View Full Version : 3rd MAW Marine reunites with older brother in Iraq

08-31-04, 07:03 AM
3rd MAW Marine reunites with older brother in Iraq
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 2004830181815
Story by Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri

AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 26, 2004) -- Being far from home can cause some Marines to form bonds that make them like brothers, but for two Marines here, they already know the feeling.

Joining the Marine Corps four years apart, Sgt. Benjamin E. Chad, combat engineer, Bridge Company A, and Cpl. Nicholas D. Chad, CH53 crew chief and mechanic, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, hadn't seen each other for almost nine months before having a fortunate meeting here Aug. 26.

"I knew that my younger brother was at Al Asad," said 26-year-old Benjamin. "When I found out that I'd be there for a few days I e-mailed my mom and she emailed Nick to let him know."

"When I found out that my brother was coming (to Al Asad), I immediately started asking around to find out what day he would arrive," added 22-year-old Nicholas, who has been aboard Al Asad for close to a month. "My supervisor gave me the day off so I could go see him."

Since they were kids, they played war and pretended to be in the military. Now, they're both doing it for real in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

"My grandpa on my mom's side was in the Army and my grandpa on my dad's side was in the Marine Corps," said Benjamin, "so being in the military is kind of a family tradition."

"We were in the Boy Scouts together and a Marine visited us once," said Nicholas. "Ever since then, I was never interested in any other branch of service."

Benjamin was the first to join the Corps as a reservist; enlisting immediately following high school. This is his second time in Iraq after serving in OIF I.

"I'll be here for seven months," said Benjamin, "My wife has been really supportive during both of my deployments. I'm really lucky to have her."

Benjamin and Nicholas grew up in Saginaw, Mich., where they both attended Nouvel Catholic Central High School.

"The whole family lives (in Michigan)," said Benjamin, "There are a total of five brothers and three sisters (amongst the siblings)."

"My little brother Luke is in the Army," said Nicholas. "With three of us in the military our parents are worried, but they're proud of us."

Like most brothers, the Chad duo tends to joke around and give each other a hard time.

While looking down at his little brother, Benjamin joked, "We're a lot alike, with the obvious height difference."

"Ben always calls me a 'long-haired air-winger'," claimed Nicholas, "but being a 'weekend warrior' he has no room to talk."

Although they hassle one other, it is clear to anyone observing the brothers together how much they really care for each other.

"We do get along," confessed Nicholas. "We're glad we got to see each other while we are stationed here."


Cpl. Nicholas D. Chad (right), a 22-year-old CH-53 helicopter crew chief and mechanic, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Wing 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, applies a headlock to his older brother, 26-year-old Sgt. Benjamin E. Chad, combat engineer, Bridge Company A, during a playful sibling wrestling match at Al Asad, Iraq, Aug. 27. The brothers had not seen each other for nearly nine months before an unexpected swing of fate reunited the Marines from Saginaw, Mich., at the desert airbase. Photo by: Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri



08-31-04, 07:04 AM
In death, no clear answers <br />
Officials likely to have tough time convicting anyone for murder of Iraqi who died in a U.S. prison camp last year <br />
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August 30, 2004 <br />
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08-31-04, 07:06 AM
Tobacco's lure still strong in war zone <br />
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Spike in use by troops feared by health experts <br />
By Michael Stetz <br />
August 29, 2004

08-31-04, 07:07 AM
Parente wants to honor Marine: Plan would name local bridges after Sgt. Fontecchio
By Leslie H. Dixon / News Staff Writer
Sunday, August 29, 2004

MILFORD -- Plans are in the works to honor the U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Elia P. Fontecchio who was killed by enemy fire Aug. 4 while serving in Iraq.

Bills filed by state Rep. Marie J. Parente would authorize the naming of two highway bridge overpasses on Interstate 495 in Milford.

The overpass that spans Rte. 109 would be named for Fontecchio, a former Milford resident, while the overpass at Rte. 85 would be named in honor of all Milford area veterans. Parente said officials at the Massachusetts Highway Department have informed her that both locations are currently available.

"My four brothers served and in honor of their service I always tried to serve veterans," said Parente of her longtime dedication to veteran issues and decision to recognize local area servicemen.

"Everyone who goes over the overpass should whisper a thank you," she said.

Parente said she decided to ask that the Rte. 85 overpass be named in honor of those men and women and for any future soldier who may pay the ultimate sacrifice in war.

"The Iraq War is not over," she said somberly.

A 1992 graduate of Milford High School, Fontecchio enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1993, and held positions of increasing responsibility while being stationed in Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Tanzania. Parente said his father, Dennis, is a Vietnam veteran who was wounded and served two tours of duty in that war. Elia Fontecchio left behind a wife, young son and a number of friends and relatives.

"After speaking with members of Sgt. Fontecchio's family, and an inquiry to Veterans Agent John Pilla, I decided to file legislation honoring Elia and other Milford area servicemen who have served and given their lives so that we may remain free," said Parente. "To the best of our knowledge, Sgt. Fontecchio is the first person with Milford ties to be killed in action since the Vietnam War, and many people are eager to honor his memory in whatever way possible."

Milford High School Principal John Brucato recently announced that a memorial plaque will be hung at the high school auditorium to honor the 30-year-old father who graduated from the high school in 1992. Brucato said the school will set up a memorial by creating a self-sustaining scholarship fund. They will also place a memorial picture plaque outside the auditorium.

Another Milfordian, U.S. Marine Capt. Michael Volpe, has established a college fund for Fontecchio's young son Elia Jr. Donations may be sent to the Navy Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 3000, Merrifield, VA 22199-3000, Attn: Elia Fontecchio Memorial Fund.

Parente's four brothers served in the United States armed forces; one in Korea and three in World War II. One of her three brothers who served in World War II also served in Vietnam as an employee of Pratt Whitney/United Aircraft and the U.S. government. Her brother Joe successfully completed his assignment discovering why U.S. helicopters were inexplicably crashing. He redesigned the helicopter's panel board to avoid future crashes.

Parente said her dedication to servicemen is not new. "I have never forgotten our veterans. I have stuck close to them as I promised I would," she said.

Parente previously participated in the fund-raising effort to build a Korean War memorial in Worcester, and was present for the unveiling of the Milford Vietnam Veterans memorial at the Milford District Court. She also worked with other concerned residents to create a World War II memorial in Draper Park in Milford.

Parente said the legislation requires the approval of the House, Senate and Governor Mitt Romney to become law. If approved, the Highway Department would erect appropriate signs on each highway overpass.

"Every time a person drives on Rte. 495 through Milford, they will be reminded of the sacrifices made by young men and women in Iraq and elsewhere to defend our nation and keep our town safe and prosperous," she said.

The Democratic representative represents the 10th Worcester District, which includes Milford, Mendon and Hopedale.



08-31-04, 07:08 AM
Marines sweep for enemy mortarmen in Kharma
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200483052355
Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

KHARMA, Iraq (Aug. 29, 2004) -- Enemy mortarmen in the rural areas around Fallujah may soon find themselves face-to-face with the business end of a Marine's M-16.

Bristling with rifles and ammunition, and the sun on their backs, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, has gone on the hunt for enemy mortarmen here recently.

"One of our duties is mortar mitigation," explained Sgt. James Eldridge, 24, and a team leader with the company. "We need to keep them from firing at us, so we're basically just getting out there on foot and searching for enemy positions."

Although anti-coalition forces have learned to keep their distance from the Marines, mortar sweeps also serve as presence patrols, according to Eldridge.

"These type of missions just reminds them that we're here hoping we actually run into them, or at least close enough to kill them," said Eldridge, from Lynn, Mass.

Despite the 'shoot-and-hide' tactics of the enemy mortarmen and the 120-degree temperatures, the Marines are holding up well and are committed to keeping on the enemy's trail, according to one squad leader in the company.

"The terrain can be challenging, but my Marines are doing very well and are eager to get these bad guys - and we will," said Sgt. Fernando Rafael, 26. "I expect us to continue doing more sweeps because of (the operation's) success and effectiveness."

It helps to have some combat veterans too, according to Eldridge.

"We have a strong and salty squad because some of us were here last year," said Eldridge, who's currently serving a second tour in Iraq and will receive a Purple Heart medal for wounds received from enemy action.

One tool that has helped out the Marines of Kilo Company is the minesweeper. The combat engineers have used the gadget to uncover many weapons caches, draining the enemy's combat power.

"I think (the enemy is) just stretched out thin, but it would help to have more minesweepers with us," said Rafael, of Pomona, Calif. "The combat engineers are very effective and we have seized a lot of weapons because of them."


Lance Cpl. Manuel C. Bautista, an infantryman with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, sweeps the side of the road for explosives near Fallujah, recently.
(USMC Photo by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen) Photo by: Sgt. Jose E. Guillen


08-31-04, 07:09 AM
Marine contribution puts Iraqi school on right track for future
Submitted by: 1st Force Service Support Group
Story Identification #: 20048298153
Story by Lance Cpl. Samuel Bard Valliere

AL KABANI, Iraq (Aug. 29, 2004) -- Marines put aside their rifles and broke out their rulers Aug. 26, 2004, as they checked up on one of their investments in Iraq's future by paying a visit to a small local elementary school.

The Marines, reservists from the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, wanted to see the harvest of more than $5,500 they gave the Iraqi government to spend on making improvements to a school in Al Kabani, a fishing village near Camp Taqaddum.

Purchasing the school supplies was part of an ongoing effort by the unit aimed at improving the quality of life in the village near Camp Taqaddum, the headquarters to the 1st Force Service Support Group, which elements of the battalion provide security for.

For years, the children in the town have been using the same makeshift desks and sheets of painted wood used as blackboards, things that if replaced would improve the learning environment for the students, the village's teachers told the Marines in March.

"It's real good," a young Iraqi boy wearing bright red pants that looked to be older than him said through a translator. "I have the urge now to learn. I think I will learn very much."

The new, sturdy desks, which have benches built onto them meant to hold two students, are a far cry from the ones made of scrap-wood the children were using.

The principal's once Spartan office now has a refrigerator, a water cooler, ornate rugs and a computer for the students to use.

"Before, the government wouldn't come to do improvements like that and now we have it," said Muktar Ismael Hamaad, the village leader, through a translator. "We thank the coalition and the Americans, our neighbors."

Headquartered in Bridgeton, Mo., the battalion has awarded contracts worth approximately $350,000 for numerous improvements for communities near Camp Taqaddum.

In March, the battalion's troops visited with Al Kabani's leaders, who told them the village needed clean water, a generator to provide power to the people's homes, health care and school improvements, in hopes the Marines would be able help finance them.

After funding and overseeing the development of a water-purification system and generator in the village, and conducting basic medical assessments during frequent visits to the community, the Marines have now kept their last promise to the people.

The purifier, which pumps water to every home in the town, has also benefited the school.

"That is probably one of the nicest schools in Iraq now. I've been to a lot of them, and this is the only one with a working bathroom," said Maj. Luke W. Kratky, 33, the battalion's information officer and native of Fenton, Mo.

Although Thayer Hamdallah, the village's district representative, had the furniture ready to be delivered some time ago, he postponed delivering it to the six-room schoolhouse for fear it would be stolen by thugs while the children were on their summer vacation.

Now, a security guard will be posted at the school 24-hours-a-day.

Al Kabani's school seems to be a microcosm of the Iraqi education system, which declined after the Gulf War due to the impact of war, sanctions, neglect and isolation, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

According to a UNICEF press release, most of Iraq's schools need repairs and another 5,000 need to be built to accommodate all of Iraq's 12 million school-age children.

Almost half of the country's 15- to 24-year-old male population and more than 75 percent of its women in the same age group are illiterate.

United Nations and military efforts have made some progress in rebuilding the learning system. As of March, more than 2,500 of the country's 18,000 schools have seen some improvements.

When the interim government took power it assumed the responsibility of restoring Iraq's debilitated school system. However, 3/24's Marines will continue to try and help the new government by playing a hand in improving Al Kabani until they pass the torch on to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, an artillery unit based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., which will relieve 3/24 in the coming weeks.


A young boy and a Marine from the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, look in on new desks the battalion bought for a school in Al Kabani, an Iraqi village in the Al Anbar Province, on Aug. 26, 2004. Marines with the battalion visited the village to see the new furniture and to drop off school supplies, including notebooks, pens and crayons, which were donated by family and friends of the troops. Elements of the battalion provide security for nearby Camp Taqaddum, home of the headquarters of the 1st Force Service Support Group. Headquartered in Bridgeton, Mo., the battalion has awarded numerous contracts to the local Iraqi government worth approximately $350,000 for numerous improvements to communities near Camp Taqaddum. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Samuel Bard Valliere



08-31-04, 07:49 AM
U.S., Shiites Meet After Clashes
Associated Press
August 30, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. military officials and representatives of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held talks Sunday aimed at reducing violence in the restive Baghdad slum of Sadr City, a day after clashes there killed 10 people, officials said. British forces in the southern city of Basra, also the site of recent fighting, held similar talks with al-Sadr officials there.

Both areas had erupted in violence after U.S. forces and al-Sadr's militants began fighting in the holy city of Najaf three weeks ago, and the talks Sunday appeared to be an effort by both sides to expand on the peace deal that ended the Najaf crisis Friday.

An agreement, at least in Sadr City, remained elusive, however, with al-Sadr's aides demanding a U.S. pullout from the neighborhood, a condition U.S. officials rejected.

On Monday, Oil exports from southern Iraq have come to a complete halt because of attacks on pipelines and are not likely to resume for at least a week, a senior Iraqi oil official.

Oil flows out of the southern pipelines - which account for 90 percent of Iraq's exports - ceased late Sunday, an official from South Oil Co. said on condition of anonymity.

Also early Monday, insurgents fired three mortar rounds in the Iraqi capital but there were no immediate reports of casualties, the Interior Ministry said.

The mortars landed in a neighborhood in east Baghdad, said ministry spokesman Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman.

Meanwhile, guerrillas launched an attack on the country's oil infrastructure in the south, blowing up several oil export pipelines and cutting already curtailed exports to about 500,000 barrels a day, an oil official said.

In the north, insurgents ambushed U.S. troops with rocket-propelled grenades near Mosul, sparking gunbattles that killed two attackers and wounded 34 civilians, the U.S. military said.

U.S. forces and al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia have been fighting for weeks in Sadr city, the east Baghdad slum named for the rebel cleric's father. Though peace descended on Najaf on Friday, skirmishes continued Saturday in Baghdad, with militants firing mortars and automatic weapons at U.S. troops and tanks in the impoverished neighborhood.

In response, al-Sadr representatives, tribal leaders, Shiite politicians, government officials and U.S. military officers met to discuss the violence.

The head of the tribal negotiating team, Naim al-Bakhati, told reporters that all sides - including al-Sadr representatives - had agreed that damaged areas there be rebuilt, U.S. troops withdraw from the area except for their normal patrols and that Iraqi police be allowed to enter the slum.

But "there was no agreement on the Mahdi Army handing over their weapons," al-Bakhati said.

Sadr City police chief Col. Maarouf Moussa Omran said all sides agreed to observe a one-day truce until Monday morning to give the Iraqi government time to discuss the results of the meeting.

But Lt. Col. Jim Hutton, a spokesman for the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division, said "there has been no agreement of any kind," adding that the talks were not negotiations.

Sadr City remained relatively peaceful Sunday. Fighting Saturday in the slum killed 10 people and wounded 126, said Saad al-Amili, a Health Ministry official.

In Basra, a British commander held talks with al-Sadr's top representative in the city, Sheik Asaad al-Basri, and the pro-al-Sadr deputy governor, Salam al-Maliki.

British Maj. Charlie Mayo, a coalition spokesman in Basra, described the meeting as a routine "interaction between the local British commanders and respected tribal leaders."

Before the talks started, al-Basri told The Associated Press that "we want to avoid bloodshed but we have conditions that we will put forward to the British" including an amnesty for Mahdi Army members and compensation for victims of recent clashes.

Al-Basri also said he wanted British forces to keep out of the city center and use mutually agreed roads to reach their bases around the city.

The latest attack on Iraq's vulnerable oil infrastructure occurred Sunday when assailants blew up several export pipelines in al-Radgha, 30 miles southwest of Basra, an official at the state-run South Oil Co. said on condition of anonymity.

Plumes of black smoke billowed from the area as firefighters struggled to extinguish the flames. The pipelines connect the Rumeila oilfields with export storage tanks in the Faw peninsula.

Iraq exports about 90 percent of its oil out of the south and sabotage last week had already halved normal exports to about 900,000 barrels a day. Sunday's attack cut exports to about 500,000 barrels a day, a second official with the company said on condition of anonymity.

If the fires aren't put out soon and other sabotaged lines aren't repaired, exports could be halted entirely, the official said.

Insurgents have launched repeated attacks on Iraq's vital oil industry in a bid to damage reconstruction efforts and undermine the interim government, which relies heavily on oil income.

On Saturday, saboteurs blew up another pipeline in the West Qurna oilfields, 90 miles north of Basra.

Near the northern city of Mosul early Sunday, insurgents holed up in a mosque attacked U.S. patrols with rocket-propelled grenades twice in three hours, said Army Capt. Angela Bowman.

The violence occurred just outside Tal Afar, 30 miles west of Mosul. Soldiers returned fire during both assaults, killing two of the attackers, she said. No U.S. casualties were reported.

Scores of people in the area sleeping outdoors on rooftops to escape the summer heat were wounded "by flying debris and broken glass" during the violence, the U.S. military said in a statement.

Citing a doctor at a hospital in Tal Afar, the military said 34 civilians were wounded, 26 of them women and children. Provincial health chief Rabie Yasin al-Khalil told The Associated Press that 32 civilians were injured.

Also Sunday, French President Jacques Chirac said his country would spare no effort to free two French reporters held hostage in Iraq by militants demanding that France scrap its ban on Islamic head scarves in state schools. He dispatched his foreign minister to work for the journalists' release.

Chirac sought to appeal to the kidnappers with an implicit reminder that France opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. But he did not directly respond to their demand that the head scarf ban be overturned within 48 hours.

In other developments Sunday:

- Two Turkish hostages, engineers Ali Daskin and Abdullah Ozdemir, were freed by Iraqi militants and taken to the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said. The men were released after their companies, in response to the kidnappers' demands, agreed to pull out of Iraq.

- U.S. troops in the city of Samarra killed an insurgent who had stolen a truck at gunpoint, the U.S. military said.


08-31-04, 11:27 AM
Thundering Third conducts 'Clean Sweep' near Fallujah
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20048315636
Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 30, 2004) -- The battalion known as the Thundering Third came down hard on enemy safehavens around Fallujah in their to-date largest operation alongside Iraqi forces recently.

3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, alongside Iraqi Specialized Special Forces, conducted Operation Clean Sweep Aug. 23-24 in areas east of Fallujah.

The operation was designed to hinder enemy movement to and from the city and eliminate any possible safe havens in the vicinity.

"We're basically sweeping rural open areas because we're suspecting terrorists are transporting and selling weapons, shooting mortars and attacking our firm bases," explained Sgt. Edgar O. Payan, a platoon guide with Company K.

"Terrorists are moving through areas like crop fields as they come and go out of Fallujah, so we're hoping we nab some suspects and find their weapons," added Payan, a 25-year-old from Pomona, Calif.

The 48-hour operation kicked off in the early hours of Aug. 23. By the end of the first day, Marines had arrested two suspects for stowing munitions in their homes.

Clean Sweep not only called for Marines to search homes for weapons, but to walk the land around the target areas, looking for anything out of the ordinary. The Marines were especially on the lookout for materials used to create improvised explosive devices.

"We found five caches of significance, which contained IED making materials, propaganda material, many types of small arms, and even several sets of SCUBA gear buried in the ground," said Lt. Col. Willard A. Buhl, the battalion's commanding officer. "We also detained a number of suspected terrorists."

Payan gives much credit for the battalion's success to the younger Marines, who have proved effective and eager.

"I'm glad we're doing this mission because I want to get these bastards," said Lance Cpl. Ryan M. Voeller, a 20-year-old rifleman with Company K.

"We've been doing really good because so far we've found a bunch of weapons the enemy can't use anymore," added Voeller, from Sinclair, Minn.

Buhl noted the teamwork between his troops and the Iraqi forces conducting Operation Clean Sweep.

"Our Iraqi partners were up front developing the tactical situation for their Marine counterparts," explained Buhl. "Their ability to gain intelligence on suspected enemy caches was invaluable and continued to build trust between our two fighting organizations - I expect our capabilities to increase commensurately," Buhl added.

Buhl, along with Sgt. Maj. Edward T. Sax, battalion sergeant major, took time after the operation to praise the Marines for a job well done.

"Our Marines and Sailors performed at the 'Three-One Standard,' accomplishing the mission above expectations," said Buhl, 41, of Los Gratos, Calif.

"Sergeant Major Sax and I couldn't be more proud of them, as should our families and friends back home - we're doing great things for our nation, the Marine Corps and the Iraqi people," said Buhl.




08-31-04, 11:43 AM
August 27, 2004

In Times Of War, Standards For Medals Can Vary Widely

By David Wood, Newhouse News Service

WASHINGTON -- Like the tax code, the military regulations governing the award of combat medals run to hundreds of pages, struggling through multipart definitions and sub-subparagraphs to define what guys in combat know is not measurable:

Who is a hero?

A hint of the trouble comes from this bold statement in a U.S. Army document recording the 49,861 medals it has handed out for Iraq war service: "It is fair to state that the actual number of individual decorations awarded under combat conditions cannot be stated with absolute certainty."

In fact, there is little agreement inside the military even on the relatively simple fact of what a medal stands for. "How'd he get it?" is the reaction many veterans have when eyeing someone's Silver or Bronze Star.

Little wonder that the public, watching the back-and-forth over whether John Kerry earned his Vietnam medals, can't sort out who got what citations, what it all meant then, and what it means today.

Particularly contentious are medals given to those engaged in close combat, "the psychologically searing moment when you look somebody in the eye and put a bullet in his chest and he looks at you with that quizzical look before he dies," said retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales Jr., a historian and former commandant of the U.S. Army War College.

What happens then, Scales said, "is unmeasurable. It's shrouded in mystery and folklore."

The Silver Star, for example, must be awarded for "gallantry" in combat -- but only for gallantry "performed with marked distinction."

When Marines assault through the cemetery in Najaf, Iraq, no accounting of the ammunition each man uses or the yardage he gains can parse the difference between gallantry with or without "marked distinction." In the large sense, they are all heroes; who gets medals is a different issue.

Fred Allison, a Marine Corps historian, tells of pilots in Vietnam who would descend amid hot firefights to medevac wounded Marines -- and be astonished to discover weeks later that the grateful men had recommended them for heroism.

"To the pilots, landing under fire to get the wounded was routine," Allison said. "To the grunts pinned down under fire, it was a very heroic thing."

Little wonder that in wartime, combat decorations are awarded by field commanders who may rely more on gut instinct than Army regulations to guide them. Even so, the weight of the process is on following regulations, and they are prodigious.

Army regulation (AR) 600-8-22, governing the recommendations of individuals for decorations, allows an initial form (DA Form 638) to be filled out by hand, and specifies the conditions under which it must be typed ("only if non-PAC personnel prepare the form").

Recommendations for medals are forwarded from units to battalions and on up the chain of command. Higher combat decorations, such as the Bronze and Silver Stars, are adjudicated by a panel of officers who examine eyewitness statements; descriptions of the terrain and weather; assessments of enemy strength, weapons and morale; photographs; and other battlefield evidence.

But even this requires subjectivity, such as judging "the degree to which the act was voluntary and exceeded what was normally expected of the individual."

Purple Hearts, lesser awards given for wounds received under fire, are even more subjective. Anyone can fill in the paperwork and forward it to a supervisor, who checks it and sends it up to an "approving authority." This may be a battalion commander, ship's commanding officer, or a medical officer in a combat hospital.

Army regulations specify that medals must not be given for such "wounds" as frostbite, battle fatigue, accidents or food poisoning (unless "caused by enemy agent"). Purple Heart citations "should be" supported by eyewitness statements.

Following these regulations rigidly, however, can produce odd results.

Scales, an artillery battery commander in Vietnam, remembered a fellow soldier who came to be known as "Magnet-Ass" for his uncanny ability to get wounded:

"At our firebase once, a bunch of us were standing around with Magnet-Ass and a shell landed nearby and a piece of shrapnel comes swinging by and guess who it hits? It got so we'd ask him to go stand someplace else."

Eventually, Scales said, the soldier collected six Purple Hearts.

But battlefield commanders are given discretion to waive the stiff requirements for a Purple Heart to ensure that it is given "to deserving personnel," the regulations state.

Thus, Purple Hearts were awarded to soldiers killed or wounded in a terrorist attack on a discotheque in Berlin in 1986; to military passengers aboard Pan Am Flight 103, brought down by a terrorist bomb in 1988; and to soldiers in an office building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that was bombed in 1995.

During the air war over the former Yugoslavia, the Bronze Star, intended to recognize heroism or meritorious achievement in combat against an enemy, was awarded to four Air Force officers working in the Pentagon and by the Navy to officers working in desk jobs in Naples, Italy, according to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. And after the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada, the Army handed out more combat medals than there were soldiers who actually landed on the Caribbean island.

But critics of the military's penchant for handing out too many medals tend to be outside the military.

"Within the brotherhood," said Scales, "we know who the warriors are."

Still, medals are awarded, and worn with pride, to reflect something of the heroism and courage and honor of combat -- even if battlefield reality cannot be fully appreciated outside the circles of combat veterans.

"A soldier will fight long and hard," Napoleon observed to a French naval officer in 1815, "for a little bit of colored ribbon."


08-31-04, 12:06 PM
Bush Meets With Kin Of Iraq Fatalities
Associated Press
August 31, 2004

NEW YORK - President Bush has been quietly meeting with families of troops killed in Iraq at a time when polls show the war is a looming political liability in key swing states.

But ultimately, voters upset about Iraq will pick Bush over Democrat John Kerry because they want a steady leader instead of "somebody who's going to be nuanced and sophisticated and going back and forth," said Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist.

"The spirit of these people who have experienced loss is beyond expectation, is unbelievable," Rove said Monday of families across the country who have asked for meetings with Bush to talk about the war.

"Now, you occasionally get people who say 'I'm mad,'" Rove said. "But most of the time, they want reassurance from the president of the United States that their loved one will not have died in vain," urging the president to "stay the course, finish the mission, don't let my son or daughter be dishonored by coming up short."

Democrats scoffed at Rove's remarks.

"First George W. Bush said he miscalculated the war in Iraq, then he called it a catastrophic success and blamed the military," said Kerry spokeswoman Allison Dobson. "Now he says we can't win the war on terror. Is that what Karl Rove means when he calls for steady leadership?"

Recent polls indicate voters - and notably veterans and military families - are growing weary with the war in Iraq.

A CNN-USA Today-Gallup survey released Monday showed a bare majority of voters in battleground states Pennsylvania, Iowa and Wisconsin believe that going to war was the right decision. A Quinnipiac University survey two weeks ago, meanwhile, indicated that Pennsylvania veterans and military families overwhelmingly oppose the war: 54 percent to 31 percent.

Veterans and military families are generally more conservative than voters at large. But the war in Iraq has changed conventional wisdom about military voting patterns, said University of Florida law professor Diane H. Mazur, a former Air Forcer officer.

"The military - either active duty or veterans - is going to take a much harder look at this election than they have in elections before," Mazur said. "The choice is no longer a reflexive choice. It's based on a real war, and real use of military in a way that was somewhat abstract prior to 9/11."

Rove said Bush meets with families of soldiers who were killed in Iraq "virtually everywhere he goes." At one recent stop, outside Green Bay, Wis., the parents of a slain 18-year-old soldier asked to meet with Bush on behalf of four other families who had a relative die in Iraq.

Their message?

'"We're praying for you and we're going to give you a medal that represents our gratitude for your leadership of our country and for what you did for our son,'" recounted Rove, who described the meetings as "unbelievably emotional events."


08-31-04, 12:44 PM
Defense Today <br />
August 31, 2004 <br />
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Marine Expert: Pentagon Still Unready For 'Small Wars' <br />
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By Richard Mullen <br />
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The Pentagon is not preparing adequately for &quot;small wars&quot; of the type it most...

08-31-04, 01:37 PM
I MEF's new unmanned aerial vehicle
Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 200482664828
Story by Sgt. Robert E. Jones Sr.

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 26, 2004) -- Two of the top leaders in the Marine Corps came to Camp Fallujah to see I Marine Expeditionary Force’s new “eyes in the sky.”

The Assistant commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. "Spyder" Nyland and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps. Sgt. Maj. John L. Estrada viewed a demonstration of the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle, August 23 at I MEF intelligence headquarters.

“The Scan Eagle is a low-cost, long-endurance fully autonomous UAV developed and built by Boeing and The Insitu Group exclusively for the Marine Corps,” said Dave Sliwa, Director of Flight Operations at The Insitu Group.

He said in June 2004, Boeing and Insitu were contracted by the Marine Corps to provide two Scan Eagle mobile deployment units (SMDUs) for I Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq.

SMDUs are made up of several UAV’s as well as the computers, communication links and ground equipment.

“Scan Eagle provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support for I Marine Expeditionary Force during operational mission. It’s our eye in the sky,” said Sgt. Scott M. Freche, First Marine Division intelligence. “Scan Eagle gives the war fighter an immediate, clear picture of the battlefield.”

Scan Eagle is launched autonomously by a pneumatic wedge catapult launcher and flies pre-programmed or operator initiated missions.

“It is retrieved using a “Skyhook” system in which the UAV catches a rope hanging from a 50-foot high pole,” said Freche.

Scan Eagle is 4-feet long and has a 10–foot wingspan, and offers a wide variety of design features

It’s small size and quiet operations make it very difficult to detect from the ground.

“Scan Eagle carries either an elctro-optical or infrared camera. The camera allows the operator to easily track both stationary and moving targets,” said Sliwa. “It can remain in flight for more than 15 hours.”

It can go up to approximately 10,000-feet with surveillance capabilities, said Freche.

Along with the Scan Eagle the military also employs the Predator UAV, which can launch Hellfire missiles and the Pioneer UAV, said Freche.

“The Marine Corps has been using the Pioneer up until this point,” said Freche. “The Scan Eagle is not here to replace the Pioneer; it’s here to assist in the efforts of troop coverage on the ground.”

The reaction to this aerial phenomenon speaks for itself.

“This is simply an extraordinary piece of equipment. It’s impressive,” said Gen. Nyland.

“I’m sold. It’s a nice piece of equipment. As a former Air Wing sergeant major, this type of aerial technology is amazing,” said Sgt. Maj. Estrada.

The Insitu Group, located in Bingen, Washington, develops miniature robotic aircraft for commercial and military applications.


Assistant Commandant Gen. Spyder Nyland, August 23 at Camp Fallujah, prepares to pull the ignition rope on the Marine Corps Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle; for a demonstration of its warfighting capabilities at I Marine Expeditionary Force Intelligence Headquarters. Photo by: Sgt. Robert E. Jones Sr.



08-31-04, 01:56 PM
August 31, 2004

Judge rules against suit by father of Marine killed in training

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The government cannot be held liable for the death of a Marine killed during a training exercise, a federal judge ruled in rejecting a request by the young man’s father that he ignore a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Pfc. Jeremy Ross Purcell, 19, was killed during an August 2002 training exercise at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was shot in the chest four times with live ammunition, rather than the blanks the Marines were instructed to use.

His father, Jon Purcell of Provo, sued the federal government for negligence.

In an order made public Monday, U.S. District Judge David Sam said the father’s claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act is blocked by a 1950 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“As compelling as the allegations are in this case, this court does not have the discretion to reject the Feres doctrine,” Sam wrote. “Only the Supreme Court can overrule Feres.”

In Feres vs. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot be held liable for injuries suffered by military personnel that are connected to service in the armed forces.

Jon Purcell had urged Sam to use his discretion to reject the “ill-conceived, inequitable and unjustifiable” Feres ruling.

Purcell said he was not surprised by Sam’s dismissal of the case and he would like to appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but does not know if he can afford to do so.

Purcell has been proceeding in the lawsuit on his own, without an attorney.

His lawsuit alleged his son’s death was the result of failure by the Marine Corps to formulate and enforce policies for the proper use, storage and accountability of ammunition used in training activities.

Such policies, rather than relying on individual Marines to check their ammunition, would have prevented the accident, Purcell contended.

The Marine who fired the fatal shots was not named in Purcell’s suit. He pleaded guilty to negligent homicide as part of a plea agreement and was sentenced in August 2003 to one year in a military jail.


08-31-04, 04:50 PM
Issue Date: September 06, 2004

Cannoneers on patrol
3/11 battery left big guns at home for Iraq rotation

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

With only an M16A4 rifle in hand and an M240G machine gun atop his Humvee, Lance Cpl. Eron Williams grips the steering wheel tight and swallows hard every time he rolls into Fallujah.
Without his usual firepower at hand — an M198 155mm howitzer — Williams is left feeling a little naked.

“I always pray before I go through,” said Williams, a radio operator with Kilo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines.

Williams and his fellow Marines with the artillery battery aren’t new to the war zone — they took their big guns to the fight for the major combat phase in spring 2003.

But this time around, they’re pulling duty as a provisional military police battalion under the Army’s Brigade Combat Team 1-1.

And in Iraq, MP duty is really part infantry, part security forces and part typical MP work.

The artillerymen-turned-MPs there primarily provide convoy support, a job that requires heavy firepower, bold driving, keen eyes and alertness for potential dangers along desert trails and urban highways.

“What we really do is what an Army cavalry squadron does,” said Capt. John Litton, Kilo Battery’s commander, who spoke via satellite phone from Iraq along with several members of the battery.

Operating in platoons of 30 to 40 men, Kilo has covered a lot of ground, from the Syrian border to Tikrit north of Baghdad, as well as around Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, Litton said.

Before they deployed from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., the men exchanged their howitzers for rifles, crew-served weapons, extra Humvees and utility trucks as they evolved into a lighter, more mobile infantry unit.

They spent weeks at desert training ranges and makeshift towns learning how to fight in cramped urban terrain, round up suspected fighters and secure camps and supply convoys.

They trained alongside the grunts of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, in a security and stabilization operations course at March Air Force Base, Calif. Once in Kuwait, a two-week course sharpened their crew-served weapon and driving skills; other classes taught them to identify the improvised explosives popular with insurgent forces.

“Our learning curve was real high when we first got here,” said Litton, 31, of College Station, Texas. And Iraq has been a baptism by fire.

Cpl. Fernando Pina’s first firefight would have been tense regardless, but it more clearly stands out in his memory because his division commander, Maj. Gen. James Mattis, was nearby.

When Pina’s convoy came under fire, Mattis and his security Marines moved in to join the fight. “That was awesome, it was pretty intense,” said Pina, 22, a cannoneer from Greeley, Colo. “It’s not everyday you have a general right by your side telling you what to do.”

The shift to grunt mode was easier on Kilo’s more junior Marines, who were fresh from Marine Combat Training and didn’t have to shed the ingrained artillery-specific habits of their more senior counterparts in the battery.

Lance Cpl. Timothy Walsh, 22, a cannoneer from Amenia, N.Y., hadn’t fully settled into the battalion before he deployed.

“I still had all the training from Parris Island and MCT,” he said. “For me, I fell into this pretty easily.”

Even as they move and fight as light infantrymen do, Kilo’s cannoneers haven’t forgotten their artillery roots.

In recent months, the men have broken out manuals and quizzed each other about artillery equipment and tactics to stay sharp.

“We’ve already started some classes in the downtime,” said Cpl. Richard Powell, 21, a cannoneer and fire-team leader from Rialto, Calif.

Powell said he welcomed the chance of pace.

“I thought it was a good change. I was doing the same thing for three years straight,” he said. “I’ve gotten comfortable with what I’m doing over here.”

Gidget Fuentes is the San Diego bureau chief for Marine Corps Times. She can be reached at (760) 677-6145 or gfuentes@marinecorps times.com.



08-31-04, 05:21 PM
Why I Serve: Reservists Reflect on Firefighting Duty in Iraq
By Master Sgt. Jack Gordon, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BALAD, Iraq, Aug. 31, 2004 -- "I always dreamed about being a firefighter, but I never actually thought I'd become one," said Army Spc. Everad Lewis.

Lewis and another young soldier here, Army Spc. Benjamin Siekawitch, are seeing their futures in today's service as Army firefighters. And even through the smoke, both futures couldn't be brighter.

A resident of Tacoma, Wash., Lewis is assigned to the 475th Engineer Detachment (Firefighting), from Creston, Iowa. Lewis and Siekawitch were both assigned to the 907th Engineer Detachment in Yakima, Wash., before being individually mobilized and reassigned to the 475th here. Both see firefighting careers ahead of them once their service here is complete.

"I'm here for the experience," Siekawitch said. "On this deployment I'm getting experience from the firefighting side that should help me get a job. It's also going to get me more respect in my life."

Lewis said he joined the Army Reserve to help his family and to serve and protect his country. "I started late in the military. I was 26 when I enlisted, but better late than never," he added.

The soldier said his family was "in denial" about his deploying to Iraq, but he knew he had to go. "I felt it in my heart," he said. "And I felt it was time for me to serve my country, and to be the man I needed to be and was supposed to be."

A full-time student, Siekawitch said his long-term goal was to be a firefighter, and the Army Reserve helped him realize that goal.

So far, he said, life in Iraq isn't quite what he expected. "I thought I was going to be dropped in the middle of a hot (landing zone) getting fired at and ducking for cover, but once I got here, I settled in.–I It's a little different being a firefighter," Siekawitch said.

The 475th is one of the elements of Logistics Support Area Anaconda's Emergency Response Center here, which includes fire, military police, ordnance and medical assets. LSA Anaconda is host to some 23,000 U.S. and coalition service members and civilian contractors. The emergency-response soldiers respond to various emergencies every day.

"It's very hot here, so there are heat casualties. There are a lot of electrical problems (that cause fires), too. The buildings are concrete, so they hold up pretty well, but the tents are soaked in kerosene to waterproof them and help keep the insects away," Lewis said. "They can go up in about 30 seconds. We've had a couple go down."

Siekawitch said the unit responds to a lot of trash bin fires and assists on medical calls. "Then there are the mortar attacks," he added.

Mortar attacks are common here. While most are random and cause little damage, some have been deadly. In June, a mortar attack on the post exchange killed two soldiers and wounded more than a dozen others.

"I came pretty close to an incoming round," said Siekawitch. "I was getting in my Humvee and heard a round go off. We saw the explosion about 100 meters away. It was pretty crazy. It was a lucky day, because if I would have left a minute earlier the round could have been right on the Humvee. So, God was looking out for me."

He said it's hard to explain what it's like in Iraq to his family and friends back home. "You don't know unless you've been over here. What you see on the news isn't exactly the truth," he said. "The news makes things a lot worse than what we're getting here."

But, he added, "We sure appreciate all the support from the States."

Siekawitch said his tour of duty has been a long journey so far, and he's looking forward to going home. But in the meantime, he said, he's proud to be serving among skilled and honorable fellow soldiers.

"We've come together as a team," he said. "And that makes things a lot easier." And as far as working in air that's superheated by the sun to temperatures hovering around 125 degrees every day, Lewis is OK with it.

"It's cool," Lewis said. "I'm working as a firefighter."

(Army Master Sgt. Jack Gordon is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve Public Affairs Acquisition Team.)