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07-28-04, 07:04 AM
Amtrackers decorated with Purple Hearts
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20047285350
Story by Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.

CAMP AL QAIM, Iraq (July 22, 2004) -- Five Marines with Company B, 3rd Amphibian Assault Battalion, received Purple Heart Medals July 22, for injuries received while patrolling one of Iraq's deadliest streets in Husaybah.

Decorated were: Sgt. Shawn R. Conti, 24, a crewman from Pittsburgh, Lance Cpl. Lucio C. Vega, 20, crewman from Wenatchee, Wash., Lance Cpl. Adam J. Pisio, 20, a crewman from Katy, Texas, Lance Cpl. Sean K. Webster, 19, a crewman from Charlottesville, Va., and Pfc. Richard Guadalupe, communication technician from Union City, Kan.

The Marines were all wounded after coming under attack during a patrol through Husaybah's Market Street. The battle started when the Marines were fired upon by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Husaybah is a city near the border of Syria, which has been the frequent site of improvised-explosive device and small-arms attacks. The Marines sustained mostly superficial wounds to their faces. All of the Marines involved were back in action the next day.

"We were headed down Market Street," Conti explained. "Then we heard a large boom hit our vehicle. At first we thought it was an IED, but later learned it was an RPG."

The Marines explained that their reactions were rooted in their training. They pulled their fellow Marines to safety and got out of the kill zone.

"I just kept thinking we got to get out of here," Vega said. "I didn't even realize I was injured until it was all over."

Crews are challenged to maneuver and maintain a safe distance from the local populace in urban areas. Streets are small. Corners are sharp and danger can lurk overhead or around the next corner.

"It's hard to get around the streets," Pisio explained. "We didn't expect to be operating with our tracks in an urban environment."

Still, he said that lumbering assault vehicles are called in to support infantry for firepower and protection.

"Often the grunts need our armor and I'm more than happy to provide it," Pisio said.

After receiving the medals the Marines had mixed reactions.

"This is a great decoration," Vega said. "It shows what we've gone through and what we're willing to go through for our country. But, at the same time, it seems unfair. Some guys lose limbs and have broken bones. I think maybe they should receive something more than what we got."

Vega said that the medal, while held in high esteem by Marines, is one he hoped to never wear.

"I'm glad to be decorated this way," Vega said. "But, I think I speak for us all when I say none of us wanted it."


Five Marines with 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion's Company B recieved the Purple Heart July 22. The Marines were wounded in an attack on their convoy June 22, while patroling Market Street in Husaybah, Iraq.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.) Photo by: Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.


07-28-04, 07:05 AM
24th MEU arrives in Iraq
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 20047286143
Story by Capt. David E. Nevers

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (July 28, 2004) -- Six weeks after the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit dispatched its initial element to the Middle East, the last of the MEU’s leathernecks arrived in Iraq this week as the unit prepares to begin operations in the province of North Babil.

The long journey from its home base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., took the MEU through Kuwait, where Marines and sailors trained and acclimated to the heat before heading north.

Within days, the MEU will assume operational control of a heavily populated area south of Baghdad that includes the cities of Mahmudiyah and Iskandariyah. As it relieves Army units being transferred elsewhere in Iraq, the 2,200-strong MEU will be beefed up with additional forces, including 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, and Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

Their mission is to assist local Iraqi authorities in establishing security and stability for the nearly 900,000 citizens of the province. The most urgent priority is to empower Iraqi police and national guardsmen with the skills they need to combat enemy insurgents.

The MEU commander, Col. Ronald J. Johnson, met with community leaders this week and pledged his unit’s assistance in ridding the area of those seeking to sabotage Iraq’s peaceful, democratic future.

“The enemies of Iraq are criminals and terrorists trying to exploit a country in transition,” Johnson said. “But the good people of this great country are gaining strength, slowly but surely, and the terrorists’ days of mayhem and murder are numbered.”

Johnson was quick to add that he had no illusions about the dangers his Marines and sailors face during the months ahead. Indeed, before the unit had completed its movement into Iraq, the MEU suffered its first casualty. Lance Cpl. Vincent Sullivan, an infantryman assigned to Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, was killed by an enemy mortar round July 23.

In a letter this week to families of his Marines and sailors, Johnson vowed to take the fight to the enemy.

“We do not intend to wait for these thugs to terrorize the neighborhood,” he wrote. “To the greatest extent possible, we will engage them on our terms. We will seize and maintain the initiative, letting nobody stand in the way of our efforts to assist the Iraqi people.”

Before their work with the Iraqis swings into high gear, Marines and sailors will be laboring to prepare their forward operating bases to support sustained operations.

For more information about the 24th MEU, visit the unit’s Web site (www.usmc.mil/24meu).



07-28-04, 07:06 AM
Suicide Car Bombing Kills 51 in Iraq


BAGHDAD, Iraq - A suicide car bomb exploded outside a police recruiting center in Baqouba on Wednesday, killing 51 Iraqis in the worst attack in Iraq since the United States transferred sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government last month, officials said.

The attacker drove a car carrying explosives up to the crowd of people gathered outside the al-Najda station in Baqouba to apply for police jobs, said Gen. Walid al-Azawi, chief of police in Diyala Province.

Charred and dismembered bodies lay in a street amid pools of blood, building debris and shattered glass. The body of one victim lay underneath a slab of concrete, while emergency crews carried the bodies of injured and slain victims into waiting ambulances.

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Also Wednesday, fierce fighting killed seven Iraqi soldiers fighting alongside multinational troops and some 35 insurgents, a military spokesman said. Another 10 soldiers from the Iraqi security forces were wounded in the joint operation with U.S. Army special forces and Ukrainian troops, said Polish Lt. Col. Artur Domanski, a multinational force spokesman, in a telephone interview from Iraq.

No multinational or U.S. forces suffered any casualties in the fighting near the south-central city of Suwariyah Domanski said. Some 40 insurgents were also taken prisoner.

The Baqouba blast destroyed nearby shops and turned cars into mangled, burned out wrecks. Saad al-Amili, a Health Ministry official, said the explosion killed 51 people and wounded at least 40, while U.S. Army Capt. Marshall Jackson told The Associated Press that he knew of at least 20 deaths.

"Basically there's a police station in the area, government buildings in the area ... little shops, fruit stands, basically where all the action takes place," U.S. Army Capt. Marshall Jackson told The Associated Press. "Right now it doesn't look great. It's all civilians casualties at this stage."

Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, has seen regular anti-coalition attacks since U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in March, 2003. Fighters have also repeatedly targeted Iraqi police forces, who are seen as easier targets than American troops. On July 19, a fuel tanker truck plowed toward a police station in southwest Baghdad, detonating and killing at least nine people and wounding more than 60.

It was the deadliest insurgent attack in Iraq since June 24, when coordinated attacks in north and central Iraq killed 89 people, including three U.S. soldiers. On April 21, five suicide bombings near police stations and police academy in southern city of Basra killed 74 people and wound 160 others.

Iraqi officials have said they expect attacks to continue and intensify as the country tries to edge toward democracy. They expect that a national conference to choose an interim national assembly, set to begin Saturday, will be a major terror target.

The conference, announced Tuesday, will bring together 1,000 delegates. It is considered a vital step toward democracy in a nation struggling to deal with a persistent campaign of kidnappings and other violence.

The conference, stipulated under a law enacted by the former U.S. occupation authority, was to have been concluded by the end of July, but it had to be delayed because preparations were behind schedule, conference chair Fuad Masoum said.

"There was an idea put forward by the United Nations to delay the conference because of a lack of preparation, from technical and other perspectives," Masoum said. "We don't want to go ahead without the U.N."

The United Nations wanted a longer delay, which organizers vetoed.

"Creating the conditions for a successful outcome to the conference is more important than holding it on time," U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe said in New York.

Iraq's persistent insurgency pushed a Jordanian company working for the U.S. military here to announce Tuesday it was withdrawing from Iraq to secure the release of two Jordanian employees.

The two were abducted Monday by a group calling itself the Mujahedeen Corps in Iraq. The group warned the Jordanians would be killed within 72 hours unless their employer pulled out of the country and stopped cooperating with U.S forces.

The decision by Daoud and Partners _ a private company providing construction and catering services to the U.S. military _ came hours after one hostage's father threatened to "chop off the head" of the firm's chief executive if he did not comply.

Another militant cell, calling itself "The Group of Death," released a video statement saying it would close the highway linking Iraq to Jordan in 72 hours from 1 p.m. Tuesday in a bid to disrupt supply lines to U.S. forces. The group said it would also target Jordanian truckers bringing in goods to the country.

Militants have kidnapped more than 70 foreigners, mainly truck drivers, in recent months as part of the 15-month-old insurgency targeting members of the U.S.-led coalition and foreign companies working here.

Also Wednesday, the U.S. military said a roadside bomb exploded and killed one U.S. soldier and wounded three others on patrol in northern Iraq. The 1st Infantry Division soldiers were in an armored Humvee when the bomb detonated late Tuesday in the town of Balad-Ruz, about 40 miles northwest of Baghdad, according to army spokesman Master Sgt. Robert Powell.

The soldier's death raises the toll of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq to 905 since the war began, according to an Associated Press tally.

Associated Press writers Sameer Yacoub and Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad contributed to this report.



07-28-04, 07:06 AM
Powell says Iraq's future depends on coalition resolve

By: GEORGE GEDDA - Associated Press

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday that countries helping postwar Iraq and Afghanistan must remain steadfast in their commitments to avoid the possibility of a return to despotic rule in the two nations.

The Bush administration has been anxious about the staying power of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq after five countries have withdrawn their troops in recent months, reducing to 31 the number still on the list.

Iraq dominated Powell's talks during his 18-hour stay in Hungary's capital. He indicated he wants Hungary to keep its 354 troops in Iraq beyond a planned Dec. 31 withdrawal. Polls show, however, scant support among Hungarians for the deployment.

After Powell left Hungary Tuesday afternoon for Egypt, reporters were told he will meet in Saudi Arabia on Thursday with Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

It will be their first meeting since the United States handed over sovereignty to Iraq a month ago.

During a morning interview on the "Napkelte" television show, Powell acknowledged the challenge of building democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have known only despotism.

"Democracy is hard," he said. "Democracy is dangerous. This is the time for us to be steadfast, not get weak in the knees and say, `Oh, gosh, this may be too hard. Let's leave these poor people alone so the tyrants can return.' We're not going to do that."

At another point, he said, "We must not allow insurgents, those who will use bombs and kidnapping and beheading, to triumph."

After the television interview, Powell went to the elegant, gold-trimmed, high-ceilinged Parliament building where he received the Award of the Grand Cross of the Hungarian Republic in recognition of his contribution to U.S.-Hungarian relations.

He then went to the Foreign Ministry, where he addressed Hungarian ambassadors summoned for official discussions. He linked Hungary's own struggle for independence and freedom from Soviet influence to what he saw as a similar effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"You've had your own experience in this part of the world with struggles for freedom," Powell said. "From the dark days that shadowed this city in October of 1956, it took 30 years for your heroism to be vindicated, for Hungary to be free.

"It won't take that long for the hope and the hearts of the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq to be vindicated because the forces of freedom in the world are now stronger than ever."

Powell also held a press conference with Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, who said his country is ready to teach newly democratic nations about its own experience making the transition.

"I am convinced that this can be an important contribution that would allow us to build a more stable, a more peaceful and, indeed, a more democratic world," Kovacs said.

While the NATO-led deployment in Afghanistan has been going up, the number of non-U.S. forces in Iraq has been going down. In recent months, troops from Spain, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines have returned home.

Powell was especially concerned about the Philippines' decision two weeks ago to drop out. Filipino authorities acted to spare the life of a kidnapped Filipino truck driver. Powell believes that meeting terrorist demands only encourages more kidnappings or other violence against foreigners by insurgents in Iraq.

He said the 30 non-U.S. members of the coalition have pledged to meet their troop commitments to Iraq. He acknowledged, however, that some countries are not committed to keep their troops in Iraq beyond this year.

"We have countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Hungary that are not cutting and running, but sticking with this difficult mission -- more difficult than they thought it would be when they started out," Powell told reporters aboard the flight to Cairo. "Nevertheless, they have adjusted and they are staying with it."



07-28-04, 07:07 AM
August 02, 2004 <br />
<br />
War-zone changes turning 7-tons into ‘road warriors’ <br />
<br />
By Gordon Lubold <br />
Times staff writer <br />
<br />
<br />
RAMADI, Iraq — A truck’s not just a truck when you’re talking to Cpl. Ben Ellis...

07-28-04, 08:00 AM
MEU support group sharpens convoy security skills
July 27,2004

CAMP VIRGINIA, Kuwait - Nearly 2,000 members of Camp Lejeune's 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit spent more than two weeks in the country getting used to the climate and honing their craft to a razor's edge.

For those with MEU Service Support Group 24, it was important that they practice the things they would need to do on convoys headed north to positions in Iraq south of Baghdad. That training included firing live ammunition from vehicles, responding to broken-down vehicles, rescuing casualties and pursuing the enemy.

At a live-fire range north of Camp Virginia, these support troops, who include truck drivers, mechanics, electricians, embarkation specialists and Navy corpsmen, practiced reacting to an ambush without shooting civilians nearby.

There are several roads that rise, fall and turn through the sand dunes. They lead the line of vehicles between various pretend markets and family dwellings, only to have pop-up targets simulate sporadic enemy attacks. Recent upgrades to the vehicles include armored doors, passenger-side panels, undercarriages, tailgates and gunner turrets.

"Armor has been put on the vehicles and bulletproof windshields. All the vehicles have been armored at some capacity," said MSSG-24 commander Lt. Col. Vincent Coglianese, 44, from Spring Lake, N.J. "First, they will go through and dry fire and then live fire."

But before they could move, groups of drivers and small unit leaders gathered to receive their orders about the mission, potential dangers, conditions they would face and what to do if attacked.

"This is the culmination of a two-day training package that includes close-quarter marksmanship, firing from vehicles and firing crew-served weapons, such as the .50 caliber or M240G machine guns," said transportation support detachment commander Capt. Eric Adams, 30, of Greenville, Mich. "Today is the culmination of this, and they will practice contact from the right and the left."

They set up communications on vehicle radios and those carried by many of the small unit leaders. The route is marked with coordinates in a Global Positioning System, so they can report passing various prearranged checkpoints. The GPS is also a good tool to record where they found an improvised explosive device and where they faced enemy fighters.

Regardless of how tired they get, there has been an emphasis on issuing complete orders and rehearsing each mission, so each person knows what to do.

They practiced how to recover a broken down or disabled vehicle, how to react to a rocket propelled grenade attack, a sniper ambush and dealing with an IED on blocked or unblocked roads.

"We're practicing engaging the enemy from moving vehicles," Adams said. "The challenge is hitting the target at 40 miles per hour bouncing up and down."

They traveled on dirt roads that kicked up fine clouds of what the troops call "moon dust," which covered everything with a tan film. Everyone had goggles or special Wiley-X protective eyewear, but despite bandanas, scarves or other wraps over their mouths, there was still a gritty feel and taste between the teeth.

A quick wrap completely around the neck can also help protect from burns as hot brass casings fly out of weapons.

The 60-vehicle convoy moved forward on the dry run, allowing a safe following distance between each other. There was a call for help as the driver and passenger of one truck suffered pretend casualties.

A reaction team from one truck set up a defensive position around the convoy as a four-person crew from a high-back Humvee carried the victims on stretchers safely to other vehicles in the convoy.

Once that mission was complete, these four lance corporals climbed back aboard the Humvee. Later, during the live-fire portion of the exercise, they were involved in a friendly competition between a pair of heavy-equipment operators from Ohio on the left and a pair of embarkation specialists from the south on the right.

Lance Cpl. Will Gaffney, 20, a heavy-equipment operator from Cincinnati and Lance Cpl. Mohamed Boria, 23, a heavy-equipment operator from Cleveland, heckled their counterparts, Lance Cpl. Mitchell McNeal, 23, an embarkation specialist from Ackerman, Miss., and Lance Cpl. Trevor Crutcher, 20, an embarkation specialist from Tampa, Fla.

But they all realized how difficult it is to hit a target while the vehicle is moving, and experts say it is important to trail rather than lead the place they are trying to hit.

Staff Sgt. David Webb, 29, an explosives ordnance disposal technician from Maysville, sat on a cargo strap so he could shoot his squad automatic weapon over the cab of the Humvee.

Targets popped up, the order of "contact right" or "contact left" filled the air as they aimed their weapons.

The deafening staccato of automatic and semiautomatic weapons filled the air. There was the distinctive smell of gunpowder and metallic tinkle of brass hitting the cargo floor.

They completed the course that day and moved to another portion of the range to talk about what went right and what went wrong, learning more that soon could save their lives in Iraq.

"Convoys are the most dangerous thing we're doing up there," Coglianese said. "We've dedicated a lot of time to it, but it's the most important thing we can do to support the infantry battalion."



07-28-04, 08:15 AM
Iraqi Forces Conduct Raid; U.S. Soldiers, Marines Seize Weapons
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2004 -- Iraqi security forces conducted a raid on the home of an individual suspected of making improvised explosive devices this morning, according to a Multinational Force Iraq release.

The Iraqi troops, from the country's National Guard and police, raided the home near Dujayl. They found 10 rockets, two mortar rounds, two rocket-propelled grenades, and one RPG launcher, as well as various fuses and switches used in making improvised explosive devices.

American soldiers from the Army's 1st Infantry Division later found more munitions. The munitions were transported to a Multinational Force Iraq base for destruction.

A day earlier, 1st Infantry Division soldiers detained six individuals following a rocket attack near Balad July 26.

Military officials said one U.S. civilian contractor was wounded during the attack when a 107 mm rocket impacted on Logistics Support Area Anaconda. The contractor was evacuated to the 31st Combat Support Hospital, where he was treated and released.

Aerial observation aircraft identified several individuals departing the point of origin of the attack, officials said. The detained individuals were taken to a Multinational Force Iraq detention facility for questioning.

In Tikrit July 26, 1st Infantry Division and Iraqi National Guard soldiers discovered a car bomb near Duluiya.

Military officials said soldiers from 4th Cavalry Regiment's 1st Squadron and the 203rd Iraqi National Guard Battalion discovered a Toyota sedan containing at least four 155 mm rounds and a propane tank.

A military explosive-ordnance team destroyed the vehicle the following morning. No soldiers were wounded in the incident, according to a news release.

Also in Tikrit the same day, an Iraqi citizen brought several weapon systems to Forward Operating Base Bernstein as part of a weapons buy-back program.

Task Force Danger soldiers from 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry Regiment, collected the weapons, which included three 60 mm mortar tubes, three 60 mm mortar base plates, and two .50-caliber anti-aircraft machine guns. The soldiers secured the cache at an ammunition holding area for destruction.

Meanwhile, in Fallujah, Marines from the 1st Marine Division seized more than 200 mortar rounds during a truck search July 26.

According to military officials, Marines from the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion discovered the weapons after stopping a Kia pickup truck laden with bags of grain at a vehicle checkpoint near Anbar province. Upon a thorough search of the vehicle's contents, they discovered 219 60 mm mortar rounds concealed in the bags. Officials said two men were detained in connection with the incident.

Military official said the weapons find was considered to be the single largest cache of 60 mm mortar rounds since the Marines took control of the province in March.

A news release called the discovery "significant … since roughly 40 percent of the indirect-fire attacks" in the area of operations are "mortar-related" and "typically lower-caliber rounds." The weapons find may have successfully prevented yet another attack against Iraqi and coalition forces, officials said.


07-28-04, 10:07 AM
Ombudsman:Iraq coverage not tripped up by the wires

By Joseph M. Ungaro, Stars and Stripes ombudsman
Pacific edition, Tuesday, July 27, 2004

This is the second in a series of columns on the coverage by Stars and Stripes of the conditions in Iraq since April 2004, which was the first anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. The first one, headlined “Discovering whether Stripes stories cover all bases,” appeared in the June 28 edition.

Shortly after I began reviewing coverage of Iraq by the three editions of Stripes (European, Mideast and Pacific), a Stripes reader serving in the U.S. Army in Europe sent this e-mail to the ombudsman:

“Do you think the media in general adequately covers the support we provide in the reconstruction of Iraq? The perception by some is that the media is biased against the war and is always looking for fire under the smoking gun.”

I responded that I was doing this study and would try to answer, referring to Stripes and a group of papers that I was using as a comparison. These included national newspapers, a statewide paper and a 12,000-circulation hometown newspaper.

Stripes is designed to be a “hometown” newspaper for military personnel serving overseas. Its role is to cover “local news” — that information of special interest to military personnel no matter where they are serving.

This local news is complemented by the news reports of The Associated Press and supplemental wire services such as the Washington Post/Los Angeles Times to create a complete newspaper. This column looks at the wire service coverage. The next column will look at how Stripes has performed its role of covering “local military news.”

The e-mail writer raises a valid question and one with which the newspaper profession has been concerned for more than a decade. In July 2003 the Pew Institute, which is a nonprofit foundation with great interest in improving the quality of journalism, did a major study on newspaper credibility. Their report stated that for 15 years readers and viewers have been telling us we have a problem: Two-thirds think we don’t report all sides of a story fairly. Fifty-eight percent believe we frequently or occasionally make up stories. Fifty-six percent judge us as often inaccurate.

The profession’s journalism societies have focused on too many unnamed sources, opinion in news stories, failure to label a reporter’s opinion as “analysis,” lack of follow-up and failure to correct errors completely and promptly as the reasons for people’s mistrust of journalism.

What did I find?

¶ The national papers published too many stories with too many unnamed sources. The Associated Press, which provides most of Stripes’ national and international news, sent a much smaller number of stories with unnamed sources.

Unnamed sources, I believe, constitute the key element in the loss of credibility for newspapers. They take away from the reader the ability to make his or her own judgment on the validity of what he/she is reading.

Unnamed sources and opinion in news stories, as well as news stories not properly labeled as analysis, were not a significant issue in Stripes. The wire copy that was chosen and how it was edited met proper journalistic standards. Only six AP stories that were published in Stripes contained unnamed sources.

I can’t say the same for several of the newspapers I read as a comparison. The most egregious unsourced AP story I saw did not appear in Stripes. It quoted a U.S. military official in Baghdad as saying the insurgency in Iraq is led by well-armed Sunnis angry about losing power, not foreign fighters, and is far larger than previously thought.

The unnamed source provided no supporting information or how he/she came to that opinion. And the readers had to make a judgment without knowing whose opinion it was. The article also needed an “analysis” label.

¶ The opinion of journalists creeps into too many stories. The opinion should be edited out or the story needs to be labeled “analysis.” I found five stories in Stripes where the “analysis” label should have been used and wasn’t. In two of the cases, the “analysis” label was added in a later edition.

Overall the AP versions used by Stripes were well-done or well-edited by Stripes or a combination of both. But that was not the case with a number of stories that included opinion or were not labeled as a column or “analysis” that I saw in U.S. newspapers.

¶ Coverage has become event-driven. The impact of competing 24-hour cable news networks is that more information is provided sooner, but less perspective and less reliability as to the detail and importance is seen because of the rush to get on the air and/or the use of unnamed sources.

¶ Another problem is the lack of follow-up stories. There are far fewer follow-ups and fewer stories that are about positive actions and/or progress being made. This was clearly observed in the wire service coverage of Iraq. I don’t think this is because of bias. It is more the result, I think, of not enough staff resources to cover “the events” of the day and do follow-ups and in-depth stories.

One example of this was a story by Christopher Torchia of The Associated Press in Stripes’ Europe and Mideast editions on May 18 (it appeared in the Pacific editions on May 19) that reported:

“BAGHDAD — A roadside bomb containing deadly sarin nerve agent exploded near a U.S. military convoy, the U.S. military said Monday. It was apparently a leftover from Saddam Hussein’s arsenal, but it was uncertain if more such weapons were in the hands of insurgents.” (Note: The second sentence in the version that appeared in the Europe and Mideast editions read: “It was believed to be the first confirmed discovery of any of the banned weapons that the United States cited in making its case for the Iraq war.”)

“Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the results were from a field test, which can be imperfect, and more analysis needed to be done. … Rumsfeld said it may take some time to determine precisely what the chemical was. (Note: This paragraph did not appear in the Europe and Mideast editions, which have earlier deadlines than the Pacific edition.)

“Two former weapons inspectors — Hans Blix and David Kay — said the shell was likely a stray weapon that had been scavenged by militants and did not signify that Iraq had large stockpiles of such weapons.”

“‘The Iraq Survey Group confirmed today that a 155 mm artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found, [Gen. Mark] Kimmitt said. ‘The round had been rigged as an IED (improvised explosive device) which was discovered by a U.S. force convoy.’”

On May 20, Stripes published this story by Terry Boyd, one of its reporters, in the Europe and Mideast editions:

“CAMP BLACK JACK, Iraq — Any way you look at it, it was a big score.

“First Cavalry Division officials are analyzing the shells, trying to determine if they’re conventional 155 mm artillery shells or if they contain other substances, including sarin nerve gas or phosphorus, said Maj. Derik von Recum, spokesman for the lst Cav’s 2nd Brigade.

“On Saturday, a roadside bomb using a 155 mm shell filled with sarin exploded in Baghdad. It is unclear whether the bomb is connected to this weapons cache.”

The AP story appeared on inside pages with modest headlines in a number of U.S. newspapers. I did not see the information in the May 20 Stripes story in any paper I read. And nearly two months later, I have seen no follow-up by either The AP or Stripes.

In my opinion, the stories call for a follow-up. And I believe that a story on what the Iraqi Survey Group has been doing is long overdue.

Another example: The bombing of the oil pipelines in Iraq receive substantial coverage — and my notes show this happened at least three times. The stories always included “dire warnings” about what it was doing to Iraq oil production. Three or four days later there would be a story of the damages being fixed and oil flowing — but little detail on how it was repaired so quickly or what efforts were being taken to protect the pipelines.

As far as positive news is concerned, the most positive AP story I saw in Stripes was on June 30 in the Europe and Mideast editions with a headline “Iraq talk radio callers welcome, encourage incoming government.” And I certainly don’t feel that there was very much information in any of the papers I read in the last three months of a positive nature on the reconstruction of Iraq.

My response to the reader who sent the e-mail: You should make your judgment on the press, not in general, but in the newspaper or newspapers you read. The credibility line divides, in my opinion, on what you find in your newspaper.

On the negative side: Are there many stories in your newspaper with unnamed sources? Are there unattributed opinions in news stories? Are there articles containing viewpoints that are not labeled as analyses?

On the positive side: Are stories followed up consistently? Is there a search for both sides of what happened at a “news event”? Is there an effort to look at the positive developments of a news situation?

The next column will look at the efforts of Stripes staffers to provide for their audience “local coverage” of Iraq.

Send comments to Joe Ungaro at: Ombudsman, Stars and Stripes, 529 14th St. NW, Suite 350, Washington, D.C. 20045-1301. Phone civilian +1(401) 364-6032; fax +1(401) 364-8696; or e-mail ombudsman@stripes.osd.mil.



07-28-04, 02:15 PM
Families pull together as Iraq war pulls them apart
By Marilyn Elias, USA TODAY

Rowan Callahan's festive fifth birthday party Sunday had everything a little boy could want for the celebration * except his daddy.

As Rowan, his friends and family enjoyed the party at a Bellevue, Wash., park, his father, Jake Callahan, was at a base in Iraq that's under constant threat. Callahan, 39, a telecommunications executive called up for National Guard duty in November, won't return until next spring.

Rowan has been clingy at preschool, he's wanted to sleep with his mom at times "and there are days when he just wants to cuddle and cry," says his mother, Kathleen Callahan. His sister, Meghan, 2, "asks for daddy all the time. She'll come up to me looking sad, point to her heart and say 'Mommy, daddy in my heart,' because that's what I've told her. But if she sees people in uniform, she just runs toward them, screaming 'Daddy, daddy!' " Kathleen Callahan says.

These reactions are normal, psychologists say. The Callahans aren't alone in their challenges: 174,800 kids under 18 have been left behind by U.S. soldiers deployed to Iraq.

Researchers will report on how the families of deployed soldiers are faring at the American Psychological Association meeting in Honolulu, starting today.

"We're seeing a lot of anxiety and worry in these kids," says Army Maj. Ingrid Jurich, chief of child and adolescent psychology at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Although the majority seem to be coping reasonably well, nightmares, disobedience, refusal to attend school and sadness are common, she adds.

Kids' problems vary by age. Preschoolers often feel abandoned, says Dallas school psychologist Lance Garrison Also, they lack verbal skills to express their emotions, so anxiety may lead to regression * clinginess and behaviors they'd outgrown.

Elementary school kids understand concepts better and can be reassured by adults, Garrison says. But since they also realize the dangers, they can suffer from anxieties or depression, he says. Teens may become defiant.

Gender matters, too. Boys are more likely to act out, while girls become sullen and withdrawn, says Army Col. Thomas Hardaway, a child psychiatrist and chief of behavioral medicine at Brooke Army Medical Center.

The military provides support groups and counseling for families, says Delores Johnson, director of family programs for the Army. Another benefit: Partnerships with Boys and Girls Clubs allow military kids to enjoy activities off base. And consultants hired by the military are training school counselors in how to help kids with deployment-related troubles.

These programs work best for families living on or near bases, says Julia Pfaff, executive director of the National Military Family Association (NMFA), an advocacy and support group. For many reservists and National Guard soldiers called up, especially those far from large cities, "the density of support is just not there," she says.

Sudden duty extensions of up to 18 months, along with redeployments after a return, also have been rough on kids, Pfaff says.

Realistic expectations are key for a good adjustment, and many military couples have outdated expectations, says Army Col. Lyle Carlson, psychology chief at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.

In recent decades, adults often enlisted for educational benefits or adventure "and never expected to go to war," Carlson says. But after 9/11 "service people must expect to be deployed about 50% of their careers," he says.

"The wives feel they didn't sign up for that." Carlson says his son's unit in Iraq has an 80% divorce rate."

With yo-yo deployments, kids need a stable caregiver, Pfaff says.

Loraine McDonald, 37, has tried to be that for her sister's child, 5-year-old Mya Hawkins. Mya's mom, Army Staff Sgt. Demetria Hawkins, is a single mother who was sent to Iraq last year, returned to Georgia in January and is going back to Iraq this fall.

McDonald, a single woman, works full time and lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Hyattsville, Md. just outside Washington. She took Mya to live with her last year after the first deployment, then returned her to her mom in January. But Mya is back with her aunt as her mother prepares to deploy again.

"She missed her mom terribly at first, and now it's a little better, though she still wants her mother... It wasn't easy for either of us, I mean I was happy to be an auntie but never figured I would have this responsibility," McDonald says.

Her night social life is basically shut down. "Well, I love my sister very, very much, and I love Mya." She doesn't regret stepping up. "I have learned patience," she adds.

Callahan, who's juggling two preschoolers and a full-time job since the departure of husband, Jake, tries to keep things in perspective. "I think of Word War II, when women didn't see or hear from their husbands for years, and they didn't have professional training like we do, and had to go out and be Rosie the Riveter."

Still, even though she's in two support groups, Callahan thinks she could benefit from counseling but has no time for it. Jake calls once or twice a week, so that's how she knows about the constant dangers he is facing.

"I try to keep myself together and take good care of the kids," she says, "but the truth is, I'm very frightened."



07-28-04, 04:56 PM
Marine-funded, Iraqi-built water plant quenches long parched village
Submitted by: 1st Force Service Support Group
Story Identification #: 2004726131510
Story by Sgt. Matt Epright

AL KABANI, Iraq (July 26, 2004) -- For the first time in almost 10 years, the citizens here have clean water and constant electricity flowing into their homes, thanks to their local government, the Marines and their own hard work.

Muktar Ismael Hamaad, the village leader, and Thayer Hamdallah, the Iraqi government representative for the area, met July 25, 2004, with Lt. Col. Rod T. Arrington, the commander of 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, to cut the ribbon on a water purification complex now serving three separate villages with a population totaling almost 3,000.

The reserve infantry battalion, based at nearby Camp Taqaddum, funded the $175,000 project through a program established by the now defunct Coalition Provisional Authority.

Thirty-five local Iraqis worked 10-hour days for more than a month to complete the 30,000 gallon-per-hour purifier, said Ahmed Abass Kassar, the project supervisor, through a translator.

Though it would have been quicker and cheaper for the Marines to install the equipment themselves, they wanted to let the Iraqis take the lead so they would come away with the experience needed to do such jobs.

"It isn't about just getting them the water in the best manner possible. It's about letting them do it themselves and giving them a stake in their own future," said Maj. Luke W. Kratky, the battalion's information operations officer.

The villagers have been without fresh water for a long time, said Kassar, who is also the water manager for the area.

"For the last eight or nine years they had no good water to drink," said 46-year-old Kassar.

Instead, they had to pump water directly from the nearby lake and boil it to try to make it clean enough to drink, said Hamaad, also speaking through a translator. This still left bacteria in the water and caused numerous health problems for the villagers.

"This project is the most important thing," said 28-year-old Hamdallah, who had sought funding for the project since he became the district manager for the area almost two years ago. "We are too thankful to U.S. forces for their help."

Under the government of Saddam Hussein, the villagers were afraid to seek help. The area the 500-person community occupies was once officer housing for an Iraqi military base. Though the Iraqi military had not used it for years, the residents were concerned that the government might throw them out of their homes if they asked for anything, said 36-year-old Hamaad.

After the ribbon cutting, Hamaad took the Marines on a tour of the village, to show them the recently installed plumbing that carries water to each of the houses, as well as a $22,000 Marine-funded generator that gives the residents reliable electricity 24 hours a day.

Before Iraqi contractors installed the generator, the village only had power for a few hours each day.

Word of the water project has already reached other communities in the area. They want the Marines to get contractors to run water pipes to them as well.

"The other towns feel jealous," said Hamaad.

The battalion, elements of which provide security for the 1st Force Service Support Group at nearby Camp Taqaddum, is waiting for Hamdallah to take bids from contractors able to perform the proposed work, so the Marines can attempt to meet the other villages' needs as they did for Al Kabani, said Kratky, a 33-year-old native of Fenton, Mo.

"We want to build on what we did there," said Kratky. "These are tangible things that the Iraqi people can see."


Typically shy Iraqi girls emerge from their homes in the fishing village of Al Kabani during a visit from Marines on July 25, 2004. Earlier, leaders from 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, met with Kabani's leader, Muktar Ismael Mahmoud Hamaad, 36, and district manager, Thayer Hamdallah, 28, to cut the ribbon to a Marine-funded, Iraqi-built, water purification station, which pumps fresh water to approximately 3,000 impoverished people in the area. The $175,000 project also brought construction and maintenance jobs to the villagers. Iraqis broke ground on the project June 8. Elements of the reserve infantry battalion provide security for the 1st Force Service Support Group at nearby Camp Taqaddum. Photo by: Staff Sgt. Bill Lisbon



07-28-04, 07:39 PM
Motor T chief unretires a second time to go to Iraq
July 28,2004

CAMP VIRGINIA, KUWAIT - Gunnery Sgt. Kelly Tyre sat under a swath of green camouflage netting. In the Kuwaiti desert, the moment represented a rare opportunity to steal some shade.

Tyre, 42, is a motor transportation chief from Sweetwater, Tenn., assigned to a reinforced version of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, which is part of the Camp Lejeune-based 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit now bound for Iraq. He supervises about 36 mechanics and drivers, and he's responsible for about 150 of the ground-combat element's Humvees and 7-ton trucks.

It's a familiar duty for the twice-retired Tyre, who is just recently back on active duty.

"I came back because of them boys," said Tyre, who, like most hardworking mechanics, has hands stained from years of exposure to grease and oil. "I know them all, and I seen them come in the Marine Corps. Â…"

After serving in the Marines for 19 years, Tyre retired in November 2002. He's lived on and off in the Swansboro area for the past 24 years.

In January 2003, Tyre volunteered to come back on active duty for Operation Iraqi Freedom I. He deployed then as well with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, as part of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. The group was later reinforced and named Task Force Tarawa; it suffered casualties during fights in and around Nasiriyah.

Tyre retired again and returned home in June 2003. He was working at All Pro Collision in Jacksonville when he was asked to come back on active duty for Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

But this experience is somewhat different than last summer's, he said.

"Last time we were mobile the whole time," Tyre said. "This year we'll be stationary a lot, and it seems like we expect getting parts and supplies to do repairs up north."

Dressed in blue coveralls and worn steel-toed safety boots, Tyre normally solves problems with thoughtful skepticism, which a mechanic needs when troubleshooting engines or a particularly tough situation.

"The biggest challenge is no parts," Tyre said. "You have to manage what few parts you do have.

Even changing a flat tire on a tactical vehicle, he noted, is more difficult than fixing a broken down civilian car or truck.

"The weather is another darn thing," he said. "The blowing sand is rough, and it gets into starters, alternators and busting tires. (It gets) in all of them and in every orifice of your body."

As if to accentuate the observation, Tyre plunged a finger into his ear and rubbed out a few gritty grains of sand. Then, using a rag from his back pocket, he brushed it off the side of his face.

"It's a whole lot more than what you see in a neighborhood shop."


Eric Steinkopff/Daily News
Back in Iraq: Twice-retired Gunnery Sgt. Kelly Tyre, center in blue coveralls, supervises the motor pool for 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment with the 24th MEU. He came back to the Corps to look after his ‘boys.’



07-28-04, 10:01 PM
Dispatches From Fallujah <br />
Owen West is a former Marine who trades for Goldman Sachs. His writings can be found at www.westwrite.com. <br />
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<br />
From: Owen West <br />
Subject: A Ghost Is Born <br />
Wednesday, July...