View Full Version : Ask the Warriors about Iraq

08-27-04, 07:15 AM
Ask the Warriors about Iraq

By Lieutenant Colonel (select) Stanton S. Coerr, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve
Proceedings, August 2004

President George W. Bush gathered U.S. support for invading Iraq by using two arguments: Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein supported al Qaeda terrorism. Now, vicious words and gratuitous finger pointing keep coming from people who insist they were misled. Politicians and TV experts sharply critique the Bush administration. Yet, I have not heard a word from anyone who actually carried a rifle or flew an aircraft in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and its ugly aftermath. What about consulting the guys who had—and still have—the most to lose?

As a Marine Corps reserve major, I was the senior U.S. officer attached to the 1 Royal Irish Battlegroup (a reinforced British rifle battalion). I commanded five Marine air-naval gunfire liaison teams and was the liaison officer between the U.S. Marines and the battlegroup. Seventeen days after activation on 14 January 2003, my Marines and I were in Kuwait, ready to go to war.

Having studied political science at Duke University and government at Harvard University, I understand realpolitik, geopolitical jujitsu, economics, and the realities of the Arab world. I am not a blind follower. But the war made sense then—and our presence there makes sense now.

At dawn on 22 March, we crossed the border in trace of the 5th Marine Regiment’s sweep through the Ramaylah oil fields. We were the guys you saw on TV every night: filthy, hot, exhausted. Although the National Rifle Association’s right-to-bear-arms mantra is a joke to me, I carried a loaded rifle, a loaded pistol, and a knife at all times. I pointed a loaded weapon at another human for the first time in my life. We killed numerous Iraqi soldiers. I directed air and artillery strikes in concert with my British artillery officer counterpart. Close up, we saw dead bodies, helmets with bullet holes in them, handcuffed prisoners, and oil well fires with flames leaping 100 feet in the air. In short, I did what I had spent 14 years training to do.

Apart from the violence, a number of things lifted our hearts. Thousands of Iraqis ran into the streets at the sight of us, screaming, waving, and cheering. They ran from their homes when our vehicles roared in from the south, bringing us bread, tea, cigarettes, and photos of their children. Much was lost in language differences, although my clear impression was: “Thank God, someone has arrived with bigger men and bigger guns to be on our side at last.” We saw in the eyes of the people how a generation of fear reflects in the human soul.

For those who oppose the war, let there be no mistake: the Ba’ath regime was the Nazi Party of the second half of the 20th century. Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship raped, tortured, murdered, extorted, and terrorized the Iraqis for 35 years. Mass graves bear testimony to countless crimes. One U.S. Marine battalion liberated a prison populated entirely by children, where the jailers had brutalized the weakest of them and killed the strongest.

The Ba’ath Party retained power by placing officials in every city and village to keep the people under its boot. We found munitions and weapons everywhere. In Ramaylah, the local Ba’ath leader’s desk contained brass knuckles and a handgun. These are the people who are in prison—where they belong.

Consider this analogy. For years, you watched the same large man come home at night. You listened to his yelling and the screams of children and the noise of breaking glass. You and everyone on the block knew he was beating his family. On behalf of the neighborhood, you asked him to stop. Then you begged; finally, you threatened him. Nothing worked. So, after 13 years, you muster the meanest guys you can find. You kick his door down, punch him in the face, and drag him away. The house is a mess, the family poor and abused. But now there is hope. You did the right thing.

I can speak with authority on the opinions of British and American infantrymen: at no time did anyone say—or imply—to any of us that we were invading Iraq to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction and avenge the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. We were there to oust a tyrant and return Iraq to its people. Marines carry out policy decisions, not make them—and none of us had the slightest doubt about the righteousness of our actions.

Take it from someone who was there and stood to lose everything. We must stay the course in Iraq. We owe it to the Iraqis and to the world.

Lieutenant Colonel (select) Coerr, a Marine reservist activated for Operation Iraqi Freedom, is an attack helicopter pilot and forward air controller. He is in the Home Depot Store Leadership Program in San Diego, California.


08-27-04, 07:16 AM
MEF CG visits 24th MEU
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200482284819
Story by Staff Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa

FORWARD OPERATIN BASE KALSU, Iraq (Aug. 19, 2004) -- Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force, visited here Aug. 18.

The visit was scheduled to allow Conway to tour the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s area of responsibility and give him the opportunity to see the Marines from the MEU. His visit included touring FOB Kalsu and going to see Marines at a checkpoint along Main Supply Route Tampa.

While touring the FOB, Conway was also able to see the trucks recently delivered that the MEU is distributing for the local Iraqi police forces.

According to Lt. Col. James S. Hartsell, 1st Marine Division Liaison Officer to I MEF, who accompanied Conway, the general wanted to get out and see the Marines and ask what they need.
“(Lt. Gen. Conway) is concerned about the Marines first and foremost,” said Hartsell.


Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force, speaks with two Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit at their post along Main Supply Route Tampa in Iraq.
The Marines are members of Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, 24th MEU. Their job is to protect an overpass along the MSR.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in the Northern Babil province of Iraq.
Photo by: Staff Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa


Capt. Corey Collier, 36, with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit explains the challenges of providing security along Main Supply Route Tampa to Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
Collier is the company commander for Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, and a Gallatin, Tenn., native.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in the Northern Babil province of Iraq.
Photo by: Staff Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa



08-27-04, 07:18 AM
Posted on Fri, Aug. 27, 2004 <br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
Three Marines faced unique challenges informing families of death <br />
<br />

08-27-04, 07:19 AM
Medical expert says Iraq inmate suffered heavy trauma <br />
<br />
By: DARRIN MORTENSON - Staff Writer <br />
<br />
CAMP PENDLETON ---- The broken bones and purple bruises that covered the body of an Iraqi prisoner who...

08-27-04, 07:20 AM
Trial date set for former Marines accused of murder <br />
<br />
<br />
Two former Twentynine Palms Marines accused of murdering two of their fellow marines finally learned when they'll stand trial today. The two...

08-27-04, 07:22 AM
3/1's CAG facilitating progress for Iraqi's future <br />
Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force <br />
Story Identification #: 2004825125718 <br />
Story by Lance Cpl. K. T. Tran <br />
<br />
<br />
<br />

08-27-04, 08:04 AM
Students In Military Challenged
Associated Press
August 27, 2004

BISMARCK, N.D. - Brandon Erickson returned to the University of North Dakota this summer a changed man. The 22-year-old National Guardsman is back in school after losing his right arm in an attack that killed a fellow soldier in Iraq, and is struggling through rehabilitation.

The changes aren't merely physical. He's frustrated by some students' comments about the war, less stressed by tests and deadlines. Most of all, he's driven to finish school and make up the year he missed.

"I'm a little more focused now," he said. "I really want to get an education. I really want to make a difference."

As students across the United States flock to campuses this fall, educators are preparing for thousands more students like Erickson - young men and women who traded in backpacks and baseball caps for combat boots, desert camouflage and a tour of duty.

In North Dakota, officials say college students probably make up about 60 percent of the state's 3,200 or so Guard soldiers. When hundreds of them were sent to Iraq last year, some kept up with their studies through correspondence courses. A handful elected to take summer classes after they returned home last spring.

But officials expect most returning Guard soldiers to come back to campus this fall. Educators are trying to make the transition easier, and realize part of their job is to keep things simple.

"No one wants to make that kind of a sacrifice and come back here and be badgered by bureaucracies. They've had a year of it," said Bob Boyd, UND's vice president of student and outreach services.

The influx of student soldiers is keeping veterans officials busy on campuses across the country.

At Florida State University in Tallahassee, Cheryl Goodson has processed benefits for about 70 veterans for the fall semester. Goodson said the soldiers returning to school often are different from the students they were a year ago.

"It's just a look on their face more than anything," she said. "It's just a whole different look. They grew up quite a bit."

Professor Paul Sum, who teaches international politics at UND, said students who fought in Iraq tend to be more open-minded about the war.

"When they start thinking about the justification of being there, I think they see both sides with a lot of clarity," Sum said.

For many veterans, adjusting to the calm life of a civilian can be a challenge.

During his year in the Middle East, North Dakota National Guardsman Derek Holt, 22, often traveled in convoys, keeping his eyes open for ambushes or explosives along the road.

When he returned to North Dakota, Holt's reflexes sometimes wouldn't let him sleep through the blast of a locomotive's whistle. Four months later, loud noises can still get his heart pumping.

"I catch myself doing that every once in a while," Holt said. "You just kind of jump as a natural reaction."

It's a reaction Neil Sitz has seen often working with veterans at North Dakota State University.

"I sit and watch their eyes, and their heads are snapping at any noise or little movement," he said. "They have to settle down - they still have that adrenaline going and that heightened awareness."

At Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Michael Sutton's work-study job keeps him busy preparing education payments for fellow veterans.

Sutton, 26, spent seven years in the Marines before heading to school for the first time last spring. As a veteran of the war in Iraq, he knows what returning soldiers face when they sit down at a desk for the first time.

"People who've never been in the military and don't know what the men and women in the armed forces go through on a daily basis - they definitely take for granted a lot of personal freedoms they have," he said.

Recruits give many reasons for joining the Guard, but money to pay for an education is a top attraction.

Guard members who attend college in North Dakota can get a 25 percent tuition discount and up to $500 in aid from the military. Those who go to schools in other states are eligible for assistance through a federal program.

Each state has its own system of education aid. One of the most generous is Illinois, where soldiers can get up to eight years of tuition paid, said Maj. Wanda Ward, the Illinois Guard's education officer.

The 60-year-old mainstay of military education assistance, the Montgomery GI Bill, pays about $300 a month for books and living expenses to Guard soldiers attending college.

Officials who deal with veterans say they don't expect the flow of student soldiers to slow down soon.

In Illinois, about a third of National Guard soldiers are students - and some 40 percent are either on active duty or have returned from a deployment, Ward said.

Erickson said he is looking forward to talking with buddies from Iraq when fall semester starts. He knows they'll be able to talk about experiences most of their peers wouldn't understand.

"It's kind of funny - a bunch of 20-year-olds sitting around telling war stories," he said.


08-27-04, 08:40 AM
For the sake of not sounding old or funny, why do I see us in them.
Reacting to loud and sudden noises.
Looking for and searching for images of the war they fought in.
Strange how things come around.
Now the question;
"how will thier peers react to seeing those wounds?"
What price Freedom?

God! Ellie twice you have given me things to think about, that I had forgotten...

Semper Fidelis/Semper Fi

08-27-04, 09:08 AM

Our minds is a terrible thing to waste....;)

Iraq Rebels Leave Najaf Shrine, Hand in Weapons

By Michael Georgy
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - Shi'ite fighters left the holiest shrine in the Iraqi city of Najaf Friday and began turning in their weapons, after tens of thousands of pilgrims celebrated a peace agreement that ended a bloody rebellion.

Religious authorities locked the doors of the Imam Ali mosque after the Mehdi Army militia of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr left. The fighters had defied U.S. military firepower and the interim Iraqi government for three weeks.

Iraq's most revered cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, made a dramatic return to Najaf Thursday and persuaded Sadr to accept a peace deal to halt the fighting, after a day of violence in which 110 Iraqis were killed and 501 wounded.

Militants tossed AK-47 assault rifles and mortar launchers into wooden carts being pushed around near the shrine. Mosque loudspeaker announcements in Sadr's name gave the order.

Al Arabiya television said Sadr's representatives had handed over the keys to the mosque, Iraq's holiest Shi'ite shrine.

A Reuters correspondent there said Iraqi police took control of the area around the mosque, as envisaged under the deal.

Several Mehdi militants refused to give up their guns while some U.S. troops -- who are supposed to leave the southern city in line with the peace deal -- were seen nearby.

By mid-afternoon, the narrow streets around the mosque were relatively quiet, destroyed and blackened buildings a testament to the fierce fighting that killed hundreds and drove world oil prices to record highs.

But a big question mark hangs over what role Sadr and his militia want to play in Iraq, especially ahead of elections in January. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi gave them an amnesty under the peace deal. Sadr draws formidable support among Iraq's downtrodden majority Shi'ites.


After the bitter fighting with U.S. marines, many Mehdi militants still breathed defiance Friday.
"We will support whatever Ayatollah Sistani and Sayyed Moqtada have agreed. But we will still slit the throats of the Americans," said one militiaman, Hussein Taama.
Another held an AK-47 rifle which he said was his personal weapon that he would not give up: "I will keep this warm and wait for Sayyed Moqtada's order."

The Najaf uprising has been a stark reminder to the interim government and the United States, which led the war to depose Saddam Hussein last year, of the huge hurdles ahead in Iraq.

President Bush acknowledged for the first time on Thursday he had erred over postwar conditions in Iraq, the New York Times reported. It quoted him as saying in an interview that he made "a miscalculation of what the conditions would be."

Tens of thousands of Shi'ites arrived on the outskirts of Najaf Thursday, heeding a call by Sistani to march on the city. Just after dawn Friday, they walked past dozens of pockmarked and destroyed buildings to the mosque.

Spent ammunition littered the city center, which a day earlier had been infested with snipers.

Many pilgrims were overcome at the mosque. Some kissed the ornate walls inside and wept after they queued to get in.

"We pray today that Najaf will recover. The military operations have only brought destruction," said Kassem Hameed, a 52-year-old oil worker from the southern city of Basra.


Some chanted pro-Sistani slogans and held up posters of the reclusive Iranian-born cleric. The occasional crackle of gunfire echoed nearby. At least four decaying bodies were brought out of the mosque.

The deal came after a day of bloodshed. The Health Ministry said 110 people were killed and 501 wounded in mortar and shooting attacks in Najaf and nearby Kufa Thursday.

Sistani arrived in Iraq Wednesday after three weeks in London for heart treatment. The uprising had erupted as he left his adopted home in Najaf, Iraq's center of Shi'ite learning.

Sadr has challenged the collegiate leadership of the Najaf clergy headed by Sistani and styled himself as the face of anti-U.S. Shi'ite resistance.

Hostage takers who grabbed Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni on the road between Baghdad and Najaf have killed him, the Italian government confirmed Thursday.

Al Jazeera television said Baldoni's kidnappers killed him because Italy refused to withdraw troops from Iraq. Scores of foreigners have been taken hostage in Iraq in the last five months. Most have been released but several have been killed

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=HESUXIPR2FIHUCRBAELCF EY?type=worldNews&storyID=6088753&pageNumber=1


08-27-04, 11:56 AM
Echo Company

By Mick Walsh
Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer

ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. - Margaret Kellum was excited when her son decided to enter the Marine Corps' delayed-enlistment program.

Oh, J.T. Sims had considered life as an Army Ranger or a Navy SEAL. But there was something about that fancy uniform, that TV commercial, that Semper Fi business.

So when he and Benjamin Russell High School buddies Bruce Sims and Stephen Barrett decided as juniors to enter the Marines after graduation, mom was happy because J.T. was happy.

The possibility of losing her boy in combat wasn't even a consideration back then. It was 1999, two years before the horror of Sept. 11 and more than three years before the outbreak of war in Iraq.

But even so, "I hoped he'd get into computers," she said. "It would be a nice, safe life."

Instead, J.T. wanted to be an infantryman.

Deep down, she knew that the Marines would be good for her only son. "He needed to grow up."

And the young man she saw last December had indeed grown up during his three years away from Tallapoosa County.

"He was my baby when he left for boot camp," she said. "He was a man when he went off to war."

J.T. had been home as recently as the week before Christmas. Camp Pendleton, Calif., granted him emergency leave after his mom was seriously injured in a car accident.

"I wanted the little rat to keep MP'ing out at Pendleton," Kellum said. "But he kept saying he wanted to go to Iraq. He said he could pull some strings. And he did. He left in February."

He didn't have a chance on his leave to touch base with Barrett, now safely back at Camp Lejeune, N.C., after a stint in Iraq.

"Maybe," he told his mom, "Bruce and Stephen and me can get together when I get back."

Get together they did.

On April 10, Lance Cpl. John Thomas Sims Jr. died of wounds he'd received in Anbar province, Iraq. He was 21. On April 19 he was buried in the dress blues he was so proud of.

Bruce Sims, a member of the Marines' crack honor guard, accompanied J.T.'s body home from Dover Air Force Base, Del. Barrett, with his wife and baby son, attended the funeral.

Sherry Pritchard, Sims’ counselor at Russell High, said that though many outranked J.T. academically in the Class of 2001, "he's the one who has gained the respect of everyone in our town. He truly left his mark."

Margaret Kellum and her husband, Jerry, a truck driver, live in a single-wide trailer south of Alex City on Highway 63, midway between the seat of Tallapoosa County and Kowaliga Beach, where legend has it Hank Williams penned one of his trademark songs.

It's the place J.T. called home. It's where his family convened after hearing the news of his death.

It had been almost three years since the three young men headed off to boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., immediately after graduation.

The Sims boys weren't related, not by blood anyway. But they shared a bond _ a love for the kind of excitement Tallapoosa County didn't offer.

Life in Alex City, the county seat of 16,059 folks, centers on Lake Martin. It's where the wealthy of Birmingham have built summer homes, where teens head on just about any sunny afternoon and where Margaret Kellum taught her son how to fish.

The Russell mill used to be the focal point of this part of east Alabama, and is still its major employer. But as many textile jobs went elsewhere, the chamber of commerce began bragging that the city offered "the best of outdoor living and small-town charm in one of the top retirement places in the country."

J.T., Bruce and Stephen weren't ready for retirement.

Micky Griggs, good friends with all three, considered joining the military after high school, but only briefly. "I decided to stay around here and help out in my family's business,” the local Domino's Pizza.

Because his family lives on the lake, the kids hung out at Micky's.

"We'd probably be riding Wave Runners out to Chimney Rock if those three were all here right now," said Griggs, who spends most of his days delivering pizza.

Leaping from the high ledges at the Rock, an island retreat in the middle of the lake, is the local kids' version of "Fear Factor."

It wasn't the easiest thing J.T. Sims had ever done. He was afraid of heights. But he never missed a chance to jump.

Amy Barrett recalled her wedding to Stephen back in December 2002. "J.T. had taken leave to attend the wedding. He and his buddies wrapped our car in some kind of tape, filled it with balloons and put Vaseline on all the door handles. We, of course, knew exactly who was behind it."

Micky Griggs, Stephen Barrett and another of J.T.'s pals, Rob Hurst, Saran-wrapped the Kellums’ car at the funeral, leaving inside a stuffed teddy bear wearing a Marine uniform.

Police officers asked Margaret if she wanted to file a complaint against the boys. "I really thought it was pretty funny," she said. "I figured J.T. put them up to it."

There are stories of J.T. riding tricycles through the halls of Wal-Mart, where his friend Eric Scoggins and Bruce Sims' mother, Tracy Lindsey, work.

He enjoyed picking up fellow employees at Arby's _ his only job before enlisting _ and depositing them in garbage cans.

Maybe he savored attention, his mom said, "because he was so short" _ 5 feet 3 might be an exaggeration _ "or maybe because he was raised with five girls and needed to make himself heard." Jerry Kellum had three daughters from a first marriage; Margaret had two girls from her first marriage.

What many of his friends remember are his driving skills.

"He'd get in his truck or his old Maverick, turn up the radio and drive like a madman through town," Scoggins said. "I can't tell you how many tickets he picked up."

But when Scoggins, two years younger than Sims, wanted to learn how to drive, he turned to J.T. "I wanted to learn from the best."

Even Jerry Kellum admits that his stepson had a heavy foot. "He got one of his cars up to 145 miles an hour," he said, smiling.

"One of our police officers complained to me that the city's revenue had dropped considerably after J.T. enlisted," Margaret Kellum said, laughing. "They wanted to know when he'd be coming home." Her eyes began to water.

Cpl. Bruce Sims remembers getting a call from Margaret Kellum, asking if he could arrange to accompany J.T.'s body back home. "I told her it would be an honor,” he said. “J.T. was an outstanding Marine. I'm only sorry I never told him how great a person he was."

Cpl. Stephen Barrett, who still has difficulty coping with J.T.'s death, also came home for the funeral. "It just won't be the same without him," he lamented.

The funeral cortege, numbering 151 cars, stretched for miles as it slowly made its way from West End Baptist Church to the cemetery.

Crystal Martin of the Radney Funeral Home called the procession "probably the biggest we've ever had here."

Mayor Don McClellan ordered city flags to be flown at half-staff.

Reporters from Montgomery and Birmingham attended the funeral. So did local politicians. "I'm not surprised by the turnout," said the Rev. Donald DeLee, who officiated at the burial. "The man was a hero."

Contact Mick Walsh at mwalsh@ledger-enquirer.com


Age: 21
Home: Alexander City, Ala.
Lance Cpl. John T. Sims
"He was my baby when he left for boot camp," his mother said. "He was a man when he went off to war."



08-27-04, 11:56 AM
Echo Company

Ambushed again
Sims died in firefight six days later
• Sims profile

On April 10, six days after Lt. Wroblewski's column was ambushed and the day after Ayon was killed, Lt. Kelly Royer and Echo Company were ordered out again, this time to cordon off an area and search every house in it. They were ambushed again.

A bullet hit the front of Royer's helmet, but he was uninjured. Swanson was lightly wounded, and he and 10 other Marines jumped into a sewer ditch. A Marine lay on top of him, partly to shield him from the enemy bullets snapping and crackling around them, partly to use his body as a firing platform so he could better see and kill the enemy.

Pinned down in a crossfire, Royer's radio operator was unable to raise the company's 3rd Platoon. Royer heard his intelligence non-commissioned officer yell that he was hit, then say a bullet had only grazed him. Then a sergeant screamed that he’d been hit.

Royer and his men crawled 125 feet to the end of the ditch and found better cover behind a wall. They could still hear heavy machine gun and RPG fire from three directions. They secured a nearby building, then turned on a house from which they were taking heavy fire.

Royer noticed that another one of his men, Cpl. Logan J. Degenhart, had been shot in the arm. He asked Degenhart if he needed to be evacuated or if he could still fight. Degenhart said he could still fight. He could and did.

While two Marines raked the house with their Squad Automatic Weapons, Lance Cpl. Benjamin J. Musser stepped out of the house the Marines were using and fired an AT-4 missile at the concrete house where the Iraqis were concealed. It was the first time Musser had ever fired an AT-4, but his missile went right in the window from which the Iraqis were firing.

When the Marines stormed the house, Royer saw three dead Iraqis lying near their weapons. As two Marines opened the door, another insurgent began shooting at them. Cpl. Joseph D. Magee Jr. tossed in a hand grenade, but the Iraqi kept firing. Cpl. Shawn M. Skaggs lobbed in another grenade, and this time the Marines found the Iraqi dead on a staircase.

They found two other people in the house, an elderly man and his wife. They handcuffed the man but found no more weapons.

When Marines returned to the house where the 2nd Platoon had left one of its squads with its vehicles, they found Lance Cpl. John T. Sims with a gunshot wound in the torso. He had a faint pulse and was evacuated from the firefight but died later.

Sims' stepfather, Jerry Kellum, remembered a lead-footed son who loved to blast through Alexander City, Ala., in his truck or his old Ford Maverick. "One of our police officers complained to me that the city’s revenue had dropped considerably after J.T. enlisted," said his mother, Margaret. "They wanted to know when he'd be coming home."

J.T. Sims was 21 when he died.



08-27-04, 03:30 PM
Base theater provides respite from combat toils
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200482314456
Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

CAMP MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq (Aug. 21, 2004) -- It doesn't have surround sound or popcorn to buy in the lobby, but the movie theater here is a luxury after a long day for Lance Cpl. Kyle R. Arsenault.

Temperatures peaking above 120 degrees drain the energy of many Camp Lejeune troops here, particularly the ones outside all day. For Arsenault, and artilleryman, brief respite from the weather in an air conditioned movie theater has been up to this point as foreign to the Auburn, Maine, Marine as the rest of Iraq.

"It's great to have this theater. I have time to get chow and a movie before bed every night now," said Arsenault, 19. "It hasn't been open long, but I'm sure going to spread the word about this place."

The trailer is equipped with a carpeted floor, wood-paneled walls, a surround sound system and a big screen TV. Many would agree the best feature is the air conditioning though.

"The air conditioning and movies take your mind off of what's going on outside for a little while," said Cpl. Zachary A. Trigero, a mortarman from Reno, Nev. The 22 year-old serves as director of programming during the evenings and changes the movies out for the Marines.

The trailer came as a gift from Regimental Combat Team 1, for the morale of the troops. It was long in coming, explained one staff sergeant.

"We call it the 'Albatross Theatre' because the whole project of getting it here has been one big, unwieldy beast," said Staff Sgt. Michael J. Auleta, 30, and the battalion log chief from Neptune, N.J. "It's a great thing to have and I think it'll benefit the Marines a lot."

"We can show two movies a night and we have a different theme every day of the week like action, horror and comedy," Trigero said.

Although romantic comedies aren't at the top of the list, there's room for everything.

"Tonight no one wanted to see the movie we had programmed so we threw in an episode of 'Friends,'" Trigero added.

Flyers are posted around the camp to let the Marines know about the new feature. They know what movies are playing in advance so when they're not outside the wire they can get some respite.

"Four people is the biggest turn-out we've had so far, but word is still getting out about this place," Trigero said. "We might need more seats when everyone knows about what this place has to offer."


Cpl. Carl A. Atherton, 31, with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, kicks back after a hard day to to watch a movie, Aug. 22. The Chino Hills, Calif. native, along with his fellow Marines, have an air conditoned movie trailer at their disposal seven nights a week.
(USMC Photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes) Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes



08-27-04, 05:29 PM
Issue Date: August 30, 2004

Valor at Nasiriyah
Gunny left the Corps for 3 years, but missed the life. Good thing for his unit in Iraq that he did.

By C. Mark Brinkley
Times staff writer

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — If Gunnery Sgt. Tim Haney had been a better student, things might have been different for his Marines.
They might have been much, much worse.

The 39-year-old from Curwensville, Pa., left the Marine Corps for college in 1988, only to return three years later when the Persian Gulf War loomed. And on Aug. 6, he was awarded the Silver Star during a ceremony here.

More than a week after the ceremony, as his battalion was preparing to join the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and start pre-deployment training, Haney still downplayed the actions that earned him the Navy Department’s third-highest award for combat valor.

“I was stunned by it,” he said. “It was just a conglomeration of things over a several-day period. I think everyone who was over there with us deserves one.”

Given the kind of combat Haney and his Marines saw during the war, perhaps he’s right. While serving as the platoon sergeant for Combined Anti-Armor Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, Haney and his men were up close and personal with the enemy more times than anyone wants to count.

“Gunnery Sergeant Haney’s leadership, personal sacrifice and calming influence enabled his platoon to repeatedly engage and defeat enemy forces in close combat,” reads the citation for his award, signed by Navy Secretary Gordon England. “From 23 to 26 March 2003, Gunnery Sergeant Haney participated in firefights with Iraqi military and paramilitary forces in … Nasiriyah, Iraq, during which his personal example while under fire set the tone for the platoon’s tactical success.”

During one firefight, Haney and his men were engaging a heavy machine gun when the platoon sergeant got out of his vehicle and ran through enemy fire to gain “vital situational awareness” about the enemy positions.

In another case, as the battalion’s main command operations center came under attack from two directions, “Haney raced through intense fire to emplace Marines in defensive positions and orient their fires,” according to the citation.

Then came an explosion, which “riddled Gunnery Sergeant Haney’s body with 60 pieces of shrapnel,” but did not stop him, the citation continues. “He refused medical attention until everyone else had been treated.”

It was this “bold leadership, wise judgment and complete dedication to duty” that made Haney a standout among his peers. His was only the seventh Silver Star to be awarded to a Marine since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Four Marines have received Navy Crosses, the Navy Department’s second highest honor.

Haney also received the Purple Heart for the wounds he sustained in Iraq, as well as his third Combat Action Ribbon.

Getting out, coming back

Haney earned his first CAR during his first enlistment, for a successful gas-oil platform takedown in the Persian Gulf. But Haney left the military as a sergeant and headed off to Penn State to be “a business major,” he said. “Not a very good business major, but I was trying to be one.”

He was enrolled in a commissioning program and was thinking of coming back into the Corps someday as an officer, but things started heating up in the Middle East.

“I missed the Marine Corps, and I had a lot of friends who were writing,” said Haney, now the company gunny for Golf Company, 2/8. “I was — I don’t want to say homesick — but I was missing the camaraderie.”

He also was missing the buildup for the 1991 showdown with Iraq, events his friends relayed in their letters. They were preparing for war while he was headed off to class. The thought left him unsettled.

So he dropped out of college and returned to the Corps as a retread corporal in 1991, hoping to head to the desert. Hoping to do his part for the nation at a time when the ferocity of the war couldn’t be predicted. Hoping to just get into some action with his buddies.

Within three days of checking in at Camp Lejeune, things were different, he remembered with a laugh. He did not deploy to Kuwait as he had hoped. “Basically, the war was over.”

But he was back on active duty, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines. He met his wife, Jackie, who was a Marine administrative clerk on base. They have a son, 12-year-old Robert.

In 1994, he headed to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., for drill instructor duty. Then, it was back to Lejeune and 3/8, where he deployed to Kosovo with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 1999 and earned his second Combat Action Ribbon.

In late 1999, he was assigned to the base Staff NCO Academy as an instructor. He stayed there until July 2002, when he transferred to 2/8.

This time, when the Marine Corps prepared for Iraq, he was in the mix.

His unit returned from Iraq in June 2003 and within six months was headed to a different war zone, in Afghanistan. Haney and his Marines returned from the Afghan deployment in May, a mission that might eventually produce a fourth Combat Action Ribbon if all of the paperwork is approved.

Haney doesn’t care either way. He wants to be a good Marine and a good leader, and hopes to pick up first sergeant in the next selection board. But he’s not in it for the awards.

“I said, ‘There’s no way I should be put in for such an award,’” Haney said, remembering his reaction to the Silver Star nomination. “I suppose my commanders think I deserved it. Do I think I did? No. We just worked well together. We’re still that way.”

C. Mark Brinkley is the Jacksonville, N.C., bureau chief for Marine Corps Times. He can be reached at (910) 455-8354 or cmark@marinecorpstimes.com.



08-27-04, 07:24 PM
Marines cope with calm between storms
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 20048234436
Story by Capt. David Nevers

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (Aug. 19, 2004) -- Lance Cpl. Tom Haug didn’t really think he’d be handing out candy and school supplies to Iraqi kids.

When the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit learned in late April that it would be leaving Camp Lejeune, N.C., early and spending the duration of its deployment in Iraq, news reports of intense fighting and fallen Marines were still fresh.

Now, three weeks after the MEU arrived in Northern Babil province, Haug is wondering where all the insurgents have gone.

“I expected to be unloading magazines constantly,” said the 20-year-old fire-team leader from Morris County, N.J., sounding more puzzled than disappointed. “They told us [we would be] ‘no better friend, no worse enemy,’ but I didn’t expect this.”

To be sure, even in Northern Babil -- a pocket of relative calm between the intemperate zones of Fallujah and Ramadi to the north and Najaf to the south -- the Marines have sustained attacks and suffered casualties.

But by and large, the leathernecks of 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, have favored the gentler half of the approach that Marines promised would characterize their contributions to the stabilization of Iraq.

While they have been sniffing out troublemakers seeking to undermine the fledgling democracy, they have found the area they have patrolled daily surprisingly hospitable.

“The people here love us,” said HN James Marron, 22, a platoon corpsman, following a late-afternoon patrol Aug. 18 that flooded a nearby neighborhood with hundreds of exuberant kids and mostly friendly adults. “They don’t fear us. The more they see us, the more the bad [guys] go away.”

Even so, the Londonderry, N.H., native understands that the American presence poses risks to those Iraqis inclined to help. The threat, according to Marron and the Marines with whom he patrols, seeps in to the neighborhood from elsewhere in the country.

The most dreaded outsiders are the Wahhabis, who adhere to a radically exacting interpretation of Islam and who have been intimidating local citizens who dare to assist the Americans.

Marron, who with the help of language cards issued to all members of the MEU has picked up a working knowledge of Arabic, related a conversation he had with a local man a week earlier.

The man’s brother had been working with an Army unit later relieved by the MEU. A group of Wahhabis paid the brother a visit, warning him to stop. When he refused, the Wahhabis returned, dragged the man out, and executed him in front of his family.

“Just saying that word (Wahhabi) around here freaks people out,” Marron said.

The rub, the Marines recognize, is that the very people still oppressed by fear are the ones whose help they need to root out the remnants of tyranny.

“We’re trying not to [tick] the people off too much,” said Staff Sgt. Dominick Stinson, 27, a native of Pembroke, N.H., and 2nd Platoon’s platoon sergeant. “They’re used to a life of solitude. It seems they just want to live their lives. It’s kind of a touchy balance we’re trying to deal with out there.”

Staying focused

The Marines of Bravo Company have conducted roughly 60 patrols over the past two weeks, averaging four per day. It is a draining pace, as the Marines -- many of them veterans of last year’s war against Saddam Hussein’s army -- fend off complacency in an environment that hasn’t seemed all that threatening.

Cpl. Michael Montemayor, a 29-year-old machine gunner from San Jose, Calif., who is on his second tour in Iraq, said keeping the younger Marines on their toes can be challenging in the absence of enemy attacks.

“It’s pretty hard to keep them focused,” he said. “But it’s [essential], knowing that at any moment there could be an insurgent who pops up over a berm and blows us all to kingdom come.”

These Marines, who compose 2nd Platoon’s 3rd Squad, barely avoided just such a fate two weeks ago, when an improvised explosive device exploded between two humvees. While Haug suffered a bloody nose from the concussion, there were no serious casualties, except perhaps the illusion that all the danger was elsewhere.

Between the adrenaline-pumping attacks and the senses-dulling monotony, the small-unit leaders look for ways to keep their Marines on an even keel.

Cpl. Hayden Kandel, a 23-year-old native of Pleasantville, Ohio, and the 3rd Squad leader, said he tries to ease stress and combat tedium by encouraging his Marines to find fun where they can.

“You have to try to make the best of a (expletive that rhymes with gritty) situation,” he advised.

On occasion, their patrol routes have required them to negotiate a canal adulterated generously with human waste. With no bridge available, the only way across was through, and Kandel urged his reluctant warriors to throw caution to the foul wind.

“There’s no reason, once you’ve established security and handed off your weapon, you can’t do a cannonball into the ‘sh-- trench,’” he said with a shrug.

Culture shock

Out on patrol, as the Marines navigated the streets, it was apparent that vigilance wasn’t the only required virtue.

Before dismounting their humvees, they had stuffed their pockets full of candy and had grabbed boxes of school supplies and bins of sunflower seeds. As they moved off a busy thoroughfare and into a squalid warren of homes, where the dirt-packed roads double as trash receptacles, the residents began emerging.

The Marines hadn’t advanced 30 yards before the roads were teeming with kids – hundreds of them -- smiling, posing for cameras, and clamoring for the treats they quickly learned were at hand.

The Marines had been through this before, and each attempt to distribute equitably the sweet gestures of goodwill tested their patience. The kids seemed not to understand the meaning of an upraised forefinger, as they repeatedly returned for more and more.

“The language barrier sucks,” said Haug. “You don’t want to be completely disrespectful, but you can’t let yourself be pushed around by these little kids.”

Montemayor, who was born in the Philippines and knows something about the deprivation that marks the second and third worlds, said that the frustration is an understandable byproduct of culture shock.

“A lot of these guys are astonished at how these kids are living … begging every time they see an American,” he said.

The platoon’s commander, 2nd Lt. Joseph Irwin, 23, of Culver City, Calif., said it’s important to continue “working to build the relationship with the community and keep that fragile balance.”

“Handing out stuff puts smiles on the Marines’ faces and opens doors, even though,” he added with a smile of his own, “the kids beat each other up for the candy.”

Mutual goal

As the Marines inched forward through the scrums, Kandel, his interpreter and the squad scribe stopped at several residences lining the road. Kandel’s purpose was to introduce himself, assess the neighborhood’s attitude toward the Marines, and to gain any insight into insurgent activity in the area.

The Marines were received graciously, if not always warmly. Most of the residents answering the knock on their gate were mildly apprehensive, no more than an American might be were a group of armed strangers to show up unannounced.

After a few minutes, the initial awkward tension would ease, and by the end of the brief visit, the smiles and the farewell handshakes came easily.

When asked, most Iraqis said they were pleased with the American presence – and grateful that the Hussein regime had been toppled. While they still struggle to find work to support their families, they acknowledge that a burden has been lifted.

“Financially, [life is] the same as before,” said Attiya Sagban, 51, a father of five who earns the equivalent of $1.50 per day renting chairs. “But psychologically, it is better.”

Speaking through the interpreter, he expressed gratitude for a glass half full.

“I thank God,” he said. “Everything is okay. I’m just waiting for the future.”

Later, back on the thoroughfare, the Marines continued their patrol. Irwin and Stinson reminded them to maintain their dispersion, lest they present a fat target.

Outside a strip of stores, Kandel found common ground with a half-dozen men.

“The people here are poor,” the eldest said. “All they want is to live peacefully and friendly.”

Kandel seized the opening, making it clear that the Americans and Iraqis shared the same objective.

“That’s all we want, too,” he said. “Hopefully, the outsiders will soon stop coming to [harass you]. The more information you can get and give to us, the sooner we can go.”


With the help of an interpreter, Cpl. Hayden Kandel (center) talks to a local Iraqi man during a foot patrol Aug. 18 in the central Iraqi province of Northern Babil.

Kandel is the leader of 3rd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Also assisting Kandel, who hails from Pleasantville, Ohio, is Lance Cpl. Kristopher Jolley (right) of Valley Lee, Mo.

Over the last two weeks, the Marines of Bravo Company have conducted four patrols per day in the vicinity of Forward Operating Base Kalsu in an effort to make local residents comfortable with the American presence and any militants in the area decidedly uncomfortable.
Photo by: Capt. Davis Nevers



08-28-04, 12:24 AM
Posted on Tue, Aug. 24, 2004

Guest Column

Marine from Fort Wayne finds invaluable mission in Iraq

FALLUJAH IS A LONG WAY from the St. Joe baseball fields where Chris Weimer played as a kid. Nor is it close to the Northrop soccer fields he roamed as a member of the varsity soccer team. But for four months, that’s exactly where Chris was as a Marine, participating in raids and providing convoy security.

In a growing political climate of cynicism, you might wonder just how an intelligent and good-looking young man such as Chris could have forsaken the two-and-a-half years he’s spent working toward a degree in criminal justice at IPFW to join the Marines.

Chris said his actions caused his parents quite a bit of anxiety, but it had always been his dream to be a Marine. He also acknowledges that, like every other soldier or Marine who enlists, there exists in him that “natural interest in experiencing combat.”

Yet combat wasn’t exactly what he expected. “It wasn’t the nightmare that others make it out to be,” Chris said. He added that you learn to rely on your training as well as your natural instincts.

What upsets Chris, however, is the way media, critics and moviemakers use propaganda to promote their own opinions, thus undercutting a task that Chris feels needs to be completed.

“When all this started,” Chris said, “everyone seemed to be against Saddam. Now it seems the general belief is going in the opposite direction. That’s not fair to the Iraqi people. You just can’t leave them there for the rats to return. These people deserve freedom. They shouldn’t have to worry about Saddam or any other tyrant coming in the night and taking family members away.”

So why should America be there? As he said, “Because it sends a message to terrorists around the world — when you threaten your neighbors, it won’t be tolerated.”

Chris talked about the attitudes the Americans have encountered from the Iraqis. “There’s no doubt, it remains pretty volatile. But in many places, people are very appreciative. The large cities are different because there remain those who are considered Saddam’s loyalists.” However, Chris related how on their convoy from Kuwait heading north, they received nothing but cheers and thanks from numerous villages and those who greeted the Marines along the road.

On the subject of Iraqis’ policing themselves: “Those who serve in the Iraqi police are overall doing a difficult job,” he says. “To put on the uniform makes you an instant target, but they understand what lies ahead.”

Chris shared how a fellow Marine had been wounded, and while under fire, two Iraqi officers pulled him to safety. “We need to continue to support their efforts.”

Chris’ assignments with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine regiment, 1st Marine Division Weapons Co. also included many hours handing out medical supplies and assuring that basic utility services such as water and electricity were being protected. He also told how once he spent six hours handing out soccer balls to kids.

Now that Chris has a few days for rest and relaxation, he says he appreciates so much more, including his neighborhood.

“You grow up and you take everything for granted. But I look around at my home in Arlington, and everything just looks so beautiful,” he said.

Chris wishes the media could come to appreciate the lessons he’s learned. “Occasionally, you get to watch the news over there, and it’s disturbing to watch an hour coverage of how a few soldiers have mistreated incarcerated Iraqis, and only one minute covering the beheading of an American or the death or wounding of a soldier or Marine.”

Entertainers such as Linda Ronstadt may call the likes of Michael Moore a patriot. Give us a break! It’s Chris Weimer and all the airman, soldiers, sailors and Marines who are the patriots. Maybe we should listen to their stories and their opinions before we go to the movies to learn about what we don’t understand.

Robert Rinearson is a resident of Fort Wayne.