View Full Version : Lejeune unit treats wound, verifies restored power and water in Iraqi village

10-04-04, 06:06 AM
Lejeune unit treats wound, verifies restored power and water in Iraqi village
Submitted by: 1st Force Service Support Group
Story Identification #: 200410391748
Story by Sgt. Luis R. Agostini

AL MAJARRAH, Iraq (Oct. 3, 2004) -- Marines with 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, conducted a civil affairs mission in a northern village of Al Majarrah, Iraq, Oct. 3, 2004.

The Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based artillery unit provides security for Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, 1st Force Service Support Group's headquarters base. The unit also conducts civil affairs missions within their area of operations.

During the mission, Navy Lt. Michael A. Burt, the battalion surgeon, applied a fresh wound dressing on a young girl from the village. According to relatives, AK-47s were fired in celebration at a wedding three weeks ago, and she was hit by a stray bullet.

The young girl had a dirty dressing on her foot for several weeks. Burt cleaned the wound as best he could and applied a fresh dressing.

After a medical assessment, Burt plans on returning to the village to provide the girl with additional dressings and further medical care.

"As long as she keeps her dressing on, it should stay clean," said Burt, a 31-year-old native of Rochester, Minn.

The village's sheik verified the restoration of electricity and water to the Marines. A $39,000 generator was purchased for the town several months ago by 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, the St. Louis, Mo.-based reserve unit replaced by 2/10 in September.

"Electricity was limited at best," said Marine Chief Warrant Officer Dwight Torres, 2/10's information officer. "The new generator now serves as a backup during blackouts."

The generator also powers the village's potable water pumping station. The villagers never had potable water, and pollution has plagued Lake Habbiniyah, a nearby lake.

For the first time, the Marines saw the village's new soccer field and flag pole, which they funded.

The village showed improvement since the battalion's last civil affairs mission in northern Al Majarrah in early September.

"The locals are taking more pride in themselves because they see good things coming," said Torres, a 35-year-old native of Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico. "They are picking up after themselves and guarding their front entrance from the bad guys."

The battalion plans on returning to Al Majarrah and other towns near Camp Taqaddum for future civil affairs missions.


Navy Lt. Michael A. Burt, right, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment's surgeon, pours water over a three-week-old gunshot wound of an Iraqi girl during a civil affairs mission in a northern village of Al Majarrah, Iraq, Oct. 3, 2004. According to relatives, AK-47s were fired in celebration at a wedding three weeks ago, and she was hit by a stray bullet. After a medical assessment, Burt plans on returning to the village to provide the girl with additional dressings and further medical care. Burt is a 31-year-old native of Rochester, Minn. Photo by: Sgt. Luis R. Agostini


Marine Sgt. Michael A. Priddy, second section leader for Scout Platoon, Lima Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, provides security during a civil affairs mission in a northern village of Al Majarrah, Iraq, Oct. 3, 2004. The Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based artillery unit provides security for Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, 1st Force Service Support Group's headquarters base. The unit also conducts civil affairs missions within their area of operations. Priddy is a Salisbury, N.C., native. Photo by: Sgt. Luis R. Agostini


A village's sheik verifies the restoration of electricity and water to Marine Chief Warrant Officer Dwight Torres, left, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment's information operations officer, and an Arabic translator during a civil affairs mission in a northern village of Al Majarrah, Iraq, Oct. 3, 2004. A $39,000 generator was purchased for the town several months ago by 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, the St. Louis, Mo.-based reserve unit replaced by 2/10 in September. Torres is a 35-year-old native of Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico. Photo by: Sgt. Luis R. Agostini



10-04-04, 06:07 AM
Reserve 'Avengers' drive into action
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 200410392457
Story by Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri

AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 27, 2004) -- Even with all the capabilities and technology the military possesses, combat during hours of darkness in a war zone can still be extremely difficult.

Even when the mission is a routine patrol, it is imperative that Marines are able to see what is in front of them at night.

That is why reservists here from 4th Low-Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Security Battalion, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, uses the "Avenger" anti-aircraft weapons system and its night-vision technologies to assist the troops at night.

Armed with a forward-looking infrared camera (FLIR), the Avenger is capable of seeing much further through dark conditions than night vision goggles.

Currently augmenting the Quick Reaction Force, 4th LAAD Bn., the Avenger platoon goes out on evening patrols to provide nightly reconnaissance support.

"We can see extremely far and clear with the FLIR," said Marietta, Ga., native Cpl. James E. Godfrey, LAAD gunner, Avenger Platoon. "In a way, we're the eyes for the Marines around us."

A fulltime student at Georgia Southern University, this reservist is pursuing a degree in communications and broadcasting and has been working with the Avengers for four years.

"With (the FLIR) technology," added the 22-year-old, "we can take out the enemy before we're even within range of their weapons."

Although the Avenger provides the QRF with a tactical advantage, ground patrols wasn't what it was originally intended to be used for.

"The Avenger is capable of holding eight Stinger missiles when fully loaded and was primarily tasked with defending ground troops from low-altitude aerial attacks," said Johnsboro, Ga., native Staff Sgt. Lavictor B. Freeman, platoon sergeant, Avenger Platoon.

"With no air threat from the enemy out here, we really don't have a need to use the (Stinger missiles)," added the reservist who worked security in Atlanta night clubs, as well as owned and operated a car stereo shop, before being activated.

Missiles aren't the only type of firepower the Avenger is packing. It also comes equipped with a M-3P .50 caliber machine gun that brings a powerful punch to the battlefield.

"The M-3P fires faster than the traditional M-2, and is hooked up to a computer that automatically adjusts for wind and elevation," said Godfrey. "Every shot hits its target."

Uniquely designed for a HMMWV, the gunner's seat for an Avenger is mounted on the back of the vehicle inside of a turret capable of rotating 360 degrees.

"The turret rotates pretty fast so that we can quickly lock on to (enemy targets)," said San Jose, Calif., native Staff Sgt. James M. Fender, Avenger systems maintainer, Avenger Platoon. "It's designed to hit moving targets, so the computer stays locked on the target even while the turret is moving."

The Avenger's turret is also designed to provide protection from the harsh desert heat, as well as the danger of enemy fire.

"There's actually an air conditioning unit built in to keep the gunner cool," said the 28-year-old. "We also have a remote control unit (that allows the Avenger crewmen to operate the turret from a safe distance) so that we won't be killed if the (vehicle) gets fired on."

Working for Pacific Architectural System Corp. in San Dimas, Calif., as a field service technician, Fender's job as a reservist corresponds to his job in the military.

"(As a reservist) I work with a lot of electronics and mechanics," said Fender, "and that's the same stuff I do on the Avenger."

According to Freeman, the Avenger is a deadly foe to meet on the battlefield and is a significant addition to the base's security.


4th Low-Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Security Battalion, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, gunners 22-year-old Patter Springs, Ga., native Lance Cpl. Phillip J. Mcclure (left) and 20-year-old Warner Robins, Ga., native Pfc. Matthew B. Spann, load an M-3P .50 caliber machine gun onto the Avenger HMMWV Sept. 28 in Al Asad, Iraq. The Avenger platoon of reservists from 4th LAAD Bn. provide security support for the air base located in the Western Iraqi Desert. Photo by: Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri



10-04-04, 06:08 AM
Gentle leader, rugby brute mourned
Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story Identification #: 2004101165424
Story by - Brian La May

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Sept. 30, 2004) -- Maj. Kevin Shea was a gentle yet commanding leader and a shining star of higher learning, according to mourners who attended his memorial here Friday and others who knew him down through the years. He also was a champion of parenting and a wrecking ball on the rugby pitch, they said.

About 250 family members, friends and co-workers turned out for Shea's send-off - one of at least three memorials for him around the globe. Shea, from Seattle, an Air Force Academy graduate and veteran of both wars in Iraq, died Sept. 14 - his 38th birthday - in a rocket attack on Camp Fallujah, where he was serving Regimental Combat Team 1 as a communications and information systems officer.

Shea, selected as a lieutenant colonel before he died, will be posthumously promoted this week when he's laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., where he was born. He also was nominated for the Bronze Star Medal only a month before his death.

"He led from the front and he led by example," Lt. Col. Austin Renforth, a longtime Shea friend and fellow rugby player, said to the gathered mourners. He then turned to Shea's children and added, "Your father was brave, and it was an honor to fight alongside him."

A day earlier and thousands of miles away at Camp Fallujah, RCT-1 members also memorialized Shea.

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

Meanwhile, back in Annapolis, Md., where Shea taught electrical engineering and coached rugby before being sent off to war, a highly anticipated rugby match between two staunch rivals, the Naval Academy and Air Force - where Shea was a standout defensive end on the football team - has been canceled. The Navy team, ranked No. 3 in the nation, bowed out to attend Shea's memorial and interment later this week at Arlington. Players voted unanimously to forgo the game in honor of Shea, according to Maj. Jeff Nagel, who first met Shea when the two played for the Camp Pendleton Ghostriders in the early 1990s.

Shea, who already possessed a master's degree in electrical engineering, nonetheless was declared an honorary graduate by his students at the academy as a token of their esteem, Nagel said.

"It's a rare honor (bestowed for) having one of the biggest impressions of anyone here," Nagel said.

Shea also made a big impression as a Marine leader, Nagel said. He had all the raw tools - humility, compassion, intelligence, strength. But despite all those attributes, he never rested on his laurels, Nagel said.

"Kevin is one of a rare breed, whether as a rugby player or an officer," Nagel said via telephone from his office at Annapolis. "He had sheer talent, but unlike a lot of others, he was always willing to put in the time. That's why he rose to the top."

Shea's refinement in more civil circles belied his aggressiveness on the rugby field. A man well over 6 feet tall and a lean 200-plus pounds, Shea could pound carcasses with a fury few players could match.

That's why Shea was enlisted to play opposite Al Framo, a fearsome Marine suiting up for Eglin Air Force Base, in a quarterfinal round of the Military National Championships back in 1994, Nagel said.

Framo - a "complete animal" on the rugby pitch, Nagel said - was battering the Ghostriders. They needed an equalizer.

Enter Shea. Subsequently, Shea and Framo converged in an "atom smashing" collision that brought a hush over the entire pitch.

"They were spinning like tops. The game just stopped," said Nagel, adding he'd never seen such a violent collision before or since.

Shea's sheer power hints at the only criticism ruggers ever leveled against him. A few accused him of being a bit of a ball hog. Nagel disagrees, but understands why some who didn't really know Shea might view him that way.

Shea, a surprisingly swift open-field runner and a bulldozer down near pay dirt, just knew that sometimes, when the team was struggling for an offensive breakthrough, he often could provide it.

"He wasn't a great passer, but he could run through you. He was an incredible athlete," Nagel said about Shea, who played defensive end at the Air Force Academy and appeared in the 1989 Freedom Bowl.

Shea was not only one of the Corps' top ruggers, he was "a Marine's Marine" by multiple accounts, a "very humble guy" and "true warrior," Nagel said.

Shea cut his teeth in the Corps as a junior officer in force recon, the Marine Corps' vaunted special forces.

Nonetheless, he never talked himself up and wasn't given to barroom bombast, even though rugby players typically reconvene at a nearby pub after games. Shea would sometimes attend but wouldn't stay long.

"He was sociable but not gregarious," said Bill Warren, the Ghostriders' longtime manager.

But he didn't need a whole lot of face time to win folks' allegiance. People knew he was special.

"People really thought the world of that guy. They really respected him," Warren said. "He had the ability to have you follow him and get you to do things he wanted you to do without coercion. He could get people to act."

Like when he had players running on their knees during practice - a training technique he borrowed from force recon.

Shea's "ramrod frame" and force recon roots evoked fear on the pitch.

"He was ... a hardcore kind of guy. His physical presence was so imposing, but he wasn't once you knew him," said Lt. Col. Sam Pelham, who played with Shea here in the early 1990s and coached with him at the Naval Academy. "He was very kind and gentle - a pleasure to be with.

"It's such a loss for the Marine Corps and for rugby," Pelham said.

One of Shea's troops in Iraq echoed Pelham.

"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 radio operator with RCT-1.

But nothing can match the loss suffered by Shea's wife, Ami, and two children (Brenna, 10, and Michael, 7) who were blessed with a model father, Nagel said.

"If I put in half the time he put in with his sons, my son will have nothing to complain about," Nagel said.

Lance Cpl. Samuel B. Valliere and Lance Cpl. Miguel Carrasco contributed to this story. E-mail LaMay at lamaybe@pendleton.usmc.mil.


Lt. Col. Austin Renforth, Shea's best friend and rugby teammate, pauses while speaking at his funeral friday. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Samuel B. Valliere



10-04-04, 06:09 AM
Chicago GIs join Iraqis in community policing duty <br />
<br />
By Rick Jervis <br />
Tribune staff reporter <br />
Published October 3, 2004 <br />
<br />
MAHMOUDIYA, Iraq -- Capt. Guillermo Rosales has seen it before: tough guys...

10-04-04, 06:10 AM
Woman's gift: family reunion for OIF vet
Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story Identification #: 2004101164652
Story by Sgt. Jim Heuston

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Sept. 30, 2004) -- Lance Cpl. Zachery Homewood, 20, a combat-wounded Marine from Cedar Falls, Iowa, wasn't expecting to see his parents burst from a crowd of cheering families in the barracks parking lot. But there they were, as real as hugs and kisses could make them.

"It's wonderful," Debby Homewood said tearfully, ready to hug her son again at a moment's notice as he prepared to disembark a bus with roughly 50 others from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment - one of Operation Iraqi Freedom's most battle-scarred battalions.

"When they go over there, you pray and wait for this day to come," she said.

"It's unbelievable to be here today and experience this moment, not only with him, but with all the other families," said Dick Homewood, Zachery's father, whose timely reunion with his son was made possible through the charity and initiative of Lorie McBrien, a fellow Iowa native who barely knew the family.

McBrien, 40, of Laguna Niguel, had been looking for a pen pal or anyone in Iraq she could help out. Her own son was in college, safe at home. She wanted to do something for all the other sons and daughters serving in Iraq.

"I didn't just want to send a package over there and not know if anyone got it," McBrien said.

That's when a cousin from Iowa introduced her to Dirk Homewood. Dirk and her cousin ran for the University of Northern Iowa's track team, and they were staying with McBrien for a track meet.

"He told me he had a brother who was wounded in Iraq," McBrien said.

After a letter to introduce herself, and some advice from the Marine Corps Web site, she began sending him packages.

"It means a lot," Cpl. Homewood said. "So few seem to care that we're over there."

It was mostly the essentials like batteries, sunscreen and foot powder. She also sent printouts of his hometown newspaper as well as candy bars and beef jerky.

"We always had food, but it was nice to have something from back home," Homewood said.

She also kept in contact with Homewood's family in Cedar Falls, Iowa. When she heard that his parents weren't planning to come out to meet him in California, she rallied her co-workers, solicited donations and made reservations, so they could greet their youngest son when he got off the bus.

Later, after her company heard of her efforts, they picked up the tab for airfare and hotel.

McBrien joked that she could do this full time.

"He was so polite. I think he said thank you a thousand times," McBrien said. "I felt like, 'no, I'm the one who's grateful.'"

Homewood, a machine gunner for Weapons Company, had thought that just coming home from Iraq was a big enough birthday present. His birthday was two days before they were scheduled to leave Iraq.

"This was a great birthday present," Homewood said. He had just called home earlier to tell them that he had arrived safely. "It was a very big surprise."

The parking lot was awash in colorful welcome-home signs. A mountain of seabags and backpacks was slowly being pulled apart. Laughing children, tearful wives and girlfriends mingled while waiting anxiously for a chance to let Marines show their softer side.

Camp Hurricane Point in Ramadi was home for seven months to Homewood and the battalion's Marines and corpsmen. They were among units in Iraq targeted most by roadside bombs and hit-and-run attacks from insurgents.

The reunion was McBrien's last care package to Homewood, at least for a while. Beholding the magnitude of the present she had delivered gripped her heart.

"It's so exciting," McBrien said, her eyes red from crying. "I really can't explain it. I didn't expect the amount of emotion that would be here today. But all these Marines and their families, even being remotely connected is such a joy to me."

McBrien's next care packages to Iraq will hit closer to home. Another cousin in Iowa is heading to Iraq with his Marine Reserve unit.



10-04-04, 06:11 AM
Soldiers Strive to Save Young Iraqi Informant
Teen turned in his own father, other insurgents. But what would happen when the Army left?

FORT CARSON, Colo. — First Sgt. Daniel Hendrex was getting ready to leave the war when he went to see the Iraqi teenager one last time. He roused the youth from sleep and gave him his floppy camouflage hat and a promise.

Stay safe, Hendrex said. We will do what we can to get you out of here.

The 13-year-old clutched the hat and held out his arms. They hugged, teary-eyed. And then Hendrex was gone.

It had been four months since the skinny, street-smart Iraqi blurted out to American soldiers at a border checkpoint in Husaybah, Iraq, that he wanted to turn in an insurgent — his father.

The 100 Army soldiers of Fort Carson, Colo.-based Dragon Company, 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment had seen informants before. Some were helpful, but many just wanted reward money.

Something was different about this one, though. He was willing to turn in his own father.

With that one decision, the teenager's life, so full of horror and abuse, would change forever. So would the lives of the soldiers around him.

He became an informant, giving the soldiers the best information they had yet.

He ate with them, slept next to them, dressed like them.

They protected him like a brother.

And now they were leaving him.


He is known as Steve-O to the soldiers; the Army keeps his real name confidential to protect him. He grew up in Husaybah, a town of about 100,000 near the Syrian border. The eldest child, he lived with his parents, three brothers and two sisters in a small house with a dirt floor.

His father was once an army captain in the Republican Guard, the core of the Iraqi military. He ruled his family with brutality.

Steve-O's left eye is misaligned, the result of his father kicking him in the head. Once, his father took a red-hot spoon and pressed it on top of Steve-O's left hand.

"My father," the teen said, rubbing the scar.

After the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003, his father led a 40-man insurgency group. The beatings, Steve-O said, got worse, and his father became withdrawn.

"He would sit by himself. If I would go talk to him, he would hit me, beat me up," Steve-O said through an interpreter. "He wouldn't let anyone come near him."

His father wanted him to fight the Americans.

Steve-O, who only has a third-grade education, tried to run away to Fallouja, but was caught and reluctantly accompanied his father on four missions.

He couldn't bring himself to fire the AK-47 that his father had given him, so he would hide, once in a stream, as American soldiers passed by. They didn't seem so bad. He had seen soldiers giving candy to Iraqi children, and they had never done anything to him.

He knew he couldn't tell his father how he felt. So he would empty the ammunition from the rifle and tell his father that he had shot Americans.

"My father was very happy. He was very pleased. He gave me money," Steve-O said.

But Steve-O feared for his life and those of his brothers and sisters.

One day in December, Steve-O told his family that he was going to Syria to find work. Instead, he walked to the border checkpoint, where Dragon Company was stationed, and said he wanted to turn in his father. He told them that he had information on a 40-man insurgency cell and knew where a weapons cache was.

First, he asked to be arrested, so no one would suspect that he was a traitor.

The soldiers, not sure what to think, complied, handcuffing him and putting a sandbag over his head.

The tank company was the only U.S. force in the area; it was being attacked up to 10 times a day.

But the soldiers were leery.

"My thought was, he very well could be setting us up for an ambush," said Capt. Chad Roehrman, 29. "That's always one of the concerns — they're baiting us into something."

Steve-O started naming names; some matched names on a wanted list that the soldiers had.

Maybe Steve-O was the real deal.

They would find out during the raid that night.

Two tanks and two Humvees carrying about 20 soldiers headed into the town. Steve-O rode in a Humvee, wearing borrowed Army fatigues and a black ski mask so he wouldn't be recognized.

The teen was nervous. Briefly, he wondered about his father.

When they arrived at Steve-O's house, his father and a Syrian man were there, along with Steve-O's mother and siblings. Both men were blindfolded and arrested.

The teen pointed to an empty lot next to his home, and the soldiers and Steve-O started digging. Rockets, grenades, a land mine and a weapons system were all there.

"It was great intelligence," said Hendrex, 35. "What it really did was validate Steve-O's story."

Steve-O was legit.


A few days later, Steve-O, who slept on a cot on base, asked to see his mother.

He went home in the morning, but quickly returned and told soldiers that his mother had been beaten. She told her son that she had a week to turn him over to an insurgent or his family would be killed.

"She said, 'They know it was you and you're the one who turned everybody in,' " Hendrex said the teen told him.

Go back to the Americans, Steve-O's mother told him. She knew what would happen to him if he stayed.

Several days later, Hendrex was going through pictures of captured insurgents while Steve-O sat nearby.

Steve-O casually looked at the computer screen and said he knew the person. He did it repeatedly, naming insurgents as Hendrex clicked through the pictures.

Steve-O had connected the dots. He seemed to know everyone in the town, what they did and where they lived. He knew from the highest levels to the lowest. His father had taken him to numerous insurgent meetings, and Steve-O had soaked up everything he heard.

"He knew who was bad and who wasn't," Hendrex said. "He probably ID'd that day 20 people."

Other soldiers were still skeptical.

"How much can he really know?" wondered Sgt. Roy Johnson, 31.

But, as they would come to find out, Steve-O would become their most successful informant.


Steve-O was barely 5 feet tall then, and in the crowded Humvee, he rode between the legs of the gunner, watching out the window for people he knew. He went on 20 missions and raids with his new American friends, several times coming under attack.

"Mujahadeen! Mujahadeen!" he would yell, tugging on the gunner's pants when he saw an insurgent.

He spoke only Arabic, so a translator usually traveled with him.

The squadron that had been attacked up to 10 times a day was now only attacked two to three times a week.

On one raid near his mother's home, soldiers stopped to give her money. They told her to take her children and leave Husaybah the next day.

Eventually, some 40 insurgents were caught by Steve-O identifying them and the soldiers comparing the information to their own.

Steve-O was happy living with the soldiers. They were all he had.

The Americans were getting to know the Iraqi so willing to help them. They taught him to play football and the English words for "cot" and "blanket." They watched movies together, played video games and wrestled.

Steve-O still wore his too-big fatigues, just like the soldiers, and even got his dark hair cut like them. He was eager to help the cooks, take out trash, sweep floors.

The soldiers couldn't help but smile at his big, silly grin.

"He was one of us," Roehrman said.

In late February, while on a mission near Steve-O's home, the teen wanted to make sure that his mother and siblings had left.

Steve-O stayed in the Humvee while Hendrex went inside.

The tiny, three-room house had been ransacked. Rotten food was on the stove, furniture was overturned and a rancid smell permeated the air.

An uncle said Steve-O's mother had been shot in the stomach, killed by the same insurgent who threatened to kill the family. The children had made it to Fallouja.

Hendrex, a 14-year Army veteran whose wife is pregnant with their first child, was closest to Steve-O, always making sure he was with him. He was his protector, a big brother, even a surrogate father.

Early the next morning, Hendrex took Steve-O and the translator outside base headquarters and told the teen that his mother was dead.

Steve-O tried to keep his emotions in check, but tears rolled down his face. Hendrex embraced him and cried with him.


By late March, Dragon Company was preparing to hand off the area to Marines. Hendrex and Roehrman, now with another company, were already trying to figure out what to do with Steve-O. Hendrex hoped to bring him to the United States.

They contacted the U.S. embassy in Kuwait, inquiring about political asylum, humanitarian parole or relocation to another country, but Steve-O's options were running out.

Dragon Company was going home to Fort Carson, and he would have to stay behind. The Marines agreed to take care of the teen, but that was only temporary.

Hendrex told him: "We have to leave, but we will not forget you. I will try until the end of my days to get you out of here. Do not lose faith in us."

Hendrex gave Steve-O the note promising to get him out of Iraq, and his floppy hat with "Hendrex" stitched in the back, in English and Arabic. Keep it, he said, until we see each other again.

Hendrex didn't know if that would happen.

Steve-O stayed with the Marines, but didn't go on any more missions because it was too dangerous.

"You have this emptiness because you left one guy," Hendrex said.

Once back in Colorado in April, Hendrex contacted congressmen, the office of the secretary of Defense, the Army surgeon general's office, news reporters, anyone who would listen.

Months passed without any word.

Steve-O never lost hope. He trusted Hendrex, the man he calls "my brother," and believed that he would come for him.

"I've been with them for so long," said Steve-O, who dreams of joining the U.S. military and becoming a doctor. "These guys never lie to me, they never hurt me."

Finally, Hendrex learned that Steve-O would be granted a special parole to come to the United States for a medical evaluation and intelligence debriefing. Beyond that, the military is reviewing options. Several Arabic-speaking families have volunteered to adopt Steve-O, and Dragon Company has been raising money for his education.

Steve-O's father remains in jail, as does the man who reportedly killed his mother. The teen doesn't know the fate of his brothers and sisters.

Just weeks ago, Hendrex got the call he had awaited for six months. He traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, and met Steve-O as he stepped off the plane, holding Hendrex's hat and the note.

The next night, before Steve-O went to the East Coast for his evaluation, the soldiers of Dragon Company gathered at the Colorado Springs Airport to welcome the Iraqi teenager who had done so much for them and had become part of their company.

He was 14 now, and had grown taller and more muscular. But here he was, in the U.S., flashing that infectious smile.

The last member of Dragon Company had come home.

This story is based on interviews with Steve-O; 1st Sgt. Daniel Hendrex, Sgt. Roy Johnson, Staff Sgt. Luke Landsberger, Spc. Jordan Schwartz and Sgt. Ryan Strout, all of Dragon Company; Capt. Chad Roehrman, formerly of Dragon Company, and military documents.



10-04-04, 06:12 AM
Iraqis agreed to help drive out terrorists

By Ward Sanderson, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Sunday, October 3, 2004

BAGHDAD — Tribal leaders in the city of Samarra met with government officials prior to this week’s U.S. and Iraqi assault on insurgents there, agreeing to help drive the terrorists out, according to the new government’s top security official.

About 125 of those insurgents — including foreign fighters, Saddam Hussein supporters and common criminals — were killed in strikes Friday and another were 88 injured, Qasim Dawoud, Iraq’s minister of state for national security, during a Friday evening news conference.

Wire reports said sporadic fighting continued Saturday. American military press officials in Baghdad were unable to confirm that Saturday, or to update casualty figures.

Dawoud said the new Iraqi government was intent on meeting with tribal and social figures in war-torn towns such as Samarra, Najaf, Fallujah and Basra to garner local support for ousting insurgents. In the case of Samarra, Dawoud said the government met with about 110 local leaders, who then asked for military intervention and pledged cooperation on Tuesday to “purify the land of Samarra of these terrorists.”

The local leaders included clerics, professionals and social figures, the minister said.

In the wake of the strikes, Dawoud said residents of Samarra could now “enjoy peace and the reconstruction.”

The United States has said it took up the campaign the request of the Iraqi government. About 5,000 troops — 3,000 Americans and 2,000 Iraqis — took the city hall and central mosque in Samarra. One U.S. soldier was killed and four were injured, the coalition has said.

Despite the talk of novel cooperation, Dawoud said that such agreements were not necessary for the new government and American forces to attack insurgent areas.

“Even if they did not ask us, we would have moved into the city,” he said. “It is our duty to clean the city.”

Dawoud also claimed that Fallujah and Ramadi would also face similar large-scale assaults, and claimed that citizens in those towns also support the new government.

Fallujah saw that prediction come at least partially true later that evening.

Coalition forces targeted a dwelling the military called a safe house for Abu Musab Al Zargawi, the Jordanian accused by the CIA and other officials of masterminding beheadings of foreigners in Iraq.

According to a Saturday coalition statement, about 10 terrorists were in the house at the time of the 10:53 p.m. attack. The released cited “credible intelligence sources” as having determined the house was an insurgent lair. It went further, saying no innocent civilians were injured in the attack.

“The Zargawi network continues to disregard the safety of the people of Iraq by hiding among them,” the statement read. “Multi-national forces accurately targeted this terrorist location while employing measures to protect innocent civilians and surrounding buildings.”



10-04-04, 09:11 AM
Corporal among 2/4's twice bitten
Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story Identification #: 2004101163917
Story by Sgt. Robert M Storm

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Sept. 30, 2004) -- As Cpl. Logan Degenhardt sits in a chair outside his barracks room drinking a beer and talking to his friends, he realized his experiences in Iraq - including wounds sustained in two separate firefights - will live with him forever.

The 21-year-old from Boscobel, Wis., is one of a handful of Marines receiving two Purple Hearts for service with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment - the unit that lost more Marines than any other so far in Operation Iraqi Freedom. But Degenhardt doesn't complain about being wounded twice, or try to make himself into a hero.

"I really don't think about getting shot that much. After a while, the shock value of being in a firefight wears off," Degenhardt said.

"You can't take it too seriously in Iraq, or you'll go insane. We actually used to cheer when mortar rounds or enemy fire got close."

Degenhardt says he was shot while "just doing my job."

On April 10, while raiding an suspected terrorist's house, his squad came under heavy enemy fire. He was the first to find cover. While members of his squad followed him into a room, he provided cover fire even after taking a round in his left shoulder. Even now, pieces of shrapnel are embedded in his shoulder.

The second time Degenhardt was shot, he was clearing a house. After clearing a room with a grenade, his team entered the house, only to find the assailant still fighting, barricaded and largely protected from the explosion.

"As we came in the room we came under immediate fire. I went for cover in a niche in the wall and took a couple of grazing shots. I've never tried to make myself so small in my entire life," Degenhardt said.

Both raids were successful; Marines subdued the attackers and took prisoners, Degenhardt said.

"Earning two Purple Hearts is definitely unusual, it is not a common accomplishment," said Maj. Mike P. Wylie, 2/4's executive officer, noting that Degenhardt was not alone in collecting two badges denoting blood sacrifice.

After his time in Iraq, Degenhardt said he appreciates home a lot more now that he's had to spend so much time away.

"You learn not to take your freedoms for granted; it's the little things that would normally escape a person's notice - like being able to go buy a steak, or smoke a cigarette outside without being shot at," Degenhardt said.

"The hardest part is when you lose your friends. We remember them by the way that they made us feel, how they made us laugh, the jokes they told."

Asked about the war and the controversy surrounding it, a spark of passion lights his eyes.

"If people could see the good we're doing in Iraq," he said. "Just in the time I was there, the areas are cleaner. We're fixing the streets and lights. When you hand out candy, pencils or balls to the kids and see the smiles on everyone's faces, it's great.

"People don't see how the Iraqis live, so they can't imagine the way of life over here. I'll know for the rest of my life I did the right thing."

E-mail Sgt. Storm at robert.storm@nmci.usmc.mil



10-04-04, 11:01 AM
Pendleton warrior Conway moves on to top Pentagon spot <br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
'); // --&gt;

10-04-04, 12:08 PM
Iraq Mobile Network Brings Benefits and Bombs

By Luke Baker

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqis hail their mobile phone network as one of the few achievements in the country's reconstruction, but the technology is also being used to detonate bombs that cause daily death and destruction.

Copying techniques employed by the attackers in the Madrid train bombings, the Bali bombings and recent blasts in Saudi Arabia, insurgents in Iraq are using mobile phones to set off car bombs and other explosions, U.S. officials and experts say.

It is far from the only method being used, but since licenses were awarded to set up the mobile network a year ago, and mobile phones became ubiquitous accessories in Iraqi cities, the technique has become common and reliable.

"There's definitely evidence that mobile phones are being used to detonate roadside bombs and car bombs," said David Claridge, a security specialist with the Risk Advisory Group who has worked in Iraq in recent months.

"I wouldn't say it's the single biggest contributor to the bombings, but it's a technique that they're employing."

Setting off a bomb using a mobile phone is fairly simple.

A call to the phone generates an electronic pulse that sets off the detonator or closes a circuit, triggering the bomb.

"It's not rocket science," John Pike of Globalsecurity.org, a Washington think-tank, was quoted as saying in a recent report by the U.S.-based Homeland Security Group. "Cellphone detonators are pretty straightforward tradecraft."


Not only are they straightforward, reliable and relatively cheap, but conditions in Iraq make them particularly attractive.

Since the goal of the network was to provide service as quickly as possible, and make it accessible to as many people as possible, most subscribers use pay-as-you-go facilities, which make the individuals very difficult to trace.

Even if a call was made from one mobile phone to another to set off a bomb, telecoms experts question whether Iraqi operators would be capable of tracking the call quickly enough to help U.S. troops and Iraqi police hunt down the perpetrators.

"With most Western mobile networks, it would be possible for intelligence agents to trace the call, or at least identify all calls made to that number at that time," said a London-based forensic security expert who asked not to be named.

"I'm not familiar with Iraq, but I can imagine that it would be more difficult to do such a thing there given the security situation and other limitations."

While Iraqis may face greater danger now that they have a mobile phone network, security consultants say that's just a fact of life -- the technology brings benefits as well as risks and everyone in the world is potentially threatened.

"To deny access to mobile telecommunications at this stage would be counterproductive," said Claridge. "If insurgents in Iraq can't use mobile phones, they'll find something else."

Still, U.S. troops have clamped down on mobile phone use at bomb sites to prevent follow-up blasts, the sort of attack that may have been used to kill 34 children in Baghdad on Thursday.

Locals and foreign journalists have had their phones confiscated by U.S. forces for speaking from blast sites.

Military officials in Iraq also say they have employed high-tech mobile phone jamming equipment in some circumstances to stop potential attacks.


© Copyright 2004, Reuters



10-04-04, 02:13 PM
'Vipers' employ 'BRITE Star' in Iraq
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 200410493418
Story by Cpl. Paul Leicht

AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 30, 2004) -- Marines here with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, Marine Aircraft Group 16, Marine Aircraft Wing, are flying some of their Vietnam-era aircraft with state-of-the-art technology.

Designed to be mounted on a variety of aircraft, the high-performance BRITE Star thermal imaging and laser designator system is giving the 'Vipers' another weapon for their arsenal.

A next-generation airborne laser targeting system, the BRITE Star platform was designed by its creators to surpass the abilities of its predecessor, the Star small-arms fire system.

"The BRITE Star is basically an upgraded Star SAFIRE (Forward Looking Infrared) system with laser designating and rangefinder capability," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael W. Reed, maintenance officer, HMLA-169. "It has a larger field of view and is remotely operated from inside the cockpit."

Unlike the UH-1N Huey's gunship weapons mounted to the sides of the helicopter, the BRITE Star's turret FLIR unit sits more inconspicuously under the nose of the Huey.

Reed, a Marine of 19 years from Murrietta, Calif., said unlike the Star SAFIRE, BRITE Star has a regular camera screen image and a main bore sight module that automatically aligns the thermal imager and TV sensors to the laser, whether in flight or on the ground.

"The laser designator and rangefinder is fully compatible with different codes and will designate for a variety of (aircraft)," said Reed. "In rangefinder mode the eye-safe laser is capable of providing accurate range-to-target information."

Since arriving in Iraq in August, the 'Vipers' have fitted four UH-1Ns with BRITE Star.

Technicians with FLIR Systems, Inc., makers of Star SAFIRE and BRITE Star, helped HMLA-169 with the installation of the units and have worked in coordination with the Marines to resolve any maintenance issues.

Relatively new to the Iraq area of operations, BRITE Star's true potential has yet to be achieved, though it has provided the Marines with added resources.

"The biggest advantage of the BRITE Star is its capability to laser designate for Hellfire missiles which greatly helps us accomplish our mission," said Reed.


Mounted just under the nose of one of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169's UH-1N Huey helicopters at Al Asad, Iraq, the BRITE Star thermal imaging and laser designation system allows the UH-1N to support a variety of imaging and targeting missions, particularly laser designating for Hellfire missiles. Photo by: Cpl. Paul Leicht


10-04-04, 02:34 PM
Letter From a Marine Now in Iraq
Nicholas Warr, Chapter President 1/5 Vietnam Veterans Unit

Nicholas Warr, Chapter President 1/5 Vietnam Veterans Unit Chapter 1st Marine Division Association P. O. Box 2680 Hendersonville, N. C. 28793 FLASH: READ & DISTRIBUTE http://www.1-5vietnamveterans.org/

To All Vietnam and other Veterans: Please read the attached plea from a Marine fighting in Iraq. If after reading it you feel as I do, that no matter what your politics are we should be doing everything possible to support our troops, pass this on to your family and friends. Semper Fidelis!


Hello Everyone, I am taking time to ask you all for your help. First off, I'd like to say that this is not a political message. I'm not concerned about domestic politics right now. We have much bigger things to deal with, and we need your help.

It seems that despite the tremendous and heroic efforts of the men and women serving here in Iraq to bring much needed peace and stability to this region, we are losing the war of perception with the media and American people. Our enemy has learned that the key to defeating the mighty American military is by swaying public opinion at home and abroad.

We are a people that cherish the democratic system of government and therefore hold the will of the people in the highest regard. We love to criticize ourselves almost to an endless degree, because we care what others think. Our enemies see this as a weakness and are trying to exploit it.

When we ask ourselves questions like, "Why do they hate us?" or "What did we do wrong?" we are playing into our enemies' hands.

Our natural tendency to question ourselves is being used against us to undermine our effort to do good in the world. How far would we have gotten if after the surprise attacks on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, we would have asked, "Why do the Japanese hate us so much?" or "How can we change ourselves so that they won't do that again?"

Here in Iraq the enemy is trying very hard to portray our efforts as failing and fruitless. They purposely kill innocents and desecrate their bodies in hopes that the people back home will lose the will to fight for liberty. They are betting on our perceived weakness as a thoughtful, considerate people. Unfortunately our media only serves to further their cause.

In an industry that feeds on ratings and bad news, a failure in Iraq would be a goldmine. When our so-called "trusted" American media takes a quote from an Iraqi doctor as the gospel truth over that of the men and women that are daily fighting to protect the right to freedom of press, you know something is wrong.

That doctor claimed that out of 600 Iraqis that were casualties of the fighting, the vast majority of them were women, children and the elderly. This is totally absurd. In the history of man, no one has spent more time and effort, often to the detriment of our own mission, to be more discriminate in our targeting of the enemy than the American military.

The Marines and Soldiers serving in Iraq have gone through extensive training in order to limit the amount of innocent casualties and collateral damage. Yet, despite all of this, our media consistently sides with those who openly lie and directly challenge the honor of our brave heroes fighting for liberty and peace.

What we have to remember is that peace is not defined as an absence of war. It is the presence of liberty, stability and prosperity. In the face of the horrendous tyranny of the former Iraqi regime, the only way true peace was able to come to this region was through force. That is what the American Revolution was all about. Have we forgotten? Freedom is not free and "peace" without principle is not peace.

The peace that so-called "peace advocates" support can only be brought to Iraq through the use of military force . And we are doing it, if only the world will let us! If the American people believe we are failing, even if we are not, then we will ultimately fail. That is why I am asking for your support. Become a voice of truth in your community. Wherever you are fight the lies of the enemy. Don't buy into the pessimism and apathy that says, "It's hopeless," "They hate us too much," "That part of the world is just too messed up," "It's our fault anyway," "We're to blame," and so forth.

Whether you're in middle school, working at a 9-5 job, retired, or a stay-at-home Mom you can make a huge difference! There is nothing more powerful than the truth. So, when you watch the news and see doomsday predictions and spiteful opinions on our efforts over here, you can refute them by knowing that we are doing a tremendous amount of good.

Spread the word. No one is poised to make such an amazing contribution to the everyday lives of Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world than the American Armed Forces. By making this a place where liberty can finally grow, we are making the whole world safer.

Your efforts at home are directly tied to our success. You are the soldiers at home fighting the war of perception. So I'm asking you as a fellow fighting man: do your duty. Stop the attempts of the enemy wherever you are. You are a mighty force for good, because truth is on your side. Together we will win this fight and ensure a better world for the future.

God Bless and Semper Fidelis, 1st. Lt. Robert L. Nofsinger USMC Ramadi, Iraq


10-04-04, 04:00 PM
Marines send unique "thank you" gifts to supporters back home
Submitted by: 1st Force Service Support Group
Story Identification #: 20041019430
Story by Sgt. Enrique S. Diaz

CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq (Oct. 1, 2004) -- As Marines operate in the hundred degree weather here, facing the dangers of living in a combat zone, support from the home front in the form of care packages and “thank you” letters help make their stay a little more hospitable.

Marines assigned to Combat Service Support Battalion 7, 1st Force Service Support Group, have come up with an interesting way of showing their appreciation to their friends and loved ones back home.

Marines are sending American, Marine Corps, and even Iraqi flags that have flown at the battalion headquarters after one day, to return the favor of those who have shown their support to the deployed servicemembers.

Marines who want to send a little something back only have to spend a few dollars at the base store to buy the flags. They then ask the battalion to fly the colors for a gift of a lifetime.

“It’s to show our appreciation to the people who appreciate us,” said Maj. Carlos L. Olivo, CSSB-7’s executive officer, who sent an American and Iraqi flag to the students at Kholberg Elementary School in El Paso, Texas.

After receiving signed posters from the youngsters back home, he wanted to return the favor, said Olivo.

Marines of CSSB-7 are responsible for providing supplies and services like food, ammunition and medical to Marines throughout the Al Anbar province. The mission is a continuous one that most people don’t get to hear about back home.

However, the families and friends of these Marines know they are hard at work and show their appreciation by sending things like snacks, hygiene items, and magazines.

“To me, these people are patriots. They love their country and they love what we are doing for them,” said the 36-year-old El Paso, Texas, native.

The battalion’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Drew T. Doolin, created certificates of appreciation to send back with each flag, thanking folks back home for their support.

The phrase, ‘This flag was flown over Combat Service Support Battalion 7,’ at the top, with the commanding officer’s signature at the bottom, certifies the flags as gifts from a combat zone.

For many back home, the flags were unexpected, but very welcomed gifts.

“My brother didn’t think he’d get anything from me for his birthday since I was out here, but he said it was the best birthday present he ever got,” said Cpl. Derek M. Metzger, a 22-year-old native of Mansfield, Ohio, who sent an American flag from Iraq to his brother in Nashville, Tenn.

The first rotation of CSSB- 7 Marines began their show of appreciation in February, and their replacements plan to continue sending flags back home during their deployment here.

Second Lt. Ed J. Donahoo, a logistics officer for CSSB 7, who recently arrived here decided to send flags back to Alabama Christian Academy Elementary School where his father is a physical education teacher.

“A lot of times, they (the kids) are more honest than adults, they will tell you their feelings and are just trying to be nice,” said the 24-year-old Montgomery, Al., native, after receiving an unexpected package from the school.

“It’s the innocence of it that just kind of brings you back to reality and gets your mind off of Iraq for awhile” said Donahoo.

Donahoo has recently flown the American flag in honor of the students, and says it will be in the mail soon.


Cpl. Sergio Gonzalez, a 27-year-old Roswell, N.M., native and watch clerk with Combat Service Support Battalion 7, lowers the American flag at sunset at Camp Al Asad, Iraq, on September 28, 2004. The battalion sends American and Iraqi flags that have flown for a day at the battalion headquarters to people and organizations that have supported the deployed Marines. Photo by: Sgt. Enrique S. Diaz


Second Lt. Ed J. Donahoo, a 24-year-old Montgomery, Al., native and logistics officer, shows the American flag and certificate of appreciation alongside the battalion headquarters' sign at Camp Al Asad, Iraq, on Sept. 29, 2004. Donahoo is presenting the flag to Alabama Christian Academy Elementary School. Combat Service Support Battalion 7 sends American and Iraqi flags that have flown for a day at the battalion headquarters to people and organizations that have supported the deployed Marines. Photo by: Sgt. Enrique S. Diaz



10-04-04, 05:32 PM
Issue Date: September 27, 2004

Gunners question enlisted advisers’ war-fighting skills

By Laura Bailey
Times staff writer

Marine gunners have a message for first sergeants and sergeants major: In a wartime Corps, it’s time to put drill aside and get serious about war fighting.
Until that happens, those senior enlisted advisers will continue to be “dead weight” for their units in combat, the gunners said.

That was the frank view of the chief warrant officers at their annual symposium on infantry issues held Aug. 8-13.

“They’re fine men. I don’t wish to take that away from them. … I blame the system,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Patrick Woellhof, the infantry weapons officer occupational field manager and organizer of the symposium at Quantico, Va.

The problem, gunners say, lies in how first sergeants and sergeants major are trained for their duties and how they are assigned to units. While those leathernecks serve as senior enlisted advisers to unit commanders, gunners say many first sergeants and sergeants major lack the background and technical expertise required to advise commanders.

“We can ill afford carrying dead weight by assigning someone that can’t understand the duties we are performing,” said gunner Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeffery L. Eby, senior gunner for Regimental Combat Team 7 in Iraq.

The assignments system does not consider a Marine’s job background prior to becoming a first sergeant or sergeant major when assigning him to a unit. So Marines with infantry backgrounds often end up as enlisted advisers in service-support units, for example, and leathernecks who came up through the ranks as military police advise commanders in aviation squadrons.

It’s a process intended to create well-rounded enlisted leaders who are knowledgeable in all aspects of the Marine Air Ground Task Force. But gunners question the wisdom of that policy.

Woellhof said gunners are hearing from young commanders and staff NCOs about problems in the field such as a lack of technical expertise. There are also cases of first sergeants and sergeants major continuing to emphasize garrison-style discipline over war-fighting skills while in combat zones, Woellhof said.

“When we have sergeants major writing back to the states to have their swords sent over so they can run a corporals course, there’s a serious disconnect,” Woellhof said. “That disconnect has serious long-term consequences on the ground.”

Background matters

Supporters of the system might say a unit benefits from the expertise of a senior enlisted adviser with a different military occupational specialty background. And from a fairness standpoint, they say the current system allows all MOS communities to compete for promotion in the first sergeant-sergeant major career track.

The gunners, however, say disadvantages outweigh benefits.

“The system places the senior [staff NCO] at a severe disadvantage by taking him out of his element where he can be respected for his experience and knowledge in the job being performed and requiring him to develop respect in completely foreign areas that he has yet to be trained in,” Eby wrote in an e-mail from Iraq.

Making matters worse is that the senior leadership academies aren’t giving first sergeants and sergeants major enough training in the war-fighting skills needed to offset their lack of infantry expertise and ensure that they are combat multipliers to their commander, the gunners said.

Gunners have asked that the Corps study the assignment process and the associated professional military education for the enlisted advisers. They also recommend that the Corps no longer base selections to first sergeant and sergeant major on “every man for the job.”

“When people weren’t dying, it was probably a great social experiment,” Woellhof said. “Our responsibilities are fighting and winning our conflicts, period. If that means some people get left behind on the sergeant major track, then, hey, so sad.”

A spokesman for Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Quantico, Va., said the gunners’ recommendations are being reviewed and taken seriously by analysts at the command.

“It will probably be discussed at the next sergeant major symposium and ultimately with the commandant before a final decision,” said Capt. Jeff Landis.



10-04-04, 06:27 PM
War Veterans Overloading VA
October 4, 2004

Thousands of U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with physical injuries and mental health problems are encountering an overburdened benefits system, and officials and veterans groups worry that the challenge could grow as the nation remains at war.

The disability benefits and health care systems that provide services for about 5 million American veterans have been overloaded for decades, with a current backlog of more than 300,000 claims. And as of Aug. 1, nearly 150,000 National Guard and reservist veterans became eligible for health care and benefits because they were mobilized to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. That number is rising.

President Bush's budget for 2005 calls for cutting the Department of Veterans Affairs staff that handles benefits claims, and some veterans report long waits for benefits and confusing claims decisions.

"I love the military; that was my life. But I don't believe they're taking care of me now," said Staff Sgt. Gene Westbrook, 35, of Lawton, Okla. Paralyzed in a mortar attack near Baghdad in April, he has received no disability benefits because his paperwork is missing. He is supporting his wife and three children on his regular military pay of $2,800 a month as he awaits a ruling on whether he will receive $6,500 a month from the VA for his disability.

Through the end of April, the most recent accounting the VA could provide, a total of 166,334 veterans of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan had separated from military service, and 26,633 - 16 percent - had filed benefits claims with the VA for service-connected disabilities. Less than two-thirds of those claims had been processed, leaving more than 9,750 recent veterans waiting.


10-04-04, 07:12 PM
MACS-1 transfers operations to Iraqi air control tower
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 200410310262
Story by Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri

AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 30, 2004) -- Around the clock, military aircraft of all types are landing and taking off from the air base here, executing missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

With the volume of air traffic here, it is important that Marines on the ground manage the ebb and flow of flights to prevent the skies from becoming overcrowded.

In a ceremonial "manning of the rails," Detachment C, Marine Aircraft Control Squadron 1, Marine Wing Support Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, transferred their operations to the Iraqi air traffic control tower here Sept. 30.

Measuring 150 feet tall, the Iraqi tower is more than twice the size of the expeditionary tower, which the unit has been operating in since arriving here in March

According to Capt. Jeff Meeker, detachment commander, MACS-1, the permanent Iraqi tower has numerous advantages over the more austere expeditionary tower.

"Our visibility has increased drastically," he said, "and as a result we can control the (aircraft) traffic a whole lot better."

"We were using the AN/TSQ-120 ATC tower," said Meeker, a 34-year-old Oceanside, Calif., native. "Now that we've moved, we're not going to abandon that tower; it will still be used for backup operations."

One of the largest air bases in Iraq, Al Asad's facilities proved suitable to support aviation operations when MACS-1 took over the airfield earlier this year.

"When the commanding officer of MACS-1, Lt. Col. T.J. Pierson, first came to Al Asad in March, he immediately decided he wanted to move into the Iraqi tower," said Odessa, Texas, native Maj. Javier T. Ramos, executive officer, MACS-1. "Utilizing the existing infrastructure of the air base, we are able to provide Marines with every ATC capability that we would have in the states."

Because the Iraqi tower had not been utilized or maintained for an extended period of time, it wasn't easy for MACS-1 to get it ready for use.

"Three months went into preparing of the tower," said Ramos, an activated reservist who managed a Home Depot in Allen, Texas before deploying here. "The (Iraqi tower) had been abandoned for so long, it took a lot of work to clean it all up."

"This task has required a lot of teamwork and cooperation," remarked the 35-year-old. "(Those are) things that relate directly to my management job back at home."

Before transitioning into the Iraqi tower, the Marines of MACS-1 first had to overcome the complications that arose while attempting to get their aviation gear to adapt to its new surroundings.

"All the equipment we used was from a remote landing site tower (RLST)," said 23-year-old, Phoenix, Ariz., native Lance Cpl. James P. Candelaria, air traffic control communications technician, MACS-1. "None of it was originally intended for use in an actual tower, much less an Iraqi one."

Nevertheless, once renovations on the building began, the Marines had the tower up and running within 10 days.

"We wanted to have the official opening on (September 30) because it's actually a special day," said Ramos. "Today we passed 100,000 flights since (March) without any serious incidents."

Having achieved such a significant record of success in their former control tower, the Marines of MACS-1 definitely have a high level of accomplishment to live up to during the remainder of their deployment here.


Ypsilanti, Mich., native 36-year-old Gunnery Sgt. O.J. Ray, Air Traffic Controller, Detachment C, Marine Aircraft Control Squadron 1, Marine Wing Support Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, maintains radio contact with an incoming aircraft from the new command center atop the Iraqi air traffic control tower at Al Asad, Iraq, Sept. 30. Using an expeditionary tower for 7 months, MACS-1 eventually made the decision to move into the existing Iraqi ATC tower aboard the air base after the necessary modifications were made to the 150-foot tall structure. Photo by: Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri



10-04-04, 11:39 PM
"All the equipment we used was from a remote landing site tower (RLST)...None of it was originally intended for use in an actual tower, much less an Iraqi one."

And they still got it done, Outstanding!

Hey Tom D that is a big difference you can tell between the Marine Corps and Army. The Army would have waited 6 months and paid a government contractor 12 million to do it for them.