the Iraqi people from living under a brutal dictatorship, Arlene said.

"They (the Iraqis) deserve better than that," Arlene said.

Her sons share that belief.

"People are the same everywhere," Josiah said. "They want to live happy and peaceful lives."

Matthew said he hopes to help keep the people of Iraq free from another dictatorship.

"That's another reason to take up the cause," Matthew said.

When Jon divided the casualty figures by the numbers of Americans serving in the wars, he discovered that 99.5 percent of the soldiers and Marines came home safe.

"That's pretty good odds," Arlene added.

Arlene jokes that the real reason her sons joined the Marines was to avoid being unpaid summer help around the family's farm.

Standing at the airport Tuesday, Arlene felt proud, she said.

"I was so proud of them all," she said. "They were all upbeat and ready to go. They were young and middle-aged men leaving their families and homes to go into harms way for our safety and freedom. I was proud to be an American."


Josiah Koniecki, left, and his brother, Matthew, are members of the same Marine unit that was deployed to Iraq last week.
Al Hoch/Gazette Staff



06-13-04, 04:01 PM
Fallujah Vigilant Resolve


Fallujah, Iraq. April 5, 2004: Hundreds of US Marines and Iraqi forces surround Fallujah and prepare to launch Operation Vigilant Resolve, a month-long military campaign to flush out and punish insurgents responsible for the brutal mutilation of 4 US civilian contractors and to quell the raging hotbed of pro-Saddam loyalists once and for all.

US Marines are tested here. With the constant barrage of enemy fire in Fallujah, April becomes the deadliest month for US troops since the start of military operations in Iraq more than a year earlier. By the end of the month, Marines find themselves leaving the Sunni stronghold in the hands of the newly-formed Fallujah Brigade - a contingency of Iraqi security personnel assembled to maintain peace amongst their own.

This week, Major General Thomas L. Wilkerson (ret.) discusses the effectiveness of US military efforts in Fallujah and where the city stands today.

Jax: General Wilkerson, welcome. It has been a long, tough campaign for the Marines in Fallujah. Did we win?

Gen. Wilkerson: Good question, Jacki. And the fact is there is no win anymore. The win was the military victory when they toppled Saddam in the very first part of Iraqi freedom. Now the goal is a peaceful transfer of power to Iraqi control in civil government. That means we're into a damage-limiting exercise. Minimal casualties for us. Minimal casualties for civilians. Smooth transfer to Iraqi authorities who have the power to make things happen. This is the toughest kind of work that you could ever do in an armed camp.

Jax: But the expectations all along were that the Marines would eventually launch an all out assault on the city. Why do you think a political resolution was the course of action, and how successful do you think this will be moving forward?

Gen. Wilkerson: That's a good one. And you are following up on the first one. You see, that points out that the expectations were in error. Most folks didn't recognize the military portion truly was over with the fall of Saddam. What we're into now, although it's sporadic tactical fighting, is finding the mechanism, finding the means, to transfer power as peacefully as possible to a legally constituted Iraqi government. That puts tremendous pressure on the individual Marine soldier on the ground because theirs is a very strict and constantly changing rule of engagement.

Jax: There's been some discussion, and possibly speculation, that Iraqis in Fallujah see the Marine handover of power to the newly formed Brigade as a victory for the insurgency and a retreat on the part of US forces. Now, I know that retreat is not a word that Marines like to hear, but did we retreat?

Gen. Wilkerson: I don't think we did. We didn't have a lot of good options, and we picked the one that was most likely to help transfer power. You see, when you're working in an insurgency where there are many innocent civilians, and you're losing your own forces and casualties as the Marines did, you really have two choices. First is to take down the city. In the process of doing that, you're going to win a military victory. You are also going to leave a lot of bitter folks there who are never going to be your friends again. The other alternative is to get out of the way and get a legitimate Iraqi force in there and let them do it. And then it looks like you retreated. But on the other hand, it looks like an Iraqi city under the control of Iraqis, which is the ultimate goal.

Jax: In light of the recent car bomb assassination of the president of the Iraqi governing council, have we left ourselves a minefield in Fallujah?

Gen. Wilkerson: Good question, Jacki. And the answer is, we've left insurgencies not only in Fallujah, but also in the Sunni-controlled territories, and the Kurds. Those are insurgencies that don't have the incentive to stand up and confront us today but might well stand up and confront the Iraqi government. The point is, in the end, that must happen. Iraqis must determine their own destiny. It is not for American soldiers or American combat power to decide what form of government is right for Iraq. Therefore, what we've done is set the stage for that final chapter.

Jax: General Wilkerson, thank you.