View Full Version : Fallujah turnover was forced lesson in flexibility, Marines say
09-15-04, 07:30 AM
Issue Date: September 20, 2004
Fallujah turnover was forced lesson in flexibility, Marines say
By Christian Lowe
Times staff writer
Marines were ordered into a street-to-street battle against insurgents in Fallujah by U.S. Central Command officials last spring, ignoring the judgment of Corps leaders and scuttling a long-term strategy Marine commanders had hoped would quell the insurgency there with less bloodshed, according to a senior Marine official.
“We were ordered to go into Fallujah against our inclination,” said Brig. Gen. John F. Kelly, 1st Marine Division assistant commander, at a joint U.S. Naval Institute and Marine Corps Association forum held Sept. 7 in Arlington, Va.
“That was not what we wanted to do in Fallujah,” Kelly said. “We had a different game plan. A longer game plan.”
Marine forces, who had deployed to Iraq little more than a month earlier, had to shift gears quickly from a force organized for security and stabilization operations to one designed to flush out insurgents in pitched urban combat.
Regional commanders ordered the Marines into Fallujah shortly after the March 31 slaying and dismembering of civilian security contractors. The resulting clashes killed more than a dozen Marines and wounded scores more during the nearly monthlong siege.
In the end, just as two reinforced infantry battalions were poised for a final assault from positions on the outskirts of the town, Marine commanders were ordered to withdraw, handing over the mission instead to a hastily assembled “Fallujah Brigade” made up largely of Iraqi police, local militia members and former Iraqi army leaders.
“To our surprise, before we had completed [the mission], we were ordered to cease fire and work with Iraqis who were presented to us by higher headquarters,” Kelly recounted.
Though Kelly was using the seesaw battle of Fallujah as an example of the Corps’ ability to quickly change gears, the decision to withdraw sticks in the craw of many leathernecks to this day. Many said the final assault, though bloody, would have put an end to the town’s use as a terrorist and insurgent base.
But ending the fight early was the right thing to do, according to another senior Marine who spoke at the forum.
“You can’t really be against the decision if the reasons were political, because it’s fundamentally a political struggle,” said Col. T.X. Hammes, a senior fellow at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies.
Most people thought “if we’d just smash them it would be over,” Hammes said. “That’s just not the way insurgencies work. It’s a political problem.”
The Marine Corps needs to make significant cultural and organizational changes to meet the challenge of the war on terrorism, which has as many political dimensions as it has military ones, Hammes said.
Headquarters staffs should be cut back to free up field-grade officers for battlefield assignments; major training exercises should be unscripted, allowing for more innovation and free thinking — even if that means unit commanders lose a few simulated battles; and Marines should be encouraged to view the conflict as an insurgency rather than a force-on-force war.
As an example, Hammes cited tactics used by Afghans fighting Soviet troops in the heart of Kabul during the 1980s.
To move around the city, the Afghans simply checked out Soviet vehicles from military motor pools, disguising themselves as Soviet or Afghan government troops with uniforms taken from local laundry businesses in town — an innovative way to gain tactical advantage over their adversaries, Hammes said.
“We’re looking at the enemy we’re fighting now,” he said. “But one thing we know is that warfare changes, and the only thing that responds to change is a mentally flexible person.”
09-15-04, 07:31 AM
Sgt. Maj. Estrada lands on Cherry Point
Submitted by: MCAS Cherry Point
Story Identification #: 200491416351
Story by Lance Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, NC. (Sept. 14 2004) -- "Hey, Marine."
"Do you recognize that face?"
"That's the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps."
This was the scene throughout Cherry Point, Sept. 13, as Sgt. Maj. John L. Estrada visited
his Marines. Shock and awe swept across the air station as Sgt. Maj. Estrada surprised Marines hard at work.
"It was unreal, he walked into the armory, and jumped onto a table and started speaking," said Lance Cpl. William P. Blye, an armorer with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274. "It's motivating and very meaningful to know that the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps visited us. It made me feel like we are really accomplishing something important here; that people are seeing the hard work we are doing and appreciating it."
Sgt. Maj. Estrada took the time to speak with Marines across the air station before departing in a CH-53 Super Stallion. As he traveled through the air station shaking hands he gave words of inspiration thanking Marines for their service.
"The Marine Corps is very successful because of the job you do," said Sgt. Maj. Estrada to Marines in the General's building. "Every Marine, regardless of where you are, is vital to the Marine Corps. I appreciate you serving during this time in our nation's history. I want to say thanks and tell you what an outstanding job you are doing here."
The armory was full of Marines cleaning rifles. Over 100 crowded the table where he spoke listening to his every word.
"He made a comment about our generation of Marines being even better than our predecessors," said Blye. "It really made me feel proud. He talked about how so many Marines are re-enlisting, and I think that really shows how committed we are to the war."
Around 50 of the Marines at the armory, including a provisional rifle platoon, were part of MWSS-274. Those Marines are all scheduled to deploy to Iraq in February.
"I appreciated your service, and I appreciate all your sacrifices," said Sgt. Maj. Estrada to Marines preparing to leave to Iraq for a second time. "I'm proud to be associated with heroes such as you. You all know you will be going overseas, yet a lot of you are perfectly willing to reenlist. That speaks volumes about your character and your commitment. Keep it up, stay motivated."
Sgt. Maj. John L. Estrada, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, speaks to Marines cleaning rifles at Cherry Point's armory. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan
09-15-04, 07:32 AM
3rd MAW Marines amplify security after contraband detection
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 200491491357
Story by Cpl. Paul Leicht
AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 13, 2004) -- During a routine gate inspection here Sept. 10, 4th Low-Altitude Air Defense Battalion Marines and reservist augments working with Security Battalion, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, discovered five Iraqi nationals leaving base with contraband in their possession.
"Some of the items that were found were a number of electronic devices that our Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines have discovered in the use of IEDs," said Capt. Gene E. Colbert, adjutant, 4th LAAD Bn.
Only one of the Iraqis was detained for further questioning.
Recognizing the excellent work and diligent efforts of the Marines under his command, Lt. Col. Jay L. Huston, commanding officer, Security Bn., remarked that the Marines performed their role as base security superbly.
"What we bring to security concerns here is a high degree of situational awareness and an increased level of expertise related to our overall mission," said Maj. Patrick S. Aluotto, entry check point officer-in-charge, 4th LAAD Bn., who is an activated reservist and a narcotics officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. "As trained law enforcement in the civilian sector we have special skills that translate directly into our security role here.
"For instance, we know how to check vehicles thoroughly and for secret compartments. We also know how to properly search individuals for hidden items," he added.
Aluotto, who is also in charge of the military police platoon within the security battalion, mentioned that special search and detection teams and equipment are helping to detect suspicious activity.
"The canine handlers and their working dogs (in the battalion) not only help us to detect contraband more easily, but we hope they will serve as a deterrent," said the 32-year-old Los Angeles native. "We are also going to use explosive residue detectors, like we use with civilian police forces, that will also serve as a deterrent against any instances like this as well."
For many of the battalion's Marines, their experience as military and civilian police officers provides them with an extra advantage while performing their duties in Iraq.
"By working the same areas here, like most of us do on a 'beat' as civilian police officers, the Marines (in the battalion) gain a raised level of familiarity with their protection areas," said Maj. Leon Mulholland, commanding officer, Company B, 4th LAAD Bn., who is also an activated reservist and a sheriff in Dawson County, Ga. "We are constantly reevaluating and improving our procedures to continue the protection of our force and the security of this base.
"Therefore, we can effectively detect any suspicious activity or anything out of the ordinary to respond to the situation immediately with the appropriate action," he finished.
Lance Cpl. Tiffany Jackson, canine handler, Al Asad Security Battalion, 3rd MAW, and her working dog Lex search the engine compartment of a vehicle for contraband before it is cleared to enter Al Asad, Iraq, Sept. 13. The 23-year-old Jacksonville, N.C., native has been serving in Iraq for nearly one month with Security Battalion. Photo by: Cpl. Paul Leicht
09-15-04, 07:33 AM
3rd MAW Band brings seasoned harmony to war zone
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri
Story Identification #: 200491471758
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(Sep. 12, 2004) -- The blaring of horns and beating of drums echoed here as the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band warmed up for the their first performance since arriving in Iraq.
Charged with the task of motivating the Marines, Sailors and Soldiers here with their patriotic brand of harmony, the Marine Corps musicians were anxious to play during the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force change of command ceremony Sep. 12.
Following a powerful performance that garnered the band praise from delighted onlookers, it was obvious that they accomplished their mission, despite having not performed for an extended period of time prior to the event.
"We haven't played in a couple of months," said band member Sgt. Eric L. Harris, tuba player, "but we were all pretty confident that we would do well."
Having served with the band field for 10 years, the 29-year-old has gained his considerable confidence from past experiences.
"We practice so much that (performing) becomes like second nature," said the native of Los Angeles. "The (band's period of inactivity) doesn't really effect the quality of our performance too much."
According to one Marine, even with the added anxiety of playing in the volatile environment here, the band gave an impressive performance.
"With all the challenges of playing while in a war zone, we did exceptionally well," said band officer-in-charge Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thomas P. Mangan. "We're not exactly thrilled to have rockets shot at us, but the experience and (positive crowd response) is very rewarding."
Although he has worked in the band field for more than 20 years, Mangan has yet to grow tired of his profession.
"For me it's like a hobby," said the native of North Huntingdon, Pa. "I'll quit when it starts to become more like a job."
Known for making precision movements and playing faultless notes, the band is in high demand to perform for numerous of events, even though many outside of the Corps don't know they exist, Mangan offered.
"We play anywhere from 350 to 400 gigs a year," said the 37-year-old. "Unfortunately, not a lot of people have even heard of us. When I tell someone I'm with the (3rd MAW) band they'll usually say, 'The Marine Corps has a band?'"
Providing melodious composition for a ceremony as significant as the I MEF change of command is just one of the many performances band members look forward to participating in each year.
"It's really exciting to get a chance to play for such high profile events," said Cpl. Zachary A. Sutton, percussionist, who was with the band recently when they performed at another highly publicized event.
"We performed at (former U. S. President, Ronald W. Reagan's) funeral," said the 20-year-old from Marietta, Ga. "It's an honor that I'll never forget."
Maintaining strict discipline and military bearing throughout their performances, while following the sharp commands of the bandmaster and band officer, the 3rd MAW ensemble is capable of pulling off the immense task of playing a variety musical arrangements at key moments of an event.
"It requires a lot of hard work to (put on a quality performance)," said 37-year-old Mangan. "These guys have a lot of talent and the amount of versatility they have is incredible."
Though their primary mission in Iraq is to provide security for the 3rd MAW Tactical Air Command Center, the musicians are always striving to become better and maintain the reputation of professionalism and excellence that has come to be associated with Marine Corps bands.
"Back in the rear, we are practicing every day and constantly challenging ourselves with new and harder (music) literature," said Mangan. "Whether playing for a 1,000 people or just one, we always give 100 percent."
The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band walks to the theater aboard Camp Fallujah, Iraq to perform during the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force change of command ceremony Sep. 12. Due to the dangerous nature of the war zone, the band was required to wear a flack jacket and helmet while transporting their instruments and equipment. Photo by: Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri
09-15-04, 07:35 AM
Airborne guardians: HMLA-169 escort missions support convoy operations
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 200491485214
Story by Cpl. Paul Leicht
AL ASAD, Iraq (Sep. 10, 2004) -- The belief in guardian angels can be traced back throughout antiquity. From Babylonian and Assyrian monuments, to the Bible and more modern times, their mission has been to serve as protectors, with a special charge to deliver others from danger.
For Marines traveling about the hostile combat environment of Iraq, having a sentinel over their shoulder armed with rockets, missile launchers and machine guns can be a reassuring presence.
Particularly in the case of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, providing ground and airborne escort to safeguard passage is an aspect of their operational doctrine that has not gone unappreciated.
Packing a huge psychological value, the squadron's escorts are considered priceless by fellow Marines.
"We like having them around," said Lt.Col. Thomas M. Doman, executive officer, MWSG-37. "A convoy incurs a lot of added risk when traveling without a gunship and it is nice to know they are overhead."
Doman added that from their commanding officer, Col. Juan G. Ayala, on down, when his unit's Marines hear a gunship's 'whoop, whoop' thumping overhead it really makes a big difference..
Working in mixed sections to provide security from the air, the 'Vipers' fly two types of lethal helicopter gunships: the AH-1W Super Cobra and the UH-1N Huey.
"In addition to close air support, we fly ground escort missions for convoys all over Iraq," said Capt. John J. Bancroft, UH-1N pilot, HMLA-169. "We primarily look out for ambushes, IEDs and provide navigational assistance for the forces on the ground.
"For (HMLA-169), visual (reconnaissance) is an implied task," he added. "At night we use (forward-looking infrared sensors) to help detect targets, disturbed ground, rocket tubes, rocks along roadsides; pretty much anything that might be a danger to the convoys. If we see it, we contact the forces on the ground and move in to neutralize the threat."
The 31-year-old Oxford, N.Y., native and Naval Academy graduate noted that the Huey gunship has some special traits that make it well suited for escort missions.
"The Huey's strength is that it has crew-served weapons with an almost 180 degree field of fire on either side, including aft quadrant defense capability," said Bancroft. "In addition the Huey can put down quickly and pick up casualties on the ground if necessary after an IED attack."
Working together, the Huey and the Super Cobra provide "mutual supportability" as a section for escorting ground convoys; however, the Super Cobra also has another important responsibility in the air.
"Foremost, the Cobra's job in the airborne escort role is to protect (medical evacuation helicopters) from any ground threats, because the Cobra can keep up with them more easily than the slower Huey," said Capt. Fenwick, AH-1W pilot, HMLA-169. "The Super Cobra's armament is a big deterrent against small arms fire from the ground. If insurgents want to try and take a shot at the MEDEVACs with us alongside them, they are playing with fire."
Fenwick, a 30-year-old native of Camp Hill, Pa., added that with more time in the air 'Viper' pilots gain an ever-increasing familiarity with the Iraqi desert terrain and use it to their advantage when looking for suspicious activity during escort missions.
"Unlike the open desert, the hazards related to flying escort missions are compounded over urban areas," said Fenwick. "We fly low and fast, because -- even for us -- anything can be a threat, so we try to avoid certain areas as much as possible."
Two AH-1W Super Cobras await their next escort mission Sept. 10 at Al Asad, Iraq, the temporary home to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 who also fly the UH-1N Huey in mixed sections during ground and air escort missions. Photo by: Cpl. Paul Leicht
09-15-04, 07:36 AM
Judge: Reservist Must Report For Duty
September 14, 2004
RALEIGH, N.C. - A man who served the eight years required under his ROTC contract remains an Army reservist obliged to report for active duty because he failed to sign a resignation letter, a federal judge has ruled.
Todd Parrish, 31, had sought to block the Army from calling him to active duty until his lawsuit on the issue was decided.
But Judge Louise Flanagan denied the request on Friday, meaning that if the Army denies Parrish's administrative appeal, he could be forced to go on active duty while the case is litigated.
Parrish signed the ROTC contract while a student at North Carolina State University. He argued that his military obligation ended Dec. 19, following four years of active duty and four years in the reserves.
His attorney, Mark Waple, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.
Army lawyer Maj. Chris Soucie told the judge that Parrish could be recalled to duty because he failed to sign a resignation line on a letter asking for an update on his personal information.
Parrish, a married communications officer, said he sent the Army a letter resigning his commission and did not sign the line on the form because he thought he had already resigned.
The judge's order said Parrish cannot be ordered to active duty before Sept. 26.
If the Army's adjutant general denies Parrish's appeal, he will be given a reasonable amount of time to report for duty, U.S. Attorney Frank Whitney said.
09-15-04, 09:54 AM
Issue Date: September 20, 2004
Marines stay green
Retention goals dip, but high op tempo may cause problems
By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer
It could be a hard road ahead.
The Corps needs to re-enlist slightly fewer Marines in fiscal 2005 than it did this year, a reflection of the fact that despite multiple combat deployments, Marines are staying motivated — and green.
But the new goals point up the challenges the Corps’ leadership, career retention specialists and all Marines face as the new re-enlistment season begins.
The good news is that re- enlistment goals for both career and first-term Marines are down slightly.
The Corps must re-enlist 5,703 first-termers in fiscal 2005, nearly 5 percent fewer than this year’s total. The retention goal for career Marines is 5,003, about 11 percent fewer than in fiscal 2004.
Manpower officials were not available for comment on the re-enlistment goals, but in a Corpswide message published Sept. 8, officials said they expect to hit their goal for first-termers, known as the First Term Alignment Plan.
“The Marine Corps continues to be successful in meeting its aggregate first term retention requirements,” officials wrote in the message, MarAdmin 386/04. “The Corps expects continued FTAP success as our young Marines continue to serve Corps and country in a time of great need.”
Indeed, retention has been strong during 2004. Although re-enlistment rates slowed slightly among first-termers this spring, the Corps is expected to hit its goal of re-enlisting 5,990 first-termers by the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.
And Corps officials far exceeded their goal for career Marines, those Marines who have re-enlisted at least once. In May, manpower officials said they had achieved 101 percent of the career force retention goal of 5,628 Marines, and they continue to take re-enlistment packages.
The smaller goals would seem to ease the pressure on Corps leaders and retention specialists, but this new fiscal year still could be an uphill battle. Senior Corps leaders fear that the full impact of the high operations tempo since the start of the war on terrorism in fall 2001 will be felt in the year ahead.
Scared away from dotted line?
Typically, Marines deploy for six month stints, spending about 12 months at home between deployments. But with the demands of the Afghanistan and Iraq war zones still running high, Marines are supporting those commitments by rotating out for seven-month deployments, with only seven months at home before they ship out again. With the pace expected to continue unabated in the months ahead, Marines may be scared away from the dotted line.
The smaller retention goals this year are a good sign and are a reflection of good retention management, said retired Sgt. Maj. Lewis “Gary” Lee, the 13th sergeant major of the Marine Corps. But the Corps will have to work even harder this year to meet its goals, he said.
“We’ve worked very hard and we’ve been successful, and we have to continue to work hard to be successful,” said Lee, now an analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses in Alexandria, Va. “I don’t see anything to indicate that we won’t have to work just as hard as we did last year.”
Meanwhile, some military occupational specialties are often short-handed, and those communities will be a particular challenge.
In the reconnaissance community, for example, the Corps needs to re-enlist 67 Marines in 2005, but there are only 93 Marines who are re-enlistment eligible. That means the Corps will have to persuade 72 percent of those Marines to stick around to hit the mark.
Other specialties face an even more daunting task.
The re-enlistment pressure will be heavy on electronic intelligence intercept operators and analysts (MOS 2631), for example. There are only five Marines eligible to re-enlist, and the Corps needs to fill seven boatspaces. The solution? A strong sales pitch for lateral moves.
The pace of wartime operations has perhaps been hardest on the infantry community, but the Corps is in good shape for re-enlistments in the coming year. A total of 488 riflemen (MOS 0311) are needed, but there are 2,758 grunts who are eligible to re-enlist.
09-15-04, 11:59 AM
Missing Marine Now On Full Duty
September 15, 2004
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - A Marine who was reported abducted in Iraq and later turned up in his native Lebanon was restored Tuesday to full duty, the military said.
Medical authorities at Camp Lejeune, where Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun has been since July, declared him fit for full duty late Monday, allowing him to return to the brigade motor pool where he worked before he deployed to Iraq in February.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service continues to look into Hassoun's disappearance, according to officials from the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
Hassoun, 24, failed to report for duty June 20, and videotape later surfaced showing him apparently kidnapped, blindfolded with a sword hanging over his head.
He later turned up at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. It remains unclear how he traveled from Iraq to Lebanon.
09-15-04, 12:59 PM
Three Beheaded Bodies Found in Iraq
By KIM HOUSEGO, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Security forces discovered three beheaded bodies Wednesday on a road north of Baghdad, and a car bomb exploded in a town south of the capital, killing two people amid a surge of violence that has left more than 200 dead in the past four days.
The three bodies were found without documents near Dijiel, about 25 miles north of Baghdad, said Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman of the Interior Ministry. They were all male and had tattoos, he said.
A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the bodies appeared to be Iraqi nationals and that their hands were tied behind their backs.
The car bomb targeted a National Guard checkpoint in Suwayrah, about 40 miles south of Baghdad, Abdul-Rahman said. A national guardsman was one of the two dead, he said. Ten people were injured.
Meanwhile, militants released a Turkish man taken hostage in Iraq (news - web sites), according to a videotape obtained by Associated Press Television News.
"Today, the mujahedeen released me, and I will go to the embassy," said the hostage, identified as Aytulla Gezmen. He was shown standing next to a masked man before getting into a car. It was not immediately clear where the release of the Arabic translator took place.
In Ramadi, 10 people, including two women, were killed and six wounded Wednesday in clashes between insurgents and U.S. forces, according to Saad al-Amili, a senior Health Ministry official in Baghdad.
Insurgents also fired a rocket-propelled grenade Wednesday at U.S. and Iraqi soldiers securing a city council building in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, officials and witnesses said.
No one was injured in the attack, which occurred as a city council was meeting, days after being reinstated, said Maj. Neal O'Brien, of the 1st Infantry Division. The insurgents fired once, missed, then fled, he said.
City officials cut a deal with the Americans last week to reopen the city in return for an end to attacks.
In a separate incident, the chief of the provincial health directorate, Khamis Hussein, escaped unhurt when gunmen opened fire on him, al-Amili said. One of his bodyguards was killed and his deputy was wounded, he said.
On Tuesday, clashes between U.S. troops and insurgents killed at least eight civilians and wounded 18 in Ramadi, a predominantly Sunni Muslim city west of the capital where anti-American sentiments are high.
The violence followed attacks Tuesday that saw guerrillas bomb a Baghdad street full of police recruits and open fire on a police van north of the capital. At least 59 people were killed, bringing the total dead in the past four days to nearly 150 in Baghdad alone.
The car bomb near the police headquarters for western Baghdad was the deadliest single attack in the capital in six months, wrecking buildings and cars on central Haifa Street, leaving charred bodies and hurling body parts, shoes and debris into nearby trees and homes.
The recent violence appeared to be part of an increasingly brazen and coordinated campaign by the insurgency to bring its battle to Baghdad, sowing chaos for Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and his American allies.
Militant attacks appear to have only grown deadlier since Allawi's interim government took power in June, despite U.S. claims that Iraqi security forces are showing more resolve against the strikes.
The Tawhid and Jihad group, headed by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, posted a Web statement claiming responsibility for Tuesday's car bombing. The al-Qaida-linked group also launched a surprise assault in Baghdad on Sunday, killing dozens, and boasted it had the upper hand in the fight against the Americans.
In Baqouba, northeast of the capital, gunmen in two cars opened fire Tuesday on a van carrying policemen, killing 11 officers and a civilian.
The release of the Turkish hostage came a day after a militant group said in a video that it would free Gezmen after he converted to Islam and repented working for the Americans. The Shura Council of the Mujahedeen threatened to behead all those who deal with coalition forces.
Gezmen said in the earlier video that he had been working with U.S. forces for seven months, adding that after his kidnapping he started to pray, read the Quran and had converted to Islam. "I bear witness that there's no God but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's messenger," he said, repeating the Muslim declaration of faith.
Aytullah Gezmen's brother, Huseyin, told Turkey's Anatolia news agency that Gezmen had called the family in the southern city of Iskenderun and was expected to return home in two days.
"We heard his voice for the first time in 52 days," Huseyin Gezman was quoted as saying. "We spoke to him on the telephone. My brother is back from the dead. He's at the embassy in Baghdad."
In another development Wednesday, Turkey said it was sending aid — food, tents, blankets, water and ambulances — to the ethnic Turkish city of Tal Afar in northern Iraq, after a nearly two-week siege by U.S.-led forces sparked tensions between Washington and Ankara.
09-15-04, 02:30 PM
Issue Date: September 20, 2004
Going another round in Iraq
Force levels expected to hold steady for upcoming war-zone deployments
By Jason Sherman
Times staff writer
With the third major wave of U.S. forces poised to deploy to Iraq this fall, Pentagon planners recently began looking ahead to who will deploy after them — as soon as next summer.
Representatives from the services are laying the groundwork for what the Defense Department now calls OIF/OEF 05-07.
This nomenclature marks a departure from the previous rotation numbering system for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, which were not in sync because Operation Enduring Freedom began 18 months before Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“What they tried to do was make it simpler by going to the year of start and the year of exit from theater for the force,” said one Pentagon planner who spoke on condition that he not be identified.
This planning is looking at forces that will begin rotating into Iraq in late 2005 and eventually will return by early 2007.
The forces will stagger their deployments and returns. The Army plans for its troops to spend 12 months in theater. The Marine Corps’ maneuver elements go for seven months and its headquarter elements stay for a year, while Air Force deployments last four months.
There are between 135,000 and 140,000 U.S. personnel in Iraq and 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, according to defense officials.
Senior military leaders say they expect these force levels to remain steady for the foreseeable future.
“The rotation that’s going over now is going to be there for what may be the decisive phase of the war,” said Robert Killebrew, a retired Army infantry officer who speaks and writes on defense issues.
Elections in Iraq are scheduled for January, and a new government is supposed to be in place by next summer.
Many analysts believe the insurgency rocking Iraq is aimed in part at blocking the establishment of a viable, freely elected secular government.
A more serious war?
“There is a great possibility of the outbreak of a more serious war sometime this winter or next spring, the purpose of which will be to deny the legitimacy of a democratically elected government,” Killebrew said. “Our troops and the Iraqi troops are going to be deeply involved in either preventing that insurgency or crushing it in the name of an independent, secure Iraq.”
Asked whether the Pentagon was planning to boost force levels in Iraq around January, the Defense Department planner offered no details, but said preparations are underway.
“There certainly is planning for all types of unforeseen circumstances,” he said. “With regard to the election period, prudent military planning would require us to have the capability to respond to unforeseen circumstances. That may be increased violence, mass casualties [or] disaster relief.”
The aim of the planning effort for OIF/OEF 05-07 is to map out what sort of force is needed after next summer, a period that many believe will be the aftermath of increased hostilities.
“And the aftermath will likely be an attempt to go to a lower-grade insurgency, much like what we were fighting in Iraq now until the recent surge in violence,” Killebrew said. “Certainly, for this coming year, we cannot afford to reduce troop levels. No matter how good the Iraqi army becomes, troop levels can’t be reduced until next summer. After that, it’s a guess.”
Beyond that, the need for U.S. troops will depend on two things: the effectiveness of the Iraqi army and the insurgent threat level, Killebrew said.
09-15-04, 05:09 PM
Two Camp Lejeune Marines killed in Iraq accident
The Associated Press
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Two Camp Lejeune Marines died this week in a non-combat vehicle accident in Iraq, the military said Wednesday.
Lance Cpl. Cesar F. Machado-Olmos, 20, of Spanish Fork, Utah, and Lance Cpl. Michael J. Halal, 22, of Glendale, Ariz., died Monday in Al Anbar Province, the Department of Defense said in separate news releases.
The two Marines, both assigned to the 2nd Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune, died in the same accident, said Gunnery Sgt. Marcus McAllister, a division spokesman.
The accident was being investigated, the Defense Department said.
Halal was assigned to the division's 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, while Machado-Olmos was assigned to its 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, according to the military.
09-15-04, 06:35 PM
Wounded Recover Far From Home
September 15, 2004
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - National Guard Sgt. Rick Harvey, who injured his spine in Iraq, has doctor's appointments twice a week, but otherwise has nothing to do while he recovers at a military base some 300 miles away from his family in Oregon.
"I just want to go home. I want to be demobilized," Harvey, 46, of Milton-Freewater, Ore. He has been living in the barracks at the base for the past nine months.
Harvey is one of nearly 5,000 sick or wounded National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers around the country receiving medical care at Army bases far from their homes and families.
Regular Army soldiers usually recuperate at their home bases, with their families living on base or nearby. But as the Army prepared for war - plans in which Reserve and Guard troops figured prominently - it never worked up a policy to allow the part-time soldiers to convalesce near their homes.
"The system is evolving," said Jaime Cavazos, spokesman for the Army Medical Command in San Antonio.
Guard and Reserve soldiers on medical hold can choose to resign active duty status to return home while recovering, but they lose their military pay if they do. Leaving base also can delay their consideration for permanent disability status.
Sgt. Garth Leighton of Bend, Ore., is recovering at Fort Lewis from a broken back. In a recent meeting with his commanding general, Leighton complained that he cannot return home because his family relies on his military pay.
"I want out of here, I can hardly stand it," he said. "When I did this thing, I put myself at risk. I accepted the potential for death. I did not sign up to put my family at risk."
Concerns on the part of Oregon Guardsmen prompted Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Rep. Darlene Hooley, D-Ore., to ask the Pentagon to explain its policy.
Army Medical Command spokesman Cavazos said Army doctors prefer to retain soldiers on base to ensure the best treatment possible, but said Army policies for wounded Guard members are in flux.
Already, Fort Lewis spokesman Jeff Young said options are improving for wounded Guard soldiers recovering at the base. He said some soldiers are released when they can be treated safely at local hospitals and when the demands of duty allow.
In recent months, the National Guard has begun sending troops back to their home states for treatment. Under the Community Based Health Care Initiative, soldiers are provided with a job suited to their injuries at a National Guard armory and offered treatment at a Veterans Affairs clinic or with private doctors.
In the meantime, Harvey - whose back was injured when he fell from a fuel truck - said that he is so frustrated he loses his temper.
"They gear and train to go to war, but they don't have any clue what will happen when we come back," he said.
09-15-04, 06:54 PM
September 15, 2004
SAS Team Flies Into Iraq As Hostage Mystery Deepens
By John Kerin and Brad Norington
A SPECIAL Air Service team last night flew out for Iraq as part of a contingency plan to rescue hostages should a claim that two Australian security guards have been kidnapped by terrorists be substantiated.
And an Australian Federal Police team, specially trained for a hostage crisis in the Middle East, was on standby to negotiate with the Horror Brigades of the Islamic Secret Army.
The terrorists claimed on Monday night they would kill the two Australians unless John Howard pulled Australia's 300-troop contingent out of Iraq within 24 hours.
The terrorists claimed they had seized two Australians and two Asians, apparently their clients, near the Iraqi city of Samarra.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said last night 147 Australian civilians out of 202 working in Iraq had been accounted for. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials were checking on the remaining known 55 -- though there could be more.
The Government had a list of 154 Australians employed as aid workers, security workers or general contractors, but the actual number of Australians believed to be in Iraq was much higher, Mr Downer said.
Mr Downer said it could take several days to account for all Australians in Iraq and to determine "whether the threat was real or a hoax".
Last night there had been no further word from the Islamic Secret Army since its claim it had kidnapped the four men on the highway from Baghdad to the northern city of Mosul was made in a statement in the Sunni Muslim stronghold of Samarra on Monday night.
As the SAS team of between 12 and 30 troopers flew to Iraq, Canberra had got no closer to verifying the threat.
The group has not issued any video or photographs of the alleged kidnap victims, or released any names, raising hopes the hostage claim could be a hoax.
As John Howard and Mark Latham, in the middle of an election campaign, vowed they would never give in to the terrorists, Mr Downer announced a team of West Australian "logistics" specialists was being sent to Iraq. He confirmed the team would provide some "contingency support" in the event that hostages had been taken.
But Mr Downer would not confirm that the team included members of the SAS regiment, which is based at Swanbourne in Perth.
Frank Halliwell, operations director of a West Australian company Australian Professional Bodyguards, told the ABC he could not locate all six of his employees in Iraq. But Mr Downer said he later had received a telephone call from Mr Halliwell inform him that the six employees were safe.
Canberra was also consulting South Korea and Japan in case they had nationals with the two missing Australians.
Earlier Mr Howard and Mr Latham made it clear they would not change Australian foreign police to placate the terrorists. "We do not negotiate with terrorists, we do not bow to terrorists' demands or threats," Mr Howard said. "We will not compromise in the face of threats of that kind."
Mr Latham said Labor's policy was very clear and that there could be not negotiation with terrorists.
"I think anyone who negotiates or makes any concessions to terrorists is just setting up further problems into the future," Mr Latham said.
"These are evil people, you can't make any concessions to them, you need to be strong in the fight against terror."
AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty said that the specially trained 20-member hostage negotiation team could be deployed quickly from Australia to Iraq, following a decision by Cabinet's national security committee.
"We've got hostage negotiators, experts on hostage negotiation and counter-terrorism ready to deploy should the Government require it," Mr Keelty said.
Speaking in Sydney, Mr Keelty said no AFP officers were in Iraq, but two were in nearby Jordan training Iraqi police.
While no AFP officers had currently taken leave to work in Iraq as highly-paid security consultants, he was aware of one NSW police officer on leave without pay in the war-torn country.
No information suggested that the NSW police officer was involved in the alleged hostage crisis, he said.
09-15-04, 08:39 PM
Two Marines Killed Providing Security in Anbar Province
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2004 – Two Marines assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq were killed in separate incidents while conducting security and stability operations in Anbar province, Multinational Force Iraq officials reported today.
The first incident took place Sept. 14, and the second occurred today. No other details were provided.
Anti-Iraqi forces failed to disrupt a city council meeting in Samarra today when they tried to attack Iraqi security forces and 1st Infantry Division soldiers providing security outside the city council building. Someone fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the soldiers, missed, and fled.
Iraqi security forces and 1st Infantry Division soldiers have been patrolling in Samarra since the local city leadership was reseated on Sept. 9. On Sept. 13, they patrolled in the city and coordinated with the city council to begin repairs on Saeed Hameed Mosque, which was damaged in April.
On Sept. 14, Iraqi security forces and 1st Infantry Division soldiers conducted patrols and met with officials at the Samarra public clinic, delivering medicine and medical supplies. The patrols have not met resistance in their entrances into the city, officials said, and will continue to establish a secure environment to set the conditions for reconstruction and quality-of-life projects.
More than 3,000 people have returned safely to their homes in Tal Afar in the last 24 hours, and basic utilities have been restored to the city, officials said. On Sept. 14, Gov. Duraid Kashmoula of Ninevah province and Ninevah provincial council members determined the city was safe and allowed residents to begin returning to their homes. Iraqi security forces are maintaining security in the city. Multinational Forces and Iraqi security forces continue to work with Iraqi Red Crescent to provide medical assistance and humanitarian aid to the citizens of Tal Afar.
Rest In peace