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10-03-04, 06:40 AM
Marines Recount Fierce Battle
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20049209463
Story by Cpl. Matthew R. Jones

CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 15, 2004) -- Along the Syrian border is a small town called Husaybah. Though diminutive in size, it has seen its fair share of violent clashes between United States Marines and terrorist insurgents.

Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, know this first hand. They take home with them the vivid memories of a fierce encounter.

"We were getting small-arms fire, machine-gun fire and mortared on a regular basis for the entire time we were there," said Lance Cpl. Austin T. Herbel, an assaultman for Weapons Platoon, Company L.

"The locals were afraid to help us because the terrorist would kill anyone who helped us," said Lance Cpl. Andrew Y. Tuttle, another assaultman for Weapons Platoon.

"It was so bad that children would get their hands cut off for selling us sodas," added Lance Cpl. Joshua J. Rutherford, a machine gunner for Weapons Platoon.

Though the unit went through numerous firefights, one stands out in their mind as the most intense.

"On April 17th, our platoon was involved in a 14-hour fire fight," said Rutherford. "This day made me truly understand what the battalion commander meant when he said 'When it comes down to it you are not fighting for freedom, you are fighting for the person to the left and right of you and not for any political reason.'"

That day on the northwest edge of the town, members of an adjoining unit witnessed mortars being fired and started taking rocket-propelled-grenade fire and small arms fire.

"Our platoon was the quick reaction force," said Herbel a 21-year-old native of Colby, Kan.

As the quick reaction force approached the area in which the other Marines had witnessed the insurgent activity, the platoon started to take fire, said Herbel.

During the next 14 hours, the Marines would experience some of the fiercest fighting since the end of the major combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"We spent the rest of the day fighting block by block," said Tuttle.
The platoon dismounted their vehicles and began patrolling the streets.

"We started taking fire from two-story buildings, I jumped in a humvee and started to drive down the street in order to provide cover for other Marines," said Herbel.

The platoon continued to push north along a street known to the Marines as "East End Street."

"As we drove down the street, insurgents would come out of house and we would lay down a lot of fire at them," recounted Herbel. "Suddenly, we stopped, at the time I did not know why."

Later, Herbel would know the reason. Lance Cpl. Gary Vanleuven had been shot and killed by a sniper. He was the first of five Company L Marines to die fighting for the freedom of Iraq that day.

"We continued north, all the way collecting insurgents and weapons in the back of the hummers," said Tuttle, 21, who was also driving a humvee to provide cover for his platoon members. "We got to one house that the insurgents were using as a stronghold, pulled into a alleyway behind the house and waited for the rest of the platoon.

"We used a school as a rally point to take the house. The entire time we were fighting the insurgents in the house, we were taking fire from every other direction," added the Union, Mo., native.

The fire from the insurgents inside the house would soon claim three more Marines.

"Lance Cpl. Valdez and Lance Cpl. Smith dragged Cpl. Gibson into the courtyard of the house after Gibson had been shot in the street, looking for cover," Tuttle added.

Once inside the courtyard, all three of these courageous Marines would find themselves in a final fight for their lives. The machine guns and RPG's fired from the house, however, would find their mark.

"My squad laid down suppressive fire so that other Marines could fire (anti-tank rockets) into the house," said Rutherford, 22, from West Union, Ohio.

In addition to the small-arms fire, three rockets were fired at the house. However, the insurgents would not leave the house. The platoon decided to smoke the insurgents out of the house. All nine insurgents from inside the house were eventually killed.

However, they were not the only ones to die in that house. The final member of the company to die that day was Capt. Gannon, according to Tuttle.

"We spent a lot of time at that house, simply because no Marine is left behind. Once Marines fell in the courtyard, we were going to get them," said Herbel.
The unit continued to push through the hostile town, all the while collecting weapons and detainees as well as wounded Marines. They would meet the rest of the battalion on Market Street.

"It was getting close to 2300 and we had been fighting constantly, no breaks," said Tuttle.

At that time, Tuttle and Herbel were among Marines that pushed to a soccer field to set up a casualty evacuation site.

"There were Cobras and Hueys flying overheard, providing fire support," said Tuttle.

After the casualties were evacuated from the town, the Marines pushed on to Al Qaim for supplies, ammunition and to drop of the detainees.

With that part of the mission complete. The Marines were ordered to go out again and sweep the rest of the city.

"The entire battalion got on line and swept west, back towards our firm base," said Rutherford.

The battalion swept a two-kilometer square of the town block by block using mounted and dismounted Marines. They continued until they reached the camp. At the base, six of their platoons were put on line to provide security.

"We were told there were over 300 insurgents that day and that we had killed over 150, including 14 Al Queda officers," said Rutherford.

"The town was pretty quite from then until June," said Herbal.

The unit took more than just the physical loses from the day of fighting; they took some of life's harshest lessons learned - the hardest way. One company had lost five members in one short day.

"You do not know when someone's time is up, one minute you will be talking to someone and then they are gone," said Herbel.

"I learned that you do not know how fragile life is until you have experienced it and seen how fast it can go," concluded Tuttle.


From Left: Lance Cpl. Joshua J. Rutherford, 22, a machine gunner and native of West Union, Ohio, Lance Cpl. Austin T. Herbel, 21, an assaultman and native of Colby, Kan., and Lance Cpl. Andrew Y. Tuttle, 21, an assaultman and native of Union, Mo., all Marines with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, were part of a 14-hour firefight in Husaybah, Iraq April 17. All three of the Marine said that the firefight taught them to appreciate life more.
(Official USMC photo by Cpl. Matthew R. Jones) Photo by: Cpl. Matthew R. Jones



10-03-04, 06:40 AM
Family celebrates life of local Marine
Elia Fontecchio was killed in Iraq
By Connie Paige, Globe Correspondent | September 30, 2004

The family of Elia P. Fontecchio, a 30-year-old Marine gunnery sergeant killed in Iraq this summer, avoids public grief. Instead, they stress his bravery, leadership, and personal sacrifice.

That was the spirit of an afternoon memorial Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Milford last Sunday attended by more than 100 family and friends.

''I'm sure Elia would want us to celebrate his life and not dwell on the fact that he is no longer with us," Greg Allegrezza, a cousin, said as he began his eulogy, standing to the side of the ornate altar. Allegrezza, a resident of Milford, concluded by calling Fontecchio ''a true patriot."

The family has much to celebrate about Fontecchio. A multitalented and popular graduate of Milford High School, Fontecchio demonstrated heroism in his second and fatal tour of duty, served in Al Anbar Province, near the Syrian border.

It was his devotion to the men of his Kilo Company, Third Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment, that propelled him to go on patrol that fateful day, Aug. 4. They had intelligence that an Iraqi police outpost had been bombed. As gunnery sergeant, Fontecchio spent most of his time busy at the camp and did not have time to participate in patrols. He made an exception for this one, however.

''He could have just sent somebody else," another cousin, Kevin Allegrezza of Milford, said after the memorial service. ''But he wanted to make sure everybody was all right."

Fontecchio was killed when a footlong, 155-millimeter artillery shell exploded near his vehicle. The blast, meant to destroy a tank, caused severe internal injuries. Evacuated by helicoper, Fontecchio was still talking when he reached a field hospital. He died after a two-hour operation. At the time, he was scheduled to return home within the month.

The strength of character exhibited on his final mission does not surprise his mother and father, Cynthia and Dennis Fontecchio, formerly of Milford but now living in Satellite Beach, Fla.

Cynthia Fontecchio said the men in his battalion, some of whom were nearly his age, called him ''Dad." She said she recognized that kind of leadership in her son early on. She recalled how he changed the oil in her Chevy by himself at age 8.

''He always took care of all of us," his mother said, wearing a button with a photograph of Elia's face and adorned with the looped yellow ribbon showing support for the troops.

Sara O'Toole, 30, who graduated in 1992 in the same high school class as Fontecchio, said he was always ready with advice. ''He was just an amazing person and friend, someone that would do anything for you," said O'Toole, who now runs a preschool out of her home in Milford.

Fontecchio participated in football, baseball, soccer, and theater. After he sang ''Beauty School Dropout" while starring in the musical, ''Grease," the crowd went wild and the girls threw roses, his family and friends recalled.

O'Toole said she was initially angered by the news of his death and wanted all troops pulled out of Iraq. But she said that, after attending an Aug. 12 funeral service for Fontecchio in Florida, where several of his Marine colleagues spoke, she reconsidered.

''I realized if you have that idea, it demeans the whole thing," she said. ''It means what they're over there for is nothing, and that's not true."

Friends and family continue to honor his memory.

Last Saturday, about 200 participated in a charity motorcycle ride in memory of Fontecchio, a Harley-Davidson aficionado. They raised about $15,000 for his wife, Kinney, and 2-year-old son, Elia, according to state Representative Marie Parente, a family friend who attended grammar school with Elia Fontecchio's grandmother, Ann.

Parente, a Milford Democrat, has filed a bill to name the Interstate 495 bridge spanning Route 109 after the fallen Marine. And tomorrow night's game by the Milford High School football team is set to be dedicated to him. A charity golf game is also in the works.

The tributes don't make it any easier, though. ''It's just unbelievable, still," said Fontecchio's twin sister, Alicia Powers. ''I don't know when it will ever sink in."

But like the rest of her family, Powers was able to look past her brother's death to dwell on his rich life. Asked about her brother's accomplishments, she said, ''He kind of did everything."

Connie Paige can be reached at cpaige@globe.com.



10-03-04, 06:43 AM
Bravo 1/2 discovers mortar tubes: Photo essay
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200410271024
Story by Lance Cpl. Zachary R. Frank

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq (Sept. 26, 2004) -- Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit discovered two 160 mm mortar tubes and ammunition while patrolling outside Forward Operating Base Iskandariyah, Iraq, Sept. 26.

During the patrol, the Marines from Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, discovered a weapons cache behind mounds of dirt in a field adjacent to the road.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in Northern Babil Province.


Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit find two 160 mm mortar tubes while patrolling outside Forward Operating Base Iskandariyah, Iraq, Sept. 26.
During the patrol, the Marines from Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, discovered a weapons cache.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in Northern Babil Province.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Zachary R. Frank


Two Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit search an abandoned house while patrolling outside Forward Operating Base Iskandariyah, Iraq, Sept. 26.
During the patrol, the Marines from Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, discovered a weapons cache.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in Northern Babil Province.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Zachary R. Frank


Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit discover a cache of mortar ammunition while patrolling outside Forward Operating Base Iskandariyah, Iraq, Sept. 26.
During the patrol, the Marines from Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, discovered a weapons cache.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in Northern Babil Province.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Zachary R. Frank



10-03-04, 06:45 AM
ING, 1/2 Marines set up new Iraqi Police checkpoint: Photo essay
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 20041027446
Story by Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq (Sept. 30, 2004) -- Soldiers from the Iraqi National Guard and Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit set up two new Iraqi Police vehicle checkpoints outside of Haswa, Iraq, Sept. 29.

The ING and Marines from Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines provided security and controlled traffic while other Marines from 1/2’s logistics section placed and moved bunkers to set up the checkpoint.

The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in Northern Babil Province.


Soldiers from the Iraqi National Guard and Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit provide security at a new Iraqi Police checkpoint outside Haswa, Iraq, Sept. 29.
The Marines are from Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines – the Ground Combat Element for the 24th MEU.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in Northern Babil Province.
Photo by: Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon


Soldiers from the Iraqi National Guard and Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit control traffic at a new Iraq Police checkpoint set up outside Haswa, Iraq, Sept. 29.
The Marines are from Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines – the Ground Combat Element for the 24th MEU.
The 24th MEU is currently conducting security and stability operations in Northern Babil Province.
Photo by: Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon



10-03-04, 06:47 AM
Marine in Iraq has 5 kids on the way
By Alice Fabbre Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted 9/27/2004
Taunacy Horton has her moments.

Usually it's when no one else is around.

That's when she ponders all that's been happening. She's pregnant with quintuplets. Her husband, Josh Horton, shipped out to Iraq from Camp Pendleton about two weeks ago with the Marine Reserves. Along with the five babies on the way, they have two young children at home.

"The days I want to quit most," Taunacy said looking at her 7-year-old son, Sean, "he looks at me and says 'You can't quit; mommies don't quit.'æ"

The 28-year-old Oswego woman admits she has her ups and downs, but for the most part she holds it together - if for nothing else for Sean and his 5-year-old sister, Shaleigh.

Taunacy's faith, humor and strength will help the Navy veteran get through it all. That and a small boatload of friends and family to help.

Oct. 4 was to be the day Taunacy would check into Edward Hospital in Naperville for observation in the weeks before the births.

She will be 24 weeks into her pregnancy on Oct. 4, and doctors wanted her in the hospital for monitoring and bed rest.

But that day came early.

Taunacy admitted herself to the hospital early last week after having some pain, said Josh's mother, Lauchlan Jones.

"It was time for her to go in," Jones said.

Hospital officials said she would be the first to deliver quintuplets at Edward Hospital, which has a neonatal unit. They declined to discuss specifics of her case.

Jones and a family friend report Taunacy is doing well and doctors were able to address the initial issues that brought her to the hospital.

Jones holds out hope that Taunacy will be able to make it to 28 weeks before she delivers her three girls and two boys.

At 24 to 26 weeks, most pregnancies are considered medically viable with a greater than 50 percent chance of survival outside the womb, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Fetuses are able to see, taste, cry and even inhale and exhale into still-developing lungs. Full term is considered 37 weeks.

"The babies look good, and (doctors) feel like they can keep her going," said Jones, who is taking care of Sean and Shaleigh while their mom is in the hospital.

"I think she's done phenomenal. I'm amazed at her strength and her gumption," Jones said of Taunacy, who was in the Navy until 1999.

Another each time

The Hortons, who met while they were both in the service and married eight years ago, had been trying to have another child for some time and eventually turned to fertility treatments. Doctors told the couple there was a 20 percent chance of multiples.

"We thought twins, maybe triplets," Taunacy said during a recent interview from her home.

In April, the couple found out Taunacy was pregnant. The first ultrasound revealed triplets.

The following week, another ultrasound revealed four babies with heartbeats and the possibility of a fifth. But a heartbeat could not be found for that baby.

A week later, another ultrasound confirmed it - five heartbeats.

"Every time we'd go in they would find another one," Taunacy recalled. "At five, Josh said, 'You just can't go back there.'æ"

After that, the couple had some tough decisions to make. Doctors talked to Taunacy and Josh about selective reduction, suggesting that all five babies would not survive and that it would be best to abort some of them.

"I just said, God sent them here for a reason and I'm keeping them all," she said. "He'll provide for them.

"There's a purpose to everything and there's a purpose to this," she said.

The couple also had to decide whether Josh, an Aurora police officer who was in the Marines until 1998 and re-enlisted as a sergeant with the Marine Reserves after Sept. 11, 2001, should go with his unit to Iraq.

The Marines offered to let the 28-year-old stay home, but the couple felt he should go. He's now stationed south of Baghdad as a squad leader. His duties limit how often he can contact Taunacy, but he tries to call once a week, he said in an e-mail to the Daily Herald.

When people would ask why he was still going, Josh's answer was simple.

"He would tell people he was going so somebody else's family can have their dad home for a while," said Taunacy.

Many, many friends

Taunacy admits the thought of having five children at once hasn't totally set in and that the first few months after learning of her pregnancy were difficult.

Doctors throughout explained the risks. They told her she likely would not make it past her 28th week of pregnancy and that the babies likely would have a long hospital stay after they were born.

"There have been risks all along," Jones said. "She could lose one, two, three or all of them. ... But she has had a very positive outlook and always felt it is going to be OK."

"We're all trying to be very positive about it," she added, "but we all know we're not out of the woods."

Family and friends are organized into a small army of volunteers to do what they can to help make Taunacy's pregnancy as smooth as possible.

Members of the couple's congregation - the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints in Sugar Grove - brought over meals every day for Taunacy and the children. Some help clean the house or take the kids out for the evening.

A neighborhood girl took up a collection to help the family. Jones' friends also have organized a fund-raiser for Oct. 24 at Joe's Crab Shack in Aurora. Members of the Aurora Police Department are enlisting volunteers to help baby-sit when needed.

Even total strangers have made contributions to the Horton 5 fund, an account friends set up at Harris Bank to help the family.

"That's just been neat to see the goodness in people," Taunacy said.

"You don't have to be a member of the military to serve your country," she added. "True heroes are people who are willing to step out and help someone in need."

She admits that she's not used to being on the receiving end of such generosity - usually she's the one offering to help.

"Taunacy would be the first person to help," said one of her friends, Chelsea Fife of Oswego.

Fife joked that at first, Taunacy would put up a bit of a fight when people offered to help. But those volunteering have now learned not to ask - they just walk in and get to work.

Fife and others also have been working to secure larger donations for the Hortons. They've already received donations to keep the Horton babies stocked with diapers, baby wipes, formula and baby food.

But still needed are things like baby strollers, highchairs, clothes and cribs. Friends also hope a generous soul will donate some of the big-ticket items the family needs - like a large van or a more spacious home beyond their three-bedroom townhouse.

"Our main objective for them is a bigger house and a car," Fife said.

But topping the want list is dad. When Josh left, it was with the understanding that everything possible would be done to bring him home by his wife's 28th week of pregnancy so he could be with her for the births. Taunacy said with the help of the American Red Cross, the Marine Reserves and her doctors, that should happen.

If not, she'll find him herself, she joked.

And when he gets home, she plans to remind him of their longstanding rivalry between her Navy and his Marines.

"I'm bound and determined to show that the Navy is better than the Marines," she joked. "And I think this proves it. I don't think he'll ever be able to top this."

Waits: Everyone hopes dad can make it home on time



10-03-04, 06:48 AM
Marine officer remembered
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20041016510
Story by Lance Cpl. Miguel A. Carrasco Jr.

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Sept. 21, 2004) -- "For everything there is a season, and for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die," Ecclesiastes 3:1-2.

These were the opening words meant to soothe the heavy hearts of Marines, Sailors and civilians mourning the loss of Lt. Col. Kevin M. Shea during his memorial service held here Sept. 21.

Shea was the communications and information systems officer for Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. The Seattle native was only a few months from returning home when he was killed during a rocket attack on Camp Fallujah Sept. 14, his 38th birthday.

The memory of Shea, born in Washington D.C., made an undeniable impression on the Marines he worked with.

Shea was a mentor and a teacher who lived life to the fullest, said Gunnery Sgt. Robert H. Keyes, a radio chief with RCT-1.

Shea was posthumously promoted to lieutenant colonel, making him one of the highest-ranking officers killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Although, Shea's life was cut short his list of accomplishments were long.
Shea enrolled in the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1985. While there, he lettered in varsity football and played as a defensive end in the 1987 Freedom Bowl.
Not stopping there, Shea was also apart of the 1989 Air Force Academy's rugby team, which won the collegiate national championship.

Upon graduating from the Air Force Academy, Shea received an inter-service transfer into the Marine Corps and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1989.

After returning from Operation Desert Storm, Shea began his duty with 1st Force Reconnaissance Company in June 1991. During a three-year period he earned both jump master and combatant diver ratings.

In May 1999, Shea was promoted to the rank of major and earned a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. in September 2000.

As Shea continued to lead a successful career in the Marine Corps he managed to have a positive effect on those around him.

"Lt. Col. Shea was a role model Marine. He was everything a Marine should be," said Lance Cpl. John H. Wells, 20, a native of Choctaw, Okla. and a radio operator with RCT-1.

Shea also served at the U.S. Naval Academy as an electrical engineering instructor and an assistant coach for the Navy rugby team. While at the Naval Academy, he earned the academic rank of Master Instructor and was named an honorary graduate by the class of 2003.

During all of these accomplishments, Shea found ways to shed light on those around him.

Shea always looked at things from a positive perspective no matter what the situation was, said Master Gunnery Sgt. Raymond M. Berger, a communications chief with RCT-1.

Looking out for the well being of his Marines, Shea always made sure they had everything they needed. However, there was one thing he put before the Marine Corps.

As much as Shea loved the Marine Corps, his family came first, said Berger, 43, a Sedro Woolley, Wash. native, referring to Shea's wife, Ami, and children, Brenna and Michael.

Shea was a leader who had a big heart, and cared for his family and the Marines around him, said Keyes, 33, a Victoria, Texas native.

His personality, charisma, accomplishments, and caring heart found a way into the hearts and minds of the Marines around Shea. He will not be forgotten.

"Lt. Col. Shea will be missed a lot. It is going to take another great person to fill his shoes," said Lance Cpl. Chance P. Solomon, 19, a native of Midwest City, Okla. and a radio operator with RCT-1. "He was a part of our family and he treated us like we were a part of his."


A Marine looks at the memorial pamphlet for Lt. Col. Kevin M. Shea. A memorial ceremony was held at Camp Fallujah Sept. 21 in Camp Fallujah, Iraq. Shea died Sept. 14 from enemy fire.
Photo by Lance Cpl. Miguel A. Carrasco Jr.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Miguel A. Carrasco Jr.



10-03-04, 11:22 AM
Déjà Vu All Over Again?

by LtCol Charles L. Armstrong, USMC(Ret)

The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. Here, the author reminds Marines that as they look toward the future, many lessons can be learned by studying the Small Wars Manual.

On 16 July 2003, Central Command’s new leader, GEN John Abizaid, told the press, “Saddam Hussein loyalists . . . are conducting what I would describe as a classical, guerrilla-type campaign against us.” A few days later a news report from Afghanistan referred to a battle between U.S. troops and Taliban insurgents. A month later U.S. Marines landed in Liberia to start a peacekeeping mission of undetermined length. Is this déjà vu, or are things really different this time? I predict counterinsurgency experts are about to be in greater demand.

Almost before the looting stopped following Operation IRAQI FREEDOM I, the take from Wall Street to Main Street included inevitable comparisons between the Iraqi adventure and our country’s misadventure in Southeast Asia—Vietnam. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had some folks reminiscing about attacks on the destroyers USS Maddox (DD 731) and USS Turner Joy (DD 951) decades earlier. Those attacks—even if they never occurred as originally reported—were the catalyst for the massive U.S. buildup in Vietnam. Iraq’s supposed efforts to acquire material for nuclear weapons were part of the Bush administration’s justification for toppling Saddam’s regime. Debate about the attacks on our destroyers still surfaces sporadically. Public debate about Iraq’s nuclear program is simmering and is far from over.

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, NATO is set to assume control of peacekeeping and nation-building duties. Veterans of such efforts in Lebanon and Bosnia will recall that those activities are prone to mission creep and elusive victory. How do we know when we’ve won, given objectives that—even if specific and clearly in line with our national interests—are tough to achieve and maintain? Outside powers have tried for centuries to impose their will on the hardy natives of Afghanistan, always to their humiliation. Will NATO’s staying power be better than the British Empire’s?

At least one commentator comparing the folly of Vietnam to the more enlightened incursion into Iraq observed that the former was far less important than the latter to vital U.S. national interests. Vietnam, after all, was merely a sideshow—a holding action fought to give global communism time to collapse under its own weight. The unspoken undercurrent in such an argument is, of course, that Iraq has lots of oil.

Such an argument virtually ignores the philosphical basis of the Cold War—that the United States and her allies could not tolerate the unchecked advance of a political and economic system diametrically opposed to its own. Even the most cynical veterans of Southeast Asia—while admitting that we prosecuted the war clumsily—still share a sense of pride at having answered their country’s call to arms.

On the other hand, Iraq’s vast petroleum reserves notwithstanding, underlying reasons for U.S. operations in that country are wrapped around the developing Bush doctrine of self-defense through preemptive action. Thoughtful observers of our historical relations with the Arab world gently point out that we’ve failed to work at the cross-cultural exchange and mutual understanding/respect of each other’s ideas that generally overlay our relations with Europe or Asia. Violent and controversial as it has been, our commitment to making a change in Iraq might be the foundation for a fresh approach to relations with Arab nations.

What does all of this mean for Marines? To learn a new lesson, read some old books. I recommend dusting off the Small Wars Manual and the stacks of lessons learned from yesteryear’s operations in peacekeeping, counterinsurgency, and nation building. The tools and technology have been upgraded, but the concepts and tactics have proved to be sound. The worst potential mistake would be to merely lift the template off a former operation and try to make current or future problems fit that template. Instead, the template should be reshaped to fit the geopolitical and military realities of the current problem, which is just another way of saying, “don’t fight the last war.”

Hopefully, as deployed Marines face the new challenges of our country’s propensity to steer the world in directions we want it to go, the Gazette will lead the way at sharing the most useful lessons learned.

>LtCol Armstrong, a career infantry officer, retired after 25 years of combined enlisted and commissioned service, during which he served in four shooting wars. A frequent contributor to the Gazette since 1980, he is currently a service delivery executive for IBM based in Dallas, TX.



10-03-04, 12:17 PM
Samarra Operation A Success
Associated Press
October 3, 2004

SAMARRA, Iraq - Afraid to stray from home, residents buried the dead in their gardens Saturday as U.S. and Iraqi forces battled pockets of resistance in this former insurgent stronghold, where the American military said 125 rebels were killed and 88 captured in two days of fierce fighting.

The American commander declared the operation a successful first step in a major push to wrest key areas from insurgent control before January elections.

Elsewhere the rebels struck back, wounding at least five U.S. forces in three separate bomb attacks. In the latest in a string of kidnappings, militants claimed to have abducted and beheaded an Iraqi construction contractor working on a U.S. base.

U.S. and Iraqi commanders said they controlled 70 percent of Samarra after some 5,000 troops - including 2,000 Iraqis and 3,000 Americans - swept into the city early Friday. Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan claimed success, telling the Arab television station Al-Arabiya: "It is over in Samarra."

Maj. Gen. John Batiste, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said he was "very confident that the future of Samarra is good."

"This is great news for the people of Samarra, 200,000 people who have been held captive, hostage if you will, by just a couple of hundred thugs," he told CNN.

Batiste praised the performance of Iraqi troops, saying they "really handled themselves well" as they secured the hospital, a revered shrine and centuries-old minaret.

Building a strong Iraqi force that can take over security from American troops is a cornerstone of the U.S. strategy to restore peace in Iraq. But during April offenses in Fallujah and Najaf, the fledgling Iraqi troops melted away at the first sign of confrontation, either fleeing or joining the insurgents.

"The more operations they conduct, the more confidence they will gain, and the better they will perform," said Maj. Neal E. O'Brian, a military spokesman who was in Samarra Saturday.

The city, 60 miles northwest of Baghdad, appeared mostly calm Saturday, but pockets of resistance persisted, with heavy tank shelling and exchanges of machine gun fire erupting in early evening in the northern part of the city.

Batiste said U.S. forces would conduct mopping up operations for at least the next few days before handing over primary responsibility to Iraqi police and National Guard units.

A car bomb targeting a U.S. Marine convoy also exploded east of Fallujah, another rebel-held city west of Baghdad, the military said. One Marine was wounded.

Two civilians were killed and 10 injured in several overnight airstrikes in Fallujah, the city hospital said Sunday.

U.S.-led forces confirmed one strike and said the target was a building on the outskirts of the city where insurgents had stockpiled weapons.

"Forty-five minutes of secondary explosions indicated the building was being used as a huge weapons/ammunition cache," the statement said. "A large number of enemy fighters are presumed killed."

The attack was the latest in a series of strikes aimed at insurgents believed to have links to Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Another car bomb exploded Saturday near a U.S. convoy outside the northern city of Mosul, wounding two American soldiers, the military said.

U.S. forces also clashed Saturday with Shiite Muslim insurgents in Baghdad's Sadr City, police and witnesses said. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded when a roadside bomb hit their armored personnel carrier, the military said.

The vast slum has been the scene of almost daily clashes and U.S. airstrikes against armed followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, since three weeks of fighting between his Mahdi Army militia and U.S and Iraqi troops ended last month in Najaf.

But aides to the cleric have indicated in recent weeks that he has started to organize his followers to join Iraq's political process as agreed under a peace deal brokered by Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Several political parties have begun courting the influential cleric to forge possible alliances. These include the Shiite Dawa party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the largest Shiite groups. There have also been approaches by Ahmed Chalabi, the controversial former exile who heads the Iraqi National Congress.

Late Friday, a U.S. soldier was killed by small arms fire in Baghdad, the military said.

An army general under the fallen regime was captured Saturday during an operation by Polish, U.S. and Iraqi troops south of Baghdad, the U.S. command said. It did not give the general's name but said he was among 10 suspects detained, five of whom were later released.

Insurgent groups have increasingly turned to bombings and kidnappings in a 17-month campaign to undermine the U.S.-backed interim government and drive the United States and its allies out of Iraq.

A video surfaced on the Internet Saturday purporting to show the beheading of an Iraqi hostage identified as Nafie Dawoud Ibrahim. The Ansar al-Sunnah Army, a Sunni militant group, claimed responsibility for the killing, saying the man was an Iraqi contractor at the U.S. military base of Al-Taji, north of Baghdad. It vowed to hunt down others helping the U.S. military.

The authenticity of the tape could not be verified. The same group has claimed responsibility for the killing of 12 Nepalese workers and three Iraqi Kurds.

More than 140 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq since April, some as political leverage, others for ransom. At least 26 hostages have been killed.

Residents in Samarra said American snipers on rooftops in the center fired at anybody appearing in the streets below on Saturday.

"There are dead people that we cannot take for burial and they are being buried in the gardens of their homes," said Ali Abdul-Latif, a 19-year-old high school student.

Marine Maj. Jay Antonelli, a command spokesman in Baghdad, said U.S. soldiers did not fire at civilians. "We had snipers firing at anti-Iraqi forces who were armed and those observed at mortar positions," he said.

At Samarra General Hospital, Dr. Khalid Ahmed said at least 80 bodies and more than 100 wounded were brought to the facility Friday, but it was not immediately clear how many were insurgents.

"Dead bodies and injured people are everywhere in the city and when we tried to evacuate them, the Americans fired at us," an ambulance driver told Associated Press Television News. "Later on they told us that we can evacuate only injured women and children and we are not allowed to pick up injured men."

Wounded people, mostly women and children, lay on beds at the Tikrit Teaching Hospital.

"His pregnant mother was killed," said Sami Hashem, standing over a young boy whose belly was covered in bandages. Nearby was a young girl who lost her left foot.

Shaalan, the defense minister, said Iraqi forces carried out most of the fighting and U.S. troops "only provided cover for our operations." He said up to $40 million was being allocated for reconstruction and compensation to residents of the embattled city.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have promised a series of major military operations to retake other parts of the country ahead of the elections due by Jan. 31.

Ramadi, Samarra and Fallujah form part of the Sunni heartland, where resistance to the U.S.-backed government has been the fiercest. It is feared that inability to stage balloting in the so-called Sunni Triangle would severely mar election results. Baghdad's Sadr City, a Shiite stronghold, is also on U.S. commanders' hit list.

Still, Pentagon officials and defense analysts have said a U.S. military offensive into difficult-to-capture cities might still be delayed, or avoided altogether, if the United States and Iraq decide to settle for partial participation in elections.

The Arab news network Al-Arabiya reported that Sheikh Khaled Hmood al-Jumaili, who has been mediating between some leaders in Fallujah and the government, held negotiations with Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan Saturday, but said that no solution was reached on how to bring peace to the city.


10-03-04, 02:26 PM
Military Bloggers Offer a Grunt's Eye View of Iraq <br />
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By Ellen Simon, Associated Press Writer <br />
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Spc. Colby Buzzell's squad was on a mission in a poor neighborhood in Mosul when two Iraqi boys ran...

10-03-04, 04:50 PM
Casualty of war

Nachez Washalanta II, a Marine private first class, was more than just a number
Essay and photos by Earnie Grafton
Staff Photographer
September 26, 2004

Editor's note
Our readers will remember staff photographer Earnie Grafton's compelling images from the time he spent embedded in Iraq with the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion from Camp Pendleton and in Afghanistan with the Marines Task Force 58. A retired Marine, Grafton was prompted to write the following, and revisit some of the photos he shot in Iraq, by something he read last month in the newspaper.

I don't read obituaries. Never really have.

Yet for some reason, every day I read the casualty list on page A2 of the paper. I skim over the names and then take note of the total.

When it finally hit 1,000, all the major media showcased the grisly milestone. I knew that number would be highlighted. The media was trying to put faces and names to all those deaths.

But for me, I didn't need to get to number 1,000. Number 958 was what froze my speeding eyes in their tracks: Nachez Washalanta II, private first class, U.S. Marine Corps. At least, I think he was number 958. I can't be sure, because six people were killed that day.

He died somewhere near Mosul, Iraq, on Aug. 21 when his Hummer was hit by a roadside mine.

According to The Daily Oklahoman, his mother was quoted as saying he suffered "massive trauma to his lower body." That's a nice way of saying his legs were blown off.

Washalanta, or Wash as we called him, was the driver for the light armored vehicle (LAV for short) that carried me, four Marines and a Navy corpsman all the way from Kuwait to Tikrit in Iraq in March and April of


He was a short kid. So short I remember thinking he must have just squeaked by the Marine minimum-height requirement. I think he was barely 20 years old at the time. Too young to drink, but old enough to drive an armored vehicle into war.

He came from Ardmore, Okla., some small town where opportunity doesn't exactly shoot up from the hard-packed red earth. I remember that he hadn't had an easy life. He told me he had "screwed up" a few times back in Oklahoma. He was a tough guy who didn't talk much. He either said what he thought, which

usually wasn't the right thing to say to your boss, or he simply clammed up.

You could tell he never fit in anywhere before ... until he joined the Marines.

Wash lived sealed up in a metal boxlike compartment where he drove our 12-ton behemoth. Since the survival of the vehicle, hence the crew, depended on instant mobility, he had to stay behind the wheel. He was in effect a prisoner to the vehicle. He had to keep his hatch sealed, because a 25mm automatic cannon swiveled only inches above his head.

Wash called it his "metal coffin."

He ate less, smoked less and slept much, much less than the rest of us. Wrapped in a chemical protective suit, like a plate of leftovers in Saran Wrap, Wash baked inside even when the rest of us popped out of our hatches for a moment to drink in the speed-induced "wind" our movement produced.

A few weeks into the war, as I saw Wash off by himself smoking a cigarette, I realized that I hadn't shot any pictures of him while his crewmates had been in my newspaper or other newspapers many times. I guess I felt guilty. So I asked him if he would show me how he drove.

He suddenly shot me a rare half smile and with quiet professionalism and obvious pride offered me his seat as he explained the various dials and doodads he used to pilot the vehicle.

I still don't understand how he actually drove, because he could never truly see where he was going sealed inside his compartment.

In the daytime, he looked through devices that were basically periscopes. At night, he drove by a small TV screen which turned everything alien green.

Wash wasn't the greatest driver. I remember enthusiastically joining the others in cussing his name as he bounced us unmercifully over half of Iraq.

Later, he sheepishly apologized, explaining that he was new to driving.


"I don't want to be a f – -ing driver," he said. "I joined the Marines to fight."

Much later, near Tikrit, he got his chance.

While the company was engaging fedayeen fighters, Staff Sgt. Mike Kolek, the vehicle commander, called on Wash to "pop up" so Wash could engage the enemy with his M-4 carbine. I got another half-smile as he told me about it.

But as much as Wash hated his role as a driver, which he told Mike about four times a day, you could tell he was really trying to master the unwieldy machine.

One day south of the Tigris River, Wash got the vehicle stuck up to its axles when a dike we were crossing gave way on the right side. Mike turned the air blue yelling at Wash, even though everyone, probably including Mike, knew it wasn't really Wash's fault. Everyone except Wash, of course.

I remember seeing the tough guy, the I-don't-take-crap-from-anyone guy, standing off by himself with his head down. I walked up to him. He had tears in his eyes and said softly, "I really f – -ed up. I let the staff sergeant down."

He hadn't, of course. I told him that, and later Mike told him the same. But Wash wasn't buying it. His pride wouldn't allow that.

Washalanta wasn't a poster Marine. He sure wasn't the type a press-relations officer would want you to write about.

After returning from Iraq the first time, he went "over the hill," or absent without leave, back in Oklahoma. I'm sure he had to pay for that. But the important thing is he didn't go "over the hill" when it was time to go back to Iraq. In my book, that's what real Marines are truly made off.

I can still hear Mike screaming at Washalanta, who was living on half the four or five hours of sleep the rest of us got, to wake up after our dawn routine of mounting up and watching out for attack. Sometimes you could actually hear Wash snore. We'd all giggle like schoolgirls as Mike banged on Wash's compartment and screamed "Washalanta. WASH, dammit – WAKE UP!"


Because Praetorian 3 might have to move at a moment's notice, Washalanta was largely confined to the cramped driver's compartment, even when sleeping, or eating breakfast.

After weeks of little to no sleep, Washalanta could be almost immune to Mike's raving. Usually he awoke with a "Huh?" that launched the rest of us into howls of laughter.

But now, my humorous memory has taken a horrible turn. In my mind's eye, I see a much different scene. I see Wash lying in the dirt on some pocketed Iraqi road bleeding to death. I hear his Marines screaming "Washalanta, WASH, dammit – WAKE UP!"

Tomorrow, I'll turn to page A2 of my newspaper. I'll probably scan the names again and note what will inevitably be an even larger number of American dead. Number 1,000's name already escapes me, as it probably has most Americans. But number 958's hasn't.


10-03-04, 04:52 PM

DAVID MCDANIEL / The Oklahoman
A U.S. Marine Corps honor guard carried the flag-draped coffin of Pfc. Nachez Washalanta at Heritage Hall in Ardmore, Okla., after the Aug. 27 funeral service.


A Marine remembered

Nachez Washalanta II, private first class, U.S. Marine Corps

Grew up in the foster home of Billy and Christine Thomas along with four other boys. He has a foster brother who is a Marine corporal, Justin Davis.

Attended school in Ardmore and Silo, Okla., and later got his GED.

Joined the Marines in April 2002.

Served with the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, based out of Camp Pendleton. He and his unit were tentatively scheduled to rotate out of Iraq during September.

Died Aug. 21 in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq at the age of 21. He was one of four Marines (and two soldiers) killed that day. It was his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Survived by his mother, Carol Caldwell, and an older brother and sister.