View Full Version : Marines and ING soldiers walk the beat

08-06-04, 05:38 AM
Marines and ING soldiers walk the beat
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2004847518
Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

AL KHARMA, Iraq (Aug. 2, 2004) -- Cpl. Timothy R. Perea geared up for another patrol in this city. Sentiments toward Multinational Forces here are mixed. This is, after all, a suburb of Fallujah. But Perea and his Marines are out to change all that.

The patrol wasn't the average patrol for the Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment's Weapons Company. It was part training, part intelligence gathering. They prepared for enemy contact, like any other day, but took along with them soldiers from the Iraqi National Guard.

The patrol sent a strong message that Marines will back the Iraqi Security Forces and won't leave until the security mission is done.

"We have to constantly keep showing a force to remind the people we're not here to scare them," explained Perea, the patrol leader. "Having joint patrols tells the local populace that we're here to protect everybody, not to hurt everybody."

The mission is a result of the Combined Action Program, an idea revived from Vietnam. Marines and Iraqis live, work and even fight together. The concept is that the professionalism rubs off on the fledgling Iraqi force while the Iraqis take a greater role in their own security.

Perea said being accompanied with ING soldiers during presence patrols is vital to gaining trust with their host nation. Still, nothing here in Iraq is automatic. By his own admission, the path to success here is steep.

"We're not sitting too well with Kharma, but that's only because we haven't been here long," Perea explained.

Since Iraqi soldiers joined their patrols, information from villagers flows in more regularly. People open up to the Iraqi soldiers much more than they ever did to Marines.

"Now it seems easier to receive information from the Iraqi people," said Pfc. Jason T. Gomez, a radio operater on the patrol. "I think it's a great idea we bring the ING soldiers on these patrols."

The patrols also offer Marines hands-on experience with the Iraqi soldiers to gauge their growth in infantry skills. They can observe what's working well and where they still need to improve, according to Cpl. John P. Monahan, a squad leader.

"It allows us to figure out what new to teach them and what they need to work on," Monahan said. "Their training kicks in and we're starting to see the saltier guys correcting the younger soldiers during the patrols."

Marines have high hopes for the CAP mission. They take their role seriously. They understand that the time they spend on the ground with the Iraqi soldiers is an investment in the country's future security.

"We do a lot of supervising because what we want them to eventually be able to do their own thing," Perea said. "This way we can roll out some day and they alone can be able to keep their families safe and take their towns back."


Cpl. Timothy R. Perea, a mortarman with 81 mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, looks over an aerial photograph of Al Kharma, Iraq with a Marine during a joint patrol with soldiers of the Iraq National Guard.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen) Photo by: Sgt. Jose E. Guillen



08-06-04, 05:39 AM
U.S. Troops, Al-Sadr Forces Clash in Najaf


BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. helicopter gunships fired on militiamen loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the holy city of Najaf on Friday, the second day of fighting there, witnesses said.

Clashes also broke out between U.S. troops and insurgents north of the capital in Samarra, where at least two people died, hospital officials said. In the southern city of Nasiriyah, Italian soldiers exchanged automatic weapons-fire with assailants who attacked their positions and a police station, an Italian military spokesman said.

The U.S. helicopters attacked militants hiding in a cemetery near the Imam Ali Shrine in the old city at Najaf's center. Smoke could be seen rising from the area.

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Gunfire and explosions rang out as U.S. soldiers and Iraqi policemen advanced toward the area, witnesses said. The streets were otherwise deserted and shops were closed.

Battles in Najaf on Thursday killed seven militants and wounded 34, the U.S. military said. Nine civilians were also killed and 34 wounded Thursday, including four policemen, said Hussein Hadi, an official at al-Hakeem hospital in Najaf.

Ahmed al-Shaibany, an official with Muqtada al-Sadr's office in Najaf, described the clashes as "fierce" and said U.S. forces were also using mortars.

"The area near the (Imam Ali Shrine) is being subjected to a war," he said. "Najaf is being subjected to ... total destruction," he said. "We call on the Islamic world and the civilized world to save the city."

The U.S. military had no immediate comment on the clashes, or fighting elsewhere.

In Samarra, 60 miles north of the capital, guerrillas attacked a convoy of 10 U.S. Humvees at dawn, witnesses said. U.S. helicopters fired rockets at insurgent positions, and the U.S. convoy pulled out of the city.

Ahmed Jadou'a, an official at Samarra Hospital, said at least two people were killed and 16 wounded during the fighting. Two houses were also destroyed.

In the Nasiriyah, assailants attacked Italian troops with automatic weapons, an Italian military spokesman said on condition of anonymity. They also attacked a police station, prompting the local governor to call for Italian military assistance, he said.

There were no casualties among coalition troops, and Nasiriyah was now calm, the spokesman said. The pan-Arab Al-Jazeera television station reported four Iraqis were killed in the fighting there.



08-06-04, 05:40 AM
Marines' littlest eye in the sky takes flight in Iraq

Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2004856852
Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

CAMP MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq (Aug.04, 2004) -- Cpl. Mel W. Plummer has got a whopper of a story to tell at his high school reunion.

His former high school class president won't be able to match it. Here it is. He flew airplanes on combat missions in Iraq. He flew so low, he could see the enemy's face right before a big attack. He did it all with a plane that was unarmed and unmanned.

That's right. Plummer never left the ground.

Plummer, a 23-year-old from Stevens Point, Wis., turned a child-like fascination for model airplanes and the mysteries of flight into the best thing going for the grunt on the ground. He's a pilot, the latest in unmanned aerial vehicle flight to get a better picture of the enemy on the other side of the battlefield.

Technically, it's called a Small Unit Remote Scouting System. The cool kids in class just call it Dragoneye.

Plummer's flown the six-pound airframe with a 45-inch wingspan in places other pilots wouldn't dare to fly. He's been flying for the Marine Corps since February.

"None of the people I graduated high school with or many of the Marines I know can say they operate an ... unmanned aerial vehicle," Plummer said. "The Dragoneye hasn't been in use that long but it already has an interesting history."

During Operation Iraqi Freedom the UAV was used to scout out areas for future attacks and raids.

This year, its droning engine still sends fear into the enemy. They know it's a sign that Marines are watching and likely about to strike.

Plummer likes to fly at low altitudes adding that the plan can fly much higher, where it affords better photo resolution.

Dragoneye is small enough to be carried into the field inside a pack. It's assembled by snapping it together, a process that takes moments. The batteries offer a short duration flight. Plummer and his fellow UAV pilots solve this problem by packing plenty of the lithium batteries the plane requires.

"We took a course in Twentynine Palms, California and then had some refresher training at Camp Fallujah," Plummer explained. "I started using the Dragoneye then and am enjoying it a lot. It's pretty high-speed."

Dragoneye sports two digital cameras on the belly of the plane to record images during flight. The operator on the ground sees what the cameras see in real time through a laptop computer and with just a click of a button images can be captured.

"If the battalion is planning a raid on an area, we can scout it out beforehand, check out points of origin for mortar attacks and get a good view of the area," Plummer explained. "With the cameras we can even see vehicles and people walking around."

Keeping the tiny plane aloft is actually the easiest part. It's the going up and coming down when Plummer earns his pay.

"This is a really smart system," he explained. "We can program a flight path and the plane does all the work. We hit a button and it comes back to us if we need it to. It's the takeoffs and landings we have to be careful about."

Marines have to stretch a 30-foot length of bungee cord hooked to the plane to launch it into the sky. When the internal sensors of the plane register a certain amount of wind pressure the motors automatically engage, lifting the UAV into flight.

It doesn't come without risk to the aircraft and operators. The launching cord has caused problems for the Marines in the past however. Plummer said he witnessed one launch when the cord slipped and snapped back, striking a Marine in the groin.

"That will put you on the ground, believe me," he explained. "We're always in full protective gear when we launch it in case something doesn't go right."

Landings also can serve as a problem for the pilots and the Dragoneye. The plane is difficult to navigate in tight areas. That makes an urban landing almost impossible.

"We were in Kharma using the UAV and had to launch and land it from an alley," Plummer recalled. "If you don't do it right the plane can smack right into a building which would ruin it. I don't know how we managed to land it out there. I'll just say I'm a lucky guy."

When it's airborne, the UAV only requires one man to keep track of its progress in the air. Although the plane can be controlled manually from the laptop's ground control station, Plummer prefers to let the plane do most of the work while he keeps attentive on what the plane sees and his surroundings.

"I can't keep all my attention on what's going on with the plane," Plummer said. "I have to keep alert around me because I'm still in hostile territory."

Plummer isn't the only fan of the smallest reconnaissance tool in the battalion's arsenal.

"The biggest asset we've found for the Dragoneye is getting a real-time view of an area prior to launching a mission," said 1st Lt. Edward M. Trainor, the executive officer for Company F, from Boiling Springs, Pa. "It's great to have it here."


Cpl. Mel W. Plummer, a company armory custodian for Company F, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, is known as the 'Dragonmaster' of the battalion. The Stevens Point, Wisc. Marine is the unmanned arial vehicle pilot for his battalion. The Dragoneye plane he pilots from the ground is being used by the Marine Corps to give ground commanders a better view of the immediate battlefield.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes) Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes


08-06-04, 05:41 AM
Park Service Honors a Fallen Marine's Family
Vanessa Arroyave, 7, takes the oath as Channel Islands' first junior ranger, an achievement her father had hoped for.

For Jimmy Arroyave, the timing was critical.

Crazy about the national park system, he wanted his young daughter Vanessa to sign on as the first junior ranger at Channel Islands National Park, and the sooner the better.

So in a packed auditorium Wednesday, she raised her right hand and took the junior ranger oath in her clear, achingly earnest, 7-year-old voice, pledging to "help protect these islands, their plants, their animals, and their cultural heritage…."

By all accounts, her dad would have been proud. The 30-year-old Marine died in Iraq in April. At home in Oceanside, he left behind Vanessa and her 3-year-old sister Natalia, and their mother Rachelle Arroyave, now six months' pregnant.

They and Rachelle Arroyave's parents all were on hand for the big event at the Channel Islands National Park headquarters in Ventura. Vanessa clutched a teddy bear clad in desert khaki material cut from one of her father's old uniforms. A few park service staff members wiped away tears.

The last time they had seen the family, Jimmy Arroyave was with them. He had helped Vanessa fill out the workbook required of junior rangers. He peered with her at the sea stars and anemones in the headquarters' artificial tide pool. On a boat ride to Anacapa Island, they watched the dolphins leap.

Two days later, Arroyave left Camp Pendleton for his second deployment in the Middle East. The next month he was riding in a convoy near Ramadi when his vehicle flipped, killing him.

On Wednesday, his widow was unprepared for the poignant reception that the park service gave her and her family at an annual employee meeting. Vanessa was awarded an inscribed wooden arrowhead, a park service token for staff members moving on to their next posting. And Rachelle Arroyave was given a baby quilt made of squares painted and embroidered by park employees, scenes of dolphins and island foxes and the old lighthouse on Anacapa.

The quilts are a kind of Channel Islands tradition for employees who become parents, park Supt. Russell Galipeau told the Arroyaves.

Galipeau knelt beside Vanessa and told her that she was now part of the park family.

"I want you to bring your mother and your sister and the baby back to Channel Islands," he told her. "Bring them back home."

Vanessa said she would.

An hour later she and her sister were on a boat bound for Anacapa Island, whose wave-whipped arch and craggy coves will always remind them of their dad.

Jimmy Arroyave was born in Colombia but grew up in Woodland, outside Sacramento. A Marine since 1993, he had hoped to retire in 10 years and then work for the park service.

"Jimmy loved the national parks," said Rachelle, 27, a psychology student. "He had a national parks 'passport' that he kept at home in the safe so he wouldn't lose it."

On their honeymoon, she said, the couple went to Washington, D.C., where Jimmy got his passport stamped at 13 parks and monuments.

The Arroyaves were planning to tour Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in May. By then, Jimmy was supposed to have become a Marine recruiter stateside. He was ordered, instead, to Iraq, where he was to help repair water systems.

Two Jimmy Arroyave memorial funds have been established. One benefits the National Parks Fund through the Marin Community Foundation, 5 Hamilton Landing, Novato 94949. The other aids his family through the River City Bank, 199 Main St., Woodland 95695.

For Rachelle Arroyave, the kindness of strangers is a comfort.

"It's nice to know that so many people care," she said.



08-06-04, 05:42 AM
Battle in Baghdad's Sadr City kills 19 Iraqis
Coalition forces fight Shiite militiamen in multiple cities

Militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr take positions Thursday against U.S. troops in Sadr City, a Baghdad suburb.
MSNBC News Services
Updated: 6:04 a.m. ET Aug. 6, 2004BAGHDAD, Iraq - Fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City district between Shiite militiamen and U.S.-backed Iraqi forces has killed 19 Iraqis and wounded 111 since early Thursday, Iraq's Health Ministry said on Friday.


Since Thursday, U.S., British and Italian forces have been battling militiamen loyal to rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr across southern Iraq and in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad.

There are concerns it could be the beginning of a second Shiite uprising, following two months of violent unrest in April and May this year in which scores were killed.

In the holy city of Najaf, U.S. helicopter gunships fired on militiamen loyal to al-Sadr hiding in a cemetery near the Imam Ali Shrine. Smoke could be seen rising from the area.

Gunfire and explosions rang out as U.S. soldiers and Iraqi policemen advanced toward the area, witnesses said. The streets were otherwise deserted and shops were closed.

An official with the ministry's operations center said fighting in Najaf had left one Iraqi dead and 25 wounded since early Thursday.

In Samarra, 60 miles north of the capital, guerrillas attacked a convoy of 10 U.S. Humvees at dawn, witnesses said. U.S. helicopters fired rockets at insurgent positions, and the U.S. convoy pulled out of the city.

Ahmed Jadou’a, an official at Samarra Hospital, said at least two people were killed and 16 wounded during the fighting. Two houses were also destroyed.

In the southern city of Nasiriyah, Italian soldiers exchanged automatic weapons-fire with assailants who attacked their positions and a police station, an Italian military spokesman said

Six people were killed and 13 wounded in Nasiriyah, according to the Health Ministry official.

There were no casualties among coalition troops, and Nasiriyah was now calm, a spokesman for the Italian military said.

In Basra, where British troops are responsible for security, two militiamen were killed in gun battles on Thursday, the British military said.

Iraq's top cleric flies to London for treatment
Meanwhile, Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has left Iraq and is heading to London for treatment for a heart condition, airport officials in Beirut said on Friday.

Al-Sistani, who has wide influence and has been a voice of moderation in postwar Iraq, landed in Beirut on a private plane.

After a brief stopover he boarded a plane to London, officials said.

They said the 73-year-old cleric was able to walk with some help. There had been fears fighting in the holy city of Najaf, where he lives, could hamper his access to proper medical care.

One of al-Sistani's aides said on Thursday that it was the first time he had experienced heart problems. The reclusive cleric has not left Najaf for years.



08-06-04, 05:43 AM
Al-Sadr militia clashes with U.S. and Iraqi forces in Najaf and other town, raising worries of breakdown in truce

By: ABDUL HUSSEIN AL-OBEIDI - Associated Press

NAJAF, Iraq -- Militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia battled U.S. and Iraqi troops Thursday in the holy city of Najaf, sparking clashes in other Shiite areas that killed at least 20 Iraqis and a U.S. soldier. An al-Sadr spokesman threatened a "revolution" unless American forces agree to a new cease-fire.

During the daylong fighting in Najaf, a U.S. helicopter was shot down and its wounded crew evacuated. A revered Shiite shrine was also slightly damaged, witnesses said. U.S. warplanes bombed a cemetery on the outskirts of the city where militants were hiding, the military said.

The fighting raised fears of a return of the large-scale uprising launched in April by al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, which at that time battled U.S. and coalition troops in several cities in the first major Shiite violence against the Americans. The confrontation dragged on for two months, until Iraqi politicians and religious leaders worked out a series of truces.

After nightfall Thursday, al-Sadr's side said it wanted to restore the truces that have kept a relative calm for months.

Al-Sadr "announced that we are committed to the truce and that (U.S.) forces must honor the truce," Ahmed al-Shaibany, a spokesman for the cleric in Najaf, told The Associated Press. If U.S. forces do not agree, "then the firing and igniting of the revolution will continue."

The reigniting of widescale violence now would cause serious difficulties for coalition forces and the Iraqi interim government, already struggling against an unrelenting insurgency by Sunni militants.

Each side blamed the other Thursday for the breakdown.

"Those militias have targeted the police, so definitely our police force had to respond," Interior Minister Falah Hassan al-Naqib said, referring to an attack on a Najaf police station early Thursday.

Ali al-Yassiry, an al-Sadr spokesman in Baghdad, accused the U.S. military of breaching the truce by fighting near al-Sadr's house in Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, on Monday.

"The Americans violated the cease-fire, and we can do nothing but defend ourselves by all means possible," he said.

In other violence Thursday, a pair of insurgents dressed as police opened fire outside a police station while a third barreled forward in a vehicle filled with explosives and blew up, the Interior Ministry said.

The attack in Mahawil, 50 miles south of Baghdad, killed six people and wounded 24 others, the Health Ministry said. The two gunmen escaped, said Sabah Kadhim, an Interior Ministry spokesman.

In central Baghdad, insurgents fired three rockets late Thursday, one of them hitting a hotel compound where foreign journalists and foreign contractors stay. The rocket hit outside a restaurant at the Palestine Hotel, leaving a small crater and shattering windows but causing no serious damage and no injuries.

Residents of Najaf called the battles in the city the fiercest they have seen. It began when Mahdi Army militants attacked a police station about 1 a.m. with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire, officials said.

U.S. troops joined in, and the fighting continued well into Thursday night.

During the fighting, insurgents attacked a nearby U.S. military convoy, killing one U.S. soldier and wounding five others, the U.S. military said. A UH-1 helicopter was hit by ground fire and forced to make an emergency landing, the military said. The injured crew was evacuated to safety.

The fighting also slightly damaged the dome of the Imam Ali Shrine in the old city at Najaf's center, witnesses said. The shrine -- reputed to hold the remains of Imam Ali, the most hallowed saint in Shia Islam -- was slightly damaged twice during fighting in May, though U.S. force have tried to avoid damaging shrines for fear of enraging Iraq's Shiite majority.

Al-Sadr supporters took to mosque loudspeakers to call reinforcements into the streets, with al-Sadr ordering his militia to fight against any force entering Najaf's old city, said al-Shaibany.

The Najaf violence killed seven militants and wounded 34 others, who have been detained, the U.S. military said. Nine civilians were also killed and 34 injured, including four policemen, said Hussein Hadi, an official at al-Hakeem hospital in Najaf.

In the neighboring city of Kufa, the Mahdi Army briefly took over a police station before being forced out by Iraqi police and national guardsmen, the U.S. military said.

The fighting sparked violence in other Shiite areas of Iraq.

Gunbattles broke out between militants and U.S. forces in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, killing two people and injuring two others, Health Ministry officials said. Seven U.S. soldiers were wounded, said Maj. Philip Smith, a spokesman for the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division.

In the southern city of Basra, two militants were killed in clashes with British forces on Thursday, the British military said. The Mahdi Army had threatened to attack British forces in Basra if they did not release four detained militants.

In Amarah, also to the south of the capital, an appeal for Mahdi Army members to mobilize rang out through mosque loudspeakers. Militants took to the streets, shooting at government buildings and launching mortars at British troops and a British base, said Maj. Ian Clooney, a British military spokesman. There were no British casualties and no reports of Iraqi casualties, he said.

Al-Sadr's April uprising was sparked when the occupation government closed his newspaper, arrested a top aide and issued an arrest warrant for him for the alleged 2003 murder of a rival cleric. Hundreds died in nearly eight weeks of fighting.

Since early June there have been sporadic, low-level clashes between U.S. forces and al-Sadr's militias. However, tension has increased in recent days however, marked by a confrontation Monday between Marines and al-Sadr's followers.



08-06-04, 05:44 AM
Marine with family in Minnesota killed by explosion in Iraq
Associated Press
August 4, 2004 MARINE0805

ALBERT LEA, Minn. - A U.S. Marine with ties to Minnesota has died in an explosion in Iraq, leaving behind a wife who is pregnant with the couple's first child.

Sgt. Juan Calderon Jr., 26, died Monday due to enemy action in Al Anbar Province, according to the Department of Defense. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

His mother, Maria Bernal, his stepfather and other family members live in Alden. Calderon's father lives in Weslaco, Texas, and Calderon's wife of three years lives at Camp Pendleton. She is seven months pregnant.

Bernal and her family were driving to Texas to set funeral arrangements. Calderon will be buried in a family plot, next to his grandmother, Bernal said.

``Knowing his profession, something like this was always in the back of our minds, but we never really expected it,'' said his sister, Linda Calderon, of Alden. ``You never really think it will happen to you, to your family.''

Calderon's sister Gloria, of Alden, said that Calderon had sent the family letters last week.

``Juan Jr. was a big comedian, he was full of life,'' she said. ``He was excited to actually go to Iraq and serve his country. He was always very proud of what he was doing; he has T-shirts, bumper stickers.

``He loved his job, he loved serving his country.''

Calderon grew up in Weslaco and joined the Marines after graduating from high school in 1997. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton for seven years and was called to active duty a month and a half ago.

Calderon's mother has lived in Alden for many years and works at the Albert Lea Medical Center. When Calderon told his family he was being called to active duty, Bernal's co-workers and St. Theodore's Catholic Church contributed money so she and her children could drive to California to see him.

``Juan was a good brother and a good son,'' said Linda Calderon. ``He was a good husband and I know he would have been a good father. We love him and he will be missed. We know that he is with God.''


Information from: Albert Lea Tribune, http:// WWW.ALBERTLEATRIBUNE.COM



08-06-04, 06:45 AM
Company A: A Marine Wife Sounds Off With The Straight Skinny!

To: Hack

This is so common! My husband is a Marine in Iraq and I was a Key Volunteer Coordinator until a couple weeks ago when I resigned. I could no longer try to make the CO look good to the families and pass the politically correct information that I was given to pass. Our guys are not doing well, they are depressed, demotivated, and just plain down.

The leadership does not take care of them, will not rotate the men in and out of hardship areas, and does not get their mail to them.

Apparently, they can't even get basic supplies nor can they get broken weapons and gear repaired. It is a shame and I expect many to have problems when they come back. My husband has served for 20 years and is now saying no more, he's submitting retirement papers. He's not one to turn down a fight for what's right, but right now, he is so demoralized, he's given up the fight, I've never seen him this way.

As a KV, I was not allowed to bring in a psychologist to talk to the families about the issue of combat stress because he was not Marine Corps sanctioned. Instead, the families will get a reunion brief put on by MCCS that will be a lot of watered-down, feels-good fluff. It's sad, we have so many young Marines and newly-weds, they have no idea what to expect when the guys return home.

Wife of a Marine in Iraq

http://www.sftt.org/cgi-bin/csNews/csNews.cgi?database=Hacks%20Target%20Feedback%2020 04.db&command=viewone&op=t&id=35&rnd=420.84920688663976


08-06-04, 08:05 AM
August 05, 2004 <br />
<br />
Pilot felled by accidental shooting in Iraq <br />
<br />
By Gidget Fuentes <br />
Times staff writer <br />
<br />
<br />
OCEANSIDE, Calif. — A Marine Corps helicopter pilot was fatally shot Aug. 3 in Iraq in...

08-06-04, 09:13 AM
Deployed Marines say goodbye to fallen HMLA-775 pilot
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 20048614819
Story by Staff Sgt. A.C. Mink

Al Taqqadum, Iraq- (Aug. 6, 2004) -- “…If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!”

These words from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If,” greeted hundreds of Marines, Sailors and Soldiers as they gathered at the chapel here Aug. 2 to pay homage to Lt. Col. David S. “Rhino” Greene, an AH-1W Super Cobra pilot and aviation maintenance officer with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Greene was killed July 28 while providing cover for casualty evacuation of critically injured Marines and close air support to his fellow Marines on the ground.

The blow to this close-knit Marine aviation community was evident, though there were few outward displays during the service.

“The squadron’s stoic acceptance of a loss of a fellow warrior is indicative of her drive to complete a righteous and important mission,” said Col. Guy M. Close, commanding officer, MAG-16, under whom HMLA-775 falls while deployed to Iraq. “They’re well-led, once again demonstrating that they are among the best America has to offer.”

A platoon of Marines from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, the infantry unit Greene was providing air support to when he was killed, were also on hand to pay their respect during the memorial ceremony.

Greene was a Marine reservist, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1986. A native of Illion, N.Y., he lived with his wife and two children in Shelburne, Vt., while assigned to Detachment A, HMLA-775, a reserve squadron based in Johnstown, Pa. He was known for his down-to-earth personality, good humor and judicious, well-considered counsel.

Lt. Col. Karl F. Frost, executive officer, HMLA-775, spoke of Greene’s “unassuming nobility.”

Voice cracking with emotion, he said, “If I could say one thing right now, it would be ‘thank you.’”

Greene, a project manager for B.F. Goodrich Aerospace in Vermont, was scheduled to return to the United States in just a few weeks.

“He had humor, wit and a perpetual smile for all around him,” said Lt. Col. Bruce S. Orner, commanding officer, HMLA-775. “He effortlessly enriched the lives of all with whom he came in contact.

“Our prayers go out to his family,” he added. “His ‘final’ mission was complete, and it was his time to go home.”

He is survived by his wife, Sarah, and children, Wesley and Jena.


A memorial of boots, identification tags, an M-16A2 service rifle with bayonet, and flight gear, was placed front and center of the chapel at Al Taqaddum, Iraq, Aug. 2. The memorial was for the service held in honor of Lt. Col. David "Rhino" Greene, who was killed in action in Iraq July 28. Greene, who hailed from Illion, N.Y., was the aviation maintenance officer for Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Photo by: Sgt. Nathan K. LaForte



08-06-04, 10:24 AM
Muslims and Their Leaders Denounce Church Attacks
Some Christians may flee Iraq. A Lebanese hostage is rescued, and Marines battle in Najaf.

By Alissa J. Rubin, Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — Shiite and Sunni Muslim leaders on Monday roundly condemned the bombing of five Christian churches — here and in the northern city of Mosul — that killed at least 11 people and prompted some Christians to consider fleeing the country.

If Sunday's attacks were intended to divide the country, they appeared to be having the opposite effect. Ordinary Iraqis and religious leaders, including the most senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, urged national unity.

Meanwhile, a Lebanese hostage was rescued after Iraqi police raided his kidnappers' hide-out in the town of Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. Talks continued Monday to secure the release of Jordanian, Indian and other hostages.

In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr fired on U.S. troops, according to the U.S. military and Iraqi government sources. The incident occurred during a routine patrol in an area where the U.S. military says it is permitted to travel.

As the patrol drove past the Najaf Maternity Hospital, it came under attack from militants firing small arms, mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades. The Marines returned fire and killed two insurgents, the military said.

Local hospital officials said the firefight killed a woman and injured several civilians.

Sadr's militia battled U.S.-led forces for two months this spring in Najaf, Kufa and Karbala. Najaf, where the worst of the fighting occurred, has been calm since an agreement restricting U.S. patrols to areas of the city away from its shrine.

As Christians throughout Iraq wrestled with Sunday's church attacks, an unknown group claimed responsibility for the bombings and warned that more would follow. The statement, by an organization calling itself the Committee of Planning and Follow-up in Iraq, was posted on an Islamic website.

Mainstream Muslim groups were dismayed by the bombings. Sistani denounced the attacks as "outrageous" and "flagrant crimes."

"It is necessary that the efforts of everyone — the people and the government — focus on being unified and cooperating … to put an end to the aggressions on the Iraqis and to defeat the aggressors," said a statement from Sistani's office in Najaf.

"We emphasize the respect of the rights of the Christian citizens and other religious minorities … to live peacefully in their country, Iraq," the statement said.

The Assn. of Sunni Muslim Scholars, one of the most prominent Sunni bodies in the country, said the bombings were "totally remote from any religious or humanitarian norms."

The group said it was completely out of character for Iraqis to commit such a crime, and it blamed "foreign" agitators.

U.S. military investigators said they were examining the forensic evidence and had not reached a conclusion about who carried out the attacks. They said the bombings carried the "signature" of extremists — not Baathists, who would be unlikely to attack religious sites.

The investigators said they doubted that the attacks were the work of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Al Qaeda-trained fugitive who has claimed responsibility for several recent suicide bombings. His attacks generally are more devastating, the investigators said.

At St. Peter's Seminary, a Chaldean church, where the death toll rose to seven after the burned bodies of two people were found in their cars, Christian and Muslim neighbors said they were still dazed by the blast.

"We felt very sad when this incident happened as it is unprecedented. We have not witnessed such things even during the war," said Haider Yousif, 20, who lives across from the church's main gate. "I felt happy when I heard the statements given by the Christians in which they ruled out the idea that Muslims were responsible for such a deed."

In a gesture of support, a local glass merchant offered to sell replacement windowpanes at wholesale prices to anyone whose house or business had suffered damage.

As some Christians discussed their options for leaving the country, others insisted they would stay because Iraq is their home. "My family would not think of leaving Iraq because of these attacks … but we will pray in our houses instead of coming to the churches," said Roni Muneer, a Christian student.

It is difficult for Iraqis to leave the country. They must secure visas and enough money to support themselves until they find work. A number of Christians have fled to Syria in recent months, hoping it would be easier to obtain visas to Australia and Canada from there.

On Monday, senior Sunni clerics protested the detention of a colleague, Muthanna Dhari, by U.S.-led forces. Dhari is from one of the most influential Sunni families in Iraq.

U.S. military sources said the sheik was believed to be connected to an attack Sunday on American troops. They said his fingers had tested positive for explosives.

However, the Sunni clerics association insisted that immediately before his arrest, he was recording a program on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp.'s satellite channel and could not have been involved in an attack.


Times staff writer Mark Mazzetti, who is with the U.S. military command at Camp Victory in Baghdad, and special correspondents Raheem Salman, Suhail Hussain and Saif Rasheed contributed to this report. Times wire services also were used.



08-06-04, 11:37 AM
Local Marine unit's luck ran out in Iraq

By Tina Moore

Inquirer Staff Writer

Marine Sgt. Matthew Crawford of Bridge Company B was manning the radio from the backseat of the convoy's lead humvee and never saw the watermelon stand on the side of the road.

"When it first happened, shrapnel hit the side of my face and hit my eyes, and I remember putting my hand up and trying to block it as my head was going down," Crawford said.

Three Marine reservists from the Sixth Engineer Support Battalion in Folsom, Delaware County, died in the attack on June 29 - becoming the first U.S. casualties after the transfer of power in Iraq a day earlier. Crawford, 25, on his second tour, and another Marine from New Jersey were injured, their lives spared only because of random seating assignments.

Five weeks after the attack, a shard of metal remains lodged just under the skin on the right side of Crawford's jaw. It moves slightly upward when he smiles, which he does often.

But, every once in a while, during conversations with his fiancee, Lisa Byrne, he still slips away somewhere, she said.

He goes back to the humvee on the outskirts of Baghdad with his four Marine buddies on that hot Tuesday morning, when an "improvised explosive device" ripped through the vehicle. He remembers bullet-like metal flying through the air and hitting him in the jaw, temple and cheek, then his friend Cpl. Matheusz Erszkowicz yelling, " 'Are you all right? Is everyone all right?' "

"I'm fine. Check on everybody else," Crawford shouted back.

The other three were dead.

The first time his reserve unit went to Iraq, in March 2003, Crawford and other Marines in his brigade were eager to "see what we could do." But soon after he stepped off the plane, he wanted to get back on, he said.

The desert seemed a million miles from the stone and vinyl-sided twin where he grew up with his brothers in Upper Darby Township. In Iraq, the temperature hovered between 115 and 120 most days. There were ditches instead of toilets and there were MREs, "meals ready to eat," for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The heat was so scorching that some got nosebleeds in the middle of the night. The spaghetti MRE was clumpy, "like it was from a five-year-old can," he said. Sand stuck in their eyelids, noses and ears.

The Marines of Batallion B rebuild bridges blown up by insurgents and "hope they don't blow them up again," Crawford said.

When they returned home in June 2003, the members of his unit felt victorious. No one from the battalion had been killed in battle.

In January, his unit was sent back to Iraq. "The second time, it was kind of like tempting fate," he said.

On June 29, Crawford slept late. He reached the convoy as troops were throwing construction gear and bridge materials onto trucks.

He looked at the seating roster. He and Erszkowicz, the son of Polish immigrants from Passaic, N.J., who goes by the nickname "Easy," were seated in the back of the humvee. Crawford's best friend in the military, Cpl. John Todd 3d of Bridgeport, Montgomery County, who did great cartoon-character impressions, was at the gun on top. Lance Cpl. Patrick Adle of Bel Air, Md., was driving, and Sgt. Alan Sherman of Ocean Township, Monmouth County, N.J., was riding shotgun.

The convoy was about to leave when the gear on top of one of the trucks came loose. Troops worked to secure it.

"We were just standing around, and someone came out and said, " 'Man, I just have a bad feeling about this,' " Crawford said. "I looked at Easy and said, 'I got the same feeling.'

"But there's nothing you can do. When you've got a mission, you've got to go."

Crawford joined the reserves because his father was a Marine, because he had a taste for adventure, and because jobs were hard to come by as a surgical technician right out of school. He graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1998, received technician training, and planned to marry Byrne, the girl he took to his senior prom.

After completing boot camp in 2000, he found a job at an eye surgeon's office. Like many others who joined the military during peacetime, he never thought he'd go to war.

After the gear was secure, the convoy headed down the main service road on the southeast outskirts of Baghdad. Troops surveyed the surroundings for insurgents hiding behind trees or buildings. They also scanned approaching traffic on the paved thoroughfare. Every few minutes, the convoy passed a stand where merchants hawked fruit, tobacco, swords and "anything else they could sell," Crawford said.

The unit turned onto a less-traveled road about an hour into the trip. The desert spread out around them.

"I just got this weird feeling. I never had it like that before. It just came over me, and I couldn't stop thinking about it," he said. "I just thought to myself, 'This is it.' "

A couple of miles later, the explosion erupted in Crawford's ears. Blood and dust filled his eyes. He heard Easy screaming.

The humvee bounced up and down for 30 yards on flattened tires over the rock-strewn road. When the mangled vehicle stopped, Crawford wiped the blood from his eyes. He hadn't yet noticed that shrapnel had torn into the front of his lower right leg and out the back. He found a rag and pressed it to Sherman's neck.

But he knew it was too late.

"They were done quick," Crawford said. "Every one of them; they were dead on impact."

He arrived at his Highland Avenue home in Upper Darby Township a few days later. Since then, the hardest part has been talking to his friends' families. Todd's mother called often.

"She wants to stay real close," he said. "Right now, I'm just trying to get through it. When I saw her the first time, I cried my eyes out."

Crawford and Todd were friends for four years. Todd was funny and could always make Crawford laugh.

"He was the kind of guy who would bend over backward for you," Crawford said.

The military has offered Crawford psychological help. But he thinks talking to his father makes more sense. Ed Crawford, 52, has the wisdom of war that comes with having served in Vietnam.

"It's something that you wish it had never happened, obviously, but it's part of life, and you've got to deal with it," the elder Crawford said.

The cuts on Crawford's face are healing, but he may need surgery on his hand because of nerve damage. He will likely have permanent blurriness in his left eye.

"I think about it sometimes, that I could have been in that seat," he said.

A military spokesman at the reserve unit in Folsom said that the bomb was hidden at the watermelon stand.

"I keep going over it in my head. What could we have done differently?" Crawford said. "There's honestly nothing we could have done. With all the stands on the road, you'd be stopping every five minutes."

Crawford said he will not be sent back to Iraq. Byrne rarely asks him about the war. But she knows where he is when he drifts away.

"I think he thinks about what happened every single day," Byrne said. "He will probably think about it every single day for the rest of his life."


DAN Z. JOHNSON / Inquirer
Marine Sgt. Matt Crawford of Upper Darby Township, his face peppered with shrapnel wounds, escaped death when a bomb blew apart his humvee in Baghdad. His battalion was sent home in June 2003 but was returned to Iraq in January.

http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/9321923.htm?1c&ERIGHTS=2419811836663475750philly::moms_taxi2002@y ahoo.com&KRD_RM=3psmoqqollssosjjjjjjjjlnnm|E|Y


08-06-04, 12:15 PM
U.S. Says 300 Fighters Killed in Najaf Battle

By Khaled Farhan
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. Marines have killed an estimated 300 fighters loyal to a firebrand Iraqi Shi'ite cleric in fierce clashes around the holy city of Najaf in the past two days, a senior U.S. officer said Friday.

A spokesman for radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr denied that many fighters had been killed. He said 36 militiamen had been killed in several Iraqi cities from clashes that have felled fears of a new rebellion of radical Shi'ites.

The fresh fighting, which still raged Friday, marks a major challenge for the interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and appears to have destroyed a two-month-old cease-fire between U.S. forces and Sadr's Mehdi militia.

"The number of enemy casualties is 300 KIA (killed in action)," Lieutenant Colonel Gary Johnston, operations officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said at a military base near the city, 100 miles south of Baghdad.

Johnston told reporters the Mehdi fighters were badly coordinated and shot at random against the heavily armed Marines who were backed up by helicopter gunships and fighter planes.

"There is fighting right now. In some ways it is not as intense as yesterday," he said.

"If you are on the ground, it makes no difference. But the Marines are here and I think you know how they operate. If you kill a Marine, the Marines are going to fight back."

U.S. military officials said there were indications that foreign fighters had joined the Mehdi militia.

Criminal gangs were also involved, they said.

Asked about American casualties, Johnston said there were two dead and 12 wounded from the two days of fighting.

The U.S.-appointed governor of Najaf put the militia death toll at 400, with 1,000 captured. He said he had information that 80 Iranians were fighting alongside Sadr's militia.

Sheik Raed al-Qathimi, a spokesman for Sadr, rebuffed the American version of the death toll.
"I categorically deny these American lies," he said.


British and Italian troops also fought the Mehdi militia across Shi'ite-dominated southern Iraq -- in Basra, Amara and Nassiriya -- while fighting raged in Sadr City and Shoula, two Shi'ite districts of Baghdad.

The Health Ministry said fighting in Sadr City alone had killed 20 Iraqis and wounded 114 since early Thursday, while in Nassiriya six were dead and 13 wounded.

The flare-up of tension with radical members of Iraq's majority community comes after Shi'ite militants rose up across south and central Iraq in April and May.

Iraq's interim government expressed confidence it would deal with the crisis.

"We have every confidence in our new government, our security forces and our allies to contain this conflict," Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said.

In the previous uprising, hundreds of Iraqis and dozens of U.S. troops were killed.

Yet Sadr, a young cleric with an ardent following among poor, disaffected youths, appeared keen to stop the latest fighting. Via another spokesman in Baghdad, he called for a resumption of a truce struck in June.

"We have no objections to entering negotiations to solve this crisis," Mahmoud al-Sudani told reporters. "As I have said in the name of Sayed Sadr, we want a resumption of the truce."

While Sadr may be popular with frustrated young Shi'ites, many of Iraq's mainstream community follow Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shi'ite cleric in Iraq who has carefully and quietly tried to keep a lid on Sadr's agitating.

In a worrying move for his followers, Sistani, a 73-year-old Iranian-born cleric, flew to London Friday for treatment for a heart problem, sources said.

Tension has been rising in Najaf since Iraqi security forces surrounded Sadr's house earlier this week.

U.S. Marines recently replaced the U.S. Army in Najaf and analysts have suggested the upsurge in violence is linked to the Marines taking a more aggressive approach with Sadr's militia.

At the same time, attempts by the interim government to draw Sadr into the mainstream appear to have faltered, which may have prompted the cleric to redouble his militant approach.

Militiamen shot down a U.S. helicopter as it was trying to evacuate a wounded soldier Thursday. No one was killed, but the pilots were wounded.

Early Friday F-16s, AC-130 gunships and helicopters patrolled the skies over Najaf, covering U.S. troops battling insurgents in and around Najaf's cemetery, the largest in the Arab world and a safe haven for militants.

Fighting also flared near Najaf's shrines, some of the holiest in Shi'ite Islam, and some said that gunfire had damaged the dome of the Imam Ali shrine.

(Additional reporting by Michael Georgy, Nadim Ladki, Matthew Green and Luke Baker in Baghdad)



08-06-04, 04:35 PM
Issue Date: August 09, 2004

Navy Seabees pump confidence into Iraqis

By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

RAMADI, Iraq — You can tell a lot from a man’s handshake. For the Iraqis here, a firmer grip shows just how far Navy Seabees have come in a mission they had no idea they’d be performing.
Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14, a Naval Reserve unit based in Jacksonville, Fla., are teaching Iraqis the building trades, from how to plumb a drain with a trap to how to pour foundation forms.

Although the program has had its ups and downs, the Iraqis are finally getting it, and their newfound confidence shows. The students’ handshakes used to be half-hearted. Not anymore.

“The handshakes have gotten firm,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Larry Dickie, a 45-year-old plumber from St. Petersburg, Fla.

The three Seabee battalions working in Iraq oversee more than $100 million in construction projects in Anbar province, the sprawling area of western Iraq that includes Ramadi and Fallujah.

When they arrived, they thought they would be building hospitals and schools and doing other reconstruction projects across the region. But as the reality of the security situation became clear, the Seabees’ motto of “build and defend” had to be adapted.

Now, they’re building housing units for Marines and teaching Iraqis how to be carpenters.

Although unit officials said they received valuable training before they arrived, no one was quite prepared to live up to the “Fighting Seabees” image of John Wayne battling the bad guys with the controls of a bulldozer in one hand and a rifle in the other.

The unit learned the hard way just how dangerous it is in Iraq. A mortar hit near its headquarters building May 2 as a few dozen members of the unit gathered after a convoy mission waiting to be briefed by senior commanders.

The attack killed five and wounded 30. Two days earlier, an attack by an improvised explosive killed two other Seabees from the unit.

It took some time for the unit to regroup after the attack. Men who had known each other for years had to deal with the unexpected loss.

But the unit is again focusing on its mission even if it’s not the one they came to do. In Ramadi, NMCB-14’s two priorities are building Marine housing units and training Iraqis.

The construction project requires that men move quickly. They must build 125 housing units for Marines who will occupy them in about six weeks. They build the trusses, floors, walls and other parts for the buildings under an unforgiving sun before the pieces are assembled a short distance away.

Building materials arrive from places as far away as Chile. Much of the wood is warped, said Chief Builder David Anderson, 49, from Crawfordville, Fla. But Anderson said his men are overcoming the challenges that come up when materials don’t come from Home Depot.

“You get some good, some bad,” he said.

About a dozen Seabees oversee the Iraqi Civilian Apprenticeship Program. At the end of the six-week course, the Iraqis get a free tool belt and a certificate that is meant to help them get a construction job with a local contractor.

Some Iraqis even plan to start their own contracting businesses, officials here said.

The students are paid the equivalent of up to $35 per week — a wage some students complained wasn’t enough to live on.

The Seabees have had to adapt to the culture. When the Iraqis were paid once a week, some men showed up only on payday. Unit officials got wise to the scheme and started paying them daily.

Despite fears in town about the American-run program, Seabees said the training has become so popular they’re turning men away.

As the unit awaited materials, instructors taught basic building techniques in a classroom. Now, the men are building a battalion aid station for a local Iraqi National Guard unit. The students are eager to learn and have already proven to be quick studies.

“They are cutting more of a straight line than some carpenters,” said Builder 2nd Class Robert Dodd, 43, of Jacksonville. “They pay attention to detail.”



08-06-04, 06:44 PM
MTACS-38 uses birthdays to build camaraderie, family atmosphere
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 20047316240
Story by Staff Sgt. Houston F. White Jr.

AL ASAD, Iraq (July 31, 2004) -- To ease the dismay many deployed servicemembers experience when serving far from family and friends during their birthdays, the Marines and Sailors of Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, have decided to transform the situation into a monthly celebration here.

According to Lt. Col. Patrick J. Mock, commanding officer, MTACS-38, the initiative to begin a consolidated monthly celebration was suggested by the members of the unit themselves shortly after arriving in Iraq.

"It actually began as an idea that came from the Marines when we arrived here in February," said the 47-year-old native of Waconia, Minn. "The Marines just decided that instead of having a birthday celebration for each person, they would have just one event and it's become sort of a ritual for (MTACS-38) now.

"We take everybody that has a birthday for that particular month and celebrate it on one day; that way nobody gets left out," Mock added.

The MTACS-38 commander went on to mention that other activities are frequently paired with the monthly celebration, which regularly includes a cake-cutting ceremony and gifts for birthday guests.

"The function we include (with the birthday celebration) normally depends on the month," Mock explained. "For instance, we've often incorporated it with a monthly formation or promotion ceremony.

"What we happened to have done (for the month of July) was to have the event on a weekend evening, where we decided to have cake and just watch a movie together," he added.

For the enlisted leader of MTACS-38, any chance to bring the Marines and Sailors of his unit together to bond with and distinguish them for their efforts is always a rewarding opportunity.

"It makes me feel really good when (MTACS-38) can have events like (the birthday celebrations) that build camaraderie," said Sgt. Maj. Melvin O. Chestnut, sergeant major, MTACS-38. "Out here our Marines work in shifts and we don't get to see each other a lot, so we like to get everybody together and show them that we appreciate what they do on a daily basis.

"At the same time, we can take time out and recognize their birthdays," expressed the 43-year-old native of Sumter, S.C., who recently redeployed to the United States with Mock.

Apparently, the special attention bestowed upon one Marine celebrating a landmark birthday at the July gathering was both gratifying and surprising, in addition to providing sentimental value.

"It feels great to be recognized and I was pretty happy to celebrate my birthday with everyone because (the celebration) was very unexpected out here," said Lance Cpl. Genelle M. Rainville, tactical data systems repairer, MTACS-38.

"I know that the unit has a celebration every month for birthdays, but it's normally at the beginning of the month, but this time it didn't happen until more toward the middle of the month," added the native of Monk's Corner, S.C., who turned 21 years old in July.

"This birthday will always be special to me because it is my twenty-first and I spent it with my fellow Marines out here in the middle of Iraq," smiled Rainville.

By conducting the monthly birthday events while his unit is serving in a hostile environment, the MTACS-38 commander not only wants to recognize the special events, he intends to strengthen the bond between his Marines, as well as create a family atmosphere.

"I think that many of our Marines have been here for the second year in a row, so they've now spent two of their birthdays in a foreign country. We just decided that we want them to mark a momentous point in their life," Mock noted.

"We all get mail and it's nice to get cards from your family, but by having an event like this, we let them know that their friends are also concerned for them," he continued. "Since we are a relatively small unit that is centrally located and we work under a crew concept, I think the Marines in this unit are very close to each other and (the birthday celebrations) give us the opportunity to become more aware of each other's backgrounds and become (like) family members to one another; especially while we are so far from home."


Birthday Marines Cpl. Christopher B. Bond (left), air support network operator, Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and 22-year-old Headland, Ala., native, watches and waits alongside 21-year-old St. Cloud, Minn., native, Lance Cpl. William T. Piere (center), logistics and embarkation specialist, MTACS-38, as Sgt. Kwame A. Djadoo, supply chief, MTACS-38, cuts the first piece of cake during their unit’s monthly birthday celebration in Al Asad, Iraq, July 10. Djadoo, a 27-year-old native of Minneapolis by way of Liberia, was the oldest birthday Marine present at the event and was given the honor of cutting the first piece of birthday cake. Photo by: Staff Sgt. Houston F. White Jr.



08-06-04, 07:18 PM
August 6, 2004 E-mail story Print

Clashes Shatter Cease-Fire in Iraqi Holy City
The fighting spreads from Najaf to Basra and Baghdad after cleric Sadr issues a call to arms. Two U.S. troops are killed and 16 hurt.

By Edmund Sanders, Times Staff Writer

NAJAF, Iraq — Heavy clashes erupted in this holy city Thursday between Iraqi and U.S. forces and followers of radical cleric Muqtada Sadr, shattering a two-month cease-fire and provoking his militia to rise up in three other cities.

The battles in Najaf killed two U.S. troops, 12 Iraqis — including at least five police officers — and more than a dozen Sadr militants, according to U.S. and hospital officials. Forty Iraqi civilians also were wounded.

Amid the fighting, the Shiite Muslim cleric issued a call to arms, urging his supporters to "confront this infidel enemy."

The clashes marked the fiercest fighting in southern Iraq since May, when U.S. troops began negotiating an end to a standoff with Sadr that had crippled Najaf and Kufa and fueled unrest and anti-American sentiments among the nation's large Shiite Muslim population.

The U.S. casualties included a soldier with the 13th Corps Support Command who was killed when his convoy was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire outside Najaf, and a Marine who died in fighting in the city. Three other Marines were wounded.

The Iraqis killed included an ambulance driver hit by a mortar round that fell on his vehicle.

The crew of a UH-1 Huey helicopter downed by insurgent fire was rescued with only injuries, military officials said.

The violence followed insurgent attacks Wednesday in the northern city of Mosul that left 22 people dead. The renewed street battles — the worst since the interim Iraqi government took power June 28 — present a major security challenge to interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a tough-talking Shiite leader whose political future may depend on his ability to bring peace to his restive country.

U.S. military officials said Sadr's Al Mahdi militia started the fighting early Thursday with two attacks on Najaf's main police station. After the second assault, Iraqi police requested help from American forces.

By late morning, there were attacks on the governor's office and several checkpoints. After Sadr's forces launched a barrage of more than 30 mortar rounds at U.S. and Iraqi positions, the military officials said, a U.S. F-15 jet dropped two satellite-guided bombs on a cemetery to which militia members had retreated.

Representatives from Sadr's office in Najaf accused U.S. forces of being the first to break the cease-fire by swarming around the cleric's house this week.

"From this aggression it is obvious that America did not come to Iraq except to fight Islam and the Muslims," a statement released by Sadr's office in Najaf said. "We appeal to all the believers and the Mahdi army in particular to confront this infidel enemy."

In outbreaks similar to those seen in the spring, Sadr followers around the country promptly obeyed the call to arms. In the Baghdad slum of Sadr City, militants ambushed a U.S. convoy at 11:30 a.m. and seized parts of the impoverished district. Mosque loudspeakers announced the end of the truce and urged residents to get ready to fight.

"We will not allow the Americans to enter our city," said Abu Mohammed Asadi, an Al Mahdi militia member patrolling the streets Thursday afternoon.

Sixteen American soldiers were reported wounded in attacks throughout the day, including five in Sadr City.

Militia members also attacked British troops in the southern city of Basra, where one Sadr representative called for a "holy war," and in Amarah, southeast of Baghdad, where militants fired at a government building. No U.S. or British soldiers were reported killed in the fighting in those cities. A British military spokesperson said two militia members were slain in Basra, Reuters reported.

After nightfall, spokesmen for Sadr called for the restoration of the truce, wire services reported. But fighting continued overnight in Najaf as U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces attempted to surround Sadr's militia at the cemetery. Bombs and gunfire could be heard as the sun rose today.

In other violence, a suicide bomber struck a police station in Mahawil, near the town of Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. Six people were reported killed in the blast. About two dozen people were injured.

During an emergency meeting Thursday with his security advisors and U.S. military officials, interim Prime Minister Allawi contemplated arresting Sadr, but no decision was announced. An Iraqi court issued an arrest warrant for Sadr last year in connection with the slaying of a rival cleric. But U.S. efforts to execute the warrant in the spring triggered widespread uprisings.

Iraqi officials said Thursday that they were not interested in trying to make deals with Sadr.

"We are not going to negotiate," Interior Minister Falah Nakib said at an afternoon news conference in Baghdad. "We are going to fight this militia. We have enough power and strength to kick those people out."

Asked whether he had a message for Sadr, Nakib replied, "Don't kill yourself."

U.S. military officials doubt that Sadr has full control over his militia, which they believe has been hijacked by terrorists and loyalists of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

"We have a better idea of which of his lieutenants have turned against him than he does," said one senior military intelligence officer.

In Najaf, besieged Iraqi police officers — fighting in 115-degree heat — expressed frustration.

At a police post on the edge of the city, officers dug trenches in preparation for attack and listened intently to police radios as the fighting moved closer.

"We don't have enough officers, and we don't have enough supplies," said Lt. Baha Kadhim, a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher ready at his side. "It's never going to be calm and quiet here as long as we have two armies here, the U.S. and the Mahdi army."

Iraqi and U.S. forces sealed off Najaf and nearby Kufa to prevent Sadr's militia from drawing reinforcements. Guards in the holy cities turned away hundreds of would-be visitors and pilgrims at checkpoints amid reports that busloads of young men from Fallouja, Baghdad and Amarah were headed here to join the fighting.

In Najaf, streets emptied and shops were closed as residents retreated once again to their homes. Plans to resume Friday prayers today at the Imam Ali Mosque — which had canceled services for the last eight weeks — appeared unlikely.

The city has been on edge since Monday, when a patrol with the newly arrived 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit began investigating the presence of a cache of rocket-propelled grenades in a lot near Sadr's house. Militants, who apparently feared that the Marines were positioning to raid Sadr's home, attacked the patrol.

Adding to tensions, members of Sadr's militia were accused of kidnapping, beating and torturing at least six Iraqi police officers. Five of the officers were released early Thursday.

In an interview hours before the fighting began, Najaf Gov. Adnan Zurfi hinted that Iraqi police were preparing to crack down.

"You will see what we will do in the next days," he said Wednesday night. "We will solve all of this, and we will be able to pray at the Ali shrine without carrying any guns."

On the streets of Najaf, some directed blame at the U.S.

"How can one Iraqi kill his own brother?" asked Alaa Jabber. "The American forces planted sedition between the Iraqis and made them fight each other."

Times staff writer Mark Mazzetti and special correspondent Raheem Salman in Baghdad and another correspondent in Najaf contributed to this report.



08-06-04, 07:25 PM
THE REAL IRAQ STORY How the major media misreport today's biggest event

By Karl Zinsmeister

How insightful is the Iraq reporting that you've been consuming? Take a little test.

If I tell you that scores of Iraqi detainees have been killed and maimed this year in Abu Ghraib prison, you may not be surprised. But you're probably guessing wrong about who hurt them. The moronic American guards who are now on trial for improperly humiliating some Iraqis caused no deaths or injuries: The many casualties in the prison were all inflicted by Iraq's guerilla terrorists.

During this spring's frenzy of reporting on the plight of detainees at Abu Ghraib, I was surprised that none of the stories mentioned what anyone who has spent time at the prison (as I have) knows is the central danger to the prisoners there. By far the gravest threats to the Iraqis in that facility are the mortars and rockets that guerillas regularly lob into the compound — knowing full well that the main victims of their indiscriminate assaults will be fellow Iraqis. One attack on April 21 of this year, for instance, killed 22 detainees and injured another 91.

The number-one priority for Arabs and Americans concerned about the rights of Iraqi detainees, therefore, ought to be eliminating the merciless assaults of the terrorist insurgents. The sexual indignities imposed by the prison's rogue guards would have to come second on any sensible list.

Shouldn't the reporting on Abu Ghraib have provided some context along those lines? Wouldn't a fuller media presentation of these facts on the ground in Iraq have given the public a better perspective on the various problems at the prison?

Or take another of the Iraq stories most loudly trumpeted in our media: the electricity shortages. You know Baghdad continues to suffer periodic blackouts — news reports remind us of that ad nauseum. Just one more example of U.S. ineffectiveness in this war: The generating system is broken and nothing gets fixed, right?

Wrong. Despite continuing efforts by guerillas to sabotage the grid, Iraq is now generating more electricity than existed in the country before the war. So why do we continue to hear about shortages? Two reasons:

First, Saddam shamelessly hogged the country's electricity in his capital, shunting 57 percent to Baghdad while the provinces were starved for juice. Today, power is distributed fairly to all population centers, and Baghdad gets 28 percent of the total. Though that means occasional shortages in privileged neighborhoods unused to such things, Iraqis as a whole are better off.

Second, Iraq is in the midst of a consumer surge. The economy will grow an estimated 60 percent this year. Iraqis, who have flocked to cell phones and imported a million cars, are also snatching up washing machines, air conditioners, and electronic devices never before available to them. A third of the country now has satellite TV. Electricity demand is thus rising even faster than the steady increases in generation.

Certainly there are problems that stem from growing electricity demand and a new fairness in distribution. But they are "nice" problems, not simple indicators of failure. Now let me ask: Has any of this been adequately explained in the Iraq reporting you've seen?

THE REST OF THE STORY Over the last year and a quarter, America's major media have given us millions of words about the Iraq struggle, most of them accurate. Yet they've often done a poor job of communicating the big, important truths about developments in that country. The very largest, most critical truth they've missed is that the Shiite middle has stuck with us through many travails.

This was demonstrated again when the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr went on the warpath during the spring. Scads of reporters and newsroom analysts declared a general uprising, the loss of majority Shiite support, the beginning of the end for the U.S. in Iraq. "United States forces are confronting a broad-based Shiite uprising," announced the lead sentence of an April 7 New York Times story written from Washington. A Newsweek headline on April 10 screamed: "THE IRAQI INTIFADA: Suddenly the insurgency is much broader and much more dangerous than anyone had imagined it could become."

These reports were wrong. Ordinary Shiites and Shia leaders alike subsequently made it clear that the mad cleric does not speak for the majority of them. They quietly plotted amongst themselves and with the Coalition to neutralize Sadr. His uprising petered out.

As someone who has recently spent three months on combat patrols with Coalition soldiers, I'll be the first to acknowledge that the U.S. is facing a hard guerilla fight in Iraq. It is, however, not a mass revolt, or a broad popular insurgency.

If you're a regular NRO reader, that's not news to you. But for many Americans, that is news. They shouldn't feel bad. The fault lies with reflexively alarmist and often incomplete reporting. Over the last 16 months I've published two books about the Iraq war based on my own experiences as an embedded reporter. In both I found it necessary to include an entire chapter about problems in media coverage I observed.

Many factors have skewed our Iraq reporting. Deadline pressure, sensationalism, and sometimes just laziness create a negative bias. The easiest reporting from a war zone is simply to point a camera at something that's on fire. A hundred counterparts that aren't in flames are "not a story."

But getting the full picture in a guerilla war requires more than just showing up for the explosions; you need to study and then describe the deeper, glacial changes taking place in society, the public temperament, the tactics of the terrorists, etc. Alas, few reporters show the appetite, endurance, or creativity for this slower style of reporting.

This bias toward failure is fanned by what Michael Barone calls the "zero defect standard" of today's media. For months, armchair journalists without the slightest understanding of what real war is like have howled that this guerilla struggle hasn't been run according to a tidy "plan." Why did we "allow" the looting? How come nobody anticipated the IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) threat? Isn't it wrong for GIs to invade people's houses?

Policy nerds and media critics imply that the transformations being attempted in Afghanistan and Iraq should have been smoothly orchestrated like some kind of grand Super Bowl game. Of course even Super Bowls, we've learned, are subject to "wardrobe failures" and other breakdowns. But wars never proceed according to plan; they are always fought by the seat of one's pants, through constant improvisation.

On D-Day (one of the most carefully "planned" military events ever), 4,649 American soldiers were killed within just a few hours — many through what an accusatory mind could characterize as "screw-ups" (gliders and paratroopers landing in the wrong places, amphibious and landing craft unloading in water that was too deep, Air Force and Navy failures to suppress German fire on the beaches). At its recent 60th anniversary, the Normandy invasion was remembered for its high import and the majesty of its sacrifices. Yet by standards of war invoked by some contemporary media observers, those landings could be viewed as traumatic bungles.


08-06-04, 07:25 PM
British Labour-party leader Tony Blair recently complained that Western reporting on today's Iraq war had become "appallingly one-sided." He cited several examples of inexplicably negative and critical coverage of encouraging developments. Why, he asked, would reporters casually tar as "an American stooge" Raad Juhi, the bright, courageous, and principled Iraqi judge who signed the warrant to arrest Moqtada al Sadr for murdering a moderate fellow cleric, and who then arraigned Saddam Hussein?

Some of the antagonistic coverage is undoubtedly linked to ideological imbalances in today's press corps. A string of studies since the 1980s have shown that elite reporters vote for Democrats over Republicans, liberals over conservatives, by around ten to one. In a war that has taken on intense partisan connotations, the personal dispositions of reporters will inevitably affect the stories.

Today's war coverage is also often colored by the cultural gap that separates many reporters from soldiers. As Kate O'Beirne only half jokingly put it a couple of years ago, "You've got to remember, most journalists spent their high school years being stuffed into lockers by the kind of males who are running our military. Now they're determined to get even."

The individuals who make up our media elite didn't used to be so disconnected from military life. During World War II more than 700 Harvard men perished in combat. But in a typical class at many Ivy-level colleges today you can count on one hand the number of individuals who do military service. Most of the reporters who shape today's national news now come out of institutions where they have not a single friend or acquaintance or relative with military experience. This doesn't encourage sympathetic understanding of military work or military people.

The gulf between journalists and warriors doesn't always lead to hostility, but it regularly creates misunderstandings and ignorant claims. Editor and columnist Michael Kelly noted in a 1997 Washington Post column that "my generation of reporters" (the baby boomers) "is, in matters military...forever suffering a collective case of the vapors. At the least exposure to the most unremarkable facts of military life...we are forever shocked."

BIAS MATTERS Does incomplete and unduly negative reporting matter in this war? It certainly matters to the public. The American people do not give our media high grades for their coverage of the Iraq war. Only 30 percent told the Pew Research Center they have a great deal of confidence "that the press is giving an accurate picture of how the war is going." Droves of viewers concerned they are being manipulated with negative imagery have migrated to alternative outlets (like Fox, the only news organization that has enjoyed clear net increases in audience and consumer trust over the last year and a half).

Many other Americans have simply tuned out or cancelled their subscriptions. In different polls, large majorities of the public now say that our news organizations are more inaccurate than accurate, and that reporters "get in the way of solving social problems" (Gallup and Princeton Survey Research). Fully 72 percent of Americans now say "the news media have too much power and influence in Washington" (Harris). As someone doing a lot of speaking on this subject, I can tell you that a substantial portion of the American public (and most of the soldiers serving in the war theaters) is dissatisfied with the last year's journalism from Iraq.

Unbalanced war reporting can have fatal effects. Any guerilla war is as much a struggle of truthful images as it is a military encounter. Unbalanced coverage can demoralize forces of good, and encourage the sowers of chaos.

Jim Marshall is a Vietnam combat veteran, a Congressman serving on the House Armed Services Committee, and a Democrat. After returning from a fact-finding trip to Iraq he had this to say: "I'm afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes [and] not balancing this bad news with the 'rest of the story,' the progress made daily. ... The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation, and emboldens our enemy."

Tony Blair went even further in April 2004. He warned that some journalists and opinion shapers would like to see President Bush and "the power of America" defeated in Iraq. "The truth is," Blair wrote in Britain's Observer, "faced with this struggle on which our own fate hangs, a significant part of Western opinion is sitting back — if not half-hoping we fail — certainly replete with schadenfreude at the difficulty we find."

— Karl Zinsmeister, editor in chief of The American Enterprise, has just published Dawn Over Baghdad: How the U.S. Military is Using Bullets and Ballots to Remake Iraq. His previous book about the 2003 hot war is Boots on the Ground: A Month With the 82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq.