View Full Version : Explosives experts make impact in Iraqi community

07-31-04, 07:51 AM
Explosives experts make impact in Iraqi community <br />
Submitted by: 24th MEU <br />
Story Identification #: 2004730145954 <br />
Story by Staff Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa <br />
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07-31-04, 07:51 AM
U.S. military says 20 insurgents killed in Fallujah fighting

By: Associated Press -

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Fighting between insurgents and American-led forces in the volatile city of Fallujah has killed 20 militants, the military said Saturday.

A Fallujah hospital official, Dr. Salim Ibrahim, had said Friday that clashes, which had been reported on earlier, killed 13 Iraqis and wounded 14 others.

Many of those wounded, including at least one child, appeared to be civilians injured in U.S. airstrikes, he said, adding that he could not give an exact count of the dead, because many bodies had been torn apart in the bombings.

A U.S. military spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Saturday that the fighters were killed during clashes between 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 1 a.m. Friday.

Iraqi insurgents started the fighting Thursday by ambushing a patrol with gunfire, mortars and rocket propelled grenades before fleeing into buildings in the city, the military said.

The Marines responded with tank and artillery fire at the mortar positions, several hundred yards away, the military said. Iraqi insurgents fled into buildings, which the Marines targeted with airstrikes and artillery, the military said.

The fighting continued in an industrial area and 12 auto repair shops and two houses were destroyed. Witnesses reported hearing aircraft on bombing runs and scores of mortar rounds fired toward an American base.

At about 12:30 a.m. Friday, U.S. military aircraft attacked insurgents spotted in a building and four vehicles, the military said.

The Iraqi fighters responded with at least four explosive volleys, but U.S. forces, Iraqi National Guard troops and Iraqi police repelled the attacks, the military said.

There were no U.S. or Iraqi security forces casualties, the military said.

An injured man, lying in a bed at Fallujah General Hospital with his pants covered in blood, asked, "What was our fault?" according to Associated Press Television News. "My mother and sister were killed."

A medical worker bandaged a crying toddler's forehead that was covered with blood. "This is just a child ... does he look like a terrorist?" an angry man asked.

The Marines said they did everything possible to avert civilian casualties.

"Our forces go to extraordinary lengths to minimize the impact of military action upon civilians," Marines spokesman Lt. Col. T.V. Johnson told The Associated Press.

But when insurgents occupy residential areas, "they exponentially increase the risk for civilians," he said.



07-31-04, 07:52 AM
Marines, insurgents clash near Fallujah

9 Iraqis killed as tanks, jets strike
By Rick Rogers
July 30, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq – Insurgents attacked a Marine checkpoint outside Fallujah yesterday, setting off a firefight that quickly escalated as tanks, artillery and combat jets pounded targets within the city well into this morning.

One Camp Pendleton Marine was slightly wounded in the fiercest battle that Marines posted outside the insurgent-controlled city have seen since late June.

At least nine Iraqis were killed and 16 others injured, Dr. Ahmed Abdullah at Fallujah general hospital was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Black smoke rose from the city of 250,000 residents.

A man on a public address system called in Arabic for the residents of Fallujah to donate blood for the injured, according the Marines.

Civilian casualties could not be verified because the city is off limits to foreign journalists.

Fighting started about 6:30 p.m., when Golf Company Marines saw armed individuals near the U.S. checkpoint leading to Fallujah.

The Marines were about to open fire when the insurgents attacked with small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, said Capt. Jeff Stevenson, company commander for Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton.

Marine tanks counterattacked, firing six to 12 rounds from their the main guns.

The fighting was heavy for several hours as thousands of tracers filled the sky.

Just after midnight, U.S. airstrikes pounded the city. Secondary explosions could be heard, possibly suggesting hits on weapon caches.

Sporadic fighting was heard early today.



07-31-04, 07:53 AM
July 29, 2004

Two Marines die in Anbar fighting

Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Fighting between insurgents and U.S. forces west of Baghdad has killed two Marines, the military said in a statement Thursday. A Polish soldier was killed and three were wounded in a separate attack.
The two Marines died in clashes Wednesday in Anbar province, the statement said. The U.S. military had initially said two coalition troops were killed during heavy fighting Wednesday in the Anbar city of Ramadi, but it had declined to reveal their nationalities.

Multiple U.S. military camps in Ramadi came under mortar attack Wednesday and two U.S. helicopters made emergency landings after coming attack from small arms before returning their base, the military said.

The deaths of the two Marines takes the tally of U.S. personnel killed in Iraq to at least 908 since the war began, according to an Associated Press tally.

The Polish casualties came when the troops were hit by shrapnel from a booby trap set off by remote control, the Polish Defense Ministry said Thursday, according to Polish Radio Zet.

Defense Ministry spokeswoman Agnieszka Kucharska confirmed the casualties but said she had no further details on the incident, including exactly when it happened.

“One is dead and three are wounded,” Kucharska said.

The death raises the number of Polish troops killed in Iraq to seven.

Poland sent troops in support of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and now commands some 6,200 multinational troops in south-central Iraq from 16 countries, including 2,400 of its own.



07-31-04, 07:55 AM
Marine parents still reading bedtime stories in Iraq
Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 200472782134
Story by Lance Cpl. J.C. Guibord

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (July 27, 2004) -- For Marines and Sailors deployed to Iraq, the bright, red glow of a camcorder's record light takes the place of a nightlight when they read bedtime stories to their children.

Through the Family Literacy Program, a deployed parent has the opportunity to be filmed while reading a book to their child. A mini-DVD, which can be viewed in any DVD player, is then sent to the child.

The program, a collaborative effort between I Marine Expeditionary Force chaplains, the Armed Services YMCA and the Walt Disney Company, provides resources to forward-deployed Marines and Sailors that will aid the positive promotion of literacy.

"One of the most difficult parts about being an active-duty Marine is being away from the children," said Annette L. Conway, organizer of the Family Literacy Program and wife of I MEF Commanding General Lt. Gen. James T. Conway. "The program allows mom or dad to parent, to laugh with the child and to continue to educate the child, even from half a world away. Seeing and hearing dad keeps his love visible."

Many Marines and Sailors with I MEF have access to phones, but when a family can see the deployed parent or husband with their own eyes, it gives a special assurance of their safety, said Sgt. Michael A. Urteaga, the I MEF Headquarters Group legal chief.

"I did this for my daughter's 10th birthday," said the 28-year-old Ventura, Calif., native. "Because of deployments and training I've missed five of her birthdays. Now I don't have to completely miss this one."

Urteaga said he plans on doing videos for his two other children, including his 6-month-old daughter, who will see her father's face for the first time through the program.

The program is currently available to all Marines deployed to Iraq with I MEF. Chaplains from 1st Force Service Support Group, 1st Marine Division, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and MHG are providing the necessary supplies needed to make the video greetings possible for their Marines and Sailors.

"It's a rewarding experience to be in a situation to have an impact on (a) Marine's morale and livelihood," said Petty Officer 1st Class Johnnie L. Boyd, the I MHG chaplain's assistant.

"I wish so much that we had had the technology to have the program for our kids," said Conway.

The Conway family, however, did something similar, and witnessed the first-hand results.

"Jim taped stories and animal sounds for our two year old and three month old," said Conway. "When Jim got home, Brandon knew all the animal sounds, and Scott recognized his dad by his voice."


After reading to his daughter on tape, Sgt. Michael A. Urteaga, the I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group legal chief and Ventura, Calif., native, concludes the recording by wishing her a happy 10th birthday and reminding her he will be home soon at the Camp Fallujah, Iraq, chapel July 23, 2004. The Family Literacy Program provides a unique opportunity for Marines and Sailors to stay connected with their children while deployed. (Official USMC photo by Lance Cpl. J.C. Guibord) Photo by: Lance Cpl. J.C. Guibord



07-31-04, 08:51 AM
Valor defined

Marines confront, overcome the crucible of Fallujah
By Rick Rogers
July 31, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq – The citations for valor read like scenes from a movie, and it's only through cinematic comparisons that Cpl. Howard Lee Hampton Jr. can describe the combat his Camp Pendleton unit saw here in April.

"It was beyond anything in 'Black Hawk Down,' " said Hampton, 21, referring to the movie about the actual downing of two U.S. helicopters in 1993 Somalia and the harrowing rescue operation in which the lives of 18 American soldiers were lost.

"I remember going into the city in the (amphibious assault vehicle) and hearing the bullets hit off the sides.

"When the door opened, I thought about the scene in "Saving Private Ryan" when they were coming up to the beach and that guy got hit right in the head before he ever got to the beach," Hampton said, this time conjuring up the movie account of D-Day during World War II.

"Once we got in the city, we had hundreds and hundreds of people trying to kill us," said the native of El Paso, Tex., recalling how the cascade of enemy shell casings from windows above the Marines sounded like a never-ending slot machine payout.

"We survived in Fallujah because everyone put the Marine next to him ahead of themselves," said Hampton, an infantryman with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. "Everyone did so much more than they had to."

More than 50 Marines from Echo Company have been recognized for valor between March 18 and April 26, when they went into Fallujah to root out insurgents after four civilian contract workers were murdered and two of the bodies hanged from a bridge.

The battalion's Fox Company has recommended about 20 Marines for medals.

"My boys are superheroes," said Capt. D.A. Zembiec, the Echo company commander who climbed atop a tank while under fire to guide it to where his men were pinned down. "I got guys with two Purple Hearts still out here working."

Echo Company's role in the battle for Fallujah began April 6, when two platoons – about 80 men – were ordered into the northwest section of the city, launching a month of street-by-street fighting that would claim the lives of several hundred insurgents and an estimated 600 civilians.

As word of the violence spread, the media gathered for a closer look.

"One reporter said, 'It can't be that bad,' " recalled 1st Sgt. William Skiles, Echo Company's top enlisted man.

"Well," Skiles recalled, "the Armored Assault Vehicle had just stopped to let the media off when the first (assault rifle) rounds flew overhead. Then came the (rocket propelled grenades). There weren't a whole lot of stories filed that day because the reporters were face down in the dirt."

During the encounter, journalists often asked Skiles, 43, of San Juan Capistrano, for information for their reports about the fighting, but he thought they were missing something.

"I kept thinking: What about valor? Why weren't any of the reporters interested in the valor of our Marines?

"All anyone wants to write about is our dead and wounded," he said, thumbing through military papers that included nominations for Silver and Bronze stars.

Although only a few of the medal nominations have been approved so far, The San Diego Union-Tribune was allowed to review the submissions on condition that no detailed information be revealed.


NELVIN CEPEDA / Union-Tribune
Cpl. Howard Lee Hampton Jr. compared the insurgent assault his Camp Pendleton unit faced in the battle for Fallujah this spring to the violent D-Day landing scene in the movie "Saving Private Ryan." More than 50 Marines from Echo Company were recognized for bravery.


NELVIN CEPEDA / Union-Tribune
After braving enemy fire four times to evacuate wounded Marines, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason "Doc" Duty received a medal nomination that reads, "As bullets impacted within inches of his head, Duty remained resolute in his mission."

All of the top medal nominations arose from a single day's action April 26.

It was also Echo Company's last day of heavy fighting in Fallujah before the Marines pulled out under a cease-fire that has created the current stalemate: Insurgents control the city, the Marines control the surrounding countryside.

The day started routinely when Marines searched a mosque that gunmen had been using to direct fire on the Americans.

Finding only shell-casings below the minaret windows overlooking their position, the Marines left the mosque and moved deeper into the city and occupied a few houses.

All was quiet until about 11 a.m., when insurgents killed one Marine and wounded 10 others in a coordinated attack that lasted three hours.

"The minaret that we had just cleared suddenly came alive with sniper fire," Skiles said. At the same time, the Marines in the houses were hit by grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun fire from the roofs of adjoining houses.

Within minutes, 100 to 150 heavily armed insurgents attacked in waves. At times, the Marines and the enemy were only 25 yards apart.

The hardest hit Marines were on a rooftop where they were swarmed from three directions by insurgents throwing scores of grenades and firing at least 30 RPGs within the first 15 minutes of fighting. Thousands of bullets peppered the area.

Nine of the Marines were wounded almost immediately.

Aaron C. Austin and Carlos Gomez-Perez, both lance corporals, were on that rooftop and have been nominated for high honors, Austin posthumously.

After the initial barrage, Austin, a machine gunner, evacuated the wounded and then rallied the Marines to counter-attack.

"We've got to get back on the roof and get on that gun," Austin, from Sunray, Tex., is reported to have said, referring to a Marine machine gun.

The Marines returned fire, but as Austin started to throw a grenade, he was hit several times in the chest by machine gun fire.

Although morally wounded, Austin threw his grenade, which hit the enemy and halted their attack.

A memorial to him – a cement bench – sits outside the Echo Company barracks at Camp Baharia. Austin was 21.

Gomez-Perez was hit in the cheek and shoulder by machine gun fire while dragging a wounded comrade to safety.

"Ignoring his serious injuries . . . Gomez-Perez, in direct exposure to enemy fire, continued to throw grenades and fire four magazines from his M-16 rifle. Still under fire and with his injured arm, he and another Marine gave CPR (to Austin) and continued to fire on the enemy," read his medal nomination.

Gomez-Perez is recuperating stateside. His age and hometown weren't immediately available.

Marines at another house were also under heavy attack, and four were wounded.

Lance Cpl. John Flores, 21, from Temple City, held a key position outside the house protecting the left flank.


07-31-04, 08:51 AM
"Around 11 a.m., I heard explosions and I remember a Marine scream," he recalled. "It was a scream I'll never forget, and I hope I never hear again. I had heard the scream before. It was the scream that someone was messed up. It scared me."

Flores said he traded fire with insurgents 20 yards away. When a Humvee arrived to get the wounded, Flores laid down hundreds of rounds of protective fire during a deafening exchange.

"As one of the corpsman ran to the house, bullets hit right behind him against a wall. Everyone said Doc Duty was faster than bullets that day," said Flores, who was twice wounded by shrapnel during the action.

"Doc" is Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason Duty, a 20-year-old Navy corpsman from New Concord, Ohio.

"Despite extreme personal danger from small arms fire and exploding ordnance, Flores remained in his tenuous position, delivering devastating fire on enemy forces as they attempted to reinforce their attack," his nomination stated.

When the Marines pulled back to a safer position later that day, Flores could have left the city to get medical treatment, but he didn't have the heart to leave his fellow Marines.

He doesn't like to think about Fallujah, though he is proud of what Echo Company did there.

"I think I did real good that day, but a lot of people did real good. I was scared, but I just did it," Flores said. "I think about what happened in the city and the people wounded and killed. We think about them a lot. No one from this company will ever forget what we did out here."

Lance Cpl. Craig Bell got mad when he was nearly killed by an enemy grenade. And then he got even.

"You know when they say that things slow down?" asked Bell, 20, from Del City, Okla. "That's what happened when I saw the grenade.

"It was a pineapple grenade with a cherry-red tip," Bell said. "I didn't think they even made grenades like that anymore. It was like something from a World War II movie."

Bell ducked behind a pigeon coop for cover.

He "heard explosions and shooting in real time" while he seemed to drift into space. "I watched the grenade for what seemed like forever until it went off . . . but I talked to Marines later and they said it all happened in a split second."

The blast wounded Bell in the right side and jump-started the clock.

"I thought, 'That's it!" said Bell, a grenadier. "I thought about my wife and daughter and not doing anything stupid. But I was just so angry that he had thrown a grenade at me that I didn't care. I was going to take someone out."

He grabbed ammunition for his grenade launcher and started blowing up rooms from which insurgents were firing, estimating he launched 100 rounds in about an hour.

Despite his wounds, Bell "expertly placed high-explosive around through the windows of adjacent buildings," reads his medal recommendation. "Without his brave actions, 2nd platoon would have been hard-pressed to hold their position and evacuate wounded Marines."

"I was proud to be a part of something so brave and so strong," Bell said. "I know what I did. I saved someone's life, and I know that what other people did saved me."

Not all of the heroics focused on the enemy.

The corpsman, Duty, and Sgt. Skiles were recognized for evacuating wounded Marines while exposed to unrelenting fire.

Duty braved enemy fire four times to load Marines into a Humvee driven by Skiles, who coordinated the rescue.

"I do remember thinking I was in trouble about the third trip because that's when the volume of fire increased a lot," Duty said.

"When we were loading the last guy, they chucked a hand grenade at our Humvee and it hit the hood. It rolled off and didn't explode. I think they were trying to throw it in the back where the wounded were being loaded."

Duty's medal nomination reads: "As bullets impacted within inches of his head, Duty remained resolute in his mission."

Skiles was lauded for evacuating the Marines and for his leadership in combat.

Part of his lengthy medal nomination states:

"Without his courage, his company would not have been able to evacuate his wounded in the expeditious manner – and more Marines would have been exposed to danger longer.

"Skiles' combat leadership is the metal weld that holds his company together during times of adversity."

It will be weeks, perhaps months, before the Marine Corps approves any decorations, especially the higher ones. By then, the Echo Company Marines probably will be back at Camp Pendleton.

And Hampton will be left with only his memories of what Echo Company did because as he'll tell you:

"They honestly cannot make a movie about what we went through. Every Marine did so much more than what they had to do, from the littlest private first class to the commanding officer. Everyone did so much more."

Union-Tribune staff writer Rick Rogers and staff photographer Nelvin Cepeda are accompanying Camp Pendleton-based Marines in Iraq.


NELVIN CEPEDA / Union-Tribune
When insurgents attacked Marines in a house, Lance Cpl. John Flores, 21, stood outside protecting the left flank. Wounded twice, Flores could have left for treatment, but he said he didn't have the heart to leave his fellow Marines.


NELVIN CEPEDA / Union-Tribune
Lance Cpl. Craig Bell said he was so angry after an enemy grenade nearly killed him in Fallujah that he grabbed rounds for his grenade launcher and began blowing up insurgent positions. He estimated that he launched 100 rounds in about an hour.



07-31-04, 10:37 AM
MWSS-273 places gravel at FOB for MEU <br />
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing <br />
Story Identification #: 20047307467 <br />
Story by Sgt. J.L. Zimmer III <br />
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07-31-04, 11:18 AM
La Pine soldier gets Silver Star <br />
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Published: July 31, 2004 <br />
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By Ernestine Bousquet <br />
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The Bulletin <br />
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LA PINE — If Marine 1st Lt. Nick Horton had his way, only his family and close friends would...