View Full Version : Bush Asks U.S. To Support Troops
12-08-04, 08:31 AM
Bush Asks U.S. To Support Troops
December 8, 2004
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Standing before thousands of Marines, President Bush asked other Americans on Tuesday to make the war their own by helping battle-weary troops and their families.
"The time of war is a time of sacrifice, especially for our military families," Bush said, wearing a tan military jacket with epaulets. "I urge every American to find some way to thank our military and to help out the military family down the street."
In October 2001, shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan to rout the terrorist-protecting Taliban government. The military took on the additional burden of the war in Iraq starting with the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
In all that time, while traveling widely to visit military personnel and sit at the bedsides of the wounded, the president has asked little of the civilian public.
But with casualties increasing and the number of U.S. troops in Iraq slated to rise before next month's planned elections there, Bush urged civilians to do more.
Speaking on the 63rd anniversary of Pearl Harbor, Bush's call to sacrifice recalled President Roosevelt's World War II-era requests for Americans to pitch in for the war effort. Citizens responded then by planting victory gardens, purchasing war bonds, contributing metals and transforming commercial factories into weapons-makers.
Bush, who flew across the country and back in one long day to a base that has seen one of the highest casualty rates in Iraq, suggested ways Americans now can support troops - and their left-behind families - by citing the example of several already doing so. Groups have been established to welcome home the wounded, collect thank-you letters, build homes adapted to disabled vets, and raise money for military families who must forsake home and jobs to stand beside a recovering soldier, he said.
"In this season of giving, let us stand with the men and women who stand up for America, our military," Bush said.
The president spent the bulk of his visit to this southern California base behind closed doors.
After his speech, he joined troops in a mess hall decorated for Christmas for a lunch of beef, noodles and rice. He then went into a base gymnasium to spend over two hours face-to-face with more than 50 families of the fallen. He awarded one soldier, left unidentified by the White House, a posthumous Bronze Star.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said there was "a lot of emotion, a lot of hugs" between the president and the families.
According to a Camp Pendleton spokesman, Cpl. Patrick Carroll, 269 Marines from the base have been killed in action in Iraq. A total of more than 1,270 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war, including nearly 1,000 who have died as a result of hostile action.
In his public remarks, Bush sought to console the survivors.
"Words can only go so far in capturing the grief and sense of loss for the families of those who have died," he said. "But you can know this: They gave their lives for a cause that is just. And as in other generations, their sacrifice will have spared millions from the lives of tyranny and sorrow."
Recently, more than 21,000 Camp Pendleton Marines have been serving in Iraq's al-Anbar province, including the battle to secure the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah.
Other missions have included being the first conventional forces to fight in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and rolling across Iraq's border for the march to Baghdad that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.
Bush declared the Fallujah campaign a success, saying, "We have dealt the enemy a severe blow."
But he warned that troops will see more attacks and, without saying it explicitly, more losses as Iraq's Jan. 30 elections approach.
"The enemies of freedom in Iraq have been wounded, but they're not yet defeated," the president said. "We can expect further violence from the terrorists. ... The terrorists will do all they can to delay and disrupt free elections in Iraq. And they will fail."
Bush promised, as he has repeatedly over recent days, that the elections "will proceed as planned."
12-08-04, 08:31 AM
Marine Security Team Heading To Jiddah
December 8, 2004
WASHINGTON - The U.S. military ordered a Marine Corps antiterrorism security team to Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday to assist in security at the consulate, defense officials said.
The officials discussed operational matters only on the condition of anonymity. The team is based elsewhere in the Middle East, the official said.
These teams typically have 50 Marines and are experts in providing security and conducting raids in urban areas, said Maj. Matt Morgan, a Marine Corps spokesman at Camp Lejeune, N.C. They are often deployed in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
In Jiddah, they will reinforce defenses at the U.S. consulate that were breached by a group of attackers Monday. Eight people, including three attackers and five non-American embassy employees, were killed in the ensuing gunbattle.
Meanwhile, the State Department said Tuesday that the attack could be followed by more terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, a worried State Department said Tuesday.
New travel warnings to discourage U.S. citizens from going there are expected to be issued soon. But, in the meantime, the U.S. consulate in Jiddah will be reopened soon, and the embassy in Riyadh was preparing to reopen, as well.
A day after Islamic militants shot their way into the compound at Jiddah, the circumstances remained unclear, including whether foreign national had been held hostage, spokesman Adam Ereli said.
"Embassy personnel have interviewed all the foreign service nationals who were involved in the attack, Some have said they were taken hostage and used as human shields," he said.
"Our operating assumption is that there are still terrorist elements active in the kingdom, targeting u.S. citizens and faiclities, as well as other commercial and civilian establishments," Ereli said. "Therefore, maximum alertness and caution and prudence is called for."
In general, American diplomatic facilities like the one in Jiddah employ a layered defense against terrorist attacks, with foreign guards on the outside and American security personnel including U.S. Marines inside.
U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide rely almost exclusively on host-nation soldiers and police or private security guards to guard their outer walls. This keeps armed Americans off overseas streets - their presence would be tantamount to foreign soldiers patrolling Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington.
Inside, physical security is provided by U.S. Marines and federal civilian officers with the Diplomatic Security Service.
Four Marines are believed to have been inside the U.S. consulate in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, when it was attacked Monday, Morgan said.
Initial reports suggested none were hurt, and it was unknown whether they took part in the fighting, he said.
There are six Marines, led by a staff sergeant, assigned to the consulate, but Morgan said his best information is that only four were inside during the attack.
The Marines' main job is to control access to the embassy and protect any classified information inside, Morgan said. Marines would not take part in protecting the perimeter of the consulate, but they would assist if there was a security threat inside.
Protection of diplomats and other consular personnel inside is the primary responsibility of the State Department's civilian Diplomatic Security Service. They and the Marines report to a regional security officer.
Morgan said many consulates - which are smaller than embassies - do not have detachments of Marine guards, and those that do are typically in high-threat areas.
Only in Kabul and Baghdad do Marines patrol an embassy's outer perimeter, Morgan said.
The Marine presence at American diplomatic buildings throughout the Middle East is higher than most, he said.
12-08-04, 08:31 AM
Jury sees suspect reenact murder of two Marines
By Michelle Willey
Dec. 8, 2004
JOSHUA TREE - The trial against Demitrius McClendon, a man accused of taking part in the murders of 22-year-old Twentynine Palms Marines Angel Wathen and Julio Vargas, continued this week.
The two were allegedly killed during a drug deal in November 2003 in Rancho Cucamonga.
The jury was shown a video tape of a reenactment of the killing that sheriff's detectives made with McClendon's help.
The tape was made at the crime scene in Rancho Cucamonga, where McClendon showed detectives where he stood in reference to the victims and Vernon Walker, who is the other suspect in the case.
In the tape, McClendon told the detectives that Walker was behind a wall while McClendon had his back facing the wall as he talked with Vargas.
The next thing McClendon said happened was Walker came out from behind the wall with a shotgun.
McClendon said he remembered Vargas putting his hands up and saying, "Don't do it." Walker then fired one shot at Vargas, who fell to the ground, and another shot while Vargas was on the ground, added McClendon.
McClendon told detectives Walker then went to the vehicle where Wathen was sitting and shot him through the window.
"I was in shock," said McClendon.
McClendon said Walker opened the car door and began dragging the victims' bodies into the car.
"He was yelling at me to help get them in the car," added McClendon.
McClendon told the detectives since he was shocked over what had just happened, he didn't help Walker until Walker had the bodies almost completely in the vehicle.
McClendon told detectives Walker wanted to take the bodies to Twentynine Palms to bury them so no one would find them.
He told detectives after the bodies were put into the vehicle, he and Walker drove the victims' vehicle and McClendon's vehicle back to the Twentynine Palms area.
Back in Twentynine Palms, McClendon said they drove the vehicle to a ditch and left it there while they headed over to Steve Teders' girlfriend's house.
McClendon said Teders, who was in on the plan but couldn't go with them that night, wanted to see the bodies. After taking him to see the bodies, they discussed how to dispose them.
After having no luck in finding a shovel, they came up with a new idea of burning the vehicle with the bodies inside, but McClendon said he wasn't sure who came up with that idea.
They then returned to Wathen's vehicle where, McClendon said, Walker put lighter fluid on the car and set it on fire.
During the reenactment, detectives also asked McClendon a few question.
They asked him if before going to Rancho Cucamonga, he, Walker and others in on the plan had talked about killing Wathen and Vargas.
McClendon answered they had talked about it before the killing occurred.
He remembered that Teders had brought up the idea of robbing Wathen and Vargas and then killing them.
McClendon said Teders told him that Wathen and Vargas were trying to rip them off by "jacking up" the price of the drugs.
Teders was a suspect in the case, but charges were dropped earlier this year because there was not enough evidence to prove he was involved in the crime.
The trial continues today with testimony from Daniel Gregonis, who was the criminalist for this case. He performed the DNA analysis of evidence such as suspected blood and human tissue that was removed from barracks aboard the Twentynine Palms Marine base, from the crime scenes and from the victims and suspects.
12-08-04, 08:32 AM
Okinawa based Marines slated for humanitarian assistance in Philippines
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP S.D. BUTLER, OKINAWA, Japan (December 7, 2004 ) -- About 600 Marines and sailors with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade began departing today for the Republic of the Philippines to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief after two tropical storms and a typhoon displaced at least 168,000 Philippine residents in the past week.
As a rapidly deployable force in the Pacific region, 3rd MEB Marines and sailors will conduct limited transportation and engineering operations to include the delivery of relief supplies to distribution points for the crisis in the Philippines.
The Philippine government requested assistance after heavy rain, flooding and landslides nearly destroyed the towns of Real, General Nakar and Infanta. Currently, there are massive food and water shortages in Quezon Province and surrounding areas, and more than 1,000 people have died or are missing.
3rd MEB Commanding General Brig. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck expressed his deepest sympathy to the people of the Philippines.
"The forward presence of III Marine Expeditionary Force on Okinawa significantly contributes to U.S. ability to respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and to alleviate human suffering, he said. It is my hope that the Marines and sailors of the 3rd MEB will help restore the livelihood taken by these natural disasters.
3rd MEB aircraft, equipment and personnel from Okinawa must transit by way of Shimoji Island, which is located about half way between Okinawa and the Philippine Islands.
U.S. forces will remain in the Philippines to assist only as long as necessary to assist the GOP in managing the effects of these natural disasters.
12-08-04, 08:33 AM
Snapshots in aftermath of Fallujah mission
FALLUJAH, Iraq - The mangled cables and trash that litter the power station's control room do not bother Adil Raffah. But the bespectacled chief engineer begins to shake when he sees the desk he has worked behind for 25 years, now smashed.
"Only animals could do this, no Iraqi, never," he whispers, picking up a hammer left on the floor. "It must have been the Americans."
Ismail Kasim, the plant's senior adviser, tries to reassure him. "It's nothing, we can fix this in a few hours," he says.
To the U.S. Marines combing Fallujah, the appearance of these two men is a positive sign: Perhaps they can play a small role in getting the shattered city up and running again. Kasim is said to know the power grid in this part of Anbar province, which includes Fallujah, better than anyone.
But the two Iraqis may not be so willing to play the part.
"I'm doing my job for my country and my family, not for the Americans," Kasim says. What hurts most, he adds, is that he still cannot go back into the city. "I don't know what happened to my home," he says.
Kasim and Raffah are just two of the thousands of people who will begin trickling back into this devastated city after a massive U.S.-led invasion, when at least 1,200 insurgents were killed and more than 1,000 suspects were captured. More than 50 Marines and eight Iraqis were killed.
Three weeks later, Marines are still edgy - facing sporadic pockets of resistance and being highly suspicious of the few Fallujans who stayed behind. Although the city has fallen, Marines daily fight scattered groups of rebels as they clear the city of weapons caches, more than 400 of which have been found.
At the same time, military engineers are racing to start reconstruction of the devastated city before the estimated 250,000 people who fled are allowed to return.
The work needs to be well under way by the end of January, when the country plans to hold national elections, if polling stations are to open. Marine officers and Baghdad officials say they want all Fallujah's citizens to be able to return home to vote.
Once known as the "city of the mosques," Fallujah is now a landscape of pancaked multistory buildings, ruined homes and broken minarets that testify to the overwhelming firepower the U.S. military employed to retake the city.
In the battle's aftermath, U.S. troops found evidence of "atrocity sites" - basements believed to have been torture chambers, complete with bloodied hoods, blood stains on walls and chains believed to have shackled hostages and prisoners held by the insurgents.
"When you go into those slaughter houses, you realize they were more followers of Hannibal Lecter than Allah," said Lt. Col. Dan Wilson. "What they were doing was an absolute perversion of the outstanding traditions of Islam."
The insurgents held Fallujans in a grip of fear, the Marines say.
"When you hear screams down the road, and you know torture is going on, you turn a blind eye," says Maj. Jim West, a Marine intelligence officer. "No one faults the citizens of Fallujah for not rising up against these evil thugs."
Across Fallujah, military engineers with tens of millions of dollars at their disposal are racing to fix the damage. They clear away piles of debris, pump sewage out of city streets, and patch up damaged water towers.
Lt. Col. Michael Paulk says Fallujah's resettlement will be determined by Iraqi officials, with Marines supporting the future city council, to be appointed by Baghdad, and paying of claims to returning residents.
The security of the city will be gradually handed over to Iraqi battalions who took part in the November assault.
"Our plan is a phased transition to Iraqi forces," says Paulk. "It's a tall order for the Iraqis but ... the Iraqi government has a vested interest in making Fallujah work."
Across town, in the eastern Askari neighborhood, some 70 young men huddled in the yard of the Red Crescent, sister organization to Geneva's Red Cross. The office was set up in late November to assist those civilians who stayed behind during the fighting.
"Of course I am angry, my house is destroyed, my city is in ruins, everything is gone," says Saad Mohammed Mansur, 23, one of the many young Sunni Arabs here who claim they are students, left behind by their families to guard homes and property. They deny having anything to do with the Mujahedeen.
Marines search the youths and test them for gunpowder residue on fingers. Those who test positive are arrested; the rest can either stay at the Red Crescent, be escorted back to their homes or out of the city, says Capt. Derek Wastila.
"Gunpowder residue is by no means an immediate recognition of guilt, but if they test positive, they get taken to a higher level of detention," says Wastila, of San Diego. "Most of them have been very good, but unfortunately, one or two among them we know are likely insurgents."
The next day, the Red Crescent says the U.S. military has ordered it to suspend operations temporarily. Its modest staff heads out, and American troops move in, arresting eight more of the young men inside.
12-08-04, 09:56 AM
Troops Put Tough Questions to Rumsfeld
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 9:45 a.m. ET Dec. 8, 2004
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (AP) -- Disgrunted U.S. soldiers complained to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday about the lack of armor for their vehicles and long deployments, drawing a blunt retort from the Pentagon chief.
``You go to war with the Army you have,'' he said in a rare public airing of rank-and-file concerns among the troops.
In his prepared remarks earlier, Rumsfeld had urged the troops -- mostly National Guard and Reserve soldiers -- to discount critics of the war in Iraq and to help ``win the test of wills'' with the insurgents.
Some of soldiers, however, had criticisms of their own -- not of the war itself but of how it is being fought.
Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
``Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?'' Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.
Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question.
``We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north,'' Wilson said after asking again.
Rumsfeld replied that troops should make the best of the conditions they face and said the Army was pushing manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it as fast as humanly possible.
And, the defense chief added, armor is not always a savior in the kind of combat U.S. troops face in Iraq, where the insurgents' weapon of choice is the roadside bomb, or improvised explosive device that has killed and maimed hundreds, if not thousands, of American troops since the summer of 2003.
``You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up,'' Rumsfeld said.
Asked later about Wilson's complaint, the deputy commanding general of U.S. forces in Kuwait, Maj. Gen. Gary Speer, said in an interview that as far as he knows, every vehicle that is deploying to Iraq from Camp Buehring in Kuwait has at least ``Level 3'' armor. That means it at least has locally fabricated armor for its side panels, but not necessarily bulletproof windows or protection against explosions that penetrate the floorboard.
Speer said he was not aware that soldiers were searching landfills for scrap metal and used bulletproof glass.
During the question-and-answer session, another soldier complained that active-duty Army units sometimes get priority over the National Guard and Reserve units for the best equipment in Iraq.
``There's no way I can prove it, but I am told the Army is breaking its neck to see that there is not'' discrimination against the National Guard and Reserve in terms of providing equipment, Rumsfeld said.
Yet another soldier asked, without putting it to Rumsfeld as a direct criticism, how much longer the Army will continue using its ``stop loss'' power to prevent soldiers from leaving the service who are otherwise eligible to retire or quit.
Rumsfeld said that this condition was simply a fact of life for soldiers at time of war.
``It's basically a sound principle, it's nothing new, it's been well understood'' by soldiers, he said. ``My guess is it will continue to be used as little as possible, but that it will continue to be used.''
In his opening remarks, Rumsfeld stressed that soldiers who are heading to Iraq should not believe those who say the insurgents cannot be defeated or who otherwise doubt the will of the military to win.
``They say we can't prevail. I see that violence and say we must win,'' Rumsfeld said.
12-08-04, 12:00 PM
Country Music Duo Salutes U.S. Troops During Holiday Tour
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2004 Vince Gill and Amy Grant are huge country music stars who've made it a habit of saluting U.S. military members for their service.
The holiday season is all about people celebrating family and loved ones and to be re-inspired," Grant observed during a recent interview with her husband, Gill, in Nashville. American troops and their families, she said, "need to know that we support them and that they have our love and our prayers."
Last year, the pair made it a point to recognize servicemembers during their "Simply Christmas with Amy Grant and Vince Gill" stateside holiday tour, donating tickets so servicemembers and their families could see the show.
And during Grant's rendition of the classic holiday song, "I'll Be Home for Christmas" during last year's tour, several on-stage screens flashed photos of deployed servicemembers sending holiday wishes to loved ones at home.
Grant recalled that her nephew, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, came to last year's show with his roommate. After she introduced them, the audience rose immediately to its feet and began cheering, she said.
"I just wish we could let every military person feel that kind of emotion and that sort of support," Grant noted.
Gill acknowledged "the sacrifice that our (military) men and women have made for our country," noting such selfless service enables Americans at home to live free lives.
Therefore, the country music stars "want to pitch in, in any way that we can," Gill said, to help support service members and their families.
This year's 14-city, "Simply Christmas" holiday tour runs through Dec. 19 and includes stops in Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Florida. It features "all-new pictures" of deployed servicemembers and their families, Grant reported.
Some of those photos, she said, depict deployed servicemembers' children saying, "I miss you, Mom and Dad," while others show military personnel sending their regards and best wishes to loved ones at home.
"It's just so beautiful," Grant said, noting that emotional support is important for anyone. "Whatever you're doing in life," she emphasized, "you need to feel supported and loved. That's what we're trying to do for our troops."
The country stars have recorded a promotional announcement for the Pentagon's "America Supports You" program, encouraging people to log onto the program's Web site. The DoD initiative recognizes efforts Americans are taking to remember servicemembers serving overseas in harm's way.
America is blessed, Gill said, because U.S. troops are "serving us so proudly" overseas in the war against global terrorism.
"God bless you, and come home soon," he said.
"We support you," Grant concluded.
12-08-04, 12:32 PM
Troops tighten noose on Fallujah
By Sgt. Isaac Weix,
Special to The Dunn County News
After a brief "rest and refit," Marine Sgt. Isaac Weix's (24th Regiment, Golf Company) platoon was sent to Lutayfiyah, a town outside the beleaguered city of Fallujah, to continue its mission of clearing insurgents from the area. He describes the action and shares his insights about Iraqi attitudes and troop morale:
Picking up where I left off: After a few days rest and refit, my platoon was ordered to secure a forward operating base in the town of Lutayfiyah.
Before I continue, I will give you a broad sense of what is going on. The American military pulled out of many Sunni areas after the last attack on Fallujah. The military pulled out for political reasons and a wait-and-see situation developed.
The areas were unable to police themselves and the insurgency cropped up. Currently, the Marines have been taking back towns, one at a time, and tightening the noose on Fallujah.
It will be old news when you read this, but Fallujah will be attacked soon. The towns that I am going into is part of that noose tightening.
This next town, Lutayfiyah, is so controlled by the insurgents that the Iraqi National Guard (ING) and the Iraqi Police (IP) are afraid to go there. The end state of our mission is to re-establish Iraqi civil authority to the area.
After an all-night movement, we arrived at our destination. The spot was picked out previously, using satellite pictures.
The largest initial threat is car bombs. We had barriers up to stop this kind of attack within the first 20 minutes. It only takes the insurgents 40 minutes, from the time of your arrival, to get a car bomb to your position.
The buildings we would use were secured in 30 minutes. The town woke up to a company of Marines dug into their front yard.
After the car bomb threat was minimized, we turned to our next threat -- mortars. We started filling sand bags, hardening our position.
The ING and IP arrived shortly after dawn. We secured buildings for each of these units also.
As the ING and IP were dismounting their vehicles, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded in a group of INGs and personnel from my platoon. One of the INGs was cut in half and died within 10 minutes. Seven others were wounded.
We called in a helicopter for the fifth time since I've been here. All the injured were Iraqi. My squad leader had a small cut on his lip.
For the next few days, we took mortar and rocket fire but due to our ability to create good, hardened positions, no one was injured.
I came close: An RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) missed me by three feet.
It is very interested going into these towns. When you first arrive, the people seem to hate you. When they realize that you are staying, they start to warm up to you and give you information about the bad guys. They live under the threat of death for even talking to the Americans.
Here, where the fighting is the worst, the people deep down want the security the Marines provide. I am reassured every day that we are doing the right thing.
It may seem messy on television but we are winning here and providing these people with a future that is worth the cost.
I am headed back out to the field again for an undetermined amount of time. Motivation is high, morale is high. Morale went way up when we learned Bush got re-elected.
I will write back when I can.
Sgt. Isaac Weix, USMC
I am absolutely aghast that the Army is screwing up this evolution more and more every day.
1. Abu G. Prison Abuse
2. Gitmo Prison Abuse
3. Rushing to award high level medals to those who deserve a swift kick in the rear.
4. Suing the Army over Stop-Loss
5. Publicly questioning / complaining to the Sec Def.
Have they no honor?
12-08-04, 12:46 PM
Toys, not guns, for these Marines
By Elizabeth Lund
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Dec. 8, 2004
At the Toys for Tots warehouse in Boston, there's a military campaign of sorts going on. The workers here - retirees in their 70s and 80s who once served in the Marines or reserves - would call it a battle of hope vs. despair.
Or they would if they had time to talk. But with another truckload of toys arriving, the crew must focus on the task at hand. Bend, lift, toss. Bend, lift, toss. The 25-member crew, assisted by 15 part-time volunteers, many of whom are also retirees, has only two more weeks to meet its goal of distributing 300,000 toys to disadvantaged local children.
Most people would expect to see 40 young enlistees working here, since Toys for Tots is a program of the Marine Corps Reserves. But with the war in Iraq, marines are often in short supply nationwide. Even in places where units have not been activated, silver-haired "troops" are becoming more important to get the toys out.
"I would have to literally shut down in order to staff this," says Sgt. Maj. Kip Carpenter of the 1st Battalion 25th Marines in Devens, Mass. Sergeant Carpenter, who coordinates the Boston program, spares as many men as he can, sending two or three to the warehouse each day. Others pick up donations and appear in dress blues at Toys for Tots events. The more appearances they make, the more donations they receive.
Last year, however, most of Carpenter's men were abroad, so the warehouse crew had to pick up the slack.
"They do all the work," says Carpenter of the retirees. "They're the real story here."
That's a story few have heard. Most Americans don't even know how the program started or why the Marines feel it relates to national defense.
"We're protecting the future of the country," says Carpenter. The toys bring hope to the youngest and most vulnerable Americans. "Being a marine is not about guns, it's not about tanks, it's about taking care of people, supporting the person on the right or left of us, whether in the neighborhood or in battle."
Toys for Tots was founded in 1947 by Bill Hendricks, a reservist who worked in public relations in Los Angeles. His wife, Diane, had made a Raggedy Ann doll, and she gave him an order: Find an organization that will give it to a needy child.
Mr. Hendricks looked around, but couldn't find such a charity. His wife then insisted that he start one, and he did.
Los Angeles reservists collected 5,000 toys that year. In 1948 the program spread to several other cities, including Boston. The method of collecting - placing boxes at participating businesses, firehouses, etc. - has remained constant over the years, but the volume of toys has grown exponentially.
Last Christmas, Toys for Tots had its best drive ever: 15 million toys distributed to 6-1/2 million children nationwide. The Marines hope to do better this year.
The Boston group, like its counterparts across America, began its campaign Oct. 15. That's when Kay Carpenter and several other women - all former members of the USMC - started answering phone calls and sending out request forms to social agencies and community groups that need toys for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings Day.
The women will eventually process requests from about 300 organizations. They also answer questions from potential donors and send out posters to hundreds of businesses that want a collection box.
The phones never stop ringing.
One floor above them, the warehouse crew surveys stock from last year. (Many donations come in the week after Christmas and are stored.) Because most new donations won't be received until Dec. 15, $100,000 worth of playthings are purchased to help fill early requests. More than 100 orders leave the warehouse by mid-November, including 7,000 toys for the state Department of Social Services.
The sound of talking toys
As the trickle of donations becomes a stream, every pair of hands is needed to unload truck after truck, move the toys upstairs, and then sort and bag them. The place is busier than Boston's Logan Airport the day before Thanksgiving.
The hectic pace doesn't faze the volunteers, says James Cavanaugh, a retiree who keeps things moving smoothly.
Bend, lift, stack. Bend, lift, bag. Boxes of newly arrived toys stand in piles nearly 12 feet tall, and somewhere, always, a toy is talking or giving orders: "Vroom." "Put your hard hat on." "My name is Elmo."
The strange cacophony can be annoying, says Cpl. Jeremy Rezendes, on loan from Devens. "You hear Elmo all day long. It gets to you after a couple of hours."
The seniors cruise along despite the noise, working as fast as people 30 years their junior. Their commitment to helping children and to the Marine Corps fuels them hour after hour, five days a week.
"We're a bunch of diehards," says Paul Fay, who's in his early 70s. "Every year we say we're not coming in, but here we are."
Part of the attraction is the camaraderie. The marines are not just a brotherhood, they say, they're a family - one that loves to tease one another. The friendly banter never stops.
"Bubblehead," the lone sailor in the group, gets razzed constantly.
But all the volunteers keep in mind their deeper purpose. "It's important [for me] to give back to those who helped me when I had three kids and was desperate," says Priscilla Fowler, who's retired from State Street Bank.
Of the 479 Toys for Tots chapters nationwide, 184 are run by Marine units, whose coordinators have a turnover rate of 33 to 50 percent each year, due to transfers and changes in duty. The Boston group will have a new coordinator next year, too, but Carpenter isn't worried.
"The new guy will have to learn the ropes," he says, "but [the retired Marines] know what's to be done."
Other Toys for Tots chapters - smaller programs that tend to serve more rural areas - are run by former Marines or civilians who want to help. They report to the Toys for Tots Foundation in Quantico, Va. The creation of the foundation, in the late 1980s, has been one of the biggest advances Toys for Tots has made in its 57 years. It trains program leaders, raises funds all year long, and also provides toys and money when local coffers run dry. Each year it contributes $30 million to $40 million in additional toys nationwide.
"I get calls from master sergeants and gunnery sergeants, men who are supposed to be the meanest guys in world, the toughest fighters, and they'll say, 'You've got to get me more toys!' " says Bill Grein, vice president of marketing and development for the Toys for Tots Foundation. "You can hear the emotion in their voices when they say, 'We still have children to help.' "
Toys are all new, not secondhand
In the late 1970s, a new-toys-only rule was instituted. Before that, used toys were accepted, and reservists would refurbish or repair them. But that was too time- consuming.
An equally important reason for the change was the emotional ramifications of secondhand gifts, says Mr. Grein. "A child, just because he or she is poor, doesn't need to get a castoff toy. We felt it was very important to teach them that they are as good as everyone else and they deserve a new toy just like every other child."
That message has definitely come through, says Saf Caruso of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services Kids Fund, which receives toys from the program. "The Toys for Tots program shows these children that even while they go through difficult circumstances, they are considered very special and worthy. They know they are thought about and remembered during the holidays."
That comment would delight the Boston group, which will have to work at full speed for the next two weeks. That's a sacrifice they're willing to make. They lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They know how crucial a sense of hope is.
They don't even mind that their mission seems to be with them all the time.
During a recent trip to a coffee shop, a mother and daughter spied Carpenter's Toys for Tots jacket and asked him to take two bags of toys they had in the car. His own car was nearly full already, but he accepted the donations.
The young girl was impressed and told her mother: "That's one of Santa's elves in disguise."
Carpenter just smiled and said, "Shhh, don't let anybody know our secret."
12-08-04, 12:48 PM
24th MEU goes after weapons
December 08, 2004
DAILY NEWS STAFF
Troops with Camp Lejeune's 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit - in Iraq since July - are upbeat and showing progress in their mission to disrupt the insurgency, a spokesman said.
Since moving into the northern Babil Province, the 24th MEU's 2,200 Marines and sailors were reinforced with other Marine and Army units. Those include the reserve 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment and a Scotland-based British Blackwatch Regiment, said Capt. Dave Nevers, a 24th MEU spokesman, in a telephone interview.
The extra forces were needed in late November to carry out a roundup of Iraqi insurgents and weapons. About 5,000 troops under the 24th MEU's command executed what was called Operation Plymouth Rock, Nevers said.
"It's really an intensification of what we've been doing - raids, house-to-house searches and occasionally a citywide sweep," Nevers said. "It's our latest effort to go after criminals, insurgents and terrorists tormenting the (people) with violence and chaos south of Baghdad.
"The (troops) have been working 17 to 18 hours a day staying with the attack. We were able to exploit a growing body of intelligence and take advantage of the increase in the number of forces available to us, to squeeze and suffocate these bad guys in our area."
That area stretches from southern Baghdad south through the town of Iskandariyah. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers serve as the eastern and western boundaries. Largely farmland, the territory is home to some 1.2 million people.
"It's safe to say that we established a box around the area to stop insurgents from traveling freely," Nevers said.
Since their arrival early last summer, MEU troops have captured more than 700 insurgents and found more than 100 weapons stockpiles, Nevers said.
From Nov. 23 to Nov. 30, troops rounded up more than 200 suspected insurgents and uncovered several sizeable weapons caches, according to reports. They found things like artillery and mortar rounds, rockets, mortar fuses, rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and a variety of materials used to make improved explosive devices.
"Under Saddam (the region) sheltered a great number of weapons depots and factories," Nevers said. "That's just one illustration of the area and mission we've inherited. We think we've made a good dent in their capability, but we're under no illusion we've found it all."
Additionally, Marines are helping to grow Iraqi forces in the region. The military and police academies are feeding into existing Iraqi police, National Guard, SWAT and commando forces faster than insurgents can discourage them with threats of terror and intimidation, Nevers said.
"The vast majority of the people in our area are quite friendly," Nevers said. "Some are wary, but there is a very small percentage that is openly hostile."
To date, about 220 troops have been wounded, Nevers said. Of those, 180 have returned to duty.
"It's a sign of their fighting spirit, but a remarkable testament to our equipment - SAPI plates, APES armor, Wiley-X goggles and Up-Armored vehicles," Nevers said. "They are not only reducing the number of casualties, but also reducing the gravity (of the wounds)."
12-08-04, 12:52 PM
Marines will hire 200 to repair war equipment at desert post
By CHUCK MUELLER, Staff Writer
San Bernadino County Sun
Dec. 8, 2004
The Marine Corps is gearing up to hire as many as 200 civilian workers over the next four months to repair tanks, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles damaged in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The jobs at the Marine Corps Maintenance Center in Yermo, near Barstow, will start at $14 to $20 an hour, officials said. They are expected to last from one to four years.
"This is a good opportunity for potential employees in a tight job market,' said Leonard Hilton, manager of the Maintenance Center's manpower and administrative department. "We're putting an emphasis on training, so people with limited skills can apply.'
The jobs range from beginning and experienced electronics mechanics to artillery workers, painters, equipment cleaners and fork-lift operators. The posts are expected to begin later this month after shipments of war-ravaged equipment return to the United States
"We will need from 100 to 200 people to work on tanks, trucks, Humvees, light armored vehicles and weapons systems,' Hilton said. "Ships carrying damaged vehicles are docking in Florida to move the equipment by rail to Barstow. We want to have mechanics and other workers on hand when the vehicles arrive.'
There will be on-the-job training for inexperienced workers, Marine base spokesman Rob Jackson said.
Equipment arriving for repairs is in every imaginable condition, officials said. Most were used by Marines in Iraq, but some were with Army and Coast Guard units.
Hilton said a list of qualified applicants will be compiled after resumes are reviewed by the Navy's human resource service center in San Diego. Applicants must be U.S. citizens who are at least 16 years old. Jobs are open to men and woman.
Applicants should bring their resumes to the job fair.
"While these are temporary jobs, skills learned in them will help these workers qualify for other permanent jobs when they become available,' Hilton said.
The Maintenance Center now employs 885, most of them civilians.
A job fair for the Marine Corps Maintenance Center in Yermo is scheduled from 3 to 8 p.m. today at the High Desert Business Resource Center, 15555 Main St., Hesperia.
For more information, call training coordinator Mike Burke at (760) 577-7297. Or contact the San Bernardino County Jobs and Employment Services Department at (800) 451-5627 or visit www.jesd.com.
12-08-04, 12:54 PM
War's tales need telling
By DENNIS ROGERS
Staff Writer, News-Observer
Dec, 8, 2004
The moment frozen by Joe Rosenthal's camera lens Feb. 23, 1945, may be the most famous photograph of the 20th century, if not of all time.
And that picture is why, for all his good intentions, North Carolina Congressman Walter B. Jones Jr. is dead wrong.
In the split second it takes for a camera shutter to open and close, Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, captured an image that is seared into the American heart. As long as the men and women of the Greatest Generation are remembered for what they did in World War II, his iconic photograph of the American flag being raised over Iwo Jima will be one of the reasons.
Jones, who represents the Down East 3rd District, has asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to rethink the "embed" program that permits journalists to go with our troops into combat.
What's behind Jones' request is the haunting TV image of a young Marine apparently shooting and killing a wounded Iraqi terrorist he thought posed a threat to his team.
"That's the problem," Jones said. "They're not going to show the whole situation. They're going to show the part that's the most interesting to the viewer."
Sometimes they will, no doubt. But it was embedded reporters, the folks Jones would like to have spoon-fed the day's sanitized news by official military spokesmen, who quickly told the rest of the story: The day before the gruesome moment was captured on film, that same Marine had been wounded.
A fellow Marine had been killed by the booby-trapped body of an insurgent.
Journalists have always been there to tell the story of Americans at war. And they, like the soldiers at their side, have paid a heavy toll. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 54 reporters and photographers have been killed so far in 2004, 23 of them in Iraq.
Along the way, journalists have told the story, blemishes and all, of the ordinary American GI, chosen by Time magazine as its 2003 Person of the Year. They have told of the sacrifice and gallantry, the griping and nobility, the failures and victories.
Ernie Pyle and Bill Mauldin shared the hard life of the infantry grunt to capture the horror, humor and humanity of World War II. Marguerite Higgins disobeyed her editors to land with the Marines at Inchon during the Korean War. Joe Galloway hugged the ground and dodged the bullets to tell of the heroism of the 305 1st Cavalry troopers who died in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam, retold in "We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young."
No one used the word, but all of them were "embedded."
Our soldiers deserve to have us know of their deeds. That a few of them will be shown to be all too human is a small price to pay for the grander story of their dedication.
I have talked to several people who have been embedded reporters in Iraq. Most of them are in awe that such selfless young people live among us.
If we are to send our kids to die on foreign fields, we should -- no, we must -- be willing to share their triumphs and their tragedies. We can only do that when reporters, not military spokespeople, are free to share their lives and their deaths.
Dennis Rogers can be reached at 829-4750 or email@example.com.
12-08-04, 12:55 PM
Deserters say, "We won't go to Iraq"
Dec. 8, 2004
It's an offense punishable by death during wartime. It's been committed by 5,500 soldiers since the war with Iraq began. The men, who have violated military orders and oaths, tell 60 Minutes Wednesday that it isn't cowardice, but rather the nature of the war in Iraq, that turned them into American deserters.
American soldiers currently living in Canada tell Correspondent Scott Pelley why they made the decision to desert their units, in a report to be broadcast on Dec. 8, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Marine PFC Dan Felushko, 24, tells Pelley, "I didn't want...'Died deluded in Iraq' over my gravestone."
It was Felushko's responsibility to go with the Marines to Kuwait in January 2003. Instead, Felushko slipped out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and deployed himself to Canada.
"I was a warrior...I always have been," Felushko tells Pelley. "I've always felt...that if there are people who can't defend themselves, it's my responsibility to do that."
"As we're sitting here, something just short of 1,100 Americans have died. What do you say to their families about the choice you made?" asks Pelley.
"I honor their dead. ...Maybe they think that my presence dishonors their dead, but they made a choice the same as I made a choice, and my big problem is that, if they made that choice for anything other than they believed in it, then that's wrong," says Felushko. "The government has to be held responsible for those deaths, because they didn't give them an option."
Soldiers who want to be assigned to non-combat jobs have the option of applying for conscientious objector status.
Spc. Jeremy Hinzman, from Rapid City, S.D., filled out those forms, and while he waited for the decision on his request, he worked in a kitchen in Afghanistan.
The Army eventually told Hinzman he didn't qualify as a conscientious objector. "I was walking to the chow hall with my unit and we were yelling, 'Train to kill, kill we will,' over and over again," recalls Hinzman.
"I kind of snuck a peek around me and saw all my colleagues getting red in the face and hoarse yelling, and at that point, a light went off in my head and I said, 'You know, I made the wrong career decision.'"
Despite his decision to leave the army, Hinzman says he wasn't looking for a way out of his commitment to the military.
"I was told in basic training that, if I'm given an illegal or immoral order, it is my duty to disobey it, and I feel that invading and occupying Iraq is an illegal and immoral thing to do," says Hinzman.
"I think there are times when militaries or countries act in a collectively wrong way. ...Saddam Hussein was a really bad guy, but was he a threat to the U.S.?"
Hussein may have been a threat to the Iraqi people, but Hinzman maintains that was not enough of a reason for Hinzman to risk his life fighting in Iraq.
"Whether a country lives under freedom or tyranny or whatever else, that's the collective responsibility of the people of that country," says Hinzman.
He later adds that his contract with the military was "to defend the Constitution of the United States, not take part in offensive, preemptive wars."
12-08-04, 03:46 PM
Power Of Love
This is a good one to pass on.........please read.......
I was sitting alone in one of those loud, casual steak houses that you find
all over the country. You know the type--a bucket of peanuts on every
table, shells littering the floor, and a bunch of perky college kids racing
around with longneck beers and sizzling platters.
Taking a sip of my iced tea, I studied the crowd over the rim of my glass.
My gaze lingered on a group enjoying their meal. They wore no uniform to
identify their branch of service, but they were definitely "military:"
clean shaven, cropped haircut, and that "squared away" look that comes with
Smiling sadly, I glanced across my table to the empty seat where my husband
usually sat. It had only been a few months since we sat in this very
booth, talking about his upcoming deployment to the Middle East. That was
when he made me promise to get a sitter for the kids, come back to this
restaurant once a month and treat myself to a nice steak. In turn he would
treasure the thought of me being here, thinking about him until he returned
home to me.
I fingered the little flag pin I constantly wear and wondered where he was
at this very moment. Was he safe and warm? Was his cold any better? Were
my letters getting through to him? As I pondered these thoughts, high
pitched female voices from the next booth broke into my thoughts.
"I don't know what Bush is thinking about. Invading Iraq. You'd think
that man would learn from his old man's mistakes. Good lord. What an
idiot! I can't believe he is even in office. You do know, he stole the
I cut into my steak and tried to ignore them, as they began an endless
tirade running down our president. I thought about the last night I spent
with my husband, as he prepared to deploy. He had just returned from
getting his smallpox and anthrax shots. The image of him standing in our
kitchen packing his gas mask still gives me chills.
Once again the women's voices invaded my thoughts. "It is all about oil,
you know. Our soldiers will go in and rape and steal all the oil they can
in the name of 'freedom'. Hmph! I wonder how many innocent people they'll
kill without giving it a thought. It's pure greed, you know."
My chest tightened as I stared at my wedding ring. I could still see how
handsome my husband looked in his "mess dress" the day he slipped it on my
finger. I wondered what he was wearing now. Probably his desert uniform,
affectionately dubbed "coffee stains" with a heavy bulletproof vest over
"You know, we should just leave Iraq alone. I don't think they are hiding
any weapons. In fact, I bet it's all a big act just to Increase the
president's popularity. That's all it is, padding the military budget at
the expense of our social security and education. And, you know what else?
We're just asking for another 9-ll. I can't say when it happens again that
we didn't deserve it."
Their words brought to mind the war protesters I had watched gathering
outside our base. Did no one appreciate the sacrifice of brave men and
women, who leave their homes and family to ensure our freedom? Do they
even know what "freedom" is?
I glanced at the table where the young men were sitting, and saw their
courageous faces change. They had stopped eating and looked at each
other dejectedly, listening to the women talking.
"Well, I, for one, think it's just deplorable to invade Iraq, and I am
certainly sick of our tax dollars going to train professional baby killers
we call a military."
Professional baby killers? I thought about what a wonderful father my
husband is, and of how long it would be before he would see our children
That's it! Indignation rose up inside me. Normally reserved, pride in my
husband gave me a brassy boldness I never realized I had. Tonight one
voice will answer on behalf of our military, and let her pride in our
troops be known.
Sliding out of my booth, I walked around to the adjoining booth and placed
my hands flat on their table. Lowering myself to eye level with them, I
smilingly said, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation.
You see, I'm sitting here trying to enjoy my dinner alone. And, do you
know why? Because my husband, whom I love with all my heart, is halfway
around the world defending your right to say rotten things about him."
"Yes, you have the right to your opinion, and what you think is none of my
business. However, what you say in public is something else, and I will
not sit by and listen to you ridicule MY country, MY president, MY husband,
and all the other fine American men and women who put their lives on the
line, just so you can have the "freedom" to complain. Freedom is an
expensive commodity, ladies. Don't let your actions cheapen it."
I must have been louder than I meant to be, because the manager came over
to inquire if everything was all right. "Yes, thank you," I replied.
Then turning back to the women, I said, "Enjoy the rest of your meal."
As I returned to my booth applause broke out. I was embarrassed for making
a scene, and went back to my half eaten steak. The women picked up their
check and scurried away.
After finishing my meal, and while waiting for my check, the manager
returned with a huge apple cobbler ala mode. "Compliments of those
soldiers," he said. He also smiled and said the ladies tried to pay for my
dinner, but that another couple had beaten them to it. When I asked who,
the manager said they had already left, but that the gentleman was a
veteran, and wanted to take care of the wife of "one of our boys."
With a lump in my throat, I gratefully turned to the soldiers and thanked
them for the cobbler. Grinning from ear to ear, they came over and
surrounded the booth. "We just wanted to thank you, ma'am. You know we
can't get into confrontations with civilians, so we appreciate what you
As I drove home, for the first time since my husband's deployment, I didn't
feel quite so alone. My heart was filled with the warmth of the other
diners who stopped by my table, to relate how they, too, were proud of my
husband, and would keep him in their prayers. I knew their flags would fly
little higher the next day.
Perhaps they would look for more tangible ways to show their pride in our
country, and the military who protect her. And maybe, just maybe, the
two women who were railing against our country, would pause for a minute to
appreciate all the freedom America offers, and the price it pays to
maintain it's freedom.
As for me, I have learned that one voice CAN make a difference. Maybe the
next time protesters gather outside the gates of the base where I live,
I will proudly stand on the opposite side with a sign of my own. It will
simply say, "Thank You!"
(*Lori Kimble is a 31 year old teacher and proud military wife. A
California native, Mrs. Kimble currently lives in Alabama)
To those who fought for our Nation: Freedom has a flavor the protected will
never know. GOD BLESS AMERICA
When you receive this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our
ground, air and navy personnel in every area of the middle east. There
is nothing attached.... This can be very powerful.... Just send this to all
the people in your address book.
Do not stop this prayer chain, please.... Of all the gifts you could give
to anyone in the US Military, be it Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines or
National Guard, Prayer is the very best one.....Amen!
When the power of LOVE is stronger than the love of power, we will have
Owana T. Rogers
12-08-04, 04:30 PM
yehawwwwwwwwwwwwww she should have been a Marine now that my kind of Lady.. Semper Fi.
12-08-04, 05:55 PM
More U.S. Soldiers Survive War Wounds
By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Medical Writer
For every American soldier killed in Iraq (news - web sites), nine others have been wounded and survived the highest rate of any war in U.S. history. It isn't that their injuries were less serious, a new report says. In fact, some young soldiers and Marines have had faces, arms and legs blown off and are now returning home badly maimed.
But they have survived thanks, in part, to armor-like vests and fast treatment from doctors on the move with surgical kits in backpacks.
"This is unprecedented. People who lose not just one but two or three extremities are people who just have not survived in the past," said Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who researched military medicine and wrote about it in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites).
The journal also published a five-page spread of 21 military photographs that graphically depict the horrific injuries and conditions under which these modern-day MASH surgeons operate.
"We thought a lot about it," said the journal's editor, Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, and ultimately decided the pictures told an important story.
"This war is producing unique injuries less lethal but more traumatic," he said.
In one traumatic case, Gawande tells of an airman who lost both legs, his right hand and part of his face. "How he and others like him will be able to live and function remains an open question," Gawande writes.
Kevlar helmets and vests are one reason for the high survival rate.
"The critical core, your chest and your abdomen, are protected," said Dr. George Peoples, a Walter Reed Army Medical Center surgeon who served in Iraq and Afghanistan (news - web sites). "Parodixically, what we've seen is devastating extremity injuries because people are surviving wounds they otherwise wouldn't have."
By mid-November, 10,369 American troops had been wounded in battle in Afghanistan or Iraq, and 1,004 had died a survival rate of roughly 90 percent. In the Vietnam War, one in four wounded died, virtually all of them before they could reach MASH units some distance from the fighting.
Today in Iraq, real-life Hawkeyes and B.J. Hunnicuts have stripped trauma surgery to its most basic level, carrying "mini-hospitals" in six Humvees and field operating kits in five backpacks so they can move with troops and do surgery on the spot.
"Within an hour, we drop the tents and set up the OR tables, and we can pretty much start operating immediately," said Peoples, whose photographs are in the medical journal.
He's now at Walter Reed in Washington which has treated 150 amputees from the Iraq war. American military hospitals collectively have had 200 amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan, three of them triple amputees.
The record survival rates in Iraq have been achieved with an astonishingly small number of general surgeons. The entire Army has only about 120 on active duty and a similar number in the reserves. Of these, only 30 to 50 are in Iraq, plus 10 to 15 orthopedic surgeons, to care for 130,000 to 150,000 troops, Gawande reports.
That's fewer than the 80 general and orthopedic surgeons on staff at two Boston hospitals Brigham and Massachusetts General.
"It's a very tight supply," Gawande said of the surgeons in Iraq. "They're now also burdened with civilian Iraqis seeking their help because the U.S. has taken over many Iraqi hospitals."
Virginia Stephanakis, a spokeswoman for the Army Surgeon General's Office, said Gawande had done excellent research and that his figures on casualties jibe with those on Department of Defense (news - web sites) Web sites, though she wouldn't confirm the number of surgeons in Iraq.
Gawande and others also credit nurses, anesthetists, helicopter pilots, other transport staff and an entire rethinking of the combat medicine system for soldiers' survival.
The strategy is damage control, not definitive repair. Field doctors limit surgery to two hours or less, often leaving temporary closures and even plastic bags over wounds, and send soldiers to one of several combat support hospitals in Iraq with services like labs and X-rays.
"We basically work to save life over limb," said Navy Capt. Kenneth Kelleher, chief of the surgical company at the chief U.S. Marine base near Fallujah. "No frills, nothing complicated. If the injury is not going to be salvageable, we do a rapid amputation, and there have been a fair number of those."
If soldiers are shipped to a combat support hospital, the maximum stay is three days. If more advanced care is needed, they're sent to hospitals in Landstuhl, Germany, or Kuwait or Spain. If care will be needed for a month or more, they're whisked directly to Walter Reed or Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
"The average time from battlefield to arrival in the United States is now less than four days. In Vietnam, it was 45 days," Gawande writes.
John Greenwood, a historian with the Army Surgeon General's office, said the new strategy has made a big difference in survival.
"Historically, the key change has been the ability to move the wounded man to definitive surgical care," he said.
Field surgeons moving with troops is the first step. Peoples traveled 1,100 miles throughout southern Iraq and into Baghdad, doing only what was absolutely necessary to save a life and shipping patients out.
He said he tried to ignore personal danger, like the time his medical team was sent to an evacuated air base in southern Iraq.
"At least, we thought it was evacuated," he said. In fact, Iraqi soldiers were still being routed out. The medical team was told to pick any of the bombed-out buildings to use as a makeshift hospital. After finishing one surgery, he walked outside and noticed big red X's on all the other buildings warning against entry.
By sheer luck, he said, "we had chosen the only one that hadn't been booby-trapped."
As for the soldiers he took pictures of, he had this to say:
"Every person depicted in those photos survived."
Eds: Associated Press writer Katarina Kratovac in Fallujah, Iraq, contributed to this report.
On the Net:
New England Journal: www.nejm.org
Defense Department: http://www.defenselink.mil
Directorate for Information Operations and Reports:
12-08-04, 06:50 PM
Navy surgeons in Iraq wrangle with trauma
By KATARINA KRATOVAC
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
Dec. 8, 2004
NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - Doctors with Bravo Surgical Company - known as the "Cheaters of Death" - fight their own quiet battles every day against the horrifying wounds of war.
"These injuries we never see at home," said one of the surgeons, Dr. Matthew Camuso of Los Angeles. "I mostly treated gunshot wounds and stabbing, but these injuries don't compare - you just don't have people blown up back home."
Dr. Michael Mazurek, an orthopedic surgeon and trauma specialist from Philadelphia, said he has seen "some horrific injuries" in the 90 days since coming to Iraq. "The tremendous force of the IED can devastate a torso," he says, referring to a roadside bomb.
As quickly as they can, the doctors of Bravo Company patch up U.S. soldiers who are often treated first at the scene of their injury by mobile doctors with backpack kits. Then, the wounded are quickly flown to military hospitals in Europe or to the United States if they are severely injured.
"What we saw as the most lifesaving factor was getting the wounded to us as soon as possible," said Dr. Kenneth Kelleher, the 58-year-old Navy captain who is company chief. "Then, it's all down to basic surgery, stop the bleeding, close holes and bowel - we basically work to save life over limb."
They work in a single-story concrete building that is deceptively austere. This Navy combat hospital houses two complete surgeries, with three operating tables, a 20-bed ward and state-of-the-art equipment, including digital X-ray, a well-stocked pharmacy and a laboratory complete with blood bank freezers.
The scene, once one of fierce urban warfare that lasted for a week in Iraq's former insurgent stronghold, is now quiet.
But during the most intense combat in the battle for Fallujah and in the mop-up military operations that followed, the hospital received about 800 patients - over 50 a day, Kelleher said. That compares with the earlier Oct. 17 record, when Kelleher's team treated 16 patients from three separate attacks in the area.
Mazurek says 10 surgeries in a single day of the battle were a personal record.
During Fallujah's urban combat, there were far fewer wounds from roadside bombs than are suffered elsewhere in Iraq, and far more gunshot wounds to arms and legs as Marines clashed house-to-house with holed-up insurgents.
By the time the chaos had ended, more than 50 Marines and eight Iraqi soldiers had been killed in the battle that U.S. military says also claimed the lives of 1,600 insurgents. Bravo Surgical also treated over 50 wounded Iraqi soldiers who fought alongside U.S. troops, as well as about 50 insurgents.
Combat hospitals, with front-line lifesaving crews such as Kelleher's, emerged from the 1991 Gulf War, Somalia and other Marine engagements. From their experience at the operating table, doctors learned they had to treat the wounded in those critical first minutes - what's called the "Golden Hour" - so getting them off the battlefield fast was of paramount importance.
That practice in Iraq is one reason for the 90 percent survival rate of U.S. soldiers, the highest in any war.
But this war is seeing more severe injuries and amputees than any other war, too. Mazurek, 36, says the toughest decision for him is whether a limb is salvageable.
"We are better at recovering limbs than we were 20 years ago simply because of the techniques, because we are generally better at what we do and the approach to 'mangled extremity' is different," he says. On the other hand, "a U.S. soldier has a better chance at getting the latest prosthesis, adequate rehabilitation than any other."
In other cases, there are no choices for the doctors to make.
"Unfortunately, it's the injuries on the battlefield that mostly select who is to live and who is not - those who die are mostly those who are immediately killed in action," Kelleher said.
12-08-04, 06:53 PM
The Battle of Fallujah
One Early Battle in a Long, Long World War
by James Atticus Bowden
Dec. 8, 2004
"We feel right now that we have, as I mentioned, broken the back of the insurgency," Lieutenant General John F. Sattler, Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force comment on the Battle of Fallujah.
Nonsense. But, a prime example why Marines command tactical engagements and don't run wars (according to a USMC Command and Staff College graduate). The insurgency is alive and well, just about 1,200 insurgents shorter. The valor of Marines and Soldiers in the battle was significant, but the enemy isn't near their culminating point - the real beginning of the end.
Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) isn't about how many insurgents are killed. The center of gravity for OIF is how many people are willing to be insurgents. The fighting, truly, is politics by another means. The election in '05 is a symbolic exercise. This fighting is the real election.
This election with guns and bombs is about who has the power to rule. It's different from the Rule of Law. It's the way of the world. The exception to the rule of ruthless power is the bubble in time called the Great Experiment (Democracy in America), parliamentary rule among English-speaking peoples and in Western Europe - on and off, and flattering imitators elsewhere. History mocks President Bush's Wilsonian rhetoric of democracy fast flowering in the Islamic desert.
Islamic civilization, once triumphantly ascendant, has declined since the 1200s. Today, Islamic civilization, except for Egypt, Iran (Persia) and Turkey, is a tribal culture stuck in the 13 th Century. Islam is as far behind the West - no Renaissance, no Reformation, no Enlightenment - as the Barbarians were behind Rome in the 5 th Century. There is a 600-800 year gap. Islam produces Islamists and is the identity of Iraq's culture.
Yet, using demeaning names for enemies in Iraq, like "terrorist, dead-ender, insurgent, foreign Islamist, etc." is self-absorbed folly. The enemies of occupying Americans aren't terrorists. They're using terrorism as a tactic. Why are Iraqis fighting? The Iraqis are struggling for security and stability for their families and tribes.
The real election issue is which group of guys with guns is ruthless enough, willing enough, to win. That is their war.
America's war is different. Our fight is for the winner in Iraq to not be hostile to the U.S. and go through the symbolism of elections periodically. As long as the successor government is better than Saddam Hussein, like warlord Afghanistan with elections is better than the Taliban, we win.
OIF fits into our World War IV - which may last for centuries. For each phase of the fight, for each location, the U.S. needs the strategic, operational and tactical levels of war to match properly. Metaphors might provide the right framework of understanding.
Strategy. The U.S. is in the same position as Rome after the defeat of Carthage (146 B.C.). No peer competitor. The Barbarians beyond our borders are the biggest threat. Our Culture War, which is a Civil War, and disputes among Allies are the conflicts that determine if the U.S. has the Will to defeat the Islamist Totalitarians.
Containment, which worked for Communist Totalitarianism to destroy itself with Marxist economics, has a parallel 'Munificent Destiny'. Nations must be willing to limit Islamic immigration. Nations must contend the Islamic immigration invasion with ideas of Evangelical Christianity or Pagan Secular Humanism. (Hint: Secular Humanist Totalitarianism like Islamist Totalitarianism limits freedom.) Promote capitalism. Share wealth with investments.
Operations. Punitive expeditions into Islamic country for specific missions and durations will be needed. However, the operational and tactical metaphor is the Indian Wars (1608-1892), not Rome. Two cultures are in conflict. Like the Indian Wars, we will use Muslim allies to fight Muslims.
Tactics. Every tactical engagement has a political and cultural message. It is an aspect of Information War. GEN. John Abizaid understands this culture well enough to make the connection from tactics to operational and strategic outcomes. The Army leads transformation for the Information Era of Modern Warfare - changing operations and organizations now. New technology from the Future Combat Systems will be fielded when ready.
The U.S. needs a lot more Army. The Army should grow to 600k or 800k. And, no, we don't need more Marines to do Land Warfare. The Marines are valiant warriors, but they are organized and equipped differently than the Army for Sea-based missions. The Marines move slower and take more casualties.
Fallujah was a tactical victory. Our operational victory will defeat the enemy's Will.
Bowden has specialized in inter-disciplinary long range 'futures' studies for over a decade. He is employed by a Defense Department contractor. He is a retired United States Army Infantry Officer. He is a 1972 graduate of the United States Military Academy and earned graduate degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University. He holds two elected Republican Party offices in Virginia.
12-08-04, 06:55 PM
Marines in Fallujah 'Get By' With Armor
Dec. 8, 2004
NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq - Marines patrolling the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah - some in open Humvees - say they've had some close calls, but "get by well" with the vehicle and body armor they have.
"I think the armor we have for the vehicles is getting better and our body armor is OK, I have nothing against it," Sgt. Aaron D'Amico said Wednesday.
Told about complaints from disgruntled soldiers who told Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld earlier Wednesday they lacked armored vehicles and other equipment, D'Amico said: "I'd definitely opt for higher production of armor but the Marines get by well with what we have."
D'Amico, 24, of Cleveland, Ohio, said his unit, the 1st Battalion of the 8th Marine Regiment, received new, upgraded vehicle armor a year ago, with Kevlar-protected seats. D'Amico's only complaint is that the open-roof Humvee provides no protection at the back.
The armor the Marines receive is "usually leftovers from the Army, the Army usually gets the better stuff," he added.
In November, U.S. deaths in Iraq reached 135, equaling the all-time high previously reached in April. Hundreds more were wounded. At least 54 deaths occurred during the Marine-led assault on Fallujah.
D'Amico said his closest call occurred four months ago in the town of Haditha in central Iraq, when a roadside bomb blew up by the side of his vehicle.
The blast and flying shrapnel nicked the side armor of the Humvee door but injured no one inside.
D'Amico said it was not just the vehicle armor that saved them, but also the bomb-makers' lack of skill in planting the device too deep to cause serious damage.
Cpl. Adam Golden, 21, of New York, agreed the armor they have is serving them well, but said he would prefer "castled-in armor," especially armor over the Humvee's open canopy.
"Our body armor stops appropriate rounds and it works great to save lives," added Golden. "There are always places you could get hit, such as on the sides of your chest or in the armpits. I know a lot of guys who got hit there."
He believes such body armor is now being designed but has not yet reached the troops.
Cpl. Joshua Munns said it isn't easy to make the best armor.
"It has to be tested against the heaviest weapons infantry would encounter," said Munns, 21, of Redding, Calif.
"The vehicle floor Kevlar, for example is not meant to stop an explosion but prevents the vehicle floor from breaking apart on the inside," Munns added.
Asked whether he would prefer a closed Humvee with bulletproof windows, Munns said "it's a yes-and-no answer."
"An enclosed vehicle reduces your visibility and if you are not able to see an attack you might as well have no armor at all," he said. "It needs to be a fine balance between visibility and protection."
Munns said he prefers mobility over the weight of extra body armor.
The three Marines agree that the most exposed person is their gunner in the turret.
"He has to think about the bigger stuff, he is up there, more exposed than any of us," Munns noted.
On the other side of the base, Capt. Joe Winslow, 36, of Dallas, said it is not so much the armor but the tactics of the Marines that has been a lifesaver.
"It's the aggressive convoy procedures, paying attention to the basics, vigilance by the gunner and the driver," said Winslow.
Winslow said he had just seen footage of the soldiers' exchange with Rumsfeld on television and was "surprised" because the armor we have is "top notch."
"I don't know why they said what they said. I can't speak for another person," he said.
"Every time I go outside the base, I am aware that what keeps me safe is not only in the equipment I have but in the mentality of being a Marine," said Gunnery Sgt. Mike Ritchie.
12-08-04, 07:05 PM
Wounded Troops Hit Road to Recovery at Disney World
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 8, 2004 The ball officially began rolling when retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks spoke at a kick-off luncheon on Nov. 9 in Washington. Just a month later, the Disney Coronado Springs Resort and Convention Center here is ready to welcome about 500 troops severely wounded and disabled in the global war on terrorism.
From today through Dec. 12, the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes' first Road to Recovery Tribute and Conference will provide a wealth of information to the troops all at no cost to veterans. The veterans did have to meet some criteria to be eligible to attend the conference, coalition spokesman Mike Thompson said, adding that the organization plans to make it an annual event.
To attend, veterans must be 30 percent or more disabled. The focus was on those who were wounded in combat, though some participants were injured in-theater but not in combat, Thompson said. The group is overwhelmingly composed of Purple Heart recipients, he added.
Motivational speakers, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs seminars on job training, education and employment opportunities all will be featured over the four working days of the conference. Veterans also will have access to one-on- one sessions to evaluate individual needs in several areas, including job opportunities.
Connecting with others who are facing the same challenges is another aspect of this conference. "This is a wonderful opportunity for these guys to swap stories," said Douglas Plank, the coalition's executive vice president. "It's a cathartic experience, I'm told."
Plank and Roger Chapin co-founded the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes.
The coalition has four goals, Plank said. The first is to conduct the conference, which will bring all the services and opportunities available to injured and disabled veterans under one roof. Others are to encourage the business world to hire veterans and to help family members of injured and disabled servicemembers find lodging while visiting their servicemember.
A servicemember's injuries often affect others. The coalition's family support network has found ways to help alleviate financial and emotional burdens of severely wounded veterans and their families who travel to be with their loved ones. One aspect of the network is the "Host a Hero's Family" program, which arranges private housing for families visiting wounded servicemembers. The coalition's last tenet is helping wheelchair-bound veterans get around their own homes more easily.
"Homes for Wheelchair-bound Heroes" is a program that will offer disability- adapted new or renovated homes at little or no cost to the veterans. The program will be funded in part by the Homes for Wheelchair-Bound War Heroes Fund. Chapin said at the Nov. 9 kick-off luncheon that the rest of the funding is expected to come from donations and gifts-in-kind.
It won't be all business, though. There are events designed to let the veterans relax, enjoy themselves and be honored. There is a tribute gala planned for Dec. 9 with top country singers scheduled to perform.
There also will be time to visit the area theme parks and a special farewell dinner and concert performance at the House of Blues with actor, director and producer Gary Sinise, who played the character Lt. Dan in the movie "Forrest Gump," and the Lt. Dan Band that he's a founding member of.