View Full Version : Arty 'runs-n-guns' in Iraqi training

06-16-04, 08:24 AM
Arty 'runs-n-guns' in Iraqi training
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20046163812
Story by Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.

CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq(June 9, 2004) -- The lieutenant bared a wide, Texas grin that would make his hometown of Winters proud. This was the sort of mission he trained for and when the call came in he braced himself for action.

1st Lt. Charles L. Brown, executive officer with 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment's Battery E searched for a flat area to set up four of the biggest cannons he could tow. This wasn't a bunch of good-old boys running around in pick-up trucks with shotguns back in the town located in almost the dead center of the Lone Star State.

Brown and his Marines packed 18,000-pound, M-198 howitzers on an exercise in the empty deserts of Iraq. There's no "plinking" tin targets here. Instead, they disappear in a thunderous roar and cloud of smoke.

It's called a hip shoot to the artillery Marines, when they jerk the seven-ton trucks off the side of the road and set up their giant cannons within minutes of getting a call-for-fire. It's the sort if mission the cannon-cockers practiced June 9, to be ready to respond to Marines in need.

"Basically a hip shoot is when you're traveling from Point A to Point B, and in the middle of the convoy you're on. Someone needs instant assistance," Brown explained. "So we drop what we're doing and get fire down range as quick as possible, though accuracy is always more important than speed."

Hip shoots test the artillerymen for their speed and accuracy in launching a barrage of fire toward enemy forces. It was the sort of mission they were called upon to repeat time and again during the invasion of Iraq last year. It's a skill they continue to practice to be sharp.

Cpl. Alex S. Vargas, a section leader from Sunnyside, Wash., was a member of a battery that performed such a mission last year and knows how important the skill is to infantry under fire.

"We did a hip shoot a few times last year," Vargas said. "It was very effective and accurate. I know some of those guys from 5th Marines really like us."

The battery went through two days of dry fire exercises to prepare for their live-fire routine.

Lance Cpl. Harold C. Lett, a motor transportation driver from Mobile, Ala., said the Marines race each other to see which gun crew can be ready first.

"These guys are really competitive," Lett said. "Each gun wants to be the best."

Friendly competition was evident while gun chiefs and their crews vied for the chance to fire their guns first. Every Marine that was part of the seven-man gun crews had a designated task, performing loading and firing techniques.

The day began with a dry fire run before letting rounds go downrange. Unlike runs they practice in the United States, there weren't restrictions on firing in the empty Iraqi deserts and the Marines let the howitzers belch their payload.

"This is what we live for," Vargas said. "We only do this twice a month, but this is what we like. We're artillery. We're not happy unless things go boom."

Running through various scenarios, the battery traveled an unpaved road and waited to receive instructions from an advanced party sent to observe the impacts.

"It's good getting the Marines out here," Brown said. "These guys are some of the best there are. This stuff is second nature to us."

According to Vargas, Marines don't get the full experience unless you see something being blown up in the distance.

"When you see those clouds of smoke, you know someone isn't feeling good," Vargas said. "But we are. It lets us know if everything is going correctly - from the moment the gun is loaded to the impact."

The day ended as all four guns unleashed 24 rounds, all hitting one after another in a range miles away.

"When you have that many rounds hit in one spot the cloud can get pretty big, making it seem as though the rounds are getting closer," Lett explained. "These howitzers can hit you from 18 miles away with great accuracy."


Cpl. Joshua Carr, an artilleryman with 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment's Battery E from Trenton, N.J., carries a load of gun powder during a live-fire excercise June 9. The Mairnes practiced a hip shoot excercise, a common technique used during the war.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.) Photo by: Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.


A Marine with 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment's Battery E adjusts the fuze of a high explosive 155 mm round June 9. The battery participated in a hip shoot excercise, reiterating a technique used during the last year's war.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.) Photo by: Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.



06-16-04, 08:25 AM
Iraqi soldiers decorated by Marines for bravery in firefight
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200461633050
Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

CAMP INDIA, Iraq(June 11, 2004) -- Five Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers were decorated by Marines for bravery under fire during a ceremony June 11.

Col. John R. Toolan, commander for Regimental Combat Team 1 awarded two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals to the Iraqi soldiers. The soldiers were cited for braving enemy fire to aid Marines in a May 30 clash. The awards included "V" devices for valor.

Marine infantrymen and their Iraqi counterparts jointly walked the beat at Kharma May 30, where ICDC soldiers battled back the enemy while protecting a Marine from further gunshot wounds.

"I was walking beside the Marine, then we heard gunfire, and I saw that the American Marine was shot," explained Iraqi Pvt. Imad Abizaid Jasiam through an interpreter.

"Then I realized it was just me and him, so I quickly started shooting at the enemy," added the 26-year-old from Nassir Wa Al Salaam, about the Marine who was wounded in the leg by enemy fire.

Jasiam and Iraqi Pvt., Kather Nazar Abbas, pulled the downed Marine behind an elementary school for cover. The whole time, they continued to exchange fire and ducked rocket-propelled grenades.

"While the Marine was being moved for cover, three other ICDC soldiers jumped in front of the firefight and provided some pretty accurate level of suppressive fire on the enemy," said 2nd Lt. Charles Anklin III, the platoon commander for Combined Actions Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

"They got engaged from the rear by an unknown enemy-size force, and they were accurately trying to target them," added Anklin, a 28-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Jasiam said more ICDC soldiers soon made their way toward the schoolhouse, where he instructed them to form a circle around the wounded Marine and provide suppressive fire.

Jasaim, Abbas and Iraqi Sgt. Abdullah Sadoon Isa, Cpl. Eiub Muhamad Hussane, and Pvt. Ahmad Lazim Garib were all credited with saving the Marine. They all repelled the enemy assault.

"We had to protect him until the doctor (corpsman) began giving him medical attention," Jasiam said.

Gradually dislodging the enemy, Anklin said the soldiers began reconstituting and quickly forming an attack.

"The ICDC ultimately assaulted through the enemy's position and pushed them out," Anklin said.

"You've witnessed the bravery of these soldiers from India Company, (who) were willing to shed blood with Marines to make sure we get a free Iraq," said Toolan, shortly after the ceremony. "The important aspect is that the Coalition and Iraqi forces have worked together, and the bond you see between the ICDC soldiers and Marines has become rock-tight."

Jasiam said that since the skirmish, a new relationship was formed between ICDC soldiers and Marines.

"I feel very, very bad the Marines was shot because they are like my brothers now, but I'm ready to go out again," Jasiam said. "I am always ready."

Local village sheiks and Iraqi military leaders attended the rite, which was followed by a secondary ceremony.

Iraqi soldiers - some 162 of them - graduated a seven-day training camp held at Camp India.

The Marines under RCT-1 built-up the training facility and opened its door a week ago, which is designed to enhance military customs and infantry tactics within the ICDC.


Iraqi Lt. Gen Shaker Asal, Commander of the 505th Battalion, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, gives awards to five ICDC troops for acts of bravery at their graduation and awards ceremony in Camp India. The Iraq soldiers were on patrol with Marines when they were attacked and came to the rescue of a wounded Marine and fought off the enemy assault.
(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Jordan F. Sherwood) Photo by: Lance Cpl. Jordan F. Sherwood



06-16-04, 08:27 AM
Marines square off for boxing nights in Iraq
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20046162915
Story by Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.

CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq(June 11, 2004) -- Nearly 500 Marines showed up to watch this camp's first Friday Night Fights boxing event June 11, the largest of any base event in attendance.

Marines and sailors watched as 28 amateur boxers participated in 14 bouts in the event inside a ring donated by Marine Aircraft Group 16 in a large empty hanger.

"It took me about two weeks to get this thing started," said 1st Sgt. David P. Perry, first sergeant for Company L, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. "I don't think anyone here was disappointed."

Perry, a former golden gloves boxer from Maryville, Tenn., began thinking of the idea when he discovered some of his Marines were sparring with each other on concrete floors. He began training them and soon acquired the necessary equipment to get the event going.

"I had to beg and borrow," Perry said. "But I eventually got it up and going."

The bouts were put through screenings before contenders stepped into the ring. Marines were given physicals and filled out experience cards to properly match the fighters. To further prevent any major injuries, full head and body gear was worn and the boxers wore 16-ounce gloves instead of the regular 12-ounce gloves. An ambulance and full medical staff was on hand in case an injury did occur.

"If anything this event is safer than MCMAP," said Navy Petty Officer Joe B. McDaniel, a hospital corpsman with the battalion from Fort Worth, Texas. "The only injuries you'll see happen is maybe a bloody nose and a few guys will get dazed, but this is a very healthy stress release."

Release it was, offering fighters and spectators a very different way to spend their Friday night.

"I love boxing," said 1st Lt. Edwin Pena, with 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion from Bronx, N.Y. "I would love to get in there but it's enlisted only. Marines love mixing it up. A lot of them have built-up aggression. This is a very safe and effective way of letting it all go. I give credit to all those Marines out there. It's a real gut check."

Many of the fighters never before participated in an organized fight such as this, according to Perry. He said some just wanted to test themselves.

"It was great doing this," said Pfc. Daniel Young Kim, an avionics technician with MAG 16 from Simi Valley, Calif., who won his light middleweight match with a second round technical knockout. "There isn't much to do here. I love the competition and as you can see the crowd loves it. All the yelling and screaming, I was afraid at first because of the unknown, but they kept me focused."

The sportsmanship prevailed as each fight ended with the fighters embracing each other.

"Everyone seemed very excited to be here," McDaniel said. "The sportsmanship was great... the crowd went nuts. I think the event was more successful then even the first sergeant could have imagined. Next week's crowed should be even bigger."

"Everyone had a great time," said Perry. "I think that is what matters most.

"It seemed as though the ones who were training with me did the best tonight," Perry added. "I hope word gets out and soon we'll have many more fighters."

"Tonight was great," said McDaniel. "So far it has been the best escape from our current situation. It's good to have something else occupy your mind sometimes."


Lance Cpl. Joseph T. Tardio, of Banks, Ore., from 3rd Radio Battalion, jabs at Lance Cpl. Joshua L. Campbell, a of Summersville, W.V., and a heavy equipment mechanic with Combat Service Support Battalion 7. Friday Night Fight matches were held June 11 in Camp Al Asad.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Jose L. Garcia) Photo by: Sgt. Jose L. Garcia



06-16-04, 08:28 AM
Creative ideas harvested to outfit Marines under fire in Iraq <br />
Submitted by: 1st Force Service Support Group <br />
Story Identification #: 200461674613 <br />
Story by Lance Cpl. Samuel Bard Valliere <br />
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06-16-04, 08:30 AM
Art comes from the heart
War casualty Cody Calavan memorialized

By Katherine Schiffner
Herald Writer

EDMONDS - The portraits are Michael Reagan's way of saying thank you.

The Edmonds artist has drawn more than 10,000 in his 30-year career - including those of six presidents. His portraits of George and Laura Bush hang in the White House.

That work prepared Reagan for what he says is the most important art of his life: drawings of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"These soldiers died to protect me and the people I love. I wanted to do something for them and their families," said Reagan, a Vietnam veteran. "It doesn't cure the pain, but anything I can do to ease it, I wanted to do as one veteran to another."

His portrait of Pfc. Cody Calavan will be displayed today at Calavan's memorial. Reagan gave the drawing to Calavan's family and has offered to draw portraits of every soldier killed in the war against terrorism.

"I think it's wonderful that people care so much," said Cody's stepmother, Pam Calavan.

Calavan, 19, a U.S. Marine Corps machine gunner, was killed in an explosion in Iraq on May 29. He joined the Marines after graduating from Lake Stevens High School in 2003.

"The portrait is the first good thing to happen after," his death Reagan said.

Reagan, no relation to the former president, drew his first portrait of a soldier killed in Iraq in April. Cherice Johnson, wife of serviceman Michael Johnson of Idaho, saw Reagan's work and asked him to do a portrait of her husband. He did it for free.

Reagan decided to do the same for other families after Johnson told him her husband's portrait helped make "the grieving process even slightly bearable." He's done four now.

Reagan, who works as the director of trademarks and licensing for the University of Washington, took a day off work to spend 12 hours drawing Calavan's portrait from a picture provided by his family.

Other portraits, including the dozens he's done of sports and movie stars, "are part of my business. It's fun and exciting, but it's a job," said Reagan, who drew actor Tom Selleck's portrait three weeks ago.

"These soldiers who died are heroes. Their portraits are not coming out of the artist part of my brain. They're from my heart," he said.

Reagan, who drew portraits of fellow Marines when he was in Vietnam, said he drew Calavan's eyes first, then sketched the rest of the portrait.

"Tomorrow, his friends and family are going to see his coffin. Next to his coffin there will be a picture of this smiling young man," Reagan said. "What do you think they're going to be looking at most? His smiling face. I hope it gives them a happy memory."

Reagan, whose raised more than $10 million for charity by donating portraits autographed by celebrities and athletes, says he hopes his drawings of soldiers killed in combat help bring healing to their families.

"This is the least I can do," he said. "I truly believe this is why I've been drawing for my entire life, for this moment."

Reporter Katherine Schiffner: 425-339-3436 or schiffner@heraldnet.com.


Reagan's portrait of Pfc. Cody Calavan.



06-16-04, 11:13 AM
Leatherneck: In the Crosshairs - USMC Snipers in Iraq

By Ross W. Simpson

"Fallujah" has become a four-letter word in leatherneck lexicon since 1st Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment and 1/5's sister battalion, 2/1, took over the Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad in mid-March.

Fallujah is a town of about a quarter million people - the most populous town in Anbar province. Since major combat in Iraq ended in May 2003, Fallujah has become infested with insurgents, some left over from Saddam Hussein's regime and Muslim fanatics who have slipped into Iraq from neighboring Syria and Iran.

Marines who took over control of Fallujah and other rebellious cities in the Sunni triangle from the Army's 82d Airborne Division on the first anniversary of their invasion of Iraq feel like they are living in a shooting gallery and they are the ducks.

In the first 13 days of April, three dozen Marines were killed, many by sniper fire.

In April, I spoke via satellite phone with Corporal Jason K. Lee in 1/5's antiarmor platoon, usually referred to simply as "Counter Mech" in Iraq. I was an embedded journalist with Lee's unit during Operation Iraqi Freedom. While I was talking to Lee, an Iraqi sniper shot at him. The 26-year-old combat veteran from Syracuse, N.Y., who is credited with the first Javelin kill of the war last year, didn't flinch.

Another intended victim recovered a sniper's bullet that buried itself in a mound of dirt next to his head.

Although the Marines underwent extensive military operations on urbanized terrain training before returning to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom II, the stress of urban combat is taking its toll. At least one Marine from Weapons Company had to be medevaced for stress. Other Marines like Lance Corporal Richie Gunter, a member of Headquarters and Service Co's security platoon, and his best friend, LCpl Wayne M. Smith of Patterson, Calif., are coping as best they can. Gunter wrote a letter to his mother in March.

"Dear Mom,
"How are you? I'm hanging in there. We get shot at every day, and mortared every night. I hate this country. But my team is doing some outstanding work. Sorry I haven't been writing much, but I don't have much good to say.
"Love, Richie."

LCpl Smith had a reason to be stressed. A mortar round fell at his feet in early April. Fortunately for him, it failed to explode. It would be a great conversation piece if the explosive ordnance disposal team could disarm it and he could get it through Customs, but given security today, there's fat chance of that happening.

Even though Gunter is under extreme stress, he hasn't lost his sense of gallows humor. After almost two weeks of being in the crosshairs in Fallujah, he sent four postcards to his home in northern California. One was addressed to himself. It read, "If you are reading this, you made it through again."

Best Friend, or Worst Enemy

The fighting in Fallujah is classic urban combat - house to house, building to building. Iraqi snipers hiding in the rubble present the greatest danger during daylight hours. However, when the sun goes down, Marine snipers come out like the stars. With their night-vision capability, they own the night. While going through the first Department of Defense media boot camp at Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Va., in the fall of 2002, I was shown and allowed to handle an M16A4 equipped with the latest generation of night scope. I could see facial features at 300 meters and targets at 1,000 meters.

The military doesn't like to talk openly about the snipers. There's just something "uncivilized" about snuffing out lives like cigarette butts, but snipers are a fact of life in warfare. The late, great Marine Corps sniper, Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, once said, "There was nothing personal about my 93 confirmed kills in Vietnam. It was just business." And nobody is any better at the business of firing from concealed positions than scout-snipers in the United States Marine Corps.

Sergeant Dagan R. Vanoosten, chief sniper and scout for 1st Bn, 5th Marines, was attached to "Charlie" Co on the opening night of OIF I. Cpl Damon A. Wolfe in the Scout-Sniper Platoon was attached to Alpha Co in the battalion.

Vanoosten, a 23-year-old Marine, didn't take a shot on that first night of the war. Charlie, 1/5 was tasked to set a ring of security around GOSP-4, a gas and oil separation plant, in the Rumeila oilfields just inside the border in southern Iraq.

"My spotter and I didn't see anything to shoot at as British Army engineers checked the plant to make sure the Iraqis hadn't wired it for remote demolition," said Vanoosten, who learned the tricks of his trade at the "Schoolhouse for Snipers" at Quantico.

Wolfe, a 25-year-old Marine, who was not trained at the schoolhouse, but went through a sniper indoctrination course in Okinawa three years ago, also failed to fire his sniper rifle the first night of the war. However, he did fire a few rounds on the morning after the invasion.

The 2d Plt had right flank security for Alpha Co at PST-2, an Iraqi pumping station along the southern terminus of a long oil pipeline that stretched more than 400 miles from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf. Wolfe and his spotter were with the platoon atop a small knoll on the otherwise flat desert floor facing the rising sun to the east of the pumping station.

Bloody Encounter

Just after daylight on March 21, the first of two truckloads of Iraqi soldiers in pickups came barreling down a dirt road in front of Alpha Co's position.

"I had just gotten to my feet and was headed back to our trac [amphibious assault vehicle] when my spotter who was covering my back opened fire with his squad automatic weapon [M249 SAW] as the first truck approached our [position]," said Wolfe. By the time he got turned around and into a firing position, the first truck had made it safely by his position. But Wolfe and his spotter stopped a second truck 100 yards before it got to their position.

"It was coming down the road about 50 miles per hour," said Wolfe, who got three shots off with his bolt-action sniper rifle at about 300 meters out, before the truck closed in. Needing more firepower, he picked up his M16 and fired a magazine and a half, about 45 rounds, into the truck, slowing it down, but failing to stop it.

Second Lieutenant Therrel "Shane" Childers, 2d Plt's commander, was mortally wounded by the Iraqis who were "spraying and praying" as they came flying down the road.


06-16-04, 11:14 AM
"I heard on the radio that we had a man down, but I didn't know what had happened until we stopped the truck," said Wolfe, who was trying to alert Childers as to what was happening to their front. But Wolfe got no response on the intersquad radio.

Childers, a former enlisted Marine, was hit in the abdomen just below his body armor. Some Marines in his platoon think Kevlar plates in his vest were hiked up an inch or two when he raised his M16 to engage the enemy, but he never fired a shot. Before he could pull the trigger, an AK47 round entered his body just below the armor vest he wore.

After Childers was hit, his platoon attacked the Iraqis who shot him and killed or wounded all seven of them. In all, 1/5 was responsible for 24 enemy killed in action by direct fire, 10 wounded and countless KIAs by artillery and close air support missions during the first few hours of the 2003 war in southern Iraq.

Wolfe also entered a brief comment in the notebook he carried. "Four dead, two wounded, and seven EPWs [enemy prisoners of war]." Wolfe killed one of the Iraqis as he crawled out of a roll of carpet in the bed of the second pickup.

Getting Some Trigger Time

Sgt Vanoosten finally had the opportunity to fire his sniper rifle, April 1, 2003. He was riding with First Lieutenant Jeremy M. Stalnecker, Counter Mech's platoon commander, when the antiarmor team rolled up to the Saddam Hussein Canal behind Bravo Co amtracs. From atop the humvee, Vanoosten apparently fired the first shot of the 45-minute battle.

Vanoosten fired his heavy-barrel M40A1 sniper rifle, which is a product-improved Remington model 700, at a ZSU-23-4, a 23 mm, four-barreled antiaircraft gun on the other side of the canal.

Although outgunned, Vanoosten kept the Iraqi gunners off balance by bouncing match-grade 7.62 mm rounds off the steel plates in front of them, making it difficult for them to bring their gun to bear on his buddies. "I think I shot at it out of fear," confessed Vanoosten, laughing, as he reconstructed what he witnessed on April Fool's Day 2003.

Once across the canal, Vanoosten fired at two Iraqis in another bunker before Cpl Jeremy Mahon destroyed it with an AT-4 rocket. But it would be another nine days before Vanoosten and Wolfe would take another shot with their sniper rifles.

Battle of Baghdad

Sgt Vanoosten rode into the north side of Baghdad in the early morning hours of April 10 on top of 1stLt Pat Henry's LVTP-7 amphibious assault vehicle (AAV). Henry was in command of the 81 mm mortar platoon in Weapons Co, 1/5. Once small-arms fire began ricocheting off the AAV, Vanoosten climbed inside the lightly armored hull of the amtrac.

Cpl Wolfe drove a high-back humvee into the Iraqi capital with five other members of his platoon in the back. Wolfe fired his weapon at muzzle flashes as he drove down darkened streets and boulevards crawling with Republican Guard troops and Fedayeen guerrillas loyal to Saddam Hussein. "It was pretty hectic," said Wolfe, who just kept driving and firing. Because of heavy enemy fire in Baghdad, Vanoosten rotated his four-man team, one at a time, to the firing platform in Henry's AAV, but he advised them to conserve ammunition. Sgt Vanoosten told team members the real fight would come later at the objective, the Al Azimiyah Palace on the Tigris River, one of Saddam's favorite hangouts.

The Scout-Sniper Plt rolled into the palace grounds of the 17-acre compound at about six o'clock in the morning and provided security for Army Special Forces who swept the palace to make sure there were no Iraqis hiding in the shadows of the bombed-out building.

Once SF said "All clear," Wolfe and his spotter ran up stairways to the roof. The situation was not as tactically sound as they preferred.

"Every time we stuck our heads above the fašade that ringed the south wing of the palace, someone would take a shot at us," said Wolfe, who retreated downstairs to a room facing a busy neighborhood. There he set up an "urban hide site" up against the wall of a room, about 20 feet from windows that had been blown out by satellite-guided bombs the night before.

"We piled up some pieces of concrete and other rubble," said Wolfe as he described making a place where he spent the next 10 to 12 hours.

From the shadows, Wolfe could see his targets, but they couldn't see him. Lying in among chunks of concrete wasn't very comfortable. Wolfe had just gotten to his feet and was about ready to seek a better hide site when his spotter saw an Iraqi soldier in an alley about 350 yards away. By the time Wolfe was back in position, the enemy soldier disappeared. But a few minutes later, he reappeared, running into some civilian houses, trying to get up high where he could shoot at Marines in the palace.

"I got him when he stepped to a window," said Wolfe. One shot? "Yeah, one shot," replied Wolfe. With a 10-power Unertl sniper scope, Wolfe said everything in Baghdad was "up close and personal."

"The guy I shot had an AK47," said Wolfe, "but I don't know what he thought he was going to do with an assault rifle at that range."

There was another guy in the room with an RPG. But he bailed out of there when his buddy was blown away. Wolfe got him about an hour later as he tried to hide behind a concrete wall outside the house. Wolfe ended the war with seven confirmed kills?most of them in the 300-yard range. However, he did nail an Iraqi at 650 yards.

From his hide site in the palace, Wolfe dropped that enemy soldier as he ran up a set of steps in a building several blocks away while clutching a couple of AK47s in his hands. It was a difficult shot, because the intended target was on the move.

"If they had a weapon, we could shoot them," said Wolfe. "Those were the rules of engagement."

Although Wolfe recorded some long-distance shots, his team leader owns the bragging rights. That kill occurred 30 to 40 miles south of Baghdad. It involved an Iraqi spotter who had been directing mortars at Marine artillery from a tall concrete silo complex along Highway One. The cannoncockers couldn't see him, but Cpl James Bowman could through his scope.

"Bowman hit him in the head at 840 yards," said Wolfe, who was impressed. When Sgt Vanoosten arrived at the palace in Baghdad, he and his spotter rushed to the roof of the north wing. But it was his radio operator, LCpl Oscar Reyes, who spotted the first enemy soldier.

"We saw two individuals; one had an AK47 with a chest rig full of magazines, the other with a loaded RPG launcher and a rucksack full of rocket-propelled grenades. Both men were running down a street about 200 yards away from us," said Vanoosten, who shot the Iraqi who had the RPG, as his assistant team leader, Cpl Christopher Livermore, shot the one carrying the assault rifle.

"Everybody wanted to get their hands on those weapons," said Vanoosten, who along with Livermore took turns littering the street with dead bodies. Vanoosten ended the war with four confirmed kills and three probables. Livermore had three confirmed kills and two probables.

By the time the Scout-Sniper Plt posed for its unit picture at Al Azimiyah Palace, the platoon had been credited with 38 confirmed kills in Iraq - almost all of them in Baghdad.

After the war, Sgt Vanoosten returned to the Scout-Sniper School at Quantico, to pass along what he learned to Marines following in his footsteps. He currently is trying to get a temporary assignment in Iraq with his former team members.

Cpl Wolfe left the Marine Corps and is attending San Diego State University on the GI Bill.

LCpl Reyes has returned to Iraq with 1st Bn, 5th Marines. He and Cpl Michael A. Gary are believed to be the only returning members of the Scout-Sniper Plt that is fighting in Fallujah, where snipers are playing an ever-increasing role in security operations.

Gary left a brief message on Vanoosten's home answering machine at the height of the battle.

"We're taking care of business," said the young marksman.

Editor's note: Ross W. Simpson is a nationally known radio broadcaster for the Associated Press Radio Network in Washington, D.C., and is a longtime contributor to Leatherneck magazine. He was an embedded reporter during 1/5's operations in Iraq and maintained contact with Marines of the battalion and their families as the Marines prepared for deployment and a return to Iraq for OIF II.

Marine Snipers Are Racking Up Kills in Fallujah

"It is a target-rich battlefield," say Marine snipers operating in Fallujah, a city of of about 250,000 before the population began leaving in droves. "It's a sniper's dream," said a 21-year-old corporal sniper to Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times.

The Marine sniper went on to explain, "Sometimes a guy will go down. ... Then I'll use the second shot. As a sniper your goal is to completely demoralize the enemy."

Even with a recent truce in Fallujah, Marines will fire on insurgents who display weapons, break the curfew or move their forces toward U.S. troops. The corporal sniper chalked up 24 confirmed kills in two weeks, making him the top sniper.

Associated Press reporter Jason Keyser reported Iraqi gunmen often are hit in the early morning and early evening. Long shots, sometimes at distances of 1,000 yards, have been finely adjusted to account for wind, temperature, barometric pressure and distortions from sunlight, shadows and waves of heat from the ground.

Snipers prefer to change positions after a few shots to keep their posts secret so gunmen can't turn the tables. Barking dogs and birds suddenly taking flight can give them away.

"You have to have a combat mind," said one sniper. Intelligence reports indicate the snipers have "terrified" the Iraqi insurgents.

- R. R. Keene


06-16-04, 01:20 PM
June 15, 2004

3/1 Marines deploy this week to relieve a battalion in Iraq

By Marine Times staff

About 500 Marines and sailors with an infantry battalion based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., will deploy to Iraq later this week to relieve a battalion that has spent several months in the war zone, base officials announced Tuesday evening.
The troops with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, are slated to depart Friday for a seven-month tour in Iraq, where they will join about 25,000 Marines and sailors now serving there on the first of two planned seven-month Marine rotations.

It was not immediately clear which battalion the 3/1 Marines are to relieve, but the longest-serving infantry units now in Iraq are those who were on Unit Deployment Program rotations to Okinawa, Japan, when they were tapped for war duty.

Those units include 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, from Camp Pendleton, and 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Both deployed to Okinawa in late December.