View Full Version : Riflemen Reborn: 24th MEU Marines fulfill their creed in Iraq

08-11-04, 05:12 AM
Riflemen Reborn: 24th MEU Marines fulfill their creed in Iraq
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200481125013
Story by Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (Aug. 9, 2004) -- At midday here during the hottest month of the year, it's an unseasonably cool 100 degrees, and a light breeze is filtering the effects of the scorching sun. A squad of Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit is nevertheless inside an uncooled tent, where Capt. William M. Vessey of Fort Collins, Colo., is issuing a patrol order.

When Vessey finishes, fire-team leaders gather their Marines for initial gear inspections. After checking for their requisite ammunition, first-aid kits, water and flak jackets, they move outside to rehearse their responses to a variety of possible enemy actions.

The platoon sergeant, Gunnery Sgt. Michael V. Listopad of Canton, S.D., asks his team leaders to check their Marines' gear one last time.

Two hours after the patrol order was issued, the Marines step off, leaving the relative safety of the base, where the primary threat is mortars and rockets, for the more ominous other-world of snipers, improvised explosive devices and ambushes.

On the road, they quickly form a pair of columns, staggering them to deny the enemy even a cluster of two. The Marines immediately begin scanning the area, noting the different terrain and looking for any suspicious activity or possible threats.

While this may resemble a typical drill for any infantryman in Iraq, one thing was missing, though perhaps not so noticeably - the infantrymen. Where one might expect to find grunts, the men whose job it is to close with and destroy the enemy, there walked a motley group of Marines from the MEU's command element, the yeomen who compose the commander's staff sections.

From the platoon commander to the point men, they spanned the spectrum of military occupational specialties. Their ranks included an AV-8B Harrier pilot, personnel clerks, signals intelligence communicators, maintenance management clerks, satellite technicians, and a forward observer. Each was a manifestation of the Corps' guiding philosophy: every Marine a rifleman.

With military modernization has come specialization, a division of labor that has yielded an enormous class of support personnel, professional soldiers who perform essential work yet do very little soldiering. But for the tradition-rich Corps, which more than any other military service has cultivated a warrior ethic, every Marine is a rifleman first and foremost. Whatever else he or she does for the Corps comes a distant second.

Masters of the Basics

At basic training, all Marines learn the premium their new fraternity places on first-rate marksmanship. On Qualification Day, few desire to settle for anything less than the coveted "Expert" badge. While the Corps has long been associated with a certain mystique, there is nothing mystical about its approach to making Marines.

"In order to succeed in the Marine Corps, you don't have to be the fastest, the smartest or the strongest," explained Sgt. Maj. Donnie R. Barrett of Anderson, S.C., the MEU's senior enlisted Marine and a former drill instructor. "However, you need to perfect the basics - the basics of being a Marine and the basics of being a Marine Corps rifleman. Everything else will take care of itself."
The Corps has always set the bar high.

From the Revolutionary War-era sharpshooters in the ship's riggings to the snipers who had a field day in Fallujah in April, the Marines have always been synonymous with marksmanship.

Col. Ronald J. Johnson, the 24th MEU commander and a native of Duxbury, Mass., recalled that not long after the Marines arrived with the Expeditionary Force in France during World War I, they were shooting on a range with some French soldiers.

"The French observed the Marines and thought they were looking at snipers," he said. "But these were just regular Marines - the cooks and the bakers. When we shoot in combat, we hit what we are shooting at."

Marines back then knew when they had found the front. But in the combat zones of the Global War on Terror, the battlefield architecture is much harder to discern.

"The reality is there are no more front lines and rear areas," said Johnson. "Anti-coalition opposition forces are everywhere. This makes it imperative that all Marines [regardless of their job] be prepared always for anything that might happen."

Busting the Rust

To address the threat of being attacked anywhere and at anytime, the MEU Command Element, under direction from Johnson, created three provisional rifle platoons. Their job is to provide interior security and to conduct patrols outside the camp, making local residents comfortable with the Marine presence and serving notice to the enemy that any attack will come at a price.

Taking a group of Marines who, for the most part, spend their average day back at Camp Lejeune behind a desk and computer screen and turning them into a well-organized rifle platoon required some work, but much less than an overhaul.


08-11-04, 05:13 AM
"The biggest challenge we are facing out here is familiarity," said Johnson, who issued a rifle to every individual in the MEU regardless of rank and job specialty. "All Marines are trained on this...

08-11-04, 05:13 AM
Gunmen Slay Top Shiite Faction Official


NAJAF, Iraq - Gunmen killed a regional leader of one of Iraq's largest Shiite parties in a drive-by shooting south of Baghdad Wednesday, and oil production resumed in Iraq's southern oil fields after authorities reached a deal with supporters of militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Gunmen drove up beside the car of Ali al-Khalisi, the head of Diyala province for the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and opened fire in Mahmoudiya, a town 25 miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said.

Officials with the Shiite Muslim party blamed Saddam Hussein loyalists and insurgents for the assassination of al-Khalisi, the second SCIRI official killed recently. Abd el-Oun Hassan, the head of Shiite party's Musayyib office, was gunned down by militants last month.

'); // -->
"It must be terror gangs who try to halt the political process in this country," party spokesman Haitham al-Husseini said of al-Khalisi's killing. "Remnants of the former regime and extremists have set out to exterminate political figures who work for this country's interest."

Al-Khalisi also headed SCIRI's militia in the Diyala province, known as the Badr Brigade, an anti-Saddam group. Run by former Governing Council member Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, SCIRI maintains close ties to Iran.

Iraq's Shiites have emerged from decades of oppression by a Sunni Arab minority when Saddam Hussein's regime fell more than 15 months ago. As the majority, they are now poised to dominate the country politically after a general election due in January.

Earlier this week, Iraq's South Oil Co. sharply curtailed oil production after al-Sadr's supporters threatened to attack oil pipelines unless the government halted exports. Iraq's other export line in the north is already out of operation.

But production resumed in its vast southern oil fields on Tuesday after authorities reached an accord with al-Sadr supporters, an Iraqi oil official told The Associated Press late Tuesday.

"It slowed down considerably. Now it is resuming full blast," said the official, speaking to AP from Baghdad on condition of anonymity.

Oil markets welcomed the news, with U.S. crude futures falling by 44 cents a barrel in late New York trading.

Iraq has the world's second-largest proven crude reserves, most of them in the southern region, and oil is the country's only major source of export earnings needed to rebuild its devastated economy.

The Iraqi official credited South Oil's general director Jabbar El-Leaby with having reached an agreement with al-Sadr's supporters.

"They maintain good relations with him, and they respect him. He's from the South and is a Shia and has every kind of qualification to tackle the problem," the official said. El-Leaby could not be reached for comment.

In the holy city of Najaf, U.S. forces sent patrols armed with loudspeakers into the streets Tuesday to demand that militants loyal to a radical cleric drop their arms and leave Najaf immediately or face death.

The call, broadcast in Arabic from American vehicles, added a psychological component to the U.S. offensive. It came as U.S. helicopter gunships pummeled a multistoried building 400 yards from the gold-domed Imam Ali Shrine with rockets, missiles and 30 mm cannons _ one of the closest strikes yet to what is one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam.

Plumes of thick, black smoke rose from the building, which serves as a hotel for visitors to the shrine. Witnesses said insurgents were firing from inside it and that U.S. forces returned fire.

Nearby, Bradley fighting vehicles swept through a huge cemetery, pursuing small pockets of militants hiding in elaborate concrete tombs. Choppers provided support, firing rockets from above, witnesses said.

Despite the violence, Marines said the clashes were much lighter than in recent days _ though few expected it to stay that way. "I think it's the quiet before the storm," Holahan said.

Parts of Najaf were deserted, but residents ventured out into the streets, driving small cars nervously along palm-lined roads as eight-wheeled Marine vehicles moved through town on "show of force" patrols.

The U.S. military has estimated that 360 insurgents were killed in Najaf between Thursday, when fighting began, and Sunday night, a figure the militants dispute. Five U.S. troops have been killed, along with about 20 Iraqi officers.

The fighting has plagued other Shiite communities across Iraq.

In Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, groups of three to five Mahdi Army militants attacked a district council hall repeatedly with mortars, gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades, clashing with U.S. and Iraqi forces, said U.S. Capt. Brian O'Malley of the 1st Brigade Combat Team.

The Health Ministry said the skirmish killed one person and wounded 18. Other clashes in Baghdad killed a second person and wounded 11 others.



08-11-04, 05:14 AM
U.S. Helicopters pound militants in Najaf cemetery

By: ABDUL HUSSEIN AL-OBEIDI - Associated Press

NAJAF, Iraq -- U.S. tanks pushed into Najaf's vast cemetery-turned-battlefield Tuesday as helicopter gunships fired on Shiite militiamen hiding there. American patrols with loudspeakers went through the city, warning militants to leave or face death.

Explosions shook the streets and black smoke rose over parts of Najaf, but the fighting with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia appeared more sporadic than in recent days.

A large fire broke out at a hotel about 300 yards from the Imam Ali Shrine, Najaf's holiest site, which fighters have reportedly been using as a base. Witnesses said insurgents were firing from inside the hotel and U.S. forces returned fire.

In a new tactic, U.S. military vehicles equipped with loudspeakers drove through the streets warning residents to stay away from the fighting and for militants to put down their weapons and leave. "We ask residents to cooperate with the Iraqi army and police," a voice said in Arabic. "There will be no truce or negotiations with terrorists."

Small clashes also broke out in the Baghdad Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, despite a nighttime curfew imposed Monday.

Mahdi Army militants repeatedly attacked a district council hall, clashing with U.S. and Iraqi forces protecting the building, said U.S. Capt. Brian O'Malley of the 1st Brigade Combat Team. Groups of three to five fighters have been attacking the building with mortars, gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades "every hour or so" from 7 a.m. to about 5 p.m., he said.

The fighting killed one person and wounded 18, Health Ministry officials said.

There were no employees there during the attacks, and O'Malley said about 14,000 people "haven't been able to go to work since the fighting started" in Sadr City days ago.

While U.S. and Iraqi forces were trying to quell the eruption of Shiite violence, attacks by Sunni Muslim militants persisted.

A roadside bomb detonated as a U.S. military vehicle drove on a street in central Baghdad on Tuesday, slightly wounding two soldiers, the military said. On Monday a suicide car bomb targeting a deputy governor killed six people, and a roadside bomb hit a bus, killing four passengers.

Another insurgent group warned in a videotaped message it would launch a campaign of attacks on government offices in Baghdad starting Tuesday, telling employees to stay away.

The sixth day of Shiite violence came after al-Sadr said Monday that he would fight "until the last drop of my blood has been spilled."

The uprising began to affect Iraq's crucial oil industry, as pumping to the southern port of Basra -- the country's main export outlet -- was halted because of militant threats to infrastructure, an official with the South Oil Company said.

About 1.8 million barrels per day, or 90 percent of Iraq's exports, move through Basra, and any shutdown in the flow of Iraq's main money earner would badly hamper reconstruction efforts. Iraq's other export line -- from the north to Turkey -- is already out of operation.

An Iraqi oil official said Tuesday that Iraq had enough oil in storage tanks to continue exporting crude until production returned to normal, possibly within one or two days.

Clashes intensified around the southern city of Basra, where a British soldier was killed and several others wounded in fighting with militia near al-Sadr's office Monday, the British Ministry of Defense said. Three militants were killed and more than 10 were wounded, Iraqi police said.

Much of the fighting in Najaf remained centered on the vast cemetery near the Imam Ali Shrine. The U.S. military said Mahdi Army gunmen were launching attacks from the cemetery and then running to take refuge in the shrine compound, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam.

Najaf Gov. Adnan al-Zarfi gave U.S. forces approval to enter the shrine, a senior U.S. military official said Monday. "We have elected at this point not to conduct operations there, although we are prepared to do so at a moment's notice," the official said.

Such an offensive would almost certainly cause widespread outrage among the nation's Shiite majority and further exacerbate the crisis.

The military official estimated that 360 insurgents were killed between Thursday, when fighting began, and Sunday night, a figure the militants dispute. Five U.S. troops have been killed in the fighting. About 20 police also have been killed, Najaf police chief Brig. Ghalib al-Jazaari said.

The fighting has shattered a series of delicate truces worked out two months ago that ended the Mahdi Army's first uprising, which broke out in April. During that period, U.S. commanders vowed to "capture or kill" al-Sadr, but later tacitly agreed to let Iraqi authorities deal with the cleric.

U.S. forces were apparently continuing the hands-off policy toward al-Sadr. The senior U.S. military officer in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the cleric "is not an objective; we are not actively pursuing him."

But the fighting has complicated the security situation for Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's government as it tried to take a tough stance against the mainly Sunni campaign of attacks, bombings and shootings plaguing Iraq for the past 15 months.

In a sign of the deterioration of the situation in Najaf, the Polish military returned command in the province and neighboring Qadisiyah province to the U.S. Marines. The Poles had received command in the two provinces only 10 days ago.

Mahdi Army militiamen in Baghdad also kidnapped a senior Iraqi policeman, Brig. Raed Mohammed Khudair, who is responsible for all police patrols in eastern Baghdad, said Col. Adnan Abdel Rahman, an Interior Ministry spokesman. In a video broadcast on the pan-Arab network Al-Jazeera, militants said the government should release all Mahdi Army prisoners in exchange for Khudair.

Militants have been waging a violent campaign of car bombings, attacks and kidnappings in an effort to force coalition troops out of the country.

Jordanian businessman Jamal Sadeq al-Salaymeh was taken hostage in Baghdad on Monday by kidnappers demanding $250,000 in ransom, the official Petra news agency said Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, Lebanese businessman Antoine Antoun was freed after about a week in captivity in Iraq,



08-11-04, 05:15 AM
U.S. forces demand militants in Najaf lay down arms or face death

By: TODD PITMAN - Associated Press

NAJAF, Iraq -- U.S. forces adopted a new tactic Tuesday in their sixth day of battles in this city south of the capital, sending patrols armed with loudspeakers into the streets to demand that militants loyal to a radical cleric drop their arms and leave Najaf immediately or face death.

The call, broadcast in Arabic from American vehicles, added a psychological component to the U.S. offensive. It came as U.S. helicopter gunships pummeled a multistoried building 400 yards from the gold-domed Imam Ali Shrine with rockets, missiles and 30 mm cannons -- one of the closest strikes yet to what is one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam.

Plumes of thick, black smoke rose from the building, which serves as a hotel for visitors to the shrine. Witnesses said insurgents were firing from inside it and that U.S. forces returned fire.

"We've pretty much just been patrolling and flying helicopters all over the place, and when we see something bad, we blow it up," said U.S. Marine Maj. David Holahan, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines Regiment.

Nearby, Bradley fighting vehicles swept through a huge cemetery, pursuing small pockets of militants hiding in elaborate concrete tombs. Choppers provided support, firing rockets from above, witnesses said.

Sporadic explosions could be heard elsewhere in the city, and Holahan said militants from radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia attacked three police stations, two with small arms fire, one with eight mortar rounds.

Despite the violence, Marines said the clashes were much lighter than in recent days -- though few expected it to stay that way. "I think it's the quiet before the storm," Holahan said.

Parts of Najaf were deserted, but residents ventured out into the streets, driving small cars nervously along palm-lined roads as eight-wheeled Marine vehicles moved through town on "show of force" patrols.

Residents stood at the gates of their houses, staring. A few children rode bicycles, waving. One U.S. tank stood guard at an intersection in front of a turquoise mosque.

The U.S. military has estimated that 360 insurgents were killed in Najaf between Thursday, when fighting began, and Sunday night, a figure the militants dispute. Five U.S. troops have been killed, along with about 20 Iraqi officers.

The fighting has plagued other Shiite communities across Iraq.

In Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, groups of three to five Mahdi Army militants attacked a district council hall repeatedly with mortars, gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades, clashing with U.S. and Iraqi forces, said U.S. Capt. Brian O'Malley of the 1st Brigade Combat Team.

The Health Ministry said the skirmish killed one person and wounded 18. Other clashes in Baghdad killed a second person and wounded 11 others.

There were no employees there during the attacks, and O'Malley said about 14,000 people "haven't been able to go to work since the fighting started" in Sadr City days ago.

The violence has jeopardized Iraq's oil industry.

But production resumed at Iraq's vast southern oil fields after authorities reached an accord with militant Shiites who had threatened to attack the country's vital export pipelines for crude, an Iraqi oil official told The Associated Press late Tuesday.

Oil markets welcomed the news, with U.S. crude futures falling by 44 cents a barrel in late New York trading.

Iraq's South Oil Co. reversed a decision it made Monday to curtail output as a precaution against possible sabotage by supporters of al-Sadr. The cleric's followers had warned they might attack pipelines in southern Iraq unless the government halted crude exports. Iraq's other export line in the north to Turkey is already out of operation.

The interim government also has been fighting a largely Sunni insurgency, characterized by a campaign of attacks, bombings and shootings that have plagued Iraq since shortly after the United States invaded, toppling Saddam Hussein.

A roadside bomb detonated as a U.S. military vehicle drove on a street in Baghdad on Tuesday, slightly wounding two soldiers, the military said.

Jordan's official Petra news agency reported Tuesday that Jordanian businessman Jamal Sadeq al-Salaymeh was taken hostage in Baghdad on Monday by kidnappers demanding $250,000 in ransom.

But a Lebanese businessman, Antoine Antoun, was freed after about a week in captivity in Iraq, his father said.

The fighting with al-Sadr's militia has shattered a series of delicate truces worked out two months ago that ended the Mahdi Army's first uprising, which erupted in April.

Clashes Tuesday between the Mahdi Army and police in the southern city of Diwaniyah killed three and injured 45.

The Health Ministry also reported four killed and 18 wounded in Basra, and one killed and 18 wounded in Amarah. But Squadron Leader Spike Wilson, a British military official, said there were no reports of fighting in Basra or Amarah.

Much of the fighting in Najaf on Tuesday was centered on the vast cemetery near the Imam Ali Shrine. The U.S. military accused Mahdi Army gunmen of launching attacks from the cemetery and then running to take refuge in the shrine compound.

Najaf Gov. Adnan al-Zarfi has given U.S. forces approval to enter the shrine, a senior U.S. military official said. But such an offensive would almost certainly cause widespread outrage among the nation's Shiite majority and exacerbate the crisis.

At the request of the governor and the police, the U.S. began broadcasting its messages through the streets Tuesday, said U.S. Sgt. Will -- an Army Psychological Operations officer who would give only his first name.

U.S. officers helped write the messages, which were aired to inform residents that U.S. forces were "here to support" Iraq security forces, he said.

One of them said: "We ask residents to cooperate with the Iraqi army and police." Another said: "There will be no truce or negotiations with terrorists."

In other messages, they threatened them with death.

Will was blunt.

"They're not doing anything good for the people of Najaf," he said, speaking of al-Sadr's militias. "If they don't lay down their arms, they're going to die."



08-11-04, 05:16 AM
Most of Najaf in U.S. Control <br />
Americans coordinate with Iraqi forces and tighten ring around mosque. Insurgents hole up there as cleric pledges a fight to the end. <br />
<br />
<br />
By Edmund Sanders and Henry...

08-11-04, 05:17 AM
Marines patrol for their brothers
Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 2004810123643
Story by Staff Sgt. Brenda L. Varnadore

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Whether during the blazing heat of mid-afternoon, or the cool darkness of night, Marines from Alpha Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, conduct continuous patrols to prevent attacks on Multi-National Forces and innocent Iraqis.

The Marines focus their efforts on locating and ensuring the destruction of improvised explosive devices, said Staff Sgt. Max A. Garcia, a section leader for 2nd Platoon, Alpha Co. They also conduct random vehicle checkpoints and set up temporary observation posts.

"We feel it is our responsibility to locate IEDs," said Cpl. Brent Buckley, a vehicle crew chief for the platoon. "They cause a lot of damage, not just to fellow Marines, but also to the Iraqis."

The "trackers" are currently performing a job that falls outside of their primary realm of responsibility. Usually when they conduct patrols, they carry a platoon of infantrymen with them, said Garcia. Patrols here are conducted sans grunts, but the trackers haven't missed a beat.

"These guys are always on their toes," said Garcia. "We just discovered another IED the other night. Luckily, the Marines have not become complacent, because after (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) blew it up, you could see the concrete would have seriously hurt some of the boys."

It is not always easy to help those who feel they are being inconvenienced, said Buckley, a Glasgow, Ky., native.

"You always hear pop shots," he said. "It keeps you on your toes. Then you come across an IED and have to stop traffic for these people's safety. They actually get mad at you because it is a traffic jam. They want you to leave their country because you won't let them get blown up."

Despite the scorn typically dished out by the older generations, Buckley has found fulfillment working with the youth of the country.

"When the kids come up to you smiling and wanting to play with you, it makes it OK," said Buckley.

Besides patrolling for IEDs to keep the roads safe for both Marines and Iraqis, Alpha Company has one other claim to fame: interdicting a record number of 60mm mortar rounds found by I Marine Expeditionary Force since they took the Al Anbar Province over from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in March.

During a vehicle search, the company discovered the mortars hidden in the bed of a blue KIA pick-up truck laden with bags of grain. The Marines' diligent search led to the discovery of 219 60mm mortar rounds.

The company has provided advanced training to Iraqi Special Forces working with I MEF. The training included martial arts, map reading and other military skills.


Marines from 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, blend into the scenery during a patrol on the outskirts of Camp Fallujah, Iraq. The Marines sweep the rural areas and the major supply routes continuously to interdict improvised explosive devices that threaten both Iraqis and multi-national forces alike. Photo by: Staff Sgt. Brenda L. Varnadore



08-11-04, 05:19 AM
Squadrons complete mission, prepare to return home
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 20048994912
Story by Lance Cpl. Matthew Rainey

AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 9, 2004) -- After months of transporting and patrolling the skies of Iraq’s Al Anbar province, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 and Marine Attack Squadron 214, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, are going home.

Both squadrons continue to complete their mission despite sections of their squadron having already flown home.

Marines from the HMH-466 “Wolfpack” remaining in Iraq have been challenged to raise their performance levels to maintain mission readiness, said Sgt.Maj. William A. Winters, HMH-466 sergeant major.

“Our mission here is to provide support to (the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force), providing supplies, ammo and troop lifts as necessary,” said the 41-year-old from Oakville, Md. “The Marine Corps says to do more with less, and that became very true for us over here. We are the largest (CH-53E Super Stallion) squadron in theater, which means more missions and a higher level of readiness is needed to complete our mission.

“Missions are still continuing as usual,” he added. “This is where we really test our metal. Where one Marine leaves, another Marine is going to have to pick up his toolbox and get the job done.”

As for the VMA-214 “Black Sheep,” they have adapted to fulfilling their role, which has changed since the last they time they supported Operation Iraqi Freedom, said Lt.Col. Mark P. Everman, squadron commanding officer.

“The squadron's mission was to provide fixed wing close air support, precision targeting capabilities, aerial reconnaissance and escorts for helos and convoys. We have accomplished all of our missions,” said the 43-year-old Philadelphia native. “Overall the deployment has gone well. We didn't expend as much ordnance as we did the first time we were here. We've contributed in other ways besides dropping bombs because we aren't at war with the Iraqi people.”

The numbers tell the story for HMH-466 who have been in Iraq since February, said Winters.

“We've established new standards for efficiency, mission readiness and the number of flight hours we've been able to fly the last few months. From the projected flight hours per month, we've doubled that,” he explained. “We received the safety award for 50,000 mishap-free flight hours too.”

While the “Black Sheep” didn’t set records for ordnance dropped since their arrival in May, they have received praise from a very important source, said Everman.

“Our presence has given the Marines on the ground a boost of confidence. We can provide reconnaissance for convoys by scanning the areas ahead and letting them know what to expect,” said Everman. “It’s great to hear that our presence has helped some Marines in constant fighting get some sleep at night. Sometimes, we might do a show of force, which can be enough to disband whatever is happening. We make sure they know we are here.”

Positive reactions were the high points of the deployment, said Capt. Derek C. Bibby, AV-8B Harrier “II” pilot with VMA-214.

“The high point was getting positive feedback from the guys on the ground about stuff that obviously saved lives,” said the 32-year-old from Yuma, Ariz.

Outstanding results don’t just happen. Somebody has to make it happen, said Winters.

“(The Marines) have been rather impressive out here. They have been working in the heat without any days off for some time now. They have performed above expectations and have kept a positive outlook,” Winters elaborated.

Everman had similar compliments for his squadron.

“The Marines have been spectacular. Out here in the heat, they have risen to every occasion. They have met every challenge,” he said.

Leaving a war zone while other Marines remain has lead to mixed emotions among the Marines.

“I was extremely happy that we got to help the Marines on the ground because it was painful to sit at home and watch Marines get killed on TV,” said Bibby. “I don't think anyone wants to leave while there are still troops on the ground, but we've been asked to leave. We are being replaced by somebody just as capable as we are. The only thing I'll miss is flying missions in support of Marines.”

Circumstances can dictate your attitude toward a deployment however, said Cpl. David J. Vargas, Super Stallion mechanic, HMH-466.

“I didn't want to come out here. My son was just born and I had nine months left in the Marine Corps. The hardest thing has been being away from my family, even more so than work,” said the 23-year-old Key Largo, Fla., native. “My wife is excited and she is trying to get the house clean and everything. I don't care if the house is clean, I just want to be home.”

Things won’t stop when the squadron gets back to Miramar, said Winters.

“Three weeks after we get back, we'll be going to Yuma for (Weapons Tactics and Instructors course),” said Winters. “After that, there are a few things in the works like (Marine Expeditionary Unit) detachments and (combined arms exercises).”

Following their three-month deployment, the “Black Sheep” will also have a little time off before getting ready for the next call to duty, said Everman.

“We knew we were going to fill in here until we were relieved. Now I'm looking forward to getting home, giving the jets a break, spending some quality time and getting ready again,” said Everman. “The next MEU is on the horizon and we are preparing for any future contingencies. This deployment was given to us with 96 hours warning.”

For some Marines, the end of this deployment is also the end of their Marine Corps career, said Sgt. Cody L. Barnes, hydraulics mechanic, HMH-466.

“When I get back, I'll be getting out of the Marine Corps in a few days,” said the 23-year-old from Cameron, Okla. “It's been a good time. These guys have worked their fingers to the bone. I'm glad to have known them.”


Captain Gregory Vallhonrat, AV-8B Harrier "II" pilot, Marine Attack Squadron 214, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, turns his M9 9mm pistol over to fellow "Black Sheep" Lance Cpl. Jason Poston, a 23-year-old small arms repair technician from Euless, Texas, August 7 at Al Asad, Iraq. VMA-214 is leaving after providing nearly three months of air support. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Matthew T. Rainey



08-11-04, 06:06 AM
Logistics Modernization: A Marine Corps Warfighting Imperative

by LtGen Richard L. Kelly

‘The program’s importance is either above or at least on the same level with weapons systems we have coming down the road . . . MV–22, Joint Strike Fighter, and Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. . . .’

—Gen Michael W. Hagee,
33d Commandant of the Marine Corps

In my August 2003 Marine Corps Gazette article, “Excellence in Logistics Supporting Excellence in Warfighting,” and in the wake of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM lessons relearned, I called for nothing short of reform in Marine Corps logistics. I identified the seminal work done since late 1998 by our best and brightest, our emerging information technology (IT) enabler, and the lion’s share of work yet to be done, primarily in process/procedural reengineering and doctrine/training/organizational reform. Much foundational work has been done since then, but the fact remains that little has yet to be delivered to our Marines. In this article, I will build on last year’s article and discuss what has been done, where we are today, where we must go on the road to 2015, and what our Marines can expect in the next few years.

Logistics modernization is without question the most important institutional warfighting imperative in which I have been involved in my 34 years of service, most of which having been in logistics. It has also been, by far, the most difficult. Our Commandant has clearly articulated the importance of logistics modernization:

I ask commanders at all levels to be engaged in this important MAGTF [Marine air-ground task force] Logistics Modernization effort that is critically needed today and without which we will not be able to support Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Sea Basing in 2015.

As for its difficulty, I can attest that this is a huge enterprise integration effort that is simultaneously addressing all three components—technologies, processes, and doctrine/training/organizations, etc.—in a Marine Corps that has never truly valued logistics as a MAGTF warfighting imperative and invested in it accordingly. We are changing this mindset with the most comprehensive, end-to-end approach we have ever taken to improve MAGTF logistics, with a laser focus at the tactical level.

We have accomplished much since August 2003. On the technology side, the Global Combat Support System-Marine Corps (GCSS-MC) became a program of record on 1 October 2003 and has been designated an acquisition Category 1 program (one of only two Marine Corps programs, along with the expeditionary fighting vehicle). Led by our Marine Corps Systems Command (MarCorSysCom), GCSS-MC has cleared Milestone A. By the time this article is published we will have selected our software partner and be very close to selecting our systems integrator partner.

On the process side we have changed policy and are now transitioning from five echelons to three levels of maintenance. All new equipment acquisitions will have three or fewer levels of maintenance. Fielded equipment is being assessed for transition to three levels by our realignment of maintenance working group and MarCorSysCom, along with the associated procedures, training, and equipage. Realignments of supply functions, such as nuclear, biological, and chemical defense equipment consolidation continue, relieving our supported units of noncore competencies.

On the doctrine/training/organizational side, our education advisory group is working with Training and Education Command to reengineer officer and enlisted logistics education and training, consistent with GCSS-MC fielding and our logistics operational architecture (LogOA). Our logistics command and control (C2) requirements group continues to assess logistics C2 requirements, our fielded common logistics C2 system, and other complementary work being done in C2 (i.e., common aviation C2 system). On 27 February of this year we transitioned our LogOA to the Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC) Expeditionary Force Development Center (EFDC) for doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, and facilities (DOTMLPF) assessment and implementation, with ambitious timelines that track to GCSS-MC Block 1 fielding. This is the first time the Marine Corps, in general, and an advocate (Deputy Commandant, Installations and Logistics), in particular, have embraced MCCDC’s new process using a comprehensive systems approach.

Furthermore, I have assigned a full-time transition task force (TTF) to assist the EFDC in this groundbreaking work that will address all facets of logistics modernization in a disciplined, methodical approach. This TTF is in addition to the full- time task force I have assigned to the GCSS-MC program manager. I have also redirected the efforts of our three logistics chain assessment teams (former Field Supply Maintenance Analyses Office) to assist the Marine expeditionary forces (MEFs) in logistics modernization and GCSS-MC implementation. As part of our focus on the Operating Forces, II and III MEFs have formed change management structures. These structures are critical in the management of both the cultural and socialization of Marines to our logistics modernization efforts. We have solid traction in both II and III MEFs as they have become very active in their support of logistics modernization. Regarding I MEF, they have begun implementation of a major GCSS-MC enabling technology (active radio frequency identification (RFID)) for in-transit visibility from their home bases and into Kuwait and Iraq. II MEF is also aggressively incorporating active RFID in preparation for deployment, while at the same time testing the next wave of enabling technology—passive RFID.

Perhaps the most important reinforcing fire of the year was the Center for Naval Analyses-led, senior mentor-conducted (Gen Richard I. Neal, USMC(Ret); LtGens Bruce B. Knutson, Jr., USMC(Ret); Raymond P. Ayers, Jr., USMC(Ret); and Gary S. McKissock, USMC(Ret)) executive assessment (EA) of logistics modernization that addressed three questions: is logistics modernization moving the Marine Corps in the right direction? Is it on track? What course corrections are required? This EA was used as a means to “check our homework,” by a team that is expert in their respective warfighting fields. The results were outbriefed to the Commandant on 20 January, and the team’s recommendations were fully embraced in our logistics modernization strategy. I encourage you to read “An Imperative for Change: The Case for Logistics Modernization,” which also appears in this issue of Marine Corps Gazette.

Within the next 12 months the combined efforts of the program manager, GCSS-MC; the TTF; and the EFDC will be critical to the success of logistics modernization. While much of our energy has been and will continue to be on the acquisition and initial fielding of GCSS-MC and the reengineering of our processes (integrated supply, maintenance, and distribution), there is another equally important change management effort that must parallel the acquisition strategy. That effort is focused on making the necessary changes to the newly instituted expeditionary force development system (EFDS) to ensure that the full impact of logistics modernization is realized.

While GCSS-MC is often considered the key enabler for logistics modernization, the key enabler for GCSS-MC is really the EFDS. If we consider that GCSS-MC will bring us a highly effective, web-based, collaborative logistics system applicable from the tactical to the strategic levels—a system that will bring the currently stovepiped functions of supply, maintenance, transportation, and logistics C2 into one common operational picture—then there are significant ramifications that go well beyond our new logistics IT. Those implications are not yet fully known and won’t be until the software suite is selected, integrated, and fielded in 2006. However, we do know that new processes and procedures for ordering supplies, maintaining equipment, transporting cargo, managing information, and ensuring all of it feeds into a logistics common operational picture is where we are going. We also know that these new processes, procedures, and focus on logistics C2 mean that there will be many changes necessary.

We can expect changes to doctrine (e.g., how logistics support and C2 are conducted on the battlefield), training and education (teaching logistics chain management vice stovepiped, functional supply management), organization (logistics organizations will change with the advent of three levels of maintenance—the realignment of supply functions, the advent of real distribution management capability, and the acquisition of the right MAGTF logistics long-range organic communications capabilities), and personnel/skill sets (our logisticians in a GCSS-MC world must be trained and equipped to manage the full spectrum of logistics functions to best support our supported units). What has just been described is the DOTMLPF pillars that are the intended targets of the change management effort built into the EFDS. Instituting sustainable, enterprise-wide change must be accomplished through the EFDS since it turns the keys of DOTMLPF by adjusting all of its components. This is the reason I have assigned a full-time, squad-sized logistics modernization TTF this summer in direct support of MCCDC’s EFDS.


08-11-04, 06:07 AM
While the program manager, GCSS-MC is focused on selecting our software and systems integrator partners, configuration, blueprinting, and testing, the logistics modernization TTF will be undertaking several key events. First, I have defined and prioritized the key logistics modernization initiatives that need to be vetted through the EFDS:

• Implement the LogOA.
• Realign maintenance from five echelons to three levels.
• Realign/integrate supply and distribution functions to best support the MAGTF.
• Identify the required communications/bandwidth to support GCSS-MC.
• Determine supply battalion processes/organization using the National Inventory Management Strategy.
• Determine maintenance battalion processes/organization using the three maintenance-level construct and consistent with International Standards Organization 9000 standards.
• Establish force service support group naming conventions.

Next, we will develop a “family tree” of universal needs statements (UNSs) for logistics modernization that supports these priorities. The TTF will have to decipher which priorities are best served by not only UNSs but also by policy changes. The TTF will focus strictly on setting the necessary conditions to enable the initial fielding of GCSS-MC Block 1 in 2006. That will include working with the EFDC to select the best courses of action to implement the above priorities. Once we select a course of action, the TTF will work with MCCDC on detailed solution planning to ensure that the necessary DOTMLPF changes are made for each UNS. The end product is a solution planning directive (SPD) that contains detailed taskings that address the affected DOTMLPF pillars. The Deputy Commandant, Combat Development (owner of the EFDS) and I have agreed to publish the SPD by 1 June 2005.

We cannot have real MAGTF logistics modernization if we stick with our current technologies, processes, and doctrine/training/organizations, etc. We have to make the break—burn the boats—or risk being truly unprepared for expeditionary maneuver warfare and seabasing in 2015. As I stated last year, “We are perfectly aligned to get the results we are getting. If we are satisfied with the results, we shouldn’t change anything. I’m not!” Logistics modernization means addressing all aspects of the way we provide and receive support. We cannot just fix the IT, or rework a process, or reorganize and expect improvement. We must have the courage and tenacity to take all of this on—simultaneously and now! If we do not do this we will only see the lessons relearned again and again. Our performance, especially in supply, maintenance, and distribution response times, will never get much past the standards of the 1950s. We will run the business of our Corps on the backs of our Marines and unnecessarily burden our supported units. Most important, though, we put ourselves at risk of failing in combat tomorrow and at high risk of not being able to pull off what we say we will be able to do in 2015.

The good news is that all of the preparations have been made, and our foundation is solid—very solid. No one has laid down prep fires as we have. Our IT enabler—GCSS-MC—is on its way. All of the conditions are set for us to make the bold but informed changes necessary across the MAGTF (and the Marine Corps) to modernize Marine Corps logistics. The only unknown is the will of the institution—the entire Marine Corps—to act decisively and make the timely decisions that will deliver a 2015 logistics force with a truly modernized capability. We are at a fork in the road that requires us to ask ourselves two questions and act accordingly: are we ready for greatness, which will require us to operate with a degree of uncertainty for a few years as we navigate through some “white water,” or are we satisfied with the status quo with its Cold War sense of comfort and predictability?

>LtGen Kelly is the Deputy Commandant, Installations and Logistics.



08-11-04, 09:50 AM
Marines remove piece of past, build brighter future
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200489113848
Story by Staff Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (Aug. 7, 2004) -- – For the past 15 months, a local family has had to live with the constant reminder of the former Iraqi Army that used their land to fight coalition forces. Since Iraqi soldiers abandoned their post, his children have been playing near the howitzer left behind.

Marines and sailors from Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 24, 24th MEU, returned to the site where, just a couple of weeks before, they promised to remove the piece of artillery.

The howitzer was discovered during a humanitarian assistance mission to deliver potable water to residents in the area. One of the residents took the water, and when asked if he needed anything else, he asked to have the howitzer removed. According to the resident, he was afraid for his children’s safety because they often played on it.

“For this mission the MSSG had to call on several of its detachments, its maintenance detachment, (Explosives Ordinance Disposal), transportation support and some staff members,” said Capt. Thomas H. Gilley, operations officer, MSSG-24, and Glenn Burnie, Md., native. “The Maintenance Detachment is the main effort; everybody else is out here in support of this mission.”

The Maintenance detachment’s first task was to see if the howitzer was moveable. Once that was accomplished, they went to work loading the large artillery piece.

“We came out, brought the wrecker out, and our job was to winch it in, and set it up so we could put it on the flat bed and take it,” said Cpl. David G. Lopez, a vehicle recovery specialist with the Maintenance Detachment, MSSG-24. “It wasn’t too tough,” the Lamont Calif., native explained. “But cranking on that wheel was pretty tough.”

Preparing the howitzer to be loaded was the easiest part of the process. The hardest part, since the howitzer was missing one of its four tires, was loading it onto a flatbed trailer. The Marines first hooked it up to their 7-ton tow truck. Then the artillery piece had to be driven onto the disconnected and lowered flat bed trailer from the back end. Once that was carefully done and it was safely on the trailer, it was disconnected from the tow truck and secured to the trailer.

The leathernecks came up with this solution after a few failed attempts to load the howitzer. In the end, success came through perseverance for the section that never quits.

“There isn’t a task (MSSG-24 Marines) think they can’t accomplish,” said Gilley. “Our motto is if we can’t find a way, we make a way.”

With that mission accomplished, the Marines also made great strides in the MEU’s larger goal of being a good neighbor to the Iraqi people.

“Their workload never stops and they never stop producing results,” said Gilley of the Maintenance Detachment. “Not only are they working to help the MEU, they are working to help the local populace and to make a good impression of why we are here.”

The Iraqi spirits weren’t the only ones boosted.

“It makes me feel pretty good helping out people,” said Cpl. Ron A. Underwood, a Logistical Vehicle System operator with the Transportation Support Detachment, MSSG-24. “You drive down the road and see all the kids waving at you, it kind of makes you feel good,” added the Chesterfield, Mo., native.

Echoing that sentiment, Gilley says this type of mission is what will help the MEU in the long run.

“(The Marines) will remember this, as will the Iraqi people. One small contribution from the Marines on the howitzer makes a lasting impression on the families.”


Cpl. David G. Lopez of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit uses a wrench to turn the gears on an Iraqi GHN 45 155 mm howitzer. The howitzer, left by the Iraqi Army last year following the war with coalition forces, has been a safety hazard in an Iraqi citizen's yard.
Lopez is a vehicle recovery specialist with the Maintenance Detachment, MSSG-24, and Lamont Calif., native.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stabilization operations in the Northern Babil province of Iraq.
Photo by: Staff Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa



08-11-04, 11:00 AM
U.S. Marines Say Readying for Final Assault in Najaf

By Khaled Farhan

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. marines said on Wednesday they were preparing a final assault on Iraqi Shi'ite militia in the holy city of Najaf, after a radical cleric ordered his men to keep fighting even if he was killed.

As a bloody showdown loomed between U.S. troops and militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, thousands of his supporters vented their anger against interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in the streets of Nassiriya and several other cities.

In Nassiriya, one of seven cities where a radical Shi'ite uprising has taken hold in the past week, demonstrators torched Allawi's political party office and called for his downfall.

The U.S. warning in Najaf came as sporadic clashes between American troops and Sadr's Mehdi militia echoed from the heart of the city, where hundreds have been killed or wounded around some of Iraq (news - web sites)'s holiest Shi'ite Muslim sites.

"Iraqi and U.S. forces are making final preparations as we get ready to finish this fight that the Moqtada militia started," Colonel Anthony Haslam, commanding officer of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Najaf, said in a statement.

Haslam gave few details, but his threats and Sadr's defiance have raised the stakes in a battle that is the toughest test yet for Allawi's six-week-old government.

Most of Sadr's men and the young cleric himself are holed up around Najaf's ancient Shi'ite cemetery or the adjoining Imam Ali Shrine. Storming such holy symbols could touch off a firestorm among Iraq's majority Shi'ite community.

Despite the tightening U.S. military noose around his men and growing pressure from Allawi, Sadr has refused to surrender. The latest fighting has shattered a tenuous two-month cease-fire between U.S. forces and their most vocal critic in Iraq.

"Keep fighting even if you see me a prisoner or a martyr. God willing you will be victorious," Sadr said in a statement.

In neighboring Iran, state television reported on Wednesday that a number of Iranian journalists from Iran's News Agency (IRNA) had been kidnapped in Iraq. It gave no more details. A spate of kidnappings has been carried out in Iraq aimed at pressuring foreign forces and firms to leave.


The Shi'ite unrest has disrupted Iraq's vital oil exports and triggered a spike in world prices.

Iraq's exports were running at a reduced rate on Wednesday as engineers repaired a sabotaged pipeline feeding the country's southern terminals, oil officials and a shipping agent said.

Oil prices held strong near record highs. U.S. light crude was up 11 cents to $44.61 a barrel, below Tuesday's $45.04.

In fresh violence elsewhere in Iraq, at least six Iraqis were killed and 10 wounded when a bomb exploded in a market just north of Baghdad, hospital sources said. Officials had no further details on the explosion in Khan Bani Saad village.

Clashes also broke out in Baghdad's Shi'ite slum district.

In Nassiriya, thousands of demonstrators enraged by the U.S. military action in Najaf carried posters of Sadr and screamed "down, down Allawi" and "Allawi you coward, you American agent."

Workers at an oil pumping station in Nassiriya said they had stopped operations to protest Allawi's backing of the U.S. offensive in Najaf. The station had cut supplies of refined products and liquefied natural gas to Baghdad, the workers said.

The crisis in Najaf also appears to have created cracks in Allawi's administration after deputy president Ibrahim Jaafari urged U.S. troops to leave the city to end the fighting.

"I call for multinational forces to leave Najaf and for only Iraqi forces to remain there," Jaafari said in remarks broadcast on Al Jazeera television on Wednesday.


U.S. forces have been pounding Sadr's militiamen with warplanes and helicopters for days.

The U.S. military statement said marines, army soldiers and Iraqi National Guards were conducting joint exercises in preparation for major assaults against the militia in Najaf.

In the past 24 hours, at least 30 Iraqis have been killed and 219 wounded in five cities including Baghdad, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday. The figure did not include Najaf.

U.S. forces say they have killed 360 Sadr loyalists so far in Najaf, home to 600,000 people some 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad. Sadr's spokesmen say far fewer have died during the second rebellion by the militia in four months.

In the southern town of Amara, British troops backed by planes launched an offensive against Shi'ite fighters overnight that the Mehdi Army said killed 10 militiamen. A British military spokesman said two British soldiers were wounded.

The latest fighting raises questions about what role Sadr wants to play in postwar Iraq, especially ahead of landmark elections scheduled for January. Allawi's attempts to bring Sadr into the political fold appear to have failed, for now.

Aged about 30 and a prominent figure in a revered clerical dynasty, he does not speak for all Iraq's Shi'ites but his tough anti-U.S. rhetoric has won him many admirers and swelled the ranks of his Mehdi militia.

(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Nadim Ladki, Waleed Ibrahim, Matthew Green and Michael Georgy in Baghdad, Miral Fahmy in Dubai) ((Writing by Dean Yates, Editing by Charles Dick)



08-11-04, 12:32 PM
Issue Date: August 16, 2004

Perimeter security means slow pace for FAST Marines

By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

BAGHDAD — Duty on the perimeter of the U.S. compound is slow, hot, far from glamorous and extremely dangerous.
There, more than 100 Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team leathernecks with Task Force FAST serve as the first line of defense for the hundreds of civilian and government offices and living quarters inside the U.S. Embassy.

While the work of the 14-man Marine Security Guard detachment is viewed as a higher-profile mission with even a touch of glamour, the FAST Marines working the front gate under a hot sun face a greater threat.

The unit arrived here in November and has been working around the clock since, standing guard, checking identification badges, monitoring traffic in and out and searching Iraqi visitors and employees at the gates.

The security-conscious Marines aren’t big on talking specifics about their work.

“Basically, our job is to make sure nothing too bad happens,” said Lance Cpl. Lance Zaal, a 19-year-old rifleman from Irvine, Calif.

The Marines face daily attacks from insurgents lobbing mortars, rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, along with car bombs and improvised explosives. In the past month, more than 700 attacks have occurred in or around the compound.

But despite the threat level and the need for security, the mission here may be a bit low-speed for the FAST Marines, who normally secure oil or gas platforms, respond in the wake of terrorist attacks such as the August 1998 bombings of two African embassies or perform other high-speed missions.

“This is becoming not a FAST mission,” said Staff Sgt. Tony Miondonka, 29, a field artillery operations man filling in as an infantry unit leader here.

“It’s becoming more of a low-level mission.”

Miondonka, from Brookfield, Conn., said he expects an infantry unit will replace the FAST Marines sometime in the future, but he would not be specific about when.

Their work so far has impressed the U.S. personnel who live and work at the compound, who offer unsolicited praise for the Marines.

“Those guys are my heroes,” said Sandra Giltner, an American who is senior consultant to the Iraqi Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works. “Sitting out there with all their battle gear, sweating, watching the gate.”

Giltner, who has worked here since the beginning of the year, said she’s seen the FAST Marines remain “cheerful and polite” as they contend with more than their fair share of loud and unruly people, some of whom will say or do anything to get inside the fortified compound.

The Marines here have other challenges. The war zone they’re living in is also a bit of a party zone. The compound provides a tolerant environment for the civilian contractors, members of the many private security details based here and other “strap-hangers.”

The no-fraternization, no-alcohol rules in force for the Marines don’t apply to others, and poolside parties seem to occur nightly. The fortified “green zone” area of the city also offers a variety of cafes and restaurants that sell beer, wine and cocktails.

Most of the FAST Marines stay busy by working security shifts, watching DVDs or working out in the gym. Sometimes, they play ping pong.

“Here, it’s unusual because you have your mission and you’re in a combat zone and you’re seeing all these things,” said Zaal. “If it wasn’t for you doing your job, none of these people could be out there partying.”



08-11-04, 03:08 PM
Oklahoma National Guard engineers lay foundation for smoother Marine convoys
Submitted by: 1st Force Service Support Group
Story Identification #: 20048643713
Story by Sgt. Matt Epright

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Aug. 6, 2004) -- Wearing desert camouflage instead of reflective orange and using armored humvees in place of traffic cones, National Guardsmen are repairing a rutted vital supply route Marines here rely on for survival.

The 120th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy) is ripping out damaged sections of the road and replacing them with concrete patches, using materials bought by the 1st Force Service Support Group, which travels the route hauling supplies to Marines throughout western Iraq.

The dilapidated, single-lane road has been a bane of the 1st FSSG's truck drivers for months. Those who don't drive slow enough are forced to contend with problems ranging from blown-out tires to transmissions rattling loose. Yet, convoys that don't travel fast enough are more susceptible to attack by anti-Iraqi forces, said 1st Lt. Aaron T. Corbett, a platoon leader with the battalion and a 26-year-old Oklahoma City native.

Additionally, some of the torn up sections of pavement stretch across the entire roadway, making it easier for the bad guys to conceal makeshift explosives, or even tire-destroying "spike-strips," said Lt. Col. Bill Bartheld, 43, the battalion's commander and a native of Edmond, Okla.

The Oklahoma-based battalion, which directly supports the 1st FSSG based here, hopes their efforts will put a stop to some of these problems in Iraq's Al Anbar Province.

Almost the instant their vehicles roll up to one of the gouges, the guardsmen are out of their trucks and unstrapping the small tractors used to cut out straight-edged sections of the pavement and scour down far enough to give stability to the concrete they use, said Staff Sgt. Ralph T. Luttrell, 36, a squad leader with the battalion and native of Stuart, Okla.

After the troops clear out the old asphalt, they set in and secure wooden planks to keep the new concrete block, or "patch," the same width as the rest of the road and lay in metal screens to give the concrete something to bind to.

Then the guardsmen bring in one of two mixing trucks, which blend dry concrete, sand, gravel and water and pour the concoction into the prepared hole, where the engineers spread it evenly to form the patch.

When the concrete is poured and spread, some of the moisture from the mixture begins rising to the top. The guardsmen smooth and brush the surface to get rid of any excess water, before covering the patch with a plastic sheet to allow it to dry, or "cure," evenly.

"Normally it takes three days to cure, but we added calcium to it," said Staff Sgt. Johnny D. Hyslop, a section sergeant with the battalion.

The calcium acts as an accelerant, so that after only four hours, the concrete is solid, said Hyslop, a 47-year-old native of Quinton, Okla.

While a small team waits for the repaired section to dry and sets up warning markers to keep vehicles from driving over the patch, the rest of the guardsmen move to the next damaged portion, a short way down the road.

The troops are repairing about 500 square feet of damaged road per day, ensuring safer travel for the 1st FSSG convoys delivering supplies to units throughout the Al Anbar Province. They expect the task to take about a month to complete.


Spc. Matt Reynolds, right, and Spc. James B. Carroll, engineers with the 120th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), brush and smooth a freshly poured concrete patch on a road in Iraq's Al Anbar Province, on July 30, 2004. The Oklahoma National Guard battalion, which supports the Marine Corps' 1st Force Service Support Group at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, is repairing a convoy route to make it safer to travel on. The battalion is based in Okmulgee, Okla. Reynolds is a 26-year-old native of Shawnee, Okla. Carroll, 22, is from Dallas. Photo by: Sgt. Matt Epright



08-11-04, 06:32 PM
Najaf Cemetery No Enemy Sanctuary, Marine Commander Says
Submitted by: American Forces Press Service
Story Identification #: 200481174052
Story by - American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (Aug. 10, 2004 ) -- Enemy forces using a Najaf cemetery as a base of operations violated an agreement that had made those grounds off limits for military operations.

Insurgents in Najaf have been found to be operating from and storing arms at the Wadi Al Salam cemetery, which is adjacent to the holy Imam Ali Shrine, according to a Multinational Force Iraq news release today.

"We will not allow them to continue to desecrate this sacred site, using it as an insurgent base of operations," said Col. Anthony M. Haslam, commander of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The cemetery "will be no sanctuary for thugs and criminals in Najaf," he declared.

U.S. Marines, soldiers, and Iraqi National Guardsmen are fighting insurgent forces in Najaf.

According to the release, the Marines recently have captured numerous enemy weapons caches found in the cemetery's catacombs and mausoleums. Insurgent use of the cemetery and surrounding mosques and buildings to store weapons and conduct military operations violates the international rules of warfare, the release noted, and breaks a cease-fire agreement made in June between Iraqi militant cleric Muqtada al Sadr and Najaf civic officials.

Recent enemy actions make the cemetery in Najaf a legitimate military objective, which now is being assaulted by multinational troops on the grounds of necessity and self-defense, the release stated.

Besides storing weapons, insurgents had also been using the cemetery to launch attacks against Iraqi security forces and to torture kidnap victims. In other news from Iraq, U.S. 1st Infantry Division soldiers captured a suspected anti-Iraqi leader and two other people during raids made near Bayji late Aug. 9.

The soldiers, according to a news release, were attacked by enemy small-arms fire. The Americans returned fire, killing one insurgent. The captured enemy troops were taken to a detention facility for questioning. No 1st Division troops were injured in the incident.

Three U.S. service members who'd been wounded during Aug. 7 fighting with insurgents northwest of the Iraqi city of Mosul received Purple Hearts Aug. 8.

Award recipients include Army Maj. Thomas B. Case, Marine Corps Capt. Aaron P. Hill, and Marine Corps Staff Sgt. William Rosborough. The three troops were wounded during an insurgent attack on their base that involved enemy rocket and mortar fire.

Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commanding general of the Office of Security Transition/Multinational Security Transition Command, presented the awards.