View Full Version : Medals, ribbons for Iraq deployment explained

07-10-04, 06:54 AM
Medals, ribbons for Iraq deployment explained
Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 20047105422
Story by Sgt. Colin Wyers

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(July 10, 2004) -- A Marines medals say a lot about him - where hes been, what hes done.

So what medals can a Marine earn while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom? And what are the qualifications?

Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal

The Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal was established by President George W. Bush to recognize service members deployed in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. A Marine can only earn the award once, so no service stars are authorized. Marines engaged in combat against the enemy can be eligible for a battle star.

In order to be eligible, a Marine must have been deployed outside the United States in support of either operation for either 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days, engage the enemy in combat while deployed in support of either operation or be medically evacuated while participating in the operation. Being a member of an aircrew flying sorties into the area of eligibility counts toward the 30 or 60-day requirement.

An Iraq Campaign Medal?

President Bush signed into a law a bill passed by Congress authorizing separate campaign medals for service in the Iraqi and Afghan theaters. However, the Department of Defense has not yet issued guidance on these awards.

Enemy action

The Combat Action Ribbon is awarded to Marines and Sailors who engage in a firefight or other combat action and whose performance is satisfactory. The Marine does not necessarily need to return fire - if a convoy is attacked and a humvee driver maneuvers his vehicle out of the kill zone, he could be eligible.

For those taking indirect fire, such as rockets and mortars, only those who actively participate in retaliatory or offensive operations are eligible.

To be eligible for the Purple Heart, a service member must have sustained wounds requiring medical treatment as a result of enemy action, including small arms fire, indirect fire, enemy mines and vehicle accidents caused by enemy fire.

Those who rate the Purple Heart do not necessarily rate the Combat Action Ribbon, and vice versa.

Serving Overseas

The Sea Service Deployment ribbon is for Marines and Sailors serving in the Fleet Marine Force who have spent 90 consecutive days deployed. For those Marines supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, the requirement that a Marine spend a year with the unit deployed is waived. The award can only be received once per deployment.

For those Marines and Sailors who deployed and are not part of a Fleet Marine Force unit, they are eligible for the Overseas Service Award.



07-10-04, 06:57 AM
Reserve Marines serve in ancient land
Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 200471042850
Story by Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi

CAMP BABYLON, Iraq(July 10, 2004) -- Marines of Detachment C, 4th Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company can be spotted on occasions buying souvenirs, or, if theyre a little more daring, pet scorpions inside a local Iraqi market at Camp Babylon.

During off time, the Marines are able to bask in the ancient lands and local people surrounding the headquarters of the Multi-National Division Central-South, led by the Polish army.

A little more than two months ago, the leathernecks were at home on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean - residing close enough to make their drill weekends at the West Palm Beach, Fla., reserve center.

But duty called and now these weekend warriors are full-time Marines, busy supporting foreign militaries in Iraq coordinating air strikes to destroy enemy targets.

The news did not come as a shock to these Marines though; they knew replacements were needed for 4th ANGLICOs previous detachment. Their number was plucked; it was time for them to make good on their promise of serving their nation.

Maj. Stephen D. Danyluk, the units air officer, admitted, activation does add a strain on reservists because they are pulled away from their civilian jobs and families.

For him, it was not difficult. He still has ties to active duty, simply because his wife is a lawyer with the Marines. While shes working at Quantico, Va., Danyluk is flying commercial airlines out of Washington, D.C., between drill weekends.

Another family ANGLICO is separated from is the Green Machine.

One of the more difficult parts is being away from other Marines, said Staff Sgt. Jose L. Jimenez, a team chief from Miami. We are it out here. Weve had to be chameleons to adapt to all the different foreign nations and services. But being alone like this has built our camaraderie really high.

The activation does have one perk - the location the team is operating from in Iraq.

In their idle moments, the Marines have the luxury of touring through the ancient ruins of the famed city of the bible Babylon or Babel, which means gate of God.

First stop on the service members tour of the reconstructed city is the Istar Gate. The entrance into the reconstructed palace of Nebuchadnezzar II is detailed with mosaic drawings of Babylon deities. Troops appear to be ants while walking through the massive arched gate.

U.S. and foreign troops wander through the maze of corridors and take photos for their scrapbooks. Some mill about or simply find a tree to relax under and read a book.

The best vantage point of the ancient land is the view from Saddam Husseins former palace. The palace was constructed on the highest elevation in the vicinity. On the rooftop, nearly seven stories high, one can easily see the canal - drudged from the Euphrates River - snake its way through the camp and the thousands of palm trees that line its banks.

Its been a bonus to be stationed here, said Lance Cpl. William Meyer, a field radio operator from Indianapolis. Ive gotten into the history of the land by reading up on it.

Even in this historical land, the Marines have etched out their own space and brought pieces of American culture.

Cpl. Jon Dearolfs room is smothered wall-to-wall in surfing pictures.

My roommate and I decided to start hanging up the magazine pictures as soon as we got here, said the forward observer from Tampa, Fla. Its just a little taste of home and what we miss.

The only objects interrupting this University of Southern Florida graduates surfing display is pictures of his wife. The two exchanged vows only a couple of months before he departed for Iraq.

Its really difficult to be away from her right now, said Dearolf, who is considering pursuing a commission in the Corps. But you know what they say, the hardest job in the Corps is being a Marines wife.

Missing family members is a natural reaction for all Marines on deployment; it is one of the toughest challenges to overcome, but I feel the Marines have adapted real well, said Lt. Col. Thomas R. Morgan, the commanding officer, and a native of Orlando, Fla.


Lance Cpl. William Meyer, a field radio operator with Detachment C, 4th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, and a native of Indianapolis, walks through the Ishtar Gate at Camp Babylon, Iraq, June 25, 2004. The gate is the entrance to the reconstructed palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, the king of ancient Babylon. Detachment C Marines have been in Iraq since May supporting the Polish-led Multi-National Division Central-South in southwestern Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by: Cpl. Matthew J .Apprendi


The mess hall at Camp Babylon, Iraq, displays the flags of the different countries supporting Multi-National Division Central-South. Marines with Detachment C, 4th Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company Marines have been in Iraq since May supporting the Polish-led division in southwestern Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by: Cpl. Matthew J .Apprendi


The sun sets June 27, 2004 at Camp Babylon, Iraq, where Detachment C, 4th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company is supporting the Multi-National Division Central-South, led by the Polish Army in southwestern Iraq, as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by: Cpl. Matthew J .Apprendi



07-10-04, 06:59 AM
Reserve Marines part of melting pot at Babylon
Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 200471003611
Story by Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi

CAMP BABYLON, Iraq(July 7, 2004) -- It has been nearly one year since the I Marine Expeditionary Force vacated the ancient city of Babylon, which served as the Marines headquarters after seizing Baghdad in 2003.

2004 marked a new mission for the roughly 25,000 Marines operating under I MEF - securing and stabilizing the Al Anbar province.

However, the Corps is not without its presence in southwestern Iraq. Detachment C of the 4th Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company resides in the south supporting the Multi-National Division Central-South, a conglomerate of approximately 20 nations, led by the Polish at Camp Babylon. Their area of operation includes the cities of Al Kut, Al-Hillah, Najaf and Karbala.

The reserve Marines from West Palm Beach, Fla., took the reigns from their predecessors, another detachment from 4th ANGLICO, in early May. Elements of ANGLICO have been operating in Southern Iraq since the fall of Baghdad last year.

Detachment Bravo set up lots of our liaisons for us, said Maj. Stephen D. Danyluk, the units air officer. We pretty much came in and filled their shoes.

ANGLICO is the liaison between foreign militaries, other U.S. services and Marine Corps assets. ANGLICO Fire Control Teams coordinate Marine Corps air and naval strikes for allied ground forces, thus their motto, Lightning from the sky. Thunder from the sea.

Since arriving in theater, 4th ANGLICO assets have provided vital support to numerous units including U.S. Army Special Forces, Navy explosive ordnance disposal teams and the Polish, Spanish, Ukraine and Latvian armies.

All in all, weve had a great relationship with the Multi-National Division, said Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth Mckelton, a team leader from Jupiter, Fla. Its a good experience for the Marines to learn how foreign militaries operate.

The experience gained from this joint effort is garnering dividends and building alliances with foreign countries.

Members of the Polish training branch specifically have been observing Marines humvee-driving tactics during training and combat missions.

Its a really great opportunity to work with the Marines, said Col. Thomas Bak, a member of the Polish training branch. Especially watching them operate the humvees, because we plan on implementing them in our army in the near future.

The Polish army hopes to incorporate lessons learned from the Marines humvee tactics into a training manual for their own soldiers.

I think history has proven we are very good brothers-in-arms, added Bak. As the (MND commanding general) says, One mission, one team. In the future we will operate more and more together.

The highlight of the trip thus far for the crew is working with U.S. Special Forces.

We feel weve been able to make the best contribution while working with Special Forces, said Staff Sgt. Jose L. Jimenez, a team chief from Miami. Our primary mission is being exercised while in a joint environment.

Currently, the team has just entered the third month of their seven-month tour. Before leaving for Iraq, one of their lance corporals made the following comment about his activation: Im young. Im wild. Its adventurous and its free.

ANGLICO Marines have adopted that saying as their own motto and are applying it daily in Southern Iraq.


Polish soldiers with the Multi-National Division Central-South watch Marines with Detachment C, 4th Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company complete convoy training at Camp Babylon, Iraq, June 25, 2004. Detachment C Marines have been in Iraq since May supporting the Polish-led division in southwestern Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by: Cpl. Matthew J .Apprendi


The symbol of an Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company is displayed at Detachment C, 4th ANGLICO's compound at Camp Babylon, Iraq. ANGLICOs motto is "Lightning from the sky, thunder from the sea." Detachment C Marines have been in Iraq since May supporting the Polish-led Multi-National Division Central-South in southwestern Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by: Cpl. Matthew J .Apprendi


Corporals Kent Almaral, from Deerfield Beach, Fla., and Jon Dearolf, a native of Tampa Fla., both members of Detachment C, 4th Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company rehearse room-clearing tactics at their compound in Camp Babylon Iraq, June 27, 2004. Detachment C Marines have been in Iraq since May supporting the Polish-led Multi-National Division Central-South in southwestern Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by: Cpl. Matthew J .Apprendi



07-10-04, 07:00 AM
Reserve Truckers, Grunts form bond during OIF deployment <br />
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing <br />
Story Identification #: 200471024614 <br />
Story by Sgt. J.L. Zimmer III <br />
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AL ASAD, Iraq(July 10,...

07-10-04, 07:02 AM
Tucson Marine dies in Iraq; wife set to have baby

By Carol Ann Alaimo

A Tucson Marine killed in Iraq Tuesday will become a father just as his family is planning his funeral.

Cpl. Jeff Lawrence, 22, a one-time football standout at Palo Verde High Magnet School, was hit by a homemade bomb near Fallujah, days before his wife was to give birth to a little girl whose middle name will be Freedom.

Lawrence and his wife decorated the baby's nursery together and picked out the name Cadence Freedom for their firstborn before he went overseas in March, family members said Wednesday.

Lawrence is the sixth service member with Southern Arizona ties to die in the Iraq war.

"What a tragedy," said tearful family friend Valerie Matthews, who like other loved ones had been keeping a prayer vigil while Lawrence was overseas.

"We never thought it would be him who died," said Matthews, 45, because Lawrence constantly reassured his family that he knew how to stay safe - even though he was serving in a volatile area where many U.S. troops have been killed by insurgents.

When Lawrence phoned home from Iraq - for the last time on the day before he died - "he would tell his mother, 'Don't worry about me because I know how to take care of myself,'" Matthews said.

During that last call, Lawrence asked his mom to see about sending some footballs overseas so that the Marines in his unit could pass them out to Iraqi children in Fallujah, she said.

Lawrence's wife, Celeste Levon Lawrence, 22, also a Tucson native, was his high school sweetheart. They graduated from Palo Verde together in 2000 and wed in 2003, celebrating their first anniversary in February shortly before he deployed.

The couple lived near Camp Lejeune, N.C., home base of Lawrence's Marine Corps unit. He was with the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, a mobile infantry unit under the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.

Their baby was due on the Fourth of July, and Celeste Lawrence was two days past her due date when she learned of her husband's death, family members said.

As of late Wednesday, she was waiting for grandparents and other Tucson relatives to fly to North Carolina, and planned to have labor induced and deliver the child surrounded by the couple's loved ones, relatives said.

Jeff Lawrence's cousin, Heather Kuntz, said the family hopes to set up a trust fund for the couple's newborn daughter. Funeral arrangements are pending because the family is busy with the birth and because Lawrence's body has yet to be returned to the United States, she said.

Matthews said Lawrence "was a real patriot" who loved serving his country and had a deep love for America that was evident even as a child growing up on the East Side.

As a 10-year-old, Lawrence would stand straight and somber when the national anthem played and reveled in the Fourth of July celebrations, Matthews said.

Lawrence's aunt, Vickie Pataki, 52, said her nephew was "just a fantastic person."

"He was kind. He had a big smile and a good sense of humor. He was the life of the party," she said.

Lawrence's parents, Daniel Lawrence, 53, and Deborah Lawrence, 53, declined comment. He is also survived by three brothers, a stepbrother and a stepsister.

Lawrence played football at Palo Verde, spending his junior and senior years on the varsity squad, said coach Todd Mayfield.

"He was one of our leaders, a very hard worker," he said.

Lawrence was forced into playing quarterback in the 1999 state playoffs against Sunrise Mountain. After playing receiver and special teams positions all year, he devoured the playbook in two weeks and was ready for the game.

"Palo Verde was a second home to him," Mayfield said. "He came by the school each time he came back into town and visited each teacher."

Mayfield said Lawrence was "extremely proud" to be a Marine and for years had thought it was his calling.

"I could see that with the type of attitude and effort he gave to everything he did," he said. "It seemed like he was predetermined to do that."

Mayfield's father gave each player a card that read "Count on Me" during Lawrence's senior season, and when the former player returned, he asked for another one, not because he lost it but because it was worn out.

Mayfield said that card was probably in his wallet when he was killed.

"You could always count on him," he said. "Jeff was one of the most awesome kids we've ever had at Palo Verde."

Reporter Eric Swedlund contributed to this story. Contact Carol Ann Alaimo at 573-4138 or caalaimo@azstarnet.com.




07-10-04, 07:44 AM
Informative articles. Glad to see how medals in the Corps are awarded. I wonder if the Army uses the same guidelines?

07-10-04, 08:50 AM
July 09, 2004

With the Marines in Iraq: A reporters notebook

Marine Corps Times senior writer Gordon Lubold and staff photographer Lloyd Francis Jr. are covering I Marine Expeditionary Force operations in Iraq. He landed in Iraq in late June and will be in country for about six weeks. His stories are appearing online and in the Military Times newspapers. This is his reporters notebook:

July 7, 2004 The Gift of Gas

RAMADI, Iraq On convoy from a camp called Combat Outpost to Camp Hurricane Point, Capt. Wilson Leech got a wild hair. At least to me it seemed like he had.

Lloyd snores.

Theres a PX here that closes when the power goes out, decent chow (if you dont mind unidentifiable fried food) a post office, and the little gym has treadmills. A regular Mayberry.

When I first got here, we were told it was built for Saddams brother-in-law, whoever he might be. Other Marines think it was built for Saddams son, Uday. I suspect they say Uday just because they like saying Uday and may have forgotten the other ones name was Qusay.

Marines seem unimpressed by the grandeur of it all. Its just another nasty place to call home.

Lloyd, however, is awed by Saddams bigger-is-better approach to life.

Its amazing how big this guy liked his cribs, he said.

JUNE 28, 2004 Blue Force trasher

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq Call it what not to do when you ride in the command vehicle in a convoy.

Two days after arriving in Iraq, I was asked if I wanted a lift to Camp Blue Diamond, the 1st Marine Divisions headquarters camp near Ramadi.

So we joined a 28-truck convoy at Camp Taqaddum to the east. Its only a 14-mile ride, but attacks by Iraqi insurgents have made it dangerous. Improvised explosives IEDs in local lingo are common on the roads and can blow up Humvees and topple 7-ton trucks.

Sometimes insurgents leave dead dogs on the side of the road that have been wired with such devices.

was asked to ride in the command Humvee by the convoy commander, 1st Lt. Jeff Stoner, a fresh-faced logistics officer from Colorado who looks as if hed rather be surfing in California. Stoner invited me to sit in the front seat I could watch the computer screen that flashes a live digital image of the area we were traveling in.

The system, called Blue Force Tracker, saves lives. It shows anyone using it where all the other friendlies are, so no one shoots a fellow Marine. I hopped into the dusty Humvee and tried not to be a bother. Convoys are tense affairs.

As we bumped down back roads and navigated around suspicious-looking road debris, I tracked our progress on the computer screen. After five years of traveling with the Marine Corps, I finally felt like I really was in the loop.

During the trip I interviewed Stoner, who took a seat behind me in the back of the Humvee, the keyboard to the computer screen on his lap and the radio phone handset in his ear.

When Lloyd and I finally arrived at Blue Diamond, another Marine met us at the gate. He told us to grab our bags and hed show us our new, temporary home there.

I went back to the Humvee, and felt around for my dusty computer bag, which was sitting under a snarl of wires, the computer keyboard and the phone handset. Everything in a Humvee is ruggedized, which is to say its designed to get dirty and get bounced around a lot. I shoved the wires and the other stuff out of the way, carefully, but with little thought.

That was when the Blue Force Tracker computer screen affixed to the dash flashed a red screen with a horrific message: This System Will Destroy in 15 seconds 14 seconds 13 seconds.

After a long, tense drive, I was for the first time, officially stressed out.

I found Stoner. I explained. He said, dont worry about it, its probably nothing.

I knew it was probably something. I explained some more.

Then he said, Oh [expletive deleted], and ran off to investigate.

He came back, shrugging. Nice guy that he seems to be, Stoner tried to make light of it.

I never liked that thing anyway, he said.


Leech, commander of Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, stopped his four-vehicle convoy in the middle of a hot, busy thoroughfare in downtown Ramadi to slash some roadside gas tanks. Marines often see Iraqis selling gas, illegally and at a premium, to Iraqis who dont want to wait in line at one of the handful of gas stations in this city of 400,000.

These black-market gas stations are a sign of the open lawlessness in this town. Also, the gas tanks are placed at the side of the road and can be used as improvised explosives.

Most important, I dont like them out in the street where they can cause trouble, says Leech, from Stonington, Conn.

The mustang captain (he did a stint as an enlisted man first) saw one such operation and decided to stop. He radioed his unit to tell them what he was going to do, halted the convoy, and a squad or so of Marines in full battle gear jumped out of their Humvees, M-16 rifles at the ready, scanning rooftops and controlling onlookers.

This can be incredibly dangerous in Ramadi, considered a strategically critical city because it is the government seat in one of the biggest cities in the Sunni Triangle. If Marines here stop in the middle of town, they dont stay long. In and out, Leech said later.

While one lance corporal slashed a five-gallon gas tank with his Ka-Bar fighting knife, Leech told the Iraqis selling the gas to leave. Instead of cutting up all the gas tanks, which could have been a fire hazard, Leech handed a couple of tanks to a tow-truck driver pulled over to the side of the road.

Zin? he asked, which means good?

Zin, said the Iraqi, and smiled as he took the gift of gas.

July 6, 2004 No monkeying around

COMBAT OUTPOST, Iraq Lloyd and I decided to sleep at this small base camp at the eastern edge of Ramadi, a place one Marine calls the devils playground because it has received so many mortar, rocket-propelled grenade attacks and small-arms fire over the last few months. We decided we could stay there and still be safe, but we asked a corporal, an administration Marine from Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, where we could bed down. Seemed easy enough.

After a few rounds, we finally found a room in the building that had an open space. A staff sergeant who was living there was going out on a mission that night and told me I was more than welcome to sleep on his bed if I liked.

But sir, he said, just dont take the monkey out of the bag.

Whoa. What?

Confused and even a bit embarrassed, I assured him I would not.

Then he explained. Turns out, his wife had sent him a toy monkey that was in a bag on his bed. He didnt want me playing with it.

July 1, 2004 Begging the question

CAMP RAMADI, Iraq Im in the back of an up-armored Humvee on the way to Camp Hurricane Point, which many here considered to be the front line of the counter-insurgency fight in Iraq. The members of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, have paid a high price in the mission, with more than 200 casualties, including 31 dead.

Still, my mind slips to more mundane things, including the accommodations at the camp Lloyd and I will be staying at for the next week or so.

So I ask the corporal sitting in front of me: Are you in tents?

But the corporal, whos more occupied by the mission at hand the battles that have taken the lives and limbs of his Marine brothers begins to answer the question he thought Id asked.

He begins to feel his way through an answer about staying focused even though he knows that anything could happen at any time.

I stop him to clarify. No, I mean, are you living in tents?

Again, he tries to answer the question he thinks Ive asked.

It suddenly occurs to me that as a reporter whose job it is to ask questions, Im asking all the wrong ones. But quickly enough, I realize what the comm problem is. The question he heard: Are you intense?

Theyre not in tents, by the way; theyre living in cement block houses.

JUNE 29, 2004 One big crib

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq Were living with Marines at one of Saddam Husseins old palaces near Ramadi, west of Baghdad. Its a beautiful place, really, since its the first spot in the Middle East Ive seen that has trees and grass and destination-quality elegance. Here, you begin to see how Saddam liked living large.

The palace grounds hug the banks of the Euphrates River (cholera canal, as some here call it) and palm trees and bamboo shoots dance in the breeze under a blazing sun. Whiffs of jasmine sometimes make it through the ever-present smell of burning tires.

The palace is known locally as JDAM Palace, since the main building was hit in March of last year with enough bombs including Joint Direct Attack Munitions to cave in the roof and make it a little less grand.

Of course, Marines will live anywhere and do so it comes as no surprise that a few units have made a home in the remnants of the bombed-out building.

The expansive grounds include a dozen or so outbuildings that sit on either side of a long, palm-tree-lined street spanned by three enormous arches. Im staying in one of the smaller buildings, a tan cement-block structure with big pillars out front. It may have been a guest house, but Lloyd thinks it might have been a torture chamber. When it comes to Saddam, you never know. Marines covered all the large windows with sandbags since this place has been mortared so many times. Lloyd and I sleep in one of the two rooms with about a dozen other Marines.

07-10-04, 08:51 AM
JUNE 28, 2004 Name that band

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq During the same convoy to Camp Blue Diamond, I chatted up Lance Cpl. Justin Costiloe, a 21-year-old motor transport Marine from Norman, Okla. Costiloe, eyes hidden behind wraparound sunglasses, said little, but finally piped up to ask me what my dream concert would be.

Name any band or performer you want, alive or dead, and list who would open, who would be the main event and who would close, he said. I had to think.

You know hes going to judge anything you say, Stoner called from the back.

Im a music lover, but some groups I like arent as cool as others, and I knew it would be tough to win over a young lance corporal if I said Nick Drake or Bonnie Raitt.

So I went safe. The Stones, I said. Then I offered the Grateful Dead and Lyle Lovett to close the dream show.

Costiloe kept driving, saying nothing. It wasnt immediately clear if my lineup passed muster. Then he said, thats cool.

So I turned it on him. His dream show?

Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, followed by Motley Crue.

JUNE 28, 2004 Cut the bottle

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq For years Ive been told to save the ducks. Which is to say that whenever I finish off a six-pack of beer or Diet Coke, I should always cut up the plastic rings that hold the cans together.

The thinking is that the plastic rings, if thrown away intact, will somehow ensnare a duck or a dolphin or, well, fill in the blank here, and kill it. Some environmental group planted this idea in our heads years ago. Its environmental correctness gone wrong, but I cant stop myself from cutting the rings into 27 pieces or so before tossing them out.

Marines have a combat-zone version of the same thing, except theyre saving themselves, not dolphins. Iraqi insurgents have been known to throw Molotov cocktails at passing convoys in this case, plastic bottles filled with gasoline and sugar that can cause a nice little explosion when heaved in your direction.

So some Marines have gotten it into their heads that its wrong to throw away a water bottle without cutting it up first. The first time I saw this, a Marine finished off a bottle, then whipped out a knife and slashed the bottle with a vengeance. He later explainedthat he feels safer knowing that no bottle he drinks from could be used against Marines.

Was he the only one? We had to find out, so Lloyd and I have glanced inside trash cans throughout our travels since, and found that many other Marines apparently are doing this, too. Now, we cant help but break out our Leatherman tools and rip our bottles up.

There are skeptics, though. Thats ridiculous, said one officer, who hadnt heard of this phenomenon and refuses to see it as an operational security move.

JUNE 25, 2004 Theres a rat in my tent

CAMP VICTORY, Kuwait Rat, mouse, whatever. Its hard to care about the difference when you realize hes in your tent in the middle of a combat zone.

So there we were, Lloyd and I, settling in to our first night in the field, somewhere in the Kuwaiti desert. Its hot, its dusty and were on the verge of feeling miserable. But after only a few hours, weve befriended a few rambunctious Marines who also just arrived.

By nightfall, with little else to do, we sit down to watch Mel Gibsons We Were Soldiers on a portable DVD player, occasionally ducking outside the air-conditioned tent to grab a smoke and shoot the breeze.

One of the Marines, Lance Cpl. Matthew Edmonds, a 21-year-old ammo-pusher from Combat Service Support Brigade 7, loves the Marine Corps, hates the bad guys in Iraq, and wishes like anything that he could get some. In Marine lingo that means combat action, of course, not sex.

Full of youthful exuberance, optimism and 12-pack of Mountain Dew, he is the very definition of lance corporal. Hes with his buddy, Staff Sgt. James Cole, another ammo-pusher, with Combat Service Support Brigade 1.

Edmonds and Cole have been friends for years but were assigned to separate units in Iraq. But theyve both been sent to Camp Victory, where they will collect unused ammo from Marines rotating out of Iraq starting in a few weeks. We finish talking and go back in the tent.

I remember a cookie I bought earlier that day, and grab it out of my open computer bag and sit down to watch the rest of the movie. I start chewing the now-stale cookie and wonder to myself why there is a little hole in the cookie bag.

Not two minutes go by when Lloyd jumps up and bellows: WHAT WAS THAT? I freeze.

Dude, it was a rat, Edmonds says, surprised at our over-reaction and leaving off the rest of what he could say, which is: you idiot.

Lloyd is wound up, yelling and flailing, and Im kind of stunned, knowing I could be bedding down with a rat in an hour or so.

At this point, Edmonds and Cole are laughing so hard theyve all but dropped off the green cot theyre sitting on, laughing with no control. Watch the sissy civilians freak about a little rat! Well, neither of them said it, but you could tell they were thinking it.

Thats when I realize that the little hole in my cookie bag was a rat hole not unlike the one Saddam Hussein was hiding in, only this one had little bites on the sides and rat-drool moistening the corners.

Edmonds stops laughing long enough to suggest that it really wasnt a rat, just a desert mouse, and hes seen a bunch of them in these parts.

But it doesnt matter because I already feel like a tool.



07-10-04, 10:03 AM
Marines clash with insurgents in Ramadi

By Danica Kirka
5:50 a.m. July 10, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq U.S. Marines clashed with insurgents at a taxi stand Saturday in a city known as a stronghold of Saddam Hussein supporters, killing three of the attackers and wounding five others, hospital officials said.

The Marines came under fire from the group of insurgents in Ramadi, the military said in a statement. Insurgents frequently clash with coalition forces in the region,a hotbed of insurgent activity known as the Sunni Triangle.

The fighting left three Iraqis dead and five injured, local hospital official Saeed Ali said.

Elsewhere, insurgents blew up three liquor stores in Baqouba, a city north of Baghdad, amid fears that Islamic militants may be trying to impose their strict interpretation of Islam on the city, witnesses said. The blasts killed a taxi driver who happened to be passing by, said Dr. Nassir Jawad from Baqouba General Hospital.

Meanwhile, a Filipino worker reportedly seized by guerrillas in the nearby city of Fallujah appealed to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to meet their demands and withdraw the Philippines small contingent of troops, according to a video shown Saturday on the Al-Jazeera television station.

"Please, Arroyo, withdraw your forces from Iraq," Angelo dela Cruz pleaded. His voice was inaudible, but an announcer read an Arabic translation of his words.

He reportedly was working as a truck driver for a Saudi company when he was seized in an attack that killed his Iraqi security guard.

Moments before the tape was aired, the Philippines announced it would withdraw its 51-member humanitarian contingent from Iraq as scheduled after its mandate ends Aug. 20. The government could still decide to renew its troops' mandate, and it wasn't clear if the announcement was acquiescence or defiance to the insurgents' demands.

The withdrawal of the Filipino troops would have little effect on the 160,000-strong foreign force here, but the 4,100 Filipino contract workers here are crucial to the running of U.S. bases. Arroyo has already barred new workers from traveling to Iraq.

Also Saturday, saboteurs attacked a natural gas pipeline that runs from the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk to a power station, an official with the North Oil Company said. The attack is likely to affect power supplies in the northern region of Iraq, but it was not immediately clear by how much.

Insurgents often target the country's crude oil and natural gas infrastructure in hopes of cutting off revenue to Iraq's interim government. Such attacks, together with hostage taking and other acts of intimidation, are intended to disrupt efforts to stabilize and rebuild postwar Iraq.

While the Philippines awaited the fate of dela Cruz, Bulgarians were waiting with trepidation to hear about the fate of two of their countrymen taken captive by a separate group.

Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group which has claimed responsibility for the beheadings of two captives in the past threatened to kill the Bulgarians if the United States does not release all Iraqi detainees in 24 hours. The threat was made in a video broadcast Friday morning.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the release of dela Cruz and two Bulgarian hostages, describing them as "innocent civilians who may have been abducted for political ends in the conflict."

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said the Bulgarian truckers were kidnapped en route to the northern city of Mosul, coming from Bulgaria via Turkey and Syria. Their schedule would have put them in Mosul on June 29, the last day either man contacted his family.

Bulgaria has a 480-member infantry unit under Polish command in the southern city of Karbala, a small part of Iraq's 160,000 member multinational force.



07-10-04, 11:50 AM
Philippines to Pull Troops From Iraq


MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines will withdraw its peacekeeping contingent from Iraq on schedule next month, the government said Saturday, the day militants vowed to kill a Filipino hostage if the troops were not sent home.

As the government made its announcement, the Arab television station Al-Jazeera showed a video of the hostage appealing to Manila to give in to the insurgents and withdraw its 51-member force. In a tape Wednesday, the militants threatened to behead the hostage if the government did not comply within three days.

The government decision appeared to be deliberately ambiguous, representing the fine line Manila is walking to obtain hostage Angelo dela Cruz's release while remaining one of Washington's closest supporters of the global war on terrorism.

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The Filipino soldiers are participating in civic projects to help the 160,000-strong foreign force.

Before the kidnapping, the government had discussed extending the peacekeepers' mandate beyond its Aug. 20 expiration. But Saturday's statement did not address the issue.

A government official said on condition of anonymity that sending troops back to Iraq after August is "not a settled issue at the moment" and any new deployment "will be discussed all over again."

Saturday's announcement also did not mention any further action concerning the Filipino contract workers in Iraq. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo already barred any more contract workers from going to Iraq, but the statement did not mention any plans to have them return home.

The approximately 4,000 Filipino workers on U.S. military bases across Iraq provide food services, janitorial work and building maintenance.

The U.S. military, which has diverted as many soldiers to combat duty as possible, would be hard pressed to operate in Iraq without the extra manpower provided by the Filipinos.

Earlier this year, three Filipino workers were killed in attacks by Iraqi insurgents.

Dela Cruz, a 46-year-old father of eight from the town of Mexico in northern Pampanga province, was snatched near restive Fallujah in an attack that killed his Iraqi security guard.

The video Wednesday showing him surrounded by armed, masked men. On Saturday, another video of dela Cruz was shown by Al-Jazeera.

"Please, Arroyo, withdraw your forces from Iraq," dela Cruz pleaded on the new video.

His voice was inaudible, but an announcer read an Arabic translation of his words.

The Al-Jazeera announcer said the video was intended as the hostage's last appeal to his family, government and friends. Dela Cruz reportedly worked as a truck driver for a Saudi company.

"To my colleagues in the Saudi company, and all Filipinos who are coming to Iraq. I advise you not to come to Iraq, because there are a lot of problems, and the Iraqi police won't be able to protect you, like what happened to me," he said, according to the announcer.

Dela Cruz was alone on the video, wearing a bright orange jumpsuit like that worn by American hostage Nicholas Berg and South Korean hostage Kim Sun-il when they were beheaded by militants. Their killings were videotaped.

Behind dela Cruz was a black banner that read: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his only prophet," and identified the group that captured him as "The Islamic Army of Iraq _ Khalid bin al-Waleed Brigade."