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01-21-05, 07:53 AM
U.S. Launches New Raids Around Mosul
Associated Press
January 21, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. troops launched fresh raids Thursday around the northern city of Mosul, killing five suspected insurgents, in a bid to rein in guerrillas who have threatened to disrupt upcoming elections. Iraqi forces sealed off main routes into Baghdad a day after a wave of deadly car bombings.

One of Latin America's biggest construction companies also confirmed that a Brazilian engineer was missing after an ambush north of the capital that killed a British security guard and his Iraqi colleague.

A speech on an Islamic Web site, purportedly from the most feared terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, denounced Iraqi Shiites for fighting alongside U.S. troops - an apparent attempt to enflame sectarian tensions ahead of the Jan. 30 vote.

The elections have been embraced by majority Shiites but rejected by many Sunnis, who say the vote should be postponed because of the violence.

Army troops from the Stryker Brigade Combat Team killed five suspected insurgents in Mosul and provided security for Iraqi National Guard troops who raided a mosque and recovered a cache of weapons, the military said. U.S. troops also detained nine people and seized weapons in overnight sweeps in the city.

Later Thursday, insurgents shelled a hospital in Mosul where U.S. and Iraqi forces had taken up positions in an annex, hospital director Faris Hani said. Doctors and patients fled, and no casualties were reported.

Three Iraqi army soldiers were killed Thursday by a roadside bomb in the city of Samarra, 60 miles north of the capital, the U.S. military reported.

Elsewhere, major highways leading into Baghdad from the south and west were sealed off by Iraqi forces following a string of car bombs Wednesday. Alaa Mahmoud, an Iraqi National Guard captain at one roadblock, said he was under orders to prevent all vehicles from entering the capital.

Baghdad was generally quiet Thursday, the first day of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha. Marking the start of the four-day festival, a cleric at a Baghdad mosque reflected on the effect violence has had on life in the now dreary and frightened capital.

"Baghdad is the city of science, city of kings, city of believers. It has now become the city of explosions and hideout of criminals," Mohammed al-Sumeidi said in his sermon.

In London, the British Ministry of Defense said several people were wounded Thursday in an explosion near a British base southwest of Basra. Al-Zarqawi's group claimed responsibility.

Insurgents fired at least six mortar shells or rockets in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, and U.S. Marines returned fire, the military said. Two Iraqis were killed and two others wounded, according to hospital officials.

In Brazil, the Constructora Norberto Odebrecht SA of Sao Paulo announced that its engineer, who was not identified for security reasons, was probably kidnapped after an attack Wednesday on his convoy near Beiji, an insurgent-riddled city 155 miles north of Baghdad.

A British security guard working for Janusian Risk Management Ltd., and an Iraqi colleague were killed in the attack. Iraqi police initially reported the missing foreigner was Japanese.

A video showing eight Chinese construction workers, including two teenagers, surfaced this week, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry has sought help from Iraqi religious leaders to win their release.

An Islamic Web site linked to an Iraqi militant group claimed that a Briton and a Swede were kidnapped in Beiji and killed after they were found to be intelligence agents. British and Swedish officials were checking the claims.

The latest abductions marked a flareup in kidnappings of foreigners, which had declined following the U.S.-led assault last November on Fallujah, the insurgent bastion 40 miles west of Baghdad that was believed to have been the headquarters of the al-Qaida affiliate led by al-Zarqawi.

In the Web site speech, the speaker, identified as the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi, berated Shiites for fighting their Sunni countrymen in Fallujah "with the blessing" of the most prominent Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

"They broke into the safe houses of God," the speaker said of Shiites, who comprise some 60 million of the population. "They defiled them and they hung the photos of their Satan, al-Sistani, on the walls and they spitefully wrote: 'Today, your land; tomorrow it will be your honor.'"

The 90-minute address, mostly dealing with religious themes, appeared aimed at stirring the morale of Iraqi insurgents following the loss of their Fallujah base.

The American assault on Fallujah was launched in large part to curb the insurgency enough to hold elections this month for a new 275-member National Assembly and legislatures in the country's 18 provinces.

Despite the fall of Fallujah, U.S. officials acknowledge that security remains precarious in Baghdad and three largely Sunni provinces. Those areas comprise more than 40 percent of the country's estimated 26 million people.


01-21-05, 07:54 AM
U.S. Scales Back Tsunami Efforts
Associated Press
January 21, 2005

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia - The U.S. military, the largest group helping tsunami survivors, will immediately start withdrawing troops from the relief efforts to feed and house more than 1 million refugees, the U.S. Pacific commander said Thursday.

Aid organizations responded to the announcement by Adm. Thomas Fargo with disappointment but pledging to shoulder a greater share of the burden to aid tsunami survivors.

U.S. warships and helicopters "played a crucial role ... they're still playing that role," said Rob Holden, a member of a health assessment team from the United Nations, the U.S. military and other groups. "What we're trying to do is civilianize the humanitarian operations because we're aware that we won't have military assets forever."

Speaking in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Fargo said the U.S. military "will start right now transferring functions to the appropriate host nations and international organizations."

Fargo noted that the humanitarian missions in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and other countries affected by the Dec. 26 tsunami have moved from the "immediate relief phase ... toward rehabilitation and reconstruction."

The admiral suggested the withdrawal of the 15,000 American troops would be completed within 60 days, apparently meeting requests by Indonesian officials that foreign troops leave Aceh province on Sumatra island by the end of March.

Malaysian Defense Minister Najib Razak said Fargo told him the United States would scale down its Aceh relief operations by the end of February.

At a news conference, Fargo said the U.S. military would "respond to specific requests of host nations," adding that Washington "is committed to what clearly will be a long-term recovery effort."

About 1,000 Singaporean soldiers dispatched for relief efforts will begin pulling out Friday, a Singaporean military official said

Some aid groups had hoped the U.S. military would stay longer.

"The American military, the military hardware has been so useful," said Aine Fay, Indonesia director for the Irish aid group Concern. "I'm a bit taken aback that they're thinking of withdrawing it already."

Peter Biro, spokesman for the International Rescue Committee, said he'd like the U.S. military to remain.

"We're still in an emergency-type phase, there are so many gaps on the ground, we would like them to stay longer," he said.

"It seems like there still is a great need for airlifts and we know the Indonesian government has need of that," said Alissa Keny-Guyer, of the aid group Mercy Corps.

Some governments, meanwhile, expressed support and thanks Friday for the U.S. help.

"If they think it is the time to pull out they can do that, but they are always welcome and we are ready to accommodate them if they want to come back later," Thai govt spokesman Jakrapob Penkaire said of the U.S. military during a telephone interview with the AP.

The Sri Lankan government said Friday that it will not set a time frame for a U.S. departure.

"U.S. Marines are doing a fine job, specially in debris cleaning operations and this is highly appreciated," said Harim Peiris, the spokesman for President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

The withdrawal of foreign forces comes as the official death toll continues to climb. Almost four weeks after the disaster, reported deaths by government agencies in the affected countries range from nearly 158,000 to more than 221,000.

The U.S. Navy and Marines have delivered nearly 3.5 million pounds of aid supplies - about 150,000 pounds a day - since starting operations Jan. 1.

The U.N. World Food Program has distributed 5,600 tons of food to about 400,000 people in Aceh alone, said its Asia director, Tony Banbury. After visiting the obliterated coastal town of Meulaboh, Banbury said all tsunami survivors would be fed.

"We will get food aid to everyone who needs it," he said.

But worries over security in Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra - where government forces and separatists rebels have fought for nearly three decades - threatened to complicate relief efforts.

Although the sides called a temporary cease-fire to facilitate the relief effort, a barrage of automatic gunfire was heard in the hills near the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, prompting residents of one refugee camp to run for cover.

It was unclear who fired the shots, but a local military commander acknowledged that an operation was under way in the area to counter rebel activity. No one was hurt, and the shooting did not appear to target refugees.

The Indonesian military had no comment on the incident. The state-run news agency quoted the army's chief of staff, Ryamizard Ryacudu, as saying the military had killed at least 120 rebels in the past two weeks.

In another incident, an Indonesian soldier in Aceh fired into the air during a U.S. aid delivery, narrowly missing the helicopter's rotor blades, witnesses said. The soldier apparently was trying to control 25 refugees lunging for supplies.

"Every now and then, you hit a crazy LZ (landing zone)," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Derrick Smith, 22, of Wichita Falls, Texas, a SH-60 Seahawk crewman from the USS Shoup. "Sometimes you can't even land - you just push food out."

In Sri Lanka - where about 79,000 refugees now live in relief centers in the Tamil-dominated northeast - the U.N. refugee agency asked the government to also help resettle tens of thousands of people displaced by a 20-year civil war.

And at a U.N. conference in Kobe, Japan, wealthy nations pledged about $8 million for a network of detection buoys in the Indian Ocean to warn coastal residents of future tsunamis. The pledges are enough to cover costs for the first year.

Salvano Briceno, director of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, said a basic warning system could be operational within 18 months. Experts have said such a system could have saved thousands of lives Dec. 26.

A Pacific system already in place eventually could extend to the Mediterranean, Caribbean and other seas, U.S. officials say.


01-21-05, 07:54 AM
Communities Fight For Military Bases
Associated Press
January 21, 2005

LOOGOOTEE, Ind. - By day, scientists and engineers at Indiana's only Navy base work on classified projects for submarines and high-tech weapons systems. At night, they go home to houses with big porches in tiny towns.

To many, it's the best of both worlds: a challenging, high-paid job with small-town appeal.

"There's a set of moral ties, an element that keeps us here," said Dusty Wilson, 35, an electrical engineer who is the fourth generation in his family to work at the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center. "Everything you need is here. You don't have to leave your roots."

But times could be changing for this southern Indiana community and others across the nation that depend on military bases for jobs, tax dollars and retail sales.

Pentagon officials are preparing for their fifth round of base closings, and they say there's plenty of fat to trim. Officials won't specify how many of 400 bases are targeted - but say the military has 24 percent more capacity than it needs.

Recommendations for closings are due May 16 to a nine-member Base Realignment and Closure - or BRAC - commission. Defense leaders say the closures, the first since 1995, could save billions.

But what's good for the federal pocketbook is causing anxiety in military-dependent communities.

"There are a lot of people saying they don't know what they would do," said Jeff Bowling, 32, an electronics technician at Crane whose stepfather also works at the base and whose brother is employed by a Crane contractor.

Bowling lives in Loogootee, a town of 2,741 people where 67 percent of all wages paid come from Crane.

Crane - Indiana's 12th largest single-site employer - provides 8,100 jobs either through the government or related contractors, with a total payroll of $368 million. Its tasks range from modifying weapons for Navy SEALs to testing laser-guided bombs, and it has 650,000 tons of ordnance storage capacity.

Many employees say they'd have to move to find similar work.

The sentiment is similar at Fort Knox, Ky., where Bill Barron, a retired Army Reserves major general, is leading an effort to keep that installation open.

"Some people speculate that this round of base closures could be worse than all the previous ones combined," Barron said. "All the low-hanging fruit has been picked, so BRAC '05 is going to be pretty painful for a lot of installations."

Barron said Fort Knox generates $1.4 billion annually in contracts and payroll, but economic impact ranks low on the military's list of reasons to keep a base open. "Military value" - how well the base contributes to defense needs now and in the future - is the primary consideration.

Communities are spending millions on consultants, lobbyists and construction projects to prove their worth.

In Brunswick, Maine, officials have compiled a 20-page document to promote Brunswick Naval Air Station. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has formed a commission to discuss ways to keep California's bases open.

In December, officials at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma broke ground on a $15 million logistics center. They hope the project will address a vulnerability identified during the 1995 base closures - having its logistics facilities scattered in various areas.

Loren Thompson, a defense industry analyst with the Lexington Institute, a Washington think tank, said all the efforts have merit.

"There's always a case for keeping a base," Thompson said. "Otherwise, it wouldn't be there in the first place."

Pentagon leaders say they try to keep the process removed from politics. The analysis is done in a "windowless room tightly sealed and locked," said Raymond DuBois, who oversees the BRAC process for the Pentagon.

Still, townspeople here hope the message gets through.

"I'll be praying about it," said Cheryl Biggs, 55, who owns Blessings Christian bookstore in Loogootee. Without Crane, she said, "This town would be a ghost town."


01-21-05, 07:55 AM
Baghdad Car Bomb Kills 13, Hurts 40
Associated Press
January 21, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A car bomb exploded outside a Shiite mosque in Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 13 people and wounding 40, police and hospital officials said.

The car exploded outside the al-Taf mosque in southwestern Baghdad, where Shiites were celebrating one of Islam's most important holidays, the Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice. The feast coincides with the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

An official at Baghdad's al-Yarmouk Hospital said at least 13 people were killed and 40 wounded.

The bomb exploded as worshippers were leaving the mosque, a witness said.

The blast left several cars in flames but appeared to do little damage to the building. U.S. troops and Iraqi police responded to the scene and a U.S. military helicopter circled above.

It was the second attack on a Shiite mosque in Baghdad this week. One of a series of car bombs that hit the capital on Wednesday exploded near a Shiite mosque just before noon prayers. No worshippers were hurt in that blast.

Attacks on Shiites have increased in the run-up to the Jan. 30 national elections.

Shiites strongly support the vote, while some members of the Sunni Arab minority have called for a boycott of the balloting because of worsening security. Sunni Muslim militants have vowed to disrupt the voting.


01-21-05, 07:56 AM
Marines finish busy year in Big Apple
Submitted by: New York City Public Affairs
Story Identification #: 2005113115733
Story by Cpl. Beth Zimmerman

NEW YORK (Jan. 13, 2005) -- New York City -otherwise known as the city that never sleeps- can be an exciting place to live. For Marines stationed in the Big Apple during 2004, plenty of excitement created a busy year.

New York Marines kicked off 2004 preparing for deployment. More than 40 reserve Marines at Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 49 (MALS-49) in Newburgh, N.Y., were activated in January to support the Global War on Terrorism. More than half of those activated deployed to the Middle East within the first two months of the year, while other Marines deployed throughout the year.

"Everyone here felt the same way about watching other Marines go to war, and not going along," said Chief Warrant Officer Chris DeFrieze, personnel officer for Marine Aircraft Group 49, Detachment B. "We wanted to be a part of it."

Soon after MALS-49 activated, community members and friends in Washington Heights gathered at the intersection of 180th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue Feb. 27 to remember a fallen Marine they called, "an American hero."

They dedicated a portion of 180th Street in the name of Staff Sgt. Riayan A. Tejeda, who was shot and killed during a firefight northeast of Baghdad April 2003. "We want to honor his memory," said City Councilman Miguel Martinez, "so that he will continue to be an example to young men and women in New York."

In April, Sgt. Maj. Anthony Parker, 6th Communication Battalion, Brooklyn, reenlisted again in the Corps after already serving 25 years. The Harlem native had his reenlistment ceremony at the former site of the World Trade Center, also known as Ground Zero. Parker shared the ceremony with Marines from 6th Comm, because, he said, "the Marine Corps has been my family."

Later in the spring, another Marine (and New York native) made an appearance at Shea Stadium. Lt. Gen. Robert Magnus, Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources, threw the opening pitch during the New York Mets' Military Appreciation Day at Shea Stadium. The Mets used the day to honor service members in each branch of service. "New Yorkers know we're part of them," said Magnus, a Brooklyn native. "(They know) that the Corps is made up of people like them, their friends, and their neighbors."

New Yorkers had another opportunity to interact with Marines during New York City's 17th Annual Fleet Week. Reserve Marines from 4th Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (4th ANGLICO) fast-roped out of CH-46E Sea Knights from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 774 (HMM-774) during five different helicopter demonstrations throughout the city. Marines and sailors performed demonstrations throughout Fleet Week to enhance civilian understanding of military occupations.

"It was cool to see them slide down out of the helicopter," said elementary school student Yaninys Mota. "I had seen it happen on TV before, but it's better in real life."

"Seeing little kids that appreciate you is what I like most about being a Marine," said Lance Cpl. Ernesto Rojas, 4th ANGLICO. "It's knowing that you have something worth fighting for and defending."

New Yorkers also welcomed "American Idol 2" fourth-place finisher and country music singer, Lance Cpl. Josh Gracin, to the big apple in June. Gracin released his self-titled debut CD June 15 on Lyric Street Records, and the 23-year-old active-duty Marine promoted his country CD with a week-long visit to New York.

In the week after its release, Gracin's album sold more than 57,000 copies and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard's Top Country Album Chart and No. 11 on the Top 200 Album Chart. Gracin left active duty in September, but he credits much of his success to the four years he served in the Corps. "The experience helped define who I wanted to be and who I was going to be for the rest of my life," he said. "It's really helped prepare me for the rest of my life mentally, physically and emotionally."

Three years after the terrorist attacks on New York City, Sept. 11 was still an emotional day for New Yorkers and visitors. "On the day of September 11th (2001), the band was in a rehearsal," said Sgt. Angela Funk, Quantico Marine Band. "When we were told that a plane had just hit the building in New York, we were stunned," she said. "We then put down our instruments and checked out weapons to stand guard around the base."

On Sept. 11 of this past year, the Quantico Marine Band joined the New York City Police Department Pipes and Drums Band for a memorial parade in downtown Manhattan. They marched past Ground Zero during a rare day of reflection for New Yorkers. "Our lives are very busy," said NYPD Sgt. Brian Coughlan, Bandmaster for the Pipes and Drums band. "We want to make sure no one ever forgets."

Security visibly increased in New York as dignitaries from all over the world gathered for the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations. Canine units played a vital role in security, and the United States Secret Service brought in canine teams from different sections of the Department of Defense for the duration of the assembly. The Marine Corps sent four canine teams to New York to join the men in black.

"We rely on the long-standing partnership of all the military for many of our missions," said Charles Bopp, a Secret Service spokesperson. Overall, the Marines said though each day they worked in New York enhanced their job experience, it was also "just another 12-hour shift." "It was cool saying I got to work for the Secret Service," said Cpl. Darin Cleveringa, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif. "But I was just doing my job."

Marines rolled into November with "a lotta motivation" and a Marine Corps Birthday motivational run through Central Park onto CBS's "The Early Show." Marines from Brooklyn and Newburgh double-timed through Manhattan's Columbus Circle calling cadence over early-morning traffic. "We got a lot of support from people on the streets," said Chief Warrant Officer Tim Noble, MAG 49, Det. Bravo. "This is my third year doing this run," said Cpl. Ryan Seiler, MAG 49. "Every year it gets better," he said. "It's good to know there are people out there who appreciate what we do."

On the heels of the Marine Corps' 229th Birthday came the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program annual toy drive. Marines from 6th Comm collected toys for the program during the movie premiere of "Christmas with the Kranks" at Radio City Music Hall in November. The holiday comedy starred Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, and actors and guests dropped off toys in Toys for Tots bins before the premiere.

"Anything that relates to celebrities gets attention," said Sgt. John Alicea, 6th Comm. The night following the movie premiere, the Counting Crows performed at the Hammerstein Ballroom to promote Toys for Tots as well. "The great thing about having the Counting Crows concert," said Maj. Tom Nelson, Marine Forces Reserve, "is that we get the Toys for Tots message out to 3,000 people who otherwise might not have heard about Toys for Tots."

The year ended with the annual ball dropping in Times Square. One 6th Comm Marine deployed to Iraq was able to talk to his family via satellite phone, courtesy of MTV, just before the ball dropped. "Talking to my family felt great," said Cpl. Wilson Caro. "I had not seen them in such a long time."


01-21-05, 07:56 AM
Marines honor Louisiana mother at the Bayou Classic
Submitted by: 6th Marine Corps District
Story Identification #: 2005119151745
Story by Staff Sgt. K. R. Murphy

NEW ORLEANS (Jan. 02, 2005) -- For most of America, the Bayou Classic is synonymous with funky, foot-stomping music, long-awaited family reunions and having good, old-fashioned fun. This year, though, to remind Americans of the freedom that their sons and daughters are making in Iraq, Marine recruiters gave spectators at the Bayou Classic a dose of reality when they stopped the party to honor the mother of one of the first Marines to deploy to Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2001.

Vera Roberts, a Jennings, La., native, was awarded the American Freedom Mother Certificate on behalf of the Recruiting Station New Orleans commanding officer, Maj. James Christmas in front of over 80,000 Grambling State and Southern University students and alumni here Nov. 27, 2004. Brigadier Gen. John R. Thomas, director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4), and chief information officer for the Marine Corps presented Roberts with the award as the crowd erupted with cheers of thanks.

Roberts' son, Gunnery Sgt. James Roberts is currently a senior majoring in Criminal Justice at Southern University. He also serves as the assistant Marine officer instructor for Louisiana State University's Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Ms. Roberts was so surprised by the presentation that she said she felt her heart beat faster as she walked onto the field.

"I'm just so surprised and thankful to get this award. But to have the general present it to me makes it even more special," Roberts said.

Even onlookers were surprised to see the presentation. Maurice Phillips of Houston attended the classic for the first time this year because his son, Michael, is now a freshman at Southern. He said the presentation was a surprise for him and he is rarely surprised by anything.

"At first I didn't know what the American Freedom Mother was, but when I asked one of the Marines at the booth, they explained it to me and I truly thought it was very special for the Marines to recognize the mother of one of [their] own." Phillips commended.

For more seasoned veterans of the Classic, seeing the Marines at the event has become a staple of the Bayou Classic and the overall experience of attending the two-day affair.

"I come here mainly to see the bands. I love the bands!" Claritha Johnson said of her second year at the game. "I also love seeing the Marines here because it lets us know that not only are they protecting the country by fighting a war overseas, but also that they are supporting us here in the states."

In addition to the on-field presentation, Marine recruiters set up a booth including an Inflatable Drill Instructor and the Marines NASCAR show car. Recruiters had the opportunity to talk with young people and their parents who would not usually have contact with a Marine. Sgt. Morris Mayfield, canvassing recruiter, Recruiting Substation Hammond, RS New Orleans, felt the Enhanced Area Canvassing portion of the Bayou Classic was phenomenal.

"This is such a great experience to be here because everyone is so excited and pumped and the atmosphere is just so positive," Mayfield said of the diverse crowd. "There are so many educated people in this crowd that it makes me want to get that education and knowledge on the Marine Corps team."

The Marines of the Marine Corps Recruiting Command represented the highest caliber of excellence the Corps has to offer during the 2004 Bayou Classic. Not only did they set the bar higher for discipline and professionalism during a time when college students and alumni put the war in Iraq on the backburner to relax and let their hair down, but the Marines never let them forget why they were able to do that.


01-21-05, 07:57 AM
Joe Galloway: Army Scrounging to Boost Troops in Iraq

WASHINGTON - The third rotation of American soldiers and Marines into Iraq is under way. The Pentagon is doing the old robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul thing to boost total troop strength temporarily to 150,000 for the coming Iraq elections.

What that means is some outfits find themselves on their way back over after only nine months at home since their last combat tour. In other outfits where they were expected home for Christmas, the troops instead got a two-month extension on top of their "standard" 12-month combat tour.

This time around, about 50 percent of the troops going in will be Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers. The burden just gets heavier and heavier, and the Reserve commander has warned his superiors that his force is being broken by poorly thought-out Pentagon policies and overuse.

The Army's response was to propose a change of policy to allow the reserve troops to be called up for 24 months instead of 18 months, and more frequently.

Meanwhile, senior Army leaders say they are thinking of going to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with a request that a temporary three-year increase in regular Army strength of 30,000 be made permanent at a cost of $4 billion a year. That would make permanent Army strength 515,000.

In other news the Army is inviting retired officers and soldiers to volunteer to return to active duty. They picked up 4,000 of them last year and hope to lure back 5,000 volunteers this year. Others will be swept back on duty involuntarily by levies on the pool of inactive reserves -- people who have finished their four-year enlistments but are subject to recall anytime in the four years after they go home. Some of them forgot to read that fine print and have been surprised by the interruption of their new civilian lives.

The Army is beefing up the Recruiting Command with 2,000 more recruiters because they are finding it increasingly difficult to get high schoolers, and their parents, to listen to the pitch, given the casualty rates in Iraq. Re-enlistment and enlistment bonuses are headed much higher in an effort to patch things up.

Reserve and Guard re-enlistment rates are heading south. The number of active-duty soldiers transitioning to Reserve or Guard slots is plummeting. This is the inevitable price of trying to do a 300,000-soldier job with 138,000 soldiers. It is the inevitable result of rosy expectations on the part of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld of what awaited us after winning the three-week military victory in Iraq. It is precisely what was predicted in this column more than a year ago under the headline "How to Destroy a Great Army."

There are those who say the Army is already broken. Others say the stress cracks will finally widen into open fractures on the fourth Iraq rotation next fall. Either way, both schools of thought are in agreement that, once broken, the process of repairing the institutional damage could take a decade, just as it did in the bleak years after we pulled out of Vietnam.

Lest you think there is no good news whatsoever, let me hasten to tell you that this Army, like the one that was broken in Vietnam, contains within its ranks the NCOs and junior officers who will eventually repair the damage done by arrogant civilian leadership.

In Iraq and Afghanistan the innovation and good tactical thinking is being demonstrated at the lowest levels, by platoon leaders -- young second lieutenants just out of ROTC or Officer Candidate School or West Point. They and their platoon sergeants and the young soldiers they lead have been given responsibility far beyond their years or training.

They are being asked to be diplomats, civil engineers, even politicians in a hostile and dangerous environment and they are finding ways to make their own piece of ground a bit better and safer for the Iraqis who live there and for themselves.

Now the question is how do we keep enough of the good ones in the Army over the long haul so they will be there when the time comes to repair and rebuild from within. When the Army collapsed, post-Vietnam, many promising young officers fled the turmoil. But others, like Gulf War heroes Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Gen. Barry McCaffrey and Gen. Fred Franks to name just a few, stuck to their guns -- confident that the Army they loved could be saved.

That time will come again, when the authors of the present disaster are gone. When it does the Army will find what it needs to fix itself within its ranks.

It always has and always will.


01-21-05, 07:58 AM
Dragon Eye provides quick, reliable intel
Submitted by: MCB Camp Lejeune
Story Identification #: 2005120103142
Story by Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Jan. 12, 2005) -- In 2003, the Marine Corps adopted the smallest functioning unmanned aerial vehicle called the Dragon Eye in 2003, in an effort to minimize friendly casualties and maximize pre-movement surveillance.

The Dragon Eye is a UAV specifically designed to follow a predetermined mission into questionable areas to deliver a bird's eye view of its surroundings with two near-real-time video cameras.

Sergeant William Hartzfeld of Jacksonville, Fla., the Dragon Eye instructor with Marine Corps System Command, is the sole Dragon Eye instructor in the Marine Corps. He conducts a five-day course every week on the proper procedures and techniques to operate to remote controlled surveillance machines.

The course is offered to any military occupational specialty field, upon the individual command's discretion.

"A lot of [infantry] units are going through the course," said Hartzfeld. "Any rank, any [Military Occupational Specialty], any person given the right training can operate it."

The Dragon Eye system will soon be utilized at a company level, according to Hartzfeld.

Proper operation of the system takes a two-man team - one man to assemble the aircraft and one man to get the ground control station up and running.

The GCS - a computer system designed to control and operate the aircraft from the ground - is a touch screen, laptop computer with wireless satellite connections, which sends signals to the plane. The operator can view the video through a pair of goggles connected to the GCS.

There are three interchangeable nose cameras including one for low-light situations such as dusk and dawn, one for regular daylight and an infrared nose used for night launches.

One camera is mounted inside the nose of the plane and a second is located on the left side. While the nose camera can move any direction, the left camera can only point straight, but delivers an eight-digit grid at the center point of the video.

Its small size and aerodynamic design allow it to be a hard target while executing a mission.

The Dragon Eye has been in production for three years, and the Marine Corps fielded it in two, according to Hartzfeld.

"That's nearly unheard of," Hartzfeld added. "It usually takes things a lot longer to get fielded, but this was a quick asset."

Solely composed of fiberglass and Kevlar and made of five pieces including a fuselage, a tail, a nose and two wings, the Dragon Eye is primarily used in missions to take pictures of supposed improvised explosive device strips and bunkers on buildings invisible from the ground.

The new UAV continues to be used in Iraq, according to Hartzfeld.
"They're actually using Dragon Eye photos for their [intelligence] briefs now," said Hartzfeld. "That's how useful this aircraft's work is."

Hartzfeld, though having not deployed, has been training Marines on the Dragon Eye since May 2004. He spent six months at Twentynine Palms, Calif., last summer conducting his course and is scheduled to go there again this summer.

"Even though I'm not in Iraq, I know the work I'm doing is saving lives over there," said Hartzfeld.

This UAV can reach speeds of 35 miles-per-hour, altitudes of 1,000 feet and distances of 10 kilometers. It weighs approximately six pounds fully assembled and spans wing-to-wing at three feet. Its maximum endurance rate is approximately 60 minutes, while 45 minutes is nominal.

Overall, the Dragon Eye, having one year apart of Marine Corps family, has already proved itself worthy as a "must have" piece of equipment in Iraq, according to Hartzfeld.

"This machine is definitely going to enhance battlefield capabilities and the survivability rates all the way up to a company level and maybe even battalion," said Cpl. Robert Broome, forward scout observer with Company C, 2d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and a student of the course Jan. 10 to14. "It's a quick peek into the future prior to any attacks."


01-21-05, 07:59 AM
Army Charges Soldier Refusing To Deploy <br />
Associated Press <br />
January 21, 2005 <br />
<br />
SAVANNAH, Ga. - The Army has brought charges against a soldier who refused to return to Iraq for a second combat tour...

01-21-05, 08:10 AM
Tape Urges To Prepare For Struggle
Associated Press
January 21, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's most feared terror leader called on his followers Thursday to show patience and prepare for a long struggle against the Americans, promising in an audiotape posted on the Internet that "ferocious wars ... take their time" but victory was assured.

Elsewhere, U.S. troops launched fresh raids around the northern city of Mosul, killing five suspected insurgents, in a bid to rein in guerrillas and safeguard the Jan. 30 national elections. Iraqi forces sealed off main routes into Baghdad a day after a wave of deadly car bombings.

The 90-minute message, purportedly from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, appeared to be aimed at rallying his forces following the loss of their base in Fallujah and at marshaling support as Iraqis prepare for their first poll since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Fighters who have taken the path of jihad have to realize the nature and the demands of the battle toward the required goal," the speaker said. "This group has to be patient in the path that it has taken and ... not to hurry victory. The promise of God will be fulfilled no matter what."

The authenticity of the tape could not immediately be verified. It appeared before President Bush was sworn in for a second term that begins under the shadow of a continuing insurgency in Iraq.

The speaker also acknowledged that a leading al-Qaida commander in Fallujah, Omar Hadid, had been killed fighting the Americans when the city fell to a U.S.-Iraqi assault. Hadid was believed to have escaped the fighting.

"Ferocious wars are not determined by the outcome of days or weeks," the speaker on the tape said. "They take their time until it's time to announce the victory of one of the parties."

Al-Zarqawi is the leader of an al-Qaida affiliate that was responsible for kidnapping and beheading several foreigners, including Americans, before the fall of their Fallujah base. The United States has offered a $25 million reward for al-Zarqawi's capture or death - the same amount as for Osama bin Laden.

In a separate statement, al-Zarqawi's group claimed responsibility for a Thursday explosion that injured five British soldiers and an undetermined number of Iraqis at a supply base in southern Iraq outside Basra. A Web statement said the attack was a suicide operation in retaliation for alleged British abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

The authenticity of that statement also could not be determined, and the British military gave no reason for the blast. Three British soldiers are on trial at a British base in Germany for allegedly abusing Iraqi prisoners in May 2003.

In the audiotape, al-Zarqawi also denounced Iraqi Shiites for fighting alongside U.S. troops - an apparent attempt to inflame sectarian tensions ahead of the vote. The elections have been embraced by majority Shiites but rejected by many minority Sunnis, who say it should be postponed because of the violence.

The speaker berated Shiites for fighting their Sunni countrymen in Fallujah "with the blessing" of the most prominent Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

"They broke into the safe houses of God," the speaker said of Shiites, who comprise about 60 percent of the country's estimated 25 million people. "They defiled them and they hung the photos of their Satan, al-Sistani, on the walls and they spitefully wrote: 'Today, your land; tomorrow it will be your honor.'"

In Mosul, Army troops from the Stryker Brigade Combat Team killed five suspected insurgents Thursday and provided security for Iraqi National Guardsmen who raided a mosque and recovered a cache of weapons, the military said. U.S. troops also detained nine people and seized weapons in overnight sweeps in the city.

Later Thursday, insurgents shelled a Mosul hospital where U.S. and Iraqi forces had taken up positions in an annex, hospital director Faris Hani said. Doctors and patients fled, and no casualties were reported.

Three Iraqi army soldiers were killed Thursday by a roadside bomb in the city of Samarra, 60 miles north of the capital, the U.S. military reported.

Elsewhere, major highways leading into Baghdad from the south and west were sealed off by Iraqi forces following a string of car bombs Wednesday. Alaa Mahmoud, an Iraqi National Guard captain at one roadblock, said he was under orders to prevent all vehicles from entering the capital.

Baghdad was generally quiet Thursday, the first day of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha. Marking the start of the four-day festival, a cleric at a Baghdad mosque reflected on the effect violence has had on life in the now dreary and frightened capital.

"Baghdad is the city of science, city of kings, city of believers. It has now become the city of explosions and hideout of criminals," Mohammed al-Sumeidi said in his sermon.

Elsewhere, insurgents fired at least six mortar shells or rockets in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, and U.S. Marines returned fire, the military said. Two Iraqis were killed and two others wounded, according to hospital officials.

In Brazil, the Constructora Norberto Odebrecht SA of Sao Paulo announced that an engineer, who was not identified for security reasons, was probably kidnapped after a Wednesday attack on his convoy near Beiji, an insurgent-riddled city 155 miles north of Baghdad.

A British security guard working for Janusian Risk Management Ltd. and an Iraqi colleague were killed in the attack. Iraqi police initially reported the missing foreigner was Japanese.

A video showing eight Chinese construction workers, including two teenagers, surfaced this week, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry has sought help from Iraqi religious leaders to win their release.

An Islamic Web site linked to an Iraqi militant group claimed that a Briton and a Swede were kidnapped in Beiji and killed after they were found to be intelligence agents. British and Swedish officials were checking the claims.

The latest abductions marked a flare-up in kidnappings of foreigners, which had declined following the U.S.-led assault on Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad.


01-21-05, 09:32 AM
January 24, 2005

‘It was just overwhelming’

ABOARD THE USS BONHOMME RICHARD — Sgt. Maj. David Bullock was standing on the beach in the Indonesian city of Meulaboh the afternoon of Jan. 14 when a woman walked up.
Apparently overcome with gratitude for the sacks of rice and bottles of water stacked neatly on the beach for tsunami victims by Marines and sailors, she hugged him tightly and wouldn’t let go.

Bullock, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s top enlisted leatherneck, said he was nearly overcome by the emotion of the moment.

“It was just overwhelming. ... It was the way she latched on to me, too,” he said.

Bullock said the woman, identified as Meulaboh resident Rohati Binte Ibrahim, 45, lost five members of her family, her beachfront home and all of her possessions in the Dec. 26 tsunami, which knocked flat almost all of the structures closest to the beach, leaving behind a rubble-strewn stew of smashed houses and debris.

He remembered the woman as the first local person who edged over to the pallets of rations brought ashore by air-cushioned landing craft from the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard and dock landing ship Rushmore.

Within hours, the 37 pallets of food soon drew a bustling crowd of men, women and children who came by motorbike, truck and foot, slinging 50-pound sacks of rice onto their shoulders, or balanced precariously on handle bars. Marines and sailors handed out bottles of water as a parting gift.

“These people are in need,” Bullock said.


01-21-05, 02:09 PM
JOY: Thailand orphans spark tears, fun with visitors
Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler
Story Identification #: 200512034210
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Lawrence Torres III

PATTAYA, Thailand (Jan. 19, 2005) -- About 40 servicemembers and Department of Defense personnel with Combined Support Force 536 in support of Operation Unified Assistance, held and played with children at the Pattaya Orphanage here Jan. 19, the first of many planned community outreach events being coordinated.
The CSF-536 support personnel are here to support the tsunami victims of Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, yet a lot of them are working in areas away from the tsunami victims, said Air Force Captain Dominic J. Vitaliano, the chaplain with 374th Fighter Squadron based in Okinawa, Japan.

“We all came down here to help (those in need),” Vitaliano said. “(These volunteers) are holding babies and playing with the children … let’s face it, you miss your kids or members of your family when you’re here.”

About 100 of the nearly 700 children at this historic 30-year-old school played games and received hundreds of gifts including tennis shoes, toothbrushes, instant noodles, soap and clothes.

The school currently has 15 volunteers who come here at their own expense from the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark and Australia to help take care of the babies, teach English to the disabled students, take the blind, deaf and mute children to the beach and visit the elderly each day, according to England native, Paula G. A. Langin, a volunteer here.

“We need (volunteers) to teach English,” said Langin, who has been here for three of her planned six months. “We (encourage) the volunteers to come for at least six months … it is hard for them to come for a few weeks because the children become attached and lose them so quickly.”

That emotional attachment happened in a few hours for Lance Cpl. Roshan E. Burnham, an adjutant with CSF-536 and administrative clerk with III Marine Expeditionary Force based in Okinawa.

“I kinda hold back here,” said Burnham, who visited orphans as a teenager with the YMCA in San Diego. “I just want to jump around and hold them,” added Burnham before running off to play with three children.

This visit hit Burnham close to home.

“One of the deaf children was talking to me using hand signals even though I tried to show him that (I did not understand),” Burnham said. “This will be good practice for me as I just found out my sister was born deaf.”

As the four-hour visit came to a close on the orphanage’s soccer field, Vitaliano felt the visit was fantastic.

“These children are bringing joy to our hearts,” said Vitaliano, referred to as father by the orphanage volunteers and workers here. “Look at (the children) … they are smiling,” he added with tears falling from his eyes.

For more information about Operation Unified Assistance visit the Web site at www.marines.mil/csf536.


01-21-05, 03:05 PM
N.C. congressman seeks equal billing for Marines
Submitted by: MCAS Beaufort
Story by Cpl. Micah Snead

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC (Jan. 21, 2005) -- A name change could soon be in store for the Department of the Navy, as the U. S. Congress prepares to examine the relationship between the Navy and Marine Corps.

North Carolina Third District Congressman Walter B. Jones, introduced House Resolution 34 to the United States House of Representatives, Jan. 4. The bill would rename the Department of the Navy to be the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps. Jones' district includes Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Stations New River and Cherry Point.

The National Security Act of 1947 identifies the Marine Corps, Navy, Army and Air Force as services with legal missions set by the Constitution. The act defines the mission of the Marine Corps as a service trained, organized and equipped for offensive amphibious employment and as a force in readiness.

The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 acknowledged the roles of each service's commanding officers as equal members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If the Commandant of the Marine Corps carries the same weight as the Chief of Naval Operations, the Corps deserves equal billing with the Navy, according to Jones.

"There isn't a subordinate relationship between the CNO and CMC," Jones said. "They are equivalent parts of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and it is time that the Department of the Navy recognizes their equal status."

The proposal is intended to acknowledge the large role Marines play in the U.S. military, not to alter the relationship of the Navy and Marine Corps, according to Jones.

"This legislation is not about changing the responsibilities of the secretary, reallocating resources between the Navy and Marine Corps or altering the course of the mission at hand," Jones said. "Rather it is about showing the nation the true meaning of the Department and recognizing the overall importance of the Marine Corps to our national security."

When Jones takes his argument to the House floor, he will carry an enlarged copy of a Silver Star citation with him. The Silver Star was posthumously awarded to Sgt. Michael E. Bitz, crew chief, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, who was killed in An Nasiriyah, Iraq in 2003. Bitz's widow gave Jones a copy of the citation, which carries the Department of the Navy flag and 'Secretary of the Navy' heading.

"Nothing in the official heading is about the Marine Corps," Jones said. "I think about his children or any Marine's children when they read daddy's orders. Wouldn't it be nice if it said 'Secretary of the Navy and Marine Corps' and included the flag of both services?"

The resolution was introduced with the backing of 24 other House representatives, or co-sponsors, and is now undergoing review by the House Armed Services Committee, which Jones has a seat on. South Carolina's 2nd District (which includes the Tri-Command area) representative Joe Wilson also sits on the House Armed Services Committee. The committee will review the proposal and argument before passing it on to the House representatives to be voted on.
Jones had previously introduced legislation that would change the name of the Navy's leader to be the Secretary of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Fleet Reserve Association, a professional military association representing past, present and future sea service members has already endorsed the current resolution.

"I am encouraged by the overwhelming support I have received for this change from so many members of our armed forces," Jones said. "With their backing, I will continue to work diligently to see this bill through the House. I am committed to making the unity between the Navy and Marine Corps a known fact. They have operated as one entity for 229 years. This legislation will ensure the department they share exemplifies that fact."

While the name change wouldn't make any impact on leadership, budgets or missions, it would help shine more of the spotlight on the Marine Corps as military service of its own as opposed to a stepchild of the Navy.

"It's about time," said Sgt. Maj. Gary J. Rivard, squadron sergeant major, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron.

For more information on the status of HR 34, visit www.congress.org. To contact Jones, call (202) 225-3415.


01-21-05, 03:18 PM
$4,100 for Marine's phone bill
The Patriot Ledger

NORWELL - When Warren Shaw heard that two Norwell teenagers wanted to help him pay the $11,546 cell phone bill his son, a Marine, accidentally ran up while training in Australia, he was wary.

''I felt kind of ridiculous,'' said Shaw, a Lancaster resident. ''The more I thought about it, I had to accept it. They are two great kids.''

Fourteen-year-old Brittany Bergquist and her brother, Robbie, 13, created Cell Phones for Soldiers in April. The program raises money to buy calling cards and cell phones for soldiers serving overseas, to prevent them from racking up huge bills on their own cell phones when calling home.

At a ceremony yesterday in Weymouth, the Bergquists gave Shaw a check for $4,100 to help him pay off his son's bill.

''It certainly will take the burden off,'' Warren Shaw said.

Andrew Shaw ran up the huge tab last summer when he let his unit of 33 Marines use his cell phone to call home - with calling cards.

The calling cards appeared to have been accepted by Shaw's cell phone company, but when the bill arrived at his father's home in August, the bottom line was staggering.

''Where all the money went on the calling cards is a mystery,'' Warren Shaw said.

Warren Shaw said his son was, at first, embarrassed at the thought of two youngsters helping with the enormous bill.

Now, ''obviously, he's thankful,'' Shaw said.

His son is two months into a year of service in Afghanistan with the Marine Corps.

The Bergquists set up Cell Phones for Soldiers at South Shore Savings Bank on April 12 to help another soldier in a similar situation.

During yesterday's ceremony, held at the bank's headquarters, the Bergquists were given certificates of appreciation from the Massachusetts Army National Guard for ''their entrepreneurial spirit with the motive of great caring,'' Army Col. Manuel Constantine said. He called them ''very inspirational young Americans.''

Chris Howie of Enterprise Rent-A-Car gave the Bergquists 250 cell phones collected at Enterprise offices in Massachusetts during the last three months.

The Bergquists launched their fund after hearing about a Natick soldier who racked up a $7,624 cell phone bill calling home from Iraq. After gathering their pocket change to send to that soldier, they decided that they needed to do more.

Their $14 - plus $7 more collected from friends - was used to open an account at South Shore Savings. The bank donated $500. Once word got out, donations began rolling in.

Since April, the teens have raised $300,000. About $180,000 remains in the account, after spending to buy cell phones and help people like Shaw.

At least 30,000 cell phones have passed through their hands, and the Bergquists know that thousands more have been collected at 4,000 drop-off sites in the United States and in other countries, including Japan and England.

They have sent 17,000 phones to soldiers overseas.

Brittany and Robbie became celebrities last summer when Cell Phones for Soldiers gained international attention.

Now they have to balance school, sports and social lives with jetting around the country to talk about their program at schools, send-off ceremonies for deployed troops, and on national television.

''It's awesome,'' Brittany, a Norwell Middle School eighth-grader, said of their work. ''It's kind of stressful, but it's worth it to get the word out.''

Brittany will be featured in the March issue of Teen People magazine. The story is titled ''20 Teens Who Will Change the World.''

Balancing a normal teen life with promoting their passion to help soldiers is difficult. Robbie sometimes has to miss a hockey game - he plays on three teams on the South Shore - to travel for the fund.

But the siblings think it's worth it.

''The soldiers don't have a choice if they are going to stay home or not,'' said Robbie, a seventh-grader at Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury.

He and his sister plan to keep the fund running as long as the need exists. There are always soldiers stationed somewhere, the Bergquists said.

''We'll just keep giving them cell phones until everybody is home,'' Robbie said.


01-21-05, 05:09 PM
Iraq to Arrest Ahmad Chalabi After Eid -TV <br />
<br />
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iraq (news - web sites)'s interim defense minister said on Friday the government would arrest Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad...

01-22-05, 02:10 AM
Marine veteran, friend visit D.C.
The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON -- Fred Karnes never expected to be where he was this week, watching George W. Bush being sworn in for his second term as president.

"It was marvelous, unbelievable," the 73-year-old Milton man said Thursday. "I never thought that I would ever be a part of it."

But then, about a week ago, Hershel "Woody" Williams of Ona -- for whom inaugurations are old hat -- invited Karnes to go along, with much of their expenses covered. It was too good an offer to pass up.

Williams, 81, a Marine Corps veteran, is a Medal of Honor recipient because of his heroic action on Iwo Jima during the closing days of World War II. Since John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961, the inaugural committees have invited Medal of Honor recipients and one guest each to attend the week-long festivities, with air travel and lodging at the Washington Hilton -- where President Reagan was shot in 1981 -- covered.

Williams has attended every inauguration since JFK's. Most of the time, he was accompanied by his wife, Ruby, but also by their two daughters and five grandsons. Ruby elected not to go this year, so Williams asked Karnes -- a fellow member of Huntington detachment 340 of the Marine Corps League -- to accompany him.
Related story

This time, Williams said, 129 recipients were invited and 72 of them -- and their guests -- accepted. All week long, they have been ferried around the D.C. area in three chartered buses -- complete with a police escort.

Many of their meal expenses have been taken care of, too, by civic and veterans' organizations. They were feted Monday night at Morton's Restaurant on Connecticut Avenue. The tab for Tuesday's breakfast at the Hilton was picked up by Kenneth Behring, billed as one of America's 400 richest people, who plugged his new book "Road to Purpose." That afternoon, they dined at the MCI Center, where President Bush -- accompanied by his wife, parents and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- saluted American troops for protecting us.

"It was really a good program, very inspiring," Williams said. "It made you glad you are an American."

Tuesday evening the Veterans of Foreign Wars offered finger foods at the Hilton. Wednesday featured an Amvets breakfast -- during which Williams gave the invocation and the benediction -- and an evening Disabled American Veterans reception at the Hilton, with a luncheon by the Joint Chiefs of Staff sandwiched in at the Ritz-Carlton in Arlington, Va.

"Four-star General Richard B. Myers was the principal speaker," Williams said. "We met all the Joint Chiefs, Marine Corps Commandant Michael Hagee and Assistant Commandant William Nyland. We sat at his table for lunch."

During most of the week, Williams and Karnes put up with biting winds and falling snow.

"West Virginians are tough," Williams said. "It is hard on bald heads, though. Fred will testify to that."

That reminded Williams of the days when he was throwing around a flame-thrower on Iwo Jima.

"If I would have had one here, I would have used it," he said -- promising not to repeat the comment near a Secret Service agent.

On Thursday morning, the recipients met at the Reserve Officers Association Building a block from the White House to be bused to their ringside bleachers near the west front of the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony.

But Williams and Karnes, facing another 25-degree day, opted to stay inside and watch the ceremony on television. They skipped the parade, too, returning to their hotel.

The president's speech drew mixed reviews from the men.

"It seemed like his plan might be that America will be the savior of the world and I don't know if we can afford that," Williams said. "He offered very little for the American people to build their hope on; he talked more about other parts of the world."

He said Bush wasn't specific about his domestic plans.

"There's a need for peace and reconciliation between factions in this country," he said. "And he has to lead the way."

Karnes said the president seemed sincere but admitted he dropped off a couple of times during the speech.

"It was beyond what I'm able to comprehend because I'm not that well-versed in national politics," he said. "I just couldn't put it all together."

Williams made no secret of the fact he didn't support Bush for re-election -- but said it doesn't matter.

"He is still my president," he said. "The election of a free government is the epitome of what America is all about. Although I may not agree with the policies of a president, when he is sworn in, he is my president."

So late Thursday afternoon, they put aside the weightier considerations, planned to don their tuxes and attend the veterans' services organizations' inaugural banquet and ball at the Capitol Hilton last night.

But how did they plan to get through one of Washington's social events of the quadrennium after leaving their wives at home?

"We're going to dance together," Williams quipped. "Marines always dance together."


01-22-05, 08:58 AM
January 21, 2005
Servicemembers Brave Cold in Final Inaugural Rehearsal

by Army Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
Armed Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON -- It was freezing here Sunday, but that did not stop thousands of servicemembers who took part in a final dress rehearsal for the yesterday's presidential inaugural parade.

Air Force Lt. Col. Bruce Alexander, chief of the external media division for the Joint Task Force Armed Forces Inaugural Committee said about 5,000 servicemembers participated in the parade. Of that number, 2,500 actually marched in the parade, he said, while about 1,500 lined the streets of Pennsylvania Avenue serving as an honor cordon, or "goodwill ambassadors."

Another 300 were part of the special presidential escort that included a military fife and drum unit, and about 700 servicemembers on the JTF-AFIC staff, helped to organize the military participation in the event.

During an early morning news briefing, Alexander pointed out it takes a lot of "synchronized communication and a coordinated effort with a lot of different moving parts," for the parade to be successful. On "game day" as he refers to the event, he estimated about 10,000 people, both civilian and military, will take part in the parade.

"It is a major undertaking to move this many people at a synchronized time. It takes a lot of planning, a lot of rehearsal," he said. However, for the participants in Sunday's rehearsal, a lot of warm weather would have been nice. Frigid weather at the National Mall assembly area had the thousands of assembled servicemembers struggling to keep warm.

With temperatures in the low teens, military bands and marching units arrived by bus from the Pentagon. Once at the Mall, they quickly filed into one of two large tents, seeking refuge from the cold. Inside, they waited for the "order of march" for their unit or band to be called over a loudspeaker.

(It was planned that) the Army will lead the first division of military and civilian marchers, bands and floats. The Marine Corps will lead the second division, and the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard divisions will follow in that order. The presidential motorcade will lead the procession down the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route.

For musicians, Sunday's cold was a bit of a problem, especially for those playing brass instruments. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Chris Erbe warmed his trumpet by running through musical scales. Other musicians opted instead to keep their hands warm by tucking them deep inside the pockets of their coats.

Erbe said the band's sound will be affected "a little at first," but "as you play, you gradually get warm and then it's OK." In any case, he added, it's worth it. "This cold is uncomfortable, but this is something that I can tell my grandkids about one day. I'm honored to do this," he said.

Nearby, a group of Marines from Marine Barracks 8th and I, a ceremonial unit in Washington, stands at attention. Putting on a brave face, the Marines act as if they are not affected by the weather. Or maybe it's not an act.

Said Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Faifer, 24, "It's only a little cold. We do this all the time," he added. "It's just a part of our job. Marines come out and perform our duties whether it's hot out or cold. It's just a part of the professionalism we have to maintain."

Still, Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Nelson Rhone tells his men to try to keep warm and to look out for one another. He said he acknowledged concern that with the freezing temperatures his troops could become hypothermic or get frostbite.

Still, knowing they might be in for cold weather, the majority of those who shivered their way through the rehearsal wanted to be a part of the inauguration.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Loren Shipley, who serves with the Military Sealift Command Expeditionary Port, a Naval Reserve unit in Wilmington, Del., said he felt it was his duty to be part of the parade.

"I've seen inaugurations on television all my life, but I've never been in one," he explained. "So I thought this was a nice, neat way to get to do it. This is democracy in action and I just wanted to do my part."

Others, like Coast Guard Master Chief Petty Officer Gary Sherrill, called being part of the inaugural parade "a rare privilege."

"This is kind of a once-in-a-career opportunity," he said. "I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

"It will be hard not to notice the large military presence at the Inauguration Day parade. It happened for a reason -- that's the way the president wanted it," Alexander said.

"This inaugural has truly been dedicated to the military," he said. "The president has mentioned at every turn that he wants to recognize those armed services that are keeping our freedoms here at home and overseas. We are showing off for the world, and we're representing all of those men and women who are overseas doing their business to establish democracy. We are carrying out democracy, the democratic process."

Still, the president's request for a large military presence won't make this parade the largest such event in recent inaugural history. That honor belongs to President John F. Kennedy. Alexander said Kennedy had more than 15,000 servicemembers on hand for his January 1961 inaugural parade. That parade lasted nearly five hours on a bright, but windy, 22-degree day that followed a six-inch snowstorm.

And even if the rehearsal's weather is repeated Jan. 20, it won't be the coldest one, either. President Reagan's second-term inauguration in 1985 found the temperature at 7 degrees in Washington.


01-22-05, 08:59 AM
January 21, 2005
Rallying Support for Children in an Unexpected Deployment

by Holly Selders

Expected or unexpected, short or long, prepared or unprepared, boiled down or sugarcoated -- deployments arrive under a variety of circumstances. However they arrive, these absences are especially tough for children. But they are survivable, and children are the most resilient creatures of all. Research shows there are actually some positive benefits to separation. Children who endure separation learn to be more independent, flexible, and responsible. Deployments foster maturity and prepare children for the separations they will face in life. Research also shows that separations strengthen family bonds.

If you haven't prepared before deployment, the day will come sooner than you expected. You can find ideas to quickly prepare the adults in the room at Pulling Chocks: Coping With a Sudden Deployment. It may be rough for you, but rallying support for your children is easier than you think.

First, talk to your children and tell them you have to leave unexpectedly. Do not promise them you'll be back in five days or six weeks. You can give a general time frame if you know it, but military life has a way of changing plans. Don't make promises you can't keep. Next, hug your child... even big children. Exchange small mementos -- a coin or rabbits foot. Cut a lock of their hair or a scrap of their blanket to keep in your pocket or locker. Link yourself and your child to Dads at a Distance or Moms Over Miles for more creative and fun ideas.

Tell your child you'll think of him or her every day. Plan a special event for homecoming. Do your best to keep in touch while you're gone. The Submarine Wives Club suggests simple, quick ideas such as sending cards through ILoveYouKid.com.

Adopting a "We-can-handle-this-just-fine" attitude is essential for the non-deployed parent or caregiver. Teachers are your first line of defense in this can-do mindset. Providing the child's teacher with an explanation that Dad or Mom is suddenly deployed will ensure that the child receives a little TLC. This also prepares the teacher to be more understanding if your child acts out.

Also, talk to the school principal. According to Shirley Hill, a secretary in the Norfolk Public Schools, some schools make an effort to assign students to a male teacher if a father will be deployed. Although there are no guarantees, it would be considered a legitimate request.

Immediate family members and other adult friends are another source of immediate support. Extra attention from grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives will help your child adjust to the separation. A mentor, who is a caring adult friend, can be a valuable support person for your child during a deployment. To find a mentor, try the National Mentoring Partnership, the local Boys and Girls Club of America, the YMCA, or YWCA.

Note: While one-on-one mentoring is generally helpful for children, parents should be vigilant if an adult begins spending a lot of time with their child, and should not hesitate to monitor or supervise the visits. Never let a child spend time (this includes e-mail and chat rooms) with an adult whose background you are not familiar with -- even a sport coach, religious leader, teacher, or relative -- and don't be embarrassed to question their background, including police checks. Your child's safety is of the utmost importance. Encourage your child to talk frankly about what goes on during the visits.

If you feel your child could use a little help adjusting, or if he or she seems unnaturally sad or aggressive, talk to a professional counselor who can give you advice specific to your child. Counselors, or counseling referrals, are generally available through TRICARE, Fleet and Family Support Centers (FFSC), and Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS). School, churches, and your pediatrician can also suggest someone. Talk can be cheap, but when you're rallying support, information is everything.


01-22-05, 09:00 AM
January 24, 2005 <br />
<br />
Marine charged in road-rage shooting <br />
<br />
By Gordon Lubold <br />
Times staff writer <br />
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One Marine allegedly shot at two other leathernecks in a fit of high-speed road rage along a...

01-22-05, 12:09 PM
Former Marine's movie lets Iraqis tell their own tale
Jonathan Curiel,
San Francisco Chronicle
Saturday, January 22, 2005

Archie Drury is a professional actor and filmmaker who helped produce the documentary "Voices of Iraq." Drury is paid to express himself, but there's one subject he refuses to address: Whether the Iraq war has been worth the tens of thousands of deaths there.

"It's tough," says Drury, whose film screens Monday in San Francisco. "If I go there . . . I don't want to take a stance. I just want to be the vehicle to tell the story about the Iraqi people."

The Iraqi people in "Voices of Iraq" are surprisingly upbeat. About 60 percent are supportive of the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, while 40 percent could be categorized as critical of the presence of American troops. This 60-40 split, says Drury, is a fair representation of the footage that he and his co-producers (Eric Manes and Martin Kunert) got back from Iraqis who used the Americans' video cameras. The Iraqis filmed themselves and their loved ones, creating video diaries that let viewers see inside Iraqi homes and schools. Led by Kunert, the producers edited the diaries and added brief footage from Iraqi insurgents that shows them making bombs, and footage that shows torture under Hussein's rule.

In October, when "Voices of Iraq" screened theatrically across the United States, the critical reaction was mixed. Some people faulted the film as propaganda for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, while others said the movie humanized Iraqi citizens. Drury doesn't hesitate to address this issue. A former Marine who served in the first Persian Gulf War, Drury went to Iraq last year to distribute the cameras and do filming himself. In one scene from "Voices of Iraq," a family celebrates a child's birthday party. In another, students at Baghdad University rush off to classes.

"That's what it's really like in Iraq," says Drury, 32, who attended UC Berkeley after getting out of the Marines. "In concentrated areas, of course, you're going to have more negativity, like in Fallujah. But if you take the mass of the country, it's a different view. And for whatever reason, the media is just concentrating on the negative stories. So (Americans) get the idea that it's worse than it really is. Overall, I don't think the media has told the story fairly. There are a lot of positive things going on."

Including with the Marines, Drury says. "There are Marines who are helping to open up schools, who are feeding people, who are giving up their own packages to Iraqi children," Drury says. "The Marines aren't terrorists. We aren't killers. We're trying to help (Iraqis). We care about them. A lot of people on the far left believe we're out to destroy them, and it's about Halliburton. I'm not saying those aren't issues. But any way you look (at Iraq), Iraqis are people, and they need our help. The film is a vehicle so we can see them as people and not just as 'foreigners.' "

When he appears at Monday night's screening at the Marines' Memorial Club, Drury will talk about the Iraqi people he met in Baghdad and other cities, and about the need to increase benefits for the families of wounded U.S. military in Iraq. Drury says his experience in Iraq changed him -- that, as an actor and producer, he wants to involve himself with projects that "make a difference and a contribution."

The only problem: At 32, Drury is still trying to make a name for himself, so he can't be that selective. Last year, he appeared on an episode of "NYPD Blue" as an innocent man who's accused of murder and on NBC's "Las Vegas" as a man who has an affair with a married woman. This month, he's auditioning for TV pilots that could go on the air in the fall of 2005.

"To be honest," Drury says, "I'm not at a point where I'm offered a lot of roles."

One thing Drury and the other "Voices of Iraq" producers can look forward to: a DVD version of their film. Drury says the producers are "working on a distribution deal" that would put a "Voices of Iraq" DVD in video stores this summer.


01-22-05, 12:17 PM
Marine returned to tearful reunion
The Daily Press
January 22, 2005

NORFOLK -- When her husband shipped off to Iraq last summer, Stephanie Patterson told him that when he finally came home it didn't matter where the plane landed, she would be there.

That vow led her to the cargo terminal at Norfolk International Airport on Friday afternoon, where almost 30 relatives and friends gathered in an industrial lot to catch a glimpse of the coffin carrying Marine Sgt. Jayton Patterson.

"I told him I'd be waiting," Stephanie said. "There was no way I wouldn't keep that."

Jayton Patterson was killed by an explosion in Northern Iraq last weekend, just as his tour in the Middle East was coming to an end. The 26-year-old from just outside of Wakefield was only weeks from getting home. His family had already planned a return party. "We all wanted to be here," said Jayton's father, Frank, his eyes welling with tears. "To make sure we were there when he came home."

Huddled together in a parking lot surrounded by loading docks and service ramps, Jayton Patterson's family waited patiently for workers to raise the brown and white cargo door to the terminal.

Clattering upward, the door revealed nine stone-faced Marines in dress blue uniforms carrying a coffin draped in the American flag. The Marines moved down the ramp with short, choppy steps, finally halting a few feet from the back of a silver hearse.

With their 15-month-old daughter Claire in her arms, Stephanie stepped away from the cluster of friends and family and delicately laid a single red rose on top of the flag. Then she shifted forward, holding Claire over the flag so the blond-headed toddler could put down her own pink carnation.

Braving a whipping cold wind with the crowd, Claire was a walking tribute to her father. Dressed in the Michael Vick jersey Jayton bought for her first Christmas, Claire clutched a handful of tiny flags. Wandering through the parking lot she occasionally dropped the Superman hat the family got before she was even born to match the tattoo on Jayton's arm. As the coffin rolled into the back of the hearse, Jayton's mother stepped forward.

"Can I touch it?" Sharon Patterson asked, reaching out her hand. "I need to touch it." When the door finally closed, some hugged while others walked dazed toward their cars for the long drive back to Wakefield. Slowly, the cars fell in line behind the hearse.

"We got him home," Sharon Patterson said as she got into the back seat of one of the cars. "That's the important thing."

Pulling past 18-wheelers and oversized cargo vans, the nine-car caravan crept out of sight.


01-22-05, 01:19 PM
Marines kick it up while at sea
Submitted by: MCAS Beaufort
Story Identification #: 2005121125528
Story by Cpl. Justin V. Eckersley

ABOARD THE USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (Jan. 21, 2005) -- For 26 Marines attached to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115, six weeks of bruises, scrapes and hard work finally paid off when they received their gray belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts program, Dec. 10.

The Silver Eagles of VMFA-115 are currently deployed as a part of Carrier Air Wing aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, operating in the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
While on their six-month deployment, Staff Sgt. Laureano Perez, MCMAP instructor, VMFA-115, knew he would have to adapt and overcome several difficult obstacles in order to teach his fellow Marines the gray belt techniques.

“When we were on shore, the schedule was always too tight to really get in belt training,” Perez said. “But after a few work-ups on ship, we got a feel for our schedule at sea and decided that it could work.”

Scheduling was just the first problem to tackle, according to Perez. The squadron had no equipment for martial arts training, so acquiring the appropriate gear became a high priority for him.

“I got some mats from the gym on Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, and a few punching bags,” Perez said. “Some of the stuff, like the rubber knives, I had to buy online. We’re using broomsticks as rifles and batons. Whatever it takes to get the training.”

The Marines of VMFA-115 showed their appreciation for Perez’ efforts by participating in the training. Perez originally estimated that 10-15 Marines would sign up for the training. To his surprise, over 25 Silver Eagles signed up. With that many students, it became difficult to provide the one-on-one training necessary for martial arts training.

Fortunately, Perez was not the only MCMAP instructor in the squadron. Gunnery Sgt. James Park, is also a green belt instructor, and decided to help teach the Silver Eagles MCMAP.

“I decided to come down for a night to check out what Staff Sgt. Perez was doing,” Park said. “I saw the number of students that he had and decided to help.”

Before coming to VMFA-115, Park was a close combat instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. Park experienced the shift from the older line training to MCMAP first-hand, and has witnessed the program evolve over the years.

“The program has undergone a lot of changes, especially the techniques,” Park said. “But overall, the techniques are generic, so those changes aren’t too dramatic. The only real problem is the difficulty of dissemination to the front line troops who need those changes. There’s no central place to go for instructors to go for updates they need.”

Park views the changes to the system as an evolution rather than a revolution.

“It is a new system, and as with any system, there are going to be adjustments,” Park said.
Incorporating the latest changes to the system, which were published in a recent edition of the Marine Times, the Silver Eagles learned many hand-to-hand strikes, counters, and defenses. The Marines were also taught how to use weapons and pressure points to control opponents. The ability to scale the level of force involved in a conflict is what separates MCMAP from the line training that preceded it, according to Perez.

“The old line training was all ‘Kill, kill, kill,’” Perez said. “But now, our mission has changed completely. We could be at war one day, and peacekeeping the next. MCMAP reflects that.”

Aside from fighting skills, MCMAP also instills important values in Marines, according to Cpl. Jonathan Street, computer technichian, Marine Aircraft Group 31.

“MCMAP not only promotes self-defense, but also self esteem and competition,” Street said. “Marines naturally have a competitive spirit, and as such, they strive for their next belt.”


01-22-05, 02:11 PM
Convicted Marine faces uncertain future <br />
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- <br />
The Intelligencer <br />
Jan. 23, 2005 <br />
<br />
Looking back,...

01-22-05, 03:56 PM
Marines show off Hattiesburg cannon

From staff reports

FORT SILL, Okla. – U.S. Marines this week demonstrated a lightweight howitzer cannon that is assembled at a Hattiesburg plant.

The M777, which is assembled at BAE Systems’ integration facility in Hattiesburg, was demonstrated to officials at Fort Sill.

The weapon is a lightweight 155mm howitzer and a critical fire support component of Marine Air Ground Task Forces and Army Brigade Combat Teams and light divisions.

The M777 was designed and developed by BAE Systems, and is a joint program between the Army and Marine Corps to replace the M198 towed howitzer.

The M777 incorporates the first use of titanium castings, which reduces the weight of the howitzer by 7,000 pounds, offering improved transportability and mobility, while retaining the full ammunition and range capability of the M198. The weapon can be transported by Marine Corps MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft and U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft.

The Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment stationed at Twentynine Palms, Calif., will be the first unit to receive the new howitzers and the battalion's key personnel are currently training with the M777 at Fort Sill.

The M777 incorporates components manufactured by a U.S. supplier base that the company has been developing for the past four years.

More than 70 percent of the howitzer's parts are manufactured in the U.S.

Originally published January 22, 2005


01-22-05, 04:04 PM
Marines prepare holy city, quiet for now, for election


NAJAF ---- Wrapping their faces in fleece scarves and rubbing numbed hands together against the predawn freeze, a convoy of U.S. Marines and soldiers rolled into the Shiite holy city of Najaf, Iraq, early Thursday to finish reinforcing polling places before the nationwide election just 10 days away.

The Marines secured bustling intersections and scouted trash-strewn streets and alleys as a group of Marine and Army National Guard engineers off-loaded heavy concrete barriers from trucks to block entrances to schools where the mostly Shiite residents of Najaf are expected to flock on election day.

"It'll keep suicide bombers from getting at the polling sites," said Marine Staff Sgt. John Baumer, 27, of Pennsylvania, as he guided a block down from a crane near a schoolhouse on a crowded commercial street in Najaf on Thursday.

The Marines, of Camp Pendleton's 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, reinforced four of Najaf's schools without a hitch Thursday and were back at their base some 20 miles outside of town in time to eat lunch and prepare for their next round of patrols, which have been stepped up in the days leading up to the Jan 30 vote.

Marine officers said that more than 200 polling sites will be set up in this city of more than 600,000 residents.

Marines have not encountered armed resistance in Najaf since late August. That's when they struck a peace deal with local Shiite militia loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr after a month of bloody fighting that killed at least eight Marines and more than 1,000 of Sadr's militia.

Any attacks on or around election day, officers said, most likely would not come from local guerrillas, but from Sunni Muslim rivals sneaking into the city to scare Shiite voters away from the polls.

Iraqis and military officials believe many attacks in other cities are being waged by former Baathists and Sunni Arabs concerned about the potential political power of Shiites, who form about 60 percent of the population. The Sunni Arab minority had enjoyed dominance under Saddam Hussein.

While the threat of violence lurks, Marines who fought off the Shiite insurgents here in August now say they expect few problems in Najaf or the neighboring holy city of Karbala.

"I think we'll be good here," said Col. Tony Haslam, the commander of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. "Unless we have something really bad happen in the couple-few days before the vote, I think we'll be fine here."

Both the local clerics and militia have endorsed the vote and seem to have every reason to keep the peace and encourage a big Shiite showing at the polls.

With the chance to elect a new parliament that will draft a constitution and choose the executive leadership, Marine leaders and political analysts say it is the first time since modern Iraq was formed by the British in the 1920s that Iraq's Shiite majority could get proportional representation in government.

Marines say they have trained and equipped enough local police and Iraqi National Guard troops to handle most of the security on election day.

Iraqi officers toting Kalashnikov guns could be seen searching cars and directing traffic at sites all over town Thursday.

On election day, the Iraqi forces will take the lead while the Marines wait in the wings. Haslam called it a position of "reassurance."

"We don't want to be seen near the polls," Marine spokeswoman Capt. Carrie Batson said of the troops' hands-off approach to the election. "It's not our election, it's theirs. We'll just be close by if trouble starts."

'Peace be with you'

The Marines reinforcing polling places Thursday seemed to worry little about attacks on them or on the polls, driving nonchalantly in Humvees down Najaf's dusty streets, returning waves and greeting locals with "a salam ilikem" ---- which means 'peace be with you' in Arabic.

They coolly cruised streets filled with chaotic morning traffic, passing men on bicycles and donkey carts, cloaked women with bundles and baskets on their heads, and crowded sidewalk cafes already teeming with customers.

Before the fall of Saddam, Najaf was a poor, independent city usually neglected and often oppressed by the Sunni-dominated Baath regime. It relies on local agriculture, sheep herding and tourism in the form of the thousands of pilgrims who arrive each year to visit the Imam Ali mosque, one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam, and to bury their dead in the nearby Valley of Peace cemetery, considered to be one of the world's largest active burial spots.

Free of Saddam and the Baathists, Najaf is experiencing a recent boom, with new trade and rapid reconstruction by the Marines, who have spent more than $20 million there to reconstruct buildings and compensate families after the intense and bloody fighting there in August.

On Thursday, the city's walls, fences and power poles were plastered with party fliers and banners to get out the vote, part of the election buzz that the Marines said began about a month ago.

"I ask them about it (the elections)," said Capt. Steve Kintzley, 33, of Phoenix, who leads the reconnaissance platoon in Najaf. "They don't talk about politics, but they say they're planning to vote. They're pretty excited."

Warm welcome

As the Marines made their rounds from school to school Thursday, throngs of children enveloped them at stops and followed them wherever they went.

"Mista! Mista!" they yelled, flashing thumbs-up signs as Marines passed.

"Good! Good!" even the littlest of them yelled as they ran along the dingy streets in sandals. Others waved and shouted from behind the closed windows of passing cars.

Everywhere they went, the Marines received the same warm welcome ---- a bright contrast to the violence that greets American troops in many other parts of Iraq.

In Baghdad, bombings have killed at least a dozen Iraqi and American troops this week as Marines try to secure the city for the upcoming elections. In Sunni-dominated regions such as Ramadi and Hit, Marines can hardly travel the roads or enter the city centers without being fired upon or without worrying about roadside bombs.

In Najaf, they pass out candy and learn new Arabic phrases from children.

"The people here are great," said Navy corpsman Doug Debrauwere, 25, of Calabasas, a member of the 1st Marine Reconnaissance detachment in Najaf. While Debrauwere manned a light machine gun on the roof of the Humvee, he spent most of his time waving to locals.

"It gives you a whole different view of Iraq," said Cpl. David Meinhold at another stop, where an Iraqi girl named Reza emerged from her gated home to show Meinhold and Debrauwere photos of her family and neighbors.

While it all seemed routine and friendly in town Thursday, Capt. Steven Kintzley of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit said Iraq is no place ---- and election week is no time ---- for the Marines to let their guard down.

"I'm always expecting attacks," Kintzley said as his Humvee made its way through traffic, skirting the Old City neighborhood where the Marines battled Shiite militia in August.

"If you don't, you get complacent," he said. "And you can't do that here."

Contact staff writer Darrin Mortenson at dmortenson@nctimes.com.


01-22-05, 04:22 PM
Helping the healing process
Submitted by: MCB Camp Lejeune
Story Identification #: 2005120112345
Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher S. Vega

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Jan. 13, 2005) -- In times of war it is not uncommon for service members to come home with war wounds, some more severe than others. Some come back with bandages or braces, and some come back with flags draped over their bodies. Lance Cpl. Michael Meyer, a Marine with Weapons company 2d Battalion 2d Marine Reginment, considers himself one of the lucky ones.

Meyer was a victim of an Improvised Explosive Devise. While in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom an IED struck the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle he was riding in sending shrapnel into his right arm shattering the humerus in his arm.

The Fort Meyers, Fla., native was immediately hospitalized in Baghdad, and then sent to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany where he would spend a week before being transferred to the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.

It would be in Germany where Meyer would come into contact with the Wounded Warrior Fund for the first time.

"While I was in Germany, I was given two-hundred dollars from the Wounded Warrior Fund for clothes and things to help me out," said Meyer. "I didn't know anything about the fund or anything and it was a really big surprise."

The fund originated two years ago, at the start of the deployments, according to Judy Pitchford, Jacksonville United Services Organization executive director. The intent of the fund is to provide help and comfort to Marines injured during a deployment.

"The money is really for clothes, hygiene items, and whatever the Marine needs at the time," said Col. William Meier, chief of staff, Marine Corps Base.

"Because of the harness my arm was in, I needed to buy new clothes," said Meyer. "And with the money I was given by the Wounded Warrior Fund, I didn't have to worry about not being able to afford the clothes."

Meyers attributes the majority of his help to Master Sgt. Steven Flick, the operations chief for 2/2 weapons. Flick contacted the fund committee and told them of the situation his Marine was in.

"The doctor says I will be completely healed in about three months," said Meyer. "Which means I will make it just in time for our next deployment. I can't wait till I get back out there."


01-22-05, 04:35 PM
Mystery in Iraq as $300 Million is Taken Abroad <br />
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- <br />
The New York Times <br />
<br />
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 21 -...

01-22-05, 04:59 PM
Group Reports Killing 15 Iraqi Guardsmen <br />
<br />
By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer <br />
<br />
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents said they had executed 15 kidnapped Iraqi National Guardsmen for cooperating with...

01-22-05, 05:35 PM
Mortars dish out old-fashioned cure to insurgents
Submitted by: 31st MEU
Story Identification #: 200512133435
Story by Cpl. Matthew R. Jones

HUSAYBAH, Iraq (Jan. 7, 2005) -- Marines with 1st Battalion, 7th Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit have been providing a remedy to terrorists who fire mortars and rockets at the coalition forces in the area by raining down lead from the sky with their mortar systems.

During the last five months the unit has been under constant threat of indirect fire from insurgents.

“We were getting mortared every day when we first got here,” said Cpl. Nicholas N. Boone, squad leader, mortars section. “They fire at us less frequency now.”

The unit combined the 60mm mortar section from Company B with the 81mm mortar section from Weapons Company to build a more versatile and efficient mortar team.

“We fire 81mm mortars, they pack a little more punch than the 60mm mortars,” said 1st Lt. Evan Lopez, platoon commander. “They are also a little more accurate due to their sunken base plates.”

The team spent a few days becoming familiar with each other and cross-trained on both weapons systems.

“There was a little bit of tension when we first got together,” said Sgt. Jonathan M. Dolman, fire direction chief. “There were questions about who was going to do what, but everyone worked through it.”

Upon the arrival of the Light Counter Mortar Rader, which is able to detect the location at which the enemy launches mortars at the MNF, the unit has received many more fire missions, said Lopez, 25, a native of River Edge, NJ.

The unit has also built permanent structures from where to fire at the terrorists. They have built buildings from where the fire direction center operates from as well as reinforced mortar pits.

By picking the best gunners to man the guns, they quickly worked through the questions and began to conduct counter battery fire against the insurgency.

“It is great to be able to do your job,” said Boone, 22, from Tuscan, Ariz. “The Marines loved being able to work together.”

The command has utilized this conventional warfare weapon and employed it in an urban environment.

“I never thought that mortars would be used this much,” Lopez added.

“It took us about of week of hard work to get most of the construction complete,” said Staff
Sgt. Joseph D. Stager, mortar section leader. “It is a constantly undergoing improvements and repairs.”

The smaller 60mm weapon system has also been taken into the city on patrols and observation posts in order to provide counter battery fire from with in the city, said Stager, 27, a native of Fairborn, Ohio.

The mortars have had a crippling effect on the insurgency and their ability to attack the coalition forces in the area.

“We have had over 20 enemy causalities,” said Lopez. “They have not fired at us with the same regularity as when we got here.”

The consistency of which the mortars have been used has enabled the unit to defeat the unpredictable fighting style of the terrorists.

“We have received a lot more missions than the Marines we replaced,” added Dolman, 30, from Reedsville, Georgia.

Like an old fashion doctor; the mortar section continues to stand on call, 24 hours a day, in case the enemy attempts to dial in the location of coalition forces; ready to send a prescription of fire from the sky downrange to end any insurgency’s ailments.


01-22-05, 06:38 PM
January 24, 2005

Mess halls may see cost-cut effort
Fewer hours, smaller menus among possibilities

By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

Changes to chow hall schedules, menu selections and other services may be coming to some East Coast chow halls as the Corps seeks ways to save on food service costs while thousands of troops remain deployed overseas.
With more than 36,000 Marines serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and now South Asia, fewer troops are eating in stateside mess halls, prompting food service officials to consider cost-saving measures to ease the impact of the significant drop off in visitors.

Any changes would primarily affect chow halls at East Coast installations, since the bulk of troops deploying to Iraq over the next year are based there.

East Coast messing facilities serve an average of 14 million meals each year.

Corps officials estimate that the number of meals served across the Corps has dropped by about 10 percent as a result of deployments to Iraq.

Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem. But when the Corps privatized its 55 stateside mess halls in 2002, it said a certain number of meals would be served each day and priced the contract accordingly. With thousands of Marines still in Iraq — far more than anyone would have thought three years ago — the civilian company with which the Corps contracted, Sodexho USA, is serving fewer meals and making less money.

“We’re trying to make business decisions and at the same time taking care of Marines,” said Maj. Richard Bedford, director of the Corps’ food service program.

The Corps is looking at closing some chow halls during slow times — on weekends, for example — if they are near other chow halls that Marines could use instead, Bedford said.

That could mean Marines have to travel a little farther to the closest open chow hall. At Camp Lejeune, N.C., for instance, the 2nd Marines’ chow hall is about three streets away from the 8th Marines’ chow hall.

Another possibility is to cut some menu options offered in smaller dining halls because fewer Marines use them. It might not make sense to offer a wide array of salad-bar items, for example, in a chow hall that serves only 50 people a day.

There are no plans currently to close any chow halls outright, Bedford said.

The belt-tightening moves come after officials with Sodexho, based in Gaithersburg, Md., complained about shrinking profits under the eight-year, $880 million food contract.

The privatization of the Corps’ domestic food service operation was designed to save the service millions of dollars and eliminate the need for about 600 food service Marines. Those billets were reallocated for units in the operating forces.

Although Corps officials say the original contract, first let in July 2002, was worded to be flexible depending on customer traffic rates, the two parties are renegotiating the contract to reflect the reduced number of visitors.

Michel Landel, Sodexho’s chief executive officer, complained last fall that the high number of troops still deployed overseas was affecting the company’s bottom line.

Landel told the Financial Times of London on Nov. 18 that the company’s profit margins were down in November and that Sodexho and the Corps were engaged in the “tedious process” of renegotiating the contract.

“It wasn’t a surprise, but it was a pretty big population when you lose that many people out of your population to serve,” Greg Verone, executive vice president of Sodexho’s defense services division, told Marine Corps Times on Jan. 6..

“That’s big numbers.”

Both parties would say only that they are committed to providing Marines with the best possible food service.

“There are a lot of different ways we can explore to save money, and we are in the process of doing that,” said Shay Assad, assistant deputy commandant for installations and logistics.

The bumps in the road are a factor in the delayed unveiling of a new menu that was to begin last year. Elements of the new menu are already being offered at both the Corps’ recruit depots, but the offerings will be tweaked before the menu debuts at the rest of the Corps’ messing facilities, probably by summer, company officials said.

Officials are considering more hot breakfast options, a “breakfast-potato variety,” entrée salads, vegetarian items, more pasta and a daily self-service pasta bar. The company also wants to do more “exhibition cooking” — stir fries and “sizzling” salads, for example — and expand a brunch menu.

While the Corps is looking for ways to cut costs, Bedford said, “We don’t want Marines to read that we’re cutting back on services, because we’re not.”

Gordon Lubold covers enlisted issues. He can be reached at (703)750-8639 or glubold@marinecorpstimes.com.


01-22-05, 07:25 PM
Few but organized, Iraq veterans turn war critics <br />
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- <br />
The New York Times <br />
Jan. 22, 2005 <br />
<br />
Sean Huze...

01-22-05, 07:49 PM
3/4 returns to Iraq for third time
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200512231657
Story by Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

CAMP ABU GHURAYB, Iraq (Jan. 20, 2005) -- The first Marine battalion into Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom, who tore down the statue of Saddam and spearheaded Operation Vigilant Resolve in Fallujah, has landed once again in familiar territory.

More than 700 Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, have arrived to support operations in Iraq for a third time.

“We’re the only (Marine infantry) battalion to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom three times,” said Cpl. Benjamin B. Earhart, a 22-year-old Marine from Colorado Springs, Col., who serves as an intelligence clerk for 3/4.

This third deployment, coming only five months after the battalion returned from Iraq for a second time, is seen as a testament of 3/4's renowned service.

“I think this early deployment speaks for itself,” said Staff Sgt. George A. Rogers, 28, a Zebulon, N. C., native who serves as the battalion intelligence chief. “3/4 has a reputation over there.”

The battalion has settled in around Fallujah, taking over areas of operation for 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

“Our mission here is to keep the city safe, continue stabilization and prevent (insurgents) from getting back in,” said Lt. Col. Andrew R. Kennedy, battalion commander.

“We’re not expecting too many combat operations,” Rogers said.

Despite the stresses of taking over the operations of multiple battalions and the ever-present threat of attack, 3/4 is confident in its ability to get the job done.

“I think 3/4 will continue to do what 3/4 does,” Rogers said, “and that’s get the mission done.”

“I don’t worry about these guys,” Kennedy said. “They are professionals.”

The ‘professionals’ of 3/4 suffered less than 70 casualties in its first two deployments to OIF.

Although practically none of the Marines are concerned about being back in Iraq, some Marines and their families do wonder about how long this one will be, Kennedy said.

“My Marines will be here for seven months,” Kennedy said, “I’m confident it will be just that.”


01-22-05, 08:30 PM
Visclosky wants answers from Marine Corps on rescinded Purple Heart

MILITARY: Husband of local woman who lost medal says he'll never wear it


This story ran on nwitimes.com on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 12:49 AM CST

.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky expects to meet with a U.S. Marine Corps general soon to discuss the revocation of a Purple Heart from the husband of a local woman.

The announcement about the meeting came from Visclosky's office Tuesday. The congressman requested the meeting after receiving word from First Lt. Dustin Ferrell, a Notre Dame graduate whose wife is from Chesterton, that the Marine Corps was taking back the medal he received in 2003.

Tuesday Ferrell said he was contacted by a Marine Corps liaison to Congress for a briefing on his situation in preparation for the meeting with Visclosky. Ferrell said he won't attend the meeting.

According to Ferrell, he knows of 10 other Marines who have been stripped of their Purple Heart decorations. Two of them were in the same Humvee as Ferrell when it crashed and he was injured. The medal wasn't taken from the driver of the Humvee who died in the accident. The congressman is only working on behalf of Ferrell, according to a staff member.

"I don't really don't know the cases of the other guys. I saw a report that went out to say these medals were erroneously reported," Ferrell said.

Ferrell is focused on finding out how the investigation that resulted in the medals being rescinded came about. Beyond that he wants to ensure this never happens again. He is especially disturbed that it has been two years since the medals were awarded.

"It's very serious. I've spoken to the relatives of some of these kids and some of them are devastated," Ferrell said.

Ferrell was the only officer involved in the investigation. He said the others are junior enlisted Marines and noncommissioned officers. Ferrell said he means no disrespect to Purple Heart recipients but said even if his medal is reinstated he would never wear it.

"This was humiliating for me," Ferrell said. "I think getting the word out to the media will help make sure they're more careful when awarding the medal in the future."

Ferrell was injured in Iraq when a Humvee he was traveling in crashed. He broke most of the bones in his face, dislocated his hip, lost half his teeth and lost partial sight in his right eye. He also underwent an emergency tracheotomy.

Ferrell said he was told about the revocation in a letter. He was told an investigation found his injuries weren't directly caused by hostile action, therefore he was disqualified for the medal. Visclosky previously said Ferrell deserves to keep the medal. He called the Department of Defense "despicable" for it's actions.

A spokesman for the Military Order of the Purple Heart, a nongovernmental organization made up of Purple Heart recipients, said they are aware of the situation but haven't become involved.

The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the armed forces who are wounded or killed in military operations against the enemy. It is also awarded if a person dies after being wounded in battle. Unlike other military decorations that require a recommendation, recipients of the Purple Heart automatically receive the medal if they meet specific criteria.


01-23-05, 01:45 AM
U.S. Marines Demonstrate Lightweight Howitzer

FORT SILL, Okla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 20, 2005--U.S. Marines today demonstrated the M777 lightweight howitzer to local officials at Fort Sill, Okla. The M777 is a lightweight 155mm howitzer and a critical fire support component of Marine Air Ground Task Forces and Army Brigade Combat Teams and light divisions.

The M777 was designed and developed by BAE Systems, and is a joint program between the Army and Marine Corps to replace the M198 towed howitzer. The M777 incorporates the first use of titanium castings, which reduces the weight of the howitzer -- by 7,000 lbs. -- offering improved transportability and mobility, while retaining the full ammunition and range capability of the M198. The lightweight howitzer can be transported by Marine Corps MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft and U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft.

The Marines, from the 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment stationed at Twentynine Palms, Calif., will be the first unit to receive the new howitzers and the battalion's key personnel are currently training with the M777 at Fort Sill.

The M777 recently completed operational testing at Twentynine Palms in anticipation of a full rate production decision expected next month. During the tests, nearly 12,000 artillery rounds were fired by four production howitzers. The M777 met all operational requirements and proved to be extremely reliable. Fielding of the new howitzer will continue with the Army and Marine Corps through 2009.

The M777 is assembled at BAE Systems' integration facility in Hattiesburg, Miss., and incorporates components manufactured by a U.S. supplier base that the company has been developing for the past four years. More than 70 percent of the howitzer's parts are manufactured in the U.S.


BAE Systems is an international company engaged in the development, delivery and support of advanced defense and aerospace systems in the air, on land, at sea and in space. The company designs, manufactures and supports military aircraft, surface ships, submarines, fighting vehicles, radar, avionics, communications, electronics and guided weapon systems. It is a pioneer in technology with a heritage stretching back hundreds of years. It is at the forefront of innovation, working to develop the next generation of intelligent defense systems.

BAE Systems, innovating for a safer world.


01-23-05, 09:42 AM
Tanks continue patrols Al Anbar Province
Submitted by: 31st MEU
Story Identification #: 200512135939
Story by Lance Cpl. Will Lathrop

HADITHAH DAM, Iraq (Jan. 12, 2005) -- In his quest to conquer the world, Alexander the Great used elephants not only as troop transport, but also as psychological tools to terrorize his enemies who fled from the impressive beasts.

The M1A1 Abrams main battle tank has the same effect on insurgents today in Iraq, and the Marine tankers of Alpha Company, 2nd Tank Battalion currently assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, know how to make their presence felt.

“When we patrol hand-in-hand with the grunts, most of the time we set up blocking positions and provide overwatch. It’s basically big guns on standby,” said Sgt. Ricardo Rios, a 22-year-old Miami native and tank gunner.

According to Cpl. Quadir Taylor, 22, a Newark, N.J., native and tank gunner, the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based tankers have been operating continuously in Iraq since their arrival in mid-September. It’s not uncommon for them to go on two patrols per day, whether rolling along by themselves or accompanying foot patrols.

But the tanks have not been limited to merely patrols; they were instrumental during the fight for Fallujah during Operation Al Fajr in late 2004.

With the ability to travel quickly, and weighing in at over 70 tons, with a full load of ammunition, the tanks operated constantly in the urban environment alongside the infantry.

The tanks’ main weapon systems, 120mm cannons, were used to destroy structures hiding insurgents while the three on-board machineguns are commonly used to lay down suppressive fire.

Thirty percent of the company is on a second tour in Iraq. But this has been a different experience for those who were here during Operation Iraqi Freedom I.

“There’s a lot more luxury this time. We were pretty much living off of the land the first time,” Taylor said.

Ever since the arrival of Multi-National Forces in Iraq, the crews and their tanks have made an impact on the field of battle here with their awesome displays of firepower and intimidating size.



An M1A1 Abrams main battle tank with Alpha Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, covers Marines with 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit as they extract from a patrol in the city of Hadithah, Iraq. The tanks were an impressive show of force while on patrols and also in combat. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Will Lathrop

01-23-05, 09:43 AM
Light weight helmet provides better protection and comfort
Submitted by: MCB Quantico
Story Identification #: 200512184454
Story by Lance Cpl. Sha'ahn Williams

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va (Jan. 13, 2005) -- When it comes to war, comfort is probably one of the last words that come to mind. But Marine Corps Systems Command took comfort into consideration when the new lightweight helmet was designed to replace the older Personnel Armor System Ground Troop helmet, commonly referred to as “Kevlar”.

“The new helmet is lightweight and more comfortable,” said Maj. Wendell B. Leimbach Jr., Combat Equipment Infantry Combat Equipment Team leader.

“We’ve sent cards to the Marines currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to get their opinions about the LWH and the responses are positive,” Leimbach said.

The Marines like the lighter weight and the improved suspension system inside the LWH, which was designed to reduce stress and fatigue.

“The older PASGT helmets are good, but the LWH is better,” said Gregory L. Hauck, contract support leader for the equipment team.

The LWH is currently being distributed to the field as fast as they can be produced, so every Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan will have one as soon as possible, Hauck added.

The LWH has improved ballistic protection capability over the PASGT helmet and is one-half pound lighter.

“These LWH helmets provide the best level of protection and the most comfort with the least amount of weight,” Leimbach said.

According to Leimbach, it will improve combat effectiveness through greater comfort and fit. “The old helmets slipped down over everyone’s eyes, but you don’t have to worry about that as much with these,” he said.

Distribution of the LWH began last year. Approximately 45,000 of them have been fielded, said Leimbach. Given current production capacity, it will take about two and a half years to finish fielding the LWH, he added, but MARSYSCOM is working to speed up that timeline.

The cost to field the new helmet is $17.6 million, but the need to replace the old helmet was necessary because it was outdated. The old helmet was developed in the 1970s and distributed in the 1980s, said Hauck.

Both Hauck and Leimbach agree that it was time for an update.

“This is millennium equipment,” Hauck said of the LWH.



The old Personnel Armor System Ground Troop helmet (left) distributed in the 1980s was heavy and didn’t fit as well as the new LWH helmet (right). The LWH is one-half pound lighter than its predecessor, and its cover is reversible, transferable from woodland to desert in a matter of minutes. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Sha'ahn Williams

01-23-05, 10:01 AM
Two Marines given stiffer sentences for assaulting Japanese man on Okinawa <br />
<br />
<br />
By Chiyomi Sumida, Stars and Stripes <br />
Pacific edition, Saturday, January 22, 2005 <br />
<br />
<br />
NAHA, Okinawa — The Fukuoka...

01-23-05, 12:12 PM
Terror Chief Declares 'War' on Democracy

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq (news - web sites)'s most feared terror chief declared a "fierce war" on democracy in a new audio recording posted Sunday on the Web, as insurgents attacked another polling station to be used in next weekend's landmark elections.

Rebels who've promised to disrupt the Jan. 30 vote also raided a police station in the western city of Ramadi, ordering officers out of the building and seizing their weapons, police Lt. Omar al-Duleimi said. U.S.-trained security forces have been frequent targets of rebel attacks.

U.S. and Iraqi officials fear a spike in bloodshed and have announced massive security measures to protect voters from possible insurgent attacks during the elections. Voters will chose a 275-seat National Assembly and provincial councils in Iraq's 18 provinces.

In the audiotape, a speaker identifying himself as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — the leader of Iraq's al-Qaida affiliate — called candidates running in the elections "demi-idols" and said those who vote for them "are infidels."

"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology," the speaker said. "Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it" — a clear warning to both candidates and those who choose to vote.

The speaker warned Iraqis to be careful of "the enemy's plan to implement so-called democracy in your country." He said the Americans have engineered the election to install Shiite Muslims in power.

The insurgency in Iraq is largely fought by extremists from the Sunni Arab minority, a community that lost influence and privilege with the fall of their patron Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).

The election has further split the rival religious communities, with Iraq's Shiite majority embracing the vote as a chance to cement their new power and many Sunnis calling for a boycott of the vote to protest U.S. military action in Sunni areas like Fallujah.

"Four million Shiites were brought from Iran to take part in the elections to achieve their aim of winning" most of the positions, the speaker in the tape said.

He railed against democracy for supplanting the rule of God with the rule of man and the majority, saying it was based on un-Islamic beliefs and behaviors such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression, separation of religion and state and forming political parties.

The tape surfaced as rumors spread in Iraq that al-Zarqawi had been captured. On Saturday, Iraqi Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib refused to comment on the rumors at a news conference. "Let's see. Maybe in the next few days we will make a comment about it," he said.

The United States has offered a $25 million reward for al-Zarqawi's capture or death — the same amount as for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden (news - web sites).

On Sunday, armed men blew up a designated polling station near Hillah south of Baghdad, Iraqi police Capt. Hatif Hadi said. No injuries were reported. Insurgents have targeted several schools and other buildings to be used as voting sites with gunfire and rockets in recent days.

Iraq's electoral commission said nearly 190,000 Iraqi expatriates had registered to vote from abroad. The highest number, about 41,000, signed up in Iran.

That's a fraction of the estimated 1.2 million Iraqis living abroad who are eligible to cast votes.

Niurka Pineiro, an official of the International Organization for Migration, which is handling the vote in 14 countries, said on Saturday that some people were scared that "when they go to these polling places some sort of mayhem may break out."

The agency extended the deadline for registration by two days — until Tuesday — to allow more Iraqi exiles to register.

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said it was too early to talk about a withdrawal of U.S.-led forces.

"The terrorists and the evil forces are trying to break our will. They are trying to stop democracy from happening in Iraq," Allawi said in an interview Sunday on British Broadcasting Corp. television's "Breakfast With Frost" program.

Allawi said Iraqis ultimately want to see their own forces tackle the country's security problems.

"But it is too premature to talk about withdrawal (of multinational forces)," Allawi said.

"It is very early to talk about these issues," he said. "We wouldn't like to set a time at all. We would like to have the multinational forces helping us and training and developing both our army as well as our internal security forces."


01-23-05, 01:07 PM
January 24, 2005 <br />
<br />
A ‘dangerous precedent’ <br />
Church rails Corps over corporal’s discharge for refusing weapon <br />
<br />
By Laura Bailey <br />
Times staff writer <br />
<br />
<br />
When Cpl. Joel D. Klimkewicz’s commander...

01-23-05, 01:16 PM
Out of war, transformed
St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
Published January 23, 2005

Bullets zipped back and forth as Marine Corps Cpl. Danny Eylward crouched on the landing of a home in Fallujah. For five minutes, he traded gunfire with an Iraqi insurgent standing below. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw another Iraqi hoist a grenade launcher onto his shoulder.

"Oh, no," Eylward thought.

The missile soared over his head and smashed into the wall behind him.

Then everything went black.

A month ago, Eylward, 22, a member of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, was awarded a Purple Heart for the injuries he suffered that day in November 2004. But his brush with death paled in comparison to the tragedies he had already witnessed.

He saw Iraqi insurgents shoot little girls. He saw shrapnel tear a soldier's arm off. He saw his best friend die at his side.

As a Marine, Eylward endured some tough times. But if he had a choice, he would still do it all over again.

He joined the Marine Corps as an angry young man with little direction. He became a focused leader with a future.

"It changed me 100 percent," he said. "I have no regrets."

Eylward, 6-5 and 220 pounds, was a Friday night starter on a baseball scholarship at South Georgia College when, in the middle of his freshman year, he decided he just wasn't happy.

He came back to Clearwater to find himself. He ended up drinking almost every night and getting into lots of fights.

When his parents went through a rocky divorce, he turned to Jimmy Sever, a buddy about 30 years his senior, who took Eylward under his wing.

Sever suggested Eylward join the military.

At the time, the country wasn't at war. Sever thought Eylward could get his act together and set the foundation for a successful career.

Eylward enlisted on Feb. 14, 2001.

"One day me and Jimmy went down to the recruiting office. Next thing, I'm at Parris Island," Eylward said.

Boot camp in South Carolina was a drag. Right off, Eylward knew the military wasn't for him.

"I hated people telling me what to do, when to do it and how to do it," Eylward said.

He thought he'd made a big mistake.

His brother, Mike, had been drafted by the Anaheim Angels. Eylward thought he should have stayed in school and followed in Mike's footsteps.

Life seemed even bleaker a few months later, on Sept. 11.

But in some ways Eylward's life changed for the better that day.

At Kaneohe Bay, his base in Hawaii, he met Julian Woods, a Navy corpsman attached to the 3rd Marine Division.

Woods, whom everyone called "Doc," was a couple of years older and showed him the ropes.

The two became roommates and made the best of their free time, hanging out downtown and at the beach.

With the impending war, Eylward thought he would be deployed to Afghanistan. Instead, he ended training on a tour of more than 20 countries, some he'd never even heard of.

Eventually, he ended up back in Hawaii, where he stayed until he was deployed to Iraq in July 2004.

For much of his Marine career, Eylward took orders from his commanding officers. Now he was a squad leader supervising 16 men. He wasn't sure he was up to the task.

"Maybe I should have listened a little more," he told himself.

He had promised his parents he would return safely. Now he had to tell them he probably wouldn't come home.

His mother, Rebecca Beckman, wouldn't hear of it. She held him to his promise.

The night before entering Fallujah, he coached his men, asking them if they were prepared to die.

On the outskirts of the city, Eylward and 21 soldiers from his squad and others were packed into an armored vehicle when they felt a blast from a mortar round.

The vehicle withstood the attack, but shrapnel flew through a vent and ripped into the bodies of three men.

Eylward and Woods crawled over to the one who was hurt the most. Eylward grabbed the man's arm, but it was barely attached to his body.

Woods wrapped a tourniquet around the man's shoulder and injected him with morphine while Eylward radioed for transport.

There was a pool of blood in the middle of the floor. His men freaked out.

"Don't worry. They're going to be okay," Eylward told them. "They're alive. We've got to keep focused. If you don't keep your mind right you're going to die."

On Nov. 8, Eylward and his men pushed their way into Fallujah.

Four days later, one of his men, a lance corporal named Aaron, was shot in the chest.

Eylward and Woods ran to Aaron's side. They were administering first aid when Woods was shot in the back of the head.

Eylward and another corpsman returned fire on the insurgent.

But Woods, his best friend, died. He told himself Woods was with God. He's in a better place.

Eylward and his men shoved on. They worked their way through the city that day, going from home to home searching for insurgents.

Often they'd climb the exterior walls and enter windows. Sometimes, they'd prop themselves on rooftops and fire below.

Three days after Woods was killed, Eylward found himself poised on a landing trading gunfire when another insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade at him.

Eylward woke up at a Baghdad hospital. There were intravenous tubes in his arms. He couldn't see.

He was dizzy and shellshocked and wasn't sure what was going on.

"You're going to be okay," a nurse told him.

The medics told him he had a concussion. His eardrums had burst. They were surprised he was alive.

Eylward made a call to Sever, a call he doesn't remember now.

"Mr. Sever, I've been hit and I'm in the hospital. I have a concussion and I'm hurting," he said.

Little by little, the vision in his right eye returned.

Doctors told him he could go home and recuperate. If he got another head injury it could kill him, they said.

He insisted on returning to base camp near Fallujah. Within a week, the doctors fitted him with a protective eye patch for his left eye and sent him on his way.

Back at camp, his captain told him to stay put.

A day and a half later, he hopped on a supply vehicle and caught a ride to his squad.

"If I have one good eye, I can pull the trigger," he said.

For two weeks, he was a sniper.

Instead of watching over his men, they watched over him.

The sight in his left eye returned, too.

After a couple more weeks on the front lines, Eylward decided it was time to bring his military career to a close.

He wanted to be with family. He was tired of shooting and getting shot at.

On Dec. 17, Eylward left Iraq. He collected his things at base camp in Hawaii before returning home Tuesday.

Now he's working on the next chapter of his life. He's living with his father, Thomas Eylward, in Clearwater. His goal is to be a Clearwater police officer or sheriff's deputy.

On Friday he bought a car, a 2001 Nissan Maxima.

Next, he'll look for a job and find a place to live.

He and Sever are as tight as ever. They've already been to the racetrack and a boxing match.

But Eylward said he has had a hard time connecting with other friends his age. Most don't understand what he's been through.

"Something changed me and makes me appreciate what God's done for me," Eylward said.

For the past four years, much of his life was regimented. Now it's up to him to create his own destiny.

"I know I can do it," he said. "I can do anything in life."


01-23-05, 01:36 PM
Messages from Iraq to home reflect pride, pain, patriotism
Posted: Jan. 22, 2005

Mark Smith has lost 10 men.

He was their commander, they were his Marines; when they died, it was his task to tell their families how they died and how much they're missed by their comrades.

Each loss has left a hole in the Marine Reserve battalion commander who pours his heart into weekly e-mails to the family members of his Marines.

The e-mails are a mix of bravura, eloquence, pain, humor and gung-ho patriotism.

Smith sends the e-mails every Thursday from the Mahmudiyah, Iraq, headquarters of Chicago-based Marine Reserve 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. He spends an hour or two writing the messages he then sends to the family coordinator in each of the battalion's companies, including Golf Company based in Madison and Fox Company based in Milwaukee. They, in turn, send them to family members.

But they're reaching a much wider audience through the Internet as family members forward them to friends who pass them on to others. Smith said he averages 300 messages each week from strangers who have been touched by his e-mails.

Though Marines are tough guys who cultivate the image of stone-faced warriors, Smith often writes unashamedly of weeping for his troops.

"The tears are literally falling on to my desk. I love every one of these guys," he said in a recent satellite phone interview from Iraq.

"The way I struggle through this is - their families deserve nothing less. No matter how emotionally painful it is for me, it's not one-tenth of what their families are going through."

On Oct. 15, Smith wrote about the death of Lance Cpl. Daniel Wyatt, 22, of Caledonia, a member of Fox Company. Wyatt was killed in the central Iraq city of Yusufiyah - a community in the insurgent heartland called "The Triangle of Death" - by an improvised explosive device, the weapon of choice for insurgents who remotely detonate mortar shells and other bombs as American troops travel past.

"My command security element and myself personally recovered Daniel's body and escorted him back to the forward operating base, and then onto the helicopter for the beginning of his final ride home. I cannot even begin to express to you the soul touching sight of combat hardened Marines, encrusted with weeks of sweat and dust, who have daily been engaged in combat, coming to complete and utter solemnity and respect in the handling of the body of one of their own. It puts on display a level of brotherly love you just cannot see anywhere else."

Coping with the deaths of 10 of his men would be difficult anywhere, but in a war zone, there's the added burden of staying focused on the tasks of his battalion.

"I'll never be on the Oprah Winfrey show because the whole concept of closure is a bunch of crap. Those 10 Marines I've lost will be in my thoughts every single day for the rest of my life," Smith said.

A few days before Christmas, Fox Company suffered two more losses when Lance Cpl. Richard Warner, 22, of Waukesha, and Pfc. Brent T. Vroman, 21, of Oshkosh, were killed on a foot patrol when an explosive device planted inside a parked vehicle was detonated in an outdoor market.

"The very market where local people once conducted business under the constant threat of kidnapping and beheading was once again a bustling town market, thanks to the security provided by the Warriors of Fox Company. For an instant, that security was shattered by the concussion of an explosion, and two of our wonderful Marines lost their lives, but not their spirit. For in true Fox Company fashion, they patrol that market today, and at the end of this week conducted a massive helicopter assault into a previously unpatroled area."

Later in the e-mail, he talked about becoming overwhelmed with grief as he listened to Fox Company members talk about Vroman and Warner at a memorial service.

"I saw some of the toughest Marines I have ever known shedding tears and talking of the importance of holding the hands and stroking the heads of their fallen friends and of their UNDYING love for them. Well, we know it all too well, that brotherhood shortened by the loss of blood, is best repaid by completion of the mission for which the blood was let. AND WE WILL DO NO LESS."

Smith, 40, is an Indiana State Patrol trooper from Indianapolis. He spends what little free time he has lifting dumbbells and watching DVDs.

It's not difficult for him to think of things to write each week. If his men haven't suffered any casualties that week, he'll write about missions his Marines are undertaking and other developments since his last e-mail.

He doesn't sugarcoat. He's brutally honest about what's happening.

On Nov. 14, after writing about the death of Fox Company member Cpl. Brian Prening, 24, of Plymouth, as well as a member of a Waukegan, Ill.-based Weapons Company, he talked about the enemy.

"We seek justice, not vengeance, but we will continue to unleash righteous fury on the EVIL and COWARDLY enemy that we face. To demonstrate the cowardice of the enemy we face, let me relay one event from the battle that occurred on Friday, 12 November. During the enemy attack of one of our units, engaged elements of the unit observed several of the enemy run into a building in an attempt to take cover from the deadly Marine fire. An adjust fire mission of artillery was called and cleared and after the first round fell, adjustments were called in. Immediately prior to the subsequent mission, which would have ensured the destruction of the enemy personnel, an immediate CHECK FIRE was called by the Unit Cmdr, which ensures the mission is not fired. I immediately asked for the reason of the check fire, and was advised that a woman and child ran into the building. Now, we have seen enough of this enemy to know that THEY SUMMONED THE WOMAN AND CHILD INTO THE BUILDING UNDER THREAT OF DEATH, KNOWING THAT WE WOULD NO LONGER FIRE.

"That may seem frustrating, and it is. But, it is right and proper, and demonstrates the level of professionalism and compassion of these amazing Marines! And, it shows the cowardly and evil nature of the enemy. They run to Mosques, hospitals and houses every time the engagement begins to get away from them, as it always does when they challenge the ferocity of the Mad Ghosts."

Mad Ghosts. It's the nickname the battalion has gotten from the terrorists, Smith said. The unit's interpreters told him of television news reports that mentioned the U.S. Marines that were like a bunch of mad ghosts because it seems like they don't sleep and are everywhere.

"I said we'll take that and we'll wear that with pride," said Smith, who signs his e-mails "Mayhem from the Heartland" or, as the terrorists say, "The Mad Ghosts." The heartland phrase is a nod to the battalion's roots from Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.

Family members anxiously wait for the e-mails.

Sharon Semrow, of Mukwonago, is the Fox Company's volunteer coordinator. Her husband, Jeff, is a staff sergeant in the company. She said Smith's uplifting messages are a source of comfort for families, particularly since they often don't hear from their loved ones for several weeks.

"The ones where he speaks of openly crying for our fallen Marines always hits hard," Semrow said. "He's not afraid to say he wept and he cried. That just means a lot to us. We know he's a person, not just a commander. He's got feelings and he cares."

Barbara Wentworth, Golf Company's coordinator, said Smith's messages give families a different view of the war than what they see and hear from the media. Her son, Cpl. Andy Wentworth, 23, a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student, is in the unit.

Wentworth said journalists dwell on deaths and bombings instead of writing about all the good American forces are doing in Iraq.

"There's been extremely high quality interaction between the Marines and the town people - that doesn't get reported often," said Wentworth, who lives in Wales.

In Smith's Christmas letter, he talked about how the Marines were celebrating the holiday far from home.


01-23-05, 01:37 PM
"I always try to shoot straight with the families of 2/24, and this update will be no different. I know some of the Marines are openly thinking about the Christmas season, while others keep 'the stiff upper lip' and pretend it is just going to be another day. Well, . . . I am bright enough to know, and sharp enough to see, this time of year is dealing a hefty blow to my beloved Marines. The weight of not being at home with their families, during this most family oriented of seasons has them a bit down. I know that many are adrift with thoughts of how Christmas WOULD be spent if they were not in Iraq. I know they long for the sights, hunger for the tastes and yearn for the touch of loved ones. They imagine the warmth that tingles from within when seeing the light of a child's face when opening a toy. They visualize about the look in a spouse's eyes, so intent that it says 'I love you' without a single spoken word! All these things race through their minds at dizzying speed, for they race through mine as well."

The military doesn't order commanders to write e-mails to family members, though it's not uncommon for them to do so.

Smith is often asked how he finds the time to write the e-mails, but he says he can accomplish a lot while working 20-hour days.

However, the technology can sometimes be a burden, he said.

"The double-edged sword is on expectations," he said. "Because people have become so connected to cell phones and e-mail, when their loved one doesn't have access or time to communicate, they get frustrated."

In his Nov. 4 e-mail, he talked about missing his children on Halloween and the pain he felt because he couldn't take them trick-or-treating. He said he cried when he saw digital photos sent by his wife of his daughters in their Halloween costumes.

"Quite frankly, I find myself doing that a lot over here, as raw and deep emotion is as constant a companion as our rifles and armor. So, I know this had to be an especially hard week for the families without your loved one. Again, all I can do is continue to tell you HOW MUCH your sacrifice is appreciated, and assure you that you are CONSTANTLY on the minds of your loved ones. The only joy that comes as close to witnessing the birth of a child or your wedding day, is mail call in a War zone. The Marines light up like kids on Christmas morning. We go above and beyond in mail delivery, and to see the look on the Marines' faces is worth its weight in gold."

Like many military members serving in Iraq, Smith is critical of the national media's handling of the Iraq war. That's another reason why he sends weekly e-mails - to give the families his take on the war.

"There's frustration in combat, but our single source of frustration is the story the national media tries to sell," he said.

"They could not be more wrong. They don't get it. That's frustrating and knowing our families are subjected to that on a 24-hour basis is frustrating. I try to counter what the families are being barraged with from the negative side of this conflict."

The Dec. 19 e-mail mentioned doubts that sneak into Smith's thoughts whenever one of his Marines dies. Like anyone else, he sometimes asks whether the price is worth it, but then his thoughts turn to God, America and the Marine Corps, he wrote:

"I was asked recently by a reporter from the NY Times, 'What is an unacceptable price? How many lives are we willing to shed to achieve 'victory.' You see, he was fishing, fishing for how this Battalion of Marines that he had spent much time with could be so enthusiastic about their mission. Fishing to find the mythical 'tipping point' where our will and spirit would be crushed, and we would whine about wanting to go home and get out of Iraq. Fishing for what it would take for us to break.

"I thought about my answer, and I thought that although I sensed he was fishing, I also knew there was profound sincerity in his question and that he pained as well at our loss of life. I thought about all these things and I answered: one. That's right, one. One is the number of Americans that is an 'unacceptable price.' One is the tipping point at which we are unwilling to pay. When one American life is lost, we have achieved the 'tipping point.

"However, it is the opposite tipping point of what so many think it should be. You see, these Marines are warriors, and all in the positive sense that that word means, and has meant since the dawn of man. They are the sheepdogs that keep the wolf at bay. And as long as one American has lost their life to any form of enemy, then we have reached the tipping point, and the sheepdog must be deployed and protect the sheep.

In an e-mail sent on New Year's Eve, Smith reflected on 2004, the year that his battalion of 1,200 men left their civilian lives behind and spent several months training in California before shipping out to Iraq.

It was the year Smith discovered what combat was like for a military commander.

"It will be the year I learned a soul searing pain that knows no equal. It will be the year I learned that it is possible to cry an uncountable number of tears and still not shrivel up and blow away in the wind. It will be the year that I said goodbye and I love you to 10 warriors who fell in battle. It will be the year that 10 of my sons went home to the gentle heart and healing hands of their Savior. It will be the year that 10 families had their remaining years forever altered by the violence of an insane, incomprehensible enemy! But, because I was honored to have shared time and space with these 10 HEROES, it will forever be my favorite year."


01-23-05, 02:38 PM
U.S. pins election hopes on Ramadi

By Tony Perry Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times

The pamphlet handed out by U.S. Marines and soldiers to residents here ahead of the national election draws on the ruinous experience of another volatile city in the Sunni Triangle.

"Thanks to the Good People of Ramadi," the pamphlet reads, "Ramadi Is Not Sharing Fallujah's Fate."

A picture of a masked insurgent holding two rocket-propelled grenade launchers drives home the point about Fallujah, which was the virtual capital of the Iraqi insurgency until U.S.-led forces invaded it in the fall.

Now, U.S. and Iraqi officials hope the same "good people" of Ramadi will participate in the Jan. 30 election and provide the intelligence needed to thwart insurgents' attempts to disrupt the balloting.

If the government and its U.S. allies are going to pull off the election where Sunni Muslims are dominant, it will have to go well here in the provincial capital, an aging industrial center with 400,000 residents on the Euphrates River.

With Fallujah in virtual lockdown after the November offensive, Ramadi looms as the more significant test of whether U.S. and Iraqi forces can provide security and Sunni voters ignore calls by some clerics to boycott the election.

Despite the efforts of officials in Washington to play down the election, U.S. officials here are candid in their assessment of Ramadi's importance.

"From a symbolic and a political standpoint, conducting a successful election in Ramadi, the provincial capital, is critical," said Brig. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, assistant commander of the 1st Marine Division.

Although overshadowed in the media by the Fallujah offensives in April and November, this city has seen intense guerrilla warfare at times since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (news - web sites) in 2003.

In anticipation of the election, U.S. troops have raided numerous locations around Ramadi. In one night, 82 suspected insurgents were captured. The military said a load of anti-American literature and several caches of weaponry were seized.

Lance Cpl. Rajai Hakki, who speaks Arabic and has served in Baghdad and Fallujah, finds Ramadi residents more perplexing than other Iraqis.

"Everybody knows who the mujahedeen are, but nobody wants to help us," he said. "There's just too much fear."


01-23-05, 03:07 PM
January 21, 2005

During inaugural week, reminders of Iraq
Bush focuses on diplomacy; Rice looks to elections

By Rick Maze
Times staff writer

There was no escaping the war in Iraq during President Bush’s Jan. 20 inaugural. While Bush made little reference to Iraq and the continuing insurgency there during his inauguration speech, the presence of military aircraft overhead, swarms of security surrounding the ceremony and even a few protesters who tried to raise a “No War” banner during the ceremony were all reminders of what Bush faces in his second term.
Bush said he had a goal of “ending tyranny in our world,” but added that this was “not primarily the task of arms.” While saying the U.S. would defend itself and friends if necessary, diplomacy will be the primary weapon, he said.

Condeleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser and his nominee to become secretary of state, spent two days before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee trying to lay out the administration’s plans for Iraq.

Success, leading to the ultimate withdrawal of U.S. troops, depends on whether the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections result in the formation of a government that has the backing of the Iraqi people and whether sufficient numbers of Iraqi security forces can be trained, Rice said.

Pressed about whether the administration has miscalculated on Iraq, Rice acknowledged, “We did meet with some unforeseen circumstances.”

U.S. forces “swept through the country really rather rapidly” and Saddam’s forces “melted into the population,” she said.

“When they reemerged, they reemerged as an insurgency … that, frankly, cannot be dealt with by military power alone and certainly not by overwhelming military power, but must now be dealt with through the political mobilization of the Iraqi people — which is why these elections are so important — [and] through economic reconstruction.

“I would be the first to say we want very much to accelerate that reconstruction — and most importantly through Iraqi forces,” she said.

Rice was “reluctant to try to put a timetable” on when U.S. troops could be withdrawn, but for the mission to end, “the Iraqis have to be capable of some things,” she said.

“We will be working with a newly elected government,” she said. “And I’m quite sure that they’re going to have their own ideas about how we move forward to improve security.”

Rice’s nomination, approved by the Foreign Relations Committee by a 16-2 vote, was scheduled to come to a vote in the full Senate by the end of January.

Bush is expected to elaborate on his plans for his second term in a Feb. 2 State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress.

Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of those pressing Rice about when the United States will have enough Iraqis trained for security duty, said he was willing to work with Rice.

But he had a piece of advice: “For God’s sake, don’t listen to [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld” on Iraq, he said. “He doesn’t know what in the hell he’s talking about on this.”


01-23-05, 03:51 PM
'Robo-Soldier' Prepares For Iraq
Associated Press
January 23, 2005

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. - The rain is turning to snow on a blustery January morning, and all the men gathered in a parking lot here surely would prefer to be inside. But the weather couldn't matter less to the robotic sharpshooter they are here to watch as it splashes through puddles, the barrel of its machine gun pointing the way like Pinocchio's nose. The Army is preparing to send 18 of these remote-controlled robotic warriors to fight in Iraq beginning in March or April.

Made by a small Massachusetts company, the SWORDS, short for Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems, will be the first armed robotic vehicles to see combat, years ahead of the larger Future Combat System vehicles currently under development by big defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics Corp.

It's easy to humanize the SWORDS (a tendency robotics researchers say is only human) as it moves out of the flashy lobby of an office building and into the cold with nary a shiver.

Military officials like to compare the roughly three-foot-high robots favorably to human soldiers: They don't need to be trained, fed or clothed. They can be boxed up and warehoused between wars. They never complain. And there are no letters to write home if they meet their demise in battle.

But officials are quick to point out that these are not the autonomous killer robots of science fiction. A SWORDS robot shoots only when its human operator presses a button after identifying a target on video shot by the robot's cameras.

"The only difference is that his weapon is not at his shoulder, it's up to half a mile a way," said Bob Quinn, general manager of Talon robots for Foster-Miller Inc., the Waltham, Mass., company that makes the SWORDS. As one Marine fresh out of boot camp told Quinn upon seeing the robot: "This is my invisibility cloak."

Quinn said it was a "bootstrap development process" to convert a Talon robot, which has been in military service since 2000, from its main mission - defusing roadside bombs in Iraq- into the gunslinging SWORDS.

It was a joint development process between the Army and Foster-Miller, a robotics firm bought in November by QinetiQ Group PLC, which is a partnership between the British Ministry of Defence and the Washington holding company The Carlyle Group.

Army officials and employees of the robotics firm heard from soldiers "who said 'My brothers are being killed out here. We love the EOD (explosive ordnance disposal), but let's put some weapons on it,'" said Quinn.

Working with soldiers and engineers at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, it took just six months and only about $2 million in development money to outfit a Talon with weapons, according to Quinn and Anthony Sebasto, a technology manager at Picatinny.

The Talon had already proven itself to be pretty rugged. One was blown off the roof of a Humvee and into a nearby river by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Soldiers simply opened its shrapnel-pocked control unit and drove the robot out of the river, according to Quinn.

The $200,000, armed version will carry standard-issue Squad Automatic Weapons, either the M249, which fires 5.56-millimeter rounds at a rate of 750 per minute, or the M240, which can fire about 700 to 1,000 7.62-millimeter rounds per minute. The SWORDS can fire about 300 rounds using the M240 and about 350 rounds using the M249 before needing to reload.

All its optics equipment - the four cameras, night vision and zoom lenses - were already in the Army's inventory.

"It's important to stress that not everything has to be super high tech," said Sebasto. "You can integrate existing componentry and create a revolutionary capability."

The SWORDS in the parking lot at the headquarters of the cable news station CNBC had just finished showing off for the cameras, climbing stairs, scooting between cubicles, even broadcasting some of its video on the air.

Its developers say its tracks, like those on a tank, can overcome rock piles and barbed wire, though it needs a ride to travel faster than 4 mph.

Running on lithium ion batteries, it can operate for 1 to 4 hours at a time, depending on the mission. Operators work the robot using a 30-pound control unit which has two joysticks, a handful of buttons and a video screen. Quinn says that may eventually be replaced by a "Gameboy" type of controller hooked up to virtual reality goggles.

The Army has been testing it over the past year at Picatinny and the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland to ensure it won't malfunction and can stand up to radio jammers and other countermeasures. (Sebasto wouldn't comment on what happens if the robot and its controller fall into enemy hands.)

Its developers say the SWORDS not only allows its operators to fire at enemies without exposing themselves to return fire, but also can make them more accurate.

A typical soldier who could hit a target the size of a basketball from 300 meters away could hit a target the size of a nickel with the SWORDS, according Quinn.

The better accuracy stems largely from the fact that its gun is mounted on a stable platform and fired electronically, rather than by a soldier's hands, according to Staff Sgt. Santiago Tordillos of the EOD Technology Directorate at Picatinny. Gone are such issues as trigger recoil, anticipation problems, and pausing the breathing cycle while aiming a weapon.

"It eliminates the majority of shooting errors you would have," said Tordillos.

Chances are good the SWORDS will get even more deadly in the future. It has been tested with the larger .50 caliber machine guns as well as rocket and grenade launchers - even an experimental weapon made by the Australian company Metal Storm LLC that packs multiple rocket rounds into a single barrel, allowing for much more rapid firing.

"We've fired 70 shots at Picatinny and we were 70 for 70 hitting the bull's-eye," said Sebasto, boasting of the arsenal's success with a Vietnam-era rocket launcher mounted on a SWORDS.

There are bound to be many eyes watching SWORDS as it heads to battle. Its tracks will one day be followed by the larger vehicles of the Future Combat System, such as six-wheel-drive MULE under development by Lockheed Martin, a 2.5-ton vehicle with motors in each wheel hub to make it more likely to survive.

The Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, also recently awarded contracts to aid research of robots that one day could be dropped into combat from airplanes and others meant to scale walls using electrostatic energy - also known as "static cling."

Many of the vehicles being developed for the FCS will have some autonomy, meaning they'll navigate rough terrain, avoid obstacles and make decisions about certain tasks on their own.

They may be able to offer cues to their operators when potential foes are near, but it's doubtful any of them will ever be allowed to make the decision to pull the trigger, according to Jim Lowrie, president of Perceptek Inc., a Littleton, Colo., firm that is developing robotics systems for the military.

"For the foreseeable future, there always will be a person in the loop who makes the decision on friend or foe. That's a hard problem to determine autonomously," said Lowrie.


01-23-05, 03:52 PM
U.S. Emphasizing Iraqi Training <br />
United Press International <br />
January 22, 2005 <br />
<br />
WASHINGTON - About half the U.S. forces in Iraq will be charged with training fledgling Iraqi security forces this...

01-23-05, 05:45 PM
Text Messaging Used To Tip Authorities
Associated Press
January 22, 2005

ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq - The tip came in fast, telegraph-terse, and discreet. Maj. Mohammed Salman Abass Ali al-Zobaidi of the Iraqi National Guard scrolled down to read it: "Black four-door Excalibur. Behind cinema."

From cell phone screen to local authorities: Acting on the recent text message tip to the Iraqi National Guard commander, police in a nearby town tracked down a black car behind the theater, and arrested the driver for suspected links to insurgent attacks.

In the volatile Shiite-Sunni towns south of Baghdad known as the "triangle of death," Iraqi civilians increasingly are letting their thumbs do the talking, via Arabic text messages sent from the safety of their homes, Iraqi security forces and U.S. Marines say.

At a time when U.S. and Iraqi security forces are desperate for information on attacks - preferably in advance - mobile phone text messages allow civilians to pass on information from a discreet distance, their identities shielded from security forces and their neighbors.

Although a cell phone displays the caller's number, phone records are so chaotic in Iraq that chances are slim anyone could track down a tipster. And text messages can be sent to the most trusted officer, a far safer avenue than calling a police station that might be riddled with informants.

"Many, many people tell us about the terrorists with this," al-Zobaidi said, tapping his black cell phone and thumbing down to show more messages.

"All the time, I hear his phone - beep beep beep beep, beep beep beep beep," said Sgt. Eddie Risner of Ocala, Fla., part of a Marine contingent working with guardsmen to try to block attacks and put a credible Iraqi security force on the street.

Iskandariyah, a mixed Shiite-Sunni city of about 100,000 that controls major transport links between Baghdad and southern Iraq, became notorious last year for its frequent bombings. Marines recorded as many as 200 car bombs and other attacks in a month, including a single bomb last spring that killed dozens of Iraqi recruits.

U.S. and Iraqi officials insist they are getting more tips from Iraqis about insurgent activity since the Americans transferred sovereignty to an interim government last June. Interior Minister Falah Hassan al-Naqib said recently that calls to an insurgency hot line have produced a number of arrests, although officials refuse to give figures.

In Iskandariyah, Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit say they've halved the daily attack rate - in large part through constant patrols devoted to hunts for bombs, weapons caches and possible insurgents.

On this day, Marines found three bombs the hard way - by running across them on patrols, and by having at least one blow up as they drove by. There were no injuries.

The fourth bomb of the day was the biggest: a vehicle packed with 10 to 15 100mm mortar rounds.

Marines found that the easy way - a teenager tipped off Iraqi police, who called the Marines. The Americans blew up the bomb remotely, creating a blast that stopped pedestrians and sent flocks of startled birds into the air.

Marines befriended the teenager later at a police station. It's the tips and the cooperation with local security forces that Marines want to encourage, they said.

But few Iraqi civilians want to risk being seen as informants.

That's where text messaging comes in.

"That way, they're not seen leaving their homes," said Marine Sgt. Justin Walsh, of Cleveland.

Al-Zobaidi, the Iraqi National Guard local commander, put up fliers when he took the position, succeeding a brother who had been assassinated in the same post.

The fliers had al-Zobaidi's cell number, and encouraged residents to get in touch if they knew of impending attacks.

The message is still getting out. In Iskandariyah on Friday, Marines urged a group of men on a street corner to come forward with information. One looked reluctant, and drew his hand across his throat to show why he wouldn't be providing his name.

"Do you have the chief of police's cell number?" he asked.


01-23-05, 07:12 PM
January 24, 2005

Little-used PTSD therapy gains fans
Navy psychologist touts method’s value for vets

By William H. McMichael
Times staff writer

NAVAL HOSPITAL BREMERTON, Wash. — A Navy psychologist post-traumatic stress disorder that could mean faster and more effective treatment for troops overcome with memories of war’s horrors.
But despite its long-standing use in some Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and internationally, and a Pentagon endorsement in January, the unique eye-movement therapy has been slow to catch on in the U.S. military.

That may change soon. Given the intense and violent nature of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan — and the therapy’s promising results — it may have to.

According to a July 2004 Walter Reed Army Institute of Research study on veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and a 1988 study of Vietnam War veterans, at least 15 percent to 17 percent of returning veterans will likely develop PTSD. And the unconventional warfare of the past year has produced a higher incidence of trauma-inducing events than the initial invasion.

Meanwhile, three other therapies are on the Pentagon’s list of those it says can produce “significant benefit” for PTSD victims.

However, all three can require 10 or more sessions and hours of homework by the patient, which leads to high dropout rates.

Repeated controlled studies of eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, however, have shown that a single traumatic event can be “processed” — become a mentally manageable event — within three visits in up to 90 percent of patients, according to the EMDR Institute of Watsonville, Calif.

“It doesn’t guarantee it’s going to work for every person, and it’s not going to work in a single session for every person,” said Cmdr. Mark Russell, a clinical psychologist based at Bremerton Naval Hospital, Wash., who claims a success rate of 60 percent to 70 percent. “But if it does work, we usually know within the first session if it’s going to … help or not.”

EMDR, developed in 1989, has long been used by certain VA medical centers, and earned the seal of approval of the American Psychological Association in 1998. The Pentagon came aboard in January, clinically noting that EMDR “has been found to be as effective as other treatments in some studies and less effective than other treatments in some other studies.”

Training seminars for providers

However, hardly anyone in the U.S. military knows how to perform the therapy. Russell, who was a research assistant to Francine Shapiro, the psychologist who developed the therapy, believes he’s the only U.S. military officer qualified to train others on EMDR.

But Russell’s spreading the word. In late August, he conducted EMDR training at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash. In December, a group of Army health-care providers was trained by the VA at Fort Carson, Colo. This month, Russell will lead a regional EMDR training seminar at Bremerton for 80 to 100 participants from all services and VA health-care providers from Washington and Oregon.

Here’s what he’s teaching them:

In the simplest terms, the brain processes emotions on its right side and rational, logical thought on its left. The right side of a traumatized person’s brain is overloaded, with no way to release that trauma.

EMDR tries to patch the right side to the left. If successful, the patient gains a perspective on the trauma that allows for more normal functioning.

To do this, the therapist asks patients to focus on the most vivid visual image connected with the memory or belief that is dominating their thoughts; a negative self-image connected with that memory; and a positive thought about how they’d like to feel.

The patients also rate the intensity of the disturbance on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being intolerable.

Then, in a series of 15- to 20-second sessions, a patient focuses on some sort of back-and-forth stimulus — a series of blinking lights, soft pinging sounds over headphones or alternate finger taps on the right and left palms. This mimics the rapid eye movements in deep sleep, Russell said.

At the same time, the patient focuses on the image and the negative and positive thoughts with gentle guidance from the therapist. It’s not a trance; the patient is completely awake and aware.

After each sequence, the stimulus is halted and the therapist asks the patient what he’s thinking. However, the patient isn’t required to recount the specific event — only to comment on his general state of mind. Then, the stimulus continues. At various points, the therapist asks the patient to reassess the intensity of the disturbance.

The goal is to desensitize the experience and get the patient to reprocess the trauma and gain perspective on the event.

“They’re never going to feel good about it,” Russell said. “But it’s helping them adapt to it — and so, to a point where they can go on with their life and not be saddled by guilt or saddled by the intrusive recollections.”

EMDR, like classic psychotherapies, is something of a mystery. “The honest answer is that we don’t really know exactly how it works,” Russell said.

He first practiced EMDR in 2003 in Rota, Spain, where the deployed Fleet Hospital 8 treated about 1,400 wartime casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly all were given a mental-health screening, and 158 were diagnosed with acute stress disorder, a precursor to PTSD.

Troops stayed at Rota no more than three to four days, so the focus was on rapid intervention. Four troops needed immediate intervention, Russell said.

All four reported substantial improvement in one session. One, a soldier, had been traumatized after shooting an Iraqi soldier who didn’t die immediately.

The soldier rated that experience a “7” on the disturbance scale. After 10 sets of eye movements, the soldier had lowered that score to a “1,” Russell wrote in a paper submitted for professional publication.

When asked what kept the rating from dropping to zero, the soldier told Russell: “Everybody who died was a victim of circumstances. I don’t think I will ever feel a zero when I think about it. But … it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. That’s amazing!”

Meanwhile, the therapy has its skeptics.

“The use of eye movements kind of sounds very flaky and doesn’t make sense to people,” Russell said.

“It doesn’t make sense to a lot of scientists because it’s not grounded in any current theories of psychological therapy or psychopathology,” he said.

The rapid effects being reported with EMDR also “made a lot of people very skeptical and very uneasy — like this is too good to be true,” he said.

However, those rapid effects make EMDR well-suited for military use because troops can return to full duty more quickly, he said.

The therapy also isn’t hindered by the widely recognized macho attitude of many troops who see mental problems as a weakness.

In EMDR, Russell said, “You don’t have to go into any more detail than you want to share. The therapist doesn’t need to know every single thought that you have or how you’re feeling about things, or every detail that you’ve experienced.

“Just enough to keep the processing going.”


01-23-05, 09:22 PM
Border Town's Police Short on Training, Weapons
Building a viable force is also slowed by problems with communications, vehicle maintenance and Baghdad's tendency to be late with paychecks.

By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer

AN NUKHAYB, Iraq — Abdullah Hammad, 18, is ready to join the Iraqi police force and help provide order in this tumbledown town near the border with Saudi Arabia.

For that, he has the appreciation of the U.S. military, eager to turn over the job to Iraqi security forces it is in the midst of training.

But Hammad, a shepherd, would like the Americans to supply him with a lightweight semiautomatic Glock handgun, the type they are giving Iraqi graduates of police academies. Hammad, like three-quarters of the officers here, has received little or no formal training in police work.

No academy, no Glock, Marine 1st Sgt. Jeff Sesak told Hammad and two dozen other officers gathered in an abandoned classroom last week for a briefing on checkpoint and vehicle-stop procedures in the run-up to the national election set for Jan. 30.

The disappointment was palpable.

Iraqi police are concerned about their own safety as well as that of the public, in light of the hundreds of Iraqi officers and other security personnel who have been killed fighting insurgents and in suicide bombings and kidnappings.

The Americans don't want weapons to fall into the wrong hands or to be misused by police who haven't taken a required eight-week training course.

"If we give them the Glocks," Sesak said later, "there's no incentive for them to get training."

The Glock issue is one of many facing the U.S. as it attempts to recruit, train and equip the Iraqi security forces.

There are also problems with communications, vehicle maintenance and the Baghdad government's tendency to be late with paychecks. Police in An Nukhayb have not been paid since November.

Seeking to avoid being attacked by insurgents, many policemen are reluctant to wear armbands that identify them as law enforcement officers. And many prefer not to be seen in the presence of U.S. military personnel.

Yet the police here are being given responsibility for guarding polling places and preventing infiltrations by insurgents, with U.S. Marines and soldiers remaining a short distance away, ready to respond to emergencies.

To assess the readiness of the police here and across restive Al Anbar province, which includes both the heavily populated Sunni Triangle area and vast expanses of lightly populated desert, the Marine Corps has dispatched a team of active-duty officers and reservists, backed by law enforcement veterans hired by the Pentagon.

A similar review of the Iraqi national guard, which will share responsibility for border control, is underway.

An Nukhayb, about 250 miles southwest of Baghdad and 65 miles from the Saudi border, is known as a stopover spot for hajj pilgrims headed for Mecca. Goats and donkeys roam the streets; children, many of them barefoot, chase after Marine vehicles, asking for candy, soccer balls and pencils.

The Camp Pendleton-based 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, is responsible for security in the region.

The town, home to 5,000 to 15,000 people, has a strong tribal structure. Sheiks from the leading Al Enize tribe have welcomed the Americans.

Nevertheless, Sadiy Chahab, the local police chief, said "We are glad the Americans have been here, but we understand they want to go home.

"We can take it from here: piece of cake, as you say," he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Sesak, in civilian life a patrol sergeant with the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department in Northern California, said he was marginally encouraged after talking with the officers in An Nukhayb.

Although the police here talk a good game, Sesak said, he would like to see more organization, more energy and a better understanding of outreach, communication and preventive police work.

The department has 58 officers, 13 of whom have attended an academy. They are armed with several dozen AK-47s and have seven vehicles, four of which are in running order, and a cellphone.

"I would put them slightly above average from what we've seen in Al Anbar province," Sesak said.

There have been no recent reports of insurgents passing through An Nukhayb, the Marines said. The main criminal problem is carjackings, with thieves flagging down long-haul truckers and stealing their vehicle and cargo.

There are procedures for investigating traffic accidents. There is the beginning of a record keeping system.

But, at a meeting last week involving the Marines, the police chief and his officers, the idea of patrolling the city and asking residents about their concerns appeared to be a new concept to the Iraqis.

"As police you want to be courteous and want to be friendly," Sesak told them during his hourlong lecture.

The rampant criminality in several large Iraqi cities has not spread to An Nukhayb, where, as the chief pointed out, "everybody knows everybody," and tribal sheiks have their own methods for punishing miscreants.

Marine Capt. Scott Weis has worked hard to establish ties with the sheiks, the police chief and other tribal leaders.

The city is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, but Weis has detected no vestige of pro-Saddam Hussein sentiments.

Despite its obscurity, An Nukhayb could prove a pathway for insurgents if left untended.

"This could be the perfect sleepy border town for insurgents to come through to get to the highway" to the rest of Iraq, said Sgt. Robert Dewhurst, a reservist and New York police detective. "That's why we want the police to stand up here."

An Nukhayb's police officers know what it takes.

"I know it is dangerous," said Ahmad Mhaisen, 28, who has worked at a fruit and vegetable stand. "We want to save our country, but we need guns."


01-23-05, 10:01 PM
New vest, plates save lives
Submitted by: MCB Quantico
Story Identification #: 20051219153
Story by Lance Cpl. Sha'ahn Williams

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va (Jan. 20, 2005) -- With the face of war constantly changing, the Marine Corps continues to adapt in order to properly equip and protect its Marines.

One of the latest innovations is an improved Outer Tactical Vest with small arms protective inserts, which will soon replace the old Personnel Armor System Ground Troop Flak Vest.

“Alone, the OTV defeats fragmentation and 9mm rounds - something the flak vest doesn’t do,” said Maj. Wendell B. Leimbach Jr., Combat Equipment Infantry Combat Equipment Team leader.

Used with small arms protective inserts, it provides protection from 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm rounds.

“While the OTV will stop fragmentation and 9 mm rounds, the SAPI plate is required to spread out the energy of the bullet’s impact, therefore, they must be worn as a set,” explained Leimbach.

“The most noticeable differences between the old and new vests are the molle weaving used to hang things on the front of the OTV, and the pockets in the front and back of the vest to insert SAPI plates,” said Gregory L. Hauck, contract support leader for the equipment team.

“The SAPI plates that go inside the vest are plates made from a ballistic ceramic tile backed by multiple layers of unidirectional ballistic material,” said Leimbach. “The ceramic tile breaks up the bullet and the fabric catches the fragments.”

The SAPI plates defeat multiple hits of M80 rounds.

“This vest protects Marines from rounds fired as close as point-blank range,” Leimbach said. “It’ll hurt like hell, but you’ll live!”

“These vests have made a tremendous change in war history as far as the casualty rates are concerned,” said Hauck.

“For every casualty, there are eight wounded. That is the lowest wartime death rate in history,” he said. “And it is directly attributed to the new armor and fast medical attention.”


The Outer Tactical Vest is made up of several layers of ballistic material that can stop a 9 mm round at point-blank range, something the older PASGT flak could not do. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Sha'ahn Williams


01-23-05, 10:29 PM
II MEF Marine awarded Bronze Star
Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 2005121132846
Story by Lance Cpl. Edward L. Mennenga

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Jan. 21, 2005) -- Newly promoted Lt. Col. Patrick J. Carroll, middle east foreign area officer, II Marine Expeditionary Force, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal Jan. 21 for meritorious service while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Carroll, who grew up in Shrewsbury, Mass. and now lives in Springfield, Va., received the medal during the ceremony for his promotion to lieutenant colonel. His citation said he was awarded the medal for meritorious achievement in connection with operations against the enemy while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom, from Sept. 11, 2003 to June 30, 2004.

"It was a tremendous honor to work for, and be of service to, the Head of the Coalition Provisional Authority and Chief Administrator of Iraq, Ambassador. L. Paul Bremer, but I personally give a lot more credit to the Marines who have been fighting in places like Fallujah, Ramadi, Mahmoudiya, et cetera. on a regular basis," said Carroll. "In fact, I know Ambassador Bremer was very impressed by their overall performance while we were there in country. "

Carroll also contributed ideas in the defense and security realm based on discussions with a variety of Iraqis. He provided daily political and military updates to the Administrator and also provided liaison duties for many of the 25 Iraqi Governing Council members.

As the military liaison, he personally coordinated security arrangements for several IGC members who were facing threats to their lives.

"My job was definitely on the strategic level, whereas the majority of Marines in Iraq are working on a far more dangerous, tactical level," said Carroll. "I hope to be able to contribute just as much to II MEF forward as I did to CPA when we head back to Iraq in the next couple of months."

Carroll also served as the military spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, delivering daily background press briefings on the security situation in Iraq to Iraqi and Pan-Arab journalists. He did dozens of interviews and television sound bites for multiple Arabic-language satellite stations, radio stations, and newspapers. His actions contributed greatly to CPA's Information Operation campaign and served as an effective counterweight to derogatory coverage in many Arab media outlets.

"It was a very busy 10 months, but it was an outstanding professional experience, and I am glad that I was given the opportunity to serve," said Carroll. "I wish Iraq success, and I wish all of my own fellow service men and women safe and successful deployments for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Everyone should be proud of their service."



Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson, commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force Forward, places the Bronze Star Medal on then Maj. Patrick J. Carroll, middle east foreign affairs officer, II MEF forward, during a ceremony in the Littoral Warfare Training Center Auditorium. Carroll was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and promoted to lieutenant colonel the same day.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Edward L. Mennenga

01-23-05, 11:34 PM
Walnut Creek Marines Talk about Fallujah Fight

Experts described the fighting in Fallujah in November as some of the most fierce combat that U.S. ground forces had seen since Vietnam -- and Walnut Creek twins Josh and Jared Burgess were part of it.

"No one in their right mind wants to go into harm's way, and into that house-to-house fighting environment, we did," said Jared, a first lieutenant in the Marines who spoke to us via satellite from Fallujah. "But the fact of the matter is that it had to be done."

The Marines in Iraq are trying to change the future of the country and the course of history, although they don't look at it that way. They say there's enough to focus on right where they are. They're also not really concerned with what's happening in Washington -- parades and parties of the inauguration are not on their minds.

"I don't worry about the big picture," said Jared. "That doesn't concern me. That's not at my level. I'm just worried about the Marines on the ground, and teaching the Iraqi soldiers to the best of my ability."

The brothers were seeing each other for the first time since the assault on Fallujah. The 24-year-old twins are looking forward to returning home to Walnut Creek to visit family and friends. Jared returns in a few days, Josh in a few months.

"Tell them hi for us," said Josh, also a first lieutenant in the Marines. "Tell them we're doing good and looking forward to coming home."

Jared said, "Hopefully, they'll have a cold beer waiting for me."