PDA

View Full Version : Iraqi City on Edge of Chaos



thedrifter
09-29-04, 07:02 AM
Iraqi City on Edge of Chaos

U.S. troops have tried to win over residents in Ramadi, but a surge in abductions and killings is threatening to create another Fallouja.

By Alissa J. Rubin, Times Staff Writer


RAMADI, Iraq — Insurgents are killing and kidnapping government officials, police and Iraqi national guard members in an apparent campaign to destabilize this city, the capital of Sunni Muslim-dominated Al Anbar province west of Baghdad.

The rash of attacks threatens to eliminate the interim Iraqi government's control over Ramadi, notwithstanding the presence just outside the city of thousands of U.S. Marines and Army soldiers who back the government's authority

The provincial governor's three sons were kidnapped, and released only after he resigned. More recently, the deputy governor was kidnapped and killed, his body found this month. The president of the regional university and the provincial directors of the national sewage and communications ministries have also been kidnapped, and 10 contractors working for the United States have been assassinated.

Then there are the ominous posters that appeared on the walls of mosques a couple of weeks ago. Directed at Iraqi police and national guardsmen, they read, "Quit or we'll kill you."

The apparent aim is to make Ramadi into an ungovernable area like neighboring Fallouja, where insurgents have free rein. Ramadi and Fallouja represent 70% of Al Anbar's population, according to U.S. estimates.

The erosion of order in Ramadi illustrates the success of the insurgents' methods and the serious problems facing the interim government and its U.S. backers in maintaining stability in Iraq. It also threatens to thwart plans for a national election in January, at least in Al Anbar's main cities. An election that omits key population centers in the so-called Sunni Triangle region would have greatly diminished credibility.

"We do not know who the attackers are or who is backing them," said Ramadi's acting governor, Mohammed Abid Awad. "Are they backed from outside? Nobody knows."

Some victims have disappeared without a word; others have been assassinated, their bodies left on the roads. Still others have fled their jobs, afraid of suffering a fate similar to that of their co-workers.

"There's been a lot of kidnappings, a lot of assassinations, just in the last couple of weeks," said Col. Jerry L. Durrant of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, who oversees the coordination of the U.S. military with Iraqi security forces. "The government in Baghdad is not recognized by anyone in Al Anbar."

Durrant said leaders of the Iraqi national guard do not want to meet him in public or travel in military vehicles. Many no longer wear their uniforms for fear of being identified with the interim government's security forces.

Ramadi is not yet lost, but it is teetering. The Marines, aware of what is at stake, are trying to back up the local government. But they are hamstrung, because taking too visible a role could endanger the lives of Iraqi officials. Working with the Army, Marines are also trying to undertake small reconstruction projects they can complete quickly — an approach they hope will make a difference in neighborhoods still open to the American presence.

Unlike in Fallouja, where U.S. troops within a hundred yards of the city draw fire, there are areas of Ramadi where Marines and soldiers dismount from their vehicles, talk to residents and respond to their concerns.

"Ramadi is a much more benign environment," said Lt. Col. Mike Cabrey, who runs an Army artillery unit stationed in Ramadi. "I'd like to say it's the civil affairs work we've done that's made a difference."

Between $8 million and $10 million has been spent in the greater Ramadi area, he said.

It may also be the hard work of Cabrey and fellow soldiers in a few discrete neighborhoods. Although he is an artillery expert by assignment and training, Cabrey has taken it upon himself to become deeply involved with projects that provide a combination of money and personal outreach. He visits the ongoing work efforts three times a week, so he maintains a relationship with the people his unit is trying to help.

Regardless, the U.S. military's grip seems tenuous, the insurgency is persistent, and it appears that the troops face an uphill battle to maintain the bonds they have forged with the community.

As a provincial capital with a university, Ramadi has developed an insurgency of a much different character than that of Fallouja, where there appear to be many more Islamic extremists, including Wahhabis and Salafists. But Ramadi is strongly influenced by the tribes, who seem to think they have little to gain by working with the Marines.

"A lot of these guys have read history," said Durrant, recounting a recent meeting with Ramadi tribal sheiks, educators and businessmen. "They said to me the government in Baghdad is like the Vichy government in France during World War II, and I got called a Nazi several times."

The Vichy government was set up by the German Nazi occupation forces and ran a large area of France.

The attacks have discouraged law enforcement efforts by the Iraqi police and national guard, Marine intelligence officers say.

"In many cases, intimidation and pressure prompts a bias toward non-action. Maybe you're just not there when you hear something might happen in a place," said Lt. Col. George Bristol, a senior intelligence officer for the 1st Marine Division.

Ramadi police deny there are problems. "Things are going well in the province," said deputy police commander Brig. Jassim Mohammed Baddaa.

Rank-and-file officers, who were trimming the dried bushes outside the police headquarters one day recently, said they were intimidated regularly but were not allowed to talk to the media.

Not that the entire city is without hope.

In the small neighborhood known as Tamim, or Five Kilo, on Ramadi's western edge, residents seem pleased by U.S. efforts to refurbish schools, build a soccer field and two clinics, expand the police station and restore a badly damaged mosque.

On a recent day, seven U.S. armored Humvees drove into the neighborhood. There was no small-arms fire, no roadside bomb explosions, and when the troops dismounted, people looked up briefly and continued whatever they were doing.

Cabrey had brought with him a military policy trainer to meet the commander of the local precinct, and he was carrying sacks of medicine for one of the clinics.

At the police station, which the U.S. military supplied with 15 vehicles, the commander, who identified himself only as Chief Saleh, asked Cabrey to pose for a picture cutting the ribbon on the refurbished station so that the building's use would be official.

He then complained that U.S. troops had detained some of his men when they were assigned outside the Tamim neighborhood and had taken their weapons. "If you hurt a man's dignity, that's very sensitive," Saleh said.

Cabrey nodded and before leaving made sure the police trainer had linked up with the deputy police commander to get details on the incident. "We'll try to get them back for you," he said.

Saleh acknowledged that there had been kidnappings of police in his precinct in the last year, but said it had been "over tribal matters." He also said he had met with community leaders and imams and explained to them why he was accepting goods from the Americans. Cabrey nodded and added, "Col. Saleh went and worked directly with the community; I don't know if these other people who are getting attacked have made the same effort."

When the soldiers and Marines reached a mosque, also being rebuilt with a grant from Cabrey's team, there was no one there. Cabrey, however, recognized a child running across the street. "That's the imam's daughter — ask her where her father is," he said.

A few minutes later the imam emerged from his house, greeted Cabrey in the middle of the street where all the neighbors could see, and the pair walked to the mosque. They agreed Cabrey would leave the medicines there for the clinic doctors to pick up the next day.

The imam showed Cabrey the minaret, tall and elegant with white and turquoise tiles and almost complete. The imam had wanted the mosque and minaret rebuilt so they would be the first sight travelers saw as they entered Ramadi from the west.

For the moment, Cabrey's efforts appear to have paid off. But with an estimated 6,500 people in the Tamim neighborhood — in a city of about 400,000 — it is also a measure of how much effort may be needed in every hamlet, every quarter of the Sunni Triangle if the U.S. is to maintain trust and blunt the insurgency.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Special correspondent Raheem Salman of The Times' Baghdad Bureau contributed to this report.


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-ramadi28sep28,1,7056319.story?coll=la-headlines-world


Ellie

thedrifter
09-29-04, 07:03 AM
LAR Marine earns Bronze Star for his bravery
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20049282373
Story by Cpl. Matthew R. Jones



CAMP RIPPER, Iraq (Sept. 21, 2004) -- Third Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, became the target of an ambush by terrorist insurgents April 8 in Al Burhadan, Iraq.

For his actions that night, Lance Cpl. Michael J. Ludin, a light armored vehicle mechanic with 3rd Platoon, was awarded a Bronze Star by Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, Commanding General, 1st Marine Division, Sep. 21.

"I still don't see what I did that was any more special than what a lot of the other guys did that night," said Ludin.

Late in the evening, a convoy of Marines headed into Al Burhadan to meet with the Iraqi Border Police to conduct a joint patrol under the cover of night. Just before midnight, the Marines entered the city and the terrorist insurgents began their assault.

"We heard one shot and then the sky exploded with rounds and (rocket propelled grenades). My vehicle was hit and it killed my gunner," said Sgt. Nicolas M. Maloney, vehicle commander for the lead vehicle.

The insurgents had opened fire from a concrete irrigation ditch alongside the road. From their dug-in fighting position, the enemy launched two RPG's at the lead LAV, immobilizing it.

"We were hit with RPGs, small arms fire and medium machine gun fire," said Cpl. Angel C. Alvarez, 23, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and scout team leader.

The Marine killed was Cpl. Nicolas Dieruf. He would be the only one to die during the fighting.

Ludin would earn his Bronze Star for his actions during the rest of the attack.

As the Marines began taking fire, a round sprayed sparks by Ludin's face. Uninjured and thinking quickly, he started returning fire at the hostile position.

The Marines in the next two vehicles pushed forward providing fire. But as they moved forward an improvised explosive device exploded behind the rear vehicle.

"I pushed forward of the (disabled vehicle), stopping in front of it," said Lance Cpl. Ray J. Laskowski, 19, driver for the third vehicle and native of Reno, Nev. "Sgt. Cook told his Marines to dismount."

Ludin did not have time to grab his Kevlar helmet when he dismounted. He had only his flak jacket to protect him from hostile fire.

"I was running (communication) between our vehicle and the downed vehicle," said Ludin, 21, a Milwaukee native. "It was about 25 to 30 meters between the two vehicles,"

Ludin ran back and forth numerous times, while braving rounds being sent downrange from the enemy position.

"I thought I would get hit," said Ludin.

Maloney ordered his Marines to take cover behind the still mobile vehicle.
Ludin ran behind the disabled vehicle and opened the door, telling Seaman Jamar L. Bing, 21, a corpsman and native of Philadelphia, to get out of the vehicle and take cover.

"He (basically) dragged me back to the other vehicle," said Bing.

The vehicle the Marines used for cover was continuously shot with small arms fire. To make matters worse, the disabled vehicle's headlights were illuminating the Marines' position, making it easier for the enemy to pinpoint their fire.

"At that time I said that the headlights from my vehicle needed to be shutoff," said Maloney.

Ludin ran to the vehicle and climbed on top of the LAV, scurried over the top and reached inside to turn off the lights.

"Ludin was never told to turn off the lights. He just jumped up and ran through the incoming fire," said Cpl. Alfonso A. Flores, 20, a vehicle gunner and native of Los Banos, Calif.

Flores remembers emptying at least 11 magazines of ammunition during the firefight as he provided cover fire for Ludin and the other Marines.

"Once the lights were out, almost all of the fire died down," said Ludin, who somehow managed to return fire with his M-16A2 service rifle the entire time.

As the enemy fire decreased, the final LAV maneuvered to flank the enemy. Cpl. Daniel P. Kunkel, the vehicle's gunner, obtained the enemy in the sights of his 25mm chain gun and was given the order to fire.

The fire suppressed the enemy and turned the tide of the ambush, according to Alvarez.

"Once the enemy began to retreat, I put the gun on single shot mode to minimize the collateral damage to the surrounding town," Kunkel said.

Still under small arms fire, Ludin and Bing returned to the downed vehicle to retrieve Dieruf.

The Marines continued to secure the area until daybreak.

Though each Marine did their part in the firefight, they all remember the selfless acts of heroism they witnessed Ludin perform.

"His actions really impressed me," said Sgt. Nicolas M. Maloney, vehicle commander for the lead vehicle. "He just did what had to be done."

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/200492824739/$file/Bronze3lr.jpg

Lance Cpl. Michael J. Ludin holds his Bronze Star while he stands on top of the light armored vehicle he crawled across during an enemy ambush April 8. Ludin, 21, a native of Milwaukee, was presented the award by 1st Marine Division Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, during a ceremony at Camp Ripper, Iraq, Sept. 21. Ludin is a LAV mechanic with Weapons Company, 1st LAR Battalion, 1st Marine Division. Photo by: Cpl. Matthew R. Jones

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/8BC08C7DB057F4DC85256F1D00245A26?opendocument


Ellie

thedrifter
09-29-04, 07:04 AM
Veterans React To Wounded Soldier’s Beating

September 26, 2004


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
by Thomas D. Segel
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“This is outrageous!” yelled John Collick, a retired Marine First Sergeant from Yorktown, Virginia. He had just read an article about an unprovoked attack on a wounded soldier home on medical leave from Iraq. The Marine continued saying, “A young man who was wounded in Iraq is beaten by some of the very people that he has sworn to defend. Whether you agree with the war on not, attacking our servicemen, or watching them be physically assaulted, is anything less than cowardice.”

The terrorist roadside bomb, which exploded under an Army Humvee on August 10 seriously, wounded Pfc Foster Barton. The deep wound required two surgeries to repair. Following his hospitalization, the Army sent this 5 foot 6 inch, 130-pound soldier home on a recuperation leave. Today he is back in the hospital, not because of combat action in Iraq, but because a 6-foot 200-pound protester savagely beat him, following a Toby Keith concert in Columbus, Ohio. With a concussion, a broken nose and six stitches, it has been estimated it will take the wounded soldier 4 to 6 weeks to recover from his beating.

Jeb Phillips of the Columbus Dispatch first reported the story. Phillips told about Barton’s mother surprising her son with tickets to the Toby Keith concert. He had spoken about how much he loved Keith’s patriotic songs and how he regretted missing the country singer’s Baghdad concert because he had been out on patrol.

The Purple Heart winning soldier had worn a T-shirt to the concert that contained the words “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. As he was leaving Germain Amphitheater, Foster Barton was greeted several times by other people from the audience. He was asked if he was a soldier and was thanked for his service.

Then he heard some obscene references to the Army and as he turned, the soldier was struck repeatedly in the head. After he had fallen to the ground, his assailant continued the attack by kicking his unconscious body.

Though several people observed the beating, the only person coming to the aid of the wounded soldier was a young woman reported to be the companion of the attacker. She tried to pull him off of Barton. He then stopped his attack and ran off. Later the woman denied knowing the attacker, who has still not been apprehended.

Dozens upon dozens of veterans have reacted to the attack on Foster Barton. Some, such as retired navy Captain Len Kaine have sent the soldier expressions of their concern and gifts. Kaine sent an interactive computer game, while Korean War Army veteran Pete Quinlan mailed his note of encouragement along with an Outback Steakhouse gift certificate.

From Hawaii, a retired Army First Sergeant wrote in comradeship and told how he too was denigrated upon his return from Vietnam. His only regret was he had not been present to inflict some retribution on the attacker.

Ray Boyden, a retired Air Force Master Sergeant from Savannah, Georgia recalls the repeated confrontations he and others in his unit had with anti-war radicals during the years of the Vietnam War. “It got so bad we had to go to work in civvies and then change into our uniforms. There were many run-ins with the great unwashed from Oberlin College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I remember the great divide between factions in our country. The actions on poor PFC Barton are just like those of the Vietnam years. And those standing around and not coming to his defense are just like those from that time. God save us from idiots and traitors.”

Army Colonel James Bond Johnson of Long Beach, California served in three wars and in three different branches of the armed forces. He says, "Some of us vets have long memories. I recall well the varied variety of “welcome home” greetings we received. We must persevere in educating the public, which today is again confused by a plethora of babble and outright lying. If we fail the results can be very, very tragic.”

W. P. “Pete” Haight, a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel from Round Rock, Texas warns in a letter to the young man… “Behavior such as theirs cannot and must not reflect the attitude of the vast majority of our American youth. I fervently pray that is so. Rather, their despicable behavior toward you (Pfc Barton) as you expressed your support of our Armed forces, is indicative of radical and misguided attitudes toward our country being fostered, wittingly or unwittingly, by a man who would be our Commander in Chief, but whose voting record in the Senate belies his professions of loyalty and support of our Armed Forces.”

John Clayton is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant living in Airway Heights, Washington. He reflected, “When I read the article on PFC Barton, my blood boiled. My son was in Iraq with the 4 th ID and I wouldn’t want anyone to treat him like that. Who do these idiots think they are? These anti war types get more publicity from the liberal news media than our fighting forces. Something is badly wrong with those values and that picture.”

Retired Army Colonel Harry Riley of Crestview, Florida is also a past victim of the anti-war crowd. “I received the ‘spit and rotten egg’ treatment when returning from Vietnam…sounds like a similar song is being played for our current warriors. Kerry and others are engaged in a despicable, unconscionable act of aid and comfort to the enemy with troops on the battlefield. Senator Kerry is abandoning our troops. The colonel and many others feel what happened to Foster Barton is a direct result of the hate filled rhetoric of the current political campaigns.

Former Marine Terry Brady of Anchorage, Alaska echoes this. “The Kerry rhetoric during the Vietnam era contributed to the lack of respect for our service people. His rhetoric during this presidential campaign is likewise hurtful because it feeds the negative rather than enforcing the positive.”

From Peyton, Colorado author and retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer Charles W. “Bill” Henderson writes, “Pfc Foster Barton’s beating was a direct result of sentiment stirred and elevated by not just Kerry and Edwards, but the entire Democrat machine that stoops at nothing too low or unethical to achieve their goal of electing Kerry and Edwards. Kerry is the same anti-war activist that he’s been since Vietnam, now directly appealing to a rabidly left-wing sector of potential voters. Pfc Barton’s beating is a direct result of this elevated rhetoric also openly endorsed by the Communist Party USA, and is part of the price good people seem to always pay for that sort of short-sighted recklessness.”

Senator Kerry’s insistence that the Vietnam War should be the cornerstone of his presidential bid has impacted America in a variety of ways. It has brought back the sad memories of a painful past. It has riled Vietnam veterans by the thousands who still feel Kerry is traitorous. It has stirred the Swift Boat veterans to activism and it has helped form Veterans4Bush. This Vietnam style rhetoric has also brought back to life the bottom feeders of our society who wage attacks on recuperating wounded soldiers.


Thomas D. Segel


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thomas D. Segel is a twice wounded, former combat correspondent who saw enemy action during the Korean War and two tours of duty in Vietnam. He retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Gunnery Sergeant after 26 years of service. His next assignment was as Director of Information and adjunct faculty member of the Marine Military Academy. He then completed a new career and recently retired from service with the State of Texas, where he was Director, Division of Information, Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, Rio Grande State Center. He holds the Thomas Jefferson Award for Journalistic Excellence, The Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association Distinguished Performance Award and six Armed Forces Writers Association Distinguished Achievement Awards. Segel has authored four books, including "Men in Space" which received the honor of being placed on both the National High School and National Junior High School Library Lists. He currently writes for several on line publications, national magazines and newspapers. His writings are distributed nationally to more than 1,300 publications by the Paragon Foundation News Service. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas Pan American and earned his masters degree at Vanderbilt University. He is a past national president of the United States Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association. Segel resides with his wife, Pattie, in Harlingen, Texas.

http://www.mensnewsdaily.com/archive/s/segel/2004/segel092604.htm


Ellie

thedrifter
09-29-04, 07:05 AM
Watchful guards keep Iraqi air base secure <br />
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing <br />
Story Identification #: 200492795759 <br />
Story by Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri <br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 23, 2004) -- The...

thedrifter
09-29-04, 07:06 AM
brentwood
A sojourn home, then death
Marine, killed in Iraq a week after making a final visit to see kin, is the third Brentwood High grad to fall in the war


BY MARTIN C. EVANS
STAFF WRITER

September 28, 2004


Marine Lance Cpl. Ramon Mateo surprised everyone with a sudden visit from Iraq early this month.

First, he went to his mother's workplace, stood silently behind her as her colleagues beamed, and savored the expression on her face when she turned around. Then, in a gleeful succession of lightning-strike visits, he surprised other members of his family scattered throughout the Brentwood-Bay Shore area.

Mateo's arrival sparked two weeks of partying, as friends and relatives fed him longed-for rice and beans, lubricated his spirits with alcoholic libations and showered him with love.

Then, just as suddenly, he was gone.

Now, family and friends are struggling to come to grips with the idea that Mateo will not be coming home again.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet, because he was here only a week ago," said his sister, Sonia Rivera, 28, of Bay Shore. "It was almost as if God sent him one more time to say goodbye."

One week after he returned to Iraq from a two-week leave here, Mateo, 20, died Friday, becoming the third Brentwood High School graduate to die in that part of the world since President George W. Bush sent troops there.

Monday, members of his family who gathered at his Brentwood home tried to make sense of his death, a half a world away in Iraq.

"He was a baby, only 20 years old," said his father, Pedro Mateo of Bay Shore. "He came home, had a good time, then 'bang,' that was it."

Mateo, who married in May 2003, left for Iraq in February, and had just returned for another seven-month hitch there when he was killed.

"He wanted to make his family proud, and for his cousins to look up to him," said his wife, Concetta, who is a student at Suffolk County Community College.

So far, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has claimed the lives of four soldiers who grew up in the communities surrounding Brentwood High School.

Army Sgt. Michael J. Esposito Jr., who also was a Brentwood High graduate, was killed March 18. He died when his patrol came under fire while searching a mountainous region of Afghanistan that had seen a re-emergence of Taliban activity.

Army Spc. Jacob Fletcher of Bay Shore was killed in Iraq on Nov. 13, when an explosive struck a bus he was riding in. Cpl. Raheen Heighter, another Brentwood High graduate, was killed in a July 24, 2003, ambush in Iraq.

Mateo, who graduated from Brentwood in 2002, was described as an average, if sometimes mischievous, high school student who tried to straighten himself out by joining the Marines.

Brentwood principal Thomas O'Brien said that in some ways, Mateo typifies the youth of Brentwood -- a Suffolk County hamlet with large numbers of working-class white, Hispanic and black residents. Many of them turn to the military, hoping to convert stints in the armed forces into tickets to a better life.

"It gives you pause, because this is our third to have been lost to the war," O'Brien said Monday. "It's unfortunate, but this seems to be the circumstance facing working-class communities. And not only is that characteristic of working-class communities, it is also characteristic of minority communities, and Brentwood qualifies at both ends."

Mateo's stepfather, Miguel Rivera of Brentwood, who works at a Huntington car dealership, said Mateo had hoped to use his military training to become a diesel mechanic.

Mateo had even spent time during his last days on Long Island helping to repair his wife's car.

"He was doing what he wanted to do," Miguel Rivera said. "He wanted to make a career of it."

"The last words I said to him before he left was, 'God bless you,' and he said, 'Don't worry, I'll be back," Miguel Rivera said. "But it never happened."

At Mateo's home, several of his relatives struggled to put their anguish into words.

His death left many of them angry about the war and at Bush for pursuing what they said was a vague and unattainable mission.

"I saw him born, and now I have to bury him," said Vickey Monserrate, one of Mateo's aunts. "He was death number 1,042 in this war -- what will it take for it to be over, a million deaths?"

"This was supposed to have been over," his stepfather said. Then, referring to Mateo, he said: "I'm proud of him, and we support the troops 100 percent, but this is pointless. This is not a war, this is a slaughter. It's another Vietnam."
Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/ny-limari0928,0,1321252.story


Ellie

thedrifter
09-29-04, 07:08 AM
ING squeak past Raiders 1-0 in soccer challenge
Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story Identification #: 200492415940
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Chago Zapata



FORWARD OPERATING BASE ECHO, Iraq (Sept. 22, 2004) -- The 404th Battalion, 50th Iraqi National Guard Brigade, Desert Dogs squeaked past the Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), Raiders 1-0 during a friendly soccer match here at the ING compound, Sept. 22.

"We're trying to get the Iraqi Security Forces in a recreational activity to build camaraderie and team spirit," said Capt. Robert B. Sotire, company commander, Alpha Co., BLT 1/4, 11th MEU (SOC).

A Desert Dogs' forward scored the only goal of the game in the first ten minutes of the match when a shot from the left edge of the penalty box partially deflected off a Raider defender, sending the goalie to the right and the ball to the left and in the net. After that goal, the Raiders' defense tightened up and frustrated the Desert Dogs' further attempts to score.

Lance Cpl. Mark Enrique, the Raiders' first half goalie and a rifleman with 1st Platoon, made several dramatic saves during the first 45-minute half.

The uneven field, pitted with rocks and large dirt mounds, frustrated the Raiders' attempts to control the ball and pass accurately, especially during the first half of the game.

"We took the first half of the game to get acquainted with each other and to get used to the way we each play," said HN Ivan G. Krimker, right forward and corpsman with 5th Platoon. "They had the first half of the game and we had the second."

On the other hand, the Desert Dogs' familiarization with the field, which they built, and their experience playing in a grassless environment allowed them to take control of the ball quite often.

"The ING had a lot of teamwork out the in the field," said Enrique. "They love competition and they fought for each and every ball they got as if it was their last."

Lance Cpl. Anthony Massa, the Raiders' second half goalie and a motor transport operator attached to 3rd Platoon, also made several spectacular saves and further denied the Desert Dogs' many attempts to score.

"Every possession of the ball was very important to them," said Krimker. "If they lost the ball they put forth 110 percent to get it back. They put a lot of effort into every play."
To the ING's dismay, the Raiders determined defense kept the score at 1-0 for the rest of the game.

"The Marines represented the Marine Corps and I think they did really well out there," Sotire said. "The game brought (the ING and Marines) closer together. There were Marines out there cheering for the ING and ING cheering for the Marines, all in all it was a good evolution."

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/200492422122/$file/040922-M-0095Z-007%20low.jpg

Gunnery Sgt. Daniel W. Fleming, sweeper and platoon sergeant for 5th Platoon, Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), watches as an Iraqi National Guard forward heads the ball and Lance Cpl. Aaron J. Doerr, fullback and assaultman with Weapons Platoon, runs forward to assist during a friendly soccer match between the 404th ING Battalion and the Alpha Company Raiders at the ING compound in Forward Operating Base Echo, Iraq, Sept. 22. The ING squeaked by the Raiders with a 1-0 victory. Photo by: Gunnery Sgt. Chago Zapata

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/6776060ABFAC3D8E85256F190020EDF1?opendocument


Ellie

thedrifter
09-29-04, 07:10 AM
Fallujah blast victim mourned
Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story Identification #: 2004923194743
Story by Lance Cpl. Samuel B. Valliere



MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Sept. 23, 2004) -- Family and friends of an avid Dodgers fan who drove to the recruiting office in a rattletrap mourned the fallen leatherneck Sept. 15 at Marine Memorial Chapel.

Lance Cpl. Derek Gardner, from Orange County, was one of seven Marines killed in a terrorist bomb blast Sept. 6 near Fallujah, Iraq.

The noise of a raucous football game several hundred yards away drifted over to the chapel as mourners offered misty-eyed accounts of Gardner's life. The game halted, however, during the outdoor portion of the ceremony, as seven Marines fired a rifle salute in his honor and his parents were given U.S. flags.

Gardner, a 20-year-old motor transport operator with the 1st Marine Division's Headquarters Battalion, deployed to Iraq on Feb. 29 as a newly engaged 19-year-old who had checked into his first duty station only six months earlier.

Before setting off for Iraq, Gardner gazed at his grandfather's Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart and told the Korean War veteran he was going to earn them, too.

Michael McCleary, who rose to the rank of corporal in the Army, remembered telling his grandson not to be a hero.

"I told him not to volunteer for any missions because that is what I did, and I'm lucky I didn't get killed," McCleary said after the funeral.

Gardner was looking forward to the new life he would start with his fiancee, April Ornelas, when he returned home.

"He promised me he would be OK and he would be home," said Ornelas, 18. "He said this wasn't goodbye; this was hello to a new beginning."

Not that he was trying to leave his past behind.

Gardner was a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan. In Iraq, the cloth tent wall above his rack was adorned with a team beach towel. A sign reading "Knock if you're not a Dodgers fan" was plastered on the door.

During the funeral, family members, old friends and commanders took turns stepping up to the chapel's podium to share memories of Gardner.

Gunnery Sgt. Brett Beard, who recruited Gardner into the Marines about three years ago, recalled how the then-junior at Laguna Hills High School putted around town in a beat-up, noisy car.

"The driver's side door of his car was wrecked and no longer opened, forcing him to climb out the window or go out the passenger door," Beard said during his eulogy . "However, the money he made after school working at Del Taco was never used for such cosmetic concerns. Instead, he bought amplifiers and speakers."

During his military service, Gardner earned the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Award, National Defense Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Gardner is survived by his mother, Vickey de Lacour; his father, Ken Gardner; his brother, Erik; and his fiancee Ornelas.

"We need not be set back by Derek's loss, but be inspired by his courage," said his father, Ken Gardner, in closing the funeral.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/2004923194943/$file/GardnerWinterFormaltn.jpg

Lance Cpl. Derek Gardner and fiancee April Omelas pose together before going to a winter formal dance. Photo by: Courtesy photo

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/F40CF02A98F8489385256F180082B629?opendocument

thedrifter
09-29-04, 11:37 AM
Issue Date: October 04, 2004

Fire-support Marines earn Bronze Stars for Iraq valor

By Laura Bailey
Times staff writer


As insurgent uprisings flared in cities throughout Iraq in April, a group of American civilians trapped in a besieged building thought the end was near.
But they found hope of escape from a small team of Marines that has been recognized for helping to save those civilians’ lives.

Maj. James Purmort, 34, and Staff Sgt. Andre Rivera, 29, both reservists with the 4th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, were awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device for valor Sept. 19 during a ceremony in West Palm Beach, Fla.

They were two of four Marines with 4th ANGLICO who received Bronze Stars for actions in Iraq. Staff Sgt. Derrick Leath and Capt. Matt Brannen were also awarded the Bronze Star with combat “V.”

Purmort and Rivera’s seven-man team was attached to a group of Ukrainian troops outside Kut when 400 Mahdi Army troops, loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, attacked a Coalition Provisional Authority building inside the city on the morning of April 7.

The building held 87 civilians and military members, including Ukrainian forces and U.S. Army troops.

Stationed at a Ukrainian base across the river from the CPA building, Purmort and Rivera with Team 3, call sign “Lightning 30,” could see the building from their position, but Ukrainian troops forbade anyone to leave the post to assist, Rivera recalled.

Out of options

With no other option, and under small arms and sniper fire throughout the day and night, Purmort and Rivera coordinated air attacks in an effort to keep the CPA building from falling.

“They were literally going to be slaughtered,” Rivera said. “I remember thinking Americans are going to die right in front of us, so we better do our best tonight.”

For 27 intense hours, the team coordinated 50 sorties by fighter jets and gunships.

With their help, all 87 people in the building were evacuated in armored personnel carriers just as Mahdi Army troops infiltrated the first floor of the building.

Throughout the engagement, the team’s members controlled four to five sets of aircraft at the same time, something they had never done in training, Rivera said. This included taking out a mortar position just as it began to fire rounds into the building, according to award documentation.

“That day everything just came together. It was beautiful,” Rivera said. “Everyone rose to the occasion. No one hesitated.”

Defense in Najaf

At about the same time, Leath and Brannen’s Team 2 was battling to save a Spanish compound in Najaf.

As a group of Spanish soldiers evacuated its besieged military compound, the two led their seven-man team in defending the Spanish base by coordinating air attacks.

Under small arms, mortar and rocket-propelled grenade fire, Leath and Brannen called in close-air support, including an accurate strike against a building of insurgents in a populated urban area, Leath’s citation says.

“Our biggest claim to fame is that we made it home. There were times we didn’t think we would,” Leath said.

Leath and his team stayed for almost three weeks, beating back repeated attacks.

Through intense combat, they called in 20 close-air support sorties while defending the perimeter of the base with their own weapons.

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story.php?f=1-MARINEPAPER-369868.php

Ellie

thedrifter
09-29-04, 12:37 PM
Washington Times
September 29, 2004
Pg. 1

Snipers Pick Off Danger In Iraq

Conduct stealth missions under cover of dark


By Maya Alleruzzo, The Washington Times

BAQOUBA, Iraq — In that quiet place between midnight and sunrise, four American soldiers set out into the darkness, swathed in burlap camouflage as they creep through a field pockmarked with gopher holes. The prey they stalk is insurgents who use rocket-propelled grenades to fire at U.S. troops.

Just before the sky turns blue, they will creep back to their Humvees, rejoining the scout platoon that shadowed them, another day's work complete. Vigilance at this outpost in the Sunni Triangle never ends.

Humvees on pre-dawn patrols have been attacked with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) more than once as they passed this spot. Though no one has been hurt, commanders are eager to put a stop to the attacks.

"Hoss," a rangy sergeant who prefers to give only his nickname, and his team of snipers with the 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, go to observe the site where the Humvees had their near misses. They choose a low spot in which to crouch, ready to strike if grenades are fired at passing Humvees.

If anything goes wrong, the scouts are ready to strike, too. Spc. Matthew Frank, 21, mans a mounted M2 .50-caliber machine gun from a high vantage point, watching the group as they navigate the uneven terrain in their burlap camouflage — a look that is more reminiscent of the "Star Wars" character Chewbacca than GI Joe.

This is quiet work, in which concentration is key. Fueled by a cocktail of adrenaline, chewing tobacco and a strong pot of Starbucks coffee, it's easy to stay alert. They all know that if they let their thoughts drift, the next Humvee that drives on this road could be hit by a grenade.

"When they're out there, I need them to use their noodle, not their testosterone," says Hoss, who at 33 is the elder statesman on his team. Sgt. Kyle Watkins, 22, and Spc. Christopher Murphy , 27, spend their free time lifting weights, which helps them shoulder the hefty radio equipment and weapons into the field.

A few nights later, a tank patrol draws RPG fire in the same stretch of road. The patrol fires back, lighting up a grove of date palms.

Members of the scout platoon, all of whom have settled into their bunks to watch a movie, are on call tonight to respond to emergencies. Within moments, they are dressed and in their Humvees.

1st Lt. Matt Caldwell, 24, of Staten Island, N.Y., leads his men on foot through the palm grove to search for evidence of the RPG fire or proof that the tank fire reached its target. Seen through the single eyepiece of a night-vision scope, it is a tedious journey.

As the soldiers fan out in a wedge formation to search the grove, they stumble through a network of streams and ditches. The mud creates a suction effect, pulling their boots ever deeper as they try to keep up with the men ahead of them.

Again, the enemy is elusive.

The snipers and scouts are among 2nd Battalion's specialized soldiers who are responsible for Diyala province. The northern portion of the Sunni Triangle lies in their territory, whose population is 40 percent Sunni Muslims, 35 percent Shi'ite Muslims and 20 percent Kurds, who are not ethnic Arabs but are mostly Sunni Muslims.

The province is best known to Americans for the town of Baqouba, where insurgents battled U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces during the bloody months of April and June.

The snipers' work is performed largely under cover of darkness, which means these men keep the hours of vampires. After the night mission, the team ate breakfast together in the camp's dining hall. Among the freshly shaved soldiers in desert camouflage just starting their day, the snipers stand out in their mud-caked forest camouflage, which is darker and helps them blend into the night.

"I feel like I'm at Denny's [diner] after an all-nighter," said Hoss.

Scouts cover more ground in their Humvees than do snipers, sharing round-the-clock duty with tank companies and a platoon to interdict roadside bombs and mortar fire aimed at the 1st Infantry Division's base here.

A few days after the field mission, the snipers are called to protect a threatened police station in Hib Hib. Their No. 1 mission is to prevent squads of insurgents from planting roadside bombs — improvised explosive devices, or IEDs in Army jargon.

At 3:30 a.m., Spc. Christopher Murphy, 27, from Sacramento, Calif., spots suspicious behavior through his scope and relays it to Hoss: "I've got a guy in the van with his hazards on."

"Just find me a guy putting an IED down," Hoss says as he readies his weapon, placing the long gun on its bipod and focusing the night-vision scope to follow his target.

"He just got out of the vehicle," Spc. Murphy tells Hoss, keeping his eye to the scope.

"Talk to me. I got one kneeling down," says Hoss, moving his gun to another spot.

Spc. Murphy keeps an eye on the parked van. At 4:10 a.m., visibility is bad, but he thinks he sees three men putting something on the ground.

Hoss asks the Iraqi policemen to send a car out to patrol the area. In a combination of broken English and pantomime, they tell Hoss the police car is out of gas.

Something has to be done. Hoss decides to investigate the suspicious activity more closely.

"Strap it on," says Hoss. This time as they set out on foot, they cross a mud field.

Pfc. Jody Casey, 27, from Wenatchee, Wash., takes over scope duty.

"I see four or five individuals," Pfc. Casey reports.

Hoss tells him to look again.

"If we're talking about five or six, we're waiting for a ride," he says, concerned that his four-man team might be outmatched.

The snipers creep through the field, intent on getting a better view of the activity. From the new position, they agree that the gathering of men is the start of a gas line. The city is suffering a gasoline shortage, and it appears some residents are trying to beat the rush.

"I can't count the times I've walked away scratching my head," says Hoss. "We let the right guys live that day."


Ellie

thedrifter
09-29-04, 01:58 PM
Posted on Wed, Sep. 29, 2004





Marine commander says better armor saving lives

ESTES THOMPSON

Associated Press


RALEIGH, N.C. - Better armored vehicles, armored vests and helmets are helping save lives and reduce the severity of combat wounds for troops in Iraq, according to a Marine commander.

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune has had three combat deaths and 97 wounded in action since it took control of northern Babil province, which is south of Baghdad, in July. The area has a civilian population of about 900,000.

"We have a lot of sniping, a lot of harassment," Col. Ron Johnson, commander of the 2,200-person unit, said late Tuesday in a telephone interview from his headquarters at Forward Operating Base Kalsu.

"A guy will toss a mortar at us, drive up in a truck and point the mortar at us, or plant a bomb on the side of the road. They are causing casualties, but we're not seeing the horrific casualties we were seeing earlier."

The better armored vehicles provided by the Department of Defense, along with eye protection and better body armor have helped hold down casualties, Johnson said. Many of the wounded go back into action quickly, he said.

Since the invasion of Iraq, U.S. forces have sustained numerous wounds and deaths from roadside bombs and snipers. During its deployment to Iraq last year and earlier this year, soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg and other units had to improvise armor with metal plates and sandbags.

"We've had an incredible upsurge in armored Humvees and better protection," Johnson said. "These are not jury-rigged. In one case, a guy hit a roadside bomb and the front end is gone but the peanuts he had inside the vehicle did not spill."

Johnson said the jobs of his Marines, who are supplemented by 1,000 Marine reservists from Chicago, has been made easier because many Iraqi citizens are tired of violence and want a safer environment for their children who are now in school.

During patrols, if the citizens don't wave and smile, it's a tipoff that "there's a bad guy somewhere or someone with a bomb," Johnson said.

Only a small number of people in the country, usually people who don't want January elections to succeed because they want power, are opposed to the U.S. presence.

"Then there are just pure criminals," he said, "terrorists and thugs who do nothing but kill and kidnap - 90 percent of the day on my job it's more like police activity. They want power and money, greed, nothing less."

Johnson's Marines are training Iraqi national guard and police forces and he said they're not yet as good as Marines, but they are getting better as they work side-by-side with American personnel.

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/iraq/9785920.htm


Ellie

thedrifter
09-29-04, 03:33 PM
Marines maintain combat skills in Iraq
Submitted by: 1st Force Service Support Group
Story Identification #: 200492922634
Story by Sgt. Enrique S. Diaz



AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 29, 2004) -- The Marines of Combat Service Support Company 124 conducted live-fire, combat skills training for future convoy operations here, Sept. 27, 2004.

The Camp Pendleton-based unit recently arrived in Iraq and is responsible for convoying critical supplies to Marines throughout the Al Anbar province.

CSSC-124 is under the command of Combat Service Support Battalion 7, which is part of the 1st Force Service Support Group, the combat service support element responsible for providing supplies and services for I Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq.

Although Marines train for a variety of combat situations in boot camp and follow-on training, for many Marines of CSSC - 124, this was an opportunity to simulate specific situations they are likely to encounter on convoys during their seven-month deployment in Iraq.

Training scenarios allowed the Marines from various job specialties to test and apply their skills to fight against guerrilla-style tactics adopted by enemy forces in Iraq. This particular training is vital to their survival and mission accomplishment.

"There are a lot of things we can do to put the odds in our favor," said Capt. Dave I. Eickenhorst, the commanding officer for CSSC-124.

This type of training sharpens the Marines' skills, ultimately keeping them alive and able to do their job, said Eickenhorst, a Houston native.

Training started promptly as soon as the sun provided enough light to sight in their M-16A2 service rifle and lasted through the heat of the day.

After gear and weapon adjustments were made, the Marines walked about a mile to where they conducted drills that might save their lives if employed in actual combat.

During the training, Marines mounted and dismounted their high mobility multi-wheeled vehicles, or "humvees," and 7-ton transport trucks; shot their rifles from inside their vehicles; and practiced various tactics Marines would use if attacked on a re-supply mission.

The exercise simulated the immediate actions non-infantry Marines would employ in an attack along the hazardous roads of Iraq.

"We know we're mechanics and wrench turners, but bottom line, we're getting paid to put rounds down range if we have to," said Chief Warrant Officer Steve E. Baker, the engineer platoon commander.

"They (junior Marines) never know when they are going to get called outside the wire to do a vehicle recovery or maintenance contact on a generator, but you give them that confidence to shoot from the back of that HMMWV or 7-ton (truck) with this kind of training," said the 34-year-old Chula Vista, Calif., native.

The exercise was the first part of a planned cycle of training to make Marines more combat ready, regardless of the situation.

"Every Marine needs to know how to fire their weapon in relation to their surroundings," said 1st Sgt. John R. Smock, the company's first sergeant and 42-year-old Peoria, Ill., native.

It's important for Marines to continue training even while they are deployed, especially perishable skills such as basic marksmanship, Smock added.

If Marines don't constantly hone their marksmanship skills, they'll lose some of the skills, which distinguishes Marines as top-notch marksmen, said Smock.

Continuous training during their deployment will allow the Marines of CSSC-124 to remain prepared as they travel the uncertain paths their mission requires.


http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/20049281135/$file/Rush20040927Low.jpg

A fire team with Combat Service Support Company 124 rushes towards the first of a series of vehicles they will mount and shoot from at Camp Al Asad, Iraq, Sept. 27, 2004. The Camp Pendleton-based unit recently arrived in Iraq and is responsible for convoying critical supplies to Marines throughout the Al Anbar province. Photo by: Sgt. Enrique S. Diaz

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/99D732C1B52C311E85256F1E00236479?opendocument


Ellie

thedrifter
09-29-04, 05:20 PM
IRAQ IN TRANSITION



Marines roll on river patrol
Since the end of the Vietnam War, U.S. military commanders had little use for river assault boats. Then Iraq's mighty Euphrates beckoned.

By Rick Jervis
Tribune staff reporter
Published September 27, 2004

ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq -- The Riverine Assault Craft had knifed less than a mile down the Euphrates River when it came upon its first potential target of the day: a man in grimy clothes standing on the riverbank.

Nine gun barrels, including those of a .50-caliber machine gun and a 40-mm grenade launcher, swung around and trained on him.

The man waved.

"Hey, our first wave," said Marine Staff Sgt. James Cascio, the boat's captain. "I guess I would, too, if I had nine guns pointing at me."

The crew, culled from the Small Craft Company of the Marine Corps' Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, and other infantry units, was understandably cautious. It was the third day of patrol down this stretch of river in a hostile country, and the crew was making its combat debut.

A little-known unit not used in combat since the Vietnam War, the crews of the Riverine Assault Crafts, or RACs, have been dispatched to cruise along the Euphrates in heavily armed, three-boat patrols looking for weapons caches, dropping Force Recon teams--reconnaissance Marines who take on special operations--and conducting board-and-search operations.

As coalition forces multiply their checkpoints and step up patrols of Iraq's highways and towns, military officials speculated that insurgents were increasingly turning to the country's riverbanks for refuge.

The RAC patrols are paying off. In April, a crew discovered 107 rockets on an islet near Al Asad, from where rockets are believed to have been fired at U.S. troops.

In June, another patrol found 13 82-mm mortar shells and five rocket-propelled grenade rounds on another island near Fallujah.

The crews also are seeing early signs of water-borne bombs. An unmanned boat carrying explosives drifted under a pontoon bridge and blew it up recently, killing a U.S. soldier, a Marine official said.

Using specialized training, radar systems and heavy firepower, RAC officials said their crews could combat river insurgency.

"We're an odd little animal off to the side of most people's thinking," said Capt. Paul Stubbs, a company commander. "But we're effective."

The company is made up of two platoons with about 40 Marines and sailors in each one. The 35-foot boats are armor-plated and stacked with weaponry: a Browning M2 .50-caliber machine gun on the bow, an MK19 grenade launcher on the stern and medium machine guns firing 762-mm rounds on either side.

Twin 300-horsepower jet diesel engines move the boats up to 45 m.p.h. Crews hope that the combination of speed and power will help them catch insurgents.

On a recent run, Sgt. Anthony "Ski" Czerwinski, the pilot, gunned a craft south down the Euphrates toward Musayyib. The six-man crew, along with three Marines holding M-16 assault rifles, continuously scanned the riverbanks as the boat passed fields of tall grass, mud-brick homes and a black panther sunning itself on a grassy swell by the river.

Occasionally, a shepherd would stop and gawk as the boat zipped by.

"They don't know what to think of us yet," said Gunnery Sgt. Brian Vianciguerra, manning one of the machine guns. "Once they figure out what we are, it's game on."

The Army and Navy deployed similar boats on similar missions on the rivers of Vietnam during the war there, often working the waterways in tandem.

That strategy became familiar to many with the 1979 release of Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now."

More recently, the Navy's swift boats, similar to but slower than the Marines' RACs, regained attention as the vessels captained by presidential candidate John Kerry in Vietnam.

No rivers after Vietnam

But after Vietnam, the Army discontinued its Riverine unit, said Stubbs, the company commander. The river assault boats have not been used in combat since, mainly because the U.S. has not fought in locations with rivers, he said.

In 1991, the Marine Corps instituted its RAC unit, Stubbs said. RAC crews train at the Marine base in Camp Lejeune, N.C., where they learn to fire machine guns from moving boats, read radar and global-positioning systems and take 100-mile navigational journeys up North Carolina's Pamlico Sound, said Czerwinski, who helps train candidates.

"We teach them everything, from how to drive the boat at night to how to fix the engines," he said.

Marine RAC crews have been used to train government soldiers in Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay, a military official said. But the unit remained largely unused, and word among commanders was that the Pentagon planned to phase it out, until the rivers of Iraq created a need, the official said.

"We don't have any control over what the Joint Chiefs of Staff decide," said Capt. Dan Wittnam, a company commander. "What happens in Iraq will largely decide what happens to this unit."

The platoons arrived in Iraq in April and began patrolling the inlets and cuts around a hydroelectric dam on the Euphrates near Al Asad, which supplies Baghdad and surrounding cities with much of their power, said Capt. Art Decotiis, 27, a platoon commander.

They patrolled the waters around Ramadi and near Fallujah, sometimes using bomb-sniffing dogs and occasionally drawing small-arms fire from land, Decotiis said. Soon after, they started finding the ammunition stashes, he said.

"Seemed like every area we looked, we found something," Decotiis said. "We're unknown. No one's really gotten a chance to get used to us."

But the unit, which moved down to Iskandariyah last week to be attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is not problem-free. The boats are 10 years old, and parts sometimes fail. Leaves and river gunk often clog the jets, and crew members have to rake them out as the boat floats dangerously exposed in the river.

On another recent outing, the crew's fourth near Iskandariyah, the launch was delayed an hour while a pump on one of the boat's engines was replaced. Darkness was creeping in as the three boats pushed off, giving the crew its first night run.

"The night is our friend," Vianciguerra said, strapping night-vision goggles to his helmet. "In 30 minutes, no one will see us."

Soon the trio of boats was gliding north up the river, one of four that in the Bible ran through the Garden of Eden. The boats cruised past silhouettes of date palm groves and stands of tall grass, landscapes similar to those found in the Florida Everglades. Or Vietnam.

Night falls; goggles go on

As dusk bled to night and blackened the banks of the river, the crews snapped down their night-vision goggles or peered through night-vision scopes mounted on assault rifles, scanning shrubs they now saw in bright lime green.

Czerwinski, the pilot, kept his night-vision goggles up on his helmet, steering the boat along a ribbon of moonlight on the river.

He said he realizes the RACs' days may be numbered, but there's always a chance to reverse that.

"No one thought you'd use boats in the desert," he said, smiling. "But here we are."
Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0409270208sep27,1,3423930.story?coll=chi-news-hed


Ellie

thedrifter
09-29-04, 06:41 PM
A change of pace: Photo Essay
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 2004926121736
Story by Lance Cpl. Caleb J. Smith



FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (Sept. 24, 2004) -- Amidst fighting, capturing enemy insurgents, dodging improvised explosives on the roadside, and finding hidden weapon caches used against coalition forces, Marines take every opportunity to do what they can for the innocent people of Iraq who have little but suffered much.

In one such humanitarian mission, Marines from Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 24 undertook to bring food, water and other items to local families in the town of Musayyib. Loaves of bread, pudding snack packs, peanut butter and jelly, bottles of water, small radios, backpacks, coloring books with crayons, T-shirts, and CDs were just some of the items Marines distributed to the community.


http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/2004926122217/$file/040925-M-5121S-006-low.jpg

Marines from Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 24 lower boxes full of loaves of bread during a humanitarian mission in Musayyib, Iraq, Sept. 24. The Marines brought with them truckloads of supplies to be distributed to local Iraqi families.
Among the supplies were food items, bottles of water, and items for children such as coloring books, crayons, small radios, and backpacks.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in Northern Babil Province.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Caleb J. Smith

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/200492613814/$file/040925-M-5121S-004-low.jpg

Marines from Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 24 try to distribute various items fairly to a large crowd in Musayyib, Iraq, Sept.
An MSSG-24 convoy from Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, set out on a humanitarian mission with truckloads of supplies to be distributed to local Iraqi families.
Among the supplies were food items, bottles of water, and items for children such as coloring books, crayons, small radios, and backpacks.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in Northern Babil Province.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Caleb J. Smith

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/85E026EEBFD53D9E85256F1B005980BD?opendocument


Ellie

thedrifter
09-29-04, 09:37 PM
22nd MEU (SOC) returns home after seven-month deployment <br />
Submitted by: 22nd MEU <br />
Story Identification #: 2004927155420 <br />
Story by Capt. Eric R. Dent <br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Sept. 19, 2004) --...