View Full Version : Sleep tight, Marines: Camp Baharia's guard force watches over you

03-30-05, 06:29 AM
Sleep tight, Marines: Camp Baharia's guard force watches over you

Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2005328802
Story by Cpl. Mike Escobar

CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq (March 27, 2005) -- It's Sunday, March. 27, but it's not Easter eggs Pfc. Adam Sanborn is looking for.

Instead, the 20-year-old Somerdale, N.J., native and his fellow Marines are busy observing several vehicles rolling through the camp's main gate, ensuring they're cleared to come through and that the passengers carry no weapons.

"We basically search all vehicles coming aboard the camp and log in how many people they've got in them," stated Sanborn, a member of the Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment's guard force. "We're always observing for suspicious activity."

The 2003 Triton High School graduate said the guard force's principal mission is to ensure all personnel inside Baharia remain safe. They accomplish this by constantly observing the perimeter, searching all vehicles and personnel coming aboard, and patrolling areas outside the camp.

The guard force also mans numerous posts along Baharia's walls from which to maintain this constant vigil.

"Here in the towers we look for people doing suspicious stuff, like placing things in the fields outside," Sanborn explained. "I also log in every convoy coming through the gates. I take down stuff like how many people are in the vehicles and who's leading the convoy."

"Basically, we make sure anybody that's not supposed to get in stays out, and that they don't do anything screwy," added fellow guard force member Lance Cpl. Stephen J. Blaylock. "Everyone has to have proper ID, and no one except the Marines comes into the camp armed."

To further deter possible insurgent activity, guard force Marines frequently patrol the fields and paths outside the camp.

"These are mostly patrols where we go out to look for IEDs (improvised explosive devices)." Sanborn stated.

The Marines comb the camp's perimeter mounted on HMMWVs and on foot as they search for these destructive devices, he continued.

Additionally, the guard force maintains troops to act as a quick reaction force. Their mission: to immediately react to any emergency around Baharia.

Thus far, Sanborn said he and his fellow Marines have performed their routine duties with no extraordinary incidents taking place.

"3/5 (3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, one unit responsible for retaking Fallujah from insurgents and whom 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment recently replaced) did some really good stuff to make it safe around here, so we haven't seen anything crazy happen yet," he stated. "It's just been the day-to-day routine so far, but just because it's quiet right now doesn't mean something won't happen later."

Sanborn and his teammates perform their daily duties with this combat-ready mindset, remembering the Marine adage of 'complacency kills.'

"Once in awhile we'll hear explosions coming from near Fallujah," he added. This serves as a reminder for guard force personnel to keep their guard up.

Despite the potential dangers of acting as perimeter security, Sanborn said his unit works effectively as team to carry out their mission.

"I like all the people I work with ... everyone here is good to go," he continued. "We're all from different platoons, and everybody still misses their old platoon, but we all work well together."

Camp Baharia's guard force is comprised of members from numerous sections in the battalion, from infantrymen to communicators to administration clerks. Nonetheless, the group works as a cohesive unit to keep everyone inside the base safe.

According to Sanborn, the force also interacts daily with several Iraqi citizens, mostly civilian contractors coming aboard camp to perform maintenance work.

"The Iraqi people are pretty friendly to us," he said. "Their culture is a lot different than ours. They always want to shake your hand and stop to talk, not just get 'straight to business' like us."

Sanborn added that he enjoys performing his security duties because of his good working relationship with the Marines, pleasant interactions with locals, and feeling like he's helping make a difference in the country of Iraq.

"I miss home, and I wish I could be there with my wife. But I know the people out here really need us because of the way they live. We are where we need to be for now."


03-30-05, 06:29 AM
New York Marine helps resupply Co. I in Husaybah
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200532133130
Story by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel

CAMP AL QAIM, Iraq (March 18, 2005) -- The eyes of a squad leader must see the bigger picture of an operation or mission to ensure they bring their Marines home safe.

For Sgt. Clive S. Chinatomby, a squad leader with the security platoon of 3rd Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment, this mission was going to be no different.

The Queens, N.Y., native was in the rear vehicle of a convoy that left March 18 to re-supply Marines with Company I in Husaybah.

"It was important because that's the only supply line for those Marines. We brought them food, Gatorade, vehicle parts, etc. Without the convoy they wouldn't get the supplies they need," explained the 1993 Forest Hills High School graduate.

Chinatomby's role in the convoy as the rear security vehicle squad leader was to make sure the rear of the convoy wasn't drifting, to pick up security for the rear and his vehicle was the over watch.

Chinatomby believes the most important thing in a convoy is security and ensuring all Marines and Navy personnel are safe.

"Everything went smooth as planned. The only thing that happened was a flat tire so it was successful. Whenever you have no casualties, a convoy is successful," he explained.

The 29-year-old previously deployed to Iraq in 2003 during this time frame and extended his current contract to deploy here a second time. He has high hopes for this deployment.

"My goal out here is to try to clear out all the insurgents so we can go home and the Iraqis can control their country," he continued. "I want to help in avoiding more terrorist attacks like the World Trade Center."

Chinatomby joined the Marine Corps in 1993 after graduating high school. He tried to join when he was only 16 years old because he knew he wanted to be a Marine.

"I loved the fast pace lifestyle, and when I saw the recruiting video at the recruiting office I wanted to join even more," he explained.

He realizes now in Iraq, he joined for the right reason.

"Everything happens for a reason and extending and coming out here again is something I've been training for a while to do," he explained.

Chinatomby's extension runs out Sept. 2006 and he isn't sure what he will do when he gets out of the Corps.

"I'm not too sure what I want to do when I'm out. I'll probably stay in some kind of law enforcement," he said.

Whatever he decides to do, Chinatomby knows that he will work hard to keep his children, Justin, Ethan, Devante, Ariana and Aida, safe.

"I want to clear out all these poisonous people so my kids growing up don't have to go through the fear of being attacked all the time," he explained.

Through all of his experiences this Marine from the "big apple" knows that what he faced and what he will in the future will all make him a stronger person in the end.

"It will be a good experience for me out here. My role is clear, to lead my Marines in providing security during any operation we may have and to ultimately bring them home safe to their families," he said.


03-30-05, 06:29 AM
First Lady Lauds Afghan Women's Progress
Associated Press
March 30, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan - Laura Bush says she has been waiting a long time to tell the women of Afghanistan that American women stand with them.

The first lady arrived in the country for a five-hour visit early Wednesday with plans to visit women who are training to be teachers and others who have made a business of selling handicrafts. She was also to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and have dinner with U.S. troops stationed at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.

Mrs. Bush's plane landed on a pockmarked airstrip at Bagram and she immediately took a helicopter to visit a teacher training institute where Afghan women are learning basic literacy skills.

Million of women and girls have returned to work and school since late 2001 with the fall of the hardline Taliban, which banned girls from getting an education

"We've seen that fathers want their girls to be educated across the country - not in every place," Mrs. Bush said during the flight to Kabul. "I read articles every once and awhile about how some families in some small towns with warlords still don't want little girls to go to school."

Mrs. Bush had wanted to visit Afghanistan for a couple of years but delayed the journey, mostly because of security concerns about travel to the war-torn country, where American forces are still battling a stubborn Taliban-led insurgency. Her trip was kept secret until just before she left from Andrews Air Force Base near Washington.

"I have been so looking forward to going to Afghanistan," she told reporters on the tarmac of the military base in suburban Maryland. "When I really realized the plight of the women under the Taliban, I also found that American women really stand in solidarity with the women in Afghanistan."

"I'm delighted to be able to bring that message to Afghanistan," Mrs. Bush added. "This has been in the planning for quite some time. I didn't tell anyone."

A former teacher and librarian, Mrs. Bush has expressed concern about the limited educational opportunities for Afghan girls under the former Taliban regime.

"We want to encourage them to send their girls to school to get educated," Mrs. Bush said Tuesday. "We are very, very interested in their well-being and then, of course, in the broader Middle East as well. I think it is a message to them that the United States stands with people who are building their democracies."

For most Afghan women, little has changed since the Taliban's ouster. Women's literacy rates are just 14 percent, far below the literacy rate for men, and maternal mortality is about 60 times that of industrialized countries, with an Afghan mother dying every half-hour on average.

Girls outside of cities still do not often go to schools. Some are back to wearing burkas, or all-covering veils. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Bush administration is working to advance the rights of women in Afghanistan.

"We will continue to support those efforts and do all that we can," he said Tuesday from the White House as Mrs. Bush was en route to Afghanistan.

The first lady was accompanied by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Her twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, did not go along.

Spellings visited Afghanistan last year and said she was touched by the plight of women.

"They've been abused by the Taliban and sometimes their families, their husbands - (Afghanistan's) pervasiveness of drugs," Spellings said. "I mean, these gut-wrenching stories. And of course they adore their children, and they want to see about their children, they want a better life, a better future."

About 17,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan. More than 120 American soldiers have died since American forces invaded to oust the former Taliban government for harboring al-Qaida militants after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Susan Whitson, the first lady's press secretary, said the White House had worked with security officials to ensure the first lady's safety.

"We want to make sure she is safe as well as the people she is meeting with and all the citizens of Afghanistan," she said. "We've taken all the precautions."

Mrs. Bush was traveling to Afghanistan as part of a delegation of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, a group formed in 2002 to promote private-public partnerships between U.S. and Afghan institutions and ensure that Afghan women gain the skills and education denied them under years of the Taliban.

In Kabul, Mrs. Bush was to visit the Women's Teacher Training Institute and hold a round-table discussion with students and teachers. She also was to witness the awarding of a $17.7 million grant to American University in Kabul and $3.5 million to the International School.


03-30-05, 06:31 AM
Military Says Detainee Plotted Attack
Associated Press
March 30, 2005

WASHINGTON - U.S. officials say one terror suspect imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay is a former Iraqi soldier and al-Qaida member who plotted with an Iraqi intelligence agent in August 1998 to attack the American and other foreign embassies in Pakistan with chemical weapons.

There is no public record of such an attempt being made, although the Islamabad embassy staff was reduced that month amid heightened security concerns following the Aug. 7 truck bomb attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. On Aug. 20 the United States responded with cruise missile attacks on al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan and a target in Sudan.

The Iraqi, whose identity is being concealed by the Pentagon on privacy grounds, is further described as a "trusted agent" of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and a member of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. He was arrested in Pakistan in July 2002.

These accusations are contained in a two-page "summary of evidence" presented to the Iraqi for his appearance before a Combatant Status Review Board at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba late last year. The evidence was meant to convince the three-member review board - which has heard all 558 detainee cases at Guantanamo Bay - that the government properly classified him as an "enemy combatant."

The summary was released to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. As a matter of policy, the government will not disclose which of the 558 detainees were among the 38 the review boards determined were not enemy combatants.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daryl Borgquist, a spokesman for the Combatant Status Review Board, said Tuesday he could not elaborate on the document pertaining to the Iraqi's case nor the source of the information in it, because the summary of evidence was derived from classified information.

In a July 29, 2004, memo spelling out procedures for conducting review board hearings, the Navy wrote that the government's evidence against detainees should be presumed to be "genuine and accurate."

Navy Secretary Gordon England, who is Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's designated overseer of the review process, was asked at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday about the reliability of the government's evidence against detainees generally, but not specifically about the Iraqi's case.

"They're the facts as certainly as we know them," he said. "They're fact."

Among the few details made public about the Iraqi is that he is 39 and has been held at Guantanamo Bay since October 2002, three months after he was reported captured in Pakistan.

The assertion that the Iraqi was involved in a plot against embassies in Pakistan is not further substantiated in the document. It states only that he traveled to Pakistan in August 1998 with a member of Iraqi intelligence "for the purpose of" striking at embassies with chemical mortars.

The CIA-led Iraq Survey Group that spent months in Iraq investigating its weapons programs wrote in its final report last September that an insurgent group in Iraq had managed to build nine chemical mortars in 2003 using malathion pesticide, although they apparently were not used. Malathion is in a highly toxic class of pesticides that affect the central nervous, cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

The Pentagon document on the Iraqi detainee says that from 1997 to 1998 he "acted as a trusted agent for Osama bin Laden, executing three separate reconnaissance missions for the al-Qaida leader in Oman, Iraq and Afghanistan."

There is no indication the Iraqi's alleged terror-related activities were on behalf of Saddam Hussein's government, other than the brief mention of him traveling to Pakistan with a member of Iraqi intelligence.

The document makes no mention of the Iraqi's alleged activities after August 1998, except to say that in November 2000 the Taliban issued him a Kalishnikov rifle, and he was arrested by Pakistani authorities in Khudzar, Pakistan in July 2002.

According to the summary of evidence, a Taliban recruiter in Baghdad persuaded the Iraqi to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban in 1994. It says he served in the Iraqi infantry from 1987-89.


03-30-05, 06:32 AM
Attackers Injure 8 In Afghan Ambush
Associated Press
March 30, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan - Attackers using bombs and guns ambushed U.S. and Afghan government troops Tuesday in regions of the country rife with Taliban militants, wounding six Afghan and two American soldiers.

Insurgents detonated a bomb beside a vehicle carrying Afghan troops near Asadabad, 120 miles east of Kabul, in Kunar province, and then shot at them, the U.S. military said.

Four of the six wounded soldiers underwent surgery at U.S. military hospitals, a military statement said. The other two wounded soldiers were listed as stable.

Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Zahir Azimi said the six wounded Afghans were among 20 soldiers from the country's new U.S.-trained army. Several people detained nearby after the blast were being questioned, he said.

Also Tuesday, two American soldiers were wounded in a similar ambush near Tirin Kot, 250 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul, in central Uruzgan province, the statement said. Both were evacuated to a U.S. base for treatment and were in stable condition, it said.

Kunar and Uruzgan are hotspots for Taliban-led militants, who have vowed to step up attacks on government and foreign targets with the end of the harsh Afghan winter.

A roadside bomb exploded in the capital Monday, damaging a Canadian diplomatic vehicle and injuring four Afghan civilians in another car.

Another Afghan soldier was wounded when a comrade stepped on a land mine in western Afghanistan on Monday, the U.S. military said. Three children also were wounded.


03-30-05, 06:33 AM
Military recruiters have a tough battle

By Howard Wilkinson
Enquirer staff writer

Renting a video isn't a life-changing experience for most people. But for 21-year-old Thomas Purnell of Southgate, a recent trip to the video store was exactly that.

It prompted the young man - who had moved from one dead-end job to another, struggling since high school to find his place in the world - to become a soldier.

"All I did was go to Blockbuster and rent a video," Purnell said. "I opened the case - and out popped a card that said if I came to the National Guard armory, I'd get a free T-shirt and DVD. So I went."

By the time he left the Kentucky National Guard armory in Walton about six weeks ago, he not only had a free T-shirt and a DVD, he also had signed on the dotted line to become the newest member of the artillery company based there. Now, he is just days away from departing for nine weeks of basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C.

"The T-shirt offer gets them in the door," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Jones, a veteran of the Afghanistan war who heads the Kentucky Army National Guard's recruiting office in Northern Kentucky. "My job is to convince them to stay."

It is increasingly difficult, particularly for recruiters for the Army and the Marines - the two service branches bearing most of the burden in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The problem has been particularly acute for the National Guard and the military reserves, two organizations of part-time soldiers who have been providing 40 percent of the nearly 150,000 ground troops in Iraq.

Last month, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a congressional committee that five of six military reserve branches had missed their recruiting goals for the first four months of the current fiscal year. He noted that the National Guard and the Army Reserves were the furthest behind.

C. Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, said that since the fiscal year began Oct. 1, both the active duty Army and the Army Reserves were substantially behind in their recruiting goals - something he said had not happened since May 2000.

The Army Reserves had hoped to have recruited 6,230 new soldiers by the end of February, but ended up with 5,587.

That has prompted the military to ramp up the use of marketing tools - such as free merchandise offers, downloadable video war games, and inflatable obstacle courses that recruiters set up in high school gymnasiums to give potential recruits a taste of basic training.

While Kentucky is one of the few states that has met its recruitment goals over the past two years, the jobs of recruiters such as Jones have become harder.

"A lot of times, when I talk to young people about joining the Guard, I find out that it is their parents who have the problems - they don't like the idea of sending their kids off to war. They're scared, and I understand that. But I have to be straight with them: If you join the Guard today, you are likely to be deployed overseas."

The downturn in recruiting numbers also has recruiters trying to tempt potential soldiers with good old-fashioned cash, in the form of increased enlistment bonuses. Purnell, for example, walked away with a $10,000 bonus - several thousand more than he would have gotten had he joined when he got out of high school three years ago.

By the time his six-year enlistment is up, he could end up with nearly $40,000 in pay for his once-a-month weekend drills and two weeks of annual training.

All of this - the marketing gimmicks, the increased cash bonuses and the addition of hundreds of new recruiters - is the direct result of the fact that the National Guard fell short of its recruiting goals in the last fiscal year and is headed in the same direction this year.

In the Vietnam era, when a draft was in effect, the National Guard and the military reserves were a rarely used force. The Guard, in particular, was rarely called to federal active duty in the years between World War II and Vietnam, serving as a state-commanded force for use during natural disasters and civil disturbances. The Persian Gulf War of 1991 changed all that. More than 200,000 Guard and Reserves served in that relatively brief war.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the military has depended on the specialized services of the Guard and Reserves. In Ohio, more than 7,000 Guardsmen - Air and Army - have been mobilized and deployed. The Kentucky National Guard has seen more than 6,000 soldiers and airmen leave their civilian lives behind and go to war.

For many guardsmen and reservists, their units have had multiple deployments since the war on terrorism began in the fall of 2001.

"This is a time when, if you join the Guard, it is likely you are going to be deployed overseas - and that fact affects recruiting," said Maj. Neal O'Brien, a spokesman for the Ohio National Guard who just completed his own tour of duty in Iraq. "It's a difficult time for recruiting."

Over the past 18 months, the National Guard has been missing its recruitment goals by about 30 percent nationally. The Kentucky National Guard has been doing better than the national average. Lt. Col. Rondal Turner, the Kentucky National Guard's recruiting chief, said the Guard's goal was to have a total force 6,300 soldiers by the end of February. It ended up with 6,316.

Although Kentucky has fared better than most National Guard organizations, Turner acknowledged that the job is increasingly difficult.

"It's a constant concern," Turner said. "We have to keep on our toes."

For the Kentucky National Guard, the current target area is Northern Kentucky - what Turner calls "an untapped gold mine."

Next month, the recruiting station in Walton will move to a new office near Florence Mall and add staff, Turner said, to make it easier to reach potential recruits in Kenton, Boone and Campbell counties.

While Kentucky has been hitting its goals, the Ohio National Guard continues to lag behind its recruitment and retention targets, as it did for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. By the end of February, the Ohio National Guard had hoped to have a total strength of 10,530. It ended up with 10,250.

In response, the Ohio National Guard has tripled its corps of recruiters to about 150 spread out around the state.

The majority of the Army's assets in areas such as engineering, military policing, transportation and civil affairs were transferred in the late 1970s and 1980s from the regular Army to the Guard and Reserve - and those are exactly the assets that were needed to rebuild Iraq and try to keep the peace.

"That's why you are seeing some of these Guard and Reserve units being sent to Iraq two and three times," said Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who was assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.

"Of course, the Guard and Reserve are going to have trouble recruiting," said Korb, who headed the Pentagon's manpower and reserve affairs division in the early 1980s. "They've always depended on not just raw recruits out of high school, but on veteran soldiers who leave active duty and then join the Guard and Reserve. Those guys are more reluctant to do that now."

O'Brien agreed that part of the reason National Guard recruitment numbers are down is that the Guard is not taking in as many soldiers whose active duty enlistments are up.

"Those are the people we really need because there is nothing like the arrival of a fully qualified soldier who is ready on day one to perform the mission," O'Brien said.

Spc. Joe Bowman, a 25-year-old Army reservist from Erlanger, has another three years on his six-year enlistment. His service with the Fort Thomas-based 478th Engineer Battalion has already sent him on one six-month tour of Iraq. Now, he has been called back to active duty and is scheduled to go back to Iraq soon with a Tennessee-based Reserve unit.

Two deployments to a war zone will weigh heavily on his decision about re-enlisting.

"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it," Bowman said. "A lot of it depends on my circumstances then. I could be married with kids by then. That would make it harder to stay in. All things considered, I've gotten a lot out of this experience."

One of the things Bowman has gotten out of it is the same thing that attracted young recruits like Purnell and friend Nick Jansen, an 18-year-old from Covington, to the Kentucky National Guard - the promise of a free college education. With GI Bill benefits and state tuition awards, a young person entering the National Guard today can receive about $80,000 in educational benefits over a six-year enlistment.

Money for college was an incentive for Pvt. John Baldwin of Covington to join the Kentucky National Guard's 940th Military Police Company last year. He finished his basic training in the fall, but not in time to join the unit as it deployed to Iraq.

"I wish I was there with them," Baldwin said.

A Holmes High School graduate, Baldwin said he hopes to use the tuition assistance to get a college education.

Today, the Army is paying for Bowman to study to become an emergency medical technician. Purnell hopes to study law, while Jansen, who graduated form Holmes High School last year, wants to go to college and study mechanical engineering.

Purnell said that the $10,000 signing bonus, the college tuition benefits and the steady income were important to him. But he said that he was also looking for pride and a sense of accomplishment - "of being part of something big."

"My parents and my girlfriend weren't real happy about me joining," Purnell said.

"They thought I'm automatically going to Iraq and get killed."

On one recent Saturday morning, Purnell and Jansen sat in a conference room as Jones showed them a basic training video on his laptop computer.

Since Purnell graduated from high school, he said, he has been working for his uncle's landscaping company and dreaming of doing something better with his life.

"This is going to make me a better person," Jansen said. "Everybody I talk to who is my age says I am an idiot for doing this.

"Everybody older than me says it will help me make something of myself in the long run.

"I'm going with the people who have experience in life."

E-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com


03-30-05, 06:36 AM
March 25, 2005
Marines give blood, save grandmother's life<

by Cpl. Michael Nease

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Four Marines of Marine Attack Squadron-214 traveled to San Luis, Mexico, Feb. 26 and gave blood to help save the life of another squadron Marine's grandmother.

Lance Cpl. Martin Konferowics, maintenance administration clerk; Cpl. Santiago CastroPerez, airframes mechanic; Sgt. Andrew Carrigan, airframes mechanic; and Sgt. Isaac Werbel, powerline mechanic, all donated a liter of blood to the grandmother-in-law of 1st Sgt. William Wiseman, a quality assurance representative with the squadron.

Wiseman had already given a liter of blood to the 94-year-old matriarch of his wife Francisca's family, but the grandmother, who was in critical condition with anemia and pneumonia, needed four more. Ironically, Wiseman was the only member of the grandmother's family with the same blood type A positive f+tf-t and the hospital was out of A-positive blood.

Staff Sgt. Jose Pimentel, a maintenance controller, also went to give blood, but was turned away because of tattoos and instead assisted as a translator. According to Pimentel, Wiseman hadn't intended to ask the squadron.

"He was only calling back to let the unit know what was happening," Pimentel said. "Then our (executive officer, Maj. John Rahe) got wind of it and saw that we could help this Marine out."

Rahe spread the word and, before long, many squadron Marines with A-positive blood volunteered. Some Marines even heard about the problem at home and came in on their day off.

Although only four liters were necessary, nine Marines went to give blood in case some were disqualified. And it was a good thing they did, because five were disqualified for having tattoos. All the Marines deserve credit though, said Pimentel.

"I'm glad to see these Marines stepping up to the plate like this," he said. "They volunteered to save her without even knowing who she is. A lot of them didn't even know who 1st Sgt. Wiseman is, because he just got back from a deployment."

After passing a medical screening, the four gave blood and met the family.

"The family was real, real happy to see us," said Werbel. "There were all kinds of people there. Family members kept showing up and they were real thankful basically telling us 'thank you so much,' and then they brought us all these tacos to eat. It was awesome."

The tacos were good, but helping was its own reward, said Werbel.

"I felt so happy," he said. "Man, it felt good that I could help someone and the blood that we gave really mattered a lot."

Sgt. Maj. Derrick Christovale, VMA-214 squadron sergeant major, was impressed by the quick reaction of the squadron's Marines.

"This says a lot about Marine Corps brotherhood," said Christovale. "One Marine needed assistance, we sent out the call and the Marines were more than eager to step up to the plate and help out. Our history and traditions still hold true these Marines are still there for each other."

Although Wiseman has been on leave with his family and was not available for comment, Werbel ran into Mrs. Wiseman last week and heard that her grandmother is stable and doing well.

"She said they think it's because she has Marine blood now," he said.


03-30-05, 06:37 AM
Marine likes life in the fast lane
March 28,2005
Jeremy Slayton
Sun Journal

Staff Sgt. Greg Ludt has been able to experience life going by at 150 mph.

But for the motorcycle racer, he rarely realizes just how fast he's going on his red and white Suzuki.

"Generally, I don't look," Ludt said about the speed he obtains on his bike.

Ludt, an operations and aviation training staff NCO at Cherry Point, first began racing motorcycles in 2001 when he and two other Marines took part in a free intro race in Virginia.

And from that moment on, Ludt, 26, was hooked.

"We went up there, rode for free in the first two sessions, and I had a blast," Ludt said. "â?¦ I fell in love. Watching the races, I wanted to do this."

Since that time, Ludt has competed in several races, coming in second - "I've got a few of those," he said - but has yet to win a race, despite a couple of instances where he led for most of the race, but was passed near the end.

Recently Ludt teamed up with Down East Cycles, the group that purchased Britt Motorsports, as a sponsor to help him along the way.

Ludt rode dirt bikes growing up in northeast Ohio and purchased his first motorcycle in 2001.

"I don't know if it was in me from back in the day back when I was a kid and it resurfaced, or what, but I re-fell in love with it again," he said.

At the same time Ludt is flying down the straightaway at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va., as he did last weekend, he continues to serve his country. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after his senior year in high school in 1996, and recently recommitted for four more years.

"As a sponsor, I'm not concerned with him winning, although I know he's out there trying to win," Greg Stern, CEO of Down East Cycles, said in a press release. "I am just in awe of his ability to compete at this level while serving his country full time."

Ludt started his own racing business - Team Bulldog Racing - and Stern is helping market it. T-shirts bearing the business name are being sold in the Britt Motorsports building on U.S. 70 outside New Bern.

Adjusting to the excessive speed on the tracks isn't the hard part of the racing. It's maneuvering and controlling the bike in the corners, he said.

"Going fast straight up-and-down is actually the easy part â?¦ because the corners are the challenging part," said Ludt. "That first challenge is going from 150 to 60 miles an hour in the least amount of time and space possible."

Ludt said as many as 30 to 40 riders are on the track at one time during a race, and space is limited, creating the possibility of a wreck. Ludt has been in three wrecks since he started racing, but said wrecks aren't intentional.

"It can get violent out there, but nobody is trying to do that kind of stuff," he said.

During competition last weekend at VIR, Ludt crashed his bike but avoided any severe injury or major damage to the bike.

Ludt currently is competing as an amateur, but has his sights set on becoming a professional. He is awaiting an American Motorcyclist Association license, which he says he should get soon. When he gets his license, he will compete in the privateer class, which consists of having outside sponsors and being paid to race.

"I'd like to continue pursuing this," he said.

He also plans on staying in the Marines - aiming to do the full 20 years of service - while he continues to advance his racing career.

Jeremy Slayton can be reached at 638-8101, ext. 264 or at jslayton@freedomenc.com.


03-30-05, 06:38 AM
V-22 officially under the microscope

At 8 a.m. Monday, the V-22 Osprey entered into a series of comprehensive flight tests that it must pass in order to convince the Pentagon it is ready for the battlefield.
Eight of the tilt-rotor aircraft stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station, New River, N.C., have been selected to participate in operational evaluation (OPEVAL), which is expected to last through the end of June.

Manufactured jointly by Boeing Co. and Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter, the V-22 will be required to demonstrate its operational effectiveness and suitability inmyriad conditions, including high altitudes, cold weather, confined areas and desert environments.

Much of the testing will be conducted in and around Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and in Bridgeport, Calif., according to 2nd Lt. Geraldine C. Carey, public affairs officer at New River.

The testing is being overseen by Rear Adm. David M. Architzel, commander of the Navy’s operational test and evaluation force. He will report to the Pentagon upon the completion of OPEVAL.

About 1,500 jobs, or one-third of the total work force at Boeing’s Ridley plant, are tied into the development and construction of the V-22 fuselage.

A positive evaluation by Architzel is needed before Pentagon acquisition officials will bump up the V-22 production rate. Full-rate production would quadruple Boeing’s current output of one fuselage per month.

The V-22 -- a futuristic aircraft that takes off like a helicopter then tilts its rotors forward to fly like an airplane -- last entered OPEVAL in November 1999. But while program officials were awaiting a full-rate production decision in December 2000, a V-22 crashed near Jacksonville, N.C., killing four Marines. Another V-22 had crashed in April 2000 in Arizona, killing 19 Marines.

The aircraft was grounded following the December crash and testing did not resume until May 2002.

Between now and late June, the V-22 will have another chance to prove to the Pentagon that it is safe, effective and worth its $74 million price tag.


03-30-05, 06:39 AM
April 04, 2005

Officials push technology to curb roadside bombs

By Laura Bailey
Times staff writer

The military needs to put the same frantic energy into ending roadside bomb threats in Iraq as it did to making the world’s first atomic bomb during World War II.
That is the message from Navy and Marine Corps’ science and technology officials, speaking at the Sea Air Space Exposition in Washington on March 24.

“We believe, in [Navy Secretary Gordon England’s] words, it is time for a Manhattan-like project,” said Rear Adm. Jay M. Cohen, chief of naval research. “This is our Manhattan Project,” he said, referring to a new joint effort to arm Marines with a multitude of bomb detection and destruction devices.

As part of this effort, Cohen said the Naval Research Laboratory and its affiliate research centers will devote 10 percent of their budgets to creating high-tech roadside bomb solutions.

A joint project between the Office of Naval Research and the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory has already given Marines in Iraq several new technologies to test, said Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commanding general of the lab.

Among the devices in development is the Backscatter Van, a large van equipped with X-ray devices that allow Marines to see through cars to detect hidden explosives.

Another device is meant to help Marines detect suicide bombers. The EOS (Opal) Thermal Imager gives Marines an X-ray-like vision to see through a jacket or a coat that is hiding an improvised explosive.

The Warfighting Lab is also working on an explosive-resistant coating that would protect vehicles from bombs. The coating is sprayed on Humvees and would be a lighter and easier solution than up-armoring. That technology is still in development, Waldhauser said.

“We’ve got a lot of good data and potentially some use for it in the future,” he said.

‘No silver bullet’

There is no single technology that will solve the problem of improvised explosives, but a combination of devices would help decrease deaths caused by the low-tech bombs, Waldhauser said.

“There is no silver bullet, but I can assure you there’s a lot of resources and a lot of effort going into trying to sort out the problem,” he said.

Waldhauser said there needs to be a multipronged approach that includes high-tech devices, but also common-sense approaches that Marines are already using.

Cohen added that feedback from Marines in Iraq indicated that the technology is saving lives there.

He said he wants to take the technology further to pre-emptively detect and destroy improvised explosives or suicide bombers from far distances, so insurgents, he said, “blow up in their bomb factories and they have difficulty recruiting people who don’t want to die in their own homes.”

Cohen said such technology would be another five to 10 years in development.


03-30-05, 07:53 AM
April 04, 2005 <br />
<br />
Fair warning <br />
For troops manning checkpoints, deadly force allowed as last resort <br />
<br />
By Gina Cavallaro <br />
Times staff writer <br />
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<br />
RAMADI, Iraq — Military checkpoints in and around...

03-30-05, 08:13 AM
Service members in Al Asad participate in Easter celebrations
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 2005328142351
Story by Sgt. Juan Vara

AL ASAD, Iraq (March 27, 2005) -- Joy and hope inundated the streets of this former Iraqi air base as dozens gathered March 25 and 27 to celebrate Good Friday and Easter.

The services offered on Good Friday were Stations of the Cross, Liturgy of the Passion and Way of the Cross, which are devotions used to meditate on different scenes from the Passion and death of Christ.

On Sunday, the Easter “Son rise” Celebration featured music and hymns. In a joint mission different than what they’re used to, the Marines, soldiers, sailors and civilians in attendance turned the Al Asad soccer stadium into a concert hall while observing the end of the Holy Week.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Terry W. Eddinger, Marine Aircraft Group 26 (Reinforced) command chaplain, seven service members from the different units here were baptized on Easter. “It’s Resurrection Sunday and baptism is a symbol of what Jesus did,” he said. “How many other opportunities does a new Christian have to be baptized this close to the Holy Land on the most Christian day?”

A gospel concert took place at the base theater as an end to the celebrations. Chief Warrant Officer Charles D. Willis, Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28 network planner, acted as minister of music and led those in attendance to worship Jesus singing and shouting.

“The choir did a great job and they appealed to a wide range of people,” said Chief Warrant Officer Rawley H. Colemon, MAG-26 (Rein) personnel officer. “This is the first time a concert like this has ever happened in Al Asad and this is only the beginning. The most important message of it is that it offered the invitation to worship God. The purpose of singing gospel music is to uplift, encourage and praise God in honor and in glory.”

The origins of Easter date back to the beginnings of Christianity, and it’s probably the oldest Christian observance after the Sabath.

Thousands of miles away from home and their loved ones, the service members and civilians here keep the faith and continue to work together for a brighter Iraq.

“It’s ironic that we’re celebrating a Christian holiday in a Muslim country,” said Eddinger. “Just a few years ago this would have not been possible.”


03-30-05, 09:03 AM
Weapons discovered after Navy corpsman kills self
March 30,2005

Two homemade pipe bombs were found in the Jacksonville home of a Navy corpsman who allegedly used a .45-caliber handgun to kill himself Monday in his bathroom.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Gregory James Samrau, 25, of Lakewood Drive, was found dead in his home by his wife, who called 911 for help at 4:04 p.m., said David Shipp, deputy chief of the Jacksonville Police Department.

Authorities determined that Samrau died from "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head," Shipp said.

While Jacksonville police were investigating the incident, which was initially handled as if it were a homicide, explosive devices were found in the bedroom, Shipp said.

Camp Lejeune's explosive ordinance disposal unit was called in to investigate, and residents in the Lakewood Drive area, which is near Cardinal Village, were evacuated from their homes Monday, Shipp said.

EOD removed the devices, which appeared to be two homemade pipe bombs, and secured the area by 8 p.m., according to a press release furnished by Camp Lejeune's public affairs office.

"According to Gunnery Sgt. Gerard McGurty, an EOD technician, both devices were rendered safe (Tuesday)," the release said. "One device was detonated in a controlled environment, and one was dismantled for study."

Jacksonville police were notified Tuesday by EOD that the explosives were considered "live devices," Shipp said.

Naval Criminal Investigative Services and Jacksonville police are investigating the incident.

Samrau, who was a native of Lansing, Mich., worked at Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital. He had been stationed at Camp Lejeune since April 2004.


03-30-05, 09:24 AM
Marrow drive registers 6,000-plus donors <br />
Submitted by: MCAGCC <br />
Story Identification #: 2005321172635 <br />
Story by Sgt. Jennie Haskamp <br />
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<br />

03-30-05, 09:48 AM
Marine shares war tales
By Amanda Harris
The Jonesboro Sun
March 30, 2005

PARAGOULD -- Imagine being caught in the middle of an ambush.

Crouching behind whatever cover you can find.

Praying each breath you take isn't your last.

That happened to Greene County native Mark Davis. A sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps., Davis' boots first touched Iraqi soil last Sept. 11.

Only recently he left the war torn country for the peace of Hawaii, where he was stationed for more than three years while on active duty.

Tuesday he was in Paragould speaking to junior high civics student at Greene County Tech.

While in Fallujah, he told students in his mother's classes, things where very different than the life Americans are accustomed to.

For the first week he was there he didn't sleep. He couldn't sleep -- there was too much going on.

"You're just too keyed up," the marine said.

A part of the Battalion Landing Team 13, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, Lima Co., Davis described Fallujah as a once densely populated city.

Citizens of Fallujah fled the city before U.S. troops started their assault.

While Davis was in Fallujah, the city was deserted except for the 5,000-7,000 insurgents who occupied the city.

Prior to U.S. occupancy in Fallujah, Davis' unit was instrumental in conducting the initial assault before soldiers ventured into the city and began clearing houses.

"My primary job was to shoot artillery," the marine explained.

The No. 1 killer over there is complacency, Davis said.

Soldiers had to stay on their toes. The instant one let down his guard, insurgents would take advantage.

"You cleared 80 houses (with no insurgents) and the 81st house could have insurgents," Davis commented.

Protocol for clearing a house involved shooting a few rounds or throwing a grenade into a house to insure it was vacant. The process was also referred to as "bullets before marines."

After the initial shots were fired, marines would enter the house and search it from the top down, the soldier continued.

While clearing house U.S. troopers found all sorts of things, in houses including various narcotics such as cocaine and heroine.

Davis recalls one instance when he and fellow soldiers found a 4-chambered apparatus for smoking drugs.

"They're fighting for God ... and they're coked out of their minds," he told GCT junior high students.

He remembered one instance when a soldier was shot at 12 times but only one bullet pierced his body, entering into his leg.

Davis said several bullets hit the soldier's Kevlar body armor, and one of the bullets actually skimmed his helmet, narrowly missing the soldier's skull.

His most memorable moment in Fallujah was when he learned he was coming home.

There are lots of things I'd like to have not seen and done," Davis noted. He said he does not regret joining the military noting he's seen Australia and Tokyo and lived in Hawaii for four years.

"I don't regret joining the military, but I'm only staying in four years," he admitted, noting he has completed his four years of active duty. Now he will spend another four years as a marine reservist, but he won't have to do the one weekend a month action because he's already served four years of active duty.

Davis is adjusting to civilian life fairly easily. Sleep comes in seven to eight hour increments, as opposed to the 2-hour naps he endured while in Fallujah.

He also admits to being jumpy around loud noises.

He told a group of students that after he returned to Hawaii from Fallujah he and a buddy were out on a Friday night. During the usual Friday festivities fireworks were ignited. Davis said he and his friend heard a whistling noise followed by a loud explosion. "We hit the deck!"

His plans for the future include to attend college here and then return to Hawaii.


03-30-05, 10:34 AM
Trial Begins For Marine Accused Of Killing Sailor <br />
Defense: Driver Knew Nothing About Murder Plot <br />
<br />
POSTED: 6:59 pm PST March 24, 2005 <br />
UPDATED: 8:30 pm PST March 24, 2005 <br />
<br />

03-30-05, 10:35 AM
Navy files criminal charges against sailor who refused to board ship <br />
<br />
<br />
A Navy sailor opposed to the war in Iraq who refused to board his ship bound for the Persian Gulf will face a special...

03-30-05, 12:29 PM
April 04, 2005

Looking slightly Marine
What sailors love and hate about new wear-test uniforms

By Mark D. Faram and Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writers

While the jury’s still out on the proposed new Navy Working Uniform and service uniforms for sailors E-6 and below, there’s no shortage of opinion.
Love ’em or hate ’em, the new duds — some of which bear a striking resemblance to Marine service charlies — are sparking lots of quarterdeck conversations.

For the sailors chosen to wear the test uniforms, it’s been both exhilarating and controversial. Some say they feel more “military” and “professional” as they stroll gangplanks and passageways. Others report being mistaken for German soldiers, state troopers or even (gasp!) Marines. Even worse are the tongue-lashings by old salts who think testers are wearing unauthorized uniforms. One tester said some onlookers thought he was the victim of some cruel chiefs’ mess initiation process.

Regardless of their shipmates’ reactions, the result is usually the same: intense curiosity. “They ask you, ‘How do you like it, how does it feel, do I prefer gray or khaki and do I like the collar devices more than the patches,’” said wear tester Cryptologic Technician (Administrative) 2nd Class Theresa Bolyard of Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.

While testing will continue for at least several months, Marine Corps Times recently spent time with several wear testers and curious sailors on both coasts to find out what they’ve loved and hated about the new duds.

Surprisingly, there seems to be more to love than hate.

Khaki or gray shirts

Yeoman 1st Class Gregg Murach of Fleet Forces Command said the khaki color is “growing on me,” but he’s still unsure.

“I still like the gray shirt better, because it still differentiates between E-6 and below and E-7 and above,” he said. “It’s a tradition we’ve had in the Navy for many years, and I don’t have any problem showing myself as an E-6 — I’m very proud of what I am.”

“I prefer the blue,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kimberlyn Carroll, 37, who works in the surgery department of Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. “It says ‘Navy.’”

To others, however, the blue evokes visions of the Air Force, auto mechanics and trash collectors.

“I was told by someone that I looked like a prison warden,” said Builder 1st Class Kimberly Silva of Norfolk. “I wish the gray had a little bit more blue in it,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Monique Wilcots of San Diego. Chief Navy Counselor Laura Jones, command counselor at Joint Forces Command, prefers the Marine-looking khaki shirt and black pant combination. She said it’s much more professional looking than the gray/black combo. She’s still wrestling with the cultural ramifications of all sailors wearing khaki, however.

“Yeah, there’s part of me that feels I earned my khaki, but in reality, the gray is really too dull for my taste,” she said. “Besides, having them wear khaki makes us all appear to be in the same service, too.”

And what about looking like Marines?

“It’s a good thing,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Othea Williams, 22, who works in the pediatrics department at Balboa.

“Khaki is better,” agreed Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Dennis Paraiso, 31, who works in Balboa’s pharmacy.

Collar devices or patches

When he was first issued the service uniform, Murach was a fan of collar devices on the gray shirt.

He’s since changed his mind.

“I actually like the shoulder patches on the gray shirt,” he said. “With the collar devices, the gray shirt looks like a [Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps] midshipman — I really don’t think it’s a very sharp military uniform.”

But for Silva, collar devices are easier to maintain and also might foster new traditions.

“I’m thinking about the cost of having to put on the rating patch and the [unit identification mark],” she said. “You could save sailors money if you just used the pin-on collar devices.”

And having collar devices would provide junior sailors with a traditional opportunity that’s currently only available to chiefs.

“You could pass your old collar devices down to someone else,” Silva said. “That would be a nice tradition.”

One downside of collar devices: They’re shiny.

“It would look better if they were black,” she said.

Blouses, belts and ties

For Silva and many other women involved in the wear test, the greatest improvement is the “overbloused” service shirt for women.

“It is fabulous. It looks more professional, it looks neater and it’s also much more comfortable,” she said. “Having to tuck such a long shirt in and belt it and make sure everything is in line … it just doesn’t work well with a woman’s body; it just never looks neat and put together.”

And while belts no longer will be an issue for women, the proposed open-faced buckle could be issued for men.

Murach said the Navy should stick with the belts and buckles it already has.

“I don’t like the open-faced buckle at all; it looks too Marine for my taste,” he said.

The current closed buckle allows the use of unit crests or warfare insignia on them, something he would like to see continue.

For both men and women, not having to wear a tie seems like a no-brainer.

“It just makes you that much more comfortable,” said Bolyard, who works in forces command’s cryptology office.

Wash and wear

Even though the new uniforms aren’t really wash and wear, they’re pretty darn close, sailors said.

“It’s best if you catch it right at the end of the dryer cycle so there’s no chance of it starting to wrinkle,” Silva said.

But even then, touching up the uniform requires only minor work.

“‘You don’t have to use a very hot iron to make them sharp again,” she said. “A very quick touch-up is all that is required.”

Murach says using a cool iron helps avoid the problems he had when ironing the black pants and shirt of the “Johnny Cash” winter blue uniform. That required a very hot iron, he said, which often scorched the fabric, giving it a shiny appearance.

Navy Working Uniform

Sixty percent of the force, mostly junior sailors, told Navy officials via the 2003 survey that they wanted a new working uniform similar to the cammies worn by either the Army, Marine Corps or Air Force.

Chiefs and officers, by and large, were happy with what they already had — khaki.

The reactions of sailors on board the San Diego-based amphibious assault ship Tarawa, therefore, were of little surprise.

“We look a lot sharper, more tactical,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Mary Quinones.

That feeling was echoed by Cmdr. Calvin Tanck, whose Inshore Boat Unit 24 is testing the uniforms at the Kuwaiti Naval Base.

“I was at an embassy function the other day wearing my Navy Working Uniform and an Army officer walked up to me, eyeing my uniform and told me I was the sharpest-looking officer there,” he said.

During several trips to Balboa, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Patrick Mangaran, a Tarawa crew member, heard a common thread. “You look a lot more squared away,” said Mangaran, 26.

Mangaran added that he’s noticed that his new look is drawing more respect from his subordinates and adding an air of authority to other sailors.

Gunnery Sgt. Greg Hagan, 35, who works in Tarawa’s combat cargo hold, says wearing “cammies,” whatever the color, would help unify the naval services. It’s also practical, he added.

Camouflage utilities will be a sailor’s best friend. “Whether paint or grease, they hide stains pretty good,” Hagen said.

Even those who’ve embraced old Navy traditions — like the dungarees — say they are open to something new.

“It’s hard for everyone to accept change,” said Chief Storekeeper Edwin Calma, 36, of Tucson, Ariz. “I’m really glad that the Navy came out with its own — our own — uniform. It doesn’t copy anyone else.”

Calma also touted the warrior ethos the uniform evokes. He recounted a conversation he had with his wife one morning as he readied his camouflage uniform.

“Why do you look like a snake?” she asked him. “You seem ready, on the go, to fight.”

It’s something he thinks about now when he looks at himself in the mirror.

Calma said fellow Tarawa wear-testers seem to be walking taller, more confidently and with more military bearing and presence. And some, he said, even seem to be strutting.

Wear and tear

Sailors and officers say they want a uniform that is comfortable, easy to wear and easy to maintain. Keep it simple, they say. They also want a uniform with fewer gizmos.

Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Larry Carlson, 35, said he’s put much time and effort into keeping his dungaree working uniform neat and clean. But “after a day,” said Carlson, a Tarawa sailor, “it’s shot.”

In Kuwait, the ability of the cammie uniform to take dirt and still look good at the end of the day is a big plus for the sailors operating small tactical boats.

“The pattern allows us to blend into our boats much better,” said Storekeeper 2nd Class Waldo Rosado.

His no-lower-pocket digital patterned blouse hides dirt well, unlike standard Navy dungarees or coveralls.

“It also allows us to be safe around machinery,” he said.

Pattern and colors

In informal surveys culled in San Diego from interviews on Tarawa and the dock landing ship Germantown, the woodland pattern got the majority of support. Digital, however, still got plenty of votes.

Both patterns are being tested using two color schemes — one predominantly gray, the other predominantly blue.

The difference is subtle to most people, at least until someone points out the distinction.

When pressed, most sailors and officers interviewed on Tarawa and Germantown favored the gray pattern most.

As for pattern, Quinones said she likes the digital. Others, of course, feel differently.

“I like the woodland, but for some reason, I think [the digital] blends better with the Marines” on ship, said Photographer’s Mate Airman Matthew Clayborne, 28. “I just like the look.”

In Kuwait, both Tanck and Rosando prefer the digital, saying it’s a matter of force protection.

“We actually blend into our boats better, making us less of a target,” Tanck said.

Some people have told Tarawa’s Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Nicholas Gravesande that wearing utilities means “you don’t look like sailors anymore.”

He hasn’t yet made up his mind whether that’s a good thing or not, he said.

A funny thing happens when sailors wear-test the new working uniform’s trousers: They’re forced to learn what “blousing” means, and how to do it properly.

The test uniforms use two methods: a built-in drawstring or boot bands.

“We’re not used to the blousing part,” conceded Tarawa’s Command Master Chief Michael Schanche, who preferred the drawstring cuff.

When in doubt, some gator sailors asked the green side for help.

“That’s what I did — I went to the Marines,” said Quinones, chuckling. “When they got done laughing, they helped me.”

Round or pointed covers

With headgear, it was a slam dunk:

The eight-point cammie cover wins, hands down.

While some were mixed on the digital or woodland patterns, nearly all sailors and officers interviewed on Tarawa prefer the eight-pointed cover.

In Kuwait, Tanck agreed. The round cover is too much like the Army’s.

“It just doesn’t look right,” he said. “The eight-point cover says ‘nautical’ to me because sailors and Marines have been wearing it for years — that’s one thing we should stay with.”

Mark D. Faram covers the Navy. Gidget Fuentes is the San Diego bureau chief for Marine Corps Times and can be reached at gidgetf@earthlink.net or (760) 677-6145.


03-30-05, 12:39 PM
Losing a friend
By Gina Cavallaro
Times staff writer
March 30, 2005

RAMADI, Iraq - This is a column I hoped I would never have to write. It's about the death of a soldier who, like so many I've met on my four trips to Iraq to ride along with and write about soldiers, became a quick and loyal friend during the short time I knew him.

I've known people who have been killed here. And I've certainly seen death in my personal life. But I had not had the misfortune of having to witness a mortally wounded soldier try to hang on to life.

I grieve for this fallen soldier as I know his buddies do. And now I understand what it has been like for thousands of others who have seen tragedy here in Iraq.

His name was Spc. Francisco Martinez. He was 20 years old and a forward observer in 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery. But when I met him, he was temporarily attached to a scout platoon in Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, a common practice among maneuver units.

The scout platoon conducts raids and dismounted civil affairs and reconnaissance patrols through dangerous neighborhoods. Martinez told me he really liked doing that job because it meant going outside the wire where the action is, instead of sitting guard on a gate somewhere.

I went on my first foot patrol with that platoon March 16, and Martinez became my shadow, a little brother who watched out for me in the two or three hours we walked through the Tamin area of Ramadi. He had that spunky, gregarious kind of personality that entertained the other soldiers; a broad, ready smile of gleaming white teeth and a "hey, look at me, I'm a warrior and I love it" attitude.

I never talked with the other soldiers about him, but I could tell he was well-liked. I liked him a lot, too. He was one of those very young, super capable guys, and his confidence made me feel safe.

We talked about Puerto Rico where his family comes from and where I grew up. Occasionally our conversations lapsed into Spanish, and we laughed about things unique to the island territory, like the fiery political scene and the fervor with which Puerto Ricans celebrate Christmas.

He seemed as if he was having a good time being a soldier on duty in Iraq. Maybe the fact that he came from another culture helped him accept the Iraqis more easily.

Like everyone else, Martinez was sure of himself on the dismounted patrol, shielded by his body armor and carrying a powerful rifle to fend off trouble.

But on March 20 that wasn't good enough.

It was my last day in Ramadi, and I opted to go on one last patrol with Alpha Company. As with the first one, Martinez was by my side the whole time, just walking along with me, asking me personal questions and what it was like to work for Army Times.

As Martinez and I walked together, we chatted about different things and goofed around with some of the Iraqi kids who were following us. It was a routine patrol, like dozens of others they had already done. Martinez never let his guard down, and we were surrounded by his fellow soldiers, field artillery and infantry guys on foot and in Humvees.

Part of the reason for the patrol was to find a sniper who had already killed three soldiers and wounded a few more. The soldiers hadn't had a lead on the sniper in weeks. They checked the location where they hoped to find the guy, but he wasn't there.

But instead of heading back to post, the soldiers decided to do a reconnaissance through the neighborhood, a historically bad area called Five Kilo just outside their post on the west end of Ramadi.

Around 3 p.m., that routine patrol turned dark with a single shot.

We were about 45 minutes into the patrol and stopped in front of a house where the company commander was inside talking with some locals.

Standing about six feet in front of Martinez, I had just taken a picture when I heard a shot ring out. It was close.

I turned around and there was my buddy lying flat on his back in the street right in front of me, his legs outstretched and his arms by his sides. Horrified and completely incredulous, I screamed his name out, "Martinez!" The whole world seemed to have been upended.

I didn't believe what I was seeing.

"No, no," I heard myself saying, "not Martinez." I was told to take cover, but I couldn't figure out how and I didn't want to take my eyes off my friend.

He was surrounded immediately by soldiers who took his vest off and tried to move him toward the closest Humvee. I felt panicked and began hyperventilating watching his uniform turn crimson and a pool of his blood spilling onto the dusty pavement.

I saw the commander running with a group of soldiers toward the area where a car carrying the likely shooter was seen pulling away when someone yelled for me to get into the Humvee. Relieved to have been given an order I could follow, I jumped in behind the driver. In the other seat was Pfc. Michael Johnson, helping to get Martinez in, bunching up his limp legs against the back of the seat.

Martinez was soaked in blood, and some other soldiers were still struggling to get his shirt off. I reached over and helped pull it off, only vaguely aware that we were already speeding toward the base.

Somehow, even with the vest on, Martinez had been hit on the right side of his back.

Smashed into the small space behind the front passenger seat, Johnson held Martinez's body with all the strength he could muster and applied a bandage to the wound while I worked to get Martinez's drenched T-shirt up over his head and off his arms.

Johnson yelled for me to look and make sure he had the bandage on the wound. He did, and a stream of blood coursed down Martinez's back as I handed Johnson a replacement bandage.

Slumped in a fetal position in the seat, Martinez said he couldn't feel his legs. I took his right hand in mine and told him, in Spanish, to squeeze it, "aprietame la mano."

To look at me, "mirame." To not fall asleep on me, "no te me duermas." To keep breathing, "respira, mi amor."

Martinez kept responding, but said he was having trouble breathing. Johnson also pleaded repeatedly with him to keep breathing, as he continued to apply pressure to the wound.

I stroked Martinez's jet-black hair and held his chin up so he could get a better air passage. His skin was damp with perspiration, and I ached to do more for him.

The trip to the aid station seemed to take forever, but it probably took only about seven minutes and Martinez started to fade by the time we got there.

I didn't want to see him die. I just didn't want to see him die.

He was so brave and strong about it, and I could tell he didn't want to give up. I stared, paralyzed, as medics carried Martinez to the aid station. Blood poured from his body through the mesh stretcher, creating a dark red trail in the dust. I watched the doors close behind them.

Johnson and I hugged and trembled together for a while. Then we all walked around in circles waiting for news of Martinez's fate. I wondered what it felt like for all the soldiers having me around, an outsider with my arms and hands painted in their buddy's blood. Martinez, the medical team told me, was probably going to make it. I resolved then and there to visit him at Walter Reed and connect with his family.

I learned later that soldiers had caught up with that fleeing car, killed the driver when he refused to stop, and detained two others who had gunpowder residue on their hands. But by that night, they still hadn't determined whether one of those men was the one who shot Martinez.

I walked away after the medical evacuation helicopter took off, stunned and thirsty. It wasn't the exclamation point I wanted at the end of my trip here.

An hour later, I learned Martinez had died.

I cried like a baby.

Gina Cavallaro returned home March 24 after nine weeks covering the war in Iraq.


03-30-05, 12:41 PM
General dismisses medical journal's PTSD estimates
By Gidget Fuentes
MC Times staff writer

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - A top Marine commander has dismissed a study by The New England Journal of Medicine that estimated 17 percent of Iraq combat veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Brig. Gen. Joseph Dunford, assistant commander of 1st Marine Division, said the study's basis came from checklist-type questionnaires filled out by U.S. troops. He said only about 1,000 of his Marines filled out the questionnaire, and most were members of 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. The division has roughly 45,000 Marines.

"It does not reflect all our experiences," Dunford said during a roundtable discussion with reporters March 28 at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The study, "Combat Duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Medical Health Problems, and Barriers to Care," was published in July 2004 in the medical journal. It received answers from three Army combat infantry units and one Marine unit.

Dunford, a former 5th Marines regimental commander, acknowledged that the stress of combat tours has taken a toll on some members of his force, some whom, like him, have done two tours in the region. But the number of those seeking or receiving help so far, he said, is "statistically insignificant."

"I would reject the study," he added. "In no way are we seeing 17 percent."

Navy Capt. Eric McDonald, I Marine Expeditionary Force's surgeon and an emergency-room physician, said the study primarily identified issues of "barriers to care," but he noted that the estimated number of those suffering from post-traumatic stress dissorder is superfluous and not based on specific cases. "They didn't have psychiatrists look and diagnose" PTSD in any of the cases, McDonald said.

Dunford said the true measure of combat trauma is the number of combat-experienced Marines who have sought medical help but have been categorized as "unfit" to return to full duty. He didn't have figures readily available.

The effects of combat vary by individual and experiences. Combat trauma can range from short bouts of anxiety and sleeplessness to severe depression, nightmares and more serious mental health issues that are diagnosed as post-traumatic stress.

Col. Darcy R. Kauer, I MEF Headquarters Group commander, said he's seeing more alcohol-related incidents, but no spike in domestic violence incidents.

"The majority of Marines are dealing on the lower end," said Dr. Chris Coulapides, Marine and Family Services Branch Manager at Camp Pendleton. "The majority of them are being dealt with."

In recent months, about 200 mostly active-duty Marines have been diagnosed with PTSD and have received treatment including group therapy sessions, medications and individual care, said Navy Lt. Danielle Stewart, a psychologist at Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital. "We haven't seen a significant increase," Stewart said.

"The best healing is to talk about these issues," said Cmdr. Mark Smith, a MEF chaplain. "Getting our Marines to talk is the thing."

Officials at Camp Pendleton say commanders and medical officials continue to direct Marines and sailors to counseling, medical care and briefings that are provided under the umbrella program called "Warrior Transition." Military and medical officials say they are seeing results in a steady number who are receiving counseling or other medical or mental health care.

"Measures we have taken so far have mitigated the challenges," Dunford said. "The caseloads increased because we've driven them to" seek the help. Commanders also have encouraged battalions and other units to organize programs at the small-unit level for their Marines and sailors.


03-30-05, 12:42 PM
Smiles, sunshine greet returning I MEF
By Gidget Fuentes
MC Times staff writer

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Lt. Gen. John Sattler was all smiles as he stretched his hand in greetings on March 28 as a crowd of several hundred people welcomed his command back home.

The commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force, Sattler was returning from Iraq after leading the 45,000-member force since last summer. The band played as Marines hugged well-wishers and camouflage-clad men and women welcomed their colleagues back from the combat zone. On this cool sunny day, it was as if I MEF had let out a deep-held breath and smiled.

“You can all be proud,” Sattler said as he stepped into one family’s reunion celebration outside the expeditionary force’s headquarters at Camp Pendleton, Calif. “He’s got bragging rights.”

Members of of Lance Cpl. Bryan Thaete’s family embraced their Marine after his six months in Iraq. And the personal welcome from the three-star general seemed to add to the triumph. “It’s a powerful impact,” said Thaete’s aunt, Lisa Silvis, of Temecula, Calif.

Thaete, 21, a radio operator by training, was part of Sattler’s personal security detachment since he landed in Iraq last October as a replacement in the high-profile unit. “I had really big shoes to fill,” he said.

Now, he’s focused on rest and relaxation with his family — at least until he returns to Iraq later this year with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company.

Sattler’s arrival marked the return of I MEF, which on March 27 transferred authority of the Multi-National Force West to the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based II MEF’s forward commander, Maj. Gen. Stephen Johnson. But while I MEF is home, the force is providing several ground combat and helicopter units to II MEF for the current rotation.

During his tenure in Iraq, Sattler oversaw a force that included Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen, stretching from the country’s western borders with Jordan and Syria to the embattled Sunni Triangle and the more peaceful Najaf and Karbala regions.

Sattler commanded the force during pitched battles in November, when Marines, soldiers and Iraqi security forces assaulted into Fallujah to rout a stubborn insurgency. Last summer, he noted, “the only thing you could send into the town was a bullet.”

“Since that time, there has been steady progress” in Fallujah, said Sattler, speaking to reporters here. Subsequent operations near isolated areas in the western border area and along the Euphrates River Valley have netted large caches of weapons and ammunition in raids and patrols.

“In the west,” he said, “I think we have broken the back of the insurgency.”

Iraqi security forces continue to grow, Sattler said, noting that the 5,000 trained troops who’ve operated alongside his force will grow by about another 3,000 to 5,000 by summer’s end. But “there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he added. “I think everyone here realizes that the long road to democracy is … full of potholes.”

Gidget Fuentes is the San Diego bureau chief for Marine Corps Times. She can be reached at (760) 677-6145.


03-30-05, 01:36 PM
Marine trades in combat camera

ELGIN — As a Marine on a Pacific tour, Greg Russell shot more than a gun.

In fact, more often his shots came from a camera.

Sgt. Russell, 22, now living in Elgin as a civilian and a student at Elgin Community College, found that his unusual job in the military as a trained combat photographer not only brought him a love for the art, but also an instant maturity, a sense of accomplishment — and even lasting physical scars.

His experience began back in January 2001, after the Naperville Central High School student graduated early and hungered for challenge and adventure.

He decided to join the military. And without too much thought, he set his sights on the Marines.

"I didn't even look at the other branches. I figured Marines were the best," he said.

He applied to learn skills related to graphic design but was assigned to the area of photography instead.

As part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit — a special operations-capable unit — the training provided him with an extensive tour through South Pacific countries like Japan, Thailand and Singapore as well as Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait and Iraq.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, gave him a growing desire to see action, although initially he didn't understand what had happened in the United States.

He heard of the attacks while in a darkroom at Fort Meade, Md.

"Someone walked in and said, 'The Twin Towers got hit.' I said, 'What's the Twin Towers?' I didn't even know," Russell said.

But the photographer's growing portfolio — and eventually his duty in Iraq — was cut short.

On an October 2004 afternoon, while he was reading a book in his tent and as his unit prepared to enter turbulent Fallujah, Russell suffered injuries to his arms and legs from a mortar blast just feet from his tent.

It was a crashing sound, and then quiet.

"When it came in, I thought everyone was dead," said Russell. While about a dozen of his comrades were injured, no one died.

A trained professional, Russell said that even he was surprised at how calm he stayed in the face of the attack.

His first instinct was to document the scene, but as Russell attempted to shoot, he realized his arm was too badly damaged from shrapnel.

The injuries effectively ended his active duty, and Russell exited the U.S. Marine Corps, fulfilling a four-year term, in January 2005.

Russell said that unlike others in his unit who were injured in the mortar attack, he has yet to receive his Purple Heart. The young veteran is hoping the decoration soon will be in his hands now that he's asked for help from U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

His injuries are healing well for the most part, and Russell said he is slowly adjusting to civilian life.

Some people initially stay quiet when they hear we was in Iraq and was injured. But once they realize Russell wants to talk about his experiences, "they ask me tons of questions," he said.

And part of those discussions include stories beyond what gets covered in the media.

A good number of Marines, he said, may not agree with the U.S. government about Iraq, but it's important to focus on the job.

And you find a reason for being there, he said.

The United States is helping restore order, Russell said. Schools are being built and Iraqi troops are being trained — and locals there welcome the help, he said.


03-30-05, 03:07 PM
Deserters: We won't go to Iraq
CBS News
March 30, 2005

The Pentagon says more than 5,500 servicemen have deserted since the war started in Iraq.

60 Minutes Wednesday found several of these deserters who left the Army or Marine Corps rather than go to Iraq. Like a generation of deserters before them, they fled to Canada.

What do these men, who have violated orders and oaths, have to say for themselves? They told Correspondent Scott Pelley that conscience, not cowardice, made them American deserters.
"I was a warrior. You know? I always have been. I've always felt that way -- that if there are people who can't defend themselves, it's my responsibility to do that," says Pfc. Dan Felushko, 24.

It was Felushko's responsibility to ship out with the Marines to Kuwait in Jan. 2003 to prepare for the invasion of Iraq. Instead, he slipped out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and deployed himself to Canada.

"I didn't want, you know, 'Died deluded in Iraq' over my gravestone," says Felushko. "If I'd gone, personally, because of the things that I believed, it would have felt wrong. Because I saw it as wrong, if I died there or killed somebody there, that would have been more wrong."

He told Pelley it wasn't fighting that bothered him. In fact, he says he started basic training just weeks after al Qaeda attacked New York and Washington -- and he was prepared to get even for Sept. 11 in Afghanistan.

But Felushko says he didn't see a connection between the attack on America and Saddam Hussein.

"(What) it basically comes down to, is it my right to choose between what I think is right and what I think is wrong?" asks Felushko. "And nobody should make me sign away my ability to choose between right and wrong."

But Felushko had signed a contract to be with the U.S. Marine Corps. "It's a devil's contract if you look at it that way," he says.

How does he feel about being in Toronto while other Marines are dying in Fallujah, Najaf and Ramadi?

"It makes me struggle with doubt, you know, about my decision," says Felushko.

What does he say to the families of the American troops who have died in Iraq?

"I honor their dead. Maybe they think that my presence dishonors their dead. But they made a choice the same as I made a choice," says Felushko. "My big problem is that, if they made that choice for anything other than they believed in it, then that's wrong. Right? And the government has to be held responsible for those deaths, because they didn't give them an option."

Felushko's father is Canadian, so he has dual citizenship, and he can legally stay in Canada. But it's not that easy for other American deserters.

Canadian law has changed since the Vietnam era. Back then, an estimated 55,000 Americans deserted to Canada or dodged the draft. And in those days, Canada simply welcomed them.

But today's American deserters, such as Brandon Hughey, will need to convince a Canadian immigration board that they are refugees.

Hughey volunteered for the Army to get money for college. He graduated from high school in San Angelo, Texas, just two months after the president declared war in Iraq.

What did he think about the case for going to war? "I felt it was necessary if they did have these weapons, and they could end up in our cities and threaten our safety," says Hughey. "I was supportive. At first, I didn't think to question it."

He says at first, he was willing to die "to make America safe." And while Hughey was in basic training, he didn't get much news. But when he left basic training, he started following the latest information from Iraq.

"I found out, basically, that they found no weapons of mass destruction. They were beginning to come out and say it's not likely that we will find any -- and the claim that they made about ties to al Qaeda was coming up short, to say the least," says Hughey. "It made me angry, because I felt our lives were being thrown away as soldiers, basically."

When Hughey got orders for Iraq, he searched the Internet and found Vietnam era war resisters willing to show him the way north. In fact, they were willing to drive him there, and a Canadian television news camera went along.

Hughey had an invitation to stay with a Quaker couple that helped Americans avoid the draft during Vietnam. From Fort Hood, Texas, to St. Catherine's in Ontario, Canada, Hughey crossed the border, duty free.

Pelley read letters about Hughey's desertion that were sent to the editor of a San Antonio newspaper.

"It makes me sad to know that there's that much hate in the country," says Hughey. "Before I joined the Army, I would have thought the same way. Anyone who said no to a war, I would have thought them a traitor and a coward. So, in that essence, I'm thankful for this experience, because it has opened my eyes and it has taught me not to take things on the surface."

However, he adds: "I have to say that my image of my country always being the good guy, and always fighting for just causes, has been shattered."

Hughey, and other deserters, will be represented before the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board by Toronto lawyer Jeffry House.

His clients will have to prove that, if they are returned to the United States, they wouldn't just be prosecuted for what they did -- they would be also be persecuted. How will House make that claim?

"People should have a right to say, 'I'm not fighting in that war. That's an illegal war. There's illegal stuff going on the ground. I'm not going,'" says House. "And anyone who says soldiers should go to jail if they don't fight in an illegal war is persecuting them."

And it's something House has experience with. In 1969, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin, got drafted, and spent the rest of his life in Canada.

House's legal strategy will focus on his contention that President Bush is not complying with international law. But how will he defend volunteers who signed a contract?

"The United States is supposed to comply with treaty obligations like the U.N. charter, but they don't," says House. "When the president isn't complying with the Geneva Accords or with the U.N. charter, are we saying, 'Only the soldier who signed up when he was 17 -- that guy has to strictly comply with contract? The president, he doesn't have to?' I don't think so. I don't think that is fair."

The first deserter to face the Canadian refugee board is likely to be Spc. Jeremy Hinzman of Rapid City, S.D. He joined the military in Jan. 2001, and was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne.

He wanted a career in the military, but over time, he decided he couldn't take a life. "I was walking to chow hall with my unit, and we were yelling, 'Train to kill, kill we will,' over and over again," recalls Hinzman. "I kind of snuck a peek around me and saw all my colleagues getting red in the face and hoarse yelling -- and at that point a light went off in my head and I said, 'You know, I made the wrong career decision.'"

But Hinzman said he didn't want to get out of the Army: "I had signed a contract for four years. I was totally willing to fulfill it. Just not in combat arms jobs."

While at Fort Bragg, Hinzman says he filled out the forms for conscientious objector status, which would let him stay in the Army in a non-combat job.

While he waited for a decision, he went to Afghanistan and worked in a kitchen. But later, the Army told him he didn't qualify as a conscientious objector, and he was ordered to fight in Iraq.

Hinzman decided to take his family to Canada, where he's been living off savings accumulated while he was in the military.

Wasn't he supposed to follow orders? "I was told in basic training that, if I'm given an illegal or immoral order, it is my duty to disobey it," says Hinzman. "And I feel that invading and occupying Iraq is an illegal and immoral thing to do."

"But you can't have an Army of free-thinkers," says Pelley. "You wouldn't have an Army."

"No, you wouldn't. I think there are times when militaries or countries act in a collectively wrong way," says Hinzman. "I mean, the obvious example was during World War II. Sure, Saddam Hussein was a really bad guy. I mean, he ranks up there with the bad ones. But was he a threat to the United States?

Still, isn't it worth fighting to free the people of Iraq? "Whether a country lives under freedom or tyranny or whatever else, that's the collective responsibility of the people of that country," says Hinzman.
Hinzman and the other American deserters have become celebrities of sorts in the Canadian anti-war movement.

Only a few of the reported 5,500 deserters are in Canada, but House says he's getting more calls from nervous soldiers all the time.

Wouldn't the right and honorable thing for deserters to do be to go back to the United States, and turn themselves in to the Army?

"Why would that be honorable?" asks House. "(Deserters signed a contract) to defend the Constitution of the United States, not take part in offensive, pre-emptive wars. I don't think you should be punished for doing the right thing. What benefit is there to being a martyr? I don't see any."

Hinzman began his hearing before the Canadian Immigration and Refugee board last Monday. But there's no telling when he'll find out if he'll be allowed to stay in Canada -- or be sent back to the United States to face the consequences.

The maximum penalty for deserting in wartime is death. But it's more typical for a soldier to draw a sentence of five years or less for deserting in wartime.


03-30-05, 03:57 PM
March 30, 2005

Deployment durations hinge on insurgency

By John J. Lumpkin
Associated Press

U.S. forces in Iraq could begin coming home in significant numbers if insurgent violence is low through the general elections scheduled for the end of the year, a top general said Wednesday.
A larger and more capable insurgency, setbacks in the efforts to develop Iraq security forces, or missed deadlines by the transitional government could delay any significant drawdown, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Lance Smith.

Smith, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, which has military authority over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, commented in an interview with reporters at the Pentagon.

“(If) the elections go O.K., violence stays down, then we ought to be able to make some recommendations ... for us to be able to bring our forces home,” Smith said.

Smith is the latest senior general to express conditional optimism about improvements in Iraq since the Jan. 30 elections. Previously, officials had spoken very little about prospects for withdrawal of the tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq.

In the last month, the rate of insurgent attacks on U.S., coalition and Iraqi personnel and civilians has dropped from an average of between 50 and 60 per day to between 40 and 45, defense officials say. U.S. forces are also suffering casualties at a lower rate.

Smith said that if that trend continues, Iraqi security forces should be able to handle the load, with American forces pulling back to function primarily as a rapid-response force in the event the Iraqis get in trouble.

“I think the answer to that is, yes, every indication is that they (Iraqis) will be able to handle this level of threat in the not to distant future,” Smith said.

He said Gen. George Casey, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, will be coming up with plans early this summer for a possible drawdown.

Smith credited the security improvements primarily to the U.S. and Iraqi efforts in capturing and killing insurgents. But he also acknowledged that the Iraqi government has reached out to some Sunni Muslim groups that have been involved with the insurgency or worked against U.S. interests.

He mentioned in particular the Muslim Ulema Council, a group of leading Sunni religious leaders that is also known as the Association of Muslim Scholars.

“The Sunni have recognized boycotting the elections was a mistake,” Smith said. “They clearly would like to figure out how they can get back in and participate.”

But vast problems remain. Insurgents under Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and former leaders of Saddam Hussein’s government remain active. Smith said there are some signs the groups, despite their different ideologies, are coordinating activities. Also, Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, only averages 12 hours of power a day, according to the State Department.

The insurgency has forced the United States to keep at least 138,000 troops in Iraq since the invasion two years ago. About 145,500 U.S. troops are in Iraq now, with about several thousand who were sent to assist in security for the Jan. 30 elections expected to go home in the coming weeks.

The semi-permanent force numbers 138,000 troops, or 17 brigades. More than 22,000 allied, non-Iraqi troops are also in the country.

Iraqi security forces have grown to more than 151,000 soldiers and police who have received training and equipment, Smith said. The quality and capabilities of these forces vary widely, and absenteeism among the police is a significant problem.

Early postwar plans for Iraq anticipated far fewer U.S. troops to be in the country by now, but the strength of the insurgency caught the U.S. military off guard.


03-30-05, 04:15 PM
Tradition leads motor transport Marine to Iraq
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2005327122440
Story by Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

FALLUJAH, Iraq (March 15, 2005) -- After touching down in the desert sands of Iraq, March 6, Lance Cpl. Jackson L. Hamrick settled in to his new home away from home aboard Camp Mercury with the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team-1.

Hamrick, a 19-year-old native of Cedaredge, Colo., was excited to hear the news that he would be deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom early this year; and eager to do his part in the battalion.

"This is what I joined the Corps to do," said the 2003 Cedaredge High School graduate, "I'm glad to be over here doing my part."

The fire team leader for 1st Platoon, Truck Detachment, 3rd Marine Division is following a family tradition by serving in the Marine Corps.

Both of Hamrick's grandfathers, his uncle and his father served in the military prior to taking on careers in law enforcement.

"I joined partly because it was tradition, and partly because I needed something to do for the four years before I become a highway patrolman," Hamrick explained.

Hamrick's platoon is responsible for providing transportation, convoy security and supplies for the battalion, a role he takes no small part in as a fire team leader.

Even in his high school days, Hamrick was seen as a leader, serving as the captain of the school soccer team for all four years.

"He is very mature and has a good head on his shoulders," said Staff Sgt. Charles E. Harris Jr., 32-year-old motor transport chief for the battalion, "He takes responsibility and runs with it."

Hamrick's platoon will take over motor transport operations for the battalion March 27, when they fully assume authority from Headquarters Battery Provisional Truck Platoon, 2nd battalion, 14th Marine Regiment.

Excited by the prospect of working with an infantry battalion, Hamrick looks forward to the upcoming responsibility.

"I think the guys at (the battalion) can teach us a lot," he explained.

Hamrick is scheduled to spend the next seven months in Iraq, serving the majority of it with the battalion.

Given Hamrick's motivation, intelligence and adaptability, Harris foresees no problems for the Marine's time spent in Iraq.

"He will do well here for this deployment," said Harris, a Springfield, Mass., native.


03-30-05, 05:21 PM
April 04, 2005 <br />
<br />
Lobby group chronicles Iraq war through troops’ eyes <br />
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By Vince Crawley <br />
Times staff writer <br />
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Operation Truth, a lobbying group taking the side of combat troops, recommends that...

03-30-05, 06:20 PM
One year later, marine's story marches on <br />
Staff writer <br />
<br />
Jimmy Massey spreads his word; now he's a 'peacenik' says USA Today <br />
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For those of you who haven't been keeping track...

03-30-05, 06:20 PM
"If I say I commit a war crime and the marines do an investigation and say there is nothing to that then apparently they feel like Jimmy Massey did not violate the uniform code of military justice and can not be prosecuted as a murderer," Underwood said.

Underwood said if military intelligence says that Iraqis driving civilian vehicles toward checkpoints could be suicide bombers, then killing drivers who do not stop at checkpoints does not necessarily constitute war crimes or murder.

"It could have been people with weapons or people without weapons but in war that is not murder, and that is what Jimmy Massey is calling murder," Underwood said. "Is it right? It is what we who were in combat did, and we have to live with it. But it is not murder. What we have to remember is that there is always this fog of war out there. It is not always visible. It is not always clear. There is always dust in the air.

"Does it leave room for civilians to be killed? Yes, it does. Rules of engagement are supposed to be written so that is minimized."

The essence of the debate, said Underwood, is political: those who oppose the war in Iraq are more apt to call the killing of civilians war crimes or murder.

"You've got to take the politics out of it," Underwood said. "If they did not stop, then (Massey) did not kill innocent civilians. They killed civilians that did not stop."

Massey's story may get some much-needed filling-in when (or, if) his book, tentatively titled Cowboys From Hell, is published.

Massey's co-writer, French journalist Nelly Jouan, who wrote a story about Massey's claims last spring for The Independent in London, said the book would tell "the story of a person who at the beginning is a psychotic killer and undergoes a real transformation. It is very disturbing, but it is so honest, and also there is a lot of comic relief. It's a great book." The book is currently being reviewed by publishers in New York City, said Jouan.

A story in the Mother Jones November/ December issue called Massey "maybe the most unlikely of the soldiers who have come out against the way."

In the story, Massey is pictured in a stark photograph barefoot, in shorts, in front of his apartment. In the picture, he is wearing an anti-George Bush T-shirt.

"How do you wake them up," said Massey in the story. "It's a slow process. All you can do is tell people the horrible things you've seen, and let them make up their own minds. It's kind of the pebble in the water: You throw in a pebble, and it makes ripples through the whole pond."

Jeff Schmerker can be reached at 452-0661, ext. 131, or at jos@themountaineer.com...


03-30-05, 09:03 PM
Supply open for business <br />
Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force <br />
Story Identification #: 200532511269 <br />
Story by Cpl. Christi Prickett <br />
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CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (March 24, 2005) -- Even though...