View Full Version : Motivated Marine sentry stands ready
09-01-04, 07:02 AM
Motivated Marine sentry stands ready
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 2004912498
Story by Cpl. Paul Leicht
AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 28, 2004) -- Armed with an M16A2 service rifle and body armor, Lance Cpl. Kristopher A. Ivanov stands tall behind a small, green-maze wall of worn and dusty sandbags.
At this fortified 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing headquarters building, the outpost is the front line of the war on terror in the western Iraqi desert.
He could be preparing to begin another new semester amidst the temperate halls of a college like many his age back home. Instead, he chose to be a Marine.
The 20-year-old Gilbert, Ariz., native said he takes being a Marine very seriously. While serving in Iraq, he is ready for anything.
At the moment, another Marine in sun-bleached digital camouflage desert utilities exits the building and slides out into the sweltering heat. He bids Ivanov goodbye, who politely returns the greeting before his steel blue eyes come back to the terrain in front of him.
Next, a warrant officer approaches Ivanov with his security badge in view attached to his left sleeve pocket.
"Ooh-rah, sir, have a good day," said Ivanov to the officer in a solid voice after looking at his badge and then his face.
Wiping beads of sweat from his tanned face, Ivanov said he hopes his younger brother-who just joined the Marines-learns the values of integrity, doing the right thing, accountability and motivation like he has during his short time in the Corps.
"I play the trumpet in the (3rd MAW Band) and I have learned a lot from our band director," said Ivanov. "He is a former drill instructor and he really motivates me. He is strict with the rules, but he is fair and I like that."
Band members, like Ivanov, have been working long hours at various posts around Al Asad, ensuring the security of the base and protecting the lives of the Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and civilians who, for now, call this base home.
A phone line rings and Ivanov enters the cooler halls of the building to answer the call. A few seconds later he resumes his standing post beside the sandbags with a liter of water, his weapon and his honor, courage and commitment; ready for anything, ready to do his part.
Lance Cpl. Kristopher A. Ivanov, trumpeter, Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 3, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, stands guard on sentry duty in front of 3rd MAW headquarters at Al Asad, Iraq, Aug. 28. The 20-year-old native of Gilbert, Ariz., is one of the 3rd MAW band members currently providing security aboard the air base while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by: Cpl. Paul Leicht
09-01-04, 07:03 AM
11th MEU Marines remember first dismounted attack
Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story Identification #: 2004831121415
Story by Cpl. Annette M. Kyriakides
AN NAJAF, Iraq (Aug. 17, 2004) -- The silence of the night was shattered as gunfire rang throughout the Old City district of Najaf.
"Move! Hurry up!" called a silhouette in a hushed voice, as one by one, dark figures merged into the shadows and began dispersing down the street, starting their 600-meter patrol. Their mission once they reached the objective was to find, kill or capture as many enemy insurgents as possible, in an effort to help Iraqi security forces restore law and order to the holy city.
The Raiders of Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), were ready to answer recent attacks on local police and MEU forces by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia that began Aug. 5.
"Every unit in Najaf has been engaged at one point or another by a (Muqtada Militia) ambush or sniper fire," recounts 1st Lt. Christopher Smith, platoon commander, 1st Platoon, Co. A, BLT 1/4, 11th MEU (SOC). "We are helping to stabilize Najaf."
During the company's first dismounted offensive in the old city in mid-August, the Raiders gathered intelligence and took control of key buildings that were being occupied by al-Sadr's forces as strongholds to mount attacks. Continuous small arms, rocket propelled grenades and mortar fire sounded throughout the day as the Marines held their newly acquired ground and pushed back the militia.
Snipers from both sides exchanged fire from windows high above the city's streets.
"This was the first time here that I've known of snipers hunting snipers," said Captain Robert B. Sotire, company commander, Co. A, BLT 1/4, 11th MEU (SOC). "Our counter-snipers did an excellent job. We took out their snipers with precision fire and fire support."
Morale remained high throughout the 18-hour operation.
"I was here during the war, and I am proud to come back for follow up operations to keep Iraq stable," said Cpl. Nathaniel Kulokowski, squad leader, 2nd Squad, 1st platoon, Co. A, BLT 1/4, 11th MEU (SOC). "My Marines are a special group. They are highly motivated. Everyone is excited to be here."
By 6 p.m. that evening, the Raiders of Alpha Company had successfully completed their mission and a battalion from the Army's 1st Cavalry Division arrived to replace them with their armored vehicles.
"It was nice to be able to give the Army the dismounted support they needed," said Sotire.
When asked what kind of message the raid sent to the insurgents, there was no hesitation.
"We're coming for them," warned Sotire.
COMBAT ILLUSTRATION -- Marines from Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Speical Operations Capable), based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., rain a thunderous barrage of fire at Muqtada Militia snipers hiding in a building high above the streets of An Najaf, Iraq, Aug. 17. Photo by: Cpl. Annette Kyriakides
09-01-04, 07:04 AM
Issue Date: September 06, 2004
Marines testify in court-martial over Iraqi death
Leatherneck faces 2 years in prison on assault charges
By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Less than 72 hours after he was brought to a detention camp outside Nasiriyah, Iraq, the middle-aged Iraqi man was dead, his bruised and beaten body lying on the concrete.
Nagem Sadoon Hatab was at times questioned, stripped naked, shoved, hit, dragged and kicked by Marines, acts driven by his resistance and their anger and frustration.
Court-martial proceedings began Aug. 23 for one of the two Marines charged in Hatab’s June 2003 death at the small detention facility on Camp Whitehorse near Nasiriyah. In the opening days of the trial, Marines testified about the circumstances of the man’s death.
Sgt. Gary P. Pittman, a 39-year-old reservist with 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, and a federal corrections officer in civilian life, is accused of hitting and kicking the 52-year-old Hatab. Prosecutors for the general court-martial, led by Maj. Leon Francis, allege that the strikes and beatings led to his death, which a pathologist blamed on strangulation.
Pittman is not charged with Hatab’s death but could face up to two years in prison if convicted on dereliction and assault charges. A jury of nine officers — two colonels, four lieutenant colonels and three captains — is expected to hear three weeks of testimony before a decision is made on Pittman’s fate.
Pittman says he is innocent, and his attorneys point the finger elsewhere. Their prime target is the sergeant’s main accuser, Pfc. William S. Roy. A reservist who is a sheriff in civilian life, Roy says Pittman hit and kicked Hatab. Roy, a native of Troy, N.Y., was reduced in rank to private first class after a plea agreement last year that gave him immunity from prosecution.
Questioned by defense attorney John Tranberg, Roy said Pittman hit Hatab and once kicked him in the chest. “I remember seeing a heel,” he said, noting Pittman’s “pretty large foot.” But Roy didn’t mention the kick until his Article 32 testimony, he said.
Roy admitted hitting and roughly handling Hatab several times.
In one such instance, Hatab tried to resist when Roy tried to move him to the recreation yard, the Marine said, adding: “I grabbed the man. ... I grabbed hard enough to let him feel it.”
And during earlier testimony, Roy said he tried to get Hatab to stand by kicking him in the legs, grabbing him by the neck and pressing his hand to the Iraqi’s nose.
After Hatab’s death, Roy heard rumors that the Iraqi had died of a broken neck, and he asked several unit medical personnel whether the way he grabbed Hatab’s neck could cause fatal injuries. “I did get very worried about that,” he testified.
Hatab suffered six fractured ribs and numerous bruises and abrasions on his chest, face, back and legs, and the hyoid bone in his neck was broken.
Army Col. Kathleen Ingwersen, a forensic pathologist based in Germany, testified Aug. 26 that Hatab’s death by strangulation could have stemmed from several scenarios, but she couldn’t determine the manner of death.
Tranberg said Ingwersen’s autopsy reports were incomplete and criticized her dismissal of Hatab’s broken ribs as “not significant.” Ingwersen could not be certain whether the broken ribs were linked to Roy’s strikes, Pittman’s alleged kick, Hatab’s falls or other rough handling, but she said they likely fractured from pressure put on both sides of the body. Although Ingwersen documented the broken hyoid, her reports don’t account for what broke the bone.
The trial is the first of two involving 2/25 Marines. Maj. Clarke A. Paulus, who oversaw the detention facility while Hatab was held, is accused of dereliction of duty in part for failing to obtain medical care for Hatab. Another 2/25 officer faces similar dereliction charges.
09-01-04, 07:08 AM
Reserve docs reflect with pride on experiences caring for detainees at Abu Ghraib
Submitted by: 1st Force Service Support Group
Story Identification #: 200483113244
Story by Sgt. Matt Epright
CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Aug. 31, 2004) -- A handful of hospital corpsmen, trained to treat combat casualties for a Marine reserve infantry battalion, instead found themselves caring for sick and wounded detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison for the past six months.
As they now get ready to return to the United States, the 11 docs from K Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, said they feel they made a positive impact.
When they arrived at Abu Ghraib in March, the Navy corpsmen, working with medics from two Army units, began assessing the general health of the prison's occupants. Though they were available to treat the K Company Marines that guarded the outer perimeter of the detention facility, their primary duty was to be on call 24/7 for the prisoner population.
"We were taking care of over 7,000 when we first got there," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis R. Neher.
The corpsmen ran a daily "sick call," the same as they would do at any military unit, to give the detainees the opportunity to come to them about any health problem and get medication for illnesses. Prisoners who spoke English translated for those who could not.
"You got to see a lot of different types of problems," said Petty Officer 3rd Class David A. Saunders, a 27-year-old native of Denton, Texas. "It makes you think on your feet a lot of times."
During their six-month stay at Abu Ghraib, K Company's docs conducted about 20,000 appointments.
"We made a huge, positive difference," said Petty Officer 1st Class David A. Lintz. "I'm very glad I did it."
The corpsmen gave the same quality of care to the detainees that they would normally give to American service members. The Army doctors they worked for even went out in town to purchase medications that they did not have on-hand, said Neher.
There was a separate section of the prison for those with chronic health problems, such as diabetes, arthritis or kidney failure, which the docs treated, said Neher, 29, and a native of Jasper, Mo.
"Some of these people have had these illnesses for multiple years," said Neher, who added that the lack of quality medical care in Iraq had the corpsmen "trying to play catch-up."
Chief among the complaints, in the general population, were symptoms directly related to dehydration, including kidney stones, said Neher.
The docs had to constantly remind the detainees to drink more water to avoid such problems.
The corpsmen also performed health assessments for incoming prisoners, who sometimes arrived with injuries from battle or from mistakes made while attempting to plant explosives.
Some of the docs found treating the enemy emotionally difficult.
"We were dealing with detainees that the day before were possibly blowing up or killing Americans," said Neher. "You were staring that person in the face and you knew what they had done because sometimes they would tell you."
Nevertheless, the docs still had a job to do.
"You had to go around that ... and actually treat them as a human being instead of looking at them as the enemy," said Neher.
They were successful at altering many perceptions.
"I can't say we didn't make quite a few friends here and there," said Neher.
In April, the line between enemy and friend was further blurred when the prison was hit with insurgent-fired mortars.
After each of the two large-scale mortar attacks the corpsmen leapt into action, performing triage and trauma care on the detainees as they would on any battlefield.
"We seemed to get along better after that," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert W. Merz, a 39-year-old native of Pompano Beach, Fla.
Some saw the work as familiar territory.
"I found it close to my civilian job as a paramedic, having the same kind of problems, the same challenges," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas M. Moore.
Even with the docs' efforts, the mortar strikes devastated the facility's occupants, killing more than 30 and wounding almost 250.
When they began treating the victims of the second mortar attack, the medics started a logbook, in which they recorded any combat-related injuries that the detainees suffered from. They documented wounds received both during the mortar attacks and before incarceration, as well as what they did to treat the injuries, said Lintz, a 44-year-old native of Sacramento, Calif.
"There's over 950 individual treatments here," said Lintz. "Navy medicine made a huge difference down there."
Elements of the Army's 115th Field Hospital, from Fort Polk, La., are replacing the corpsmen. With the Army's arrival, the Navy docs are on their way home, returning to their civilian jobs as paramedics, firefighters and nurses. They look back on the last six months with pride.
"We were doing a lot of good there. We were making a difference," said Moore, a 39-year-old St. Louis resident. "I went to work every day just knowing, 'I'm going to help someone today.'"
With their tour in Iraq almost complete, six of the 11 Navy hospital corpsmen who treated detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison between March and August 2004, are pictured at Camp Taqaddum on Aug. 28, 2004. From left to right are Petty Officer 3rd Class David A. Saunders, Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis R. Neher, Petty Officer 1st Class David A. Lintz, Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas M. Moore, Petty Officer 3rd Class Pierre S. Drummond and Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert W. Merz. Four other docs from the team are still working at the prison until the end of September. One was sent home early due to illness. Saunders, is a 27-year-old native of Denton, Texas; Neher is a 29-year-old native of Jasper, Mo.; Lintz, 44, is from Sacramento, Calif.; Moore, 39, is from St. Louis; Drummond is a 24-year-old San Diego native; Merz, 39, hails from Pompano Beach, Fla. All are members of K Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, a reserve Marine infantry company based in Terre Haute, Ind. Photo by: Sgt. Matt Epright
09-01-04, 07:49 AM
Myers Tells Nashville Crowd Prospects in Iraq 'Good'
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 31, 2004 – The ceasefire brokered in Najaf was a good sign for the Iraqi interim government, the top U.S. military leader said here today, adding that the long-term prospect in Iraq "is very, very good."
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told the regional Chamber of Commerce meeting that the government led by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi used all angles to help end the fighting in the region.
The bottom line, the chairman said, is that radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia is out of the Imam Ali Mosque, and the forces of the interim government are in the Shiia holy site. The Iraqi government looked at all aspects of the situation in Najaf and used political, diplomatic and military options in the situation. Myers said that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was key to solving the problem in the city, but it was a learning experience for the interim government.
"There's still going to be challenges (in Iraq)," the chairman said during a media availability following the speech. The area west and north of Baghdad – the so-called Sunni Triangle – is still a tough area and presents many problems to the Iraqi government and the supporting coalition, he said.
Myers said the Iraqi security forces in and around Najaf, Sadr City and other hot spots did much better in the recent spate of fighting than they did in April and May, when Sadr's militia launched similar attacks. "There are still a lot of Iraqi security forces that need to be trained, that need to be equipped and get the proper leadership," he said. "Those that have been trained and equipped and were in this endeavor did very, very well."
He said in April and May the performance of the Iraqi police, the Civil Defense Corps – now the Iraqi National Guard -- and the Iraqi army was uneven, but tending toward poor. He said that while some units did well, others broke and ran or did not show up at all.
In the recent fighting, it was still uneven, but tending toward good, Myers said. The chairman said the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people probably was one big difference for the security forces. "They now know they are fighting for the Iraqi government, they have clear lines of authority, and they felt that this was for their people," he said.
The coalition has sped up training of the Iraqi security forces. Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus is now responsible for all Iraqi training. NATO has signed on to aid in the effort. "As soon as that can happen, the better," Myers said. "We've got a full-court press on, on building Iraqi security forces."
He said the length of the U.S. involvement in Iraq will be determined by events on the ground. The size of the force will be determined by the enemy and the capabilities needed to counter the enemy, he added.
The general told the packed hall that they should not view the overall effort in the global war on terrorism as a military problem to be solved, but rather as an effort requiring all aspects of national will. The United States will win the war on terror, he said. The United States must join with allies to end the conditions that encourage "young men and women to embrace extremism."
Myers will visit Fort Campbell, Ky., and address the American Legion Convention here before returning to Washington.
09-01-04, 08:40 AM
Posted on Tue, Aug. 31, 2004
Seabees may see action in Iraq again
By PATRICK PETERSON
GULFPORT - Few Gulfport Seabees remain in Iraq.
Though the number of Seabees in Iraq dwindles, some Gulfport-based battalions are likely to return as Operation Iraqi Freedom II becomes OIF III in February.
The last 160 members of Gulfport's Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 returned from Iraq last week. Though NMCB 74 did not lose any members, one Seabee suffered a broken ankle from a rocket propelled grenade that did not explode. NMCB 74 participated in a five-hour firefight with insurgents and endured regular mortar attacks.
The battalion of about 600 Seabees, which served in Iraq during last year's war, now will enjoy 10 months in Gulfport, resting and training for its next scheduled deployment to Okinawa.
"These young men have truly been pushed. They deserve the 10-month training cycle," said Cmdr. Robyn Eastman, staff officer for the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment, which oversees the Gulfport battalions.
"NMCB 74 has had it as tough as any unit we've had."
The readiness and morale of Seabee battalions depends on a deployment routine that puts Seabees at home with their families for 10 months before being deployed overseas for six months. For the first time since the war in Iraq, Seabees have returned to their deployment routine.
"The Seabee knows when he's going on deployment. The Seabee knows when he's coming home," said Eastman, a veteran of many deployments and OIF.
This predictability helps Seabee families cope with the necessary separations, he said.
Seabees just home from Iraq will undergo "warrior transition briefs," a series of psychological and medical evaluations to avert problems that might result from combat stress.
"We're trying to find out whether we have any problems," Eastman said.
About 13 Gulfport Seabees from the 22nd NCR remain in Camp Fallujah, a former military camp about six miles from the city of Fallujah. They are expected home by the end of October.
The total number of Seabees supporting Marines in the al-Anbar province has fallen from 1,300 to about 1,000, and could fall to 500 by next year, Eastman said. The dangerous work of rebuilding the city of Fallujah has been taken over by Iraqi contractors, who have been awarded $112 million in construction contracts.
Seabees in Iraq have been busy working to build fortifications and improve the quality of life for Marines stationed near the city of Fallujah. Their most recent project was repairing Camp Fallujah's water pump, which was damaged for the third time by an enemy rocket.
Plans for Seabees
NMCB 7 will deploy to Guam in October, with about 200 of the battalion's Seabees traveling to the desert to replace Seabees from a California battalion.
NMCB 1 is in Gulfport and expects to deploy in October to Rota, Spain. Part of the battalion will go to Iraq.
NMCB 133 has been in Okinawa since June. They have handled problems associated with three typhoons that skirted the island. The battalion expects to be home for Christmas.
NMCB 74 just returned to Gulfport and will deploy to Okinawa after 10 months of rest and training.
NMCB 14, a reserve battalion from Jacksonville, Fla., remains in Iraq. They come home in September or October and will be replaced by another reserve battalion.
09-01-04, 10:13 AM
Near 7,000 Wounded In Iraq
September 1, 2004
WASHINGTON - The number of American troops wounded in Iraq since the U.S. led invasion in March 2003 is approaching 7,000, according to figures published Tuesday by the Pentagon. The death toll for U.S. military personnel is 975, plus three Defense Department civilians.
The wounded total has approximately doubled since mid-April, when casualties and deaths mounted rapidly as the insurgency intensified. The death toll over that period has grown by about 300.
The Pentagon, which generally updates its casualty count each week, said the number of wounded stands at 6,916, up 226 from a week earlier. In the two months since the United States handed over political sovereignty to an interim Iraq government, the wounded total has grown by about 1,500.
The vast majority of casualties have been Marines and Army soldiers, although the Pentagon announced on Tuesday the 13th member of the Air Force to die in Iraq. Airman 1st Class Carl L. Anderson Jr., 21, of Georgetown, S.C., was killed by a roadside bomb on Sunday near the northern city of Mosul. He was assigned to the 3rd Logistics Readiness Squadron based at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.
09-01-04, 12:18 PM
Move over McGruff, here comes 'Farid the Crime-Fighting Falcon'
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20049114338
Story by Cpl. Randy Bernard
CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 28, 2004) -- The crime-fighting character named McGruff coined the famous phrase "take a bite out of crime" to help educate children across America. In Iraq, the principle will hopefully soon be reproduced with 'Farid the Crime-Fighting Falcon.'
Marines with Military Police Company C here came up with the idea for a crime-fighting mascot to pass along to the Iraqi Police. While this project is still in its introductory phase to the IP, Cpl. Justin Weber, a squad leader for the company, is the brains behind the bird.
"I was the first person to don the costume, and since then I've become known as Farid," said Weber, 25, of Dayton, Ohio.
Weber recounted first introducing the idea to the IP with a smile on his face.
"Two other Marines introduced me to the classroom of 35 Iraqi Police, and I came running in the door squawking and flapping my arms," Weber explained. "They jumped back and were scared. But once they got used to me, they started to understand what it was about."
The company put their heads together when thinking about what they could do to create a character, and they decided on a falcon for the values it represents.
"The original idea was to make the mascot 'Clucko the Crime-Fighting Chicken,'" said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rod Barnes, a platoon commander with the MPs, "But we decided the falcon represented dignity, strength and independence."
"The falcon is to the Iraqis as the eagle is to Americans," said Staff Sgt. Greg Orick, a platoon sergeant with Company C. "Weber has done an excellent job of portraying the falcon. It's almost like an extension of his personality. It gives him a chance to relax and behave more animated and act playful."
It's not all fun and games when it comes to being a crime-fighting bird of prey, though.
"It gets really hot in there," Weber said. "You can only be in there for about five minutes before sweat is running into your eyes."
The biggest challenge that the Marines will face while introducing Farid is explaining its purpose in the police force. Although the IP have been coming to Al Asad to learn from US military policemen, many of them initially found it difficult to grasp where a bird costume fits into their line of work.
However, once the idea of Farid had been explained to the Iraqis as an educational tool for the Iraqi Police to use, they saw past the feathers and beak, explained Orick.
"It has a lot of potential as a liaison between the IP's and citizens of Iraq," said Orick. "They are unfamiliar with the idea of using a mascot to teach about fighting crime, but children will be drawn toward it."
It is this attraction for the children that the Marines hope will benefit the IP in teaching Iraq's youth about crime and danger in the area through visits to schools and other areas.
"It is still early in its development but the Iraqis think it is a good thing," Weber explained.
"He is a 'spokes-bird' of crime-prevention," Weber added. "The Iraqis will have to see it in action for it to really sink in for them. Once we give it to the Iraqis and they understand what it is about, it will do a lot of good."
Cpl. Justin Weber, 25, a squad leader with the Military Police company at Al Asad, prepares to introduce Farid the Falcon to the Iraqi Police. The Dayton, Ohio, Marine serves as the model for the costume to be used by Iraqi Police when teaching law enforcement principles to Iraqis.
(USMC Photo by Cpl. Matt R. Jones) Photo by: Cpl. Matt R. Jones
09-01-04, 01:57 PM
Wasp group stops at Rota on way home
By Scott Schonauer, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Wednesday, September 1, 2004
NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and two other ships pulled into Rota on Tuesday for a brief port visit before wrapping up a seven-month deployment as part of the war on terrorism and heading home.
Standing aboard the deck of the Wasp, sailors and Marines watched and took photographs as tugboats pushed and pulled the 844-foot ship into its spot on pier 1. The ship has nearly 3,000 sailors and Marines anxious to get home to their friends and families.
Petty Officer 1st Class James Ratliff, 28, of Davie, Fla., is hoping to catch a soccer match while in southern Spain but is excited about going home and reuniting with his wife, who also is in Navy.
“It’s been a nice, smooth cruise,” he said. “Just long … . There’s been so much uncertainty with our schedule.”
The Wasp is carrying Marines with the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. The unit conducted combat operations from Kandahar, Afghanistan, helping to root out terrorists and Taliban fighters and provide security leading up to the country’s elections.
Marine Cpl. Seth Hackler, 23, a field radio operator from Springfield, Ill., said the most difficult part about serving in Afghanistan was the heat. Temperatures reached 118 degrees during the day in Kandahar.
The most obscure thing he missed most while he was in arid and dusty Afghanistan was green grass. He was amazed at the Afghan culture and how they are able to live on so much less than what Americans do.
“It was an eye-opener,” he said.
While the Marines were in Afghanistan, the Wasp group participated in ship and boat interdictions near the Horn of Africa and participated in maritime exercises.
This is Petty Officer 2nd Class Harry Basnight’s first sea tour. He said the cruise wasn’t as hard as he thought it was going to be when the group deployed in February. He said he learned a lot about himself.
“It helps you grow up,” said Basnight, 20, an information technician from Woodbridge, Va. “You’re really by yourself. You don’t have family members and close friends to run to. [It’s] a learning experience nonetheless.”
Although the group is near the end of its deployment, aerographer’s mate Seaman Jonathan McCall could be extremely busy on the journey across the Atlantic Ocean. He will be watching out for tropical storms and hurricanes brewing in the ship’s path. A nasty storm could delay the ship’s return.
“I’m not a popular guy when that happens,” he said.
Two other ships, the amphibious transport ship USS Shreveport and the dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island, are part of the Wasp expeditionary strike group. All three are based in Norfolk, Va.
The ships are part of an expeditionary strike group, which is a group of seven ships that can conduct a variety of missions. The strike group is based on the traditional Amphibious Ready Group.
The group is the first East Coast-based expeditionary strike group to deploy since the Navy came up with the concept.
09-01-04, 02:27 PM
Marines from Camp Pendleton, Miramar rotate into, out of Iraq
By Rick Rogers
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
September 1, 2004
CAMP PENDLETON – About 700 Marines from bases in San Diego County are either coming home or leaving for Iraq this week as part of a troop rotation in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
More then 170 Marines from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station returned Monday and 200 or more are expected back today.
Meanwhile, about 300 Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment at Camp Pendleton left yesterday for Iraq, where the unit is expected to serve seven months.
The rotations in which 21,000 area-based Marines now in Iraq head home and are replaced with fresh troops will gain speed between now and March, said Capt. Dan McSweeney, spokesman for Marine Corps headquarters.
The number of area Marines in Iraq was 19,000 until 2,200 Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Force recently deployed from Camp Pendleton.
Most of the Marines are expected to be in place by next month, which is when the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton should be back home.
Units returning to San Diego also include the 3rd Marine Air Wing, based at Miramar, and the 1st Marine Division and 1st Force Service Support Group, both from Camp Pendleton.
The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Pendleton is the command group for the Marines in Iraq. The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, N.C., will take over the command role in March.
To date, nearly 150 Marines have died since early March, the majority killed in action in Al Anbar Province.
The number of wounded stood at 1,137 before the recent fighting in Najaf.
Nearly 100 of the Marines killed in Iraq were assigned to Camp Pendleton, according to the military.
Most Marines involved in combat are on seven-month deployments in Iraq, although some working in command sections are staying for a year or more, McSweeney said.
Rick Rogers: (760) 476-8212; email@example.com
09-01-04, 03:27 PM
Schiff returns from Iraq trip
Representative visited troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; He sees progress in both countries but problems, too
By Josh Kleinbaum, News-Press
PASADENA — Rep. Adam Schiff couldn't resist. A handful of pilots on the U.S. aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, deployed in the Arabian coast to support coalition forces in Iraq, sat down for a midnight meal and a poker game late one night last week. They asked Schiff, part of a five-man congressional delegation to the Middle East, to join them.
A few hours later and a few dollars poorer, Schiff went to sleep.
"I'd like to say that I threw the hands, but they took me," Schiff said in his Pasadena office. "I think they enjoyed beating a congressman."
Clearly, Schiff (D-Glendale) enjoyed losing to the pilots, too. But his weeklong trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bahrain was not all fun and games. In Iraq, he avoided a rocket-propelled grenade attack by about 500 yards. The Marines canceled a trip to Fallujah because of security concerns, and they told Schiff they had never before restricted a congressional delegation for security reasons.
Schiff found mixed results in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In Iraq, Schiff said that the number of enemy forces has increased significantly since his last trip there, one year ago, especially with foreign fighters. He attributes that to poor planning for the post-war phase by the Bush administration, which has led to shaky security.
But he also saw cause for optimism. He considers Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to be the right man for the job, a free thinker with refreshing bluntness.
"The Iraqi government now has an Iraqi face," Schiff said. "A lot of Iraqi people think he's a pawn for the United States. He doesn't come across as a pawn for anybody.
"Be prepared for another three or four months of rough news. We probably won't turn the corner until they have elections. Ultimately, the fight will have to be won by Iraqis."
In Afghanistan, Schiff said soldiers felt forgotten. One described Afghanistan as "the third front in a two-front war," behind the war in Iraq and the global war on terrorism. But he said troops were uplifted by the clear progress being made. With democratic elections scheduled for October, 10.5 million people have already registered to vote, with 42% of them women, Schiff said.
"In the Taliban regime, they weren't allowed to leave the house," Schiff said.
Schiff is concerned that the country could turn into a drug haven. Opium is one of Afghanistan's chief products, and production has gone up significantly in the past two years. Local warlords intimidate farmers, Schiff said, forcing them to grow opium.
But Schiff said Afghani officials do not consider warlords or the Taliban the biggest threat. Rather, they are concerned about neighboring countries, including Pakistan, often the forgotten player in the terror mix.
Schiff sees Pakistan as a volatile nation that could explode. The country is a nuclear power without stable leadership — there have been several attempts on President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's life in the past year. The country has a significant radical Muslim population, and Schiff believes it is still harboring members of the Taliban regime.
"It's hard to imagine a more dangerous mix of elements," Schiff said. "It deserves a lot of time and attention."
Schiff and the rest of the delegation met with Foreign Minister Mian Kursheed Mehmood Kasuri, who assured them that the United States could trust Pakistan. Schiff is still skeptical.
"Pakistan has made the effort to crack down on Al Qaeda," Schiff said. "There's a significant question of how much they've cracked down on the Taliban. They still find refuge in the border areas. It occurs to me that Pakistan could be looking down the line to what happens when the coalition forces pull out of Afghanistan. Pakistan could exert its influence on shaping Afghanistan."
Schiff, who is facing reelection in November, said he made the trip to show support for the troops. He has gone to either Iraq or Afghanistan each year since taking office in 2000.
Harry Scolinos, Schiff's Republican opponent, called the trip little more than a ploy to give voters the appearance that Schiff is strong on national security.
"Let's call it like it is," Scolinos said. "Being in Iraq and Afghanistan means nothing to me, especially when he didn't vote to help the troops."
Scolinos pointed to Schiff's vote against $87 billion in supplemental funding for the Iraq war. Schiff said he favored a similar package which appropriated more money to the troops and less for reconstruction.
"I have voted for each of the last three defense budgets as proposed by the administration, and those were the largest in history," Schiff said. "I've gone to visit troops every year in office, whether it's an election year or a nonelection year."
09-01-04, 04:43 PM
Beatings used to show who was in charge, witness says
Marine's court-martial in Iraqi's death goes on
By Jeff McDonald
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
August 31, 2004
CAMP PENDLETON – Gary Pittman worked as a jail guard in New York City long before he was sent to Iraq with the Marine Corps reserves. According to testimony at his court-martial yesterday, he beat prisoners for no reason other than to make sure they knew who was in command.
Former Marine translator John Hennagin testified before a military jury that he saw Pittman knee and kick two Iraqi detainees in the days before a third prisoner was found dead at a military detention center in the desert outside Nasiriyah, Iraq, last year. One of the two prisoners was a Muslim cleric, Hennagin said.
The translator said he later confronted Pittman and told him the assaults were a violation of the Geneva Conventions, but Pittman said the use of force was necessary.
Prisoners at the makeshift jail need to be treated the same as prisoners back in New York, Hennagin said Pittman told him.
"When you first get them, you have to establish who is in charge," Hennagin said quoting Pittman.
Maj. Leon Francis, who is prosecuting Pittman, later called one of Pittman's supervisors from Brooklyn to the stand. The federal Bureau of Prisons official said government policy does not allow guards to beat prisoners if they comply with demands.
Another witness, Lance Cpl. Daniel Donat, testified yesterday that when new prisoners arrived at the Iraq jail in Humvees, he saw Pittman drag them out by their feet, even though their heads were covered and their hands were tied behind their backs. They dropped several feet onto the dirt and landed on their rears but were not injured, Donat said.
Prosecutors rested their case yesterday afternoon.
A federal corrections officer from Brooklyn, Pittman is facing charges of assault and dereliction of duty related to the June 2003 death of Nagem Sadoon Hatab, a 52-year-old prisoner of war who was found dead just days after arriving at the U.S. military detention center in Camp Whitehorse.
By the time he died, Hatab had six broken ribs, deep bruises over much of his body and a broken hyoid bone in his throat, according to earlier testimony in the case. He most likely died of strangulation or from asphyxiation caused by the broken bone in his neck, a pathologist said.
Pittman, 40, faces up to two years in prison if he is convicted.
Yesterday's testimony supported claims by another witness that Pittman was violent with prisoners. Reservist William S. Roy testified last week that he and Pittman badly beat Hatab in the hours before he was found dead. Roy was granted immunity in exchange for cooperating with prosecutors.
Pittman sat quietly through the day, barely reacting to any of yesterday's testimony.
Defense lawyer John Tranberg tried to poke holes in Hennagin's testimony, pointing out that the translator never reported the perceived assault and that Hennagin had once applied for conscientious objector status.
"You didn't stop it. You didn't say 'stop.' You didn't go to Maj. (Clarke) Paulus or anyone else," said Tranberg, who got Hennagin to concede that a brain tumor he was diagnosed with after leaving Iraq had affected his memory.
Paulus, the Camp Whitehorse jail commander, faces a court-martial next month on charges of dereliction of duty related to Hatab's death. A third Marine, reservist Maj. Michael Froeder, faces an Article 32 hearing, which will determine whether he, too, will face court-martial in the case.
Yesterday, the prosecutor called to the witness stand the Navy medic who checked Hatab soon after Hatab arrived at the detention camp because he appeared weak.
Petty Officer Rondell Weekes said he told Paulus that Hatab may have had a mild heart attack or may have been pretending to be ill. Weekes also testified that he saw no evidence of bruising or other serious injury to the detainee but did suggest that the guards monitor Hatab's condition.
According to testimony, Hatab was a high-ranking member of the Baath Party who was suspected of being involved in the ambush that killed 11 soldiers and led to the capture of U.S. Army Private Jessica Lynch.
The hearing continues this morning. Tranberg said he planned to argue his motion to dismiss the case.
Jeff McDonald: (619) 542-4585; firstname.lastname@example.org
09-01-04, 06:36 PM
Cannoncockers build miniature version of Fenway Park in Iraq
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20049123827
Story by Cpl. Veronika R. Tuskowski
CAMP RAMADI, Iraq (Aug. 31, 2004) -- Captain Stephen Pritchard has the ultimate offer to the Boston Red Sox CEO, John Henry, and Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein.
"If the Spring Training venue in Sarasota, Fla., ever proves to be untenable, then you are more than welcome to hold Spring Training here in Ar Ramadi, Iraq," said Pritchard, a logistics officer with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.
Why such a gracious offer?
Cannoncockers of 3rd Battalion 11th Marine Regiment constructed a miniature version of the Red Sox's Fenway Park at Camp Ramadi, Iraq.
"The Army here on base had their own baseball field, and we had to travel over there whenever we wanted to play," said Pritchard, from Weymouth, Mass. "So we cleared up an area and built one ourselves."
Pritchard provided the inspiration behind modeling the diamond after Boston's famous baseball park.
"I am a big Red Sox fan, and Fenway has the most famous left field fence in the Major Leagues," Pritchard said. "Not just that, but it is the most identifiable feature of any American sporting venue."
The Marines used over 200 panels of recycled wood to construct the outer fence of the field that reaches 290 feet to center field. They used old light poles as foul line poles and over 120 gallons of green paint. The left field has an unmistakable feature like Fenway: the "Green Monster," a 64-foot long and 18-foot high wall.
"It was a two-week project," said Cpl. Jason M. Samuels, 22, and an artillery mechanic with the unit. "Putting up the Green Monster was the hardest part. We built it on the ground and stood it up. We had 30 guys lifting it up and it was shifting and wobbling."
The field was named "Phelps Field" after Pfc. Chance Phelps, who was killed April 9 during combat operations in Iraq. He was the only Marine the battalion lost while in Iraq.
Even though it is named "Phelps Field," Pritchard has nicknamed it Fenway East... as in Middle East.
And where would the mini-Fenway be if it weren't for advertising? The Marines paid $20 each to make advertisements along the fence. The funding goes to the unit's Marine Corps Ball in November.
Despite creating a likeness to Fenway, the real reason for building the field was to help the Marines through their seven-month-long deployment.
"I think by building this field we have provided all troops on this base an outlet for stress and tension," said Pritchard. "It gives them a chance to forget about the daily grind of the day and just enjoy some softball."
"I grew up with the Red Sox, so this field makes me feel like I am back home with American traditions," said Petty Officer 1st Class Fernald J. Darrin, a company chief with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14. "It makes you feel like you aren't in a war zone. It's a stress reliever."
"None of the Seabees can reach the Green monster," said Petty Officer 1st Class James Cochran, operations chief, NMCB-14. "But it's not about winning with us, we just come out here to heckle each other and have a good time."
Soon 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment will be heading back to the states and their replacements, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, will be coming to a fully furnished camp.
"This field is one of our capstones," said Pritchard, who keeps the field meticulously maintained. "This is a good start for the 2/11 Marines to pick up where we left off. We built this to try to erase some of the scars of the war, so if you stay here at Camp Ramadi for seven months it wouldn't be so bad."
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment play a game of softball against the Navy Seabees from Naval Mobil Construction Battalion 14, Aug. 29, on Camp Ramadi. The Marines built the field and modeled it after the Fenway Park in Boston.
(USMC Photo by Cpl. Veronika R. Tuskowski) Photo by: Cpl. Veronika R. Tuskowski