View Full Version : Two US marines killed in action in restive Iraq province: military
11-05-04, 08:42 AM
Two US marines killed in action in restive Iraq province: military
RAMADI, Iraq (AFP) Nov 05, 2004
Two US marines were killed and four wounded "in action" on Thursday in the restive Iraqi province of al-Anbar, which houses the rebel hotspots of Ramadi and Fallujah, the US military said.
"Two US marines were killed in action and four US marines were wounded in action today," a US military spokesman said in a short statement released late on Thursday.
The spokesman provided no further details on the cause of death or where the incident took place.
US troops have been massing in Fallujah and Ramadi in recent weeks amid mounting expectations of a double-pronged assault on the Sunni Muslim bastions, west of Baghdad, believed to be the nerve centre of rebel activity.
The US-backed government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has pledged to crush pockets of resistance ahead of national elections promised by January.
On Thursday, a marine operation in Ramadi, the capital city of al-Anbar province, discovered and disarmed a youth centre that had been rigged with explosives along with more that two tons of explosives hidden in a mosque, the military said in a separate statement.
"The discoveries were made during a sweep of the city looking for improvised explosive devices," it said.
Fifty suspected insurgents were also netted in the sweep, it added.
The latest deaths brought to 1,120 the number of US military personnel killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003, according to a Pentagon tally.
11-05-04, 08:43 AM
Marines champing at bit
U.S. forces eager to show mettle in attack on Fallujah
By Robert F. Worth
The New York Times
NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The Marines crept forward, glancing warily at each other as they approached a bomb-scarred building covered with Arabic lettering. Suddenly, one of them shouted "Sniper," and another dropped to the ground as if wounded.
But instead of firing back, the men raised their guns and trilled their tongues to imitate the sound of machine-gun fire. Within a few seconds, one of them called out, "Sniper neutralized," and they lowered their weapons.
It was one of the many urban-warfare drills taking place in recent days in and around a bleak desert encampment near Fallujah, where the Marines expect to lead an all-out attack soon. Peace negotiations continue between the Iraqi government and delegates from the city, but American commanders seem convinced that it is only a matter of time before the Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, gives the order for them to retake the city, which has been held by insurgents since the Marines withdrew in April.
For many Marines near Fallujah, that order cannot come too soon. After a long summer of cat-and-mouse games with shadowy insurgents, they are hungry for a decisive battle.
"Locked, cocked and ready to rock," said Lance Cpl. Dimitri Gavriel, 29, using a popular Marine expression. "That's about how we feel," said Gavriel, who left an investment-banking job in Manhattan 18 months ago to enlist.
Preparations continue at the makeshift military base. Tanks rumble through a barren landscape littered with shrapnel and husks of old vehicles, while helicopters throb overhead. Detonations shake the ground at all hours -- artillery units firing on guerrilla positions, or other military units blowing up old explosives. Occasional enemy mortars explode nearby. American jets soar overhead on their way to and from bombing runs, and at night fires glow on the horizon.
Many of the young Marines expected to lead the attack have not yet been part of a major battle. Most of those who took part in the April operation in Fallujah have been sent home. And though some of their commanders fought the first phase of the war last year, many of the rank and file arrived for the first time in June. All of them, though, seem eager to prove their mettle and, at last, to confront the insurgency head-on.
"It's kind of like the cancer of Iraq," said Lt. Steven Berch, a lanky platoon commander, speaking of Fallujah. "It's become a kind of hotel for the insurgents. Hopefully, getting rid of them will help to stabilize the whole country."
Other Marines point to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant with links to al-Qaida who is said to be using Fallujah as a base.
"We're doing the right thing here," said 1st Lt. Christopher Wilkens, pausing for breath during a drill. "These guys are terrorists. There are connections to al-Qaida, and fighting them is what we came here to do."
The Marines are housed in a network of bomb-scarred barracks once used by Saddam Hussein to train an Iranian exile opposition group. Arabic slogans meant to inspire the trainees remain on the walls, and a mural of Saddam's face still stares down from the wall of a converted mess hall.
Commanders would not reveal any details of how or when an attack might happen. But the invading force will certainly be larger than the one that struck at the insurgents in April, and Marines will be backed up by Iraqi troops as well as by U.S. Army units.
Iraqi soldiers are already training alongside the Marines, and officers say their discipline has improved in recent months. After the Marines withdrew from Fallujah in April, the Iraqi security forces quickly collapsed.
"We are improving day by day," said Maj. Abdul Jabar, executive officer of one of the Iraqi companies that will take part in the attack, as his men practiced disembarking from armored personnel carriers in the hot afternoon sun.
Before the fighting even ends, U.S. civil affairs units will move into the city to begin working on health and reconstruction projects, for which at least $20 million has been set aside, U.S. officers said. Marine lawyers will be ready to handle compensation claims for battle damage and to help verify any violations of the laws of warfare. The goal, commanders emphasize, is to hand over control of the city to Iraqi security forces.
11-05-04, 08:44 AM
Bush Vows No Letup in Iraq, War on Terror
1 hour, 29 minutes ago White House - AP
By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON - Bolstered by a hard-fought election victory, President Bush (news - web sites) says the United States will vigorously pursue wars in Iraq (news - web sites) and against terror and will not retreat from trying to spread democracy through the Middle East.
"I understand, in certain capitals and certain countries, those decisions were not popular," Bush said at his first post-election news conference Thursday. But he was unapologetic about the course he has set and said he would not back down.
Before flying to his retreat at Camp David to rest after the grueling campaign, Bush took congratulatory calls from world leaders and met with his Cabinet to discuss his second term. He said he has not made any decisions about personnel changes, although some turnover is inevitable in his Cabinet and White House staff.
The first job to change hands could be attorney general, since John Ashcroft (news - web sites) might leave even before the second term begins, senior aides said Thursday. Others expected to leave — although maybe not immediately — include Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites), Health and Human Services (news - web sites) Secretary Tommy Thompson and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta (news - web sites).
As U.S. forces in Iraq mobilize for an all-out offensive in Fallujah and other Sunni militant strongholds, the president refused to say how much the war would cost or whether he planned to increase or cut troop strengths. "I have yet to hear from our commanders on the ground that they need more troops," the president said.
He is expected to ask Congress early next year for up to $75 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan (news - web sites) and operations against terrorism.
The White House said it saw a new opportunity to advance Mideast peace now that Bush has won a second term and Israel has taken steps to withdraw from Gaza after nearly 40 years of occupation.
"I think it's very important for our friends the Israelis to have a peaceful Palestinian state living on their border," Bush said. "It's very important for the Palestinian people to have a peaceful, hopeful future."
Bush did not go as far as British Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) in declaring that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the world's most important political challenge.
"I agree with him that the Middle East peace is a very important part of a peaceful world," said Bush. One factor in Mideast peace talks is Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (news - web sites), whom a senior Palestinian official said was in a coma in a French hospital.
Bush reaffirmed his policy, enunciated in June 2002, of an independent Palestinian state existing at peace with Israel. The U.S.-backed plan for peace, known as the road map, called for the new Palestinian state in 2005. "My hope is that we'll make good progress," Bush said.
The president sees the war in Iraq as part of a drive to establish a stable democracy in the Middle East, a model for the rest of the region. "And I fully understand that that might rankle some, and be viewed by some as folly," Bush said. "I just strongly disagree with those who do not see the wisdom of trying to promote free societies around the world."
After a U.S. election in which voters said the primary issue was moral values, Bush cautioned against suggestions that the United States was becoming politically divided by religion.
"I will be your president regardless of your faith, and I don't expect you to agree with me necessarily on religion," Bush said. "As a matter of fact, no president should ever try to impose religion on our society. ... The great thing that unites is the fact you can worship freely if you choose, and if you — you don't have to worship."
Bush was the first president in 68 years to win re-election while his party gained seats in both the House and Senate. He said Americans have embraced his conservative agenda.
"I'll reach out to everyone who shares our goals," said Bush. A day earlier, he had promised to try to win over those who voted for his Democratic opponent.
"I've earned capital in this election — and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on, which is — you've heard the agenda: Social Security (news - web sites) and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror," the president said.
11-05-04, 08:44 AM
Report Details Guantanamo Abuses
November 5, 2004
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - A detainee was forced to kneel so many times he was bruised, a barber gave reverse mohawks and a female interrogator ran her fingers through a prisoner's hair and sat in his lap, the U.S. government says in the most detailed accounting of eight abuse cases at its Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects.
Those responsible for the abuse have been demoted, reprimanded or sent for more training, according to an 800-word U.S. military response to a written query from The Associated Press.
Allegations of mistreatment at Guantanamo, where 550 terror suspects have been held for nearly three years, surfaced after the abuse scandal broke last year at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where pictures showed beatings and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners.
The details of abuse at Guantanamo come as lawyers for several prisoners challenge evidence presented by the government, saying some could have been obtained by force.
Only four prisoners have been formally charged at Guantanamo, where most are held without charge or access to lawyers. The military has reported 34 suicide attempts among detainees, though none has been reported since January.
Guantanamo's new commander says lessons have been learned from past abuses cases and troops are treating detainees humanely with a rigorous system of checks and balances.
"They've not been mistreated, they've not been tortured in any respect," Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood said in an interview Wednesday.
Human rights monitors are not convinced.
"We're confident that there's more information out there that hasn't been released," said Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has obtained nearly 6,000 documents about procedures at U.S.-run prisons. He was in Guantanamo to observe pretrial hearings.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, now in charge of U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, commanded the Guantanamo prison from November 2002 to March 2004 with a mandate to get better intelligence. Most abuses reported in August by James R. Schlesinger, who headed a U.S. Congressional committee to investigate abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, occurred under Miller's watch.
The Department of Defense, responding to an AP query made nearly two months ago, this week provided details of the eight Guantanamo abuses cases Schlesinger cited. No names were given.
In one case, a female interrogator took off her uniform top to expose her T-shirt to a detainee, ran her fingers through his hair and climbed on his lap in April 2003. A supervisor monitoring the session terminated it, and the woman was reprimanded and sent for more training, the military said.
The same month, an interrogator told military police to repeatedly bring a detainee from a standing to kneeling position, so much that his knees were bruised, the government said. The interrogator got a written reprimand and Miller reportedly stopped use of that technique.
Also that month, a guard was charged with dereliction of duty and assault after a detainee assaulted another guard. After the detainee was subdued, the guard punched the prisoner with his fist. He was demoted.
In a separate case, a guard was charged with assault after he sprayed a detainee with a hose when the prisoner allegedly tried to throw water from his toilet at him in September 2002. The guard was reduced in rank and reassigned.
Another female interrogator wiped dye from a red magic marker on a detainee's shirt, telling him it was blood, after he allegedly spat on her. She received a verbal reprimand in early 2003.
In March 2003, a military policeman used pepper spray on a detainee allegedly preparing to throw unidentified liquid on an officer. The policeman was acquitted by a court martial.
Incidents this year include a military policeman who squirted a detainee with water in February, and a camp barber who gave two "unusual haircuts." The haircuts were reverse mohawks, according to a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The barber gave the cuts to frustrate detainee efforts to wear their hair the same way to demonstrate unity, the government said. The barber and his company were reprimanded.
Air Force Lt. Col. Sharon Shaffer, defense attorney for a Guantanamo prisoner, announced Thursday that she would file a petition in federal court challenging her client's detention and alleging systematic abuse at the prison. She represents Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi of Sudan, an alleged al-Qaida paymaster whose conspiracy trial is scheduled for February.
"The abuse allegations at Guantanamo are a matter of growing concern," Shaffer said. "He was constantly being told he would be sent to Egypt to be interrogated, where many of the detainees believed they would be killed. And he was forced to sit for hours in the freezing cold."
At least one military insider at Guantanamo has gone public with allegations of abuse - a military police officer who was injured after going undercover as a detainee.
National Guardsman Sean Baker said the attack occurred in November 2002, the month after Miller arrived in Guantanamo, when he was told to put on an orange detainee jumpsuit, get in a cell and wait for an Initial Response Force - the teams used to subdue misbehaving detainees.
From under the bunk, Baker heard the extraction team come in, he said in his latest comments during a CBS television program aired Wednesday.
"My face was down. And of course, they're pushing it down against the steel floor, you know, my right temple, pushing it down against the floor," Baker told CBS.
The incident was purportedly recorded, one of some 500 hours of tapes that the military has refused to publicly release.
Baker said he tried to tell his attackers he was a soldier but they repeatedly slammed his head against the floor. Baker was airlifted to a naval hospital in Virginia where doctors said he suffered a brain injury. He has been plagued by seizures since, he said.
11-05-04, 08:45 AM
November 08, 2004
Marines pay Iraqis for war damages
By Laura Bailey
Times staff writer
Marines who clashed with insurgents on the streets of Najaf, Iraq, in August are now disbursing condolence and collateral-damage repair payments to civilians who were caught in the crossfire.
Members of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit have been making the payments since late September to families of civilians who were injured or killed, as well as to those whose property was damaged during the fighting, according to an Oct. 26 press release.
“Now that Najaf is secure, we’re working around the clock to get this city up and running again,” said Col. Anthony M. Haslam, the 11th MEU commander. “These payments are one way we are showing good will and building trust with the locals.”
The unit, which deployed to Iraq from Camp Pendleton, Calif., has distributed more than $1.9 million to 2,660 residents since Sept. 30.
The Marines give $2,500 in condolence money, known as solatia, to families that experienced a death, and also for injuries, depending on the severity.
Damage to the city ranges from cracks in walls of homes to totally destroyed businesses. For those repairs, the MEU is giving residents anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars. For damage to public buildings, such as schools, mosques and medical facilities, Marines have been contracting local construction workers to perform repairs.
Residents have filed more than 8,000 claims, and each has to be verified to ensure it is authentic, said Capt. Carrie Batson, a MEU spokeswoman. So far, 150 cases have been found to be fraudulent, she said.
The unit began making the payments on Sept. 20 using a “triage system” to get money first to those who suffered a death or injury or who were left homeless, Batson said. Then, the unit branched out to businesses and to deal with lesser damages to homes.
“Each week, the process gets faster and faster,” she said.
In addition to paying claims processed at local government centers, 11th MEU teams, accompanied by translators and Iraqi police and national guardsmen, are visiting neighborhoods to assess damage and approve requests for repairs to homes and businesses.
“These teams talk door to door and make on-the-spot approvals for payment, expediting the process and ensuring all Najafis have the opportunity to get paid for legitimate damage,” Batson said.
The money for payments to families comes from unit coffers, while repair fees come from a fund allocated by Congress for use in rebuilding and repairing war-damaged areas.
Laura Bailey covers ground warfare issues. She can be reached at (703) 750-8687.
11-05-04, 08:46 AM
November 08, 2004
For Corps’ next rotation, fewer Marines deploy as a new MEF takes the lead
By C. Mark Brinkley
Times staff writer
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — The number of Marines headed for duty in Iraq next year could drop by as much as 20 percent thanks to rising numbers of Iraqi national security forces.
About 20,000 leathernecks from two Marine Expeditionary Forces are expected to deploy early next year for the next Marine rotation.
This time, the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based II MEF will take the lead, contributing 14,000 Marines, according to rotation plans released Oct. 27. I MEF will provide about 6,000 troops, unit officials said.
Corps officials could not say whether either MEF’s contribution includes Marine Forces Reserve units.
“We expect there will be more Iraqi security forces trained and equipped by the time we deploy,” said Maj. Jason Johnston, a spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters in Washington. “Over time, the idea is for Iraqi security forces to take over, with support from us.”
As of Oct. 22, there were more than 100,000 members in the Iraqi security forces. Current plans call for increasing the size of the force to about 145,000 by January. In addition, thousands of police officers have recently graduated from academies and more than 5,000 are in the pipeline for training, according to Defense Department estimates.
So far, I MEF units have shouldered the bulk of the Iraq mission, augmented by II MEF units. The new plan calls for the two groups to switch places, with II MEF leading the charge in Iraq’s Anbar province.
Units will begin deploying in January, and are expected to assume operational control of their assigned area in March, according to II MEF officials. Leading the group is Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson, who is scheduled to turn over command of 2nd Marine Division on Nov. 10 and assume command of II MEF (Forward).
Johnson would also command an unknown number of troops from other services, Marine officials said Oct. 28.
“This Marine Air-Ground Task Force will truly be a team effort, drawing equally on units across the spectrum of Marine Corps capabilities, augmented by units and service members from the Army, Navy and Air Force,” Johnson said in a release.
“We have watched with excitement and anticipation the great work being done in western Iraq by I MEF and its subordinate units and II MEF (Forward) is ready and fully capable of continuing that fine effort.”
Two seven-month rotations
Although the command elements will change, the duration of the deployment won’t. Marine officials said units will deploy on two seven-month rotations, the first from March to September 2005 and the second from September 2005 to March 2006.
The ground combat element will be designated 2nd Marine Division (Reinforced) and will be led by Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck, formerly the assistant deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs.
It will include two regimental combat teams from the 2nd and 8th Marine regiments. Major infantry units deploying from Lejeune for the first rotation include the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines; 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines; and 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, all reinforced with armor and other heavy firepower from 2nd Marine Division units.
Tapped to serve as Huck’s deputy commander is Brig. Gen. Charles S. Patton, commander of Marine Corps Air Bases East and commanding general of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
Air power will be provided by Marine Aircraft Group 26, Marine Air Control Group 28, and Marine Wing Support Group 27, all reinforced with other units from the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.-based 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. The aviation combat element, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), will be commanded by Col. Robert E. Milstead Jr.
The force’s supporting arm, 2nd Force Service Support Group (Forward), will be led by Col. John E. Wissler. It is expected to include Headquarters and Service Battalion, 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Transportation Support Battalion and 2nd Medical Battalion.
Augmenting units from I MEF and the Reserve for the first rotation have not been announced, nor have any units to be included in the second rotation.
I MEF officials said Oct. 28 that a public announcement on the first rotation units will be made after the affected troops and their families have all been alerted by their various commands.
C. Mark Brinkley is the Jacksonville, N.C., bureau chief for Marine Corps Times. He can be reached at (910) 455-8354 or email@example.com.
II MEF on the move
II MEF on the move
11-05-04, 09:13 AM
November 08, 2004
Experts recommend deployment overhaul
Yearlong Iraq tours strain forces, they say
By Vince Crawley
Times staff writer
Independent military observers now recommend overhauling troop deployment policies and say all branches of the armed forces should be concerned about how the Iraq mission is straining the Army and, to a lesser extent, the Marine Corps.
Repeated yearlong deployments to Iraq run the risk of wearing out young leaders whose recent, extensive combat experience would prove irreplaceable as they climbed through the ranks, said retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, an outspoken critic whose views are helping reshape the Army.
In contrast, the British Army, with centuries of experience in handling insurgencies, rotates its combat units every six months, with two dozen troops overlapping as a transition team, Macgregor said in an Oct. 19 panel hosted by the Security Policy Working Group in Washington.
A realistic combat rotation policy is necessary “if we want to prevent the loss of all the captains [Army O-3s] who have infinitely more combat experience than any of the generals commanding them,” he said.
Macgregor’s 1997 book, “Breaking the Phalanx,” provided a pattern for the new Army structure of brigade-sized combat teams that are being developed to replace the World War II-era structure of large divisions. Macgregor also served with an armored cavalry regiment during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Lawrence Korb, a Reagan-era Pentagon personnel chief, recommended significant changes in mobilization policies, some of which would require action by Congress. Korb is now with the Center for Defense Information and the Center for American Progress.
For starters, Korb said, the total military obligation should be revamped. The Army is in the midst of its first-ever call-up of 6,000 soldiers in the Individual Ready Reserve, a manpower pool of those who have already served on active duty but who still have a reserve commitment. Most have established themselves in civilian life and are pursuing careers or going to college.
The total military obligation for an enlistment is eight years. Someone who enlists for four years and then leaves active duty, for example, still must “serve” another four years in the IRR, although they are not required to drill, train or perform any military duty in that status.
Korb said that commitment should be changed to “a six-year obligation or four years of active duty, whichever comes first.” That way, those serving a four-year enlistment would know they don’t risk an involuntary call-up.
Also, Korb said, service members should be subject to possible “stop-loss” policies only once in their careers. The services use stop-loss to freeze unit rotations, including the postponement of scheduled separations until after a unit serves its combat tour.
A service member affected once by stop-loss “should not be subject to that again,” Korb said.
Currently, the Marine Corps is rotating its troops through Iraq in seven-month stints. But Army officials have said they don’t have enough soldiers to man a six- or seven-month rotation policy. The Army has about 500,000 soldiers, which includes a temporary wartime increase of about 20,000.
Pat Towell, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said leaders should pay heed to two earlier wars — in Vietnam and Korea — that were entered with initial enthusiasm followed by setbacks large enough that “the country gave up.”
Towell noted that “the quality of leadership in Vietnam collapsed” as noncommissioned officers grew frustrated with repeated rotations into the combat zone.
Midlevel NCOs were “going back a second, a third time,” Towell said. “And they said, ‘Who needs this?’”
That resulted in the Army creating ever-younger sergeants, to the point that the best recruits in basic training were pulled out for 22-week NCO training, and then put in charge of other troops.
Troops or weapons?
Against strong protests from the Pentagon, Congress is adding 30,000 soldiers and 9,000 Marines to the active-duty force.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld opposes the increases, saying they are a costly solution to what might be a temporary “spike” in overseas deployments. Rumsfeld instead advocates a more efficient use of manpower, transferring troops out of rear-area missions that can be performed by civilians.
Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that increasing the size of the armed forces by 39,000 troops will cost $3.5 billion to $5 billion a year — roughly 1 percent of the annual defense budget.
Korb said military leaders have resisted more troops because the cost would have to be covered by reduced spending for other programs.
“Do you want the F-22, national missile defense or 40,000 troops for the Army?” Korb asked. “You have to make trade-offs.”
11-05-04, 10:09 AM
November 08, 2004
Wounded air controller stayed on the job; gets the Bronze Star
By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Calling for fire during the Marine assault on Fallujah, Iraq, this past spring was true “in your face” combat for Capt. Donald G. Maraska.
For three weeks in April, the forward air controller and his fellow leathernecks with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, lived in shattered shops and warehouses on the outskirts of Fallujah during the assault on that insurgent-held city.
For his valor in that fight, Maraska received the Bronze Star with combat “V” device in an Oct. 22 ceremony at Camp San Mateo here.
Maraska directed AC-130 Spectre gunship fire onto targets, and also led an F-15E jet in a strike on one hundred or so enemy fighters who were massing near a platoon trapped in an ambush.
On April 7, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded under a Humvee 10 feet away, knocking Maraska off his feet.
“It was loud and dirty and kind of confusing,” said Maraska, 38, of Moscow, Idaho. “It knocked a bunch of us down.”
Despite wounds to his left leg and side, Maraska continued to direct fire to a mosque where enemy and sniper fire threatened Marines with Alpha Company.
Fortunately, that KC-130 pilot is one aviator who knows ground combat.
Maraska, the son of an Air Force pilot, began his career as an enlisted reconnaissance Marine. He fought in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and served in Somalia during his first enlistment.
After leaving the Corps for college, Maraska was commissioned and earned his aviator wings. During a tour with the “Raiders” of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, he flew combat missions in Pakistan and Afghanistan and during last year’s invasion of Iraq, and then joined 1/5.
For the battalion, Maraska was the right man in the right spot. Whenever there was an AC-130 Spectre overhead, the aircraft kept enemy action in check.
“It shut them down,” he said. “They couldn’t move at night.”
However, Maraska’s quick to downplay his contributions, crediting his fellow 1/5 Marines.
“Those people are warriors, the bravest, craziest people I’ve met,” he said. “Any award I get belongs to Alpha Company. I just happen to be the guy who pinned it on.”
Maraska, who was selected to become a V-22 Osprey pilot, recently was accepted to the Special Education Program as a manpower analyst.
He’s recovering from knee surgery for an injury he suffered during a rocket attack and jokes in explaining his injury that “I thought I did a 180, but I only did a 90.”
Maraska also suffered a stress fracture in his left leg and some nerve damage to his foot during his combat tour.
11-05-04, 11:30 AM
Military Hospital Set for Fallujah Assault
By JIM KRANE, Associated Press Writer
NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq - The combat hospital on the chief U.S. base near Fallujah has set up a morgue and doubled medical staff and supplies in preparation for an expected stream of casualties from an anticipated assault on the rebel stronghold.
"We've had 20 to 30 casualties on a given day here. We expect maybe double that on a serious day. And we can handle them," Capt. Eric Lovell, a Navy doctor, said Thursday at the base hospital, a low concrete building announced by a sign saying "Cheaters of Death."
The hospital added a Marine Mortuary Affairs team last month, a unit charged with identifying dead troops, cataloguing their personal effects and preparing their bodies for the flight to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
The morgue team counts 16 reservists trained in handling corpses of U.S. troops as well as Iraqi civilians and fighters that arrive at the hospital here, said Commander Lach Noyes, a Navy surgeon. The morgue team also travels to bomb scenes to recover body parts and corpses that need to be extracted from vehicles, Noyes said.
In hospital parlance, those killed in action are known as angels. In last weekend's suicide bombing of a truckload of Marines traveling south of Fallujah, the eight killed and nine injured came to the hospital.
"We took care of angels and wounded on that one," Noyes said.
The hospital's daily toil is grim. Patients arrive with devastating wounds. Common procedures include amputations or stabilizing broken bones or torn organs. The surgeons and staff say they cope, knowing the soldiers need them to be steady in the face of shocking carnage.
"The first patient I had was six hours after I got here," Lovell said. "His heart was out of his chest. I said 'Whoa, that's a shaker. Welcome to Fallujah.' But I'm more confident now."
Recovering in a rear wing were six of the nine Marines wounded in Saturday's suicide bombing, in which the bomber drove his explosives-laden car into a truckload of troops.
Staff Sgt. Jason Benedict, 28, of West Milford, N.J., said the truck was lifted by the titanic blast, which tossed Marines into the road. Benedict said he climbed out as a guerrilla ambush ensued and the Marines' own ammunition began exploding in the inferno.
"I saw one of my Marines, a young lance corporal, he was crawling away into the ditch," said Benedict, his face still glistening with burn scars.
Many of the Marines still recovering said they were eager to rejoin their units and expected to fight in the upcoming assault on Fallujah.
"I'm nervous for them but I know for a fact they're going to tear the place to pieces," said Lance Cpl. Nicholas Peel, 19, of Boise, Idaho. "It's kind of a justice after what they did to us."
11-05-04, 12:13 PM
Taking the 'No Go' City
By Ed Offley
Nov. 4, 2004
It's time for some blunt talk about the imminent battle of Fallujah, a fight that has been unavoidable for months, and is now inevitable in the aftermath of the U.S. elections and failed negotiations between the Baghdad government and the insurgents.
It's time for Americans here at home to realize what our troops in Iraq have known for weeks: American Marines and soldiers are going to die in the city, fighting in the dust and mud, perhaps in large numbers.
More Iraqi insurgents than Americans are going to perish in the streets of Fallujah. Inevitably, a number of innocent Iraqi men, women and children are going to be caught in the crossfire. If there is any good news in the detailed news accounts coming from both sides of the standoff, it is that most civilians in Fallujah have already fled the city, so "friendly fire" casualties hopefully will be held to a bare minimum.
Nevertheless, American troops will face a challenge that their enemies willfully disdain, avoiding the accidental killing of noncombatants at times that increases the direct risks that they themselves must face.
The U.S. military's high-tech weapons and global command-and-control network will contribute to success. In recent weeks, the Air Force and Army aviation have repeatedly struck at dozens of suspected terrorist sites within Fallujah using smart sensors and precision-guided munitions.
However, in the end it will be the moral superiority of the American fighting man - his training, courage and teamwork - that will ultimately help our troops prevail over the enemy's booby traps, civilian human shields and suicidal tactics. While prolonged training and detailed preparation define the U.S. military's fighting superiority, it will most likely be the improvisational skills of junior officers and NCOs that create the smaller victories that lead to ultimate battlefield success.
But the battle for Fallujah will not end when the fighting is over. The killing or capture of the insurgent fighters will only signal the end of one phase in the struggle for the city, the Sunni Triangle, and Iraq itself. Regaining control of Fallujah is crucial to weakening the deadly Sunni Muslim insurgency and smoothing the road to Iraqi national elections slated for January, but maintaining stability in a post-insurgent Fallujah will take all of the counterinsurgency skills that the U.S. military can muster.
A Los Angeles Times reporter accompanying the Marines near Fallujah this week quoted one senior U.S. commander: "Even more important than the battle is the aftermath. The Iraqis need to go in there like the American government goes into Florida after a hurricane. They need to be seen on the ground helping people."
Recognizing the error from the cease-fire in Fallujah last April, when ill-trained Iraqis deserted en masse when confronted by the insurgents, and Marines were ordered to pull back, creating a "no go" zone in the city where insurgents flourished, U.S. commanders are now preparing to send a larger, better-prepared force of Iraqi personnel into Fallujah once the fighting is over. The Los Angeles Times noted:
"Several thousand Iraqi police, national guardsmen and army personnel are said to be poised to move into Fallujah to help maintain order once the Marines have secured the city. Most are not from Fallujah, and thus are resistant to the intimidation that contributed to the failure of the Fallujah Brigade, the special unit of Iraqi forces set up in April to help maintain the peace. Many members [of that unit] turned out to be insurgents or sympathizers. In addition, tens of millions of dollars in reconstruction funds may be spent on projects … once the fighting stops. Marine lawyers are traveling with combat units, ready to handle compensation claims for battle damage."
Even so, the critical "front" of the battle for Fallujah will not be in Iraq at all. It will be in every house in America, including the White House.
What the Iraqi insurgents have learned in the past year of fighting is that they - like the Palestinians in Gaza, the Somalis in Mogadishu, and the Viet Cong in the central highlands - cannot prevail against conventional military firepower. Their strategic target is American (and western) public opinion. Their only hope of success is that enough televised beheadings of kidnapped civilian hostages will overthrow public opinion and prompt an American military exodus from Iraq.
So it is not just time for our brave Marines to gird themselves for the battle of Fallujah. It is time that each one of us here at home recognize the strategic importance of this battle and gird ourselves for the hard tasks and horrific TV images to come.
---Ed Offley is Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send Feedback responses to email@example.com.
11-05-04, 01:20 PM
U.S. steps up Falluja strikes
Iraqi leader issues warning as offensive looms
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Gearing up for a full-scale offensive, U.S. warplanes overnight attacked targets in the insurgent stronghold of Falluja, west of Baghdad.
Against this backdrop, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Friday that the "window is closing" for a peaceful settlement in the "Sunni Triangle" city.
"We intend to liberate the people and bring the rule of law" to the city, Allawi said in Brussels, Belgium, as he visits the European Union and NATO to discuss aid for his fledgling government.
Allawi's remarks came amid plans for an expected attempt by American and Iraqi troops to oust insurgents from Falluja.
In separate strikes, U.S. Air Force and Marine aircraft destroyed suspected insurgent buildings, barriers used as fortifications, an offensive position that stored explosives, fighting positions and a weapons cache.
A Marine spokesman said a significant amount of munitions was recovered, then destroyed.
A hospital official in Falluja said that two women were critically injured in a U.S. operation.
On Friday, an American soldier died and five others were wounded as "the result of an indirect fire attack" on a base near Falluja, the U.S. military said.
In Al Anbar province, where Falluja and Ramadi are located, two U.S Marines were killed and four others wounded Thursday, a U.S. military spokesman said.
In the northern Iraqi city of Balad, a roadside bomb hit a U.S. military convoy Thursday night, killing one 1st Infantry Division soldier and wounding another, the U.S. military said.
The number of U.S. military fatalities in the war totals 1,128.
Karl Penhaul, a CNN correspondent embedded with Marines near Falluja, said C-130s could be heard attacking targets, probably with 105 mm cannons.
The major assault on Falluja is expected soon, so the region can be pacified before the January elections for a transitional national assembly.
The strikes are aimed at the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi terror network and other militants, who have a strong presence in the city 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of the Iraqi capital.
The assault is being planned at a camp outside the city, where Marines are rehearsing urban warfare. They are studying fighting techniques used in Vietnam in the 1960s, in the Israeli-occupied territories, Chechnya and Somalia.
Commanders said they expect to encounter booby-trapped buildings, roadside bombs, suicide car bombs and rooftop snipers.
Military officials said there are scores of mosques used as insurgent sniping positions, command and control posts, and combat clinics.
Marines will work to surprise the insurgents by moving in quickly with infantry, tanks and attack helicopters.
Marines estimate most residents of the city -- which once had a population of 250,000 -- have fled, and about 50,000 civilians are left.
It is believed that the city holds 2,000 to 5,000 insurgents, who communicate with cell phones, carrier pigeons and flags.
Booby traps found
In Ramadi, U.S. forces said they defused explosives rigged to detonate inside a youth center used by dozens of children. Tons of explosives were found hidden in a mosque.
In the Baquba region, north of Baghdad, insurgent attacks over the last 24 hours claimed the lives of three Iraqis.
Two of the civilians killed were children who died when a mortar landed on their house near a police station. Three women were wounded.
11-05-04, 01:26 PM
U.S. Jets Strike Fallujah With Five Raids
By TINI TRAN, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. jets struck Fallujah with five air raids in 12 hours, softening up the insurgent stronghold for an expected major assault. Guerrillas responded with a rocket attack Friday, killing a U.S. soldier and wounding seven others, the U.S. military said.
Iraq (news - web sites)'s interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, warned that the "window is closing" for a peaceful settlement to avert an offensive on Fallujah, west of Baghdad. U.S. troops sealed off roads into the city overnight.
U.S. commanders said a combined U.S.-Iraqi force would carry out the attack on what is considered the insurgents' strongest bastion. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi must give the green light for the operation — part of a campaign to uproot insurgents ahead of vital elections planned for late January.
The deadly rocket attack came a day after two American Marines were killed and four others were wounded Thursday in fighting west of Baghdad.
The rocket attack occurred about 1:20 p.m. Friday against a U.S. position outside Fallujah. Also on the outskirts of Fallujah, guerrillas attacked two new checkpoints set up by U.S. forces, prompting exchanges of fire that killed at least one attacker, the military said.
In another incident, mortar shells exploded on a small U.S. base at Saqlawiyah west of Fallujah, the military said. U.S. troops returned fire, killing an undetermined number of insurgents, the military said.
Elsewhere, three British soldiers were killed Thursday south of Baghdad and eight others were wounded when a suicide driver blew up his vehicle at a checkpoint. An Iraqi translator also died in the attack.
It was the single biggest loss of life for the British since August 2003 and came only days after British troops redeployed from the relative safety of the south to the base close to Baghdad in order to free up U.S. troops for a Fallujah offensive.
Ayad Allawi suggested Friday that the offensive could come soon. "We intend to liberate the people and to bring the rule of law to Fallujah," Allawi told reporters in Brussels, where he was appealing to European nations to keep troops in Iraq and to accelerate training of Iraqi forces.
"The window really is closing for a peaceful settlement," he said.
"We have been asked by the people of Fallujah to help them liberate them from the terrorists and insurgents," he said. Allawi said most to the city's civilian population had left.
However, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) warned that the election could be undermined by a new campaign against Fallujah because of a possible backlash from the Sunni Muslim community.
In a letter dated Oct. 31, Annan told American, British and Iraqi leaders that the United Nations (news - web sites) wants to help prepare for the elections but fears a rise in violence could disrupt the process.
"I have in mind not only the risk of increased insurgent violence, but also reports of major military offensives being planned by the multinational force in key localities such as Fallujah," Annan wrote in the letter, obtained by The Associated Press.
U.S. airstrikes early Friday hit a system of barriers rigged with bombs in the southeastern part of Fallujah, a command post, suspected fighting positions and a weapons cache, said Lt. Nathan Braden, of 1st Marine Division.
Explosions could be heard in the southern part of Fallujah Friday afternoon.
Also Friday, U.S. Marines fired on a civilian vehicle that did not stop at a checkpoint in Fallujah, killing an Iraqi woman and wounding her husband, according to the U.S. military and witnesses. The car didn't notice the checkpoint at the time, witnesses said.
"Marines fire upon vehicles only as a last resort when verbal and visual warnings to stop fail. Such was the case today," the Marines said in an e-mailed response.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi election commission said that Iraqis who live outside the country will be allowed to vote in the election, which is to be held by Jan. 31.
Commission spokesman Fareed Ayar said the government planned to establish voting centers in countries with large Iraqi populations. Details of how many centers, where they would be located and which countries would be involved have not been finalized, he said.
Iraqi authorities have put together a team of Iraqi administrators to run Fallujah after the offensive, Marine Maj. Jim West said Thursday. West said $75 million has been earmarked to repair the city.
The strategy is similar to one used when U.S. troops restored government authority in the Shiite holy city Najaf last August after weeks of fighting with militiamen.
The deteriorating security situation prompted the humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders (news - web sites), to announce it was closing its operations in Iraq. CARE International withdrew from the country after its national director, Margaret Hassan, was kidnapped last month.
An Iraqi known for cooperating with Americans was killed near Ramadi, police said. The assailants stopped a car carrying Sheik Bezei Ftaykhan, ordered the driver to leave and pumped about 30 bullets into the sheik's body, police said.
The wave of violence in Iraq has also been marked by the kidnapping of more than 170 foreigners, more than 30 of them killed, since Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime fell in April 2003.
On Friday, Nepal's Foreign Minister confirmed a Nepalese man abducted by gunmen Monday along with an American, a Filipino, and three Iraqis had been freed by his captors in Baghdad. Two Iraqi guards were released earlier in the week.
The American, whose identity has not been released, and Filipino accountant Robert Tarongoy, 31, are still missing. Both worked for the Saudi Arabian Trading and Construction Co., based in Riyadh.
A Lebanese American contractor was also seized in Baghdad earlier this week. His captors have also not identified themselves.
However, two Lebanese hostages held for more than a month were freed after a ransom was paid, one of the former hostages said Friday. Marwan Ibrahim Kassar and Mohammed Jawdat Hussein were released unharmed Wednesday and returned to Lebanon.
In other developments Friday:
_ Four buses carrying Shiite pilgrims to Karbala plunged into a river near Latifiyah in central Iraq, killing 18 people on board, when the drivers apparently failed to see that a bridge had been destroyed two days earlier by insurgents, said Dr. Dawoud al-Taie of nearby Mahmoudiya Hospital.
_ A private security company, Global Risk Strategies, said a British contractor was killed in a suicide car bombing at Baghdad airport Wednesday that also injured several Iraqi civilians.
_ In Muqdadiyah, north of Baghdad, a mortar shell targeting a police station fell short, killing two children in a nearby home, police said.
11-05-04, 04:18 PM
Some 10,000 GIs Ring Fallujah's Outskirts
By JIM KRANE, Associated Press Writer
NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq - More than 10,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines have taken positions around Fallujah for an expected assault, as U.S. jets pummeled insurgent targets Friday and troops blocked key roads. Iraq (news - web sites)'s prime minister warned the "window is closing" to avert an offensive.
Insurgents struck back, killing one U.S. soldier and wounding five in a rocket attack. Clashes were reported at other checkpoints around the city and in the east and north of Fallujah late in the day.
For the past three nights, long convoys of American soldiers from Baghdad and Baqouba have rolled onto a dust-blown base on the outskirts of Fallujah, a city that has become the symbol of Iraqi resistance. U.S. commanders here have been coordinating plans either to fight their way into the city or isolate it from the rest of Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland.
If they fight, American troops will face an estimated 3,000 insurgents dug in behind defenses and booby traps. Military planners believe there are about 1,200 hardcore insurgents in Fallujah — at least half of them Iraqis. They are bolstered by insurgent cells with up to 2,000 fighters in the surrounding towns and countryside.
In Brussels, Belgium, Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, warned that the "window is closing" to avert an assault on Fallujah, 40 miles west of the capital. Allawi must give the final go-ahead for the offensive, part of a campaign to curb the insurgency ahead of national elections planned for January.
Sunni clerics have threatened to boycott the election if Fallujah is attacked, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) has warned U.S., British and Iraqi authorities that a military campaign and "increased insurgent violence" could put elections at risk.
U.S. aircraft struck targets around Fallujah five times in 12 hours, starting late Thursday and continuing into the morning Friday. Targets included a system of barriers rigged with bombs, a command post, suspected fighting positions and a weapons cache, according to Lt. Nathan Braden of the 1st Marine Division.
Mortar shells exploded on a small U.S. base at Saqlawiyah west of Fallujah, the military said. U.S. troops returned fire, killing a number of insurgents, the military said.
Iraqi authorities closed a border crossing point with Syria, and U.S. troops set up checkpoints along major routes into the city. Marines fired on a civilian vehicle that did not stop at a checkpoint in Fallujah, killing an Iraqi woman and wounding her husband, according to the U.S. military and witnesses. The car didn't notice the checkpoint, witnesses said.
"Marines fire upon vehicles only as a last resort when verbal and visual warnings to stop fail. Such was the case today," the Marines said in a statement.
The violence came a day after two Marines were killed and four were wounded in fighting west of Baghdad. The Marine command gave no further details, citing security.
A U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle north of Baghdad on Thursday.
Elsewhere, U.S. Cobra attack helicopters fired Friday on insurgents operating an illegal checkpoint south of Baghdad, killing or wounding an "unknown number" of people, the military said.
Allawi has demanded that Fallujah hand over foreign extremists, including Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his followers, and allow government troops to enter the city.
"We intend to liberate the people and to bring the rule of law to Fallujah," Allawi said in Brussels after meeting with European Union (news - web sites) leaders. "The window really is closing for a peaceful settlement."
Allawi, a secular Shiite Muslim with strong ties to the CIA (news - web sites) and State Department, urged the Europeans to forge a "close and strategic partnership" with Iraq and called on NATO (news - web sites) to step up plans to train 1,000 officers a year for the Iraqi military.
EU leaders responded with a nearly $40 million offer to fund elections, including training for Iraqi vote monitors.
French President Jacques Chirac — who opposed the Iraq war — skipped a meeting with Allawi to fly to Abu Dhabi to pay his respects to the new president of the United Arab Emirates, who took over after the death of his father. Many saw it as a snub of Allawi, although Chirac denied that, describing his relations with the new Iraqi authorities as "excellent."
Allawi faces strong opposition to a Fallujah offensive from the Sunni minority. The Sunni clerical Association of Muslim Scholars has threatened to boycott the January election and mount a nationwide civil disobedience campaign.
A public outcry over civilian casualties prompted the Bush administration to call off the siege of Fallujah in April, after which the city fell under control of radical clerics and their followers.
Those warnings were echoed by Annan in a letter dated Oct. 31 to American, British and Iraqi leaders. A copy was obtained by The Associated Press.
"I have in mind not only the risk of increased insurgent violence, but also reports of major military offensives being planned by the multinational force in key localities such as Fallujah," Annan wrote.
Nevertheless, U.S. and Iraqi authorities appear committed to a showdown with the city of an estimated 300,000 residents.
In hopes of assuaging public outrage, Iraqi authorities have put together a team of administrators to run Fallujah after the offensive and have earmarked $75 million to repair the damage, Marine Maj. Jim West said.
The strategy is similar to one used when U.S. troops restored government authority in the Shiite holy city Najaf last August after weeks of fighting with militiamen.
The attack force includes one battalion from the Army's Texas-based 1st Cavalry Division, which has been placed under Marine command. The division's 2nd Brigade is relieving Marines of control of surrounding farmland and villages.
The Army's 1st Infantry Division also sent a battalion from its base near Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, that is expected to join the Marine-led assault.
Troops from the Army's 2nd Infantry Division are expected to seal off western approaches to the city. Also, an Army Military Police battalion, based at Fort Carson, Colo., and a tank platoon and battalion of the Army's new Stryker armored vehicles, from the 25th Infantry Division's Stryker Brigade, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., have been earmarked for the operation.
The massed forces also include scattered Army logistics units, a Military Intelligence company, Psychological Operations troops and Air Force forward air controllers to help pinpoint airstrikes.
11-05-04, 04:54 PM
Apache Pilots Save Comrades in Daring Rescue
By Cpl. Benjamin Cossel, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP TAJI, Iraq, Nov. 5, 2004 -- For two AH-64D Apache Longbow pilots, the night of Oct. 16 was just a regular night flying a reconnaissance mission around southern Baghdad.
Then a distorted cry for help came across the emergency radio, shattering the chatter of all other communications. They recognized the call sign; they recognized the area; and a few minutes later, they were en route to perform what would become a heroic rescue.
"I really couldn't make out at first what was going on. The transmission over the radio was broken up and weak, but I could make out that it was a distress call," said Lodi, Calif., native Army Chief Warrant Officer Justin Taylor, an Apache pilot with Company C, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, of the 4th Brigade Combat Team.
At first, the transmission seemed as though it might be coming from a U.S. Marine Corps aircraft. The call sign of another aircraft speaking to the downed pilot was of Marine Corps designation, Taylor said. He radioed to Marine Corps headquarters asking if any aircraft of theirs was down in the area. The response came back -- negative.
Then a call sign familiar to Taylor and Capt. Ryan Welch, the air mission commander, came across the guard, or emergency, channel. The two men now knew that Army OH-58D Kiowa helicopter pilots were down.
"We're in zone 43," came the weak transmission.
"I recognized the area and immediately made the decision that we were going to break from our sector and go over to the area," said Lebanon, N.H., native Welch. "Those were our guys on the ground, and we had to help. My first thought was we would provide aerial security."
As the team changed flight paths, they notified the USMC aircraft they had heard earlier of their intentions and made a call to 4th BCT headquarters to alert the unit to their movement.
When they arrived in the area of the crash site, they began trying to contact the pilots on the ground.
"As soon as we told the Marines what we were doing, a call came up on the guard channel. It was the same call sign but a different numerical designation," Welch explained.
The wounded pilot explained that the pilot who had called previously was now unable to respond, that two other pilots had been killed in action, and that he and the other survivor were trying to make their way to a defensible position but were having difficulty because one of the wounded men was unable to walk.
"When we flew over the sector, we immediately picked up the heat signature of a burning fire," said Welch.
"But at first we weren't sure what it was. It kind of looked like one of the many trash fires you see all over Baghdad," Taylor added.
While the two were flying over the fire trying to get a better look at the ground, an excited call came up. "You just flew over our position," the transmission informed.
Welch's wingman noticed the emergency strobe on the ground and notified Welch of the positive identification.
"Once we had identified the crew on the ground, I made the call that we were going to land and get those pilots out of there," Welch said. "I had no idea of the situation on the ground or what the landing zone looked like, so I informed my wingman to fly a tight defensive circle around our position to provide cover if needed.
"As we landed and I got all the cords off of me, I looked back at (Taylor) and told him if he started taking fire, (he should), 'Get this bird out of here, leave me, and we'll collect all of us later.'"
Welch had landed his Apache approximately 100 meters from the crash site. Armed with his 9 mm pistol and an M4 Carbine rifle, he set out to collect the downed pilots.
Welch contacted the pilots and asked if they were able to come to him themselves. Again it came over the radio that one of the pilots couldn't walk. They would need help getting out of their location.
"I basically had to stumble my way through an open field. It was treacherous, with potholes and low brush. I stumbled a couple times," recalled Welch. "But I finally came up on the crash site about 10 minutes later."
When Welch arrived on the scene he saw one pilot standing and one sitting. The two had been able to get a fair distance away from the aircraft.
"As I came up on them, I noticed they looked pretty bad, multiple cuts on their face and both looked like the early stages of shock had set in. I called out to (Army Chief Warrant Officer Chad Beck), who was standing, to get him to help me with (Chief Warrant Officer Greg Crow)," Welch said. "It took a few seconds to get Mr. Beck's attention as he was visibly shaken and dazed."
Both of the downed pilots were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division. Their unit is attached to the 4th BCT, Welch's unit.
As the two got Crow up and began the long trek back to Welch's Apache, the mess of tangled cords attached to their equipment nearly tripped them up. "We stumbled initially with all those wires just everywhere," Welch said. "I pulled out my knife and just cut them all away, and we took off."
Assisting two wounded men over the treacherous 100 meters to his waiting Apache, Welch said the time seemed to slow down to an absolute crawl. They inched their way back, working carefully not to further injure Crow.
"We had to move kind of slow," he explained. "I swear it probably took us like 10 minutes to get back, but it seemed like we were out there for hours. I was never so relieved to see (Taylor) and my bird sitting there."
Four personnel to get out and only two seats in the Apache posed a problem. Self-extraction was a maneuver the pilots had been told about in flight school -- a maneuver considered dangerous enough that no practical application was given, just the verbal "here's how you do it."
Hanging from every pilot's flight vest is a nylon strap attached to a carabiner. On the outside of the Apache there are handholds bolted on primarily to assist maintenance crews as they work on the birds. But, they also have another purpose -- to be used in the event of a self-extraction. The general idea is for the pilot to wrap a nylon strap through the handholds and then connect the strap to the carabiner. The aircraft then flies off to a safe location with the person attached to the outside of the aircraft.
"I knew getting back to my bird that Mr. Crow was in no position for self- extraction -- that I would have to put him in the front seat," explained Welch. "I radioed to (Taylor) and told him what I intended to do -- Crow in the front seat, Beck and I strapped to the outside."
At first Taylor just looked at Welch, a little surprised at the plan. "It kind of surprised me at first. And then I just thought, 'Cool, that's what we're going to do,'" said Taylor.
Beck and Welch worked to get Crow into the front seat as Welch explained what was next to Beck. "At first Beck really didn't want to leave. His commander had just been killed, and he still wasn't thinking 100% clearly."
"I can't go; I just can't go," pleaded Beck, but soon enough he understood the situation.
And then another problem surfaced. "The mechanism Kiowa pilots use for self- extraction is different than the setup Apache pilots use," explained Welch. "But we finally got it worked out, got Beck hooked up, and then secured myself to the aircraft."
Secured and assuming a defensive posture with his rifle, Welch gave Taylor the thumbs-up sign and the Apache lifted off. "I was a little bit freaked out," explained Taylor. "You just don't fly an Apache by yourself; it's definitely a two-man aircraft"
At 90 miles per hour the helicopter flew 20 kilometers to Forward Operating Base Falcon, the closest base with a combat support hospital.
"I only had my night visor on," said Welch. "I thought my eyes were going to rip out of my sockets and that my nose would tear from my face, the wind was so strong."
Landing on the emergency pad, Welch and Taylor helped medical personnel take Beck and Crow inside for treatment.
"One of the medics asked me if I was a medical-flight pilot," chuckled Welch. "You should have seen the look on his face when I told him, 'Nope, I'm an Apache pilot.'"
With the patients safely delivered to the hospital, the two exhausted pilots looked at each other with the same thought. "We both climbed back into our bird," Welch said, "and almost simultaneously said to each other, 'Lets go home.'"
(Army Cpl. Benjamin Cossel is assigned to the 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)
11-05-04, 06:52 PM
Soldiers Killed in Separate Incidents, Aircraft Pound Fallujah
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2004 -- Two U.S. soldiers died in separate incidents in Iraq Nov. 4 and today.
A 13th Corps Support Command soldier was killed and five others were injured today in an attack on a Multinational Force Iraq base near Fallujah. The injured soldiers were taken to a military medical facility on Camp Fallujah; one returned to duty after treatment, and no report was available on the other soldiers' condition.
In Tikrit, a 1st Infantry Division soldier was killed and another was wounded when their vehicle was struck with an improvised explosive device near Balad on Nov. 4. The wounded soldier was taken to a military treatment facility. No report was available on the soldier's condition.
For the second straight day, Air Force bombers struck targets in Fallujah, Iraq, "giving insurgents there notice that the possibility of a full-scale assault on the city is imminent," a written statement from Multinational Force Iraq said today.
Late in evening Nov. 4 and early this morning, U.S. military aircraft launched several air strikes against fortified barricades throughout Fallujah.
Around 8 p.m. Nov. 4, Air Force aircraft supporting Marine Corps elements destroyed two buildings fortified by armed insurgents in the southeastern part of the city. At 8:25 p.m., another strike by U.S. Marine Corps aircraft destroyed barriers in the same area. Moments later, an IED-laden offensive position in the southeast part of the city was hit, and secondary explosions were observed.
Later, Air Force aircraft supporting a Marine element destroyed barricaded fighting positions in the northern part of the city. The bombing continued early this morning, with Marine aircraft using precision munitions to destroy a weapons cache.
Military officials also reported evidence that indicates insurgents may be targeting children.
An Army unit assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force discovered and defused an explosive-laden youth center in Ramadi Nov. 4. The building was rigged to detonate and potentially kill dozens of Iraqi children.
After a thorough investigation of the youth center, the soldiers discovered the explosives were rigged to detonate three ways: through a light switch, by remote control and by wiring that ran from the youth center to the nearby Al- Haq Mosque, where the unit discovered the firing mechanism.
Meanwhile, at another mosque, soldiers discovered more than two tons of ammunition, explosives, mortar systems and rocket-propelled grenades. Artillery rounds, assault rifles and various IED-making materials were found as well. Fifty suspected insurgents were detained during the sweep.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)
11-05-04, 07:02 PM
The embeds are back as deadly assault on Fallujah looms
Editor and Publisher
Nov. 5, 2004
NEW YORK The embeds are back. With a U.S. military assault on Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah pending, there has been a surge in news organizations seeking embedded slots with the Marine unit there, Pentagon officials told E&P today.
All 70 embed slots with the First Marine Expeditionary Force were filled two days ago, according to Sgt. Eric Grill of the Press Information Center in Baghdad.
That same Marine unit had only 15 embeds just one month ago. "It's filled up," Grill told E&P Friday. "There are no more slots."
Embedded journalists in Iraq, which topped 800 at the height of the combat in 2003, have since dwindled to the double digits in the past year or so. But several newspapers said they had sought to return reporters and photographers to the Marine unit outside Fallujah as the likely assault looms.
"That is the only way to do it," said Phil Bennett, foreign editor of The Washington Post, which embedded reporter Jackie Spinner with the Marine unit a week ago. "We also have permission to embed a photographer as well, and we are trying to do that."
Bennett said Spinner had been assigned to Baghdad, but moved her location to prepare for the attack.
The Boston Globe also added an embed, placing reporter Anne Barnard, who had been Baghdad, with the Marines on Sunday. Her stories since have included a piece in Friday's paper about how medical forces are beefing up in preparation for the attack, expecting high U.S. casualties in what could be, she wrote, "the bloodiest day" in the entire war.
Roy Greene, a deputy foreign editor at the Globe, said Barnard had embed equipment with her that included a bullet-proof vest and helmet.
"It is dangerous because of mortar attacks and other things," he said. "But we thought we'd get a good opportunity for a real close-up view. If events warrant, we will consider adding more."
Meanwhile, Tom Lasseter of Knight Ridder/Tribune, writing under the dateline "with U.S. Forces near Falluljah," also led his story with military hospitals' preparations. A senior surgeon said the number of dead and wounded will probably reach levels "not seen since Vietnam."
Lasseter reported that one hospital has added two operating rooms and doubled its supplies, preparing to treat 25 severely injured soldiers a day, not including the dead and those who can still walk. The article ended with comment from one soldier that the fight for Fallujah is "overdue."
The New York Times article today placed heavy emphasis on this eagerness of troops. Reporter Robert F. Worth described the urban-warfare drills and the scene at the military base, where 29-year-old Lance Cpl. Dimitri Gavriel reported Marines are "locked, cocked and ready to rock."
Newsday, in Long Island, N.Y., printed another hospital article by Matthew McAllester, a staff correspondent. "Thursday afternoon," he wrote, "while reporters were visiting the hospital, the medical staff received an all-too-familiar delivery: Two Marines and an American freelance photographer who had embedded with their unit had been injured, their light armored vehicle hit by a roadside bomb."
McAllester said the hospital had set up triage tents and brought in additional mortuary staff. "We've been living by the creed that if you build it they will come," said Capt. Eric Lovell, an emergency medicine specialist. According to McAllester, "Commanders here have told reporters they expect casualties if the battle begins."
A number of larger papers, including the Chicago Tribune and USA Today, ran Associated Press stories or compiled stories from other wire services. An article from "near Fallujah" by AP reporter Edward Harris reported that U.S. commanders, who expect a tough fight, are stressing that orders to attack must come from Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Harris also interviewed a number of the troops and noted that many of them "privately owned up to an amount of trepidation."
Harris ended with a comment on one reason for the soldiers' motivation, quoting 25-year-old Lance Cpl. Mike Detmer saying, "This is the most important thing of my generation and I'm part of it. I can already see the pages in the history books."
11-05-04, 07:36 PM
Why I Serve: Trucker, Gunner Jobs Both Good Fit
By Master Sgt. Jack Gordon, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, BALAD, Iraq, Nov. 5, 2004 – "I wanted to join the Army since I was young," said Sgt. Lisa Phillips, 630th Transportation Company, from Washington, Pa.
"I knew I couldn't go full-time, but it was always something I wanted to do," he said. So seven years ago, Phillips enlisted in the Army Reserve. Before being mobilized with the 630th in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, she was assigned to the 223rd Transportation Company from Norristown, Pa.
Many Army Reserve soldiers select an occupational specialty closely aligned with their civilian career, but not Phillips, who works as a security officer for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in Harrisburg, Pa. In the Army she is a trained truck driver, and not just a pickup, but rather a 915-series tractor-trailer.
"I like driving," she said, "so that's why I'm in transportation. Transportation is the best. I love moving the supplies that everybody needs – all the other things cannot happen unless we keep things moving."
The 630th's mission here is moving supply convoys from here to Forward Operating Base camps throughout Iraq. Anaconda is the centralized hub for supplies in the theater and home to some 23,000 soldiers, service members and civilian contractors. Once used by Saddam Hussein as a premier Iraqi air force base, Anaconda hosts the largest concentration of troops in Iraq. Dozens of convoys depart and return here every day, and all convoys must be escorted by gun trucks in accordance with security and force-protection policies.
Phillips said she switches off between driving or serving as a machine-gunner in the unit's gun trucks.
"It's nice to have the change," she said, adding that life as a soldier is also a big change. "I'm doing it full time now and it isn't bad. It's going pretty well – but I had set my expectations very low. When I got here and saw we had air-conditioned tents and showers, it had gone beyond my expectations."
The .50-caliber machine gun is a time-tested weapon in the Army's weapons inventory for decades, and is still considered a weapon of choice to engage enemy in vehicles or buildings. It has recoil like a jackhammer and muzzle control takes a lot of arm and body strength. On the 630th's gun trucks, Phillips mans the .50-cal.
"It's a very heavy weapon," she said. "It makes me feel good to know that the other soldiers can fall back on me if they need me. I'm comfortable with it … and I'm comfortable with all of our weapons. If I'm not, it could be my buddy who gets hurt, so I'd better be comfortable with it."
During the missions, Phillips said she has one thing on her mind. "I'm focused on the mission," she said. My main focus is staying alive and seeing that everyone else here is safe. I'm not in denial about getting hurt, but I keep away from the negative thinking – or I guess it's more preparing yourself – but I'd rather not prepare myself for that.
"We've been through (improvised explosive devices) and sniper fire. … You have to be observant of everything. There's so much going on when you're driving down the road, so I'm constantly watching," Phillips said.
Like many soldiers, Phillips attributes some of her patriotism to the tradition established by others in her family, and their earlier service to the nation's call to duty.
"My father and my uncle were both in the service, but the main reason I joined was my grandfather – Anthony Marciano," Phillips said. "He was my hero. He was my stepmother's father, so there was no blood relation, but he always treated me as if I were his own granddaughter. remember eating mussels in tomato sauce in front of the TV with him. I went with him wherever.
"He was in the Army in World War II. He was wounded by shrapnel in Germany," she continued. "The doctors told him he could go home … but he didn't. He went back. He just kept going – that means a lot to me. I hope to have 10 percent of the courage he had. He was kind and fair with people. I'd like to be the kind of person he was. He died two years ago. I know he'd be very proud of me."
Phillips said her family realizes the risk of her service here in Iraq. "My family misses me – I was always 'daddy's little girl,' so my father misses me a lot," she said.
"I have a big family and they're proud of me. They know the reason I'm here is because of all the other soldiers who are here. There are risks involved, but our unit is trained. If it happens … it happens, but we're going to keep driving on," said Phillips.
(Army Master Sgt. Jack Gordon is a member of the Army Reserve Public Affairs Acquisition Team.)
11-05-04, 08:36 PM
Iraq Insurgents Call for Hassan's Release
By NADIA ABOU EL-MAGD, Associated Press Writer
CAIRO, Egypt - The militant group al-Qaida in Iraq (news - web sites) purportedly called Friday for the release of the kidnapped executive of the CARE charity, Margaret Hassan, and promised to free her if she fell into their hands.
In a message posted on the Internet, the group led by Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said it wanted the world to know "if (the kidnappers of Margaret Hassan) handed us this captive, we will release her immediately unless it is proven she was conspiring against Muslims."
"We are demanding that those who are in charge of her release her unless she is proven to be an agent. If guilty, they should show that to everybody so as not to attribute something to our religion that is alien to it," the message said.
The authenticity of the statement could not be verified, but it was signed "al-Qaida in Iraq" and appeared on Web site known for publishing messages from Islamic militant groups. The person who posted it used the pseudonym Abu Maysara al-Iraqi — the name usually associated with statements from al-Zarqawi's group.
The statement appeared three days after a video was broadcast in which Hassan's kidnappers said Britain had 48 hours to withdraw its troops from Iraq or they would transfer her to al-Qaida in Iraq.
Al-Qaida in Iraq, which until recently called itself Tawhid and Jihad, has claimed responsibility for beheading a number of Western hostages, such as the American businessman Nick Berg and the British civil engineer Kenneth Bigley. It also claimed a series of major vehicle bombings, such the attack on the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad last year.
The director of CARE International in Iraq, Hassan, 59, was kidnapped Oct. 19 as she drove to work in Baghdad. Patients at a hospital run by CARE staged a small demonstration calling for the release of Hassan, who has Irish, British and Iraqi citizenship.
Videos of Hassan in captivity have been released, but no group has claimed responsibility for her abduction. In two of the videos, Hassan pleads for her life, saying she fears she will be beheaded.
For the first time in a statement purportedly from al-Zarqawi's band, Friday's message took pains to defend the group's actions, suggesting the militants wanted to distance themselves from their reputation as terrorists who kill hostages in cold blood and detonate car bombs that kill dozens of Iraqi civilians.
"We are not lovers of war or destruction," the statement said. "We don't adore blood and rejoice when it is spilled."
"We changed the plans for a number of decisive operations against the enemy because of the presence of a Muslim who would have been killed by the explosions, and we canceled martyrdom (suicide) operations out of concern for the blood of Muslim passers-by."
In a reference to Westerners and their Muslim critics, the message says: "When the infidels and apostates claim that the holy warriors are killing innocents and spilling their blood, this is a deceit of the mean."
The statement criticized the abduction of Hassan, saying: "God has taught us not to harm the women who don't fight us."
"Those who are using the captive as a playing card don't know our religion well," the statement added.
The message indicated Al-Qaida in Iraq objected to the kidnappers' saying they would hand Hassan over to the group. "There is no meaning in trying to outbid us and wave our name around," the statement said.
More than 170 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq since Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime fell in April 2003. More than 30 foreign hostages have been killed. Some kidnapping groups seek ransom, while others pursue political motives such as the withdrawal of foreign companies and troops from Iraq.
11-05-04, 09:01 PM
Annan warns against Fallujah blitz
From Marc Carnegie at the United Nations
November 6, 2004
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has warned the United States, Britain and Iraq that a planned assault on Fallujah could undermine planned elections in January.
Reports of the warning, sent in a letter to all three, emerged as Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi again warned that time was running out to avoid a full-on attack on the city, a stronghold of rebel insurgents.
A western diplomat familiar with the correspondence who asked not to be identified said all three nations were "furious" about the letter, which also warned that an attack on Fallujah could alienate some Iraqis.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Annan declined to comment on the letter, but suggested that the offensive would make it harder for some Iraqis to accept any result from the election.
"Of course there are some extremists whom one can never get into the process, but the more inclusive the process, the greater the possibility that it will succeed and the results of the elections will be productive," he said.
He said efforts had to be made "to win the hearts and minds of the people and to draw them in, so that at the end of the process, at the end of the elections, it is their product and people who have been involved".
US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher acknowledged differences with Mr Annan and said Secretary of State Colin Powell had spoken to the UN chief after the letter was received.
"In this regard, frankly, we differ. The Iraqi government has made very clear that they do have a strategy for resolving the problems of these towns like Fallujah," Mr Boucher said.
"Restoration of peace in Fallujah and other towns is very important to them and to us, and it needs to be done soon for the sake of the people who live there who deserve a chance to participate in the political process."
Mr Annan, a vocal critic of the US-led war, has agreed to help Iraqis prepare for the landmark election, but has limited the number of staff on the ground because of security concerns.
His top political official, Kieran Prendergast, said any comparison between the effectiveness of the UN mission to prepare the polls in January and the number of personnel was "too simple a view, and too crude".
He added: "Size doesn't always matter. I think we're actually trying to concentrate on the quality of our input."
The US military pounded suspected insurgent positions in Fallujah with artillery fire today as remaining residents were urged to leave amid more signs of an all-out assault against the rebel city.
The US military has tightened the noose around the insurgency bastion west of Baghdad in recent days as thousands of US soldiers and marines backed by members of Iraq's fledgling security forces gear for an offensive.
US planes have also been dropping leaflets urging residents still in the city to leave.
Thousands have fled Fallujah since a US campaign of air strikes started months ago in the hunt for Islamic militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his followers, who are believed to use the city as an operating base.
Zarqawi, a Jordanian national who is Iraq's most wanted man, is blamed for some of the worst bombings and kidnappings in the country since last year's US-led invasion. US and Iraqi troops have encircled Fallujah since mid-October.
In Brussels, Mr Allawi said the "window really is closing" for a peace settlement with the insurgents in the city.
"The Fallujah people, most of them, have left Fallujah. The insurgents and terrorists are still operating there," he said. "We hope they will come to their senses. Otherwise we have to bring them to face the justice."