View Full Version : Lejeune battalion calls in air power to clear the road

08-02-04, 05:39 AM
Lejeune battalion calls in air power to clear the road
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20048254134
Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

CAMP MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq (July 31, 2004) -- Marines with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment perfected their road clearing techniques recently when they called in air strikes on an abandoned tanker.

Marines called in AV-8B Harriers to drop laser-guided bombs to annihilate the tanker rather than risk Marines' lives to drag it away.

"We received an intelligence report that there was an explosive device inside the abandoned tanker," said Capt. John C. Bailey, a 35-year-old battalion forward air controller from Raleigh, N.C. "One of our combined anti-armor teams arrived on site first and then a rifle platoon and explosive ordnance disposal team showed up."

Once the elements were on site, a cordon was set to block traffic and clear the area of civilians. Some members of the unit believed there were terrorists hiding in a nearby palm grove so the air controller arranged a surprise for them.

"We had to cordon the whole area," explained Sgt. David L. Turner, a platoon sergeant for Company E from Parma, Ohio. "Two rifle platoons formed a 'U' and a CAAT team closed the end. We used a lot of safety measures and checked the area numerous times."

Marines had reason to be wary of rushing in to drag out the trailer, because terrorists had waited for EOD teams to arrive and then triggered devices. The solution was a strike from above.

"We got authorization for two Harrier jets to destroy the tanker. I had them do a flyover of the palm grove at 3,000 feet," Bailey said. "We suspected they were going to wait until they saw a convoy of Marines pass by and then set off the explosive device."

Once the bad guys had been scared, the jets were given the order to destroy the tanker using laser-guided bombs.

"Laser guided bombs are the weapons of choice in Operation Iraqi Freedom because of their accuracy and little collateral damage," Bailey explained.

Bailey said the tanker was exposed in a wide, open area making it optimal for the jets to conduct the run. Normally, ground crews mark targets with lasers, but the pilots were able to mark their own, dropping the guided bomb on target.

Because the EOD team could not approach the vehicle they could not confirm there were explosives inside.

The risk was enough to justify the action, one technician explained.

"There could have been thousands of pounds of explosives in there and we wouldn't know," said one EOD technician. "If that was the case then it would have been too large to deal with through our normal means, so the air strike was the best method of dealing with it."

Once the tanker was hit, it caught fire and burned the fuel still left inside the vehicle. Although the EOD team could not confirm the presence of an IED, they suspected the explosives burned off without exploding.

"Because it didn't throw shrapnel farther than the shrapnel radius of the missiles we think the explosives went off like a firework dud," the EOD technician said. "They ignited and burned but didn't explode."


An improvised explosive device similar to this one was likely placed inside an abandoned tanker truck which was destroyed by an air strike July 18. Marine from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment responded to the report of the abandoned tanker and opted to keep Marines away and destroy the tanker in place.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes) Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes



08-02-04, 05:39 AM
Blasts on Iraqi Christian Churches Kill 11


BAGHDAD, Iraq - Assailants launched the first major attack on Iraq's minority Christians since the insurgency began, triggering a coordinated series of explosions outside five churches in Baghdad and Mosul that killed 11 people and injured more than 50.

On Monday, a militant group said that it will release a Somali truck driver it kidnapped because the Kuwaiti company he works for agreed to stop working in Iraq, al-Jazeera television said.

In a video aired July 29, Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist group Tawhid and Jihad threatened to behead Ali Ahmed Moussa within 48 hours if his company failed to leave the volatile country.

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Meanwhile, militants have shot dead a Turkish hostage kidnapped in Iraq, according to a video posted on the Internet.

The video shows a man identified as a Turk kneeling in front of three armed men. The hostage reads a statement in Turkish identifying himself and his employer. The leader of the three presumed kidnappers then takes out a pistol and shoots the man in the side of the head.

On Sunday, authorities disarmed a sixth bomb outside a Baghdad church, as fears grew in Iraq's 750,000-member Christian minority that they might be targeted as suspected collaborators with American forces amid a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism.

"What are the Muslims doing? Does this mean that they want us out?" Brother Louis, a deacon at Our Lady of Salvation, asked as he cried outside the damaged Assyrian Catholic church.

Separate violence beginning the night before killed 24 people, including an American soldier, and wounded dozens more. The toll included a suicide car bombing outside a Mosul police station that killed five people and wounded 53, and clashes in Fallujah between U.S. troops and insurgents that killed 12 Iraqis and wounded 39 others.

The wave of explosions at Christian churches _ at least four of them car bombings _ began after 6 p.m. as parishioners gathered inside their neighborhood churches for services. The blasts shattered stained-glass windows and sent churchgoers screaming into the streets.

The explosions came just minutes apart and hit four churches in Baghdad _ two in Karada, one in the Dora neighborhood and one in New Baghdad. A fifth church was hit in Mosul, about 220 miles north of the capital. The attacks did not appear to be suicide bombings, U.S. military and Iraqi officials said.

The Baghdad church attacks killed 10 people and injured more than 40 others, according to a U.S. military statement. The Mosul blast killed one person and injured 11 others, police Maj. Fawaz Fanaan said.

"This (attack) isn't against Muslims or Christians, this is against Iraq," Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abawi told The Associated Press.

The Vatican called the attacks "terrible and worrisome," said spokesman Rev. Ciro Benedettini.

Muslim clerics condemned the violence and offered condolences to the Christian community.

"This is a cowardly act and targets all Iraqis," Abdul Hadi al-Daraji, spokesman for radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, told Al-Jazeera television.

The attacks on the churches signaled a change in tactics for insurgents, who have focused many previous attacks on U.S. forces, Iraqi officials and police in a drive to push coalition forces from the country, weaken the interim government and hamper reconstruction efforts.

To escape the chaos here, many of Iraq's Christians have gone to neighboring Jordan and Syria to wait for the security situation to improve.

Many who remained watched with fear as Islamic fundamentalism, long repressed under Saddam Hussein's fallen regime, thrived. Islamic radicals have warned Christians running liquor stores to shut down their businesses and have turned their sights on fashion stores and beauty salons.

But the church attacks Sunday went far beyond those threats.

The first blast in Karada hit an Armenian church after 6 p.m., just 15 minutes into the evening service, witnesses said. The second blast a few minutes later hit the Roman Catholic church about 500 yards away.

"I saw injured women and children and men, the church's glass shattered everywhere," said Juliette Agob, who was inside the Armenian church during the first explosion.

In the Mosul attack, insurgents parked a white Toyota Supra outside a Catholic church, launched a rocket toward the building and then detonated the car bomb about 7 p.m., the U.S. military said in a statement.

The attack destroyed five cars and badly damaged a church office, but did little damage to the church itself, the military said.

Earlier in Mosul, a white sport utility vehicle sped toward barriers at the Summar police station and a police guard opened fire, killing the driver, the police and U.S. military said.

The vehicle crashed into the concrete barriers around the station and exploded, killing five people, including three police officers, said AbdelAzil Hafoudi, an official at al-Salam hospital. He said 53 people were wounded.

Also, a roadside bombing near the town of Samarra hit a passing patrol, killing two U.S. soldiers and wounding one other, the military said.

At least 911 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq in March 2003.

In central Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed two civilians and wounded two others, said Fawad Allah, an officer at Karada police station. Another roadside bomb, along a southern Baghdad highway, killed one man Sunday and wounded two others, said police Lt. Col. Assad Ibrahim Hameed.

A drive-by shooting north of Baghdad killed three police officers and wounded three others.

Also Sunday, a Lebanese businessman taken hostage was released, a day after he was snatched by gunmen outside Baghdad, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry said. It was not immediately clear if a ransom was paid for Vladimir Damaa's release. The fate of another Lebanese businessman, Antoine Antoun, abducted at the same time, was not known.

Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Sunday that any Muslim and Arab forces sent to Iraq must replace coalition troops there.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has urged Arab and Muslim nations to send troops.



08-02-04, 05:41 AM
CAAT Marines keep Iraqi highways safe
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20048172228
Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (July 30, 2004) -- Staff Sgt. Samuel J. Mortimer doesn't carry a badge, but he does have a big gun to go along with the big chip on his shoulder against people who cause problems along his stretch of road.

The Marine from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment's Combined Anti-Armor Team is one of a string of detachments that stretch along one of the east-west highways running through Iraq's Al Anbar Province. The stretch of road is a favorite for anti-Iraqi fighters to attack convoys, both military and civilian.

Mortimer is out to stop them.

"This entire road all the way to Baghdad is being watched by Coalition Forces," said the 27-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska. "Our mission is to help keep this highway secured ... we're like the highway patrol back home."

The threats Marines can't see are the biggest obstacle for these Marines. Bombs buried along the sides of the roads, hidden in trash, even in the carcasses of dead animals pose one of the greatest dangers.

Still, the Marines have their own ways of keeping terrorists on the run. They regularly conduct ambush patrols and spontaneous vehicle control points in random locations.

"Sometimes we have runners who've noticed we set up a VCP and they'll try to turn around and go the other way," Mortimer explained.

A "runner" is a driver who attempts to avoid a checkpoint by maneuvering out of traffic and fleeing the area.

"Sometimes they're just being stupid or they actually have something to hide," Mortimer said. "That's when I send my chase team after them."

Sgt. Eugenio Mejia is a 25-year-old squad leader from Brownsville, Texas. He sees his mission as fairly simple. It's a matter of taking care of another Marine.

"Our job here is to ensure Marines are safe out here," Mejia said. "The attacks on route Mobile have decreased quite a bit since we've gotten around."

It's isn't just Mejia whose seen the difference. The missions are almost never-ending. When one patrol finishes, another takes its place. There is a constant presence on the roads and Marines are seeing the results.

"We've been successful keeping enemy activity low since we've taken over this stretch of highway last month," Mortimer. "The enemy knows that if they try to come through a VCP, we're going to either detain them or kill them."


A Marine looks over an Iraqi's license during a random vehicle checkpiont to deter potential threats. Marines are concentrating greater capabilties along Al Anbar Province's main supply routes to interdict terrorists transporting munitions.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen) Photo by: Sgt. Jose E. Guillen



08-02-04, 05:42 AM
24th MEU, ING hunt down enemy mortarmen
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 20048112138
Story by Capt. David Nevers

ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq (July 31, 2004) -- The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ground combat element responded swiftly to a mortar attack here Friday, capturing several suspects, uncovering a weapons cache, and generating momentum for the MEU during its first week in full operational control of the province of Northern Babil.

Leathernecks from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, who just days ago relieved an Army unit being transferred elsewhere in Iraq, struck back after a half-dozen mortar rounds landed in the vicinity of their position just before 1 p.m.

No injuries or damage resulted from the attack, which occurred one week after a mortar round killed a BLT infantryman, Lance Cpl. Vincent M. Sullivan of Chatham, N.J. Sullivan’s death, the first suffered by the North Carolina-based MEU since it arrived in Iraq, came before the unit finished flowing its forces into the country.

Friday’s attack was the first since 1/2 assumed responsibility for security in its zone.
According to an after-action report, the Marines, working closely with soldiers of the Iraqi National Guard, quickly determined the attack’s likely point of origin. They immediately cordoned off the area, called in aircraft from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 to assist, and began searching.

The first aircraft to arrive on scene observed three men running from bushes before boarding a bus. Lt. Col. Robert Durkin, the BLT commander, dispatched a section of Marines from his Combined Anti-Armor Team to intercept the bus. The Marines began closing in but lost the bus behind a dirt berm. After concluding that the suspects had exited the vehicle, the CAAT section, known as CAAT 2, redirected its efforts.

Minutes later, word arrived in 1/2’s Combat Operations Center that a Marine and an ING soldier reported seeing the mortars being fired, then watched a truck leave the area. The Marine further observed an individual clad in black exit the truck and enter a nearby house.

CAAT 2, led by Staff Sgt. Jason Jones of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, rushed to the house, where the Marines detained three individuals and found an assortment of weapons. A broader sweep of the area turned up more weapons and additional detainees.

“The weapons were extremely well-hidden,” said Jones. “But the Marines picked it right out.”

The confiscated weapons included a complete mortar system, AK-47 rifles, spare magazines, and grenades.

Jones deferred credit to his Marines. His section leader, Staff Sgt. Edward Palacious of San Antonio, Texas, worked with an Iraqi interpreter to question the detainees, while his squad leader, Sgt. Jason Smith of Tennessee, handled the search of the house.

“It was an absolutely A-day for the Marines of CAAT-2,” said Jones, who served in Iraq last year as a platoon sergeant for a tank team.

He added that from the COC to the field, good communication and coordination made for a nearly seamless operation.

“It was exactly like a 911 call,” he said. “They called and we launched.”

Durkin, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., praised the level of cooperation between his Marines and their Iraqi counterparts.

“It’s a great start,” he said. “It demonstrates what we can do by working together for the benefit of the Iraqi people. We look forward to building on that success.”

In turning the tables on insurgents who appear to be testing the newcomers, the Marines say they’ve merely provided the latest illustration of the aggressive approach adopted by the Corps throughout Iraq.

“If these punks think they can lob mortar rounds at us with impunity, while we hide in our base camps, we’ve got news for ‘em,” said the MEU’s operations officer, Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell of Jacksonville, N.C. “We and our Iraqi friends are going to clean up this area and kill or capture the enemies of a free Iraq.”



08-02-04, 05:42 AM
Marines' parents share war stories
Gathering allows moms, dads to swap information and offer one another support.

By Zachary A. Goldfarb
August 1, 2004

Their voices are usually heard only when their children die.

If they escape the need to mourn, however, the parents of those serving in the armed forces still feel many things day after day: pride, uncertainty, fear.

So a small set of these parents -- dads and moms of Marines -- gathered in Indianapolis this weekend at the first National U.S. Marine Corps Parents Conference to meet each other and learn more about what their children endure.

"A Marine doesn't just join the Marine Corps," said conference organizer Cathy Schoon, of Albion. "He becomes a Marine. Therefore, we become Marine parents."

The idea for the conference, which started Friday and ends today at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, was born when a group of parents met in Las Vegas last summer. It was a sensitive time for the armed services, a few months after President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq. But with continuing U.S. military losses, parents still feared for their children.

The work that began last summer culminated in the meals, performances and workshops shared by more than 100 parents this weekend. On Saturday, scenes like this were typical:

A dozen parents sat in a conference room as Sgt. Maj. Donald de Hagara, of the Marine Corps recruiting service in Indianapolis, briefed them on the boot camp experience. Only the moms asked questions. They wanted to know about the process used to "break (the recruits) down to the clay, so we can mold Marines out of them," as de Hagara put it.

What if their son or daughter were injured? When is graduation? When do they get to write home?

Penny Pennington, of Sheridan, putting her hand over her heart, cited a letter from her son, in his eighth week of boot camp: "You're the only one that's been writing to me, and that's motivation."

Parents crowded booths selling every kind of Marine Corps merchandise, flags, books, key chains, T-shirts. Bumper stickers -- such as "My kid fought in Iraq so yours can party in college" and "Marine Moms . . . toughest jobs in the Corps" -- seemed to be popular.

The parents, who each paid $100 to register, also heard speeches and songs Friday night, including an address by Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter, the Marines' first female three-star general.

Although their children serving in Iraq and elsewhere were on their minds, the parents weren't preoccupied with the politics of war.

"I'm not getting political," said Marian Jordan, of Weymouth, Mass., whose son and daughter are Marines. "We can't change their decisions. We can't change the world. All we can do is support our children."

Call Star reporter Zachary Goldfarb at (317) 444-6040.



08-02-04, 05:43 AM
Marines maintain vigil for maturing Iraqi National Guard
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20048181252
Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

AL KHARMA, Iraq (Aug. 1, 2004) -- Assistance in building Iraq's National Guard isn't coming just from Marines on the ground. It's also coming from Marines perched overhead, keeping terrorists at bay.

Marines of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment's Weapons Company and Company K maintain a vigil for the Iraqi soldiers. They are the safeguard for Iraq's future security.

"Our mission here is to provide compound security for the Iraqi National Guard," explained Sgt. Edgar O. Payan, the platoon guide for 2nd Platoon, Company K. "We're going to make sure no threats could or would eliminate the Iraqis or Marines while training is going on."

The duty sounds mundane, but is fraught with dangers much like the rest of Iraq. Marines find themselves fighting back the heat to maintain alertness, but the occasional gunshot, mortar impact or people traffic reminds them of the imminent threat while on duty.

"There are so many things going on in the mornings - a lot of activity from people carrying bags to cars driving fast," said Lance Cpl. Ryan M. Brechler, assigned to 2nd Platoon. "We just never know if it's a bomb. We've been hit with mortars quite a bit here, so it can get nerve-wracking."

Payan said the inability to detect the origin of indirect fire is most frustrating to Marines. They want to counter the fire and improvised explosive devices, but without accurate indications of the firing positions, reactions can actually put Marines in greater danger.

"I do have a blind spot down the road where an IED was buried, which eventually blew up and wounded some Marines," said Lance Cpl. Dane R. Schaeffer and infantryman with 2nd Platoon.

Schaeffer explained it's frustrating for Marines to stand vigil and not actively pursue the enemy. Their natural instinct is to follow their training and hunt down terrorists and kill them. Still, he said the sooner the Iraqis assume greater responsibility for their own security, the more they can perform that mission.

"I'd rather be out on patrol, but this okay because I'd rather be here fighting the war providing security than on our own ground back home," Schaeffer said.

"Some of the Marines would rather be doing patrols," Payan added. "But this is our mission for now."




08-02-04, 06:23 AM
Legal team works to put anti-Iraqi forces behind bars
Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 200481104647
Story by Lance Cpl. J.C. Guibord

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 1, 2004) -- Since its beginnings in 3500 B.C., Iraq has had a history of making swift and final decisions about its citizens' guilt or innocence in the courtroom. Now, a familiar phrase in the American lexicon - innocent until proven guilty - is beginning to sweep the Iraqi countryside.

The I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Service Law Enforcement Team is preparing and gathering evidence throughout the Al Anbar Province to bring anti-Iraqi forces to justice through the recently-established Central Criminal Court of Iraq in Baghdad.

More common than not, Marines on the ground aren't just detaining insurgents, but taking photos and evidence that could eventually lead to a conviction, according to the team's leader, Capt. D.H. Tran.

"Now more so than ever, our Marines are detaining the individual and (bringing) him to justice, letting the Iraqis ... utilize their own form of justice and try these anti-Iraqi forces," Tran said.

Marines on the ground took advantage of the new judicial system at a routine traffic stop recently in the combat-intensive Al Anbar Province.

At a vehicle checkpoint, Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment found an anti-tank mine in the trunk of a vehicle. Photos of the scene were taken and evidence was gathered. The owner of the vehicle was detained at a local detention center. The evidence was then sent to the investigators for interpretation and organization before being sent to the Iraqi courts, where the accused will be brought to trial.

The investigation team consists of three Navy investigators, an administration clerk and a Marine staff judge advocate as the team leader.

"The investigators do the majority of the work," said Tran. "They are the ones that are with the unit, out there talking to the Marines, collecting the evidence, packaging the cases."

According to the investigators, the troops on the ground and their ability to properly gather evidence make their jobs a lot easier. Seventy-five percent of the cases are done without an investigator leaving Camp Fallujah.

"All we do is gather the information, send it up and let the Iraqi judicial system do its job," said Petty Officer 1st Class Haywood Williams, an investigator with the team and a Miami native.

Although collecting and preparing evidence for trial can be a thankless job, the investigators feel a strong sense of obligation and gratitude for and from the troops on the ground they support.

"I have seen a lot of young Marines out there, and telling them the outcome of one of these trials, seeing their faces (when they realize) they went out of their way and risked their lives capturing this guy and it wasn't all for nothing," said Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher L. Glover, one of the team's investigators and a Lakeland, Fla., native. "That gives me a sense that I have accomplished something, working for these (young Marines)."



08-02-04, 07:06 AM
July 30, 2004

Reserve pilot dies in Iraq

By Christian Lowe
Times staff writer

A Marine Reserve pilot was killed in Iraq July 28 when his AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter came under fire from insurgents on the ground. Lt. Col. David S. Greene, 39, of Raleigh, N.C., was shot while he and his co-pilot were conducting a daylight mission in support of coalition ground operations in western Anbar province, Reserve officials said.
Small arms fire from the ground penetrated the Super Cobra’s Plexiglas canopy, killing Greene. The lieutenant colonel is the highest ranking Marine to be killed so far in Iraq, Marine officials said.

The co-pilot, whose name has not been released, was not injured in the attack and landed the helicopter safely.

Greene was assigned to the Johnstown, Pa.-based Detachment A, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775 and worked as the detachment’s aviation maintenance officer.

“He was a roll up your sleeves and get business done kind of officer,” said Maj. Randy Parker, a squadron spokesman.

“He maintained a demanding [flight] schedule and still got out there on the flight line with his maintenance Marines to make sure things got done,” said Parker, who also had served with Greene on active duty.

The unit was activated in January for a seven-month deployment to Iraq.

A Naval Academy graduate, Greene was commissioned in 1986. He served mainly with East Coast-based squadrons, including Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269, and on a Marine Expeditionary Unit deployment just after Operation Desert Storm in 1991 with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 162.

Greene also served as a forward air controller with the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company before leaving active duty for the Reserve in 1997, Parker said.

Greene, who in civilian life worked as a project manager for BF Goodrich in Burlington, Vt., is survived by a wife and two children.

“He was a star. He really was,” Parker said.

Christian Lowe covers Marine Corps aviation issues. He can be reached at (703) 750-8613.



08-02-04, 09:25 AM
US forces, hit by raids, fault their Iraqi allies <br />
By Anne Barnard, Globe Staff | August 1, 2004 <br />
<br />
RAMADI, Iraq -- The Humvees were speeding through the dark city when a heart-stopping boom...

08-02-04, 10:20 AM
Marine Says He's Thankful To Be Home
Associated Press
August 2, 2004

WEST JORDAN, Utah - The U.S. Marine once feared beheaded in Iraq said Sunday he was thankful to be home and asked people to pray for all hostages.

Wassef Ali Hassoun returned to his brother's suburban home Saturday evening, but did not speak publicly.

On Sunday, Hassoun made a brief statement on the front lawn of the house before rejoining his family inside. He thanked family and friends, and those who helped him since his return.

"Having experienced being in captivity, I ask all the people of the world to join me and pray for the safe release of all hostages," he said. "People who already know me and those of you getting to know me, know that I'm proud to be a Muslim Arab-American serving with honor."

Hassoun added a "semper fi" - the Marine Corps motto meaning "always faithful" in Latin - before returning to the house.

Hassoun, 24, failed to report for duty June 20, and videotape later 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.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has been looking into Hassoun's disappearance.

Hassoun was flown to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on July 20.


08-02-04, 11:44 AM
August 02, 2004 <br />
<br />
Training Iraqis for Guard duty a bumpy ride <br />
Marines make the best of a 6-day course <br />
<br />
By Gordon Lubold <br />
Times staff writer <br />
<br />
<br />
NASIR, Iraq — When Cpl. Albert Martinez begins a...

08-02-04, 12:54 PM
24th MEU joining bases in south Iraq
July 30,2004

CAMP VIRGINIA, KUWIT - After a few weeks of training in the Kuwait desert, most of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit is now at bases south of Baghdad.

They spent the first part of July becoming acclimated to the weather, practicing how to operate in the heat and focusing on field hygiene. The simple things - such as washing hands after using port-a-johns and before entering the chow hall, and throwing away plastic spoons once MREs are eaten - may seem minor, but food-borne illnesses can prevent a Marine from fighting, and that could weaken the force.

Diarrhea, for example, can dehydrate a person quickly and present a life-threatening situation in an unforgiving desert. The troops' training emphasized that Marines need to be smart, not just tough.

"You need to adapt like the Bedouins, who have been doing this for thousands of years," said Col. Ron Johnson, commander of the 2,200-member MEU. "Drink water until you're going to the head constantly. Â… Nobody goes out eight hours with no water. This ain't a 1960 football camp."

The mission defined

In Iraq, the MEU's mission is to enforce local law by backing up Iraqi police and other governmental forces. Ultimately, Johnson told his staff, Marines will play a supporting role. They'll work to keep roads open, electricity running, railways functioning - and the flow of insurgents disrupted.

The last time Marines guarded a railroad, Johnson noted, was in the United States in 1919. Their mission then: prevent mail theft.

In Iraq, the 24th MEU will likely deal with two types of enemy: the anti-Iraqi forces, or AIF, which want to hurt Iraqi foreign ministers and governmental officials to destabilize the country; and the anti-coalition forces, or ACF, which don't want to see foreign troops on Iraqi soil and thus impatiently wait for their departure.

As U.S. forces disrupt AIF and ACF efforts, they will likely be taking prisoners. Accordingly, the MEU must also be prepared to build and operate a detention facility in accordance with the Geneva Convention - something that's been worked into pre-deployment training since the 26th MEU captured hundreds of Taliban troops in Afghanistan and shipped them to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Man with a plan

To keep troops focused and at a heightened level of intensity during the six-to-seven month deployment, Johnson supports moving people to and from different jobs. Doing so, he believes, will help fend off boredom and emphasize that everyone needs to do his or her fair share of guard duty, patrolling and security detail.

The night before Johnson left Camp Virginia for Iraq, he told his officers how far they had come since their urban training in West Virginia.

"Never stop training on weapons and tactics," Johnson said.

"Everyone, including myself, is carrying a rifle. If you get ambushed, go after those (explicative)."

He then offered some practical insight.

"It will be tough for the young troops the first time they pull the trigger and the first time they see a buddy hurt," Johnson said. "They need to prepare mentally for the sight of carnage. I need you to watch these guys; I need you to supervise."

'Nobody gets captured'

The pep talk continued with a few words on kidnapping tactics used by some insurgents. It's a move, Johnson said, which could backfire. The Marines have strengthened their resolve to fight even when there is little or no hope, he said, because they have no alternative.

"Nobody from the 24th MEU gets captured," Johnson repeated three times. "Don't come back and tell me that someone was dragged away. You need to go get him."

Since last week, members of the 24th MEU have moved into Iraq in waves of vehicle convoys and military flights. They will likely take control of three or more bases in the region and work with other U.S. and coalition forces already in the area.

Upon arriving to a new area, a unit typically strengthens its defensive positions, continues to study the local terrain and culture, attempts to make friends where they can and prepare to confront those who choose to not be friends.

"Okay, gentleman, this is it," said Johnson. "Keep your head in the ball game."

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



08-02-04, 06:15 PM
Marines get back to roots with ‘fam fire’ <br />
<br />
<br />
By Fred Zimmerman, Stars and Stripes <br />
Pacific edition, Sunday, August 1, 2004 <br />
<br />
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — More than 40 Marines from the 31st Marine...