View Full Version : Charlie Co., 1/2 has begun making Marine presence known

08-01-04, 06:24 AM
Charlie Co., 1/2 has begun making Marine presence known
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200473191841
Story by Lance Cpl. Caleb J. Smith

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq (July 29, 2004) -- With mortar rounds and improvised explosive devices an ever present danger here, Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, including the Leathernecks from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, are doing their part to make this area safe for themselves and the Iraqi people who live here.

Iskandariyah is located in the Babil province of Iraq just south of Baghdad, close to the Euphrates River. Over the past few months, the forward operating base located here has been hit with mortar fire from Iraqi insurgents and the surrounding area has been littered with improvised explosive devices.

Mortar rounds used by the insurgents can be fired up to 5,000 meters from its intended target and are easily moved and fired from different locations, making them harder to track. Improvised Explosive Devices are even more dangerous and a lot harder to locate

With command of the area now under Marine control, 1st Bn., 2nd Marines is taking a very active part in making the area safe on its watch.

"We're doing what we can to make our presence [in the area] known," said Captain Stephen Kloth, commanding officer Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, whose unit arrived here July 22. "This includes counter mortar patrols, convoys, and route reconnaissance in the zone."

The Charlie Company Marines believe that their presence in the area will be enough to deter further attacks allowing the Marines to continue operations in the region.

"We have been out looking for clues as to where the insurgents were firing the mortars from," said Pfc. Tommy T. Smith a rifleman from Middlesboro, Ky. "We have had cobras as our guardian angels, and that has helped us out a lot."

According to Smith, the Marines from Charlie Co., have already found a mortar pit and tube.

The Marines are also spending time talking to the Iraqis trying to create a good relationship between them and the Marines operating here.

Along with conducting patrols and convoys, Charlie Co., has also been busy improving the living conditions in and around the base here. They have also been busy providing security for the FOB and escorting important visitors to the area.

"We are standing post at the front gate also," said Smith. "We are checking the vehicles as they come in using dogs to help sniff out explosives."
This occupied most of the company's time. "We've been [really busy] pulling shifts and standing post," said Sgt. Anthony Sanders, a Winston Salem, N.C. native.

With much of their time dedicated to the mission at hand, the Marine presence is being felt by the community and may be the key to maintaining good relations with the Iraq people here.


Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Snyder of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit looks out from his post, scanning the area for any possible suspicious activity.
Snyder is a Streetsboro, Ohio, native and rifleman with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in the Iraqi province of North Babil.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Caleb J. Smith



08-01-04, 06:25 AM
The death of Iraqi prisoner No. 0310337 <br />
<br />
By: DEBORAH HASTINGS - Associated Press <br />
<br />
Always, there was the heat. Steaming like a cauldron at 125 degrees during the day, parboiling at 90 degrees...

08-01-04, 06:25 AM
For the rest of June 4, Hatab appeared to sleep. The next day, he refused to eat or drink. He suffered severe bouts of diarrhea, fouling his clothes and creating a horrible stench. <br />
<br />
His clothes...

08-01-04, 06:26 AM
Remembering a Vermont Marine
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Washington, D.C. - July 30, 2004

A Vermonter killed this week in Iraq is being remembered as a topnotch military officer. Lt. Col. David Greene of Shelburne died on Wednesday. The Marine helicopter he was piloting was hit by ground fire during a mission outside of Baghdad. Greene's co-pilot was able to land the chopper, but Greene died from his injuries.

The 39-year-old was a Marine Corps reservist attached to a helicopter squadron in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He was a veteran pilot of Cobra attack helicopters and was highly regarded by his peers.

"He was a roll up your sleeves and do it kind of Marine. He was literally loved by the people who worked for him, and equally respected by his higher-ups," says Maj. Randy Parker.

Greene was born and grew up in Saranac Lake. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served eleven years in the Marines. He returned to this area after retiring from the military to work at Goodrich Aerospace in Vergennes where he was a program manager. Greene remained a member of the Marine Corps reserves and was recalled for active duty last December along with 100 other reservists in his helicopter unit. They deployed for Iraq in January and are scheduled to return home at the end of the year.

Greene is the twelfth person with Vermont ties to die in Iraq since hostilities began in 2003. Gov. Jim Douglas, R-Vermont, says the state has suffered disproportionately.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the Greene family. It's a family that's close-knit that's served its community well, and I know that all of their friends and fellow residents of Shelburne and the state are at a tremendous loss at this time," says Douglas.

Lt. Col. Greene leaves his wife Sarah, and two children, a boy and a girl, both in elementary school. No funeral arrangement have been made at this time.



08-01-04, 06:27 AM
Marine once feared beheaded in Iraq goes on leave, headed to brother's Utah home

By: MARK THIESSEN - Associated Press

WEST JORDAN, Utah -- A Marine once feared beheaded by terrorists in Iraq arrived at his brother's house Saturday after being granted military leave.

A family member moving cars in a driveway said Saturday evening that Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun had arrived. Television footage showed Hassoun slipping into a side door at his brother's suburban house.

Hassoun was not making an appearance for reporters waiting outside the house of his brother, Mohamad Hassoun. The family member, who refused to give his name, said the family would be making no statement.

Hassoun, 24, has been under a cloud of suspicion since failing to report for duty June 20. Videotape surfaced showing him apparently kidnapped, blindfolded with a sword hanging over his head.

He later turned up at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. It remains unclear how he traveled from Iraq to Lebanon, where he was born and still has relatives.

He has denied that he was a deserter.

Hassoun had been at Camp Lejeune, N.C., since July 20 undergoing what the military calls a "repatriation process." The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has been looking into Hassoun's disappearance from his base near Fallujah, Iraq.

"Cpl. Hassoun has gone on leave," 1st Lt. Clark D. Carpenter, a Camp Lejeune spokesman, said Saturday. "That's a standard part of the repatriation process."

Carpenter would not give details, but The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Hassoun had started a 30-day convalescent leave.

Hassoun will be joined in Utah by his parents and new bride, who are making arrangements to leave Tripoli, Lebanon -- the Hassoun family's traditional home -- sometime next week.

While in West Jordan, near Salt Lake City, Hassoun hopes to relax, eat out and catch up with relatives, said a man at Mohamad Hassoun's home who identified himself as a family member but would not give his name.

Relatives worry, however, that Hassoun's presence will signal a return of the media horde that camped outside the family home for weeks after his disappearance. The family has contacted police for protection.

For the last 11 days at Camp Lejeune, Wassef and Mohamad Hassoun and a Muslim chaplain on loan from the Navy prayed five times a day, watched action movies and made several trips off base for dinner. Marine spokesmen said Wassef Hassoun appeared more comfortable each day.



08-01-04, 06:28 AM
Submitted by: Marine Corps Systems Command
Story Identification #: 2004730103711
Story by Mr. Bruce N. Scott

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. (July 29, 2004) -- Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England visited Marine Corps Base Quantico Thursday, 29 July 2004 to present Marine Corps Systems Command with the Navy Unit Commendation for meritorious achievement in the performance of planning, acquisition and fielding of essential warfighting equipment and assets for Marine Corps Operating Forces in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM II from 1 September 2003 to 1 April 2004. The Secretary of the Navy said, “I am keenly aware of what Marine Corps Systems Commend does…we could not do the job that we do if everyone of you did not do your job well...For the Marines in Iraq, I thank you.” He said that he met several Marines at aid stations in Iraq whose lives were saved by equipment provided by Marine Corps Systems Command. The command used a revolutionary urgent needs statement process where commanders from the field talked directly with MARCORSYSCOM telling them exactly what was needed. One such statement requested Small Arms Protective Inserts (body armor) for Marines fighting in Iraq. Combining available resources, the command sent over 45,000 small arms protective inserts to the field, which saved many lives. The command also provided other life saving equipment to the field such as the Forward Resuscitative Surgery System. This system consists of a shelter, limited medical equipment and supplies, selected personnel from a surgical company, and organic support from the Forces Service Support group to sustain a 72-hour mission or 18 patients without resupply thereby enhancing wounded Marines survival in combat zones. The command provided critical force protection and life saving equipment. For the presentation, MARCORSYSCOM’S Brigadier General William D. Catto displayed much of the equipment that the command provides to Marines in Iraq and equipment under development for deployment in the near future. Equipment displayed included armor-hardened vehicles, non-lethal weapons, anti-tank weapons, the unit operations center and other displays. After the presentation, the Secretary said he wanted everyone to exercise their right and freedom to vote and that everyone should practice safety including Marines, their families and civilians who impact the Marines.



08-01-04, 06:29 AM
Career Marine killed in Iraq

By: BARBARA HENRY -- Staff Writer

OCEANSIDE ---- A Camp Pendleton Marine who spent 15 years in the military and served three wartime missions in the Middle East was killed Wednesday in the Al Anbar Province in Iraq.

Gunnery Sgt. Shawn A. Lane, 33, was killed in a mortar attack on his unit, his family said.

"He was a full-blooded Marine hero," his mother Coralee Lane of Corning, N.Y., said of her only son.

Shawn Lane, who called base housing at Camp Pendleton his home for the past 14 years, is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and his 4-year-old son Jonathan, among other relatives. He adored spending time with his family, his mother said.

He was always that way, even as a teenager, she added. Lane enlisted in the military right after graduating from high school in Corning, but stayed home that summer because his mother, a school teacher, had the summer off.

He was the kind of boy every parent wants, she said. As a child, Lane was quick to help with chores around the house, including chopping wood for the stove and doing dishes. As a teenager, he paid his own car insurance by working at a series of jobs, including bagging groceries. One of his mother's favorite memories is how he used to give her a quick kiss on the back of the neck in thanks for a good meal.

"He treated me like a queen," she said. "He was an angel. The Lord has got himself a special boy."

She has worried about his safety all his adult life because his military career took him to the world's hot spots.

"We prayed for him nonstop, every time we took a breath," she said.

Lane did his basic training at Parris Island, S.C., then attended radio communications school at Twentynine Palms in 1990. The following year he moved to Camp Pendleton. From Camp Pendleton, he was sent to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

He then attended Marine Security Guard school, graduating in the top of his class. With his training behind him, he guarded American government offices overseas, including the American Embassy in Bogota, Columbia and the American Consulate in Hong Kong.

While on duty in Hong Kong, he once he shook hands with President George Bush. His family has a treasured photo of that meeting.

Lane returned to Camp Pendleton in 1996, then went to Bahrain in 2002 for four months. His first tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom ---- a 15-month period ---- began in February 2003. His second tour in the Al Anbar Province, one of the deadliest areas in the war-torn country, began Feb. 17.

A military service is planned for Aug. 4.

As of Friday, 909 U.S. service members have died since military operations began in Iraq in March 2003, according to the Defense Department. Of those, 674 died as a result of hostile action and 235 died of nonhostile causes.

Contact staff writer Barbara Henry at (760) 901-4072 or bhenry@nctimes.com.



08-01-04, 06:29 AM
Car Bomb Kills 4; Clashes West of Baghdad


BAGHDAD, Iraq - A car bomb exploded outside a police station in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday, killing at least four people and injuring 34 others, police said. Clashes between U.S. troops and insurgents that left 10 dead and 27 wounded in Fallujah, west of the capital.

In central Baghdad, guerrillas set off a roadside bomb that killed two civilians and wounded two others, said Fawad Allah, an officer at Karradah police station.

The 8 a.m. blast in Mosul occurred when a four-wheel-drive vehicle sped into a restricted entrance outside the Summar police station. As guards opened fire, the vehicle came to a halt and exploded, said Abdella Zuheir, a policeman at the scene.

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The bomb killed at least four people and wounded 34 others, police Lt. Leith Abdelqahar said. Saad Suleiman, an official at al-Salam hospital where most of the wounded were taken, said the dead included two police and two civilians. He said 46 were injured.

A U.S. military spokesman confirmed the attack and put the toll at three dead and 49 wounded. He said no coalition forces were involved.

Insurgents have been pressing a campaign to destabilize the interim government despite last month's transfer of sovereignty from the U.S. occupation authority. About 160,000 coalition troops, mostly Americans, remain in Iraq.

"We were expecting such terrorist attacks against us," Zuheir said. "This is a cowardly act."

Witnesses said the police station was damaged, along with five cars and several nearby shops. A nine-foot-wide crater could be seen at the site and shattered glass and debris littered the road. One policeman sat outside the station weeping.

In Fallujah, at least 10 people were killed and 27 wounded during fighting late Saturday and early Sunday in the eastern part of the city, hospital officials said.

Huge explosions were heard in Fallujah overnight as U.S. forces tried to enter the town, residents said. Fighting broke out on one of Fallujah's main streets and U.S. helicopters fired up to eight rockets into an industrial area, they said.

Dr. Wissam Abdul Rahman of Fallujah Hospital told The Associated Press 10 people died and 15 were injured. An official at another hospital, Dr. Hammadi al-Duleimi, said his medical center treated 12 wounded people.

The U.S. military had no comment.

In an earlier round of fighting in Fallujah on Thursday and Friday, U.S. forces said they killed 20 Iraqi insurgents. Hospital officials said 13 Iraqis, mainly women and children, died and 14 were injured.

Meanwhile, Iraqi militants said they kidnapped two Turks and threatened to behead them within 48 hours, the latest in the country's unrelenting wave of abductions. The news came late Saturday even as efforts intensified to free seven truck drivers taken captive by other insurgents.

The Tawhid and Jihad group of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi demanded the Turks' employers leave Iraq in a videotape aired on Al-Jazeera television, which showed three masked, black-garbed gunmen standing behind two seated men holding various forms of identification, including what apparently were Turkish passports.

Al-Jazeera identified the men as two Turkish truck drivers working for a Turkish company delivering goods to U.S. forces in Iraq. The network said the militants threatened to decapitate the men if their demands were not met.

Militants loyal to al-Zarqawi have claimed responsibility for a number of bloody attacks and beheadings of previous foreign hostages, including U.S. businessman Nicholas Berg, South Korean translator Kim Sun-il and Bulgarian truck driver Georgi Lazov.

In another abduction, a Lebanese citizen was snatched in Baghdad early Saturday, a Lebanese Foreign Ministry official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

More than 70 foreigners have been kidnapped by insurgents in recent months in a campaign aimed at pushing out international troops and companies backing U.S. troops and reconstruction efforts. Many have been videotaped and paraded on TV screens surrounded by armed, masked men demanding their countries withdraw.

Mediators and officials expressed optimism Saturday for the release of seven hostages _ three Indians, three Kenyans and an Egyptian _ held since July 21.

The kidnappers have threatened to kill one of the hostages if their employer, a Kuwaiti transport company, fails to meet their demands, including ending their work in Iraq.

Meanwhile, a Turkish driver abducted in Iraq on July 17 was freed in Mosul, northern Iraq, after promising his captors not to return, his niece Jihan Dayar told the AP.



08-01-04, 07:00 AM
Howitzer section arrives in Iraq ready for any mission
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 20047312327
Story by Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq (July 29, 2004) -- After spending almost everyday of last several months training together, Marines from one howitzer section of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are ready to accomplish any task thrown their way.

The Leathernecks of Gun Six, Bravo Battery, attached to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, have done it all since the section was formed back in April. They have been to the field to shoot their 155 mm Howitzers and conduct convoy operations. They have also trained as regular infantrymen conducting patrols and providing security.

Now they are in Iraq with the ability to provide indirect fire support or act like the rest of the "grunts" from the MEU's Ground Combat Element.

"We like to say which hat are we going to wear today - our 'grunt hat' or our 'arty hat?'" said Sgt. William E. Day, an Elizabethtown, Ky., native and section chief for Gun Six.

Currently Gun Six is wearing their "arty hat" after setting up in a gun position at the forward operating base here with two other guns from the battery.

"Right now we are working on improving our position," said Day. "We are building bunkers to fortify our ammunition and powder pits. We also made a mortar bunker to jump into incase we take any incoming mortar rounds."

Since many of the Marines on the gun are young and new to the artillery field, they rely on the expertise of Day and the other Marines in the section who were here last year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom I.

"For a lot of these guys, this is maybe only their fourth time firing artillery, but we have a pretty solid crew," said Lance Cpl. Robert P. Kranz, Gun Six gunner from Netcong, N.J. "Everyone knows what they are doing and we know each other's personality and stuff so we can tell what someone is going to do."

Kranz also said the different personalities on the gun are one thing that makes it work well.

Another thing that makes it work well is the fact that the section has been constantly training since it was formed.

They started out wearing their "grunt hat." "Right after we got together in April, we went to West Virginia," said Day. " There we did patrols, non-lethal weapons training, conducted checkpoints and set up defensive positions."

Immediately following their training in West Virginia, the Marines switched hats and went out for a two-day field exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C. There they fired more than 600 rounds in two days.

After a short break during which the battery allowed some of its Marines to take leave, Gun Six switched hats again and went California where they spent two weeks conducting security and stability operations training.

From California, Gun Six then flew to Kuwait where they began acclimating and training for their movement to Iraq.

In Kuwait, they conducting one last field artillery shoot, firing more than 500 rounds in two days.

"For us this all seems like one big field [operation], we just keep switching positions," said Day. "First we were in West Virginia, then Camp Lejeune, then California and Kuwait, now we are in Iraq."

"We have never really done anything like this before," said Kranz. "Usually we shoot and move instead of staying in one spot."

With many months a head of them here, the Marines of Gun Six are ready to face what ever mission is handed down to them, and with the training and experience they should have no problem taking care of business.


Pfc. Charles Terrel of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit wipes down his M-198 155 mm Howitzer at Forward Operating Base Iskandariyah, Iraq, July 29.
Terrel, a native of Virginia Beach, Va., is an assistant gunner, Gun Six, Bravo Battery, attached to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in the Northern Babil province of Iraq.
Photo by: Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon



08-01-04, 08:13 AM
MACG-38 softball teams compete in tournament finals
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 200473174318
Story by Sgt. J.L. Zimmer III

AL ASAD, Iraq (July 31, 2004) -- In a spirited battle for the title of Al Asad's top softball team at O'Doul's Field here, July 24, personnel from Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, triumphed 16-10 over the team fielded by Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38, MACG-38.

The final game was the culmination of more than 40 teams fighting through more than three months of sweltering Iraqi weather to determine who would walk off the field as champions.

The keen competition between the two teams did not develop exclusively during the past five months of their time here. It was forged long before Operation Iraqi Freedom brought them here to battle it out in the sand.

"The natural rivalry between these two opponents has developed since I arrived at (MACG-38) in 2001 because of the countless deployments we have done together," said Warrant Officer Henry C. Bodden, communications officer, MTACS-38 and Miami native. "It was awesome it came down to (our two teams) in the final game."

Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey S. Miller, operations chief, MTACS-38, and unit softball coach, said his team lost to MWCS-38 more than once in the season, but came back to show them that they were down, but not out for the count.

"We lost in the winners bracket to (MWCS-38)," said the 41-year-old Parker, Colo., native. "We won three in a row in the losers bracket, beating (MWCS-38) twice. We had to beat them."

Staff Sgt. Christian I. Jimenez, supply chief, MWCS-38, said that although he made a mistake in the bottom of the fifth, he came back to make a play that helped his team.

"I was leaning over home plate but I was already in the batter's box," said the 28-year-old from Miami by way of the Dominican Republic. "When I stood up, the ball was pitched to me for a strike. It did not matter because on the last pitch I hit a (double), bringing in one more run."

Jimenez added, regardless of the final score, the amount of effort put forth by his team was the most important thing to him.

"Everyone gave it 100 percent out there, but when it was over they realized it's just a game," he said. "I am proud of the way they played."

Gunnery Sgt. Scott R. Boivin, motor transportation chief, MWCS-38 said the tournament helped those participating in more than one way.

"It was a great game played in the spirit of camaraderie and a great stress reliever for the Marines (participating and watching)," said the 32-year-old North Richland Hills, Texas, native.

Lance Cpl. Javier M. Banuelos Jr., armory technician, MTACS-38, said he enjoyed the entire season, despite the harsh weather his team played in.

"Winning that championship made all those games played in the heat and sand worth it," said the 23-year-old Oakland, Calif., native.

Sgt. Maj. Christopher C. Gunn, sergeant major, MACG-38, said he was very proud to have two subordinate units from his command competing in the first season of organized softball here.

"I was very excited that both teams could make it this far," said the 46-year-old San Francisco native. "I was on both sides of the field for this game. I felt like Venus and Serena Williams' father when they competed against each other (in professional tennis)."

Gunn added that the final score of the game was not as important as the good-natured competition it inspired.

"I was just glad to see there was plenty of friendly competition and it was all played in good spirit," he said.

Lance Cpl. Armando Troncoso Jr., motor transportation mechanic, MTACS-38, said the championship game was proof that the little guy doesn't always finish last.

"(MWCS-38) is the bigger brother (of MACG-38) and they think they can do everything better than us, so we came out ready to win," said the 20-year-old Azusa, Calif., native. "(By winning) we definitely gave them the challenge they were looking for."

Banuelos concluded that the anticipation of every game was the highlight of the past five months of his deployment here.

"The whole season was more exciting than my entire deployment (so far)," he added. "The games gave us something to look forward to at the end of the day and broke up our daily routine."


Staff Sgt. Christian I. Jimenez (facing left), supply chief, Marine Wing Communication Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, gives a congratulatory embrace to members of the Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38, MACG-38, winning softball team in Al Asad, Iraq, July 24. The sincere display of sportsmanship by the 28-year-old Miami native was typical of all players during the three-month long soft ball tournament in which more than 40 teams participated. Photo by Sgt. J. L. Zimmer III Photo by: Sgt. J. L. Zimmer III


Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey S. Miller, operations chief, Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, is lifted up by his teammates shortly after winning Al Asad Softball tournament at Al Asad, Iraq, July 24. MTACS-38 beat out the team fielded by Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38, MACG-38 with a score of 16-10 for the championship title. Over approximately three months, more than 40 teams participated in the tournament here. Miller, a 41-year-old Parker, Colo., native is the MTACS-38 coach, and pitcher. Photo by: J.L. Zimmer III



08-01-04, 09:11 AM
Marine convoys blessed for trip to Iraq
August 01,2004

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of an ongoing series of stories by Daily News reporter Eric Steinkopff who joined the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Kuwait before returning home last week. The MEU is now in Iraq.

CAMP VIRGINIA, KUWAIT - It's been nearly two months since the Department of Defense announced the Camp Lejeune-based 2,200-member 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit was going to Iraq.

Troops and equipment were sent to the Middle East by sea and by air. The MEU then completed a training phase in Kuwait and has since moved to a number of forward operating bases south of Baghdad.

The convoys rolled out over the course of about two weeks, some along the roads and some to military or civilian airports. Others left aboard Marine helicopters, which kicked up clouds of "moon dust" as they lifted off the ground.

One of the first groups to leave was a small forward command and support element, backed up by some Force Reconnaissance vehicles - all armed to the teeth.

Before leaving on his own convoy, one of the MEU's chaplains, Cmdr. Jim Hightower, blessed nearly all of the departures, asking for divine guidance and safety.

"Guide them and protect them. Keep them alert," Hightower prayed. "Take them safely to their destination until we meet again."

Precautionary tales

The troops have planned for the worst and expect to be targeted by hit-and-run attacks; but they've taken precautions.

Like a modern-day version of the "Rat Patrol," their Humvees are mounted with .50-caliber heavy machineguns and MK-19 automatic grenade launchers. All have the latest bolt-on armor attached to the sides and undercarriages. Inside, water containers and MRE boxes consume the limited space between stacks of metal ammunition cans.

The MEU has practiced several techniques to use should its troops come under fire during a convoy or patrol.

The wind picked up, and the sand created a haze over the convoy. The sun was setting.

Last hours in Kuwait

Troops were trying on new shoulder pads and upper-arm attachments to their interceptor vests - some for the first time. Most called them clumsy and uncomfortable, but they acknowledged that if the getup helps them come home safely, then it's worth it.

As they waited for their turn to go, some killed time by making small talk, smoking cigarettes, fiddling with their weapons or joking with friends. Others used their last moments at Camp Virginia to strap down packs, food, water or ammunition - they were told that Iraqi children will grab loose items when the vehicles are stopped for a turn, intersection or other traffic.

The diesel engines roared to life, and those who had been using running lights switched on their headlights as well. There was a hiss as emergency air brakes were released, and the girthy vehicles gradually rolled forward.

The huge springs squeaked, and they worked their way through the fine dust kicked up by vehicles ahead. Only a line of headlights was visible.

In a later convoy, 15 of their Assault Amphibious Vehicles, four tanks, an armored tow-truck-style tank and a couple of Light Armored Vehicles needing maintenance work were loaded onto Heavy Equipment Trucks. The armored vehicles were packed full of equipment and supplies, and crewmen took turns manning the guns on top.

"We're trying to change from a soft target to hard target," said 1st Lt. Todd Garrett, 28, tank platoon commander from Fountain Inn, S.C. Such tactics might make the enemy think twice about attacking them.

During a rehearsal for a convoy north to Iraq, members of the 24th MEU Light Armored Reconnaissance detachment gathered around a white dry-erase board that they'd propped on the back of one LAV. Lights from another vehicle illuminated the scene. They discussed the types of formations they would use, how they would treat local traffic, and what they would do in response to different forms of enemy attack.

Into the darkness

One of the last convoys to leave was the artillerymen and support personnel of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment.

At least two 7-ton trucks supported each of the heavy 155-mm howitzers - one truck for ammunition and one truck for the gun team and support troops. Marines manned machineguns in the turrets of both.

Still, they waited well into the night before they eased north. Under cover of a small sandstorm, they left relatively unseen.

There was no fanfare or crowds of family and friends cheering them on - just the chiseled and serious faces of Marines and the lonely desert darkness for countless miles in every direction.

Contact Eric Steinkopff at esteinkopff@jdnews.com or 353-1171, Ext. 236.



08-01-04, 08:18 PM
Christian Science Monitor
July 27, 2004

Old Methods Were No Use To These New Marines In Iraq

On the front lines with 21st-century warriors

By Steven Martinovich

Generation Kill. By Evan Wright, Putnam 354 pp., $24.95

Last year's war in Iraq witnessed a markedly different style of warfare for the United States. Eschewing the traditional doctrine of consolidating gains before moving on, American planners relied on speed to throw the Iraqi military into confusion and advance their ultimate goal of capturing Baghdad. It was also a different style of warfare for those who fought on the ground, one that presented them with new challenges.

Evan Wright explored those challenges in a highly regarded three-part series that ran in Rolling Stone last year, expanded now into this exceptionally compelling book, "Generation Kill." Wright spent a month on the front lines with the elite First Recon Marine - nicknamed the "First Suicide Battalion" - a group of soldiers who blitzkrieged their way north during the war.

The men in this unit had one mission: to press ahead of the main advance and use themselves as bait to discover suspected ambush points. Instead of initiating combat as they had been trained, they were to wait to be attacked.

Complicating the Marines' mission were the Iraqi Army's habit of wearing civilian clothing and the presence of foreign jihadists. Frustratingly, the Iraqi military either half-heartedly attacked the Marines or unexpectedly put up fierce resistance. A farmhouse could contain a terrified family or an enemy equipped with a cellphone calling in mortar attacks. Crowds that would welcome the Americans one day might turn against them the next. As Wright notes, all of this placed incredible pressure on the Marines and innocent civilians, who sometimes paid the price of what is euphemistically called the "fog of war." To add to their problems, the soldiers began to lose confidence in some of their officers, either because they were judged incompetent or they were seen as using the unit to advance their careers.

It's remarkable that these young men, most of whom had never seen combat, were able to complete their mission as successfully as they did. The strength of "Generation Kill" - a testament to Wright's skill in getting these tough young men to open up to him - is that his book is more than war reportage; it's also an examination of the individual men in the unit.

Wright fleshes out human beings who were raised to respect the sanctity of life, yet revel in the euphoria of combat. Men who embrace the heroic values that war imposes, yet have to live with the suffering they inflict.

"The fact is, there's a definite sense of exhilaration every time there's an explosion and you're still there afterward," he writes. "There's another kind of exhilaration, too. Everyone is side by side, facing the same big fear: death. Usually, death is pushed to the fringes of the civilian world. Most people face their end pretty much alone, with a few family members if they are lucky. Here, the Marines face death together, in their youth. If anyone dies, he will do so surrounded by the very best friends he believes he will ever have."

"Generation Kill" deserves to be ranked alongside Mark Bowden's modern classic "Black Hawk Down" (1999). Wright manages to tell the story of the men of First Recon without worshiping or maligning his subjects, extremes which are all too common in recent chronicles of America's current war. We won't have the final word on the Iraq campaign for many years, but from Wright's powerful account we can gain an insight into the opening chapter as written by the men of First Recon.

Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario.


08-01-04, 08:19 PM
Many Marines from 22nd MEU expect brief break to be followed by Iraq duty

By Jon R. Anderson, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Tuesday, July 27, 2004

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Many Marines of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit will barely get a chance to clean off the dust from Afghanistan before they find themselves chewing on Iraqi sand.

Even with their six-month Afghanistan deployment extended by a month so they could continue their push through southern Afghanistan, many Marines said they have to prepare now for their next tour.

“It’s a sign of the times,” said Col. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., commander of the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 22nd MEU. “This has all happened since Iraq’s last flare-up,” McKenzie said. “Everything is in a state of flux.”

Each of the Marine Corps’ seven MEUs are task forces that bring together infantry, artillery, aviation, logistics and other units into one 2,300-strong package.

Even McKenzie’s own headquarters will likely be thrown back into the mix sooner rather than later.

“I think we’ll be out sometime next year,” McKenzie said. Of the three MEUs based at Camp Lejeune, the 24th MEU is already in Iraq and the 26th MEU will hand off with the 24th as it returns to port.

“Unless they accept a gap, which is possible, we’ll go early,” McKenzie said.

But there’s no doubt for many within the MEU.

The MEU’s 800-strong light infantry contingent — 1st Battalion, 6th Marines — has already been told to expect to ship out to Iraq within five months after it returns home in September.

Usually, Marines returning from overseas deployments get 12 to 18 months before pushing back out again. But not these days.

“That’s all out the window now,” said Capt. Paul Merida, commander of 1st Battalion’s Company C. “We’re spread pretty thin. If something were to happen somewhere else, I don’t know who we’d send.”

Complicating matters is the fact that 1st Battalion will lose about half of its Marines once it returns from Afghanistan.

Of the 800 Marines in the unit, said Command Sgt. Maj. Tom Hall, “only 412 will deploy to Iraq with us.” The rest will move to new duty assignments or get out of the Marine Corps.

“We’re going to lose a lot of our small unit leaders,” said Merida, adding that many will not be replaced by Marines of equal rank and experience.

Instead, officials anticipate receiving only an influx of fresh recruits straight from boot camp. And most of those will probably come after the new year.

“That’s only going to give us about two months to get them trained and ready for combat before we leave for Iraq,” said Merida. “It’s going to be tough.”

Meanwhile, he added, junior Marines in the unit will have to step up and fill those key leadership roles.

“It’s entirely possible that we’ll see squads being led by lance corporals,” a position usually reserved for sergeants, two ranks higher.

Combat experience from Afghanistan will help mitigate that, said Merida, but will only go so far.

That’s why, even as the MEU is beginning its withdrawal, leaders like Merida have begun training for Iraq.

Pep talk

“Look around,” Merida told a group of his Marines in the middle of training this weekend in a corner of Kandahar’s heat-baked airfield. “The guys that are going to lead this platoon in Iraq are sitting right here, right now. You’re it.

“Whether this unit is successful in Iraq or not depends on what you do between now and the next few months,” Merida said. “Because once those recruits get off the busses from the School of Infantry, it’s going to be too late.”

The Marines — some less than two years out of high school — nodded their heads solemnly.

“It’s not just about taking care of yourself any more. You’ve got to start thinking about how you’re going to lead four, maybe 12 other Marines,” said Merida. “You’ve got to get your [expletive] together now, because that’s what it’s going to take to bring you and them home alive.”

Lance Cpl. William Yarborough cradled his assault rifle, listening intently, a gold cross poking awkwardly out of the collar of desert fatigues, the words “Death Dealer” tattooed onto his right arm in rolling black script.

“It’s going to be hard getting everyone prepared,” he said later. He thinks he’ll be ready, though, to take over a squad when his time comes.

“I’m just going to give my Marines the hardest time they’ve ever had in their lives and do whatever I can to take care of them,” he said. “We’ll be ready.”


To help Marines like Yarborough get ready, leaders are preparing a slew of classes as the MEU makes its way back to a three-ship armada off Kuwait in the coming days for the long trip through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic.

“When we get to Kuwait, we’re going to really turn the heat up with a very intensive training schedule,” said battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Hall.

And the Marines shouldn’t expect to see Camp Lejeune much once they return.

Exercises are already slated at Fort Bragg, N.C., in November, followed by maneuvers in California.

“Out of the five months between our deployments, we’ll be gone about two and half months,” said Hall. “We don’t have time to mess around.”