View Full Version : U.S. Marines Mull Fallujah's Future

11-27-04, 06:36 AM
U.S. Marines Mull Fallujah's Future

By KATARINA KRATOVAC, Associated Press Writer

FALLUJAH, Iraq - At first glance, the U.S. Marines saw nothing extraordinary about a baby crib in the corner of a bombed-out house in Fallujah. But when Lance Cpl. Nick Fenezia threw back the blankets, a Kalashnikov rifle and bulletproof vest lay on the tiny mattress.

"Man, did you have to be just another muj?" Fenezia mused of the baby's missing father, employing American shorthand for Iraq (news - web sites)'s insurgents — mujahedeen — or Muslim holy warriors. "Couldn't you have stopped shooting at us and watched your baby grow instead?"

U.S. and Iraqi forces continue to fight sporadic gunbattles with rebel holdouts as they clear Fallujah of weapons. On Friday, Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said only about half the buildings in the city had been cleared even though organized resistance has collapsed.

But as the battle calms, U.S. forces are reflecting on the fight, their often-unseen foes and the future of a city that lies in ruins.

Fenezia, of Red Bank, N.J., also turned up a bayonet, ammunition and a baby photo — all lying amid walls shattered by the Americans' devastating firepower.

A burst of gunfire rattled nearby in southern Fallujah, but the Marines shrugged it off.

"They have no idea what they are shooting at. It's just mental games they play. They know they've lost and there is no way out," says Lance Cpl. Brian Wyer, 21, of Chouteau, Okla. "This is nothing, not after the intense battle here."

Marine, Army and Iraqi troops opened their Fallujah assault Nov. 8 with massive artillery and air strikes pounding the city before tanks, armored vehicles and troops on foot pushed in from the north.

They battled for days with rebels who had been fortifying the city since April, when planners called off a Marine assault amid widespread outcry over reports of civilian casualties emanating from Fallujah's hospital, numbers U.S. officers called inflated.

The U.S. military says upward of 1,200 insurgents died in the latest offensive. More than 1,000 suspects were captured, and more than 50 U.S. forces along with eight Iraqis were killed.

Marines are now clearing weapons from the city on the banks of the Euphrates River and preparing for the return of civilians, who once numbered up to 300,000 by some tallies, though U.S. officers estimated that only 50,000 to 60,000 were in the city before the well-publicized attack.

Nationwide elections are scheduled for Jan. 30, but some Marine estimates say Fallujah may not be fully repopulated by then. And on Friday, leading Iraqi politicians called for a six-month delay in the voting because of violence in the country.

As the fight dies down, Marines are finally finding free time to reflect on the furious battle. The Americans wonder how Fallujah could have devolved into what officers say was a center from which rebels spread bombings, beheadings and attacks across Iraq.

Cpl. Perry Bessant, 21, says Marines are "like a detective agency, coming to investigate, to put the pieces together of what Fallujah was."

"It was a space for so many foreign fighters. I just can't believe the locals tolerated them," adds Bessant, from Mullins, S.C.

"Maybe they were terrified of them. Maybe I'd feel like that too if someone said they'd kill my family," replies Staff Sgt. Alexandros Pashos, 38, from New York City.

New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, Oklahoma: The Marines' homes are all a far piece from this central Iraq city in the middle of dusty plain, once dominated by Muslim men in red-checkered scarves and black masks who try to kill the American "infidel" invaders.

When Fallujans do return en masse, they will find many parts of their city in ruins, with bank buildings scorched, mosques bombed, shops destroyed, cars burned, doors to their homes forced open and their cupboards and drawers rifled by foreigners.

"It's going to be difficult putting Fallujah together again, but not impossible," said Pashos. "That is the saddest, to have it all come to this, all these people's homes destroyed."

But even before air and ground assault, Fallujah was poor by the Marines' standards, with many of its people living in mud-brick homes in tight, crowded neighborhoods.

"After we rebuild Fallujah, it will be a lot better place to live," said Wyer, the Oklahoman, "something that was worth our sacrifice."


11-27-04, 06:37 AM
Camp Pendleton Marines To Appear On Stamps <br />
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Four Marines from Camp Pendleton will appear on commemorative stamps to be issued by the U.S. Postal Service next year. <br />
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The faces of the...

11-27-04, 06:37 AM
Offensive Takes Toll On Texas GIs <br />
Associated Press <br />
November 27, 2004 <br />
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SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Gary Qualls worried a lot after his son went off to war, so he went hunting last week to get his mind...

11-27-04, 06:38 AM
Son's Iraq Experience Shapes Lawmaker
Associated Press
November 27, 2004

WASHINGTON - Rep. Duncan Hunter says his son, a Marine artillery officer who has served in Iraq, asked him for two favors. One was to fix his Ford Bronco. The other was to stand firm in opposing an intelligence bill that would strip authority from the Pentagon.

Hunter didn't repair the Bronco. But he came through on the intelligence bill - a key reason that a compromise favored by President Bush, top congressional leaders and the Sept. 11 commission fell apart.

To his critics, Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has been the Pentagon's tool, undermining bipartisan efforts to make urgently needed intelligence reforms in an effort to protect the Defense Department's turf.

But Hunter insists he isn't protecting turf. He says he's trying to protect the lives of soldiers, including his 27-year-old son, 1st Lt. Duncan Duane Hunter, who has served two tours in Iraq. The lawmaker believes that shifting responsibility for satellite images and other intelligence now handled by the Pentagon could ultimately endanger soldiers.

In an interview, Hunter said his son and other soldiers who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan told him of the importance those images play in combat.

"My son was able to do things with intelligence in his artillery operations that my father, who was a World War II Marine artillery officer in the south Pacific, was never able to do," said Hunter, R-Calif.

Hunter's concerns have been echoed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Richard Myers. But lawmakers who supported the compromise say it would have ensured that soldiers receive timely intelligence. Some are skeptical of Hunter's motives.

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., said he believes Hunter "would oppose the bill no matter what argument he had to use to kill it."

"I believe this is primarily an issue of turf," Shays said in an interview.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that "cynical House Republicans" never had any intention of reaching a deal.

The other main opponent of the compromise, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., has said such comments will only make it harder to pass an intelligence reform bill.

Hunter shrugged off both criticism and White House pressure. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have called Hunter to seek his support.

"You don't ever get a sense that he feels that pressure," said retired Marine Corps Gen. Terry L. Paul, a friend of Hunter's. "Once he formulates an opinion on something, he's steadfast in it."

Paul said he learned that about a dozen years ago, before becoming friends with Hunter. Paul was in the office of Sen. William Cohen, R-Maine, a future defense secretary, who was out negotiating a military issue with Hunter.

He said Cohen walked into his office and "threw down his papers on the floor in a display of frustration" and said jokingly, "If I had a gun, I don't know who I'd shoot first, me or Duncan Hunter."

Hunter, 56, is a burly, affable and sometimes disheveled Vietnam veteran who, true to his name, is a passionate hunter.

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Military issues have dominated his 24 years in Congress. He became Armed Services Committee chairman two years ago, yet despite the powerful position, remains little known outside of military circles and his San Diego County district.

He is a conservative who has favored increasing defense spending, cutting bureaucracy and strengthening the defense industrial base. He strongly supports the war in Iraq.

Hunter defended Donald H. Rumsfeld when the defense secretary was under fire because of the Iraq prison abuse scandal. He not only rejected Democratic requests that he investigate the abuse, but he publicly criticized his Senate counterpart and fellow Republican, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, for doing so. Warner's insistence on holding numerous public hearings to get to the bottom of the scandal had been receiving bipartisan praise.

"I think the Senate has become mesmerized by cameras and I think that's sad," Hunter said then.

But Hunter has at times defied the administration. Last year, a $400.5 billion defense bill was held up because of Hunter's insistence that it strengthen rules requiring the Pentagon to give preference to American suppliers. The final wording was weaker than what Hunter had sought, but for months, he resisted pressure from Warner and the administration.

"He is not just a yes man," said Alton Frye of the Council on Foreign Relations. "He is a person who will take an independent view, as he has on the intelligence bill."

Hunter says he believes that while the White House supported the intelligence compromise for the sake of getting a bill passed, it would have preferred a version that addressed his concerns.

"In a way the system worked," Hunter said. "It's clear that you have a requirement to reform the intelligence community. It's also important to protect the war fighters."

"We've all weighed in from our respective positions and hopefully we'll bring the Senate across the finish line here either in the near-term or a little bit longer."


11-27-04, 06:38 AM
Marines in Iraq thankful they're alive

They also remember fallen comrades and their families back home

By Katarina Kratovac, Associated Press

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Lt. Sven Jensen's U.S. Marines unit survived for weeks on military rations while living rough in Fallujah, so he wangled a truck Thursday and drove his men to the rear for a rare treat: Thanksgiving turkey and cranberry sauce.
While millions of Americans on the home front cheered good fortune and life's bounty Thurs-

day, U.S. forces still under enemy fire in central Iraq sought a hot meal while remembering fallen comrades and offering thanks for the safety of their friends and families stateside.

Cpl. Matthew Hummel forgot the day's celebration. "Days get to blur here; someone had to remind me this morning," said Hummel, 21, from Easley, S.C.

The Fallujah fight "was a nerve-wracking experience, so I plan to give thanks that I'm still alive, that my friends and family are well back home, that my girl is waiting for me," he said.


U.S. forces manning front lines in the Sunni Triangle, where Iraq's insurgency rages frequently in abandoned buildings, where they huddle against an early winter chill and excavate brown, plastic pouches of vacuum-packed meals for prized Skittles and M&Ms.

For Jensen, of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, it was time for a break. So he requisitioned a vehicle and drove 40 fellow Marines to a chow hall, where a cornucopia awaited.

"It means more than just the first cooked food they'll have in over two weeks," said Jensen, a 25-year-old from Cobb Mountain, surrounded by Marines tucking into Thanksgiving plates at a cavernous chow hall.

They joined a holiday celebration among U.S. soldiers at bases around the world.

, from an air field in Kyrgyzstan in the former Soviet Union -- where soldiers decorated their cargo vehicles as floats for a makeshift parade -- to Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia -- where the region's president joined troops for corn, pumpkin cake and gravy-covered roasted turkey. In Iraq, fighting went on right through the holiday.

"Thanksgiving will help us forget for a while the things we saw in Fallujah, the execution chambers we could smell even before we saw them," Jensen said, referring to buildings where Marine intelligence officers say the enemy carried out beheadings and torture.

Lance Cpl. Christopher Brungo waited impatiently all day in Iraq for 8 a.m. to strike in Mount Vernon, Va., so he could phone his mother for the first time in a month and wish her a happy Thanksgiving.

"We got here Sept. 11, and that day is marked down as a real bad day," said Brungo, 19, a machine gunner on one of the Humvees that made the initial push into Fallujah when the assault began Nov. 8.

"But I'd much rather be here with the rest of my friends and buddies than at home where it's safe. Knowing that I'm doing something important here matters," Brungo said.

Service in Iraq has inspired another Marine, Cpl. Jesse Cowan, to become a minister.

"I have seen here in Iraq a need for God in people's lives," said Cowan, 22, from Huntsville, Ala. "I just wish everyone would have that. If these trials can make me stronger that I can serve God better -- so be it."

At the chow hall, workers laid out two giant cakes. One was inscribed with Psalm 116:17 in chocolate frosting: "I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of Thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord."

Each table had a card wishing the troops well, sent by post from children back home.

"I am praying about you," wrote Josie, from Missouri.

"I am thankful for you saving America," read another card, signed Monica Dirko, 2nd grade.

For Marines on patrol in Fallujah's shattered streets, food workers arranged delivery. In what they called "Operation Meals on Wheels," Marines loaded up a convoy of three seven-ton trucks carrying turkey, stuffing and soda.

"It made the Marines glad, it brought them just a little bit closer to home," said Staff Sgt. John Flores, 32, of San Antonio. "The operation was a tremendous success."


11-27-04, 06:39 AM
Fallujah armoury 'stuns' marines
From correspondents in Fallujah
November 26, 2004

MARINE officers claimed yesterday that US and Iraqi troops sweeping Fallujah had uncovered enough weapons to arm a nationwide rebellion, and said clearing the former insurgent bastion of weapons was delaying the return of civilians.

Most of Fallujah's estimated 250,000 civilians left the central Iraqi city ahead of the devastating UD assault on November 8, and Lieutenant-Colonel Dan Wilson of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said it would probably be "several more weeks" before significant numbers could return.

"We are looking at a very dense city of some 50,000 structures; each and every one of them has a potential weapons cache hidden inside," he said.

Searching out and disposing of weapons was "very tedious, hard work for the marines", he said. "People still have to be patient; they need to have a safe and secure environment before they can go back."

Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson called the amount of arms in Fallujah "stunning".

Major Jim West, a marines intelligence officer, said: "The amount of weapons was in no way just to protect a city. There was enough to mount an insurgency across the country."

A big store of weapons and explosives was discovered at the mosque of Abdullah al-Janabi, a Muslim cleric and insurgent leader, according to a report on The New York Times website. Al-Janabi is thought to have fled the city.

The Times said the mosque compound, which is in a residential area, had sheds stacked with TNT, mortar shells, bombs, guns, rocket-propelled grenades and ammunition. A naval mine was in the street outside, it said.

Military officers said there were no arms in al-Janabi's nearby house, but that they had discovered files on people who had been tortured and executed for co-operating with US authorities and their allies.

Marines clearing houses in Fallujah have found Kalashnikov rifles, ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades, artillery shells and heavy-calibre cannon, with weapons caches often marked by a brick hanging by a string on the outside walls of homes.

US and Iraqi forces moving into the city smashed much of the insurgents' weaponry, bending gun barrels to prevent future use. Many large weapons caches were blown up quickly with only a cursory attempt at inventory.

Major West said insurgents had stashed arms in mosques and "even gravesides were used to bury weapons". He said US forces turned up a "cook book" with instructions on using mercury nitrate and silver nitrate and descriptions of nerve agents.

Most of the weapons caches were in the south, he said, because the insurgents probably expected the attack to be initiated from there. Marines ran repeated feints against Fallujah's southern neighbourhoods in the weeks before the assault, then attacked from the north.

US and Iraqi forces are stepping up operations ahead of elections scheduled to be held on January 30.

Marine commanders called Fallujah an important staging point for the bombings, kidnappings and ambushes plaguing Iraq.

Lt-Col Wilson said the interim Government would decide when the city was safe for civilians and that Iraqi security forces would screen those returning.

He said the Iraqi troops had performed better in Fallujah than in previous operations, when many had deserted.

The Australian


11-27-04, 06:39 AM
Army Uses NASCAR In Recruiting Effort
Associated Press
November 27, 2004

FORT RILEY, Kan. - Joe Nemechek is "G.I. Joe" to many NASCAR fans, a nickname stemming from the GoArmy.com logo on the hood and bumper of his Chevy Monte Carlo. Every lap he leads and every pole he wins puts the Army in millions of living rooms nationwide.

Sponsoring Nemechek is part of a military recruiting strategy, which includes advertising at football games and rodeos, aimed at maintaining the all-volunteer force during the war in Iraq and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

"We have to get the best young men and women in the Army to continue," said Tom Tiernan, a 22-year Army veteran who is now a civilian employee leading the marketing program.

The program's success is open to debate. A federal General Accounting Office report concluded last year that the military - even though its advertising spending rose from $299 million in 1998 to $598 million in 2003 - couldn't truly evaluate such campaigns because "joining the military is a profound life decision."

That was true for Pvt. Shannon Cooke, 19, of Newport News, Va., who joined the Army to follow a family tradition.

"My mother was in the Army; I always knew I wanted to come," said Cooke, with Fort Riley's 24th Infantry Division.

But the logos on Nemechek's car helped coax Pvt. Terrence Bartholomew, also with the 24th Infantry, to enlist in February. The 22-year-old from New Orleans acknowledged he's not really a NASCAR fan but, "I saw the car two times on TV."

Nemechek said he tells the recruits he meets they are doing a great honor for their country.

"I'm trying to do the best job I can on the track to give them something to pull for," said Nemechek, who put the Army car in the winner's circle in October at the Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway.

After missing recruiting goals, the Army launched a program in 2000 to transform its image. The branch wants to be seen as an attractive career, Tiernan said, and "not just for those who have no other viable option in life."

The program began with the National Hot Rod Association, sponsoring Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher. The Army sponsors a national high school football all-star game each January in Texas, a contest broadcast on NBC-TV. This year, the Army started pouring dollars into professional rodeo and bull riding events, as well as a bull-riding team.

Sports marketing now consumes $40 million of the Army's $212 million annual advertising budget in an era when finding new soldiers can be tough.

"As the economy gets better, there will be more competition for the kids," Tiernan said.

Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said the sponsorships are "absolutely" appropriate for the military."

"It's a matter of striking a responsive chord," Skelton said. "You will not find them at golf tournaments."

The Army met its 2004 goal of recruiting 77,000 new soldiers in the 12 months ending Sept. 30. Other branches fell short, including a fellow NASCAR Nextel Cup sponsor, the Army National Guard.

Richard Stark, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the military has to be flexible in recruiting and offering benefits to reflect the times.

He views the military as competing successfully for recruits but added frequent deployments by the Army and its reserves are likely to affect retention and recruiting in coming years.

Each branch is involved with NASCAR. The Marine Corps has a $46 million advertising budget and spends $3.5 million to sponsor a car in NASCAR's Busch Series. The Air Force has a $2 million deal with Nextel Cup driver Ricky Rudd and invests $100,000 in a professional snowmobile team.

Tiernan declined to disclose exactly how much Nemechek's sponsorship cost the Army but said it was less than $10 million.

Maj. Dave Geiesmer, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command in Quantico, Va., estimated that its NASCAR sponsorship provides the same exposure as $15 million in television advertising.

"We get value every time the car is mentioned," he said.

The Army has a traveling exhibition for NASCAR events, filling four semitrailers and covering 12,000 square feet, giving recruits a version of shock and awe.

Visitors can view the latest Army equipment, including uniforms and weapons, said Guy Morgan, Army account director. Other activities include laser target shooting and a challenge involving changing tires on a stock car.

Everyone who enters the exhibition area must sign a liability form, which also generates some leads for the Army, Morgan said.

At all events, the Army also hopes to meet parents who may be reluctant about their children enlisting.

"When senior officers are out there, they can talk to parents and tell them that the Army will do everything possible to protect their sons and daughters," Tiernan said.


11-27-04, 06:42 AM
November 25, 2004
Fallujah Yielding 'Significant Finds,' General Says

by John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - As soldiers and Marines in the Iraqi city of Fallujah provide humanitarian aid to citizens while still fighting pockets of resistance, they continue to make "significant finds" of weapons, U.S. Central Command's second-in-command told reporters here Nov. 19.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Lance L. Smith said at a Pentagon news conference that over the past 10 days a single unit had found 91 weapons caches and 431 improvised explosive devices in one sector of Fallujah.

"In contrast to that, the entire Marine Expeditionary Force found 48 caches and 93 IEDs in the month of October, and in all of Iraq in the month of October, units found 130 caches and destroyed 348 IEDs," he said. "So that is an incredibly significant amount of weapons and IEDs that were found in the city."

Smith said soldiers and Marines also found large IED-making facilities, and facilities for making vehicle-borne bombs. "So clearly, besides being a safe haven for leadership and command and control, Fallujah was a center for making the IEDs that were being produced and used in other parts of the country to attack the coalition," he said. "And we continue to make significant finds in the city every day."

The Fallujah operation struck a severe blow to the insurgency's command and control structure, the general said. "We're going to find continued evidence, we think, that we've severely disrupted the insurgents' game plan as we go back and take a look at the exploitation of what we've done," he explained. "As you know, we went through the city house by house. We are now going back and re- looking at some of the areas we've been to make sure that we're capturing all the information that's available out there."

These continued operations and the fact that some insurgents remain in the city mean it's still a dangerous place, Smith said. "It looks like these are some of the jihadists," he said. "We're not sure whether they're foreign fighters or local, but what we see from them is the type of people that are there prepared to fight to the very last. Some of them have explosive vests that they're fighting with that will, as our soldiers go into the buildings or wherever they are, we expect that they'll blow themselves up to cause further casualties. So we are slowly working ourselves through those limited areas where we still are."

In other parts of the city, U.S. soldiers and Marines, as well as Iraqi security forces, are handing out food and water. "This is not a humanitarian crisis," Smith emphasized. "The number of folks that have come out to get food and water have not been significant. We believe most of the innocent and the families left the city before the attack occurred. And we are going to continue to clear out the city and make sure it's safe before we actually allow large numbers of humanitarian organizations into the city."

Smith said the focus of current operations is to make Iraq safe enough for the country's citizens to vote. "We are intent on trying to provide a secure and stable enough situation to be able to conduct nationwide elections in January," he said. "Now, I will not pretend that that's not a challenge at this stage, but we will continue along those lines." He reminded reporters of the skepticism a year ago as to whether Afghanistan would be able to hold its presidential election, which was conducted successfully last month.

"I think that bodes somewhat well for the Iraqis, in that we're seeing a similar level of interest in elections and politics with the Iraqi people that we saw with the Afghans," the general said. "You'll recall we didn't expect more than about 6 million people to register in Afghanistan. We ended up with 10 and a half million registered, and almost 9 million Afghan residents voted, of which about 40 percent were women -- which would be unheard of and inconceivable two or three years ago in Afghanistan."

Smith acknowledged that elements seeking to derail the democratic process in Iraq are conducting a "very effective" intimidation campaign. "We see it permeate many levels of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces," he said. "You're seeing more of it daily as we see decapitated bodies in Mosul and other places. And it's that part that we have got to be able to handle and take that away from them, so that people can freely get out with some level of reasonable risk to vote and not go back and expect their families to be killed just because they go out and vote. And it's going to take a certain level of courage on the part of the Iraqis, just like there was on the part of the Afghans."

The general said the successful Afghanistan presidential election is encouraging, but he would not rule out trouble in the way ahead. "We are very optimistic, I would say, with some guardedness, only because we're not sure what the Taliban will do next," he explained. "We think they suffered a very large defeat -- actually, we know they suffered a very large defeat -- just by virtue of the fact that elections occurred. And how they will respond to that failure remains to be seen, but we're concerned that in the run-up to the elections for the lower and upper house currently scheduled for the spring -- that we will see an increased level of violence, in an effort to try and stop those elections from occurring."

Smith spoke of the pride and dedication the Afghan people showed as the election process unfolded. "And we are hoping that we, at some point in time, can generate the same level of commitment to this in Iraq that we had in Afghanistan, although I will admit, given the security situation there right now and the intimidation and harassment campaigns that are going on, it will be difficult," he said. "But we're continuing to move down that road towards elections in January, and then looking to elections in Afghanistan in the spring."


11-27-04, 06:45 AM
November 25, 2004 <br />
Global War On Terrorism Service Medal Approved for Wear <br />
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by Cpl. Danielle M. Bacon <br />
Marine Forces Pacific

11-27-04, 07:52 AM
Someone had better make sure the Postal Service edits its information on these Marines...Lewis B. Puller never won the Medal of Honor. He won everything else. but not the Meda; of Honor. <br />
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11-27-04, 10:22 AM
Galvanized by grief
By Edward Colimore
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer
Nov. 27, 2004

Judith Young was glued to the television that day in October 1983 when she heard reports of a truck bomb explosion at the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

She knew her son Jeff was there. "But I assumed he wasn't in the building," Young said.

In the next week, two soldiers and a chaplain showed up at her home in Moorestown with news: Sgt. Jeffrey Young had been one of 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers killed in the blast.

Young went through the shock, denial and sadness experienced by many parents - but decided to channel her feelings into positive action.

She cofounded the Beirut Connection, a nationwide support group for families who lost loved ones in the blast. And she later joined the American Gold Star Mothers, a national nonprofit organization of mothers whose sons and daughters have died in war.

In June, she will be named national president at the group's convention outside Dallas, and plans to hold the next convention in Maple Shade.

"This is not a group that you want to join. It's not one that wants members, but we're here to help, and unfortunately the number of new members is increasing again," said Young, 64, now president of the group's New Jersey chapter.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the group comprised more than 20,000 mothers of troops killed in World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam. Membership dropped below 1,000 by the turn of the century, but is edging up again because of Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon.

"We were getting two or three new members a month before 9/11, and we were losing others to age," Young said. "Now we're getting about 12 new members a month."

Dressed in their "whites" and service hats, the Gold Star mothers attend regular meetings in 27 states, comfort one another, and visit veterans in hospitals. They wear a gold star, the symbol of a lost child, over their hearts.

This month, Young attended the funerals of two local men who died in Iraq: Marine Cpl. Marc Ryan of Gloucester City and Army Spec. Bryan Freeman Jr. of Lumberton.

She sent sympathy cards on behalf of the Gold Star Mothers to their families. "I put my personal card in there and write, 'If you would like to talk at some point in time...' " Young said. "The new Iraq moms are joining."

Joan Curtin is one of them. She was home on a Saturday in March 2003, watching TV reports from Iraq, when she learned about American soldiers killed by a car bomb at a roadblock checkpoint south of Baghdad.

At 5 p.m. the same day, a uniformed casualty-assistance officer and a chaplain arrived at her door with news of her son's death. Army Cpl. Michael Curtin was 23, the oldest of her five children.

"I didn't know until they came here," said Curtin, 49, a nurse who lives in Howell, Monmouth County. "My three daughters were screaming. I don't want to go into much detail... . The structure of our family changed."

She soon received a sympathy card in the mail from Young and the Gold Star Mothers, Curtin said.

"I remembered the Gold Star Mothers as the old-time moms from World War I, World War II and Vietnam," she said. "Then I met Judith at a ceremony, where Michael was being honored by the General Assembly in Trenton.

"She introduced herself, and we stayed in contact. She was so forward, dynamic and positive."

Curtin said the association with the Gold Star Mothers and public response had helped her through her grief. "There was an outpouring from all over the country," she said. "People sent quilts and comforters. It was unbelievable.

"The Gold Star Mothers don't want new members, but you understand why they are there - to be supportive, to let America know what the children stood for."

Curtin said her son would always be remembered. She recalled his last Christmas with the family before he was deployed to Kuwait, then to Iraq. "We made a video of him, and we play it each Christmas," she said. "We enjoy watching him with the other kids."

Another recent Gold Star mother, Mary Kay Ivory, 55, of Hamilton, Mercer County, lost her son in August 2003.

Army Spec. Craig Ivory, 26, was serving with the 173d Airborne Brigade when he was overcome by heat stroke in Kirkuk in northern Iraq. He died at a American hospital in Germany.

"I got in touch with the Gold Star Mothers and found them supportive and very helpful," said Ivory, a former Navy nurse. "I knew the Navy but was not familiar with the Army.

"They pointed me in the right direction in getting information about what happened. It helped for closure."

Ivory, who plans to attend a local Gold Star Mothers meeting in Moorestown next Saturday, said her son was "doing what he wanted to do. And he did it well."

The Gold Star Mothers sewed a Gold Star banner, using gold thread for the star, Ivory said. "It's beautiful," she said. "Every one of them had lost a son."

Many new Gold Star mothers have trouble finding time to participate in the group's work, Young said.

"It was the same for me in the beginning," said Young, who is married and has a 40-year-old son and two grandchildren. "I was working full time, was president of a women's club, and had two sets of parents to care for."

But over the years, she found more time for the Gold Star Mothers and began taking on a larger role.

After losing a child, "the first couple of years is very hard," said Young, whose house is across from a park with a playground and sports fields named in honor of her son. "But time does a lot to heal."

For Information: The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. is located at 2128 Leroy Place, N.W., Washington D.C. 20008. The group's Web site is www.goldstarmoms.com. You can contact the organization at 202-265-0991 or at agsmoms@aol.com.

Contact staff writer Edward Colimore at 856-779-3833 or ecolimore@phillynews.com.


11-27-04, 10:24 AM
The Fallen, the Lieutenant and the Saints
By LtCol Mark A. Smith

On Tuesday 16 Nov 04, I had the honor of taking my command element forward to Fox Company's position for the Field Memorial Service for Corporal Brian R. Prening, F Co, 2nd Bn, 24th Marines, killed in action against enemy forces Yusufiyah, Iraq. Now, I say honor, because as tragic as the situation was, and as painful as it was, what I witnessed that day is forever and indelibly etched into both my consciousness and my soul. So, if you will allow me, I will try my utmost to communicate to you the events as they unfolded that day.

Fox Company has been forward in FOB St. Joseph for over two months now, attempting to bring stability to an area that had not had a presence of Multi-National Forces. As I have communicated to you previously, it was an absolute bastion of Radical Islamists and Terrorists, who had brutalized the citizens in unspeakable terms. Well, the WARRIORS of Fox Company have put an end to that. And, for the terrorists, many of whom are believed to have been the leaders of the insurgency in Fallujah, have been attempting to come home. Sad fact for them, Fox Company now owns their permanent zip code. So, on the day of Cpl Prenning's unfortunate death, the enemy, for the first time, chose to actually stand and fight. They did, and at the end of the day, over forty of them lie dead on the battlefield. And, over the course of the last week, throughout our zone, but especially in Fox's, we have rounded up and arrested over 120 of them. That said, and for all the fantastic work of the Battalion elements, this day was no cause for celebration, it was our time to mourn our honored dead.

As the leadership of the Company, the Battalion and the Marines of Cpl Prening's platoon gathered for the memorial, the atmosphere was sheer solemnity. The Marines of Fox were layered with the Iraqi dust that they have called home for 60 days plus. The smell of sweat that eminates from them can only be described as the smell of freedom. That combination of sweat, dirt and emotion that combines to create an aroma that is not repugnant in the least, but serves to stimulate the Warrior gene that you are among "special knights of the warriored breed."

The ceremony began with the placing of the rifle, helmet boots and dog tags of the fallen Marine, and was followed by Scripture readings, Company Commander memorial and teammate remembrances. The Marines that knew Cpl Prening best, memorialized him, through their tears and emotions, in a manner that I know would have made his family swell with pride. They were eloquent beyond imagination, and their words were a lance to the soul in their beauty and truth.

Then came his Plt Cmdr, 1stLt Mayne. Now, before I continue, I must describe 1stLt Mayne. I have been in a few scraps in my day, and truth be known, kind of enjoy that. But, 1stLt Mayne is one of those physical figures that you see and immediately think, if I can avoid a scrap with this lad, that would most probably be the preferred course of action. Additionally, since the day we arrived, 1stLt Mayne's combat accomplishments have been EXTRAORDINARY! His actions have been right in the face of the enemy, and he has stared death squarely in the eye on several occassions, and has done nothing but lead his Marines is a calm and professional manner that has absolutely confounded the enemy each and every time, and more often than not, lead to many of the enemy achieving their goal of martrydom!

But, on this day, the Lt Mayne that I saw was not the Warrior. No, the Lt Mayne I saw on this day was the Man. And, it embarasses me not one bit to say I only hope to be one tenth the Man I saw in Lt Mayne on that day. He spoke of his admiration for Cpl Prening and Cpl Prening's actions in a manner that crushed your soul and made you want to scream that you were not worthy of sharing the same room as these Warriors. He spoke of the need to channel and contain the rage and always honor Cpl Prening by only killing in righteousness and in accordance with the rules. He spoke of the "decent people of Iraq" who we are here to liberate. He spoke of all these things in a manner and among those who must do it in a way that should shame every person who has ever ascribed any attribute to our Marines, other than hero.

Having done that, he then finished with a prayer. A prayer that he stated he prays every night, and in knowing this man and the quality of his character, I suspect he prays it one hundred times a day. As he prayed the prayer of St. Ignatius aloud, I can tell you, I have never felt such overwhelming pain and peace, all at the same time. I have never been so destroyed and fullfilled, all at the same time. I have never been so torn, and so complete, all at the same time. Upon relfection, I understood how I could have such dichotomous feelings all at once. Because in that thirty second prayer, prayed aloud by a man and Marine Officer who will forever have my undying respect and admiration, I realized in the prayer of St. Ignatius, the eternal reality of our temporal struggle: GOOD VS. EVIL. And, I was standing, humbled to the bone, among the agents of GOOD.

Maybe I am wrong, but I believe in my heart and soul that everything has a time and a purpose under God. And at that time and for this purpose, God used Cpl Prening and Lt Mayne, that we would know our struggle is right, and that our will be not shaken, and that for our children and the future of our Great Nation, we will see this through until there is nothing but peace for our future generations. And, that for that struggle, there is a price paid in death, in visible scars and in invisible ones.

So, for LCpl Daniel R. Wyatt, Cpl Nathaniel T. Hammond, LCpl Shane K. O'Donnell, LCpl Branden P. Ramey, Cpl Robert P. Warns II, Cpl Peter J. Giannopoulos, Cpl Brian R. Prening, the next time you see a US Veteran, you shake his hand and say thank you. You shake his hand with the ferocity of firmness that says I love you, and I thank you for my freedom. If you get the chance, you go to a US Veterans hospital and you gently stroke the head of our wounded and broken from all wars, in a manner that says, do not be afraid, for I am here with you friend, I love you and I thank you. You do all this if you can, because everything we have, everything we are, we have and are because of their unbelievable sacrifice! And for that my friends, you and I should be eternally grateful and eternally humbled, for we have walked with the Saints!

St Ignatius' Prayer

Lord give me the strength to serve you as you deserve;
To give, and not to count the cost;
To fight, and not to heed the wounds;
To toil, and not to seek for rest;
To labor, and not to seek reward, save that of knowing that I do your will.

May God continue to bless you and bless you abundantly, as he does me everyday that I share this earth with your beloved. And may he grant strength, peace and serenity to the families of our fallen heroes.

Mark A. Smith
Commanding Officer
TF 2/24


11-27-04, 10:24 AM
Tributes gather for fallen Marine
GM Today Staff
November 27, 2004

WAUKESHA, Wis. - Tributes for fallen Marine Cpl. Robert Warns II are being recognized internationally.

From a memorial at his favorite Milwaukee bar to a dedication Web site, people from Arizona to Iraq are remembering Bobby in their own way. Warns, 23, of Waukesha, died Nov. 8 in the Babil Province in Iraq due to enemy action.

At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the student association hosted a candlelight vigil and memorial Nov. 19. Warns was a senior at UW-Milwaukee majoring in management information systems when he was called away to serve. Chancellor Carlos Santiago spoke at the event along with Warns' girlfriend, Erin Nielson, and three friends. About 100 to 125 people came to the event.

"The mood wasn't as emotional as it was people coming to make sure they were honoring him," said Joe Ahlers, communication director of the student association. "People were saying thank you to him and his family."

Internationally about 125 people visited and left written tributes at Warns' memorial Web site, http://civideo.com/bobbywarns/ . The Web site includes a five-minute video with images from Warns' funeral at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Waukesha and photos from his life. People can leave remarks on the Web site for others to read.

From Athens, Ga., a former Brookfield resident remembered Warns as a gregarious co-worker. "The cute smirk on his face is what I remembered first," Erin Fleming wrote. "He was always wearing that half smile - even if he wasn't amused with certain aspects of the job."

From Waukesha, Darlene Weaver, a fellow Marine mother, wrote that she felt Warns would be proud of his family. "I suspect that Cpl. Warns is so proud of his family right now. Such dignity. Such grace," Weaver wrote.

From Iraq, Marines who served with Warns wrote about his leadership and positive attitude. "He was known for making the best of things for his Marines and keeping things humorous whenever he could," Cpl. Andrew Wentworth wrote. "He was also known for his knowledge and positive leadership. He will be sorely missed."

Axel's Bar, 2859 N. Oakland Ave., near the UW-Milwaukee campus, is regularly regarded as Warns' favorite hangout. On the day of Warns' vigil, the Warns family gathered inside the bar to share stories. A Warns memorial night is planned for Dec. 18 at the bar.

T-shirts and buttons will be sold to support Nielson, who is pregnant with Warns' child. Bartenders also plan to donate all tips. "It should be good times for all those that loved and cared for him," Axel's bartender Lindsey Rasmussen said.

Two of Warns' good friends still work at the bar. "He had a good heart and was fun to be around," Rasmussen said. "His aura was the type you want to be around."

A Robert Paul Warns II Memorial Trust was established Nov. 11. The fund will support Nielson and Warns' unborn child. Donations can be made at any Waukesha State Bank location.


11-27-04, 12:08 PM
A Message to the Media From Fallujah - 'Fightin' Words'

Fightin’ Words

You media pansies may squeal and may squirm,
But a fightin’ man knows that the way to confirm,
That some jihadist bastard truly is dead,
Is a brain-tappin’ round fired into his head.
To hell with some wienie with his journalist degree
Safe away from the combat, tryin’ to tell me,
I should check him for breathin,’ examine his eyes.
Nope, I’m punchin’ his ticket to Muj paradise.

To hell with you wimps from your Ivy League schools,
Sittin’ far from the war tellin’ me about rules
And preachin’ to me your wrong-headed contention
That I should observe the Geneva Convention,
Which doesn’t apply to a terrorist scum
So evil and cruel their own people run from,
Cold-blooded killers who love to behead,
Shove that mother’ Geneva, I’m leavin’ em dead.

You slick talkingheads may preach, preen and prattle,
But you’re damn well not here in the thick of the battle.
It’s chaotic, confusin’ it all comes at you fast,
So it’s Muj checkin’ out because I’m going to last.
Yeah, I’ll last through this fight and send his ass away
To his fat ugly virgins while I’m still in play.
If you journalist wienies think that’s cold, cruel and crass,
Then pucker up sweeties, kiss a fightin’ man’s ass.

11-27-04, 12:13 PM
Marines learn to eliminate threat at Combat Town
Pfc. Christopher J. Ohmen
Combat Correspondent

Walking along a dirt road, the lean 6-foot-2-inch Marine dressed as an Iraqi insurgent takes his position when a convoy of vehicles rumbles toward him. As the convoy moves past, he moves into position to spring his trap on the unsuspecting Marines.

Sergeant Brian D. Peterson, a platoon sergeant with Headquarters and Support Company and four of his fellow Marines played aggressors during a company convoy operations training exercise to prepare 2d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion for its upcoming deployment to Iraq early next year.
The Ham Lake, Minn., native and his fellow Marines acted as Arab civilians and aggressors at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility where the main element of the company conducted convoy operations during a two-day exercise.

“It helps the Marines in the company get a sense of what they might encounter when deployed,” Peterson explained.
The 28-year-old has previously deployed to Iraq as part of Task Force Tarawa and has seen how the Iraqi people have reacted to troops. Using this experience, he set up different scenarios for each trip the convoy made through the town.
“The more scenarios we let the Marines work through here the less number of surprises will pop up in Iraq,” Peterson said.

There were three main scenarios that Peterson set up for the Marines of 2d LAR. On the first one, they had an Improvised Explosive Device detonate which disabled one of the vehicles. The Marines in the convoy dismounted and evacuated any causalities or wounded, removed any gear from the disabled vehicle and moved on as fast as possible.

In the second scenario, Peterson and his Marines set up a barricade. When the convoy stopped, they ambushed it. The Marines had to dismount and assault through the ambush, eliminate the threat and clear the barricade. Once cleared, they returned to the vehicles and finish the operation.

The final scenario involved Peterson setting up another IED and ambushing the halted convoy. This time the Marines didn’t dismount because they were instructed to move through without dismounting to engage the enemy. They engaged the insurgents from the vehicles and kept moving through the city.

“We gave the Marines in the convoy the most realistic and up to date situations we could to get ready for the deployment,” Peterson said.
“Any training we can get before we deploy that will give us a ‘heads up’ on what we might encounter is good training for the Marines in the company,” Peterson stated. “This training could help save the lives of my fellow Marines.”


11-27-04, 12:14 PM
2d Tanks welcomes injured Marines with hospitality <br />
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<br />
Cpl. Adam C. Schnell <br />
Combat Correspondent <br />
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<br />
With statistics indicating 1,168 Marines were wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom from March 19,...

11-27-04, 01:29 PM
Fallujah secure, but not yet safe

Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service

Although the Iraqi city of Fallujah is secure now that Marines there control the city, it is not yet safe for residents to return, the commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force told reporters Thursday.

During a briefing via satellite to the Pentagon from Iraq, Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler reported the death of another Marine in the city. Marines and Iraqi security forces were going house to house, clearing buildings when they came under attack, and the Marine was killed. Another Marine was injured in the incident, and an Iraqi soldier also was killed. The Marines returned fire, and the attackers were “silenced,” Sattler said.
The general said he cannot consider the city safe until Marines have gone through every house and purged the town of weapons and insurgents, “who may want to fight to the death.”

The battle for the city has claimed the lives of 51 U.S. servicemembers, and 425 have been wounded. Eight Iraqi security force soldiers have died, and 43 have been wounded.
Sattler said it is safe to say that as many as 1,200 insurgents have been killed in the battle, and that the coalition is holding about 1,000 insurgent prisoners.

Sattler also reported that civil-military operations to provide humanitarian assistance and to restore water and electricity have begun in the city. However, he pointed out that it will be “some time” before residents are allowed to return, and that the city’s reopening will be “event based.” Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who imposed strict curfews on the city prior to military operations, will make the decision on when residents may return, the general said.

“We will make a recommendation to the prime minister once we feel it is fairly safe and fairly secure,” he said. He added that the intent of the Iraqi government is to phase the citizens back in as the city is made safe.
“Once we’ve cleared each and every house in a sector, then the Iraqi government will make the notification for residents of that particular sector that they are encouraged to return,” he said.
In addition, Sattler said the coalition will have to ensure that humanitarian assistance, such as food and water, is in place before residents can be allowed to return.

He said that Army and Navy engineers have begun assessing damage to the city. Fallujah’s water station sustained little damage, but extensive repair is needed to water pipelines and other infrastructure, he added.

Sattler also noted that a concern for their safety is part of the delay in allowing residents to return. During door-to-door clearing operations of many homes and mosques, Marines have found stockpiles of weapons and Improvised Explosive Devices that “are rigged like booby traps,” he explained. He showed pictures of AK-47 assault weapons, a suicide vest, bags of black powder, blocks of explosives, and artillery rounds chained together to make IEDs that were stashed inside mosques.

“We’ve uncovered literally hundreds of these inside the town. Our warriors have been able to find them prior to them going off,” the general said.
Sattler said caches found in some places were so unstable that they will have to be destroyed in place.


11-27-04, 03:21 PM
US troops seek cooperation against rebels from terrified locals

RAMADI, Iraq (AFP) - US soldiers are trying to convince the population of the city of Ramadi, in western Iraq (news - web sites), to cooperate in their hunt for insurgents, but stumble on the residents' fear of bloody retaliation.

"Going into people's houses at two or three in the morning isn't exactly the best way to be popular, so behave correctly with them, there's no need to have everybody's hands up," says the 503rd Infantry Regiment's Lieutenant Tad Tsuneyoshi.

The troops cautiously venture into the mean streets of this conservative Sunni bastion in the moonlightt, with only the barking of stray dogs breaking the eery silence shrouding this city of 400,000 souls.

The GIs progress through the streets house after house, street after street.

The procedure never varies: knock on the gate, enter the premises, gather the men old enough to be fighters and carry out gunpowder tests on their hands and face.

The soldiers try to perform their sweep as smoothly as possible. No kicking down doors or shouting at the residents.

More than the hope to net rebels, Tsuneyoshi's aim when he encounters local families is to enlist their assistance. "We can't make progress without the help of the local population," he explains.

For each visit, his arguments are the same. But so are the reactions of the families, whose priority remains security.

One father has stopped sending his children to school because of the violence which rages outside, while another fears he might just get caught in a firefight on his way to the market.

"If there's criminals around, then call this number and we will take care of them," the 23-year-old lieutenant tells Munther Faraj, a father of 11, as he hands him a pen with a phone number marked on it.

One of his sons, Ahmed, admits that "everybody is afraid to cooperate, because we risk being killed by the mujahedin afterwards, nothing can be kept secret in this town."

Being perceived as a collaborator is close to a death sentence, something the Iraqi contractor working as a translator for the American unit is well aware of, even though he is from a different part of the country. His face is masked by a balaklava every time he leaves the base.

The US military also has to delve into the intricacies of the region's tribal structure to work with sheikhs who are deemed trustworthy and influential enough to make a difference in the local population's behaviour.

This patrol only yields one tenuous piece of information. A resident claims that a local sheikh has been delivering sermons against the US-led coalition forces in Iraq.

Meanwhile, troops are engaged in a game of cat and mouse with rebels scattered all over the sprawling city. It is not always clear who is the cat and who is the mouse.

US troops seem to emerge from the night of hunting with a slight advantage, having netted two men in posession of light weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

But around 8:00 am, as the operation winds down, a suspected insurgent who has escaped the marines' attention sprays automatic gunfire on a small unit of soldiers penetrating a courtyard.

One GI collapses, a bullet in his side. Officers on the base later diagnosed his wounds as non-life threatening.

"They are getting smarter all the time, even if they have limited firepower, they make the best of it," one US sergeant comments on the resistance the rebels are offering in Ramadi.


11-27-04, 04:07 PM
U.S. Sends in Secret Weapon: Saddam's Old Commandos <br />
<br />
Nov 27, 2004 — By Alastair Macdonald <br />
<br />
NEAR ISKANDARIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - Twenty months after toppling Saddam Hussein, U.S. troops still...

11-27-04, 06:28 PM
Corpsman felt his world stand still with blast
November 27, 2004

BETHESDA, Md. - Cameron Begbie's memories of Fallujah are indelibly etched, sharp as shrapnel and unmarred by morphine.

With one hand, his good one, the Fresno native can keep pumping about 30 grams of morphine a day. Begbie, 23, is a Navy hospital corpsman, a combat paramedic attached until recently to the Marines. He knows about medicine.

His left arm, broken and flayed open in urban combat earlier this month, rests immobilized, awaiting a fourth surgery.

Begbie looks up from his hospital bed, eyes clear and alert, and describes the moment an Iraqi explosive tore his old life apart.

"It felt like the world stopped for a second," Begbie says. "I mean, for a second, I was wondering if I was even alive still."

Later, Begbie figured it was a homemade explosive device; nothing so sophisticated as a rocket propelled grenade, but brutally efficient nonetheless. He could feel sharp pains up and down his left leg, and he couldn't feel his left arm at all.

As a corpsman, he was all but out of commission.

"All I could do is lean against the wall, sir," the petty officer third class said earnestly, talking to a civilian. "I couldn't finish working on the Marine behind me."

He recalled hauling himself, with three wounded Marines from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, into the back of an armored vehicle for a quick trip back to a triage collection point.

"It only took a couple of minutes, but it felt like a lot more," Begbie said. "We got out, they put us all on gurneys, and the whole (vehicle) was just smeared with blood, up and down."

And with that, Begbie's six-week tour in Iraq was over, as he entered the casualty pipeline that took him to a small, crowded surgical facility at the Marine base outside Fallujah, and then on for a particularly rough spell in Germany.

On Nov. 16, he arrived at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

Riding in on the patients' bus, he couldn't help but notice all those cars on the highway; none of them driven by enemies, none of them packing explosives.

A five-year Navy veteran, Begbie was one of about 425 Americans wounded when U.S. forces stormed Fallujah.

The insurgents have been suppressed and the city, once home to 280,000 residents, is a smoldering ruin, according to reports from the region. The most seriously wounded of the Americans have been flooding U.S. military hospitals in Germany and the United States. Begbie is one of about 70 combat-wounded Marines and sailors being treated this week at the hospital just outside of Washington.

Until the Fallujah combat started, spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler said, the medical center had been handling 20 to 30 casualties from Iraq.

"Our numbers have tripled since Fallujah," Peppler said. "We have a good number of amputees."

Begbie's father, Bruce, put it another way, having spent the past four days visiting his son and scouting the hospital's grimly inspiring hallways.

"There's lots of carnage," he said.

Begbie still lacks feeling in at least part of his left hand. The doctors aren't yet sure whether there is permanent nerve damage, or whether the nerve is being compressed by swelling that will subside. He has a plate installed in his left arm, and needs skin grafts. Some shrapnel remains inside him.

Begbie is scheduled to leave the Navy next October. Well before then, he's looking forward to a peaceful homecoming with the friends he hasn't seen since long before Fallujah.

"I can't wait to see them," he said.


11-27-04, 06:29 PM
Supporting the troops
From the Commentary section
The Washington Times

During the recent election campaign, it has been a liberal mantra they "support the troops" while opposing the war in Iraq. Just what does supporting the troops mean -- other than a throwaway line to escape the political consequences of a long history of being antimilitary?

It certainly does not mean making the least effort to understand the pressures and dangers of combat, so as to avoid the obscenity of sitting in peace and comfort while leisurely second-guessing life-and-death decisions that had to be made in a split second by men 10,000 miles away.

The latest example is the now widely publicized shooting and killing by an American Marine in Iraq of a wounded terrorist in Fallujah. Chris Matthews on "Hardball" spoke of "what may be the illegal killing of a wounded, unarmed insurgent" -- the politically correct media term for a terrorist -- and asked: "Is there ever a justification for shooting an unarmed enemy?"

The unreality of the question is breathtaking, both logically and historically. How can you know someone is unarmed, when finding out can cost you your life? A hand grenade is easily concealed and can kill you just as dead as if you were shot by a machine gun or hit by a nuclear missile.

American troops in Iraq have already been killed by booby-trapped bodies. During World War II, wounded Japanese soldiers sometimes waited for an American medical corpsman to come over to help them and then exploded a hand grenade, killing them both.

Assuming you are somehow certain an enemy is unarmed, perhaps because you already searched or disarmed him, is it ever justified to kill him anyway? That question was answered more than a half-century ago, when German troops wearing American uniforms and speaking English infiltrated American lines during the Battle of the Bulge. Those German troops, when captured, were lined up against a wall and shot dead. And nobody wrung his hands about it.

The rules of war, the Geneva Convention, do not protect soldiers who are not wearing their own country's uniforms. To get be protected by the rules, you must play by the rules.

Terrorists are not enemy soldiers covered by the rules of war. Nor should they be. They observe no rules.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations can all talk about "the Geneva Convention." But that agreement on the rules of war has never applied to combatants not wearing the uniform of any country that is a party to the Geneva Convention.

Terrorists wear no uniform and show no mercy, as they have repeatedly demonstrated by beheading innocent civilians, including women.

Why any such terrorists should be captured alive in the first place is a real question. Maybe they have information that could be useful. But every terrorist our troops try to capture alive increases the risk of death for American combat troops. Their information better be damned important for that.

It is more than enough to ask a man to put his life on the line for his country, without needlessly increasing those risks by trying to be nobler than thou or playing to the international gallery. The very fact this Marine in Fallujah has been taken out of combat and being investigated can only inhibit other troops.

The inhibitions under which American troops have already had to fight have needlessly jeopardized their safety while we tiptoe around the delicate sensibilities of the media, European critics and "the Arab street."

The Times of London refers to a Marine "killing an unarmed man in cold blood." If that was his purpose, he could have opened fire when he entered the room, instead of waiting until he saw an Iraqi terrorist pretending to be dead -- for what purpose the Marine had no way of knowing.

We cannot fight wars to please the Times of London or the other naysayers and nitpickers arrayed against us from the beginning. There is no point trying to appease people who will not be appeased. And to do so at an increased risk to American lives would be criminal.


11-27-04, 06:31 PM
Nobles and knaves
From the Editorials/Op-Ed section
The Washington Times

Nobles: Lance Cpl. Dimitrios Gavriel, for a sacrifice of a lifetime in defense of his country.

In America's all-volunteer military, it is sometimes assumed that only men and women without much of a future decide to enlist. The arrogance of such an assumption might be tolerable if it weren't so blatantly wrong. A case in point is Lance Cpl. Dimitrios Gavriel, age 29, who enlisted in the Marines in October 2003, leaving behind a promising career on Wall Street as a financial analyst.

Working 16-hour days at Bank of America, Mr. Gavriel lost two friends on September 11, reports the New York Observer. "He was deeply affected by 9/11, but that was a small part of why he went," said Matt McClelland, a friend of Mr. Gavriel, to the Observer. "It wasn't about revenge and payback. He supported the war but wasn't happy with how they were handling it. I think the way he looked at it was, no matter what side of the aisle you stand on, that's the most important place in the world right now, there's no way to turn back and we had to succeed, and he wanted to be a part of that."

In 2002, Mr. Gavriel lost his job and struggled for a time before deciding to enlist in the Marines. Just before he left for boot camp, another financial firm offered Mr. Gavriel a job. "My wife and I went to see him off to boot camp," said Mr. McClelland. "He said that he felt it was fate playing with him, that he would have been miserable had he not gone."

On Nov. 18, Lance Cpl. Gavriel was killed in Fallujah. He was posthumously awarded two Purple Hearts on Tuesday.

For epitomizing the greatness of America, Lance Cpl. Gavriel is the Noble of the week.

Knaves: The self-pitying Kerry voters and those who coddle them, for a childish exchange of offers and acceptances of forgiveness.

Shortly after John Kerry lost the presidential election to President Bush, the American left lost something more: Any semblance of self-respect. A Web site quickly popped up called SorryEverybody.com that allows those with nothing better to do with their lives to leave pictures of themselves asking forgiveness from the world for the re-election of Mr. Bush. Some 6,000 pictures later and now there's a Web site called ApologiesAccepted.com that features citizens of the world doing what its namesake suggests.

But (wouldn't you know it?) those pesky red staters have started their own Web site called YourWelcomeEverybody.com. A surprising entry comes from "Osama bin Laden," who says, "I am so sorry, world! Freedom will spread now! And there's nothing I can do! Damn the evil of democracy!" Admittedly, the authenticity of bin Laden's entry could not be verified.

For being ridiculous, the minds behind SorryEverybody.com and ApologiesAccepted.com are the Knaves of the week.


11-27-04, 06:34 PM
Marines Train a Secret Weapon on Babil Province
By Bruce Wallace
LA Times Staff Writer
November 27, 2004

JABELLA, Iraq - The Cobra attack helicopters thumping overhead disrupt the predawn stillness of this rural town, agitating the roosters and the dogs. Through the cacophony and a cold rain, troops wearing the signature uniforms of the U.S. Marine Corps' Force Reconnaissance platoon race down potholed streets, balaclavas hiding their faces.

The tan masks not only make the raiders appear menacing. They also disguise the fact that the men behind them are not Americans, but Iraqis.

This is the embryonic Iraqi SWAT team in action, rousing families from their sleep and rounding up men for questioning about the deadly insurgency in towns such as Jabella, south of Baghdad.

The policemen leave behind their calling card: a postcard-size photo of the SWAT team in full gear carrying the message, "Are You a Criminal or Terrorist? You Will Face Punishment."

The flashy raid is aimed at creating a daring image for the 125-man SWAT team, an attempt by their American military patrons to turn them into an Iraqi version of the Untouchables. Marine commanders have also thrown the SWAT team into action in raids across northern Babil province, a push to flush insurgents and criminals out of their strongholds.

Most of the Iraqis in the SWAT team come from the town of Hillah in Babil, and have lived and trained with Marines at a base near home since August. The close partnership with the Marines is an experiment in inoculating Iraqi troops against the violence and intimidation that make joining the security forces so perilous.

SWAT team members argue that their readiness to lead raids is a rebuttal to those who say Iraqis are not prepared to fight for control of their country.

"We are like a family, and we don't care if one of us dies, his brother will rise to avenge him," said Col. Salaam Turrad Abdul Khadim, a former Iraqi special forces officer who recruited his team from the ranks of other unemployed soldiers in Hillah.

"Every time we go on a mission against the terrorists, we are the ones who start the fight," he said. "We prove our courage."

Braving bomb-rigged roads in unarmored pickup trucks, the Iraqis have conducted 30 joint missions with the Marines since August. They frequently go in first and, since hooking up with the Americans, have not lost a colleague in action.

"Before that, we had lots of dead," Khadim said. "Maybe 10."

U.S. commanders say they are pleased with the Iraqis.

"They fought with us, they bled with us, and they'll stick to my side just as my men do," said Col. Ron Johnson, who commands the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is working with the SWAT team.

The Iraqis were training in Hillah with private-sector security firms when the Marines arrived and Johnson invited them to move in with the Force Reconnaissance platoon, the Marine version of the special operations forces. His goal was to avoid the bevy of desertions and defections to the insurgency.

The Iraqis and Americans would eat together and shower in the same facilities, Johnson ordered. He gave the Iraqis American uniforms. He told the Marines to grow mustaches.

Living on the base would not only guard against the Iraqis being kidnapped or killed on the way to and from training, he argued. It would guard against the endemic problem of mission plans being leaked to insurgents.

"You can't say to an Iraqi force, 'OK, we'll meet you at such and such a place at 10 o'clock for the mission' and then just hope they'll show up," Johnson said.

Johnson did have to override early suspicions among some Marines that they were being asked to baby-sit the Iraqis. The members of the elite force arrived with big ambitions for action and found themselves wondering if their partners would cramp their style.

But the integrated approach has led to a bond between the Americans and Iraqis, both sides say, the cultural differences submerged under the daily demands of living and fighting side by side.

"We live together, we eat together, and it has made us close," said Capt. Tad Douglas, 28, who commands the platoon. "We care about each other. There was a day when one of the Iraqis went down in a mortar attack, and one of my guys went out right away to pick him up and carry him to safety."

Another 125 Iraqis are due to join the SWAT force from police training camps in Jordan this weekend, and the Iraqi government plans to see 500 in uniform.

With their exit from Iraq dependent on having Iraqi forces to replace them, U.S. commanders are pressing the SWAT team into the fight against insurgents. They want it to earn some cachet with the local population.

"We need to create some Iraqi heroes," Douglas said. "We need guys who have an elan to them."

But the joint operations also benefit the Marines. The Iraqis give the Americans a footbridge across a linguistic and cultural divide that is a major obstacle to acquiring intelligence. In addition, the Iraqis are able to carry out raids on mosques and other sensitive sites that U.S. forces are reluctant to breach.

Their presence also has surprised some of those whose homes they raided, who are shocked to hear Arabic commands coming from under the hoods of men they assumed were Americans. This fall, a rumor went around Hillah that the U.S. had brought in Israeli soldiers - many of whom speak Arabic. Khadim laughs at the memory.

Yet perceptions are important. The worry is that Sunni Muslims may come to see the SWAT team as a Shiite weapon. Shiites make up 94% of the Hillah force, while most of the insurgents in the area are Sunnis.

"I don't work that way," Khadim said. He pointed to the casualties his men took during clashes in August with firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr's Al Mahdi militia.

"When the war started with the Mahdi army, we killed 42 of their fighters in Hillah in one day - all of them Shiite," the colonel said softly. "When people look at me, they don't see a Shiite. Everybody sees an Iraqi."


11-27-04, 08:18 PM
Officials Serve Thanksgiving Dinner to U.S. Troops in Afghanistan
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2004 -- About 18,000 U.S. and coalition soldiers deployed throughout Afghanistan enjoyed Thanksgiving feasts Nov. 25 and were recognized for their service with visits from several senior military and civilian officials.

Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, served Thanksgiving dinner to soldiers at Kandahar Airfield, in keeping with a long- standing military tradition of senior leaders serving the junior servicemembers on Thanksgiving Day.

Anthony Principi, secretary of Veterans Affairs, read a message from President George W. Bush to troops at Bagram Air Base. The message reflected the president's gratitude for the service of troops deployed this holiday season.

Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, commander of Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, and Maj. Gen. Eric T. Olson, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, visited troops at forward operating bases throughout the operations area.

Lt. Gen. John M. Brown III, commander of U.S. Army, Pacific based at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, visited soldiers and Marines deployed from Hawaii and now based at Forward Operating Base Salerno.

(From a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan Press Release.)


11-27-04, 09:56 PM
U.S. Troops, Civilians Celebrate Thanksgiving in Iraq
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2004 -- U.S. troops and civilians serving in Iraq shared and celebrated Thanksgiving Nov. 25 although they were many miles from home.

"We may be from different parts of the world with different backgrounds," said Army Staff Sgt. Alberto Salgado-Celis, a dining-facility noncommissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Operations Company, 101st Military Intelligence Battalion, at Forward Operating Base Danger in Tikrit. "But we are still one uniform, one family, especially on this day."

Marvin Williams, Kellogg, Brown and Root dining facility manager, and Alan Cook, a site manager, have been in Iraq for 18 months working for their adopted family, military servicemembers.

"Taking care of soldiers and feeding them, that's our job," said Williams. "We enjoy the holidays the most because we get a chance to show everyone what we can really do."

"We put a lot into making the day special with the food and decorations," Cook said. "And the soldiers really seem to get into the spirit of it all."

Earlier in the day, the early-morning chill did nothing to deter 353 Tikrit- based service-members from running the three-mile Turkey Trot. The course took the runners up and down hills and over long stretches of road along the Tigris River.

Greg Carter, a civilian employee working on FOB Danger, finished the race first, with Army Sgt. Cy McCravey, a bridge builder with the 502nd Engineer Company, coming in a close, photo-finish second. Both men ran the course in less than 20 minutes.

"The race is a great way to start Thanksgiving," said Army Col. Keith L. Cooper, 1st Infantry Division chief of staff. "There are a lot of great Americans here serving their country. Though it would be nice to be home, we still have so much to be thankful for."

Lillian Quehl, the Morale, Welfare and Recreation supervisor at FOB Danger, and other staff personnel from MWR and Kellogg, Brown and Root organized the event and were on hand to sign-in participants and award them commemorative t-shirts after completing the race.

At Logistics Support Area Anaconda in Balad, traditional Thanksgiving fare for almost 23,000 people meant cooks labored overnight to prepare 6,000 pounds of turkey and 7,030 pounds of ham, along with beef tenderloin, Cornish hens, shrimp, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin, apple and pecan pie, non-alcoholic red and white wine, and egg nog.

The dining facility staffs at LSA Anaconda competed against each other to create the most festively decorated atmosphere as well as the best-tasting food. The commanding general of 13th Corps Support Command awarded a trophy to the winners.

Festivities did not stop with food. Units in Balad held Turkey Bowl football games; more than 60 people ran a 5-kilometer race; and chaplains held special holiday services. Officers replaced soldiers in guard towers and served food in the dining facilities, and many people lined up to call loved ones back home.

In southern Baghdad, the 5th Brigade Combat Team celebrated Thanksgiving Day festivities in the Camp Falcon dining facility Nov. 25. The kitchen staff served 3,000 Soldiers more than 1,500 pounds of turkey, 1,100 pounds of ham, and 4,800 pies for dinner. A drawing was also held with televisions, bikes and DVDs given as prizes.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases. Army Sgt. 1st Class Nancy McMillan, of the 196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, contributed to this report.)