View Full Version : Marines In Fallujah Turn To Diplomacy

11-23-04, 06:45 AM
Marines In Fallujah Turn To Diplomacy
Associated Press
November 23, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq - "Imagine it's your mother!" an Iraqi man shouts, demanding the Marine open a bridge north of Fallujah so an ailing woman can get medical treatment.

Capt. Alex Henegar winces but handles the complaint, using the type of on the fly diplomacy Marine officers believe can assuage angry Iraqis and draw them in to support the rebuilding of the city, devastated by the recent U.S. assault.

With rebels largely routed, Marines hope insurgent intimidation campaigns will be curtailed and that U.S. forces will be able to forge new relationships with Iraqis and pour development funds into the city to cement military gains.

"This leaves us ahead. It's hard to imagine, I know, because of the destruction. But things had been backsliding for months," says Henegar, a civil affairs officer attached to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

"This has allowed us to start over. We no longer have a haven of dark chaos in the heart of Iraq. In some cases, we need to break things down in order to start over," said the 30-year old from Lookout Mountain, Georgia, - a recent graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. "Security is a necessary condition for everything else."

At the scene at the bridge, Henegar promised the crowd that if it allowed the first post-assault humanitarian shipment to pass unimpeded, he would ask his superiors for permission to open the bridge permanently.

The Iraqi crowd nodded until an Army soldier angered by mortar fire coming from the ailing woman's village shouted at the interpreter: "Tell them as long as they're shooting at us, the bridge stays closed!"

"Whether they articulate it or not, everyone has a theory about what works" said Henegar, who was able to get the woman to medical care.

Marines say the restive Sunni Triangle, including Fallujah, is a particularly nettlesome environment for the development projects meant to win over Iraq's people.

Following an aborted Marine attack in April, rebels took over the city, which the U.S. military says became a locus for the bombings, ambushes and kidnappings plaguing the country.

Now, with dead bodies scattered over a devastated city nearly devoid of its 250,000 civilians, U.S. forces are turning to reconstruction efforts ahead of elections scheduled January 30.

Any success in calming the insurgency around Fallujah could be used as a model elsewhere in the country, they hope.

"If this (Fallujah) is a success story, then the message will be to get rid of the terrorists militarily and you're back on track," says civil affairs Lt. Col. Leonard De Francisci.

The U.S. forces plan to refurbish Fallujah's electrical grid and water-treatment facility, clear its roads of rubble and inspect buildings for structural soundness - and at least one military estimate says civilians won't return until February.

Together, the Iraqi government and U.S. military have set aside US$178 million (euro136.58 million) for immediate repairs.

Further out, there is US$1.2 billion (euro920 million) in long-stalled funds earmarked for Anbar province, part of the US$18.4 billion (euro14.1 billion) in U.S. taxpayer funds that Congress approved for rebuilding Iraq.

Officers say rebels intimidated many Fallujah residents, taking over homes and executing those who resist - stymieing U.S. efforts to spend money on people in and around the city.

"No amount of money I could have paid them would have allayed their fears," said Henegar. "The insurgents would simply say 'we'll cut off your head.' What's more compelling?"

In an initial, post-attack trust-building exercise, Henegar arranged with a local imam to have men from a nearby village help in removing the bodies of the estimated 1,200 insurgents killed in Fallujah since the Marine-led assault began Nov. 8.

The Marines hope the grisly task can establish relationships with local Iraqis needed as partners in reconstruction - and turn up leaders to help in the effort.

"The very first, most basic thing is engagement, building relationships. But the challenge is picking the right people with whom to engage. We really can't just reach down and pick leaders," says Henegar.

In the area near Fallujah, the entrenched leaders are often local sheiks, whose thicket of tribal and political affiliations aren't greatly understood by Marines.

One sheik helping in the body-collection effort, who gave his name to reporters as Abdul Hamid, smiles and joked with the Marines. But when they're not listening, he calls them the "Jew Americans."

The sheik denies to reporters that rebels ever had any presence in Fallujah, saying the Marines massacred only civilians.

"You can leave the city in the control of the sheiks and Iraqis," he tells the Marines, "because they are able men that people listen to and follow."

Marine civil affairs leaders say they're hoping to skirt politics in the short term, turning instead to people with established skills in running a metropolitan area.

"I'm going to look for a technocratic leadership, to administer the city and keep it running. I want to take the politics out of it," says De Francisci.

De Francisci, 39, from Melbourne, Florida, says Fallujah may not immediately have a thriving American-style democracy.

"What you're going to see is not Jeffersonian democracy, but probably some religious-style democracy," he said. "Not like you'd see in America, more like early Roman democracy. It won't be one person, one vote - more caucuses."


11-23-04, 06:46 AM
Funeral Set For Marine Whose Parents Fought Over Burial
Both Divorcees Wanted Grave Nearby

POSTED: 6:42 am PST November 22, 2004
UPDATED: 6:53 am PST November 22, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- A funeral will be held in Ventura, Calif., Monday for a 19-year-old Marine whose divorced parents fought over where he should be buried.

Marine Lance Corporal Nicholas Anderson will be buried with full military honors. He was killed on Nov. 12 in Iraq when his Humvee rolled over during a nighttime combat patrol.

Anderson's father lives in Ventura, and his mother lives in Las Vegas. They both wanted his grave nearby, so the Marine Corps stepped into the argument. It relied on an old military regulation and granted custody of his body to his eldest parent -- which is his father.

Officials at the Marine Corps casualty assistance branch say they had never before dealt with the type of dispute brought by Anderson's family. But, they say, the military is increasingly dealing with issues surrounding children of divorced parents.


11-23-04, 06:46 AM
November Death Toll In Iraq Tops 100
Associated Press
November 23, 2004

WASHINGTON - Three Marines who were wounded in action during the Fallujah offensive later died at American hospitals in Germany and the United States, the Pentagon said Monday, raising the U.S. military death toll in Iraq for November to at least 101.

Since the initial U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the only other month in which U.S. deaths exceeded 100 was last April, when insurgent violence flared and Marines fought fierce battles in Fallujah and Ramadi.

The Pentagon said two Marines died Saturday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Cpl. Joseph J. Heredia, 22, of Santa Maria, Calif., was wounded in action Nov. 10 in Fallujah, and Lance Cpl. Joseph T. Welke, 20, of Rapid City, S.D., was wounded there Nov. 19, officials said.

Landstuhl is a hub for seriously wounded U.S. soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan, and officials last week said the flow of injured to the hospital jumped to about twice the normal rate after the battle for Fallujah began.

Lance Cpl. Michael A. Downey, 21, of Phoenix, Ariz., died Friday at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He had been wounded Nov. 11 in Fallujah.

The official U.S. death toll for the Fallujah offensive, which began Nov. 7, has not been updated since Lt. Gen. John Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Nov. 18 that it stood at 51. But Monday's announced deaths mean the toll has risen to at least 54.

The Marines have suffered most of the Fallujah battle casualties. An exact number is not available because the Marines usually do not specify the city in which a casualty happened. Since Nov. 1, the Marines have had at least 69 deaths throughout Iraq - mostly in Fallujah. That is by far the deadliest month of the war for the Marines; their previous high was 52 last April.

Of the approximately 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, about 35,000 are Marines.


11-23-04, 06:47 AM
Meigs Marine wounded in Iraq <br />
By: JOHNNY HUTSELL-ROYSTER Staff Writer <br />
Source: The Daily Post-Athenian <br />
11-22-2004 <br />

11-23-04, 06:47 AM
Marines Take Aim at a New Hot Spot

U.S. and Iraqi forces launch a new offensive aimed at regaining control of northern Babil province just south of Baghdad.

By Bruce Wallace
Times Staff Writer

November 23, 2004

JABELLA, Iraq -- U.S. Marines accompanied by Iraqi security forces launched a new offensive early today aimed at regaining control of northern Babil province, a region just south of Baghdad beset by kidnappings, shootings and carjackings for more than a year.

Backed by helicopters and airplanes, the combined forces raided more than a dozen homes in this small market town and arrested 32 men who they believe have been involved in the long-running series of attacks on Iraqi national guardsmen, U.S. troops and civilians.

Over the next few days, officials said, more than 5,000 American and British troops, along with 1,200 Iraqis, were expected to take part in the offensive, dubbed Operation Plymouth Rock.

Terming it their first major post-Fallouja campaign to regain control of an insurgent-riddled area outside Baghdad, officials said they would continue a series of preplanned raids in towns and farming areas largely within a so-called "death triangle" of cities bordered by Latifiya, Mahmoudiya and Yousifiya. U.S. troops have also engaged in a series of counterattacks to quell resistance in Mosul, Baghdad and other towns in the wake of their offensive to regain control of the rebel stronghold of Fallouja.

"We are going to push the fight back out to the enemy while he's reeling," said Capt. Tad Douglas, 28, who led an elite reconnaissance platoon of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in the raids. "We've seen fighters from Fallouja filtering down here, and we're going to take the offensive while they're still licking their wounds."

The operation began in the predawn darkness less than a day after Iraqi security forces recovered 12 bodies in Latifiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, where kidnappings of highway travelers have been commonplace for months. Five of the bodies had been beheaded, and one was identified as that of an Iraqi national guardsman kidnapped from a nearby town several weeks ago.

Earlier this month, U.S. Marines found the bodies of about 20 Iraqi national guard recruits, some in civilian clothes, who had been killed execution-style in a mosque and elsewhere west of Latifiya.

The largely Sunni Muslim towns and small cities in this rural region just a short drive south of Baghdad are home to an estimated 1 million people and were a stronghold of deposed President Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

The region is also home to many of Hussein's Fedayeen fighters and elite Republican Guards, who were among the greatest losers in last year's U.S.-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq as Hussein's armed forces were defeated and then disbanded.

American officers believe Sunni rebels are also responsible for blowing up bridges and planting the roadside bombs that make north Babil a terrifying gantlet for anyone traveling between Baghdad and the Shiite Muslim cities to the south.

With operations in nearby Fallouja winding down, the Marines say they are now turning their attention to the problems south of Baghdad, where thousands of U.S. troops are being assisted by about 850 British soldiers who were recently dispatched from bases in southern Iraq to relieve U.S. forces preparing for Fallouja.

To succeed, the Marines, assisted by the British and Iraqi troops, will have to root out the insurgents among residents of the farming towns and villages that run along the Euphrates. Fed by the river and a network of canals, the land is a lush plain of farms and market towns, a landscape of high grass and deep ditches that provide cover for rebels setting up fake checkpoints or firing on convoys along the highway.

The area was also a center of Hussein's military industries and munitions plants and remains awash in explosives and skilled workers who know how to use them. Among the facilities in the region is the Al Qaqaa ammunition site, where about 380 tons of high-grade explosives were believed to have been looted after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003.

Marines have uncovered several weapons caches in northern Babil province buried in dirt fields. The arms include mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and 500-pound bombs. At this point, though, they believe they have made only a dent in the supply.

In undertaking the operation, Marine Col. Ron Johnson said the aim was to squeeze the insurgents by taking territory and freedom of movement from them. Johnson's 2,200 Marines at Forward Operating Base Kalsu have already increased their presence in the province through more aggressive patrolling of towns and back roads.

The heightened tempo is aimed at the insurgents or criminals who had grown accustomed to moving through the province with near-impunity. Marines have detained more than 600 Iraqis in raids or at roadblocks since early August.

"There are multiple factions competing for power with a multitude of interests — some of them are no more than thugs — and they want to take advantage of the chaos," said Johnson, who declared that "there will be no place my men won't go" in north Babil.

The insurgents have fired back on patrols and on low-flying helicopters backing up the ground forces. They have also planted more homemade bombs along the province's roads. The number of such explosive devices that have gone off or been defused has more than doubled since early fall.

It is not known how many of the fighters who fled Fallouja have retreated to north Babil. The Americans say they have received sketchy reports of sightings of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born militant who has taken credit for the beheadings of hostages and numerous attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.

As much of a prize as Zarqawi would be to the Marines, the American and British troops here say the fight in north Babil goes deeper, touching the heartland of the well-armed and desperate former fighters for Hussein's regime.

"You can't have a functioning country where Shiites cannot drive from their cities to the capital," said a senior military officer at Kalsu. "The insurgents know it. And everyone in Baghdad knows it."


Wallace is traveling with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Times staff writer Ashraf Khalil in Baghdad contributed to this report.


11-23-04, 06:48 AM
Three wounded Marines are dead

Trio had been injured in Fallujah battle.

By Robert Burns
AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON — Three Marines who were wounded in action during the Fallujah offensive later died at American hospitals in Germany and the United States, the Pentagon said Monday, raising the U.S. military death toll in Iraq for November to at least 101.
Since the initial U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the only other month in which U.S. deaths exceeded 100 was last April, when insurgent violence flared and Marines fought fierce battles in Fallujah and Ramadi.

The Pentagon said two Marines died Saturday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Cpl. Joseph J. Heredia, 22, of Santa Maria, Calif., was wounded in action Nov. 10 in Fallujah, and Lance Cpl. Joseph T. Welke, 20, of Rapid City, S.D., was wounded there Nov. 19, officials said.

Landstuhl is a hub for seriously wounded U.S. soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan, and officials last week said the flow of injured to the hospital jumped to about twice the normal rate after the battle for Fallujah began.

Lance Cpl. Michael A. Downey, 21, of Phoenix, Ariz., died Friday at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He had been wounded Nov. 11 in Fallujah.

The official U.S. death toll for the Fallujah offensive, which began Nov. 7, has not been updated since Lt. Gen. John Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Nov. 18 that it stood at 51. But Monday's announced deaths mean the toll has risen to at least 54.

The Marines have suffered most of the Fallujah battle casualties. An exact number is not available because the Marines usually do not specify the city in which a casualty happened. Since Nov. 1, the Marines have had at least 69 deaths throughout Iraq mostly in Fallujah. That is by far the deadliest month of the war for the Marines; their previous high was 52 last April.

Of the approximately 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, about 35,000 are Marines.

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces recovered 12 bodies, including five decapitated ones, from an area south of Baghdad, police said Monday. One was identified as a member of the Iraqi National Guard.

The bodies were found during a raid Sunday in Latifiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, said Lt. Adnan Abdullah. The bodies were taken to the hospital in nearby Mahmoudiya, about 25 miles south of Baghdad.

Five of the men were decapitated and the rest had been shot in the head, Abdullah said, adding the bodies were found in different areas in Latifiyah. Two were recovered from a canal and the others from orchards in the area, he said.

The bodies were dressed in civilian clothes.


11-23-04, 06:48 AM
Soldier Who Refused To Leave Killed
Associated Press
November 23, 2004

WEST SENECA, N.Y. - When a call to active duty interrupted National Guard Spc. David Roustum's final semester in college, his Syrian-born father suggested he could avoid combat by going to Syria.

"I would send you," the father offered.

"Dad, I would never do that. This is my country and I will do whatever it takes," was Roustum's reply, his now-grieving father recalled Monday after learning Roustum had been killed in Baghdad. "That tells you the kind of person he was."

Military officials told Russ Roustum and his wife, Jennifer, that their youngest son died in an ambush Saturday. At least three other soldiers from Roustum's 108th Infantry Regiment were wounded, the family said.

Three of the injured soldiers' mothers came to the Roustums' suburban Buffalo home Sunday to say they believe David Roustum, 22, saved their sons' lives.

"Two of them are severely injured but the other one was able to talk to his mother," Russ Roustum said.

The Roustums, who live in West Seneca, had no other details on the ambush, nor did a spokesman for the Army National Guard in Albany. The Department of Defense had not yet confirmed the death Monday.

Russ Roustum said the message from the soldiers' mothers did not surprise him. His son, Roustum said, was a leader who played quarterback for his Orchard Park High School football team and captained the club hockey team the year it went from last place to first.

Roustum, who followed his older brother into the military, had been months away from finishing an accounting degree at the University at Buffalo when he was sent to Iraq in March.

At the high school Roustum attended, flags flew at half-staff Monday and students and staff observed a moment of silence after being told of Roustum's death over the public-address system.

"David was an outstanding student, athlete, soldier and human being," said the principal, Robert Farwell.


11-23-04, 06:49 AM
Military Academy Admissions Down
Associated Press
November 23, 2004

WEST POINT, N.Y. - Applications are down at the nation's military academies, though administrators say the drop has been caused by factors other than any chilling effect from the war in Iraq.

West Point applications were off 11 percent as of Oct. 21 compared to a year earlier. The U.S. Naval Academy posted a 20 percent drop by the same week and the U.S. Air Force Academy reported a 9 percent drop compared to early October of last year.

The numbers are not final because application deadlines for the classes entering service academies in fall 2005 are still months away. And officials at all three academies noted that current application rates are within normal ranges, despite the one-year drop.

At West Point, U.S. Military Academy administrators say the lower numbers likely reflect the tail end of an application spike that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Naval Academy experienced a similar spike in the last two years, but officials there said it was difficult to speculate on reasons for yearly fluctuations.

The Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy all met or exceeded recruiting targets for the last year. The active-duty Army and the Army Reserve exceeded recruiting goals, while the Army National Guard fell short.

With death tolls mounting in Iraq, some military officials have said they worry lengthy deployments and hard combat could hurt recruiting.

But it's unclear whether a drawn out conflict will have an affect on military academies. While war can stir up patriotism and boost interest in military careers, the long, unpopular war in Vietnam was thought to have depressed application rates to West Point.

"I really have seen it dwindle in the last year, and that to me is curious," Brenda Melton, a counselor at the Navarro Academy in San Antonio, said. "I think part of it is that the war is a major topic and they see people getting killed over there and not everyone is in agreement with it."

U.S. Air Force Academy officials said applications got off to a fast start last year, and the rate is back to normal, with 6,952 by Oct. 4.

"That's usually where we're at this time of year," Capt. Kim Melchor said.

West Point's admissions officer, Maj. Dale Smith, said he's sure Iraq has convinced some young people that the academy is not for them. But, he said, it has not dissuaded enough people to affect application numbers, which were slightly above historical averages.

"We don't sugarcoat it at all," Smith said. "We tell them ... Every solider you see on TV in Iraq is led by a lieutenant, and those lieutenants come from West Point, and they come from ROTC."

West Point is the only service academy dealing with an above-average attrition rate for its Class of 2006 as of the start of this academic year. Of the 1,197 cadets who entered West Point in the summer of 2002, 904 remained by the end of August. The loss rate of 25 percent is greater than the previous five classes, which averaged a 20 percent loss rate.

Of two recent West Point dropouts who spoke on the condition of anonymity, one cited disenchantment with Army life and the other said Iraq was a major factor in his decision.

"I didn't want to be deployed in a war I didn't believe in," he said.


11-23-04, 07:51 AM
Weapons stockpile found in Mosul
Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq — U.S. forces uncovered on Monday a massive weapons stockpile that included anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles and a building filled with explosive materials outside the northern city of Mosul, the military said.
Troops from the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, unearthed the weapons cache about 45 kilometers south of Mosul in the village Shafaat, a statement said.

Among the weapons and munitions found were one anti-aircraft gun, 15,000 anti-aircraft rounds, 4,600 hand grenades, 144 grenade launchers, 25 surface-to-air missiles, 21 mortar rounds, 10 rockets and artillery rounds.

Soldiers also discovered a building full of explosive-making materials, the statement said. No other details were available.

The three-acre site has been secured and more weapons and munitions are expected to be uncovered, the military said.

Mosul is located 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.


11-23-04, 08:37 AM
November 22, 2004

Return date uncertain for Fallujah refugees

By Gordon Trowbridge
Times staff writer

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq — Fallujah has been freed from “a sick, depraved culture of violence,” but it is unclear when the thousands of residents who fled the city in recent weeks can return to their homes, Marine officials said Sunday.
The Iraqi interim government sent a small team to the city Sunday to begin setting up a civil administration for the former insurgent stronghold.

But Marine officers who briefed reporters Sunday evening said they could not estimate how long it would take to clear the last pockets of resistance, establish a municipal administration and provide basic services in a city shattered by nearly two weeks of combat — all of which are conditions for letting civilians back into Fallujah.

The uncertainty highlights an overarching challenge for the U.S.-led military occupation and U.S.-backed interim government. While conquering Fallujah was seen as a must in combating the insurgency and setting the stage for national elections planned for January, immense destruction and delays in returning the city to something close to normalcy threaten to further inflame Sunni Muslims already at the heart of the insurgency.

Still, Marine officials responsible for subduing the city said they will not unduly rush the reconstruction effort, and repeatedly said the Iraqi interim government, not the U.S. military, would decide when residents could return.

“I don’t think there’s pressure” to rush civilians back into the city, said Lt. Col. Michael Paulk, a civil affairs officer with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

Paulk outlined efforts to begin restoring electricity, water and sewer service to the city, including a plan to place water bladders at positions throughout the city so citizens could come draw water.

He also said military officials do not yet have a count of damaged or destroyed homes in the city, though he admitted damage was extensive. Journalists embedded with U.S. troops inside the city witnessed destruction on a massive scale, with entire city blocks of homes badly damaged or reduced to rubble.

Paulk indicated the $2,500 cap on compensation payments to Iraqi families that has been in place for months might not apply to Fallujah.

“Money is not the issue,” Paulk said. “The issue is properly compensating people for their loss of property or life.”

The first obstacle to the return of residents is safety. Lt. Col. Daniel Wilson, the expeditionary force’s deputy director of current operations, said there were as many as 50,000 buildings in the city, all of which must be checked room-by-room for insurgents and weapons.

Wilson said it’s not clear what percentage of the city remains to be cleared.

Despite the uncertainties ahead, Marine officers seem certain that they had dealt the Iraqi insurgency a serious blow.

“They no longer have a safe haven. They no longer have a place they can take hostages, torture and kill them,” said intelligence officer Maj. Jim West.

West said Marine and Army units had identified about 15 locations throughout the city they believed were used as torture or murder sites by insurgents. Some were believed to be sites were hostages whose capture had dominated Western media coverage of the insurgency had been held and killed.

“There was a sick, depraved culture of violence in that city,” said Wilson, the operations officer.


11-23-04, 08:42 AM
November 22, 2004

Force to be reckoned with
Corps kicks up martial arts program, crafting new, tweaked techniques

By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

When you just gotta hurt someone, try the new “guillotine choke” and drop your opponent to his knees within seconds. Or the “cross elbow,” which delivers a nasty blow to the head out of nowhere. Wanna give the bad guy a surprise hit in the ribs? Maybe the “round knee” will do the trick.
If you’re looking for effective ways to subdue the enemy, control him or even kill him, MACE is the place. And now they’ve got a few new tricks you’ll definitely want to learn.

The Martial Arts Center of Excellence, or MACE, at Quantico, Va., has a laundry list of new-and-improved martial arts techniques it’s rolling out — right now. Officials there conducted a major “scrub” of the Corps’ popular martial arts program, its first review since the program was born four years ago.

The changes, which went into effect Oct. 1, give Marines an array of new techniques at all levels of training, from tan to black belts.

Under the improved program, Marines should be able to train safer, but they’ll also become more effective warriors.

“We’re just trying to give Marines out there more tools,” he said. “Not every technique works in every situation.”

In need of updating

When then-Marine Commandant Gen. James Jones asked his subordinates to create a martial arts program in 2000, officials developed a multifaceted discipline that would reinforce Marines’ warrior spirit. The program was to emphasize physical as well as mental discipline while building character. A program was established quickly in order to get something in place before Jones left office.

It was an immediate hit, and Marines began doing “Semper Fu” on the decks of ships, in the desert and on bases and air stations across the fleet.

But the program was still in its conceptual stages, and it’s been a work in progress in need of an update ever since. So, earlier this year, the Martial Arts Center of Excellence assembled more than 30 black belt instructor-trainers and other experts to do a top-to-bottom review.

They received reams of input from the operating forces. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan also demanded the program get a fresh look.

The “course content review board” didn’t revamp the martial arts program so much as it tweaked it. Each of the program’s 172 techniques got another look. About 10 moves were eliminated, 12 were added and about eight more were modified, said Lt. Col. Joseph C. Shusko, director of the program.

Shusko said the changes will go a long way to standardize martial arts training.

“We’re trying not to make changes after changes after changes,” Shusko said. “That was the problem in the early years.”

The review board not only put 20 new or tweaked moves into place. It also formalized training for the black belt, creating specific certification for each of the belt’s six proficiency levels.

The program is scheduled to get another hard look in 2006, Shusko said.

New, deadlier moves

The thrust of the changes have more to do with making Marines more effective martial artists, giving them more options, officials said.

Take the new guillotine choke, which can get the job done either in a standing or ground position. It allows a Marine to take control of a hostile encounter after an opponent has tackled him to the ground or has him in a headlock.

“It can render your opponent unconscious and do serious damage to the neck in five to 13 seconds,” said Gunnery Sgt. Steven Collett, the 37-year-old chief trainer of instructor-trainers at the Corps’ Martial Arts Center of Excellence.

Or take the “arm bar from the mount,” a modified technique taught at the gray belt level in which the Marine sits astride an opponent lying on his back. If the opponent tries to push the Marine off him or even choke him, the move allows the Marine to use his weight on the opponent’s upper body, pivot on the opponent’s shoulder and put him in an arm lock more efficiently than the old method.

“The new way is easier and quicker,” Collett said.

With the new “round knee” move, a leatherneck can shake himself loose from an opponent who has him in a clench by using the force of his knee and inner thigh to strike a blow at the opponent’s rib cage.

“It was a good product to begin with. We’re just making it that much better for Marines,” said Sgt. Stephen Redmond, 24, a grunt and close combat instructor-trainer with MACE who helped demonstrate the new moves Nov. 1 in a courtyard at Quantico.

New requirements

There’s also a new advanced black belt syllabus as part of the changes, meaning Marines who have reached black belt status must now become certified at their particular skill level. Until now, leathernecks could attain varying degrees of proficiency, but weren’t tested on them.

“The degrees will not just be handed out,” a MACE newsletter said in August.

There are six degrees of black belt, and Marines wear the small band on their belts to signify which degree they’ve achieved. In some cases, Marines completed a certain level of black belt training so they could fill a particular billet, but hadn’t been certified in those degrees.

But now there will be specific goals to achieve before those bands can be worn. Marines who already have the colored bands will have to “test out” to continue wearing them. To achieve the second degree, for example, a Marine will have to demonstrate 18 months time in grade as a first-degree; complete 156 hours of martial arts sustainment training; complete 26 hours of the combat engagement pattern; complete a book report from the commandant’s reading list; write a paper on a civilian “discipline” and do 40 hours of volunteer work in the local community.

The changes to the program have another benefit — fewer broken bones. Corps leaders have always worried aloud that if they’re not careful, the program could turn leathernecks into a bunch of quasi-disciplined ninjas who could hurt each other unnecessarily. Barroom brawls could become lethal. Jones himself said the “art form” of the program is influencing action, not using force.

But the program has still prompted some injuries. One Marine ruptured his spleen after a strike to the stomach during training in April 2002.

The changes help prevent some injuries, Shusko said.

“We noticed we were breaking people, so now we do it just a little bit smarter,” he said.

But the technical changes only give a new-and-improved look and feel to the physical aspect of the martial arts program, training officials say. The mind-set that is achieved from the mental rigor and development of character is what is inherent to any success Marines will have in the program.

“Techniques are great, but you don’t need techniques to fight, you need the mind-set,” Collett said.

Changes to the program

• Counter to the Front Headlock

Gray belt

Begin in the front headlock position. Clear your airway and tuck your chin, then reach through with your rear hand and grab your opponent’s triceps. Turn your head out and rotate your body to stand side-to-side to assume the escort position and take your opponent down.

• Arm Bar from the Mount

Gray belt

Mounted on your opponent, place your hands on your opponent’s chest. With your strong-side hand, cross over your opponent’s left arm. With your weak-side hand, come up underneath his right arm and trap his left arm close to your leg and jump to the squatting position. Using your strong-side leg, cross over his head to trap his arm between your legs and bend his arm in the opposite direction that it goes naturally.

• Knife techniques: strong side/forward and reverse thrust

Black belt

Flips the old method with a new one, putting your knife in your strong-side hand instead of your weak hand. Begin in the modified basic warrior stance. Strong-side hand will be forward, though forward and reverse thrust remains the same as gray belt.

• Upper body strikes/ridge hand

Green belt

Starting from the warrior stance, use the thumb side of the hand to strike at the right side of your opponent’s neck or temple. Extend your hand, strike, rotate your hips and shoulders, and rapidly retract to warrior stance. The so-called clothesline can be used here, when appropriate, using your forearm to strike at the neck or temple.

• Armed manipulations/overhand grab

Tan belt

Begin in port-arms position. As your opponent attempts an overhand grab of your weapon, pull the muzzle to the left, down and back to the right to release opponent’s grip in a “Trace the ‘C’” motion.

• Guillotine Choke/standing

Black belt

Starting from the basic warrior stance, when your opponent comes in for a takedown, wrap your right arm around your opponent’s neck, followed by the left arm to form a palm-on-palm clasp. Wrap your right leg around his lead leg. Use your hips and arching back, and pull up on his neck.

• Firearms retention: Same side grab from rear/front

Brown belt

Facing your opponent, as he reaches for your pistol with his left hand, grab his hand with your right hand. At the same time, step back with your right leg to strike your opponent’s trachea. Then, draw your pistol and aim at opponent.

From the rear, with your opponent behind you attempting to gain control of your pistol with his right hand, grab your opponent’s hand with your right hand, pivot toward him and do a reverse wrist lock, placing downward pressure on wrist. Double your distance, draw your pistol and aim.

• Round knee

Green belt

Starting in the basic warrior stance, grasp your opponent in a clench; raise your knee and rotate toward opponent, striking vigorously with the inside of the knee in the ribs area of your opponent.

• Cross Elbows

Brown belt

Bring your elbow down diagonally toward your opponent and use body momentum to strike through the target area of your opponent, then retract to basic warrior stance.

• Push kick from lead leg/back leg

Green belt

Starting from the basic warrior stance, raise your knee from lead or back leg to your waist, extend your toe, striking the ball of your foot into the opponent’s abdominal area.


11-23-04, 10:00 AM
Wounded Iraqi Troops Fill AF Hospital
By Ron Jensen
Stars and Stripes
European Edition
November 23, 2004

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq — Iraqi troops wounded as they fought alongside Americans in the recent Fallujah offensive are filling nearly half of the beds at the Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad, worrying doctors about the availability of bed space should another tidal wave of patients arrive.

"We are very nervous," said Dr. (Col.) Greg Wickern, commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group.

Unlike the wounded Americans, Iraqi casualties are not evacuated to the Army Regional Medical Center at Landstuhl, Germany. They remain in Iraq, requiring a bed and the attention of the medical staff.

And because of both a weak health care system in Iraq and the danger faced by Iraqis who help Americans, many patients cannot be released from the hospital at Balad Air Base, known as Logistics Support Area Anaconda.

If another military action or a particularly effective mortar blast create a large number of casualties for Wickern’s hospital, he said, "We would have to swell our bed space."

An Air Force Theater Hospital is defined as an 84-bed hospital with the capacity to expand. Specific numbers of patients are not discussed.

During the recent fighting in Fallujah, the hospital received hundreds of wounded, including American troops, Iraqi allies, enemy combatants and civilians.

Fifty-one American servicemembers and about eight Iraqi soldiers were killed during offensive to take back Fallujah, said Marine Lt. Gen. John Sattler, commander, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, in a news conference from Fallujah on Friday. About 425 American and 43 Iraqi servicemembers were injured during the fighting.

Wickern said about 20 percent of the patients treated at the hospital during the weeklong offensive in Fallujah were Iraqis fighting alongside Americans, but those casualties now tie up between 40 and 50 percent of the beds.

The Iraqi patients require ongoing care from the hospital staff, unlike wounded Americans who are evacuated for additional care as soon as possible, sometimes within hours. American patients rarely stay longer than a day or two.

"We have to provide a much more definitive level of care for our host nationals," said Dr. (Lt. Col.) Jim Quinn, hospital chief of staff. "The volume of total care we give them has been a surprise."

Because of the nature of the injuries, many patients are unable to receive the care they need in the local hospitals, Wickern said.

"The Iraqi health care system is trying to build itself back up," he said. The Ministry of Health has made that a priority.

But it still lags behind and can not offer the treatment many of these patients need.

Also, the patients could face the wrath of insurgents who want to discourage with graphic measures cooperation with America.

"You can’t take these people and put them in a facility that is not considered infiltration-proof," Wickern said.

Some patients have been released to family members.

An Iraqi physician visits the hospital once a week to assess patients and take those he thinks can be treated safely outside the wire of the American base, Wickern said.

"Normally, he takes about two people back each trip," he said.

Wickern would like the visits increased to two or three times weekly to possibly empty more of the beds before they are needed for new patients.


11-23-04, 11:15 AM
Residents give escort to Marine
By Neil Vigdor
Staff Writer, The Greenwich Time
November 23, 2004

As sacrifices go, Bobby Easton said he paid a small price yesterday by taking the day off from work and driving halfway across the state to provide a military escort for someone who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The solemn procession was for U.S. Marine Cpl. Kevin John Dempsey, who on Nov. 13 became the first soldier with Greenwich ties to die in the war in Iraq.

The body of the fallen corporal was transported from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware back to the town of his childhood by a gray hearse, his flag-draped casket accompanied from the state border to Leo P. Gallagher & Son Funeral Home by a motorcade of police and civilians such as Easton, director of operations for Waterbury-based Connecticut Rolling Flags.

The nonprofit organization provides escorts for soldiers killed in combat and those returning from deployment.

"This kid gave up his life for our country," said the Waterbury man, who designs engine parts for a living. "He deserves the best welcome home you can get."

Easton, 57, who started the organization after the first Gulf War to show his appreciation for the military, waited at the Interstate 95 weigh station in Greenwich for about two hours in his custom van until the hearse's arrival.

Images of an American flag and bald eagle graced the van's rear window, while a side window memorialized Dempsey with a sign that read, "He gave his all for God and Country."

A one-time Greenwich Catholic School student, Dempsey, 23, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps just a few months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"You get kind of teary-eyed," said Rocky Hill resident Kimberly Leonard, 19, who was one of the younger members of Connecticut Rolling Flags to escort Dempsey's hearse to the funeral home.

Also waiting for the hearse's arrival was John Scanlon, 53, a Vietnam War veteran from Newington, who, like Dempsey, served in the U.S. Marines.

Scanlon sat behind the wheel of his flag-adorned pickup truck in full military fatigues, reprising a role that he's come too well to know, having driven in the motorcades of 16 of Connecticut's 17 soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan as part of Connecticut Rolling Flags.

"(It's) very important for his family and people to know he is supported," said Scanlon, a union carpenter. "I'd like them to know their son didn't die in vain."

The hearse arrived at the weigh station around 3:30 p.m., where a U.S. Marines Corps staff sergeant emerged from its passenger seat, his formal uniform still crisp despite the long drive.

After briefly stopping to give Dempsey's family time to arrive at the funeral home, the hearse fell fourth into line behind a police cruiser, Easton's van and Scanlon's pickup truck. Two vehicles followed and a police motorcycle rode beside the hearse.

Helping to escort the hearse were Greenwich police Sgt. Timothy Berry and Motor Officer Ron Carosella, who stopped traffic at several intersections to ensure an unimpeded route.

The motorcade rumbled up Arch Street to the funeral home, drawing stares from passers-by and salutes from police officers and military brass gathered outside.

For U.S. Marines Corps veteran and Greenwich resident Jim McMurray, the scene conjured up memories. He served from 1976 to 1979.

"It makes me proud and sad at the same time," said McMurray, 46, a lifelong town resident and landscaper who was walking by the funeral home.

From one generation of U.S. Marine to another waiting at the funeral home to greet the motorcade, Dempsey's sacrifice was viewed as a testament to his selfless nature, something worthy of the Purple Heart presented moments later to his grieving family.

"The thing I wish everybody knew, take all the politics out of it, for the most part, those kids over there are good," said Gunnery Staff Sgt. Michael Raybon, Dempsey's platoon leader from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Raybon met with Dempsey's family at the mortuary, where they watched the fallen Marine's casket being unloaded from the hearse. The setting was surprisingly unfamiliar to Raybon, who was attending his first military funeral.

"Hopefully this is my last one," Raybon said.


11-23-04, 11:18 AM
A Marine's gotta do what a Marine's gotta do
By Kevin Myers
Filed: 21/11/2004

Not being a subscriber to al-Jazeera television, I can only imagine what it has recently been playing on its news service - but I'd go bail it was clips of the US Marine shooting dead a wounded Iraqi in a mosque in Fallujah. Indeed, it is probably on a continuous loop. Needless to say - for reasons of "sensitivity" - al-Jazeera is not showing the murder of Margaret Hassan.

The outcry over the killing by the Marine passes all belief. Moreover, we actually know the context for the shooting. The Marines thought the room in the mosque contained only dead bodies, not wounded. When the Marine saw a "dead" man move, he cried out first, and then shot him.

Lance Corporal Ian Malone and Piper Christian Muzvuru, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, RIP, took no such precautions in Basra in April last year. They simply ignored the body of the dead fedayeen fighter as they dismounted from their Warrior armoured fighting vehicle - and it, being on a suicide mission, promptly rose up and shot them both, before itself being blown apart. Thenceforth, the "Micks" probably made it their business to re-kill every corpse they saw.

I agree it's not nice. War is not nice - and the US Marine that the entire world has now seen kill a defenceless, wounded man, had probably spent the previous two days in street-fighting and house-clearing. This kind of warfare causes unspeakable stress, for soldiers are in danger every second, for hour after hour after hour. It is simply fatuous to sit in high moral judgment on the split-second decision-making of some 20-year-old in the middle of such combat.

In other words, I'm saying the Marine who killed the Iraqi did the right thing - he put the lives of himself and his colleagues first. Ask Mrs Malone in Dublin or Mrs Muzvuru in Harare what they now fervently wish their sons had done.

No, the real issue here is the presence of the cameraman in the frontline and the decision to broadcast the footage he took. Supposedly, all material filmed by "embedded" cameramen - ones formally attached to a unit - is vetted by military commanders before transmission. I don't know whether this footage was vetted; if it was, then the commander who authorised it is an utter fool, and if it wasn't, then the cameraman responsible should congratulate himself on handing such a propaganda coup to the enemy.

What about the freedom of the media? Well, that is a question that only one side of this war will even begin to understand. To Islamic fundamentalists, such freedom is taking a liberty with common sense, self-interest and the very reason why they're fighting. Indeed, their war is against all such effeminate, self-indulgent weaknesses that so characterise Western society.

Even for democrats, the media cannot be free in war: the zaniest of media-libertarians understand that they may not disclose military secrets. If that principle is accepted, is it then so very wrong for the defenders of freedom to ensure that that freedom is not used as a weapon against them? For the media cannot have true freedom in a battlefront where their existence and their survival are only made possible by the presence of allied armed forces.

So what was an independent camera crew doing with frontline troops in the course of urban fighting - the filthiest kind of war there is? An "atrocity" of some kind is sooner or later bound to happen, the revelation of which can serve to assist only one side in this war. Why therefore allow cameras to be free to record what can only be of value to your enemy? Freedom's freedom is freedom's foe.

To allow such unfettered media access to the fighting is to forget the stakes being played for in Iraq. All the enemy has to do is to maintain the status quo: that is his victory. On the other hand, it is not necessary for the allies to force a surrender of the enemy, as in 1945, before they withdraw - as withdraw they must. But they do have to make the equivalent of the Rhine crossing, and allow the Iraqi security forces to get on with the job, meanwhile ignoring the largely narcissistic needs of the Western media.

Moreover, an unprecedented struggle awaits us when Iraq is done. We in the media must learn what our role in that struggle will be. Vicarious indignation at so-called atrocities is a moral frivolity: it proves that we are unaware of the scale of the crisis we face, now and into the foreseeable future. Our common enemy has vision, dedication, courage and intelligence. He is profoundly grateful for whatever tit-bits come his way: our media have a moral obligation to ensure that we are scattering absolutely none in his direction.


11-23-04, 11:23 AM
U.S. Looks to Minimize Chaos of Troop Rotation in Iraq <br />
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- <br />
Chicago Tribune <br />
11/23/2004 <br />
<br />
Nov. 23--WASHINGTON--As they...

11-23-04, 01:03 PM
November 22, 2004

Back to Fallujah
Leathernecks sweep city hunting down insurgents

By Gordon Trowbridge
Times staff writer

FALLUJAH, Iraq — There are no safe places in Alpha Company’s neighborhood. Not schools, not hospitals, not places of worship.
The latest piece of evidence of this lay at Capt. Lee Johnson’s feet: A 6-foot-long machine gun, designed to be mounted in an armored vehicle.

“In a mosque?” Johnson asked one of the Iraqi soldiers who found the weapon.

“In a mosque,” the Iraqi confirmed.

“Not good.”

“No. Not good.”

The Iraqi troops also discovered a cache of clothing and a student’s copy book filled not with school lessons, the Iraqis said, but with Arabic instructions on firing weapons. The figures “RPG 7” appeared in bold English letters at the top of one page.

It wasn’t the first such find, and it only added to Johnson’s convictions on how to handle his little piece of Fallujah.

By the fifth day in the city for Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, the insurgents who have held Fallujah for months had become more reluctant to show themselves. But in the several-block area assigned to his company, Johnson’s Marines were treating every door, every window and every building as a potential death trap.

“Virtually every building we’ve entered had something,” Johnson said. Of several mosques the company had searched, only one was empty of weapons — and the hospital serving as the company command post had held ammunition, he said.

“They know our [rules of engagement],” Johnson said. “They know we’re going to be careful with sensitive sites, and they take advantage.”

Dogs and AK47s

Meanwhile, a neighborhood full of explosives was devoid of civilians. No one in the company had reported finding a single family. No women, no children.

“The only thing here,” said Lance Cpl. Cody Weathers, “are dogs, and people shooting AK47s at us.”

And so, in Johnson’s mind, being careful with his Marines’ lives took the paramount position. Weapons stacked in a home? Bring in engineers or explosive ordnance disposal troops or, if necessary, light it up with an AT4 anti-tank rocket. Two buildings suspected of harboring insurgents and weapons were destroyed using Javelin missiles.

“We’re not here to tear down the city,” Johnson said. “But I’m here to get my boys home. I’m responsible for husbands, sons, fathers, uncles of American families.”

Taking and holding ground

Alpha Company’s job five days into the invasion of this city was simple: make sure insurgents didn’t retake areas of Fallujah that the Hawaii-based 1/3 and other Marine and Army units had sped through on their way to objectives in the city’s southern districts.

Already, Alpha’s officers worried that rebels had “infested” several blocks. So, by Nov. 12, the company had begun a careful, painstaking, block-by-block sweep through its assigned area. That meant at least 20 controlled detonations over the course of the day. As firefights rang out in other sectors of the city, Alpha was dropping mortar shells on suspicious buildings, moving Marines through buildings and destroying arsenal after arsenal.

Much of the job fell to Lance Cpl. Christopher Gamboa, an 18-year-old from San Antonio. When an Alpha Company platoon entered a house and discovered a 55-gallon drum with a telephone, with wire attached, sitting on top, Gamboa got everyone out and called in an Army explosive ordnance disposal detachment. For one of the few times that day, the suspected booby trap was a false alarm.

“But we’re not taking any chances,” Gamboa said.

Watching over Alpha’s three platoons as they fanned out across the city were two snipers, who in breaks between watches showed off pictures of their young children.

Cpl. Travis Facenda had yet to see his daughter, born two months before. Cpl. Brad Thomas, a 30-year-old Texan who joined the Marine Corps three weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, had photos of his wife and 3-year-old son in the liner of his helmet.

“Just waiting to get back to them,” Thomas said.

As they shared photos, three Iraqi soldiers moved up to take observation positions on the hospital roof. That raised some Marines’ eyebrows. The Iraqis had developed a reputation for being trigger-happy, and Alpha Company’s Marines placed them on the side of the building farthest from areas where friendly troops were working the streets.

Johnson said the Iraqi platoon of 41 soldiers arrived four days before the Fallujah operation began, leaving little time to integrate them into the company. By the time the company crossed into the city, that number had fallen to 26. Some, Johnson was told, were sick or sent home, but there seemed little doubt that many had deserted.

Also, the remaining soldiers required occasional lessons in Marine discipline. The company had given them a sledge hammer and other tools to use in breaking into and clearing buildings. They lost the tools almost immediately, prompting a chewing out, with Arabic translation, from the company’s executive officer.

But overall, Johnson said he was surprised at how well the Iraqis performed.

“I’ll be honest, I was concerned at first,” he said. And he still didn’t feel comfortable placing them in front-line positions. But they had proved valuable at sniffing out traps and weapons caches — in the courtyard of a mosque thoroughly searched by Marines, the Iraqis discovered a collection of 155mm artillery rounds buried in the courtyard.

Seeing the enemy up close

As the sun set on Nov. 12, Alpha Company had completed one of its most difficult tasks — turning over custody of roughly a dozen Iraqi detainees captured over the course of the day.

Nearly all said they were residents of the city, staying to protect property or their families, but the Marines scoffed at such explanations. When the detainees were quizzed, Johnson said they often didn’t know landmarks or streets of the neighborhoods they claimed as home.

Interpreters said they thought a detainee captured earlier in the operation was Syrian, feeding suspicions that foreign fighters were playing a large role in the Fallujah battle.

The thoughts of most of the Marines, however, were far away from factors as abstract as whether the rebels targeting them were from around the corner or around the globe.

“We’ve been watching this war and wanting to come do this for almost two years,” said Cpl. Niles Holland, a mortar team leader from Boston. “We’ve just been dying to get here and prove that Hawaii Marines can do the job.

“And I’m here to get my boys back safe, take them home to their moms and wives and girlfriends. Because this place is no joke.”


11-23-04, 02:07 PM
U.S. military captures top insurgency commander

Tuesday, November 23, 2004
BAGHDAD – The U.S. military has captured what officials termed a senior Sunni commander in Iraq, near the Syrian border.

The military said the Marine Corps detained the top commander in Al Anbar province in western Iraq. The commander, who was not identified, was one of six insurgents captured on Nov. 21 in the Anbar town of Haqlaniya.

"One of the six detainees is believed to be a high-ranking cell leader of anti-Iraqi forces operating in and around the Al Anbar province," the military said in a statement on Monday. The military did not provide additional details.

Al Anbar has been deemed the biggest challenge for the U.S. military in Iraq. Much of the province, which borders Syria, has been under insurgency control over the last 18 months, Middle East Newsline reported. They have included Faluja and Ramadi.

Officials said the suspected senior Sunni commander was captured during a raid of Haqlaniyah, along the Euphrates River. Marines also found arms and munitions in the counter-insurgency operation.

The U.S. military has intensified its search for Sunni commanders in Al Anbar, many of whom were said to have escaped from Faluja over the last month. They said Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi and his leading aides have escaped Faluja and were sited in northern Iraq.

The Kurdish newspaper Al Taakhi quoted Iraqi police sources as saying that Al Zarqawi was believed to have been injured in the U.S.-led assault on Faluja. The newspaper quoted a police source from the northern city of Kirkuk as saying that Al Zarqawi was seen arriving in Tuz Khormato, about 75 kilometers south of Kirkuk.

Al Zarqawi's leading aide, Omar Hadid, was also said to have been injured in the battle for Faluja. Officials believe he was still in or around Faluja and leading the Sunni insurgency against the U.S.-led coalition force. The military has reported eliminating most pockets of resistance in the city.

For his part, Hadid told the Qatari-based A-Jazeera satellite channel that he was not a senior commander in Faluja. He told A-Jazeera that he is 24 years old, never met Al Zarqawi and served in Saddam Hussein's military for three months.


11-23-04, 03:58 PM
November 22, 2004 <br />
<br />
Training goals take back seat to combat <br />
<br />
By Gordon Lubold <br />
Times staff writer <br />
<br />
<br />
More than 120,000 Marines are tan belt-qualified or better, but the Corps is still a long way...

11-23-04, 04:05 PM
Mass Offensive Launched South of Baghdad

By TINI TRAN, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Some 5,000 U.S. Marines, British troops and Iraqi forces launched a new offensive Tuesday aimed at clearing a swath of insurgent hotbeds across a cluster of dusty, small towns south of Baghdad.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have come under repeated attacks by car bombs, rockets, and small arms fire in these areas in "an apparent attempt to divert attention" away from the former militant stronghold of Fallujah, the military said.

The new offensive was the third large-scale military operation this month aimed at suppressing Iraq (news - web sites)'s Sunni Muslim insurgency ahead of crucial elections set for Jan. 30.

But violence has continued unabated, as masked gunmen shot to death a Sunni cleric Tuesday in the second such attack against a member of the influential Association of Muslim Scholars, which has called for a boycott of the national elections.

The cleric, Sheik Ghalib Ali al-Zuhairi, was killed as he left a mosque after dawn prayers in the town of Muqdadiyah, 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

His assassination occurred a day after another prominent Sunni cleric was killed in the northern city of Mosul — Sheik Faidh Mohamed Amin al-Faidhi, who was the brother of the group's spokesman. It was unclear whether the two attacks were related.

Insurgents hit a U.S. convoy with a roadside bomb near the central Iraq city of Samarra, prompting the Americans to open fire, killing an Iraqi, hospital officials said. Mortar rounds aimed at a nearby U.S. military base injured two children.

The joint military operation kicked off with early morning raids in the town of Jabella, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, as Iraqi and American troops, backed by jets and helicopters, swarmed into the region known as the "triangle of death."

The belt of towns south of the capital — formed by the cities of Youssifiyah to the northwest, Latifiyah to the south and Mahmoudiya to the east — has become notorious for its frequent ambushes by car bombs, rockets, and small arms on U.S. and Iraqi forces as well as travelers.

In the wake of the massive assault on the rebel bastion of Fallujah, insurgent attacks throughout central and northern Iraq stepped up dramatically. Earlier this month, northern Mosul witnessed a mass insurgent uprising in apparent support of Fallujah's guerrillas. Some 2,400 U.S. and Iraqi troops were sent in to retake control over western parts of the city.

At least 54 U.S. troops have been killed and 425 wounded during the Fallujah offensive that began Nov. 8. Throughout Iraq, the number of American soldiers wounded overall has surpassed 850, and the wounded total for the entire war has topped 9,000, the Pentagon (news - web sites) said Tuesday.

"We believe some fighters from Fallujah skirted away and came down to our area to, among other reasons, take a little bit of pressure off of Fallujah. To what degree that was coordinated and how extensive, we really can't say," said Capt. David Nevers, a spokesman for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Another reason for the spike in attacks might also be that Iraqi and Marines have stepped up house-to-house searches and vehicle checkpoints in the area for the last three months, detaining nearly 250 insurgents, he said.

"For the last couple months, we've gone into areas that had formerly not seen a lot of presence...We went in and stirred up a few hornets nest," Nevers said.

At least 32 suspected insurgents were captured in the morning's raids, the U.S. military said. In other joint raids conducted in Iskandariyah and Latifiyah, another 45 suspected terrorists were arrested, said Iraqi police Capt. Hadi Hatif.

Britain's 1st Battalion of the Black Watch Regiment, which was brought to the area from the southern Basra to aid U.S. forces, were also involved in closing off militant escape routes between Baghdad, Babil province to the south and Anbar province to the west.

The new offensive is aimed at stemming the wellspring of violence that has engulfed much of the country ahead of the elections. But the recent attacks against the Sunni clerics, as well as last week's deadly U.S. and Iraqi raid on Baghdad's Abu Hanifa mosque, raise troubling questions about whether the elections can unify the religious and ethnic divisions in Iraq.

Al-Faidhi, the 41-year-old cleric killed in Mosul, was the head of a religious school and a popular figure who was well-liked by the Shiite and Kurdish communities in Mosul.

"He was against the American occupation to Iraq but he opposed the use of violence, preferring peaceful means and politics," said family member Mohammed Khadr. "His goal is to unite the Muslims around the world. He insisted on making Kurds part of the community in Mosul and he managed to do that."

Mohammed Bashar al-Faidhi, the slain cleric's brother and the spokesman for the Association of Muslim Clerics in Baghdad, said he believes the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad was behind the assassination of his brother, along with "some Iraqi elements" were involved.

"I don't mean that the Mossad itself was the one who carried out the assassination, but the Mossad used their agents to execute the plot. I don't rule out the possibility that there are Iraqi elements who have their own agenda at this point of time who were involved with the Mossad."

Meanwhile, a top aide to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr accused the government of violating terms of the August agreement that ended an uprising by al-Sadr's followers in Najaf.

Ali Smeisim, al-Sadr's top political adviser, made no explicit threats but his remarks raised the possibility of a new confrontation between the government and al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, which fought heavy battles against the Americans and their Iraqi allies in April and August.

Smeisim said the government has broken a promise in the August agreement not to arrest members of al-Sadr's movement and to release most of them from detention.

"The government, however, started pursuing them and their numbers in prisons have doubled," Smeisim said. "Iraqi police arrested 160 al-Sadr loyalists in Najaf four days ago."

Smeisim also accused the government of conspiring with two major Shiite parties, Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, to marginalize al-Sadr's movement and prevent its clerics from speaking in mosques.

Trouble from al-Sadr's armed followers would further complicate the security situation ahead of the January vote.

The United States is eager for the election go ahead as planned, hoping that an elected government widely accepted by the Iraqi people will take the steam out of the insurgency still raging in Sunni areas of central, western and northern Iraq as well as the capital.

But a boycott by Sunni Arabs — who make up an estimated 20 percent of the nearly 26 million population — could deprive the new government of legitimacy. The majority Shiites, believed to form 60 percent of the population, strongly support elections.

Still, Iraq's interim prime minister expressed confidence Monday that the election will succeed. Ayad Allawi said he believed that only "a very small minority" would abstain during the election.

As the election approaches, U.S. commanders in Iraq probably will expand their troops by several thousand. Army units slated to depart are also being held back until after the election. There are now about 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

In Egypt, where 20 nations have gathered for an international conference on Iraq, members have committed themselves to supporting the U.S.-backed Iraqi interim government and its war against insurgents.

The gathering, which included many who had opposed the war, represented hard-won acknowledgment of the need for international cooperation to deal with its consequences.

"It is a world duty to save Iraq from its tragic situation," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.


11-23-04, 05:36 PM
America Supports You: Couple Sends Love, DVDs to Deployed Son, Comrades
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 2004 -- Wisconsin couple Bernie and Kathy Hintzke wanted to do something special for their 22-year-old son, Adam, who was away in the Army serving in Iraq.

The Milwaukee residents knew that Adam and his comrades with the 601st Aviation Support Battalion were enduring harsh conditions in the Iraqi desert, so they considered how to send some entertainment to the deployed servicemembers.

Subsequently, the couple initiated "Operation: Take A Soldier to the Movies," on Sept. 13. Donations enabled the couple to send 3,000 red and white popcorn boxes filled with a new or used DVD movie, microwave popcorn, candy and pre- sweetened powdered drink mix to all 550 soldiers in their son's battalion and about 80 soldiers in the 45th Medical Company.

"We wanted to give them something on Thanksgiving Day to say 'thank you' from the people back in the states," Bernie Anderson explained.

"Take a Soldier to the Movies," Anderson observed, "has taken on a life of its own," noting the initiative has been written up in the Army Times, the Washington Times, The New York Daily News and other newspapers.

"This thing," he said, "just keeps kind of growing." Anderson said a woman who wants to be the local contact for the project at Fort Hood, Texas, had contacted him.

Anderson and others around the country ship donated popcorn boxes, DVDs and other items to his son's family readiness group in Germany, where volunteers put them together to make the movie packages.

Anderson noted that he'd recently received a "thank you" phone call from the 601st's commander, Lt. Col. Samuel J. Ford.

"They have now received the packages, which they will be handing out next week on Thanksgiving Day," Anderson said.

The program is expanding, Anderson noted, to include deliveries to more deployed troops in Iraq, including Marines, and to U.S. military members deployed to Afghanistan.

And due to the heightened interest, Anderson said, the program will be expanded to include Christmas. "So whatever units we can't cover for Thanksgiving," he said, "we will give them a movie package as a Christmas present.

"And where it goes after that, I have no idea," he added.


11-23-04, 05:37 PM
America Supports You: Deployed Troops, Families Get Homefront Hugs
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2004 -- There's nothing like a little piece of home to help a deployed servicemember through a long deployment. Operation Homefront Hugs offers just that: periodic care packages and cards from Americans who've "adopted" a servicemember deployed far from home.

Alessandra Kellerman of Gulf Breeze, Fla., launched the program last spring at the urging of commanders in Southwest Asia. She was already operating a Web site listing resources for deployed troops and their families.

But what was missing, the commanders told her, was the much-needed morale boost that comes from receiving a personally addressed package and a note of appreciation and support.

Operation Homefront Hugs has taken on a life of its own, with about 420 volunteers signing up to send care packages at least twice and month and letters or cards at least three times a month. Together, they've adopted 500 to 700 servicemembers.

"It's not so much about how much they send. It can be a magazine and some candy," Kellerman said. "What's important is that they're making a commitment and making it continuous."

Kellerman gives volunteers advice about what to send their adopted servicemember: practical items like baby wipes and lip balm, stress reducers like disposable cameras and Frisbees, and treats ranging from granola bars to hard candy. She also sets out strict guidelines about prohibited items: chocolate, pornographic materials, pork products and liquor, among them.

In addition, she monitors who signs up for the program, ensuring that they're willing to participate for at least three months and that they don't share information about their deployed servicemember.

"When you see the letters of people who want to help, it's just amazing," she said. "People really want to put their words into action and help."

Based on feedback from the field, the program is a big hit. "The soldiers are thrilled from the support you and yours are providing," wrote Army Capt. Timothy Vance, commander of Battery A, 1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery, deployed to Iraq. "I was awestruck with the packages you sent … (and) don't know how I could ever repay you for the warmth and generosity you have displayed."

While winning the support of deployed troops, the program has branched out to "adopt" family members too. So far that part of the program is small, with only about 10 families participating, but Kellerman said she hopes to see it grow.

Herself a former military child, then wife, Kellerman said she understands firsthand the stresses families of deployed troops go through. "And with deployments getting longer, some families don't mind getting some morale support and a thank you," she said.

A soldier in Iraq wrote Kellerman, thanking her for the gifts Operation Homefront Hugs sent his daughter, who had been diagnosed with brain tumors, on her birthday. The gift cards named "Daddy and his friends" as the gift-givers.

Another soldier recently returned from Iraq wrote thanking Kellerman for the support the operation provided both him and his family while he was deployed. "It still amazes me that complete strangers would take the time and effort to send care packages and communicate with those of us serving our country, and also take the time to care for our families back at home," he wrote.

Kellerman stressed that the program isn't limited to the holiday season or to troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. "This is for our deployed troops everywhere," she said.

She said the program offers a great way for people to reach out to those serving their country and the families who stand behind them. "And you get so much out of this program yourself," she said. "The gratification is knowing that you're helping keep their spirits up while they complete their mission."


11-23-04, 05:37 PM
Postal Service Offers Free Shipping Materials for Military Families
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2004 -- With so many military families scrambling to ship holiday care packages to their loved ones deployed around the world, the U.S. Postal Service is stepping in to make things a bit easier.

It's offering a package of free packing materials, including 10 boxes, 10 customs forms with envelopes, 10 "Mili-Pac" shipping envelopes, which are specially printed to reflect the complexities of military mailing addresses, and a roll of Priority Mail tape.

Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Brennan said USPS started the service Oct. 25 as an extension of an offer the Postal Service provides all mailers. By calling a toll-free number, anyone can request free shipping materials.

Brennan said the Postal Service was getting deluged with requests from military families -- about 1,000 calls a day since late September. In response, it came up with a special kit of the most-popular items ordered to send care packages to the troops, she said.

To order the special kit, call (800) 610-8734 and request Care Kit 4. Brennan said the Postal Service will ship it by Priority Mail, with delivery generally within a couple of days.

Although the packing materials are free, shippers must still pay normal postage costs, Brennan said.

The U.S. Postal Service and Military Postal Service work hand in hand to support troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Brennan said mail centers in New York, San Francisco and Miami have processed more than 100 million pounds of mail for deployed troops since early 2003. At its high point, mail volume to the Persian Gulf region reached 400,000 pounds a day, she said.

Since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, more than 650 dedicated contract flights have carried mail to the region, and the Postal Service continues to send a 747-series freighter of military mail to Southwest Asia every day, Brennan said.

The number of contract flights carrying mail to the region more than doubled in mid-November, Brennan said, and is expected to remain at that level through late December.


11-23-04, 05:57 PM
A Thank-You Letter in This Time of War

By Orson Scott Card
The Ornery American (ornery.org)
Nov. 23, 2004

This Thanksgiving there are thousands of people I have never met, to whom I owe a debt that cannot be repaid.

To you, Marine, still weary from the battle house to house in Fallujah, whom we called upon to overcome your natural fear and go into combat in our cause: What went through your mind and heart in those days of fighting is between you and your fellow soldiers and the God who knows your heart as no mortal being can. All I can see is the outward deed -- the courage to act on someone else's orders, in protection of someone else's life, at risk of your own.

To all you soldiers, sailors, pilots, Marines who have served under fire, at risk of life, volunteers in the American cause: You carry with you painful memories so that countless civilians back home will not have such memories; the vast majority of your fellow-citizens remain innocent of the agony of war precisely because you have been willing to immerse yourselves in it.

You create and maintain the safe haven in which I live. Thank you.

To you in the reserve and national guard, who came when you were called and set aside your lives and left behind your families for months and sometimes years of service you did not hope for ...

To you whose military service is not in combat, yet who labor to make sure that our troops are well supplied, well trained, and only put at risk when there is a goal to achieve that is worthy of the sacrifice of life ...

To you civilians who, unarmed, have braved the dangers of war in order to help rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, and restore their ability to live in peace and plenty ...

You make our nation possible, our whole world safer. Thank you.

To you policemen and firemen here at home whose vigilance protects us from dangers natural and deliberate, from barbarians foreign and domestic, and from our own foolish mistakes: Each day at work you don't expect to risk your life, but that risk is always there; and your constant vigilance is our protection. Thank you.

To you, the Iraqi soldier, newly trained in an army that was under fire from the moment you first stepped into a recruiting line: You know that your own families are at risk because of your service; that while you fight to liberate a part of your country from terrorists and thugs, others might come to your own home and assault your own family to punish you. You and I are patriots in different countries, but today we share a cause, and if your country keeps the freedom our soldiers have tried to bring you, it will be because of your own steadfastness and courage and sacrifice.

To you, the Iraqi policeman, who has had to learn new rules: The civilization of your own people is in your hands. You are teaching your people that the day of the torturers is past, so that they will look to you for protection, instead of dreading your approach; and you do it despite knowing that the barbarians will try to punish you and your family for your service in that cause.

To all the Iraqi and Afghan citizens who understand that American soldiers are only in your country until you have soldiers and police and a government that can be trusted to do your will and keep you free and safe: Your cooperation hastens the day when our soldiers can come home, a day we long for every bit as much as you. Your votes in elections; your obedience to law; they are also acts of courage and determination, and the whole world is safer because of them.

I salute you; I thank you.

And to you, the American soldier who has been torn by bombs or bullets, who came home maimed in body or in spirit by this war: I cannot restore to you what you have lost, but I will try to show you by my personal treatment of you, by contributions I make and the votes I cast in support of meeting your needs, by the honor that I give to you, and by the free and decent society that I will try to maintain, that the country that you served was worthy of the price you paid and will continue to pay all the days of your life.

Thank you.

You, the family whose child did not come home alive; you who have buried the hopes and dreams you had for that child's life; how can I comfort you? Except to tell you that the lives of all the children who have not died, whose future was not broken off by war, belong in part to you, because of the sacrifice you made.

I may not have known your lost sons and daughters, but I know why they died, and I love them for their sacrifice, and will not forget them; nor will I forget you, and the constant ache that will be with you for the rest of your lives.

I believe that in the eyes of God you are all held in honor; I know that in my own eyes, your suffering and sacrifice are gifts to your neighbors, to your nation, to all civilized people, whether or not they understand. I hope it helps sustain you, to know that I and many others like me are grateful to you and to the loved one you have lost.

On Thanksgiving day, family and friends will gather around a table in my home and give thanks to God for all the good things in our lives. Our home, our neighborhood, our city will mostly be at peace; there will be laughter and pleasure in our house, as well as solemnity and prayer.

Yet we will not forget you, none of you who have served us in this struggle. I promise that we will remember: You have been the hands of God in bringing this much more freedom, this much more hope of peace and justice to God's children, not only in your native land, but also among strangers.

No one has greater love than this: to lay down your life for your friends.

For that love, for your love, I give thanks.


11-23-04, 10:18 PM
Hunting 'Satan' in Falluja hell
By Paul Wood
BBC News, Falluja

Lt Malcolm was a good chess player. He looked like any other young marines officer: skinny, shaven-headed, although with a quite beaky nose. Anyway, you could always pick him out. He would be the one with the chess board placed on an up-ended box of MREs (Meal Ready to Eat), working out moves.

I got to know him a little bit, as his bunk was opposite mine. I would watch as he gave chess tips to those of his men who had not completely given in to poker or hearts. About five hours into the battle, Lt Malcolm was killed. He was the weapons officer in Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, the unit I had joined as an "embed".

Just before dawn, Alpha Company blew a large hole in an outer wall, and entered the police station right in the heart of Falluja. It was still pretty quiet then but as the sun rose the marines found themselves surrounded and under attack from all sides. Lt Malcolm's squad went up on to the highest roof top they could find - but not higher than the two minarets on either side with snipers. There was a wall about 40cm (16in) tall for cover. Everyone tried to get close to it while bullets skipped across the paving stones.

When he heard his men were in trouble - the men he'd been giving chess tips just the day before - Lt Malcolm came to get them. As he ran onto the roof, one of the sniper's bullets hit his helmet, bouncing off. He kept going, and did not leave until he had shepherded all his men down.

He was killed by the second bullet. It got him in the back, just below the flak jacket, as he jumped down the stairwell. He must have thought he was home free. There was no hint of his extraordinary valour in the press release issued two days later. It said: "The Department of Defense announced today the death two marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom." "1st Lt Dan T Malcolm Jr, 25, of Brinson, Ga, died Nov 10 as a result of enemy action in al-Anbar Province, Iraq."

The other dead marine in the press release was a Sgt David Caruso, who was not from our unit. At the end of the day on which Lt Malcolm was killed, the 1/8 had taken between a quarter and a third of the killed and wounded for the entire force, across the entire operation. That was about five times their proportion of the attacking troops. On Monday, the number of deaths for coalition forces stood at 51, with some 450 injured. These figures represent the coalition's worst losses in any battle in Iraq since the invasion. And the 1/8 still have 20% of those losses.

Lt Col Brandl, the 1/8's commander, came striding across the roof top, wearing wrap-around shades and a broad grin. A cigar was sticking out of one side of his mouth. Everyone else was moving around bent double. The marines called this building "Fort Apache" since in any particular direction you cared to look, someone was attacking them.

"What's our situation, Colonel?" I asked, a little nervous. "Our situation is good," he said, pausing for a volley of gunfire. "The enemy is coming to us. And we're killing him."

Col Brandl's insouciance as he strode around the battlefield - his battlefield - was a calculated act of leadership, designed to steady the nerves of the young marines around him. I also detected a sense of relief in him. The planning was over. What would happen, would happen. It was up to his marines now. We had got a hint of the enormous stress on Brandl during the eve-of-battle briefing. For three hours, he and his men poured over slides stamped "Top Secret" and walked around a map of central Falluja drawn with marker pen on the floor of their operations room.

Our camera zoomed in close on Col Brandl while he was deep in thought - almost invading his privacy despite this being a very public space. We could see an insistent twitch below his right eye. He had had no sleep for a week and held the lives of hundreds of Americans and Iraqis in his hands. So he would look at a captain pointing a stick at the map on the floor and say things like: "I see an enemy vehicle laden with explosives coming up one of those routes.

"He's going to run one, two, four, five, however many he wants to, right into your flank. Once you've got that area isolated, the enemy is yours. It's coming in on your flanks I'm concerned about."

Col Brandl had a good turn of phrase for us journalists. This was one which got widely quoted: "You've got to remember, gents, that this enemy does not like to show his face. "A lot of the marines that I've had wounded and killed over the past five months have been by a faceless enemy. But the enemy has got a face.

"He's called Satan. He's in Falluja. And we're going to destroy him." But to his officers in the briefing he said: "There's nothing out there that will defeat us."

Pointing to his head, then his heart, he went on: "What our marines, soldiers and sailors, and the Iraqi forces that we have with us, have going for them is not only what's up here [head], but what's in here [heart].

"This is a right fight for us, this is a good fight for us. And we're going to win it. And we're going to do it with professionalism and honour."

Lt Bahrns was one of the young officers in the briefing. When I asked about the massive amount of firepower the marines would bring to bear on Falluja, he said: "If there are civilians in there, they are non-combatants, then by no means do we want to hurt a woman or a child. "We're here to protect them, we're here to keep them safe and we're here to turn over Falluja back to them. It's just shoot the bad guys and take care of the civilians."

Lt Bahrns was leading a squad responsible for clearing the insurgents out of the very southern tip of Falluja. It was by now more than a week into the battle, the longest continuous period of urban, house-to house fighting since the Vietnam war.

Alpha Company were holed up in a house right on the edge of the desert. You could really see that the insurgents had nowhere else to go. Every night, though, the insurgents would attack, waiting until just after dark. Half an hour after sunset the first rocket propelled grenades made yellow streaks across the sky, and exploded just behind us. The marine snipers would try to pick off the insurgents circling around the building. The next morning, we saw their bodies, splayed out at odd angles, already starting to bloat, the flies thick on their faces. Lt Bahrns told me he had lost his machine gunner. The gunner had been first into a house, the lieutenant explained, and been shot and killed by those inside.

The heavy gun was then pulled off the marine's body, and used to fire on the others in the squad outside the house. There was a long battle. For three hours they could not even get the dead marine's body out. When the marines finally stormed the house, they found three other bodies inside, each holding weapons: two men, and a boy, "maybe 10 years old".

You could tell that Lt Bahrns was sickened by this, almost in anguish. "They were shooting at my marines," he said. "What could we do?"

Throughout this entire week, we caught only two glimpses of civilians. One was a group with white flags running away. Another was a shell-shocked man who was brought into the marines' base on a stretcher after being found wandering the streets. The marines saw many dead bodies - often being gnawed at by dogs in the streets - but they were all of fighters, even if in this one case the "fighter" was a child.

---Paul Wood was embedded with the 1st Battalion of the 8th Marine Regiment during the battle of Falluja.