View Full Version : Tradition leads motor transport Marine to Iraq

05-02-05, 07:46 AM
Tradition leads motor transport Marine to Iraq
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20054276227
Story by Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

FALLUJAH, Iraq (April 27, 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.


05-02-05, 07:47 AM
Coalition Forces Raid Iraq Village
Associated Press
May 2, 2005

UDAIM, Iraq - Hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers swept through this village Sunday, searching homes, detaining insurgent suspects and taking their weapons.

At a time of stepped-up attacks by insurgents in Iraq, the operation in Udaim was one of several raids by coalition forces in Iraq this week aimed at cracking down on militants.

In the Fallujah-Ramadi area, west of Baghdad, U.S. Marines and Iraqi troops discovered multiple caches this week, including thousands of mortar rounds, over 600 grenades and 200 pounds of explosives, the military said.

No arrests were made in those seizures, which the military said were the largest in the embattled Anbar province in over a year.

A raid by more than 550 coalition soldiers in western Baghdad netted 16 suspected insurgents armed with five AK-47 assault rifles and another machine gun with a long-distance scope. Their alleged crimes include "assassinations, beheadings and kidnappings" of Iraqis, the military said.

U.S. Army Maj. Will Johnson, 35, of Hixson, Tennessee, said Sunday's raid in Udaim, a village of about 150 homes 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of Baghdad, had been long planned, using tips the military had received from Iraqi civilian informants.

Insurgents have used a highway running through the village to bomb Iraqi and U.S. military convoys, he said.

Bandits also stop drivers to steal their cars, sometimes wearing black masks, Johnson said. One such mask was found during the Sunday's operation in Udaim, he said.

Some 300 Iraqi soldiers led Sunday's raid, supported by 260 American soldiers. Training Iraqi soldiers and police to take over security responsibilities is key to the United States' exit strategy in Iraq.

The operation began shortly after midnight and lasted until dawn, with Iraqi soldiers knocking on doors, entering homes and searching them. U.S. soldiers often followed the Iraqi forces into the buildings, overseeing their search of the dwellings.

No Iraqis were seen resisting the searches, and no clashes were seen or reported.

Sixteen Iraqis were detained and some light weaponry was confiscated, including materials for two roadside bombs, said Johnson, who took part in the operation.

U.S. Army Capt. Matthew Rawlins, 28, of Lansing, Michigan, who also took part in the operation, called it a partial success.

He said few Iraqi men were in the village when the coalition forces arrived, meaning the soldiers ended up detaining fewer suspected insurgents than expected.

"Somehow they got tipped off" about the operation, Rawlins said.


05-02-05, 07:48 AM
Comfort in action
Marines honor their fallen comrades, their families and each other

By Jim Sheeler, Rocky Mountain News
May 2, 2005

Inside the airport baggage claim area, Jo and Bob Burns searched the crowd, looking for someone else's son.

"That one over there with the military haircut," she said, nodding toward a young man. "Is that one of them?"

"I'm not sure," her husband said.

For the past several weeks they had tried to prepare for this day, a day they were supposed to arrive here to welcome home Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle Burns. Instead, they came to meet the young men who last saw their son alive.

"This has really upset me tremendously, thinking about these guys coming," Jo Burns said. "At the same time, I think we need this."

During the drive from Laramie to Denver, Bob said his mind drifted back to a night marked by a scream that still haunts him - the scream from his wife when she saw Marines at their door.

"The scream, I don't know how to describe it. Bone-chilling, blood-curdling," he said. "I grabbed a flashlight, ran upstairs and then I saw the Marines."

As he drove on, he felt his stomach sink all over again and wondered if he could relive it all.

Inside the airport, as they waited to pick up Marines they'd never met, Jo Burns wondered what they would think of hugging their dead friend's mother.

"I think they probably feel guilty that they get to come home and he didn't," she said. "I don't want them to feel guilty. But on the other hand, I also wish it was my kid who got to come home. I'm glad they get to come home, but . . . "

She stopped the sentence with a thin white handkerchief printed with the Marines logo - one that's already absorbed nearly six months of tears.

Over the next 24 hours, several families would share the Burns' emotional journey as Marines from around the country flew to Denver to honor their buddies who didn't make it and tried to comfort the families left behind.

In the process, the servicemen were about to learn a lesson of their own: The families of the fallen weren't the only ones who needed help to heal.

In the baggage claim area, Jo Burns finally spotted them - five tall young men, two of them wearing cowboy hats, all of them carrying telltale olive drab bags stitched with the Marines emblem. She and her husband hurried toward them.

"Hi, guys," Jo Burns finally managed, tentatively grasping the hand of the first one in line, then drawing him close, raising on her tiptoes for a hug. She then moved on quietly down the line, looking up into their eyes as hers welled once again.

A few minutes later, as they headed to the hotel, she managed a smile.

"They hugged me back," she said, still sniffling. "I wasn't sure how apprehensive they would be, but that felt good.

"They hugged me back."

Remembering the brave

As the Burnses and other families arrived at a nearby airport hotel, Marines flew in to join them from around the country. Some of them had returned from Iraq only days earlier.

The gathering was organized by the people the families never wanted to see: Marines stationed at Buckley Air Force Base whose duties include informing next of kin about the deaths of Marines killed in action.

Once the casualty assistance officers arrive at the door, absorbing the screams and tears, their job is far from over. Saturday night, it continued.

The event - dubbed "Remembering the Brave" - sprang from one Marine's desire to formally award posthumous medals to families of Marines from Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota. The word spread all the way to Iraq.

The day before the event, inside the hotel restaurant, the Burns family sat down with the young men in their son's company, and faced a few awkward minutes.

"Thank you for the package you sent," said 21-year-old Dustin Barker - Kyle Burns' best friend in the platoon - who arrived in the United States three days earlier.

"Thank you for your letter," said Kyle Burns' father.

"I'm sorry I didn't have a chance to write more," Barker said.

Jo Burns never wanted her son to be a Marine. When he invited a recruiter over to meet her, she admits she was openly hostile.

"I have to be honest. I didn't believe all that brotherhood b-------. I thought it was just a bunch of little boys saying things that boys say," she told the young Marines.

"I never believed it until after he died."

Since then, she said, she's seen the caring of the Buckley Marines and the notes and calls from her son's buddies, checking up on her.

As the group sat at the table, the Marines began filling in the blanks of what Kyle Burns was like at Camp Pendleton and in Iraq.


05-02-05, 07:48 AM
They told her how he liked to bodyboard off the coast of California and about the games they would play while drinking. They knew him well enough to know he only wore Carhart jeans - never Wranglers. They joked about how he would cram his Humvee with cans of chewing tobacco in every cranny.

They also knew exactly how he died in Fallujah on Veteran's Day 2004.

"You can ask us anything. We need to get it out. We've been holding it in for so long," Barker said. "That's why we're here."

No time to grieve in combat

At Fort Logan National Cemetery, the grass over Kyle Burns' grave is starting to grow in. It still needs time to take full root.

"It hasn't sunk in yet. It's hit, but it hasn't," Barker said, as he looked at his buddy's grave.

"When you're over there, there's no time to grieve. You worry that if you do, you'll get someone killed."

For Lance Cpl. Mike Ball, the shock and reality were similar.

"I started to let the tears come," he said of seeing his friend die. "But we had patrol in 10 minutes. You have to shut it off. We just got in the vehicles and started driving."

Since then, he's kept the grief somewhere else - a place in his mind he had yet to unlock.

"That night when I got back, I actually tried to get back to that place, I tried to mourn. But it was gone," he said. "And I knew I'd have to wait."

At the cemetery, one of Kyle's high school friends began to ask the questions everyone had dodged - questions that arose from rumors and miscommunication, and only raised more questions.

"So, it was an AK-47 that hit him?" Kyle's friend asked.

"No, it was an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade)," Barker told him. "That's why I'm here. Sometimes things get mixed up."

"I heard that he lived long enough for them to give him last rites," Kyle's friend said.

"No," Barker said quietly. "It was very quick."

Over and over, throughout the weekend, the Marines would repeat the story of the assault - not only Barker, but the company commander, the corpsman who treated Burns and the platoon leader who was shoulder to shoulder with Burns when he was injured.

They told the story without embellishment or melodrama - there was no need for it, they said. Because of Kyle Burns' actions, they said, other Marines are still alive, and what more do you need?

"What were his last words?" someone asked.

" 'I'm hit,' " Barker said.

For the Marines, repeating the story over and over is part of their therapy.

"You'll tell the story a couple times and you're all right, and then the third time, man, it just hits you again," Barker said.

Despite the pain, they say, it's a story they say they'll continue to tell.

"I'm going to be telling my kids and grandkids about these guys," Ball said. "My grandkids are going to be so sick of hearing about Burns, Blake, Staff Sgt. Holder. They'll be saying, 'But grandpa, we already heard that one.' And I'll say, 'You need to hear it again.' "

Filling in the blanks

As the time for the "Remembering the Brave" event neared and more Marines arrived, the same scene played out in different parts of the hotel: families learning the stories of their sons from those who were there.

At one table, Marines sat with the family of Joseph Welke from South Dakota, looking through photos his mother got back from his camera in Iraq, and they explained the last images Welke saw.

At another table, Marines sat with Tracy Loveberry-Ross, mother of Lance Cpl. Justin Ellsworth - who grew up around Vail - filling in the blanks from his time in Iraq.

Meeting with the Marines, however, was only part of the reason for the gathering. The families also were there for each other.

"When they came to my door and told me my son was dead, they didn't give me a manual on how to handle it," said Terry Cooper, mother of Lance Cpl. Thomas Slocum, the first Coloradan killed in the war in Iraq.

Just as Cooper and her husband, Stan, tried to figure out how to handle their grief back then, they now share their experiences with any family who wants to listen.

"I went a long time without anyone I could share things with, and it's nice to have common ground," Terry Cooper said. "It's a terrible thing to want to have that kinship. You wouldn't wish it on anyone. But now that it's happened, it's good to have the fellowship."

Cooper first met some of the families after funerals she has attended, trying to work through her own emotions. She keeps in contact with many of them regularly, just to check up - and to share what she never could before with those who understand.

"It's a very, very special group of people," she said, as she looked into the hotel lobby. "I think that we're in just as good company as our boys are."

Heaviest medals in the world

Before the event began, Maj. Steve Beck stood in the empty ballroom, looking at a line of medals on the table, struggling with all they reflected.

"When you think about what these guys did, it's not easy to look at these medals," he said. "What's the trade-off? What's the exchange? How do you say (holding up a medal), 'This is for your son?' "

As the man who stood on the doorsteps of the families of those fallen Marines, he understands how delicate he needs to be. He also knows how heavy the medals can weigh.

"It's not a trade, but in the minds of the mothers, I wonder if they think it is a trade, and that they're thinking, 'I don't want this medal. I want my son.'

"The only way I can dispel that is through something like this. By showing them the honor. By honoring their son."

Beck began planning the event early this year, after he heard about the number of medals due the Marines whose mothers he watched over. After attending so many funerals, after crying with so many families he now considers his own, he said he had to let them know what they meant.

Still, he said, some people wonder if it's too much.

"Even some of our Marines say, 'Why are we doing this to the families? Why do you have to keep reminding them?' "

Beck shook his head.

"This isn't about reminding them - they don't need reminding. These families think about this every day of their lives.

"This isn't about reminding them," he said, and then looked up. "This is about reminding you."

Stories of courage

Once the lights dimmed in the ballroom, more than 500 people went silent.

"You are about to hear the descriptions of individual acts of courage," Beck said. "Listen closely. Listen closely."

For nearly an hour, they heard detailed accounts of rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices - of ambushes and assaults, each with the same ending.

Slowly, methodically, the Marines brought out the medals and citations, kneeled before a mother or father they had first met on the doorstep. Halfway through the ceremony, 1st Lt. Paul Webber - the man who was with Kyle Burns when the 20-year-old died - moved forward.

A few hours before, Webber had sat with the Burns family, telling them everything he knew about what happened. Without prompting, Jo Burns told him she knew he did everything he could - that she hoped he had no guilt.

"I think everyone feels some sense of guilt," he told her. "But it's something we're working through. I don't think it will ever go away completely. I had a real hard time with this - a REAL hard time."

That night, in the silent ballroom, Webber held high the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a combat "V" for valor, then went down on one knee.

After presenting Jo Burns with the medal, he brought out a pair of dog tags they all thought were lost.

"Oh! Oh!" she managed, through splitting cries. "Oh! Thank you!"

As the room heaved, the citations continued: Staff Sgt. Theodore "Sam" Holder II, Lance Cpl. Justin Ellsworth. Lance Cpl. Gregory Rund. Cpl. Randall Rosacker. Lance Cpl. Thomas Slocum. Sgt. Douglas Bascom. Lance Cpl. Joseph Welke. Lance Cpl. Andrew Riedel.

For each family, the Marines also presented a vase of yellow roses - one rose for each year of the dead Marine's life.

'Now we can mourn too'

When it was all over, the two tallest, toughest-looking Marines at the Burns' table stood and hugged Jo Burns, then each other.

Suddenly, Lance Cpl. Ball's face turned red, then exploded into tears. As he pressed his head into Barker's shoulder, the sobbing spread. Other Marines from the company grabbed hold of each other. They held tight for nearly a minute, holding nothing back.

Eventually, someone started to laugh, and they all laughed for a few seconds, then began to cry again, the tears darkening their deep blue uniforms. After regaining his breath several minutes later, Ball thumped Barker on the back.

"That stuff has been bottled up for so long," Ball said.

"It feels so good to get it out," he said, patting his buddy on the back. "Now we can mourn too."


05-02-05, 07:49 AM
Getting a look at the big picture
May 01,2005
Beneath a satellite dish pointing into the sky from the back of a humvee, Marines huddled around an instructor and a control screen, listening as he explained the works of that complex communications equipment.

Moving from one station to the next, 60 Marines branched out from their own specialties to explore the various systems and networks that allow the Marine Corps to deploy and adapt quickly.

The training circuit was just one day during a command, control communication and computer non-commissioned officers course being conducted by the II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune.

Lt. Col. Frederick Jude Hopewell, the operations officer of II MEF G-6, said the course was designed to teach C4 Marines - who have diverse specialties ranging from radio operators to data network specialists - about the other areas so they get a better understanding of the big picture.

"We're going to optimally train our Marines to do the C4 functions they are trained to do," Hopewell said.

"This course is intended to give them general exposure to things outside their normal specialty."

"It's good to be flexible and be able to do multiple tasks, expand your horizons, especially if you're going into a combat zone."

Not only will the training help the corporals and sergeants participating in the course, Hopewell said, but it also helps the Marine Corps develop future courses that will be conducted from three regional training centers throughout the Marine Corps in 2008.

One RTC will be located at Camp Lejeune. Hopewell said the base will probably rehab an old building for the center, but pointed out that the building isn't important.

"The training center isn't so much the facility but the body of knowledge within it," he said. "Yes, we'll have a facility, but we'll move the training to where it's needed. It's a very flexible organization and body of knowledge."

Marines participating in the course said they appreciated the "big picture" their instructors were teaching them.

"We got an overall idea of how everything ties together and how it'll work in a tactical environment," said Cpl. Kellie Noble, a radio operator with II MEF. "There's lots of cross training on things we don't specialize in."

Noble, who was a chief of staff of radio operators in 2003 for Task Force Tarawa in Iraq, said teaching NCOs this material will trickle down the ranks and benefit everyone.

"It will definitely give the lance corporals and below the knowledge we have of the big picture," she said. "They trust us more, and we'll trust them more. You need to earn their trust when lives are at stake."

Cpl. Randall Jones, who sets up field servers with 2nd Battalion 6th Marines, said his unit will be deploying to Iraq sometime around August and that he is more confident of his abilities because of the course.

"You get the impression of the grand scale," he said. "Normally, you study your own square, your own bubble. But now you get the big picture of what's going on."

Hopewell said after the course they will refine and organize 1,500 pages of training procedures and information that will be available to Marine Expeditionary Forces worldwide.

That information will be used to finalize the formal communications training that the RTC will supply, Hopewell said.

But Hopewell said that this is also a first step to addressing a very important part of war fighting. The issues need to be dealt with now because of the deployments.

"We're committing our own resources to this," he said. "We don't necessarily need to wait until 2008.

"Half of the Marines have been to Iraq, half are going. So we can deliver those lessons today to the forces going over there today."

Contact staff writer Chris Mazzolini at cmazzolini@freedom enc.com or at 353-1171, Ext. 229.


05-02-05, 07:49 AM
Marines recognized for volunteer work

by Sgt. Mel Lopez
Henderson Hall News

Marines throughout history have assisted many nations around the world. Whether during peacetime or war, they have provided security in areas of turmoil, food and water to those who have suffered civil conflicts, and helped with the reconstruction of schools in war-torn areas. All this they do in an effort to help improve our world neighbors' morale as well as their way of life during times of conflict. The Marines have received positive feedback for the outstanding work they have performed overseas.

A Marine's job doesn't stop when he or she returns from deployment. Many Marines volunteer their time in their own communities to accomplish the same mission - to help improve the morale and well being of their neighbors here at home.

Their hard work and effort have not been forgotten. A Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony, sponsored by the Marine & Family Services Center here, was held at the Henderson Hall Theatre April 22 to thank Headquarters Battalion Marines for their assistance in a variety of programs throughout the Washington area.

Battalion commanding officer Col. Daniel E. Cushing spoke to the audience, many of them Marines who have volunteered since April 2004.

"I am honored and privileged to have an opportunity ... to extend my thanks and to be part of this ceremony," said Cushing.

He said he could see the Marines are making a difference and that just a little help can go a long way.

" I can see the smiles of the people you've helped, that you are all making a difference," Cushing said to the volunteers. "If you pick somebody up and help them, you are making the world a better place, which is ultimately our mission both inside the Corps, and outside the Corps."

Battalion sergeant major Sgt. Maj. Raynard L. Watkins was the keynote speaker for the ceremony. He explained how Marines here have volunteered to assist in programs such as Miles for Smiles, the United Services Organization of Metropolitan Washington and the Arlington Food Assistance Center. They have also given their time to assist local elementary schools, veterans' hospitals and nursing homes.

"These are commitments where, if the community calls upon us...you step up," said Watkins.

He said the Marine & Family Services Center has received calls from people all over the Washington area willing to volunteer. These include servicemembers and family members of other branches of the Armed Forces as well as Department of Defense civilian employees.

Their efforts have directly helped some of Henderson Hall's assistance programs such as the Thanksgiving Day Food Program. In 2004, 40 volunteers manned a concession stand at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to help raise money for the program. They raised $4,900.

"We helped 74 Marine families with commissary vouchers to help them meet the burden of the holidays," said Watkins.

The battalion sergeant major called on all Marines to volunteer.

"If you have not volunteered, try," said Watkins. "And for those of you who continue to support this program, please continue. We're helping to build a relationship. We're bringing the military community and our civilian community that much closer."

He concluded, telling Marines that they will feel better about themselves if they make time for their community.

"If you lift someone else up, you'll lift yourself up."

After the ceremony, the volunteers got a special treat. Their names were put in a raffle for numerous prizes to include t-shirts, $10 gift certificates to the Marine Corps Exchange, movie tickets, and admission tickets to Paramount's "King's Dominion." Door prizes were supported by Marine Corps Community Services.

For more information call Janet Hammes or Anna-Marie Daley at the Marine & Family Services Center - 703-614-7200.


05-02-05, 07:50 AM
Weapons, 3/2 Marine experiences Iraq
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200543012629
Story by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel

CAMP AL QA’IM, Iraq (April 30, 2005) -- For Cpl. Robert L. Gass, the only true job for him in the Marines was the infantry.

“I never knew there was any other job in the Marine Corps besides the infantry. But even when I did find out, I still wanted to do it,” explained Gass, an anti-tank missile system gunner with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

And now the Moncks Corner, S.C., native’s choice to be an infantryman has landed him a deployment to western Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a vehicle commander of a combined anti-armor team.

“My main job here as a vehicle commander is to make sure everyone in my truck is in line. I make sure we are in the best position for our fields of fire, which help us determine the best way to employ our weapons,” explained the 22-year-old anti-tank assault man. “I make sure my guys know what they need to know and be where they need to be to get the job done.”

Gass and his team are mainly responsible for providing security for the battalion’s missions. This security consists of vehicle and personnel inspection points that are set up quickly, known as snap vehicle check points, throughout the area to prevent the easy movement of insurgents.

“We mainly set up snap vehicle check points,” Gass explained. The 2001 Berekely High School graduate added that they are often involved in raids to root out key personnel associated with insurgent activities. “We are involved in some raids to capture specific individuals. We do a lot of security patrols. So we basically secure areas for other people to work in and support the main players in the operations,” he continued.

Gass originally joined the Marine Corps to find something new, and here he is in a different country with a different culture.

“I was getting bored with what I was doing and tired of being in the same place all the time,” he said.

“I like being out here helping the Iraqis. But it can get kind of hard, because you can’t understand them sometimes. They do things totally different from the way we do things in America, but it’s their culture.”

As a noncommissioned officer and a Marine leader deployed to a combat zone, Gass focuses his efforts on completing each mission he is given and getting all his Marines home safe.

“My main goal is to bring all my boys home to their families safe,” he said.

Gass believes in order to accomplish his goals one of the most important qualities he needs to possess is determination.

“If you’re not really determined to do your job, then it’s real easy to get side tracked. You have to be dedicated, doing what you have to do, protecting the guy to your left and right,” he said.

According to Gass, his two and a half years in the Marine Corps and this deployment have taught him to appreciate what he has back home.

“I love my job,” he explained. “I am getting to experience and see something different. I don’t think Americans realize how good they have it, but being out here makes you appreciate what you have back home.”


05-02-05, 07:51 AM
Businesses help Marines celebrate Mess Night
April 28,2005
Miriam Ramirez
The Monitor

Dressed in a crisp dress blue uniform, U.S. Marine LCPL Jerry Longoria paid the price Wednesday when fellow Marines found out he wasn’t wearing a required white undershirt.

Longoria turned beet red, hung his head in shame and forked over $2.

As part of a traditional Mess Night, about 85 reservists from Charlie Company 1st Battalion 23rd Marines, which returned from Iraq in March, gathered at Graham Central Station in Pharr to celebrate one of the most honored traditions of the service branch. During Mess Night, Marines like Longoria are called out for uniform discrepancies, humorous battle stories or for constant tardiness. Part of the tradition for flubs — paying a minor fine.

The event celebrates camaraderie and Marine espirit de corps and is most often observed when a unit returns from battle or special assignment, said USMC Sgt. John Saenz.

"This is something that soaks up every part of (Marine) history and something that sets us apart from every other branch," he said. "Marines are going back to their families and back to our life aside from being a Marine."

Mess Night is based on special rituals carried out by assigned members of the unit.

A Marine is assigned as president of the mess and controls the flow of events. A vice president, or "Mr. Vice" as he is called, enforces any request by the president and decides who can or cannot address the mess committee, according to the USMC Web site.

Mess members must stand at attention and ask permission to speak. Mr. Vice has the option to accept or deny the request.

The formality of the event is soon forgotten when Marines are addressed as "Sweet Cheeks," "Scrappy Doo" and "The Rock."

Aside from the pet names designated on the battlefield, Marines also participated in 12 traditional toasts. Folks from L & F Distributors made sure each Marine had enough ice-cold beer to toast with.

"It’s the least we can do," said Joe La Mantia Jr. a representative from L & F. "It’s an honor and small token of our appreciation. Their spirit is unreal."

Toast after toast, Marines grunted, glasses clanged together and all in attendance rejoiced.

"There is lots of toasting tonight," Saenz said. "Part of the tradition is that every Marine have a full beverage in front of him — or else." Toasts were in honor of past battles, to the success of the Marines and to those who died in service. A special table, draped in a black cloth, was setup in honor of those lost in the service of their country. An inverted place setting and chair symbolized the spirit of the lost Marine.

"We can’t forget those that came before us," he said. "That remembrance is the only solemn moment of mess night."

Even Saenz couldn’t escape the humiliation attached to the event. When Saenz requested permission to address the president, he somehow forgot to put down his cigar.

"It’s the small little details that people pay attention to," he said after an impromptu inspection.

Sgt. Mario Moreno was all smiles for his first experience at a mess night celebration.

"It looks formal but it’s meant for everyone to have a good time," he said. "I know I’m gonna have a great time." Moreno, 27, couldn’t wait to get back to his Weslaco home after his yearlong deployment.

"I feel like a different person. I have this renewed sense of appreciation for the little things," he said.

Miriam Ramirez covers law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor you can reach her at (956) 683-4441.


05-02-05, 07:51 AM
Station Marines augment MPs
Submitted by: MCAS Cherry Point
Story Identification #: 2005429114736
Story by Lance Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (April 29, 2005) -- Marines have been putting down their equipment and paperwork, leaving their offices and hangars, and checking out M-16s and 9 mm pistols in order to pin on the badge of military police officer.

Due to recent deployments, the Provost Marshal’s Office here has begun pulling support from different commands throughout Cherry Point in order to keep the Air Station well guarded.

“We have been getting augments since Sept. 11, 2001,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Miller, the special operations chief at PMO. “So many Marines at PMO have been deployed recently. But the augment system has been going great, and we have been getting great quality Marines.”

Some of the Marines augmented to PMO have been of such high caliber that they have been assigned duties beyond those of basic gate guards. They also drive the roads of Cherry Point, providing law enforcement for its residents.

“The hardest part for (augmented) Marines is the differences in hours,” said Miller. “Getting used to working 14-hour days, five days a week, on their feet can be difficult. Waking up at 3:30 in the morning, and then getting back home at 7 p.m. is hard. Then you have to go and physically train, it’s especially hard if you have a family. But, like all Marines, they are adjusting very well.”

Dealing with the public is another difficult aspect of the Marines’ new duties, said Miller.

“They have to deal with the public like professionals,” said Miller. “People can be angry and rude for no reason. For a Marine coming from a hangar, it’s a different (environment) than they are used to.”

All augmented Marines receive extensive training before being assigned to stand guard. From weapons safety, to dealing with the public, to getting a face full of pepper spray, the Marines receive the essential tools they need to carry out their duties.

“Being in PMO has been a good experience,” said Cpl. Eric H. Stephens, who was augmented from Marine Air Control Squadron 2. “This place is stricter and it forces you to be a good Marine. It’s amazing how much authority comes with the badge. I work as a dispatcher with real MPs. My job before was all technical electronics, so I had some technical skills coming here.”
Marines from other military occupational specialties come to PMO with varying talents.

“When we see different people come, we try to use them for their strengths,” said Miller. “Sgt. James Williams came here from 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Squadron, and we discovered he was a martial arts instructor – so we have had him teaching Marines nonlethal combat and self-defense skills.”

For the Marines augmented to PMO, they get a chance to look at the Marine Corps and Cherry Point in a different perspective. They are finding out that not everyone on the station is an angel, and that some people here, like everyone, have real problems.

“Suicide attempts, domestic problems- I had no idea these things happened here,” said Stephens. “This job has been full of surprises. I never thought I’d be this much into these kinds of situations, but working as a dispatcher, you deal with different circumstances daily.”

Marines are standing guard now, making sure the air station is safe. Whether they have been augmented or have always been PMO, their dedication to duty remains. They serve as a reminder that the Marine Corps is fighting a war, and the Marines who remain stateside are also rifleman first, and the day might come when they to will pick an M16 and stand post.


05-02-05, 07:52 AM
26th MEU storms Djiboutian shores
Submitted by: Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa
Story Identification #: 2005429134816
Story by Cpl. Jeff M. Nagan

CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti (April 26, 2005) -- While passing through Djibouti April 26 Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) took the opportunity to hone their combat prowess on a firing range here.

The 26th MEU, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., set sail with the Kearsarge Strike Group, March 27. The MEU is a quick, compact, unit capable of accomplishing a variety of different missions nearly anywhere in the world deployed directly from the sea.

“One thing we are showing here is the prowess of (Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa) and its ability to reach out and grab assets to prosecute the Global War on Terror against the transnational terrorists that are in the region,” said Col. Thomas F. Qualls, commanding officer, 26th MEU. “We are very honored to be here and have the opportunity to train at Godoria Range.”

While in Djibouti, the MEU conducted advanced combined-arms fire-support training, which included indirect fire from 81mm mortars, precision sniper fire and close air support from both CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters and AV-8B Harrier jets.

The Godoria range offered the 26th MEU a place to use nearly all their combat assets under safe conditions. Many ranges in the U.S. and other countries can’t offer the same level of training.

“We don’t get a lot of opportunity to shoot weapons like the .50 caliber sniper rifle on many ranges,” said Sgt. Luis A. Mejia, a scout sniper, 2nd Force Reconnaissance, attached to the 26th MEU. “Whenever a Marine gets the chance to shoot it’s a good thing.”

In addition to U.S. servicemembers, coalition and other officers from Djibouti, France, Kenya, Romania, United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea were spectators during the exercises.

“It’s a good opportunity to show our capabilities to our friends,” said Mejia, a native of Newark, N.J. “That way, if they ever need our help, they know what we can do.”

Following the combined-arms exercise, the 26th MEU test another of its capabilities with a surface personnel and aircraft recovery exercise.

Members of the 26th MEU along with tactical vehicles hit the shore on an air-cushioned landing craft. After setting up a security perimeter, the Marines convoyed out to the mock crash site. Once they recovered the pilots, the team moved back to the craft leaving in much the same way they came.

“It is one of the capabilities of the MEU,” said Lt. Col. Robert Petit, battalion landing team commander, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines. “The Marines are special trained for this mission.”

Prior to the MEU’s arrival, CJTF-HOA training had to coordinate with the Djiboutian military to reserve the range for the appropriate dates and ensure no unauthorized people where there, said Republic of Korea Maj. Jaewook Lee, range officer, CJTF-HOA training.

“Since I’ve been here, we haven’t utilized the range in this way,” said Lee, who has been part of CJTF-HOA for about three months. “This offers a great chance to do a combined arms exercise with the 26th MEU and CJTF-HOA.”


05-02-05, 08:34 AM
Life will never be the same for woman whose son died in Iraq
Capital News Service

TOWSON, Md. - (KRT) - Partly because they thought Towson, Md., had the prettiest girls, and partly because it was too far to go home from Camp Lejeune, N.C., for just a few days, Cpl. Nick Ziolkowski's buddies used to tag along on his trips to his mother's house.

Tracy Miller offered them blankets, sleeping bags, carpet - anything to be comfortable - but they were Marines, and they slept sprawled out on the hardwood living room floor.

When she came home from an antiwar protest in Washington one evening, she found Nick and his friends watching television.

Why would you protest against the war, they asked. Because I want you guys to come home real soon, she said.

But Nick didn't.

He was killed on a Fallujah, Iraq, rooftop by a sniper in November.

Many of Nick's friends still call, visit and e-mail Tracy.

One spent a weekend with her right after the unit returned from Iraq. She deeply appreciates the connections, but worries about holding his friends back.

"I don't want them to think that I want them living in the past," Tracy said. "I don't want them to feel that they need to stop whatever they're doing and keep bringing up the memory of Nick's having been killed. You know, I want them to go on with their lives and remember Nick, but not keep having these memorials."

Marine Cpl. Nicholas Ziolkowski, 22, was stationed at Camp Lejeune with the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

He had been a Marine for three years when he shipped out to Iraq in June. When his unit returned in early 2005, more than 20 were dead. Most, like Nick, died in November in Fallujah.

Tracy and her other son, Peter, drove to Camp Lejeune for a memorial ceremony this spring. For each of the unit's fallen soldiers, a pair of boots, a gun and a helmet was displayed.

Toward the end of the ceremony, the families went up and stood around the display so the Marines who had known him could come up and introduce themselves, Tracy said.

"It was a whole room full of crying people," she said. "Crying Marines, crying families."

Nick is remembered in news reports and by friends as a virtual saint - noble, considerate, charismatic and unfailingly supportive of the underdog.

Tracy remembers all those beautiful things, but she also remembers Nick as a real person: One who lied to her and got a tattoo on his shoulder when he was 16, one who sometimes struggled mightily in school, one who only passed a Spanish class, Tracy said, because the teacher liked him.

"I've tried very hard to make sure that people realize that ... he was a normal guy, too," she said. "He hung out in bars with his friends, he cussed a lot.

"You could not know Nick and not love him. And not because he was this plastic person," Tracy said. "He was just fun. He was sunshine."

Framed photos of Nick and Peter adorn the coffee table and line the stairs at Tracy's townhouse.

Nick was tall and handsome; the neighbor's daughters found excuses to hang around when he was home on breaks.

Tracy said she and Nick were close. He could even be a little too open about his personal life, she said with a small laugh: He once asked if she thought a divorced mother he met in a bar was too old for him.

Now, she hurts when she wakes up in the morning, she said, or when she thinks about giving him back rubs as a little boy. She can almost channel what it felt like when he rubbed her back.

"We never thought that Nick would get killed," she said. "I mean, he was such a vital life." They talked about what might happen, but she never figured it would happen to him.

"He made such a difference, it was so important for him to be here for so many people."

Tracy has not visited Nick's grave at Arlington National Cemetery. She does not believe Nick's spirit is there. Nor does she spend much time in his bedroom, which is as sparsely decorated as he left it.

The letters from President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a host of others sat in a pile, slipped neatly back into their envelopes, until Tracy put them away recently.

A crisply folded American flag in a glass case sat unceremoniously on a living room chair, overshadowed by a wall of books and framed photos, until it, too, was stowed away.

She thinks back to the night in November when she learned Nick was dead.

"They had it timed so that they came here at the exact moment they went to (ex-husband) Andy's house," Tracy said.

It was after 7 on a Sunday evening and Tracy, who teaches at Towson University, was finishing up work from a just-ended writers conference that she had organized.

The doorbell rang and she asked who was there. Before she could open the door, two master sergeants identified themselves. And she cursed. She knew.

"I collapsed," she said, motioning to the spot on the sofa where she sat. "And all they could say was, 'Combat.'"

"I just cried all night."

Tracy is flooded by emotion when memories bring out "the promise, and then the waste."

She passed Nick's pre-school and cried as she watched children on the playground. She dug up an outline of Nick's 5-year-old palm traced on construction paper, and she cried then, too.

But she is pragmatic by nature. "I know that you can't change the past," she said. Instead, she struggles to grasp that her son is gone forever.

"We talked about the fact that I was intellectualizing this, and I know that I am," Tracy said. "It's partly kind of not realizing what it all means."

She thinks the ceremonies honoring Nick and other soldiers might help her absorb the fact that he is gone.

"What does being dead mean? What does Nick's being dead mean to me? You know what I mean?" she asks. "It's not that I don't miss him. Of course I miss him. But I've been missing him ... essentially for (the) four years he hasn't been here.

"So it's a matter of kind of understanding that I will never see him and I can't - I can't grasp that concept."

Tracy has received quilts and sympathy cards from around the country, and visits from veterans she didn't even know.

Some people tell her that Nick is in heaven and he died for a noble cause. They wear yellow ribbons to show they care. She appreciates such efforts - "their intentions are good" - but very little has been a true source of comfort.

"Knowing how many people care about me, you know, how much support I have, has been comforting," she said.

Still, she aches. And she knows she is not alone in grief.

"People will say to me, 'I can't know how you feel. My mother died and that was horrible but oh, it's nothing like what you've been through,'" Tracy said. "And I keep thinking ... grief is horrible and it doesn't matter - I mean, yes, the situation (with Nick) is maybe more tragic, but the grief is as real and as awful for both.

"I wouldn't feel better if it had been, you know, my mother, my brother ... my father has died, my sister has died, and they're all awful," she said. "I don't think there are degrees of grief."

When she looks back over Nick's life, Tracy seems staggered by what a fundamentally good human being he was and by how much of a difference he could have made in the world. Not because of a job or a career, but because of the person he was sure to become.

"The last night before boot camp we had dinner at TGI Friday's and ... he put his arms around me - now this is my younger son - put his arm around me, walked me to my car," Tracy said. "I was crying and he said, 'Mom, I just want you to know I'm proud of you. I know that you had to sacrifice a lot, and that it wasn't easy for you, but you raised two good sons.'"

Nick was like that, she said, as much a mentor as a son at times. In his e-mails home, he encouraged her to keep going to the gym and told her she looked good.

"Some of his friends have told me that when they need strength and resolve, they think of Nick. I don't know how far that's going to take them, though," she said.

Tracy is determined to honor Nick by living her own life, in the ways she feels he would have wanted her to.

That means everything from "going to (the gym) Curves, trying to go every day that I can ... to deciding whether I'd like to travel and see some of the things that Nick saw that I didn't," she said.

She plans to go to South Africa in the fall and is thinking of other things to do, "that if he can't, maybe I can."

She has come to realize that "there's such impermanence to our lives. And that there's no reason why I shouldn't do the things that I've been putting off doing or just, kind of, not felt like doing."

Part of her Tracy's new life involves her role as a Gold Star mom - the mother of a fallen soldier. It's a role she wrestles with: While Nick's immediate Marine family has been a great source of support, Tracy does not feel she has as much in common with the larger military circle.

"I feel very uncomfortable when people thank me for my sacrifice, because it's certainly not one I made willingly and I also don't think that it was justified," she said.

To the cameras and reporters that began descending on Tracy the day after Nick died, Tracy was the anti-war Gold Star mother willing to speak her mind.

She said she did not court publicity, but "I also wasn't going to ignore it." And she is OK with the publicity in part because it keeps Nick in the present.

"It's cathartic and it keeps him - I mean, it's not that he ever disappears from my heart but it just - it's a way of kind of keeping him, you know, actively alive."

Tracy never bothered getting excited about spring until April 21 - Nick's birthday. The blooming flowers and budding trees meant warm weather, and they meant Nick.

But now spring is here for the first time in 23 years without Nick. She spent his birthday this year with a friend - and thought about Nick a lot, she said.

Tracy was a busy person even before Nick died, but since November she has almost never eaten dinner alone.

Friends and family keep her active and out of the house. She likes to say that, on a day-to-day basis, nothing's different since Nick died. But also that, since Nick died, her life will never be the same.

"The only person I can affect (is me) and so I will just try, as I said, you know, to live my life the way I think he would have wanted."


05-02-05, 08:36 AM
Marine wins medal for Iraq combat missions
By Elise Faya
For the Poughkeepsie Journal

When Major Jim Longi got the call for deployment to Iraq, he never expected to fly.

His position there was ''frag officer," a dispatcher in civilian terms, doling out air missions to Marine squadrons. But during his six-month stay, the U.S. Marine from Poughkeepsie found himself flying.

A lot.

''He was sort of a fill-in for pilots who were unavailable,'' Longi's father, James, said.

Longi's flying was recognized in February when he was awarded an Air Medal by the Marines Corps for accumulating 120 hours of combat missions.

The Air Medal is routinely given to pilots who fly more than 75 hours of combat missions or in a challenging environment.

''When you look at the minimum requirements, it doesn't sound so glamorous,'' his father said. ''It's basically awarded to people who fly a lot of missions ... and do good flying.''

Longi earned the medal for flying a CH-53E Super Stallion, a 99-foot heavy-lift support helicopter used for transporting heavy equipment and supplies during ship-to-shore movement operations. He spent six months in Iraq, finishing in March.

''We would carry either 37 Marines or a small tank," Longi said. "It can lift 36,000 pounds. The missions we would do would be for cargo support or to transport marine passengers to secure an area."

Longi has been in the Marines for 15 years. He has been deployed to Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti, among other places.

He was born in Poughkeepsie and has lived in Dutchess and Saratoga counties. He attended the State University of New York at Cortland, majoring in criminology, then joined the Marine Corps and attended flight school.

Since returning to the U.S. in March, Longi has gone back to desk duty at the Marine Corps headquarters in Washington.

His family, excited that he has come home safely, is also excited he has earned the Air Medal.

''I think they're just really happy that I'm back at home. Medals come and go, but it's the family that's important,'' Longi said.


05-02-05, 08:50 AM
U.S. military widening use of tourniquets
By Robert Little
Sun National Staff
May 2, 2005

As the Pentagon begins a hurried effort to distribute modern tourniquets to every soldier and Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army and the Marine Corps also have decided to make the simple medical tools standard equipment for more than 1 million service members throughout the world.

The move comes as new data from the two war zones show that modern tourniquets are saving lives in combat - and that soldiers without them have died, perhaps unnecessarily.

About 38,000 nylon-and-plastic tourniquets should be arriving at a staging area in Qatar this month, the first of 172,000 being rushed to the war zone, according to the device's manufacturer. A new first-aid kit containing a tourniquet also will be expedited later this year to every unit preparing to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, and then to the entire Army, according to medical officials in the service. The Marine Corps, meanwhile, expects to order more than 200,000 tourniquets, replacing an older model carried by Marines that has proven ineffective.

Emphasis on the $20 medical tool comes more than two years after a committee of military surgeons and medical experts urged the armed services to distribute tourniquets widely and to promote them as a first course of treatment in combat. And it follows a March 6 report in The Sun detailing cases in which doctors questioned whether soldiers might have lived had they been equipped with tourniquets.

Military medical officials say the value of modern tourniquets, with built-in ratchets for tightening around an arm or leg, is only beginning to become clear. Data collected from Iraq have not been compiled into a meaningful body of information, they say.

But a glimpse at portions of that data suggests that some of the 1,270 Americans killed in combat since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began might have lived if the military's emphasis on tourniquets had come sooner.

Maj. Alec C. Beekley, who served as a staff surgeon with the 31st Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad last year, identified 174 patients there in 2004 whose injuries benefited - or could have benefited - from tourniquets. And as the year progressed and modern tourniquets became increasingly common, he said, it became clear the devices were saving lives.

"It was my experience that if they came in with an extremity wound and they had a tourniquet on, they had a fighting chance," said Beekley, stressing that his data offered only a snapshot and could not be considered typical, absent more information from other hospitals. "If they didn't have a tourniquet, or they had a tourniquet that wasn't effective, they died."

Beekley, who now serves as a trauma specialist at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., recalled the cases of two soldiers who might have benefited if proper tourniquets had been used - one who arrived at the hospital with makeshift tourniquets that failed, and another with a double amputation and no tourniquets. Both soldiers died.

"I don't know what other injuries they might have had, so I can't say whether a good tourniquet would have made the difference," Beekley said. "But soldiers who came in with tourniquets on, even if they were hard to resuscitate, they generally were able to survive."

Military medical specialists say the new tourniquet distribution campaign has created another challenge: persuading service members to use them. Many soldiers in the combat zones, even as they receive shipments of new tourniquets with instructions to carry them on their uniforms, have been trained for years that tourniquets are dangerous, often lead to amputation and should only be used as a last resort.

The Army has since changed its guidelines for tourniquet use. Now it tells soldiers to use them quickly and liberally to control bleeding on the battlefield. And it tells soldiers to use the modern, ready-made tourniquets rather than improvising with a belt or scarf, an age-old technique that has proven impractical and sometimes fatal in modern combat.

A new Basic Combat Training program on tourniquet use was implemented this month. Division surgeons are being sent a training package to distribute throughout their units.

And the Army also is scrambling to make sure its new outlook on tourniquet use spreads throughout Iraq and Afghanistan as fast as the devices themselves.

"We even have doctors out there who've been trained that the tourniquet is the absolute last course of treatment," said Maj. Jeffrey Cain, a doctor who works at the Army's school for combat medics at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. "We have to change that quickly."

The confusion runs to the very top of the service. After The Sun's report in March, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey sent the newspaper a letter noting that every soldier carries "an individual pressure dressing that doubles as a tourniquet."

Yet military surgeons have published papers for more than two years saying that standard-issue dressings do not make effective tourniquets, and the Ace-like "Israeli bandage" carried by some soldiers failed a tourniquet test at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research several years ago.

The Army's Institute of Surgical Research conducted a test of nine tourniquets last year, all of them commercially made specifically to stop bleeding from extremity wounds, and found that only three worked reliably.

"This research is absolutely critical to our deployed soldiers, because having an ineffective tourniquet is just as bad as not having one at all," Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army surgeon general, said in testimony before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

Army Rangers and other special operations troops have carried modern tourniquets for several years, a response to the lessons learned in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, where several Rangers bled to death.

A committee of surgeons and medical specialists throughout the armed services issued a report in February 2003 calling for every American soldier in combat to carry a tourniquet, and in December 2003 that report was published as a chapter in a book sanctioned by the American College of Surgeons to train trauma specialists.

In July 2004 the Army's Institute of Surgical Research issued its own recommendation that every soldier in the Army carry a modern tourniquet, and the U.S. Central Command issued a directive in January saying every soldier deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan should carry one.

Despite those directives, compliance was left to individual units, and tourniquets have only now been designated a standard-issue item by the Army.

The number of tourniquets in the war zones has increased the past two years, but many of the roughly 170,000 soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan do not have one.

First Lt. Jeremy B. Hyldahl, medical supply officer for the Army's 1st Infantry Division, estimates he bought about 80,000 tourniquets from a North Carolina manufacturer during a recent one-year tour in Iraq, and says he was hounded by Navy, Air Force and civilian units once word spread that he could procure the devices.

He also estimates that more than half of those tourniquets are no longer in Iraq, having been carried home by people rotating out of the combat zone.

Kiley told the congressional committee last month that 112,697 of the Army's approved tourniquets had been shipped to Iraq before the latest delivery effort began. He did not speculate how many are still there, but he said any shortages will soon be resolved.

"Every soldier in Iraq will have a tourniquet by the end of June or sooner," Kiley told a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. "And every soldier in the Army will receive a tourniquet as part of their new first aid kit, beginning this fall."


05-02-05, 10:23 AM
Greensboro native has churchgoers dancing worries away
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 20054283221
Story by Sgt. Juan Vara

AL ASAD, Iraq (April 28, 2005) -- There aren’t many opportunities for service members here to remove themselves from the stressors of war. One Marine assigned to the headquarters squadron of Marine Aircraft Group 26 (Reinforced) wants to make a difference.

Lance Cpl. Troy M. Gray, an administrative clerk on his first tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, uses his down time and passion for dance to lead a dance ministry for the gospel chapel services.

“The dance ministry is about praising, worshiping and keeping people in the spirit,” said Gray. “The dancers act out the lyrics of the song and people relate more to that because it serves as a visual aid.”

Gray’s love for dance is inspired by the late Alvin Ailey, a dancer and choreographer, and the late Gregory Hines, a dancer, actor, choreographer, and performer.

Originally from Greensboro, N.C., Gray started dancing at age seven and has led and been part of several dance groups at churches in the United States. “I started 13 years ago and I’ve been dancing ever since.”

Eight female Marines and soldiers comprise the group under Gray’s direction, but he said all service members, male or female, are welcome to be part of it. “There are no requirements; if you feel the spirit come and join us,” he said.

The dance ministry falls under and umbrella of the ministry of arts, which is part of the gospel chapel services, and performs the second and last Sundays of the month.

According to Gray, it gives the members of the dance group a chance to show their passion for God and takes their minds off some of the issues they might be going through.

“Let’s say they had a bad day at work,” said Gray. “Dance practice frees their mind. They’re in a Christian environment and they’re not worrying about the rest of the day. It’s just them, music and their connection with God.”

The dance ministry also benefits some of the service members here by offering them something else to look forward to when they attend church services.

“When most people go to church they mostly see people singing,” said Gray. “Here, not only do they get the word and praise-singing, they also get praise-dancing. This is the total package.”

Army Capt. William Butler, protestant chaplain assigned to the 1297th Corps Support Battalion here, said the dance ministry and the word of God also give service members here a connection with home.

“Worship not only provides a way for the people to exercise their first amendment right, it balances and encourages the morale of the troops,” said the Bel Air, Md., native. “We received what Lance Corporal Gray offered us with open arms.”

Gray said he’s also noticed the number of service members in church increase as the number of participants in the dance group grows.

“The dance group members have friends who they invite to see them dance,” said Gray. “Once they come and hear the word, they like what they hear and tend to come back.”

Butler said that in his almost 30 years in the military he never saw service members from different armed forces have such a strong relationship like that of the members of the dance group.

“To see soldiers and Marines come together is amazing,” he said. “Lance Corporal Gray and our chapel services are helping with that.”

Chief Warrant Officer Charles D. Willis, systems planning engineer officer with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28, said Gray’s dedication and professionalism to leading the dance ministry are admirable.

“Lance Corporal Gray works at Marine Aircraft Group 26 and has several other duties,” said Willis, minister of arts originally from Clarksville, Tenn. “Even though he has several other things to do he still coordinates times to practice and when he shows up he’s very enthusiastic. Anybody else would be tired and decide to skip practice but Lance Corporal Gray’s perseverance is very inspiring.”

While there aren’t any schools for performing arts or dance clubs around here where service members with talent can show off their moves, the dance ministry gives them an opportunity to practice their skills while improving their relationship with God.

- For more information about the personnel reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at varaj@acemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil -


05-02-05, 10:30 AM
A journey from war to war
Time Asia Magazine
Monday, May. 02, 2005

Just before leaving for his second tour of duty in Iraq last September, Lance Corporal Victor R. Lu of the U.S. Marine Corps took his mother aside in their family home in east Los Angeles for a quiet conversation. The fourth of six children-and the first boy in the family-Lu, like many other young Americans, had enlisted in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. In the three years that had passed, the change in him was unmistakable. He had been an indifferent student, a bit of a troublemaker in a mischievous, harmless sort of way. But after 9/11, after he had joined the Marines, he had grown up in a hurry. In this conversation with his mother, he would acknowledge adulthood.

When he returned from this tour in Iraq, he told her, he would assume more responsibility as the man of the house; as the eldest son in a large family, that was his responsibility. His father was in his mid-60s, and after working up to three jobs at a time to support the family, he deserved a break. Days later, Victor's Marine unit, nicknamed "Havoc 2," shipped out of Camp Pendleton, California, destined for Fallujah. It was the last time his mother would see her son.

Every parent has fears when their sons or daughters go off to war. In the case of Xuong and Nu Lu, Victor's parents, those fears were shaped in part by their memories of another war that ended a generation ago. Like more than half a million of their countrymen, the Lus came to the U.S. as refugees from Vietnam, having fled their native Saigon with their two young children after the Communist government took power in 1975. They made their home in east Los Angeles and had four more children. Victor was born in the summer of 1982. As the family built a new life in the U.S., the memories of the war that wrenched them from their homeland receded, until they were rekindled when their son decided to become an American warrior.

It has been 30 years since the last helicopter fluttered off a Saigon rooftoop roof on April 30, 1975, the images of desperate Vietnamese clinging to the chopper's landing slats burned into both countries' consciousness. That moment marked the end of a 15-year debacle that claimed more than 50,000 American lives-and more than 1 million Vietnamese. For years, many Americans, like the Lus, have sought to forget the image of the U.S.'s ignominious retreat from Vietnam-but to the American military and political establishment, the legacy of that war has become steadily more haunting as the U.S. struggles to contain the insurgency in Iraq and design a successful "exit strategy" for another deeply controversial war. Vietnam and Iraq, in that sense, are inextricably linked. Critics of today's war point to the similarities with Vietnam-the flaws in the initial strategy, the bad intelligence about a shadowy enemy. To some, the seemingly intractable chaos in Iraq has raised fears that the U.S. may someday be forced to depart Baghdad the way it did Saigon in 1975. But to many other Americans, it is precisely the memory of that day that fuels a determination to stay in Iraq as long as it takes to avoid seeing history repeat itself.

For a handful of others, like the family of Victor R. Lu, the two wars have become bookends of tragedy, conflicts that upended their worlds forever. Xuong and his wife Nu lived in Saigon, and he worked as a skilled technician in a profitable machine shop. Like millions of other Vietnamese, the Lus are ethnic Chinese, and were residents of a part of Saigon known as Cholon, where many Vietnamese of Chinese descent had settled. Like Chinese diaspora the world over, the one in Saigon was tight knit, industrious and relatively prosperous. Even as the war in Vietnam intensified in the late '60s, Lu says, he was able to make a decent living. "We just tried to live, make the best of it," he says. "What else could we do?"

But even to those determined not to get involved, the reach of the war was inescapable. Xuong Lu did not escape the war's reach. His skill as a machinist meant that the South Vietnamese army asked him to go to combat zones to help repair critical equipment. He would be away sometimes for a month or more at a time, and occasionally witnessed heavy fighting. When her husband was away, Nu sold cigarettes on the streets of Saigon to support their two children. By 1974, Xuong's concerns about the war's course had grown. He had never thought the United States would leave without at least ensuring a viable South Vietnam. And like many in the large ethnic Chinese community in Saigon-which would provide the majority of the boat people fleeing to the U.S. after the war ended-he dreaded the idea of a Communist regime ever coming to power. "We had never thought about leaving," he says. But when the North rolled into Saigon, and the Americans beat a retreat, that changed.

Xuong's younger sister had fled almost immediately, and she eventually made her way to the U.S. She worked tirelessly to sponsor all of her siblings-eight in all-to emigrate. Xuong and Nu eventually left Vietnam in 1981, and found themselves in an entirely new world, speaking little English, but relieved to be free of the Communist regime in Vietnam. When the Lus got off a plane for the first time in the United States, in Seattle, the eldest sister, Nanci, then just a girl, remembers charity workers giving the entire family warm winter coats to ward off the unfamiliar chill of the Pacific Northwest. "I was only 7, but that's something I'll never forget." The Lu family had finally left the war behind.

When Victor Lu joined the Marines in the wake of 9/11, the Vietnam War, as far as he was concerned, was ancient history. If it ever entered his thoughts-as he worked out in order to lose enough weight to qualify as a Marine-no one in his family is aware of it. Friends say he was a highly motivated young man, keen to serve his country. His parents rarely talked about their own history at home, and it seemed of little concern to Victor.

Xuong Lu made sure, though, that his children embraced their Indochinese heritage. Victor did so with particular verve. He eagerly took up martial arts-winning a black belt in kung fu by the time he was 17-and delighted his father by participating in Chinese lion dances at local festivals in Los Angeles. As a teenager he'd got a Chinese warrior's tattoo on his left arm. A close grade-school friend, Arturo Fematt Jr., recalls that Victor tried to persuade him to get one, too. "I used to joke with him: 'Oh, man, you know I can't get one of those. I'm Mexican!'"


05-02-05, 10:30 AM
But as is often the case for the children of immigrants, Victor sometimes found himself torn between his ethnic heritage and his American identity. He slept through many of the Saturday-morning Chinese classes that his parents sent him to. When Victor said that he wished to pursue a career in the Los Angeles Police Department (L.A.P.D.), his father was pleased because, he said, it would set a good example for "others in the Indochinese community.'' Slightly annoyed, Victor replied, "Dad, we're Americans."

Like most Americans, Victor was enraged by the attacks on New York and Washington, and quickly shifted his desire to serve from the L.A.P.D. to the Marine Corps. The U.S. military draws heavily from the families of first-generation immigrants. Many Vietnamese Americans in particular are fiercely patriotic, grateful that the country took them in and let them be in the wake of the war. An estimated 200 Vietnamese-American military personnel have served in Iraq to date. When Victor decided to enlist in 2001, his parents and his family supported his choice without hesitation. In early June 2003, Victor Lu headed for his first tour in Iraq.

During the summer of 2003, the insurgency had not really begun in earnest, and Victor's time there was quiet. His unit, the so-called 3/5, part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, was based in Diwaniyah, and during its three-month tour was in only one firefight. The highlight for him came when an angry Iraqi attacked the 3/5's unit commander with a knife. At 1.9 m and well over 90 kg, Victor stopped the assault, then lifted the assailant overhead and dumped him into a nearby river. "He was an incredibly strong dude," says Derrick (Doc) Griffin, who served in Lu's unit.

When Victor returned home three months later, his parents were thrilled—and privately hoped he would not have to go back. The Lus were so elated that they even threw a celebratory barbecue in the small backyard of their home in a pouring rainstorm. For the next year, as Victor trained with his unit at Camp Pendleton just north of San Diego and the insurgency in Iraq intensified, the specter of the U.S.'s failures in Vietnam was not something that anyone in the family would discuss. Victor knew he was going back to Iraq—he told his family, and that was the end of it. "It's not something that my parents would ever talk about," says Nanci. "They were supporting Victor. That is what they saw as their role."

More than ever, Victor was true blue, relishing the job that lay ahead. At a party just before he left, recalls neighborhood friend Fematt, Victor told him he believed in the idealistic justification for the Iraq war. "We're bringing freedom to people who deserve it," he told Fematt.

Victor's parents concede their concern about his well-being had only escalated as the fighting intensified in Iraq. His mother, Fematt says, was particularly upset. But Victor's father says their worries were not rooted in the past, in the memory of the war that ravaged the country in which he had been born. It was, simply, the love of a mother and father for their son. "Victor was happy, we could see that. He loved the Marines. But, of course, we were concerned for him."

On Sept. 11, 2004, Havoc 2 headed back to Iraq. By the first week of November, the unit had mustered outside Fallujah, readying for one of the most pivotal—and most lethal—battles of the war. Victor's buddies had taken to calling him "Buddha"—a big, gentle Asian presence with god-like strength. He liked the nickname and scribbled it on the back of his Kevlar vest.

On Nov. 13, Havoc 2 was clearing out one of the most heavily defended areas of Fallujah. At the second house they entered early that morning, Victor used his bulk and enormous strength as a battering ram, knocking in a front door that was locked. Just as he did, three Iraqi insurgents inside opened fire. Before he could get a shot off in return, Victor was hit with eight or nine rounds. He fell at the feet of his close friend Griffin, who returned fire and tossed a fragmentation grenade in defense. Two other Marines joined in, killing the insurgents, and Griffin started administering first aid to his friend. Within 30 seconds a humvee had come to get Victor to a medevac. "I knew it was bad," says Griffin.

The next day, at their base outside Fallujah, his Havoc 2 comrades nailed together a small wooden cross and stuck it into the sun-baked dirt. They placed Victor's helmet on top, and wrote on the cross simply, IN MEMORY OF VICTOR LU. REST IN PEACE.

The Lus know all the questions that still swirl over America's war in Iraq; they know that its harshest critics believe it is Vietnam all over again. The legacy of this war—for Iraq, the Middle East and the United States—still hangs in the balance. Devastated by the loss of their son, they say they do not question the cause for which he gave his life. Having migrated from Vietnam a quarter-century ago only to lose their eldest son in Iraq, the Lus believe the best outcome would be an Iraq that works—a country better than it was under Saddam Hussein. And if that requires U.S. troops to be there a while longer, so be it. That would make Iraq different from Vietnam.

For the Lu family, this is not a political position—Xuong insists he has never had any interest in politics, either in Vietnam or in the U.S. It is, instead, a deeply emotional one, the outcome that their son had wanted. "We don't view Victor's life as a tragedy, because he died doing what he wanted to do," his father says. "His life just ended too soon, because he had much more to do." As his wife Nu quietly weeps, Xuong Lu says, "We are very sad now, but still so proud of our son. He was a very good American boy."


05-02-05, 11:38 AM
Hamill reflects on life after Iraq

By Kathy Hanrahan
The Associated Press

Thomas Hamill, whose dash to freedom from captivity in Iraq prompted a Mississippi lawmaker to dub him a "super hero for country boys," still drives the same 1995 white Dodge pickup truck, despite its lack of air conditioning.

"I will keep it until the wheels fall off," Hamill said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Life has changed for the former truck driver in the year since his capture during a bloody April 9, 2004, ambush near Baghdad International Airport. The farmer turned truck driver has co-authored a book of his experiences and is on the speaking circuit.

Hamill, 44, of Macon, was employed by KBR, a subsidiary of Houston-based Halliburton, when the ambush occurred. Five others in the convoy died and Hamill was shot in the arm before his capture.

Last Monday marked the year anniversary of Hamill's escape after 24 days in captivity.

Hamill's book, "Escape In Iraq: The Thomas Hamill Story" was released in October. Co-authored by Mississippi resident Paul Brown, the book chronicles his captivity, escape and return to his hometown in east Mississippi.

Brown said Hamill wrestled with the idea of writing a book for more than six weeks.

"The reason he decided to do it was because he had so many people asking him to. He got thousands of letters of people wanting him to tell his story because they had heard a little about it through the media and wanted to hear the full story," Brown said.

Brown and Hamill continue to tour the country in support of the book.

"We've seen big grown men's knees buckle, them collapse right there and just put their head on Tommy's shoulder. They are very touched by what they have read," Brown said.

Being a published author does not guarantee a multimillion dollar profit, Hamill says.

"I am not Bill Clinton. I didn't get a $5 million advance," Hamill said.

Hamill said any money he makes from book sales will go to a college fund for his children, Thomas, 15, and Tori, 13.

Right now, Hamill said he can afford to send maybe one of his children to college.

"A lot of people think I am going to get rich off of this book. That would be nice," Hamill said. "I am still going to have to go out there and work and sweat."

Hamill purchased his farm in 1994 from his dad and uncle. Since then he worked as an independent truck driver to make ends meet.

Though his farm was in debt at the time he took the job to work in Iraq, Hamill said that he didn't go overseas for the money.

"I wanted to be a part of the Vietnam War, but it ended before I got old enough to join and then I couldn't join anyway," Hamill said.

As a teenager Hamill tried to enlist in the Marines, but was turned down because he suffered from seizures.

So instead of fighting on the front lines, Hamill decided to help the United States the only way he knew how — drive a truck.

"I could have sold everything on this farm and paid my farm completely off and not had to go over there, but I didn't want to do that," Hamill said.

Instead Hamill sold his cattle two years ago and kept his equipment and the land, knowing that one day he would return to life as a dairy farmer.

Today, Hamill has purchased a new tractor and a used hay baler to go along with his decades-old farm equipment. He hopes to buy cattle by the end of the year.


05-02-05, 02:38 PM
Hanging by thread Twelve Marines receive fast rope certification <br />
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by Lance Cpl. Brandon R. Holgersen <br />
Marine Corps Base Camp Butler <br />
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05-02-05, 02:48 PM
Tank driver sees share of combat
(Published Monday, May 2, 2005 10:48:59 AM CDT)
By Mike DuPre'
Gazette Staff

Lance Cpl. Derrick Farris' first mission was his worst.

Farris, a graduate of Janesville Parker High School, drives an M1A1 Abrams tank for the Marine Corps.

His platoon of four tanks and 22 men was stationed in Husaybah, one of four cities grouped on the Euphrates River right next to the Syrian border.

From Sept. 20 to April 3, "we were the only tank platoon in the area we were at. It was huge," Farris said.

He and his comrades, the only tankers in the area, escorted convoys for the first three months of their tour in Iraq.

"On my first mission, I was attacked. We got there one day; the next day we had a mission," Farris said.

His and another tank were leading a convoy of 27 vehicles during the day.

"It was a brand new route. It was open desert mostly."

The convoy skirted two cities and was approaching its destination, a camp in Husaybah.

"They call it the Intersection of Death," he said.

The lead tank crew stopped to reconnoiter and got slammed by an anti-tank rocket.

"It hit the tank commander's hatch and detonated in the hatch. The explosion in the hatch created shrapnel," Farris said

The shrapnel shredded the tank's loader whose hatch is forward and a little left of the tank commander's. Besides killing the loader, the blast shattered the tank commander's arm and badly burned his face and one hand.

"The skin on his hand was gone so they sewed his hand to his stomach in Germany to skin-graft it. … I had to clean out the tank," Farris said. "It was horrible. It seemed like there were gallons of blood. It was terrible."

Over the next six-plus months of convoy escorts, security duty and backing up raids, his platoon suffered only one more casualty-a shrapnel wound to the communications man on the platoon's recovery vehicle.

Meanwhile, the rest of Alpha Company 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division was fighting in Fallujah.

"They were right in the middle of the whole run through the city," Farris said.

But, he added, being in a M1A1 Abrams tank is one of the safest places a Marine can be in combat.

A Harrier jet dropped a 2,000-pound bomb on an insurgent house about 500 yards from Farris' tank.

"I barely heard it. I asked what it was," he said.

Of another harrowing experience, Farris said: "You don't even feel it, don't even hear it when you hit a mine. I saw it, a flash. You see dirt fly 20 feet in the air.

"It knocked a track off. We got towed back."

Mechanical problems kept more tanks out of action than Iraqi insurgents.

"Right when we got there, there were only two tanks working. They were hand-me-down tanks," Farris said. "It was terrible. The platoon sergeant's tank was sitting for three months before we even got there. They told us it was unfixable."

That was until Farris' platoon got there.

"We had some really good mechanics," he said.

Insurgents appeared to respect the tanks. For five straight days, military police were attacked as they drove down a particular street in a convoy of Humvees.

"We go down the street the next day and don't see anybody," Farris said. "We only got to shoot one time."

After being shot at twice by mortars, the Marines spotted men with mortar tubes jumping from a large truck.

'The lieutenant asked for clearance to fire. We sent two rounds. We missed with the first and hit with the second. There were six killed from that one hit," Farris said.

He did not have much extensive contact with Iraqis.

"I feel bad for them because of the life they had," Farris said. "We did everything we could to keep things working, like water."

As for the war, he said: "It would have happened eventually. It's been a long time coming, and it should have been taken care of the first time."


05-02-05, 02:49 PM
Senator to push bill allowing flags to fly
PUBLISHED: May 2, 2005
By Jameson Cook
Macomb Daily Staff Writer

A state senator will seek passage of a new law requiring condominium associations to allow military service flags to be displayed.

"I feel strongly that anyone should be able to express their patriotism in this way and feel compelled to open up the (state) Condominium Association Act," said state Sen. Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond Township. "At this point, we need to encourage patriotism and rallying around our troops."

Sanborn, who said he hopes to have the bill introduced by summer and passed by the end of the year, is responding to a request from Macomb Township resident John O'Brien, who sued the Windermere Commons I Association for citing him for displaying his Marine Corps flag.

"I'm outraged that he wasn't allowed to fly the flag," Sanborn said. "He called our office and asked for help, and I was glad to help."

O'Brien, 63, a Marine veteran, went to Macomb Circuit Court to fight the association's citations for violating its bylaws by displaying the flag at the side of his garage door. He said he will appeal to the state Court of Appeals if necessary.

Macomb County Circuit Judge Edward Servitto dismissed O'Brien's lawsuit. Servitto said in his ruling that the law allows the association to prohibit the flag. Condominium association regulations have been upheld in court cases.

Sanborn's bill would allow flags representing the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard to be displayed.

O'Brien praised Sanborn for his effort because while he has received much verbal and written support, little tangible help has come. He and the Macomb County Chapter of the Marine League have raised about $1,400 for his defense fund. O'Brien said that is less than half of his current legal bill.

"People are taking notice of this, but he's about the only one who has been willing to take this up," O'Brien said.

Joe Wauldron, commander of the Macomb Marine League, said his group recently mailed letters to Marine Leagues in all 50 states seeking support -- "political, financial, letter-writing, whatever it takes," Wauldron said.

He called the banning of the flag "a slap in the face" to Marines.

Windermere representatives have said the ban on service flags doesn't mean the association is unpatriotic. Allowing the flag could lead to other legal problems, they said.

Sanborn said he expects the proposal to gain overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats. "Patriotism isn't a partisan issue," he said.

Sanborn, a member of the Base Council at Selfridge Air National Base, said he plans to have military members from the base and O'Brien testify in support of the bill.


05-02-05, 02:56 PM
May 02, 2005

High court to review colleges’ bar on recruiters

By Hope Yen
Associated Press

The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider whether colleges and universities may bar military recruiters from their campuses without fear of losing federal funds.
Justices will review a lower court ruling in favor of 25 law schools that restricted recruiters in protest of the Pentagon’s policy of excluding openly gay people from military service.

That ruling, by the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, invalidated a 1994 federal law requiring law schools to give the military full access or else lose their federal funding. The appeals court ruled that the law infringed on law schools’ free speech rights.

The Supreme Court will hear the case during its next term, which begins in October.

The law, known as the Solomon Amendment, has been controversial for law schools that have nondiscrimination policies barring any recruiter — government or private — from campus if the organization unfairly bases hiring on race, gender or sexual orientation.

“The Solomon Amendment forces the law school to violate its own policy and actively support military recruiters who come onto campus to engage in the very discriminatory hiring practices that the law school condemns,” wrote the law school coalition, known as the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights.

The Bush administration countered in court filings that equal access to campuses for recruiting is necessary to fill the military’s legal ranks “in a time of war.” It said the law does not violate free speech rights because schools are free to protest so long as they are willing to forgo federal research dollars, which amount to hundreds of millions at some schools.

“The Solomon Amendment reflects Congress’ judgment that a crucial component of an effective military recruitment program is equal access to college and university campuses,” acting Solicitor General Paul Clement wrote.

A three-judge panel of the 3rd Circuit disagreed. It voted 2-1 to bar enforcement of the Solomon Amendment pending a full trial because of a “reasonable likelihood” the law would be found unconstitutional.

In its decision, the 3rd Circuit cited a 2000 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the Boy Scouts to exclude gay scoutmasters. Just as the Scouts have a right to exclude gays based on a First Amendment right of expression, so too may law schools bar groups they consider discriminatory, the 3rd Circuit said.

The Bush administration’s appeal has drawn the backing of Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., some law students and the Mountain States Legal Foundation, who argued in a friend-of-the-court filing that the court should defer to Congress on this matter.

In February, the House passed a nonbinding resolution on a 327-84 vote that expressed support for the law, which also denies defense-related funding to universities that don’t provide ROTC programs.

When the Solomon Amendment was originally passed in 1994, many law schools opted to give military recruiters limited access. Harvard allowed the military on campus but declined to volunteer its career placement staff to arrange interviews. The University of Southern California, meanwhile, allowed recruiters to interview but didn’t invite them to school-sponsored job fairs off campus.

After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Pentagon began strictly enforcing the measure, demanding full recruitment access to campuses and threatening to pull funding if schools didn’t comply. In summer 2003, Congress amended the Solomon Amendment to require equal access.

Since then, law schools have grudgingly complied but also filed lawsuits challenging the law. Earlier this year, a U.S. district judge in Bridgeport, Conn., ruled Yale Law School had a right to bar military recruiters from its job interview program, and similar cases were pending elsewhere.

The Supreme Court case is Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, 04-1152. Arguments will be heard in the court’s next term beginning in October.


05-02-05, 04:13 PM
Teacher helped Marine add up to something

Carl Mundy Jr. is a man who has known presidents and power brokers around the world, but he hasn't forgotten a Montgomery mathematics teacher who helped him pass a tough course.

Her name was, as he likes to call her, "Miss Margaret Gorrie" -- a woman who became an inspiration for the Sidney Lanier High School senior and future commandant of the Marine Corps.

Gorrie taught trigonometry. For Mundy, it might as well have been brain surgery when he began the course.

One day after the end of his first semester in 1953, Mundy received a note from his teacher asking him to come see her. He couldn't imagine what he might have done, but he knew he wasn't about to get a gold star.

"She said 'Young man, you failed trigonometry,'" Mundy recalled. "Then she said, 'I want you to go home tonight, sit down and write me a letter and tell me why you failed trigonometry.'"

Not long after she received the letter, Gorrie called him back into her office and said, "You failed trigonometry, but you write and express yourself very well. You and I are going to pass it together."

He not only passed trig, he also got a lesson in perseverance from a woman who wouldn't allow him to fail. It would serve him well in college and, later, in the jungles of Vietnam, where he earned his combat spurs and picked up a Purple Heart.

He got his degree from Auburn University in 1957 and then joined the Marine Corps -- beginning as a private and rising to the highest rank in the Corps.

Mundy is one of only 33 commandants in the Corps' 229-year history. This is quite an achievement, since it takes diplomatic skills as well as a good combat record to become commandant. Chesty Puller, who earned five Navy Crosses and was perhaps the most famous Marine of them all, never made it.

As a one-time Marine private myself, I looked forward to the opportunity to interview Mundy on Friday at the unveiling of the War Dog Memorial at AU's Veterinary College.

Instead of wearing his medal-bedecked Leatherneck dress blue uniform, Mundy wore a conservative business suit. He did stick a small gold globe and anchor pin -- the Corps' symbol -- into his lapel.

Marines past and present were on hand to greet him. Most wore the Corps' colors -- red and gold -- and couldn't wait to shake his hand. It isn't every day that former privates can chat with a former commandant, even one who's been retired for a decade.

Mundy's appearance as keynote speaker for the unveiling of the monument coincided with a painful memory for Americans old enough to remember the fall of Saigon in April of 1975.

The year before, he was a battalion commander based on Okinawa and informed that his unit might be called on to evacuate Americans from the South Vietnamese capital.

It finally happened, but he wasn't directly involved. He watched along with the rest of the country as people frantically boarded helicopters atop the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. It was one of the darkest days in American history.

"Vietnam is not a hang-head story for me," he said, moments before he gave his speech. "For me, Vietnam provided memories of great pride. The American forces have not gotten the credit they deserved for the way they conducted themselves."

During the 1980s, as a major general, Mundy said he was considered for the presidency of his alma mater.

"I got a letter one time saying 'Would you consider putting your name in the hat to be the president of Auburn?'" he said. "I said 'Listen, anybody that wanted to consider me to be an educator should go check my transcript of grades.'"

Mundy may not have graduated magna cum laude, but he surpassed most of his college classmates by becoming one of America's most important military leaders.

"I was 'magna, thank you, Lordy,' when I got out of here," laughed Mundy, who will turn 70 in July.

Several years after Auburn University expressed an interest in him, Mundy was among a select group of teachers and graduates honored at Lanier High School for their accomplishments.

Sharing the stage with him was another honoree -- Miss Margaret Gorrie.


Retired Marine Gen. Carl Mundy Jr. chats with Marine Sgt. Robert Neman on Friday at Auburn University before a ceremony honoring World War II dogs and their handlers.
-- Alvin Benn Advertiser


05-02-05, 05:24 PM
May 02, 2005

Corps misses recruiting goal for fourth straight month

By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

Recruiters missed their contracting goal for April, marking the fourth month in a row the Corps has fallen short.
The Corps missed its April mission by 260 contracts, meeting 91 percent of its goal to enlist 2,971 recruits, according to Maj. Dave Griesmer, a spokesman for Recruiting Command in Quantico Va.

The shortage in April adds to the deficit the Corps has been accumulating since January, when it missed its contracting goal for the first time in nearly a decade. The April number marked the largest monthly deficit so far in 2005.

Overall, the Corps has met 98 percent of its contracting goal since Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, enlisting 20,817, with a goal of 21,258.

Officials maintain that the months between February and May are normally lean on recruiting because applicants are still attending school and some don’t like to ship until summer. Typically, however, recruiters make their contracting goal anyway.

The contracting goal is a “self-imposed, flexible planning target” that reflects the enlistees who will ship to boot camp within 12 months of enlisting, Griesmer said.

That goal is different from the shipping goal, which recruiting officials say is far more important. The shipping goal is the number of recruits who actually show up at boot camp each month. Recruiters have exceeded that goal by 2 percent, shipping 102 percent, or 18,043 recruits.

“This is the recruiting measure that most directly reflects the current status of recruiting,” Griesmer said.

While the Marine Corps struggles to make its contracting goal, the Army is in far worse shape. Army recruiting officials acknowledged recently that they are missing both their monthly contracting and shipping goals. Army statistics for April were unavailable as of May 2.

The Army met just 68 percent of its shipping goal for March for the active Army subset of its overall mission, which includes the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard.


05-02-05, 06:16 PM
Japan may propose that Okinawa-based U.S. Marines hold exercises in Philippines
Japan may propose that a military training center in the Philippines be used for exercises by U.S. Marines based on a Japanese island to ease tensions there, the Philippine defense minister said Monday.

Some 20,000 U.S. Marines are based on Japan's southern island of Okinawa. Construction of a live-fire training range there and the crash last year of a U.S. Marine helicopter near a residential area have heightened concerns about the American presence on the island.

Defense Minister Avelino Cruz said he discussed the issue with his Japanese counterpart, Yoshinori Ono, at the Philippine defense department Monday.

Cruz said Ono told him that "if there are areas in the region where there can be expanded, joint military exercises, it would alleviate (the) situation in Okinawa."

"They are looking for areas where military exercises involving the Marines in Okinawa can be conducted," Cruz said.

Cruz said he told Ono that the Philippines is building a training center inside the army's Fort Magsaysay camp in northern Nueva Ecija province which could be used for joint Philippine-U.S. exercises.

But he clarified that Japan had not made a specific request and that the matter was discussed "on a general level."

"Japan is a close ally of the U.S., we are a close ally of the U.S., so it may be good sometimes for the three parties to discuss and exchange views on areas where we can have cooperation," Cruz added.

The U.S. military has come under increasing pressure to streamline its presence in Okinawa, and is undergoing a gradual but massive realignment of troops in Asia.

Last August, a Marine helicopter grazed a building at Okinawa International University during a training flight and crash-landed in the campus and caught fire. The three crew were injured, but no one else was hurt.

Many Okinawans want the Status of Forces Agreement _ the rules governing the U.S. military in Japan _ to be revised, and have sought the suspension of construction of an Army live-fire training complex on the island.

Philippine and U.S. troops hold more than a dozen joint military exercises yearly. The drills are allowed under a Mutual Defense Treaty and another agreement that authorizes temporary visits of U.S. troops to the Philippines, a former U.S. colony.


05-02-05, 06:57 PM
Despite hardships of war, many soldiers reenlist
By Mark Sappenfield
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

SANTA ROSA, CALIF. - In Iraq, there were the days that ran together in a never-ending stream of patrols, mission after mission that left him cursing the superiors who sent him out into the teeth of the insurgency. There were the nights when mortars crashed nearby, close enough to smell the sulfur. And there was the question that went unanswered every time a friend was ripped by shrapnel or cut down in an ambush: Why are we fighting this war?

Yet when the time came for Sgt. Jason Waits to decide what he would do when his tour in the Army National Guard ended, he barely paused. Before he even left Iraq, Sergeant Waits reenlisted. And if he is sent back, he "won't have a problem."

It is a glance at one of the most unexpected developments of the war in Iraq. Even as the conflict drags on, undermining recruiting efforts and testing the patience of the nation, American soldiers are so far continuing to reenlist at levels that surprise the Pentagon and pundits alike. To the head of the National Guard, this is the legacy of America's "next greatest generation": a band of soldiers more sophisticated than any before in history, which has been asked to adapt to a new style of warfare and often serve multiple tours - all as a volunteer force.

At a time when Army soldiers are under international scrutiny for roadside shootings and prison abuse, comparisons to the generation that landed on the shores of Normandy might seem curious, but they are more than mere rhetoric, analysts say. The American soldier's commitment to the cause in Iraq and Afghanistan has been historic and decisive, allowing the United States at least a measure of success in an engagement for which it was not prepared.

"The design of the all- volunteer force [after Vietnam] was to make this kind of [open-ended] commitment difficult," says Thomas Donnelly, a military expert at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "But there have been some extraordinary levels of motivation going on, in terms of serving the country in a time of crisis."

The motivation is different from what it was 60 years ago, to be sure. The clear menace of the Axis powers has been replaced by the specter of terrorism, as indefinable as it is dangerous. Today's soldiers are more likely to patrol an Iraqi neighborhood in an armored Humvee than to take a far-off hill at a huge loss of life. As a result, the shift in threat has meant a shift in national response - while nearly 1 in 10 Americans served in World War II, only about 1 in 500 is fighting the war on terror.

"To compare our generation to the World War II demographic would be grossly misleading," says Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.

But the task of this generation of soldiers, he says, is "every bit as demanding, and they're doing it as volunteers."

What is perhaps most significant is that they continue to volunteer. In a normal year, the Army National Guard expects 18 percent of its soldiers to leave because of retirement, injury, and death, or because they do not reenlist. This year, the attrition rate is only 18.9 percent. Meanwhile, reenlistment rates for the Army and Marines are either exceeding goals or are within a few percentage points of them. Some data even show that reenlistment rates are higher for units deployed overseas than for those that have remained at home.

In some ways, this is the first prolonged test of the all- volunteer military, so experts didn't know what to expect. But clearly, the response has exceeded expectations. "It's a little bit surprising, frankly," says Mr. Donnelly.

Particularly for the National Guard - not only because members of the Guard have to balance their military service with civilian lives, but also because the Guard was the first force called into action after Sept. 11, 2001, and has been continuously deployed since.

In the three years since he joined the California National Guard, Sgt. Dennis Sarla has already finished two deployments: one for guard duty at a chemical weapons plant in Tooele, Utah, and another for a one-year tour in Iraq.

Yet, like Waits, he reenlisted for another six years before he left the Middle East. For both, there is the understanding that six more years in the National Guard will move them closer to a military pension and a more secure retirement. There is also the $15,000 tax-free bonus that each will receive for reenlisting. But there is also something beyond a new truck or a refurbished kitchen - there is a sense of duty, a feeling of belonging, and a deep love of the job.

"I reenlisted not only for the retirement," says Sergeant Sarla, who spent eight years in the active Army before leaving in 1983 to raise three children, "but it is a way of life I like ... the discipline, the camaraderie."

"There is a satisfaction in putting on the uniform," adds Waits.

Sarla still can't explain the geopolitics that led A Company of the 579th Engineers to Iraq, where three members of his unit were killed. But he remembers the day the company returned home to Santa Rosa, Calif., accompanied by a police escort and greeted by throngs of well-wishers.

"Seeing little kids and old guys salute as we came back made me feel so good," he says. "It made me feel that I was doing something that was important and good for the world."

This is Lt. Gen. Steven Blum's "greatest generation." The chief of the National Guard Bureau has used the phrase repeatedly, and he is convinced that this generation of soldiers - especially members of the Guard and Reserve - are worthy of the title. Without their commitment, the war in Iraq would be all but impossible. Some 45 percent of the troops in Iraq are members of the Guard or Reserve, giving them an unprecedented share of the war effort.

Some, like Sergeant Sarla, joined after Sept. 11 and are motivated by it. Others, like Waits, left the active Army as the military shrank at the end of the cold war, lending the Guard and Reserve an invaluable core of experienced soldiers. The trends have created a unique Guard and Reserve, where many are willing and capable of taking on responsibilities that have traditionally fallen to the active services. In this conflict, that means adjusting to developments that seem to have caught the US by surprise.

Originally, the 579th was supposed to rebuild bridges and schools in Iraq - the sort of mission befitting an engineering corps. Instead, they spent the entire year as "international cops," Waits says, patrolling Iraqi roads and raiding houses where no one spoke a word of English. "The type of soldiering that's being done right now is PhD-level work," General Blum told Congress last month. "That man or woman has got to be a combat soldier in a moment's notice, and then the next minute he may be a goodwill ambassador, a social worker."

For now, American soldiers are adapting to the task. "This is the best trained set of soldiers we have ever sent to war," adds Blum in an interview. But some experts and military officials wonder if the military can sustain such retention levels, suggesting that dependence on the experience and commitment of the citizen soldier is a worrisome way to wage a war.

"I still think this is a potential point of failure," says Donnelly. "You can't expect people to do extraordinary things."


05-02-05, 09:23 PM
Anonymous honor
Pentagon releases disputed photos, but conceals faces

By Bryant Jordan
Times staff writer

The Pentagon on April 28 released more than 700 photographs of America’s war dead returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
But many of the images, released under the pressure of a yearlong Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, are as striking for what they don’t show as what they do.

In most photographs the faces of the troops accompanying the fallen and carrying the flag-draped coffins are blacked out.

Defense Department spokesman Col. Gary Keck said an “individual judgment” was made by the FOIA office to black out some faces and identifying information “to protect privacy and or security information.” Keck said he had no more information, while the FOIA office referred calls back to Defense Department public affairs.

Meredith Fuchs, general counsel for the National Security Archive, a Washington research institute that helped press the lawsuit which forced the photographs’ release, said she could not understand why the faces of so many troops were concealed.

“Frankly, I’ve always understood that soldiers consider it a great honor to participate in an honor guard ceremony, or to accompany a fallen soldier home,” she said. Fuchs said the Pentagon was not even consistent in the alterations. In some cases, the institute received identical photos — with faces blacked out in one and visible in another.

The FOIA request was made a year ago by Ralph Begleiter, a former CNN reporter now teaching at the University of Delaware, with the backing of the archive at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Begleiter could not be reached for comment, but in a statement released through the archive, he called the photos’ release “an important victory for the American people, for the families of troops killed in the line of duty during wartime, and for the honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. This significant decision by the Pentagon should make it difficult, if not impossible, for any U.S. government in the future to hide the human cost of war from the American people.”


05-03-05, 07:13 AM
Wounded Marine Home
POSTED: 8:57 p.m. MDT May 2, 2005

May 2, 2005 -- Friends and family packed the airport lobby to see Marine Sgt. Luis Aranda.

As we reported, U.S. Marine Sgt. Luis Aranda only had 18 more days left on his 4 year tour of duty when his unit suffered a mishap. Sgt. Aranda says his unit noticed a suspicious box on the side of the road.

Sgt. Luis Aranda- U.S Marines, "It was an explosive that went off, it had a gas tank attached to it, when it went off everything caught on fire."

He suffered 3rd degree burns over his right arm and leg and shrapnel wounds on his left arm. By he didn't let his injuries get in the way of his job.

Aranda, "For a few seconds I was disoriented, cuz of the blast. I didn't feel pain I was worried about getting my Marines out of the truck."

Margie Aranda- Aranda's Mother, "It's even harder when you're not expecting something like this. I figured he was 18 days from coming home, we expected the best."

Aranda's mother, Margie Aranda, says she's glad her son is home but it's still tough because she says he's not the son she sent away. Twenty-two year old Sgt. Aranda agrees he's changed but for the better.

Aranda, "Everything is taken for granted because when you don't have it, you want it. I realized that over there. You come back you appreciate everything."

His family says they feel lucky to have him home just knowing about all the other young soldiers who didn't make it.

Lori Esparza- Aranda's Godmother, "We're blessed, we've had other friends of his call us that others lost their lives out there, his a fighter , he's a hero for us."

After 30 days in El Paso, he'll go back to San Antonio to continue physical therapy. He'll be out of the military in the beginning of June.

He won't be resigning, he says he'd like to try out for the fire department when he gets out.


05-03-05, 07:14 AM
Men recall experiences with Joint Chiefs nominee
BY ROD STETZER rstetzer@chippewa.com
Monday, May 2, 2005 10:31 AM CDT

Jake Leinenkugel once thought Peter Pace would make a great commandant of the U.S. Marines Corps.

Perhaps he would. But, pending Senate approval, the man Leinenkugel once called Major Pace will be tackling an even tougher assignment.

Last month President George W. Bush nominated Gen. Peter Pace to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, succeeding Air Force Gen. Richard Myers. If confirmed, Pace will be the first Marine to become the principal military adviser to the president, the National Security Council and Defense Donald Rumsfield.

That's thrilling news for Leinenkugel and another former Marine, Fred Kuss.

"It's about time. The Marine Corps deserves that," said Kuss, who lives on Lake Wissota. Kuss retired in March 1986 as a Marine captain after 20 years and 23 days of service. "What's taken so long?"

"I never would have thought I would have seen the day," said Leinenkugel, president of Leinenkugel's Brewery in Chippewa Falls. "It's almost surreal."

Both Leinenkugel and Kuss recall the day when then Major Pace attended the ceremony in 1979 when Leinenkugel was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. Along with them at the Marines base in Quantico, Va. was then-Major Mike Patrow, the son of former Chippewa Falls resident Lt. Col. Leland "Pat" Patrow. Mike Patrow served 30 years in the Marines before retiring as a Marine colonel.

Kuss said it was easy to see that Pace was going places in the Marines.

"He was star material from way back when," Kuss said. "It couldn't happen to a better Marine."

Leinenkugel said Pace is a quality commander who cares deeply about the soldiers he oversees.

When Leinenkugel was stationed at Camp Pendleton, his then three-year-old son Matt had a problem with his ear. Leinenkugel thought the military doctors had not diagnosed Matt's problem correctly, and took the problem to Major Pace.

"I remember him immediately getting on the phone," Leinenkugel said, and Pace arranged for a specialist to exam the boy.

It turned out Matt had a tumor on his ear drum, and the tumor was removed. When he became a man, he carried on the family tradition of joining the Marines, serving for five years.

Another son, C.J., is serving at the Marine Corps base at 29 Palms in California.

Jake Leinenkugel remembers when he was a sergeant that Pace tried to guide him to become an officer. To do that, Pace would join Leinenkugel for runs three times a week.

Then there were the parties Pace would hold at his house for enlisted service members. "He did all the cooking," he said.

Three years ago Leinenkugel went to Washington to meet with now Gen. Pace, when he became the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Leinenkugel said he and others got to meet with Pace for over an hour.

Leinenkugel recalls telling Pace of his amazement an officer would hold parties for enlisted men. "Jake, isn't that what we're supposed to do?" Pace replied.

Leinenkugel said Pace has a big task ahead of him but he will excel at it.

"He's just a fine, fine person," Leinenkugel said.


05-03-05, 07:14 AM
Marines crash Mass, rile parishioners
By Melissa Pinion-Whitt, Staff Writer

RANCHO CUCAMONGA - To Aida Nordahl and some of her fellow parishioners, the strangers with shaved heads who showed up the past two Sundays at her church were up to no good.

But according to sheriff's deputies, the men who came to St.Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church were actually U.S. Marines looking for a buddy.

The confusion began April 24 during the Spanish Mass at the Banyan Avenue church. Three men walked in and sat down. Before the end of the service, they walked to the front of the congregation, stood facing parishioners in silence and then walked out of the church.

"They have short Marine haircuts, and someone perceives that they're skinheads, and that they were intimidating people," San Bernardino County sheriff's Sgt. Frank Gonzales said. "It turns out that was not the case, and they were very polite."

But for some members of the church who didn't know the men's military status, it was an unsettling experience, Nordahl said.

"I was just upset that they went inside the church and did this to us," she said. "It was very disrespectful."

Nordahl said she became more concerned when the men returned Sunday. The men sat in the church and talked to each other during the service.

Nordahl, who has been a member of the church about a year and a half, said she had not seen the men at the church before April 24.

Sheriff's deputies were called to the church after the men visited the second time, Gonzales said.

The men explained to deputies that they had just returned from Iraq and came to the church looking for a friend. When they couldn't find their friend April 24, they returned the following week.

The Rev. Patrick Kirsch said the matter has been resolved and that he explained the situation to parishioners. Between 400 to 500 people on average attend the Spanish Mass, Kirsch said.

"We don't want to make it more than it is," he said. "I was reassured by the police that (the men) wouldn't be back."

Melissa Pinion-Whitt can be reached by e-mail at m_pinion-whitt@dailybulletin.com or by phone at (909) 483-9378.


05-03-05, 07:15 AM
Marine back on the beat after Iraq
By Kristophere' Owens
The Beacon News
May 3, 2005

NAPERVILLE - Police officer Steve Woodham has experienced the best and the worst of war during his two years serving in Iraq, but he took comfort in knowing his family was taken care of at home.

In a letter the Marine staff sergeant wrote to his fellow police officers, Woodham thanked them for mowing the lawn and shoveling the snow at his Aurora home and for taking care of his wife, Casey, and their children.

"I tell people a lot that the situation may not be the best. The people you work with make it worthwhile," he said.

"For that, I'm a richer man."

Woodham was greeted by several dozen of his fellow officers and friends during his first day of work Monday. A large poster saying "Welcome home Woody" had messages of support written in black marker.

"This is great; it's really overwhelming," said Woodham, a 10-year veteran of the department. He told the group he wasn't a hero "by any stretch of the imagination," adding the heroes are still in Iraq.

"You're a hero when you put on the uniform," Naperville Police Chief David Dial said. He commended Woodham for the important work he did overseas.

Woodham served two stints in Iraq during the past two years. He was responsible for directing air and ground attacks in and above Fallujah. He returned to Camp Pendleton, a Marine base in California, in late February, and drove nonstop to Aurora on March 16 to pick up his wife and their newborn son.

Now Woodham has to adjust to changes in Naperville since he's been gone. Although the laws are the same, officers have been promoted and the city's landscape has changed.

Woodham said he didn't know other area Marines who were killed in Iraq - such as Sgt. David Caruso of Naperville and Lance Cpl. Hector Ramos of Aurora. With 140,000 troops in Iraq, it's hard to know every person, he said.

Despite spending two years away from family and friends, Woodham said he wouldn't hesitate returning to duty if he were called back. A Marine for the past 17 years and a reservist since 1991, Woodham said he'll continue serving until he retires.

"That's what I do - respond," he said.


05-03-05, 07:15 AM
One Marine pilot's body found
Tuesday, May 3, 2005 Posted: 0833 GMT (1633 HKT)

(CNN) -- The U.S. military early Tuesday found the body of a pilot from one of two missing Marine Corps F/A-18 jets that collided while flying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"The status of the second crew member is unknown at this time and search efforts continue," the military statement said.

The crew of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson lost contact with the planes about 10:10 p.m. Monday (2:10 p.m. ET), the military said earlier. According to the statement, there was no indication of hostile fire in the area at the time.

Navy officials told CNN they believe the jets collided with each other in bad weather during the routine mission.

The Boeing-built Hornet is an all-weather fight and attack aircraft that can carry either one- or two-person crews. The aircraft, with a price tag of $35 million and up, have been in service since the 1980s.

The Carl Vinson replaced the USS Harry S. Truman in the Persian Gulf on March 20 to support forces in Iraq.

The Navy says its eight operational nuclear-powered Nimitz-class carriers are the largest warships in the world, carrying about 85 aircraft each.

Late last year, Marine Corps officials said a sharp increase in deadly accidents involving Marine aircraft had forced a close look at possible causes. (Full story)

From October 2003 through September 2004, the Marines sustained 18 major accidents, including the deaths of 15 aviators and the loss of 21 helicopters and fighter planes.

The accidents included the collision of two Hornet fighters over the Atlantic Ocean and another collision of two Hornets over Oregon that killed the two pilots.

In September, a Marine pilot was rescued after ejecting from his F/A-18 jet just before it crashed during a training exercise in the Australian Outback.


05-03-05, 07:16 AM
Former Marine convicted of killing sailor in drive-by attack <br />
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- <br />
Associated Press <br />
<br />
SAN DIEGO - A Marine veteran of...

05-03-05, 07:16 AM
Maryland State Police Searching For Former Marines
May 3, 2005

The Maryland State Police Department is looking for a few good Marines -- former Marines, that is.

The state police training academy just recently signed up eight recruits who took advantage of the marine four life program.

Recruiters said marines serving in the Middle East often contact them about career opportunities when their tour of duty is over.


05-03-05, 07:50 AM
Battery A explodes on the Yuma scene
Submitted by: MCAS Yuma
Story Identification #: 200552195658
Story by Cpl. Giovanni Lobello

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. (April 28, 2005) -- Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division, provided ground support to aviation Marines during the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course at Siphon 8, which is located north of Nyland, Calif., at the Chocolate Mountain Gunnery Range.

This is the first time Battery A has participated in Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1's WTI course.

For each WTI, an artillery unit is required to participate and this year was Battery A's turn.

The artillery unit came equipped with four M-198 medium towed howitzers, which have the capability of shooting a projectile accurately up to 18 miles.

During WTI, Battery A practiced shooting both illumination and high explosive rounds.

"We help the Marines by providing suppressive fire on one target while the pilots focus on destroying another target," said 1st Lt. Robert Nelson, battery executive officer. "Normally we shoot an enemy (surface to air missile) site, so that way the SAM site is unable to engage the aircraft. After we bomb one target, we shoot illumination rounds at the aircraft's target, so they have an idea of where their target is."

"Even though we are here training, our job hasn't really changed much," said Cpl. Eric Fisette, gun three section chief, Battery A. "We normally perform battery shoots at (Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.,) which is what we've been doing here."

Battery A normally conducts a couple of missions a day, in which they shoot several high explosive and illumination rounds.

Because Battery A is filling a supporting role, they have some extra time to do other tasks required by the unit before they deploy to Iraq again later this year.

The unit has been able to do things they wouldn't normally do at Pendleton, said Fisette.

"We have done convoys, participated in an urban exercise in the Yuma community along with shooting our crew served weapons M-249 squad automatic weapon and the M-2 .50 caliber machine gun," said Nelson.

"Here the area is a lot less restrictive because there are not as many people here in our surroundings," said Nelson. "It's nice to be somewhere different because it gets boring to shoot at the same thing all the time."

During WTI, Battery A has been able to give its young Marines experience in the field.

"Training here has provided me a good opportunity because I've learned more here than when at Pendleton," said Pfc. Joseph Riviera, artillery cannoneer, Battery A. "I've learned what an assistant-gunner does, how to maintain the howitzer and how to set up fuses. We've gone on a couple patrols and I've learned what is expected while conducting a convoy."

Battery A stayed in Nyland until the end of WTI, April 23, before returning to Camp Pendleton.


05-03-05, 10:42 AM
Pic-n-Cut: Firefighters to protect those who serve
Submitted by: Marine Forces Pacific
Story Identification #: 200552195357
Story by Lance Cpl. R. Drew Hendricks

JAPANESE CULTURAL CENTER, Honolulu (May 2, 2005) -- Joanne C. Bustamante congratulates her boyfriend Jonathan David Parker with a well-deserved kiss.

“After four months of hard work I think he deserves it,” said Bustamante.

Parker was one of the 16 new federal firefighters who passed the Fire Recruit Training
Program, which qualifies recruits as level one and two federal firefighters. The program also trains the firefighters for hazardous material and emergency medical treatment qualifications.

Parker along with Lon Shiroma, another graduate of the FRTP, will be working at Station 16, which is responsible for all of Halawa Heights and Camp H.M. Smith.

“It’s an honor to protect the Marines. We get to protect them while their protecting us,” said Parker.

Firefighters maintain a close brotherhood just as the Marine Corps does, according to Shiroma.

“When your in the midst of chaos you have to be able to trust the guy next to you, I’m sure it’s the same way with the Marines,” said Parker.

“I’m looking forward to serving with the Marines,” Parker said, as a big smile crossed his face.


05-03-05, 10:50 AM
Survivors of war take fatal risks on roads

By Gregg Zoroya
May 3, 2005

LAKE JACKSON, Texas - Just three days home from the war in Iraq, Army Spc. Robert Tipp Jr., couldn't wait to open the throttle on his knobby-tired ATV.

"It was like he was in prison for a year, and the bird's free," Gail Tipp says of her only son, who returned in late March. "He was riding that four-wheeler as hard as he could."

Tipp's father, Robert Sr., agrees: "He thought that nothing could hurt him now."

There were no roadside bombs along that winding stretch of lane in this Gulf Coast town. Just a freedom that Tipp hadn't tasted for more than a year - and a sharp curve that he and his speeding ATV couldn't handle.

When he smashed, without a helmet, into the pavement on the evening of March 26, Robert Jr. - the 20-year-old his mother still called "Scooter" - suffered massive head injuries. He died hours later, on Easter morning.

Soldiers, many just back from the war, are being killed in vehicle accidents at a pace that has the Army alarmed. The fear is that soldiers' safe return from combat has left many feeling just as Tipp did: invincible. As a consequence, they drive too fast, sometimes under the influence of alcohol, and lose control of their cars, their trucks, their motorcycles or ATVs.

"We absolutely have a problem," says J.T. Coleman, spokesman for the Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker in Alabama, which is tracking the trend. "The kids come back and they want to live life to its fullest, to its wildest. They get a little bit of time to let their hair down, and they let their hair all the way down and do everything to excess. They drink to excess. They eat to excess. They party to excess."

And then, some drive.

The statistics underscore the problem. From October 2003 to September 2004, when troops first returned in large numbers from Iraq, 132 soldiers died in vehicle accidents - a 28% jump from the previous 12 months. Two-thirds of them were veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan.

The deaths continue. In the past seven months, 80 soldiers died in vehicle accidents - a 23% increase from the same period a year earlier. Four out of five were veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The numbers could be higher, but the statistics, tracked by Army safety officials at the Readiness Center, don't include soldiers who recently left the service, or those with the Army Reserve or National Guard who have just been deactivated.

The Marine Corps faces a similar problem. Three years ago, its rate of fatal vehicle accidents was almost double what the Army's is today. The rate dropped after the Marines added an eight-hour driving course to boot camp, but that drop flattened out when the Iraq war began.

Today, the Marine rate remains somewhat higher than the Army's. But the Army's rate is surging, and because the Army is much larger than the Marine Corps, it loses almost three times as many people to vehicle accidents.

The Army's rate also is troubling because, before the war, soldiers appeared to be safer drivers than civilians. Compared with other young adults, soldiers have more disciplined and regulated lifestyles. All are employed, and many are married and have children - factors that encourage responsible behavior. In fact, despite the surge, the Army's rate of vehicle-accident deaths - almost 20 per 100,000 this year - remains just below where the overall U.S. rate has stood for the past few years - about 22 per 100,000.

"Having said that, this is where we lose most of our people" in non-combat deaths, says Brig. Gen. Joseph Smith, commander of the Readiness Center. "And we're putting our resources on that."

Army and law enforcement officials are particularly concerned about the months ahead. Summer has traditionally been the most lethal season. In Fayetteville, N.C., just outside Fort Bragg, police Lt. Richard Bryant warns, "When warmer weather comes, we're going to see a big increase."

Fort Bragg, home to the war-hardened 82nd Airborne Division and Special Forces troops, saw vehicle accident deaths among soldiers based there rise from four in 2002 to six in 2003 to 10 last year.

Among them was Vincent Withers, 27 and a veteran of Iraq. Behind the wheel of a borrowed Pontiac Trans Am last June, police say, he told a passenger at a stop light just outside Fort Bragg: "Let's see what this thing can do before we hit the top of the hill."

The Trans Am reached 90 mph before Withers swerved to avoid another car, hit the median and launched the Trans Am into an oncoming car, police say. Withers and the driver of the other car, a father of two, were killed.

Smith, the Readiness Center commander, says the Army is moving aggressively to cut the death rate and to better understand the reasons behind it.

During the past year, the center has created a computer program in which soldiers fill out forms detailing personal travel plans. The program identifies travel risks, such as late-night driving, and allows supervisors to review plans and advise GIs on how to travel more safely. Other programs include an advanced-driver course for soldiers and a safe-driving ad campaign.

In recent weeks, Smith also has enlisted epidemiologists to investigate a link between the effects of war and stateside traffic fatalities. Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist who works with the Army on ways to reduce psychological damage from war, says combat has altered the behavior of soldiers home from Iraq, just as it did with Vietnam veterans.

Some return home, Shay says, with an air of invincibility. " 'I'm 20 years old. I've lived through firefights. Nothing can touch me,' " he says of their attitudes. "They feel like they have to live life on the edge, or it is too bland or colorless." Others "actively seek out danger." In the extreme, Shay says, that behavior becomes suicidal.

The life of Army Staff Sgt. David Rutledge Jr., 31, was in turmoil when he died Feb. 28 near Fort Drum, N.Y., where he was based. A veteran of Afghanistan, Rutledge was in the midst of a bitter divorce. His girlfriend was pregnant, and he faced the prospect of missing the child's birth because he was being sent to Iraq.

At the time of his death, Rutledge also was having episodes of paranoia and was taking antidepressant medication, says Detective Steven Cote of the Jefferson County (N.Y.) Sheriff's Department.

The night that he died, Rutledge couldn't get cash from an ATM or at two convenience stores. He jumped into his girlfriend's SUV and sped out of town at nearly 90 mph, Cote says. Moments later, he plowed into a parking lot full of new cars. He died instantly.

"He didn't lose control," Cote says. "He just went right straight through."

On a recent Sunday morning in Killeen, Texas, near the Army post at Fort Hood, Greg Anderson, an investigator with the Killeen Police Department, recites details about the latest traffic death of a soldier.

Staff Sgt. Brian Foster, 24, an Iraq war veteran, had crashed his motorcycle into a cedar bush along Westcliff Road around 4:30 that morning. He wasn't wearing a helmet. Foster is one of 12 soldiers from Fort Hood killed in vehicle accidents this year - and the second to die during that second weekend of April.

On a city map, Anderson traces from memory the courses of other fatal motorcycle accidents. Each ended horrifically, with a soldier catapulting himself into a car or onto the pavement.

"Had one down here on this end of Westcliff," Anderson says. "He was going too fast to make this turn, hit the curb, was launched off the bike right into a car - head first, no helmet. Had another soldier coming north on WS Young (Drive) … witnesses told us in excess of 130 mph when he hit the back end of a car."

Anderson grimly predicts a record year for traffic deaths in Killeen.

To caution soldiers, the Army erected billboards outside each Fort Hood entrance and displays car wrecks to underscore the message. On the billboards, lights flash red or amber if a soldier has died in an accident, or green if there's been no death in 30 days. Green lights haven't flashed since January.

Fort Hood, the Army's largest post, is home to the 4th Infantry and 1st Cavalry divisions. For the first time since the war in Iraq began, both divisions are back in town at the same time. Streets are clogged with gleaming new Ford Mustangs and Chevy Silverado pickups, and a profusion of high-speed racing bikes that soldiers call "crotch-rockets."

"We're selling out," says Mike Clark, sales manager for Texas Motor Sports in Killeen, where hot items are the Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R6 sport bikes. With muscular fairings and tiny windshields, the bikes go from 0 to 60 mph in less than four seconds and top out at about 160 mph. "They want something that goes fast and keeps that high up they had during the war," Clark says of the soldiers.

Along congested Rancier Avenue, soldiers pop wheelies or weave through traffic. On outlying roadways, some race.

One Sunday afternoon, as bikers congregate at Longbranch Park, Staff Sgt. Anthony Stewart roars up on a racing bike. He wears no helmet, a violation of Army regulations. Just weeks home from Iraq, Stewart, 31, shrugs. Sometimes he wears it. Sometimes he doesn't, he says. "You're not going to predict an accident," he reasons. "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen."

Nearby, members of a racing bike club, Chaos Ridaz, gather around a picnic table. Most are soldiers who have served overseas. Many are older, non-commissioned officers who try to mentor young GIs about driving responsibly. But even these veterans concede that speed fills some indescribable urge for excitement that they've felt since returning from war.

"The war changes you," says Staff Sgt. Gregory Dickerson, 31, club president and a soldier with the 4th Infantry Division, which will return to Iraq later this year. "Every day I was in Iraq, I had a chance of dying - 365 days. Now, when I make it home … you want to live."

Going fast, he says with a grin, is like "a drug - the newest crack out there."

From the Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Smith worries that the Army may not be able to stem the tide in traffic deaths by itself. It needs families and spouses to curb the reckless behavior of returning soldiers.

That's why the center is producing commercials in which friends and families talk graphically about what they could have done to save their loved ones.

In Lake Jackson, Gail and Robert Tipp do that every day. They are convinced that their son's time in Iraq contributed to his death - and that he died in service to his country, just like any of the more than 1,500 who have died in Iraq. Gail calls him a "casualty of war."

Gail Tipp, 49, a retired school bus driver, relives every moment of those last days with her son. "It was like he couldn't harness the energy he had," Gail says. "Everything was now. There was no waiting."

Robert Tipp, 51, a chemical plant operator, torments himself for not stopping his son from riding the ATV.

"Follow your instincts," he says. "If you've got a feeling that they're living too fast a lifestyle, even if it makes them mad, ****es them off, slow 'em down." The alternative - losing someone so quickly after a happy homecoming from war - is unbearable, he says.

Tipp remembers how he wept after seeing his son off to war. "He strapped that M-16 on his shoulder and he marched off. He looked like he was 10 years old.

"I thought, 'Nothing can be harder than this,' " the father recalls. "Boy, was I wrong."


05-03-05, 01:05 PM
Marines save baby at Camp Fallujah

Posted: May 3, 2005
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Glenn Marzano
© 2005 WorldNetDaily.com

One thing that's been lost by the media during the War on Terror in Iraq is the reporting of the good news and deeds Marines and soldiers. The old saying that if it bleeds it leads has held true with regard to news coming out here.

I'm an embedded photographer with the Marines at Camp Fallujah. Something happened here recently that would probably have gone unnoticed if it were not by chance that I'm here. The events I'm writing about happened on a hot April night in Iraq and touched the lives of everyone involved, most especially an infant Iraqi girl.

As a photojournalist it seems out of place for me to be writing, especially since I was not able to photograph the event I'm about to describe although I've been able to obtain a couple images taken that night by a Navy corpsman. An image is worth a 1,000 words – no matter who was behind the camera.

In the early morning of April 21, an explosion occurred at the Jordanian Hospital in Fallujah. The cause of the explosion remains unclear. Preliminary reports were that it was a motor shell from insurgents. There have also been reports there was an electrical fire that touched off an explosion of oxygen tanks. Nonetheless, 14 out of 17 trailers at the hospital were lost. This normally would have been a job for the Iraqi fire department. But confusion over the curfew rules led the firemen to choose not to respond to the fire. This is when the Marines took action.

A call came into Camp Fallujah Watch Officer Lt. Maura Sullivan from Evanston, Ill., informing her the Jordanian Hospital was on fire and a two-month premature Iraqi girl and a 50-plus-year-old Iraqi male needing chest surgery needed to be transported for care. Due to "thinking out of the box," Lt. Sullivan helped organize a response that led to saving the infant girl who everyone learned later was named, "Nada."

The military police led by Cpl. Epps from Richmond, Va., immediately departed to the Jordanian hospital. Lt. Sullivan then informed Cmdr. McQuade – a physician at Fallujah Surgical from Jacksonville, Fla. – of the situation.

The Marines military police secured the area for the ambulance, a modified Humvee. Navy corpsman Guerrero learned the infant was two months premature, not in good condition and on oxygen. The ambulance did not have oxygen capability and had no capacity to transfer the infant

Cmdr. McQuade instructed Cpl. Epps to find out if the infant was on oxygen administered through a mask or tube. This was vital because if it was a tube, it would be almost impossible to transport her. Luckily, the oxygen was administered through a mask. After assurances the oxygen would be returned, Cpl. Epps persuaded the hospital administration to allow the Marines to borrow the oxygen for the transport of the infant.

As they were getting ready to transport the two patients, Lt. Sullivan received word there were possible legal issues that would prevent the transfer of the patients. The official role of the United States is to only assist with medical care, not take it over. After the news "moved up the chain of command," it was decided the situation met all legal policies and permission was granted to transport the patients.

At Camp Fallujah, surgical physician Cmdr. McQuade stabilized the infant and an Iraqi male. The patients were then immediately transported to Baghdad Hospital.

It turns out the Iraqi man was only 30 and had prior gunshot wounds. According to Cmdr. McQuade, the man more than likely received the prior wounds during the invasion in 2003.

"We don't respond to something like this very often," stated Lt. Sullivan.

On a day-to-day basis, we are surrounded by our fellow Marines – the world's toughest fighting force – who defend themselves and the world against terror. And then there was this baby. This baby Nada.

As Marines, we have each other – our Marine Corps family. This baby was just 5-days-old and alone in the world with no parents or guardians that we knew of. As soon as we heard of her, it became very apparent to us just how little and helpless she was – defenseless from the world she was born into just a few days before. We were immediately dedicated to bringing her to Camp Fallujah unharmed.

Once we received word from Fallujah Surgical that she was going to be OK, it was absolutely uplifting. She inspired each of us and renewed in us the feeling that we are doing something good. When each of us left that day, we had a feeling that in the midst of the horror of war, we had contributed to something that had left the world just a little bit better. After it was all said and done, I turned to Cpl. Epps and simply said, 'We did a good job today.' He smiled and agreed.

Without the coordination of Lt. Sullivan at Camp Fallujah, who coordinated the events, Cpl. Epps and 11 other military policeman and physician Cmdr. McQuade, Nada would more than likely not have survived.

In the big scheme of things, this might not seem important. Who knows what this little Iraqi girl will make of her life. It did not matter. The only thing that did was to make sure she had a chance to live. Due to the efforts of several Marines and a corpsman, this little girl will have the opportunity to have a life – a free life.


Glenn Marzano is a photojournalist working in Iraq.

Lt. Sullivan

Cpl. Epps

Cmdr. McQuade


05-03-05, 01:26 PM
Marines launch new tactic against enemy fighters

By James Janega Tribune staff reporter
Tue May 3, 9:40 AM ET

After an hour of shooting, rocket-propelled grenades were still crisscrossing in front of Sgt. Aaron Hanselman, and he was looking at the horizon for backup as bullets snapped through the air around his men.

It was whizzing by. Our gunner swears that a couple hit the Humvee," said Hanselman, 28, a mobile assault team leader and Marine reservist from Marysville, Ohio.

Their vehicle had started the firefight with 1,200 rounds of ammunition, he said, but the five men inside had whittled the supply down to 75 bullets. The four Humvees in Hanselman's unit--named Kabar 6 after the Marine fighting knife--took enemy fire from two groups of houses and an oil refinery behind them, Marine officials said. Help for the unit, stuck on a road in the open, was 15 minutes away.

Sign of things to come

But it was a lot of help. The reaction to the April 20 fight on the outskirts of Haqlaniyah may be a sign of things to come in Anbar province, the restive desert territory west of Baghdad where American military officials believe insurgents and foreign fighters gather, train and then move into the rest of Iraq.

Hundreds of troops were directed at Haqlinayah soon after trouble started, said Col. Stephen Davis, the commander of Regimental Combat Team-2.

Nine battalions now hold an area where 13 battalions had been stationed until February. In northern Anbar province, which includes Haqlaniyah, about 3,000 Marines are stretched among outposts in an area the size of South Carolina.

While the idea to swarm enemy fighters is not new to the Marines in Iraq, it is rare that they do it fast enough for more than a few dozen Marines to shoot back at the fighters, let alone to surround the fast-moving insurgency. When the Americans shift forces into a town, it is usually only for a few days, and the action is so telegraphed that insurgents and foreign fighters can flee ahead of them.

Because several smaller units near Haqlaniyah were ready for other missions April 20, nearly 200 troops from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines were able to respond to the shootout there within the first hour. The troops remained in town for the next three days. When left Haqlaniyah on April 23, things appeared to have returned to normal. The locals had learned on several previous occasions that the Marines rarely stay.

But on April 26, about 500 Marines from 3/25 and other battalions suddenly returned to Haqlaniyah, a small town of about 5,000 on the Euphrates River. Not only were major roads sealed off, but so were the desert and surrounding villages. Troops began rolling into all of Haqlaniyah's neighborhoods almost at once, and stayed until early Sunday.

Besides being able to actually shoot back at insurgents in the first phase, more than 40 arrests were made in the second phase, said battalion commander Lt. Col. Lionel Urquhart. Marine officials said the insurgents were apparently surprised the Marines had returned.

Outnumbered by insurgents

The first move in the new strategy for Anbar could not have begun in a more mundane way. Just after noon on April 20, two gunmen fired on a civil affairs patrol carrying repair proposals to schools in a neighboring town.

A description was sent out of the shooters' getaway car, which Hanselman's patrol stumbled across south of Haqlaniyah. But the Americans quickly found themselves outnumbered by an insurgent counterattack that sent gunfire and rockets down on them from several homes on the edge of town. Another American platoon arrived to pin down the Iraqi gunmen, and then a fresh company of troops backed them up.

By the time the fighting died down five hours later, hundreds of Marines from the 3/25 had poured in, supported by tanks, armored vehicles and helicopters.

"It's one of the first times they actually stayed and fought," said Staff Sgt. Michael Knittle, 35, of Wakeman, Ohio, who was in the initial firefight alongside Hanselman.

Then came the pullout and the surprise return April 26, when hundreds more troops from battalions as far away as the Jordanian and Syrian borders sealed off Haqlaniyah, trapping insurgents and foreign fighters.

"Insurgents typically run like rats on a sinking ship," said Maj. Steve White, the operations officer who directed the fight in Haqlaniyah. "This time, I don't think they realized the ship was sinking."

The 3rd Battalion moved almost all of its forces in the area into town April 26 and sat there, hoping for insurgents to grow impatient and begin fighting again.

North of them, a company from the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, based in Al Qaim, seized the shops, neighborhood and pontoon bridge where the fight had begun a few days before. Across the river and on the outskirts of town, parts of the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, stationed on the border with Jordan, blocked off road junctions in the desert.

The insurgents soon tried to fade into the populace. In the five-day operation that followed, there was sporadic gunfire each day, a suicide car bomber and roadside blasts. No Americans were killed, and along with the more than 40 detainees swept up in raids, Marines also netted bomb-making materials, documents and weapons.

Among the prisoners was a suspected former Iraqi special forces officer believed to be coordinating local insurgent attacks, and three Sudanese men who claimed to be sheep shearers, and who sat ramrod straight and refused offers of water from their Marine captors as others begged to be let go.

The detainees were brought to regimental holding facilities each night by a squadron of Humvees directed by Cpl. Josh Smith, 23, of Poplarville, Miss. His mission orders were simple: "Keep your drivers awake."

On April 31, Smith made his 11th late-night prisoner run to Al Asad air base, about an hour away across darkened roads.

Both the men and vehicles were dirty from days in the field, and scratched by roadside bomb blasts. They blared heavy metal music on jury-rigged speakers and called each other frequently on the radio to keep from falling asleep.

Along with the prisoners, weapons and documents, there was another benefit of the Marines' operation.

During the Friday call to prayers, an imam in town declared no love for the Marines, but then denounced the insurgents for picking fights with Americans that they didn't want to finish.

Younger Marines excitedly passed the news about the imam. As White put it, "Out here, you take whatever you can get."


05-03-05, 01:29 PM
Iraq chronology
March 20, 2005


March 19: President Bush orders the bombing of a Baghdad safe house alleged to be Saddam Hussein's hideout. The dictator escapes Bush's "attack of opportunity" unscathed and the war opens.

March 20: A contingent of airmen from the Alcoa-based Tennessee National Guard 134th Air Refueling Wing deploy to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

March 23: Cpl. Patrick Nixon, 21, is the first Tennessean killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom when he's slain during a battle on the outskirts of Nasiriyah. The Gallatin Marine's body is not recovered until March 30.

March 30: A dozen East Tennessee Marine and Naval reservists from the 4th Medical Battalion depart for service in the Middle East.

May 1: Bush declares an end to major combat operations.

Sept. 12: Sgt. 1st Class William Bennett is killed in Ramadi. The 35-year-old Blount County Special Forces soldier is the first Knoxville area man killed in Iraq.

Dec. 14: Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division capture Saddam Hussein in a village outside his hometown of Tikrit.


Jan. 4: Knoxville-based Army Reserve 489th Civil Affairs Battalion deploys to Iraq one year after returning from a yearlong tour in Afghanistan.

Jan. 8: Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Hicks is among nine soldiers killed in a helicopter explosion near Fallujah. The 35-year-old Campbell County native was en route to the United States for surgery for a previous injury.

March 8: Iraqi Governing Council signs interim constitution.

April 24: Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Watts is killed by a suicide boater near an oil terminal in the Persian Gulf. The 28-year-old Knoxville sailor was assigned to the USS Firebolt.

June 28: The Coalition Provisional Authority transfers power to the Interim Iraqi government two days ahead of schedule in an unannounced ceremony.

Sept. 7: U.S. military deaths in Iraq campaign pass 1,000.

Oct. 21: Members of the Knoxville-based Army Reserve 844th Combat Engineer Battalion depart Knoxville for a yearlong tour in Iraq

Nov. 25: Tennessee National Guard 278th Regimental Combat Team arrives in Kuwait. The 3,200-soldier, Knoxville-based regiment is slated for a yearlong tour in eastern Iraq.

Dec. 2: Pfc. George D. Harrison is killed when his vehicle is attacked near Mosul. The 22-year-old Knoxville soldier was serving with the 3rd Infantry Division.


Jan. 7: Two companies of East Tennessee Marines reservists from the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion leave Knoxville for tours in Iraq and Africa.

Feb. 6: Two dozen Knoxville-based Naval Reserve Seabees depart East Tennessee for a seven-month tour in Iraq

March 3: The number of U.S. military deaths passes 1,500, according to an Associated Press count.


05-03-05, 03:17 PM
May 09, 2005 <br />
<br />
Recruiting leaders detail proposed improvements <br />
New facilities, more cell phone minutes among changes sought <br />
<br />
By Gordon Lubold <br />
Times staff writer <br />
<br />
<br />
Marine recruiters may get...

05-03-05, 03:25 PM
Radio hosts visit Iraq, Kuwait for firsthand look
Submitted by: American Forces Press Service
Story Identification #: 200552114058
Story by Mr. John D. Banusiewicz

WASHINGTON (April 30, 2005) -- U.S. service members' dedication was the universal impression carried home this week by a group of radio personalities following a weeklong visit with Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines serving on the front in the global war on terror.

The group -- consisting of talk-show hosts, a reporter and even a classic-rock disc jockey -- traveled to Baghdad and Fallujah in Iraq and to three bases in Kuwait on a trip organized by the Defense Department.

Dave Kelso, from Oklahoma City classic rock station KLXO, said the trip's effect on him was "nothing less than a molecular restructuring."

"The thing I was happiest to learn was that duty, honor and country are not lost concepts," he said. "The level and depth of dedication of our people in uniform is something that will live with me forever."

The fast-paced tour included a look at various aspects of the logistical effort required to keep Operation Iraqi Freedom running and Kelso said the enormity of the task was overwhelming. "Anyone would need three heads to fully comprehend the size and scope of the operation," he said.

Another radio host said seeing U.S. forces in action reinforced his opinion of service members. "I've always been kind of a pro-military guy," said Jerry Agar, whose talk show airs on KMBZ in Kansas City, Mo.

"I've always supported what we've been doing in the Middle East," he said. "But this makes me feel much more committed to that in terms of not only seeing the work, but seeing the dedication of the Soldiers and having met some of the Iraqi people who are involved in this and having a closer look at what was done to that country. It just increases my resolve."

Nationally syndicated Talk Radio Network host Rusty Humphries said the trip gave him more well-rounded insight.

"I already had a pretty good feel for the political aspects of the Iraq war and the 'big picture' of it," he said. "What I didn't have was the Soldiers' perspective -- what it was that they went through on a day-to-day basis and their difficulties."

Humphries said he embarked on the trip unsure of what he'd find in the area of troop morale.

"I looked for people who have low morale," he said. "I went over there looking for that just to find out what it was that they were unhappy with. Among the hundreds of people I met, I found only two people with what I'd call low morale. I found everybody else very positive, with very good morale. Did they want to be home with their wives and kids? Absolutely. But they knew why they were there, and they're doing it."

The opportunity to meet service members in Iraq and Kuwait also had deep personal meaning, Humphries said. "My father was killed in Vietnam in 1969," he said. "This was my first real experience to see what he had gone through. I want to thank everyone for putting their lives on the line for the country. They're true American heroes."

For Steve Gill, whose morning talk show airs on WWTN in Nashville, Tenn., the trip triggered fond memories.

"As the son of an Air Force fighter pilot, I grew up in the military, and to be around it again and to hear the sound of those fighter jets -- that 'sound of freedom' that I grew up with -- that alone was worth the trip," he said.

Having spoken with hundreds of service members, Gill said he was impressed with the quality of people serving in today's military. "The incredible young men and women who serve us so well and do extraordinary things in extraordinarily difficult conditions just reaffirm everything that I think the American people share in the pride of what these young men and women are doing," he said.

Gill said the chance to experience wearing 40 pounds of body armor in the oppressive conditions under which U.S. forces operate, as well as having the opportunity to go out on patrols, gave him new insight.

"To feel exactly what it is -- not just to look at it on TV from a distance -- I think is something that will bring fabric and understanding to what we do with these stories for a long time to come," he said.

The experience showed him the American people aren't getting the whole story from the mainstream media, Gill added.

"First of all, there is not enough pride and respect (in the media) for what these young men and women are doing," he said. Referring to a beer commercial in which returning service members are applauded as they make their way through an airport, Gill said that too often people see such scenes, appreciate the sentiment, but then move on.

"We ought to show that same applause that we saw in that commercial every day, 24/7," he said. "And after seeing this for a week, hopefully that's one of the things we can convey back to our listeners."

Gill noted that positive developments in Iraq, such as the increasing regularity with which citizens are tipping off authorities on the whereabouts of terrorists, often goes underreported in the media.

"There is huge progress being made in Iraq," he said, citing the aftermath of a helicopter being shot down while the radio hosts were in the country. "In 24 hours, the people of Iraq turned in those responsible," Gill said. "They were apprehended. Six months ago, that wouldn't have happened."

After a first-hand look at Fallujah, purged of terrorists in November, Gill said the rebuilding effort there "will help to set up what freedom really means in a tangible way to these people."

And progress in Iraq, he said, is a direct result of the dedication of U.S. service members. "Hopefully the American people will start to get a sense that this progress is only being made because of the commitment of these young men and women," he said.

Scottie Semler, Gill's producer, said she was most surprised by the degree of stability she saw in Iraq outside Baghdad's heavily fortified International Zone. Acknowledging that danger still exists, she said her overall impression is that "it is safe."

"Our men and women have done their job," she said. "They have been able to secure places where maybe six months to a year ago you couldn't have walked out alone. But today, you can. You still might have that risk of being shot at, but guess what? You'd have that anywhere, whether it be the streets of Washington, D.C., or New York City."

Because of service members' sacrifices, she added, "we now have freedom in a country that has never seen freedom like this ever before."

Mike McConnell hosts a talk show on WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a nationally syndicated program on Saturdays. He said he was favorably impressed with amenities available to the troops. "The quality of life for the troops was far greater than I'd imagined," he said, as was the morale level.

"Morale was as high or higher than any average American worker in any setting," he noted. "The words 'pride' and 'proud,' as used by the president and the secretary of defense, were redefined for me, as even -- or especially -- those working in areas seen to be mundane felt, rightly, that success was not possible without them."

Noting progress in Iraq, McConnell said the way ahead for U.S. forces is clear to him. "The exit strategy would be that when the Iraqis are ready to take over, we leave -- and not until," he said. "And that works for me."

Paul Brandus, a reporter for news station WTOP in the nation's capital, said the trip showed him that the respect he already had for service members is well-deserved.

"The pre-existing view I think that was reinforced was the respect I have for the American soldier - the gratitude and appreciation I have for the very difficult job they're doing under what can only be described, in some cases, as life-threatening conditions," he said.

Though the trip wasn't long enough to make him an expert, Brandus said, it did open his eyes to the progress Iraq is making. "I do sense that things are better than they were six months ago," he said. "I'm not sure if that constitutes a trend or not, but I think they're moving in the right direction. I wish them well.

"They've got a long way to go, too, and if they take more responsibility for their own country, then we can get our guys out, and hopefully they can move down the path of democracy," he added.

Brandus said he doesn't expect that evolution to make Iraq the same as the United States. "But as long as they're stable and reasonably prosperous, I think that's good enough, and I think that will set a good example for the rest of the Middle East," he said.


05-03-05, 05:07 PM
Flat Stanley sees duty
Marine Corps Times

Members of 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, briefly added a new leatherneck to the rolls March 27 when Lance Cpl. “Flat Stanley” reported for duty in Haditha, Iraq.

For the uninitiated, Flat Stanley debuted in a 1964 children’s book, in which a boy was flattened in his sleep when a bulletin board fell on him. Stanley then traveled the world in search of adventure and peril. Students typically make paper cutouts of Stanley and mail him to other schools, who write journal entries and mail the doll back to the original school.

This version hailed from Valley View Elementary in Wadsworth, Ohio. After checking in with Lt. Col. Lionel Urquhart, the battalion commander, Stanley was assigned to Lima Company.

He then received his field gear.

“Most Marines come to my supply warehouse asking for bigger gear than what they really need. … Lance Corporal Stanley demanded the smallest flak vest we had,” said Sgt. Jeff Starr, the unit’s supply chief.

After integrating into Lima Company’s 2nd Platoon as a rifleman, Stanley took part in operations targeting insurgents along the banks of the Euphrates River. Accordingly, an entry was made in his service record book documenting his tour of combat duty.

During his short tour, Stanley earned a Combat Action Ribbon, the usual campaign medals and a meritorious mast for motivating his fellow Marines. Additionally, Stanley was awarded the Purple Heart for a paper cut sustained while being stuffed into an envelope for his journey home to Valley View Elementary.

“During his time in Iraq, he never complained. His endurance was remarkable. No matter what hour of the day, Flat Stanley never appeared to be tired,” Urquhart said.

“He’s just a paper doll,” added Pfc. Michael Strahle, “but we had fun taking him out and, to be honest, I’m a little jealous that he gets to go home so early.”


05-03-05, 05:12 PM
Local classes adopt U.S. Marine
JACOB FENTON, Staff Writer05/03/2005

When Bob Ware came back from military service in Vietnam to a polarized America‚ he didn’t wear his uniform‚ he said recently.

But in a changed world‚ Ware‚ of Hatfield Township‚ is overjoyed that whenever people see his son in uniform‚ their gratitude overflows.

“I really think it should be emphasized that people are behind the troops. If he has his uniform on‚ people come up to him and shake his hand and just say‚ ‘Thank you‚’” Ware said.

Whenever people find out that Jeff Ware‚ a 2003 North Penn High School graduate‚ is a Marine‚ his father said they just want to help.

Free flowers. An office full of insurance agents eager to send goodies. An automatic discount on several hundred feet of coaxial cable that Jeff Ware asked his dad to send for communications on his gunboat.

But the most touching displays of compassion Bob Ware has seen came from the students who ride the school bus he drives.

Two different classes of students adopted Jeff Ware‚ sending him letters and greetings‚ and sending his love back home.

In one e-mail‚ he asked Julie Gorniak’s third-grade students at Corpus Christi School to give his dad a hug.

“As I got on a bus they were dropping their school bags and lining up to give me a hug‚” Bob Ware said. “When your son’s halfway around the world‚ that’s pretty emotional.”

Gorniak said she met the elder Ware when she was on bus duty.

When Bob Ware told Gorniak he’d be off for a few days to see his son off to Iraq‚ Gorniak said she asked if her class could send him letters.

“I had written to a soldier when I was in eighth grade and it was Desert Storm‚” Gorniak said. “I’ll never forget that and I didn’t even meet the guy.” She still has the letters.

When Jeff Ware came back‚ Gorniak said her students were thrilled to meet him.

“He was like a Superman to them‚” she said.

In Iraq‚ Jeff Ware served in the Marines’ only small-craft unit‚ he said.

“If you took PT boats from the ’70s‚ made them smaller and a whole lot faster ... you’d have what we do‚” he said.

There were a lot of night patrols on the Euphrates‚ he said.

The younger Ware said the small craft unit was being disbanded‚ though he’s scheduled to go back to Iraq in September.

“It has to be done‚” Jeff Ware said. “They don’t have enough guys over there.”

Working at night‚ Jeff Ware’s unit helped insert SEAL teams and reconnaissance units‚ at one point letting the boat’s engines idle beneath a special silencer to keep the element of surprise on the darkened river.

“It was refreshing to keep in touch with some kids who were back here – I probably saw two kids for the entire time I was over there‚” he said.

Back at home‚ Jeff Ware also went in to talk to Anna Brish’s first-grade class at St. Stanislaus School.

Brish said his name first came up in the class when a student saw a picture of Jeff Ware on his father’s bus.

“One of the children in my classroom came in and asked if we would pray for his bus driver’s son‚” Brish said. “(Jeff Ware) answered their questions with such sensitivity that he brought tears to my eyes.”

“I didn’t want any talk of dying or death; it really did concern me‚” Brish said – but inevitably a student brought it up.

“He handled it very nicely: ‘We don’t go over there to kill‚ we go over there to protect‚ but when bad people attack us we fight back‚’ he said.”

Bob Ware said it’s tough being a military dad.

“I don’t like my son being there any more than anyone else‚ but he’s there and he’s proud to serve‚” he said.

Bob Ware added he was glad his son had the opportunity to help teach an important lesson.

“One of the things I always felt with the teachers over there at Corpus Christi is that there’s reading and writing‚ but they’re teaching them to have compassion for somebody over there in a dangerous spot‚” he said. “I just think that’s a good thing to teach.”


05-03-05, 06:29 PM
Can You Hear Me Now? 13th MEU SigInt team gets connected
Submitted by: 13th MEU
Story Identification #: 200542915370
Story by Sgt. Charles E. Moore

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT TRAINING CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (April 29, 2005) -- Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Signal Intelligence Team (SigInt) recently tested the limits of their communications equipment here.

The team utilized the AN/PRC-119 field radio in a variety locations surrounding Camp Wilson to test the effective range of the equipment, and to refine their radio operating skills.

The team left Camp Wilson here, stopping every two miles to perform radio checks with the Operation Command Element (OCE). At each stop, they tested signal clarity and used terrain to test reception quality in the presence of natural obstacles.

“A tiny little thing will destroy your (communications) net,” said Cpl. David Hassan, field radio telephone operator and linguist, referring to the fact that obstacles can disrupt radio frequencies. “You really need to work with it to know when you’re going to get (communications).”

SigInt missions include tapping into ambient radio frequencies to gather information. They send the information back to MEU intelligence analysts who then apply the information to mission planning. This field training is critical, as the unit rarely enjoys this authentic environment.

“It doesn’t do anyone any good if we can’t pass our information to the rear,” said Sgt. Brian N. Stevenson, team leader, SigInt support team.

The training refreshed their knowledge and helped to familiarize the Marines with the types of terrain they can and may encounter if tasked to join the fight in the Global War on Terrorism. The experience prevents them from making the tedious errors that could inhibit communications during real-world operations.

“In most cases, (discrepancies are due to) a lack of experience,” Stevenson said. “That’s the whole reason we do this. The next time we go out, they’ll know.”

Stevenson emphasized the fact that basic radio operations and transmission locations are fundamentals to the SigInt mission. Pushing key information to unit leaders can transform an impending tragedy into a decisive victory in combat.

“We can actually do something that can make an instant difference on the battlefield,” he said.


05-03-05, 09:55 PM
Eagle Scout deploys to Iraq <br />
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division <br />
Story Identification #: 20055391733 <br />
Story by Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio <br />
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CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq (May 3, 2005) -- Calvin...

05-04-05, 07:42 AM
Jamestown, N.D. Native stops enemy attack, saves Marines

by Cpl. Tom Sloan
2nd Marine Division

AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Insurgents launched an attack against one of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment's observation post in the city here the evening of April 20 but they didn't count on one Marine; Pfc. Bryan J. Nagel.

While receiving sporadic enemy fire, the Jamestown, N. D. native stood his ground and took out a suicide truck bomb and fought off an insurgent attack, preventing major property damage and casualties to the Marines and civilians in the area.

The 20-year-old squad automatic weapon gunner with 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Company B, was responsible for thwarting the attack and preventing a potential disaster that day, according to his company first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Scott A. Van De Ven.

"His quick thinking and actions under fire clearly foiled the enemy's plans," said the 36-year-old from Grayling, Mich. "Nagel's initiative destroyed the enemy vehicle before it reached the Marines' position."

Nagel was manning an observation post in downtown Ramadi and being fired at by insurgents when a mid-sized passenger car detonated near his position injuring two Marines.

"I was getting shot at so I started returning fire," said Nagel, who disregarded his own safety and moved above the protection of the position's bulletproof glass to engage the enemy. "Then the first SVBIED (suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) hit."

The blast breached the OP's main entrance.

"There was smoke everywhere," recalled the 2003 Jamestown High School graduate. "I was reloading when, through a patch of the smoke, I saw the second vehicle coming our way. I knew what I had to do."

Nagel employed his weapon with precision, hitting the yellow sewage tanker truck's windshield and killing the driver.

"I shot about sixty or seventy rounds at him," said Nagel. "I never thought I would have to make a decision like that."

Other Marines were alerted by Nagel's fire and engaged the vehicle as well.

"The truck swerved to one side of the road and detonated," he said. "It all happened so fast."

No one was injured by the second blast; but it left a large crater in the main street.

According to Van De Ven, Nagel's heroic actions are a testament to his character.

"He's hard working, polite and is someone who cares for his fellow Marines," he said.

Though, Nagel's command is recommending him for an award for his courage under fire, he is just happy his comrades are all okay.

"I'm overwhelmed knowing that I saved the lives of my Marines."


05-04-05, 07:43 AM
For US troops, war becomes long, deadly fight to rebuild Iraq <br />
By Anne Barnard, Globe Staff | May 1, 2005 <br />
<br />
BAQUBAH, Iraq -- Two years after President Bush stood under a ''Mission Accomplished&quot;...

05-04-05, 07:46 AM
Although Iraqi Army forces have technically reported to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense since formal sovereignty was returned to Iraq last year, many Iraqi units take orders directly from American liaison officers, and all work closely with US advisers.

Baqubah is the capital of Diyala Province, bordering Iran northeast of Baghdad. One of Iraq's greenest areas, where citrus trees shelter under palm groves between algae-filled canals, the area is home to many former Ba'athist officials.

It is part of the country's restive central region but calmer than such cities as Mosul, Samarra, or Ramadi. With its mix of Shi'ites, Sunnis, and Kurds, pro- and anti-US feeling, and alternating periods of calm and chaos, the town is as representative a slice of the country as any.

Since taking over responsibility for Baqubah and the surrounding area in February, the Third Brigade Combat team has taken fewer casualties than commanders expected -- two have been killed in action and one in an accident. But on the brigade's five bases, command centers, dining halls, and traffic circles are named for fallen soldiers from US units that have come and gone.

Attacks on US and Iraqi forces in the brigade's area, roughly corresponding to Diyala Province, peaked at 334 in January, dipped to 120 in February following the National Assembly election, but bounced back to 132 in March, a level comparable to the simmering violence of last summer and fall.

A suicide bombing last week blew up a restaurant where police often ate, across the street from the joint US-police headquarters, killing six police and wounding a dozen; this followed a February bombing that killed 15 trainees outside the complex.

Iraqi soldiers and police increasingly bear the brunt of insurgent attacks across the country. Some Iraqis have turned against insurgents who attack their countrymen.

Most US troops, in Baqubah and across Iraq, live in air-conditioned trailers or refitted Iraqi buildings. Most have reliably hot showers and dining halls that get bigger and better -- the best have lobster tails and T-bone steaks -- even as the security becomes tighter following a suicide bombing on a US dining hall in Mosul in January that killed 22 people, including 14 US troops.

Forward Operating Base Warhorse, the brigade's largest camp, has a coffee shop that sells lattes and has a freestanding movie theater.

Across Iraq, the deadliest and most common weapon used against US troops is the homemade roadside bomb, dubbed with the clinical-sounding acronym IED, for improvised explosive device. Every time the troops around Baqubah leave their bases, they scan the palm trees along the road for the olive-oil cans that could contain bombs. What galls soldiers is that the bombs lie in wait almost randomly on their daily rounds, and their makers never confront the troops; soldiers feel better, they say, on the offensive.

Sergeant Terence Sutton likes raids on insurgent targets but not IED sweeps, which too often mean finding the bombs when they blow up under your Humvee. ''Go out and set off all the bombs -- it feels like that's our whole job."

The long-term mission also means that active-duty soldiers and reservists alike, many on second tours in Iraq and expecting more, wonder how they and their families will cope as the military calls on them for more overseas deployments than they ever expected.

Major John Colombo, a National Guard reservist from upstate New York, is working with police in Baqubah after three grueling years of deployments in New York related to Sept. 11, 2001. He volunteered for Iraq but said many reservists' families are suffering, particularly without the community support that active-duty families find on military bases.

''Do you know how many times my daughter's been asked, 'Is your dad dead yet?' " he said.

'Biologically opposed' The continuing war can also leave soldiers feeling isolated from home communities that see Iraq through politically polarized lenses, said Lieutenant Jim Meeks, who grew up in Newton and graduated from Harvard.

Meeks, 26, was wounded last June in Ramadi when a roadside bomb went off as he was transporting Iraqi detainees; four of his prisoners died. Recovering at home, he found people either ''biologically opposed" to all war or convinced that supporting the troops meant no debate at all over the situation in Iraq.

He volunteered to return. He now leads a tank platoon of the First Infantry Division's 2-34 Battalion, stationed at Forward Operating Base Gabe near Baqubah and working under the Third Brigade. But these days, they almost never use their tanks. On Tuesday, his platoon spent a day on the road that illustrated all the ambiguities of their labor.

At the Abarra army base, Meeks ran drills with Iraqi soldiers and chatted warmly with his favorite lieutenant, Hassan Falih. Falih vowed to keep up the fight and told Meeks he is not afraid to tell people in town he is in the army.

But out of Meeks's earshot, he admitted he tells neighbors he is still in his old job as a tailor and worries that Iraqi forces are losing some of their newly gained respect as reconstruction continues to lag.

''Right after the war, people were proud to say they were working for the Americans; now my men hide their faces with black masks," Falih said.

The next stop was another village where Meeks deployed his brilliant smile to win over Iraqi schoolchildren as he and Falih handed out school supplies. He gave young girls an English lesson and showed boys how to blow soap bubbles in the street. But around him, a crowd of silent older men gathered, their faces unfriendly.


05-04-05, 07:47 AM
A radio call announced that Falih's commander's brother had narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. He was driving the commander's car when insurgents riddled it with bullets. Meeks's convoy careened away down the muddy road to investigate.

As they drove, the gunner in Meeks's Humvee shouted at every passing car, ''Get out of the way! Now!" as drivers cowered and pulled over. Meeks asked the driver, ''Are you going to tone him down, or should I?"

''Be easy, man," the driver called up to the turret. ''They're not shooting at us."

Iraqi troops said the would-be assassins were driving a white Toyota -- one of the most common cars in Iraq. One of Meeks's Humvees pulled one over almost immediately. The convoy was chasing another Toyota when small boys along the trash-strewn street started throwing rocks. Then a teenager threw a brick that glanced off a Humvee; at 40 miles per hour, the troops said, it would have done serious damage to a gunner's head.

The platoon halted and went after the boy. Meeks and his men scrambled down a muddy alley and slogged across a field, slowed by their flak jackets. A family standing by their gate insisted they had not sent the boy.

''Tell him that when kids throw bricks at us, we put their parents in detention!" Meeks told his interpreter, who wanted to be identified only by his first name, Uday.

Down a different alley, another group of soldiers caught a few pebble-throwers. One father grabbed his son and spanked him on the spot. Another told a Globe reporter that he had been tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime and did not like US soldiers chasing after the children. ''They don't mean what they are doing," he said.

Trudging through the mud a few houses away, Uday sighed, ''The Iraqis hate us." He lives nearby and fears being assassinated, but said it is best to cooperate with Americans to bring security. His neighbors do not agree, he said. ''They don't understand."

Staying resolute Back at Forward Operating Base Gabe, a collection of modest former Iraqi Army buildings under eucalyptus trees, many in the platoon said they wanted to keep going until the job is done. Some defined that narrowly: getting the Iraqi troops to the point of independence, not rebuilding the country.

''It's not what any of us signed up to do," said Staff Sergeant Josh Wilson, who leads training courses on the base for Iraqi troops. He likes training, because training other soldiers is a key part of any sergeant's job, but overall he would rather be fighting.

Meeks said leading 16 men through such a complex task is the hardest job he has ever done. He said he has asked them to envision how they would deal with what he considers the three worst possibilities of war: You lose a limb or your eyesight. You kill a noncombatant. Or your buddy dies because of a decision you made. ''You have to forgive yourself," he said. ''This is what your army asks you to do."

But he cannot tell the men all his thoughts on those situations. ''You can't show fatigue in front of them," he said. ''You can't show fear. You can't show indecision."

Globe correspondent Asmaa Waguih contributed to this report. Anne Barnard can be reached at abarnard@globe.com.


05-04-05, 07:48 AM
2nd Military Police Battalion rolls out heavy
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20055391054
Story by Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq (May 3, 2005) -- Usually there's only one way in or out of the dozens of military camps across Iraq - by way of convoy. And the Marines of 2nd Military Police Battalion know how to do it right.

The battalion is formed of reservists attached to 2nd Tank Battalion, who come from Kansas City, Mo. Their experience in Operation Iraqi Freedom has been invaluable in their effort to maintain top security for convoys in and out of U.S. camps.

But most of all, the camaraderie within this group is a bond that keeps them strong during the long hauls they embark on during the Iraq desert nights.

On a cool Iraqi morning, Lance Cpl. Damion Freeman, a 23-year-old Kansas City, Mo. native and military policeman with the battalion woke up with his buddies and went outside to inspect his High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) for the five-hour convoy ahead. He strapped fuel to the back carriage of the HMMWVJ and checked the fluids under the hood.

As he closed the hood, an ignition could be heard turning an engine and the signature rattle of the pistons echoed through their bivouac area.

"Every time it's a little different and it's always exciting to get on another convoy," said the 1999 Shawnee Mission Northwest High School graduate.

A short time later, the men loaded their weapons and rolled out of the gate. The roads of Iraq are dangerous and laden with hidden improvised explosive devices (IED). Already, only an hour into the convoy, the Marines stopped to inspect a possible IED.

"We have procedures for whatever happens," said Freeman. "All of the guys are close and we're from the same general area in the States, so we know how each other operates and that means we're on the same page when it comes down to it."

The convoy commander gave a thumb's up signal to the rest of the men and the convoy continued on. They passed seemingly endless desert plains with the occasional sight of shepherds tending to their flocks.

Bombed out trucks and cars rusted away along the sides of the road and dusk began to settle in on the horizon. They were an ominous sight for the Marines, who knew how the vehicles met with disaster. The convoy made it far enough to refuel their vehicles and prepare for the rest of the journey through the night.

For nearly five more hours the trucks made their way to their far off destination in Western Iraq. A few times the Marines made emergency stops to search for possible IEDs and insurgent activity. But lucky for them, they were all false alarms.

In the small hours of the morning, the convoy moved up to the gate at their destination. The sight of a Marine sentry there was welcoming, considering the dangers they faced just to get there nearly ten hours later.

Their mission to pick up personnel and bring them back to Blue Diamond was only halfway accomplished. But through any situation, the Marines of the security convoy stick together. After all, their bond is deeply rooted in the Corps and in their hometowns.

"It's great to know you're out here making a difference in the world and helping the people of Iraq," said Freeman. "The best part of coming out here for me, though, is knowing all of the friends I've made here will be my friends when I go home."


05-04-05, 07:48 AM
East Bridgewater, Mass., native steps up, leads team
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20055355327
Story by Lance Cpl. Zachary W. Lester

CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq (May 3, 2005) -- Marines are trained to be leaders, but some Marines find themselves in leadership positions sooner than planned when faced with the unexpected conditions in Iraq.

Pfc. Taylor J. Shiner became an acting team leader in 1st Platoon, Company C, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, after the original team leader was injured.

“Our vehicle was in an accident. My team leader was tossed from the vehicle,” the East Bridgewater, Mass., native explained. “He had a couple of serious injuries, but he will be coming back to us.”

Until this temporary assignment as team leader, Shiner served as an automatic rifleman in his team.

"I was just another Marine doing my job the best I could. My section leader got me interested in being a team leader, so I was already learning how to do the job,” Shiner stated. “After the accident occurred, I was forced to step it up leadership-wise.”

Leadership is a comfortable companion to the young Marine who was the captain of his football and indoor track teams in high school.

“Learning about leadership in high school helped me transition into the Marine Corps, especially now after becoming team leader,” he explained. “Team leader is a noncommissioned officer billet (corporal or sergeant) and I am only a private first class, so it has been a huge jump for me.

“Being a team leader involves having control of your team and vehicle. I also make sure the Marines around me know what is going on,” he said. “I try to keep them well briefed.”

Shiner’s junior rank isn’t the only challenging factor for him. He was deployed here after being assigned to the battalion only two months earlier. He had just graduated from recruit training and his military occupational school prior to his assignment.

“Being out here is new to me, but I am learning things everyday,” he said.

Shiner joined the Marine Corps as an infantryman because he wanted to be at the forefront of the action.

“I like to get down and dirty and work with my hands a lot. I like being with the frontline forces,” Shiner said.

The frontline is where he is at with his Marines as they conduct one or two patrols a day.

“We have been on a couple of raids and while on a patrol, I found an improvised explosive device. It was actually the first one found by the battalion,” Shiner explained. “We also search houses and vehicles.”

Like the leaders before him, Shiner adapted to his new leadership role while serving on the forefront of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“It is definitely interesting out here, but I have a lot of good leaders teaching me what to do. It is hard work being a team leader, but I don’t mind working harder to help my fellow Marines,” he said.


05-04-05, 07:49 AM
CJTF HOA provides 26th MEU key training opportunity
Submitted by: 26th MEU
Story Identification #: 2005427231020
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Mark E. Bradley

ABOARD USS KEARSARGE (April 26, 2005) -- As the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) passed through the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa area of operations April 26, the unit took advantage of the extensive ranges and training areas available in Djibouti to conduct advanced combined-arms fire-support training along with aircraft and personnel recovery operations.

Included in the advanced fire-support training was indirect fire from 81mm mortars, precision sniper fire and close-air support from each type of aircraft the MEU has in its arsenal.

The exercise was a critical training opportunity for the 26th MEU (SOC) and demonstrated the far-reaching combat capability of 5th Fleet within the Central Command area of operations with the arrival of the MEU and the Kearsarge Strike Group said the MEU commander, Col. Thomas F. Qualls.

“This is an important step in preparing this ESG and MEU (SOC) team for the uncertain road we have ahead as we get further in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility,” Qualls said. “One thing we are really showing here is the prowess of CJTF- HOA and its ability to reach out and grab assets to prosecute the Global War on Terror against the trans-national terrorists that are in the region.”

The MEU displayed its firepower at the Godoria Range before an assembled audience of senior coalition officers who represented several countries playing an active role in defeating terrorism. The party included officers from Djibouti, Republic of Korea, Yemen, Romania, France, the United Kingdom and Kenya.

They, along with U.S. military officials and members of the Djiboutian media, observed the exercise from a mountain ridge adjacent to the range. From that observation post, fire support coordinator Capt. James F. Cherry orchestrated the day’s events with support from the MEU’s satellite communication teams and fire support teams who provided the communication between the air and ground elements.

In all, the MEU expended seven rockets, two MK82 bombs, 133 mortars and more than 10,000 rounds from air and ground weapon systems during the one-day exercise.

After the coordinated fire training, the MEU continued its operation with a surface tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel exercise from the Gulf of Tadjoura near Camp Lemonier.

A Navy Landing Craft, Air-Cushioned transported members of the MEU’s surface TRAP team ashore from the dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) cruising a few miles off the Djibouti coast.

The surface trap team is comprised of elements of Echo Company and Combined Anti-Armor Team “B” from Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion 8th Marines. The team is specially trained to conduct rescue operations in a combat zone.

The TRAP force landed at the beach, established a defensive position and unloaded their vehicles. They pushed approximately two miles inland where a pair of simulated downed pilots were awaiting rescue.

After returning the pilots safely to the beach, the team took an operational pause to allow the spectators to board the LCAC for a brief visit to the Ashland.

Following the exercise the 26th MEU resumed its push into the 5th Fleet AOR. Qualls said he looks forward to returning to CJTF-HOA and supporting the task force in their mission of assisting host nations to foster a secure and stable environment in the Horn of Africa and promote regional security.

To follow the 26th MEU (SOC) throughout the rest of its deployment log onto www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.


05-04-05, 08:10 AM
Marine raid breaks gender barrier
By Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, May 4, 2005

KARMAH, Iraq - Lance Cpl. Erin Libby doesn't want to be treated the same as her male Marine Corps counterparts. But she does want to be treated as an equal - even in combat.

In a way, she got her chance last weekend when Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment led a raid into the city of Karmah in search of high-value targets and hidden weapons.

"We're out here, and we're rocking on the front line," said Libby, a 21-year-old from Niceville, Fla., who pinned on the rank of lance corporal during a break in the mission.

In all, 14 women from Combat Logistics Battalion 8 were called away from their usual jobs of supplying ammunition, food, water, fuel and mail for the three-day offensive that kicked off in the pre-dawn hours Saturday about 15 miles northeast of Fallujah.

Cultural sensitivities precluded male Marines from searching women, so the female Marines were meant to deflate fears of Iraqi men and women, said the battalion executive officer, Maj. Larry Miller. It was a first in Iraq to have female Marines embedded at the lowest levels of infantry companies and working alongside their male counterparts, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jill St. John, 39, an embark officer with CLB-8.

"This is history. This is huge for us," St. John said. "I've been in the Marine Corps for 18 years, and this is my first opportunity to be out with an infantry company. Even five years ago, the Marine Corps wouldn't be doing this. This is a major change in how we think women can be used in the military."

While female Marines were used in similar fashion during missions in Afghanistan, they were not fully integrated with line companies, St. John said.

"It wasn't quite as dynamic as this. They'd wait at a camp in the rear and were called in when needed, often called in for resupply," such as bringing in food and water.

"I'm so sick of hearing females can't do this and females can't do that. Blah, blah, blah," said Cpl. Rachel Bergstrong, 20, of Cumming, Ga. "We're in it as much as the grunts, and we love it."

The battalion's Lima and India companies absorbed the women into their ranks, giving them the primary mission to search women and children suspected of hiding anything. But the female Marines' presence was not intended to show a softer side of the Marine Corps, said Capt. Mark Liston, commander of India Company.

"They're still a fighting force for us," he said. "With them, we can grab a wife [of a suspected insurgent], for example, put the screws to her, and find out where the husband might be hiding. And while it hasn't been used here, [the insurgency has] been known to use female suicide bombers," Liston said.

But there were times in which the softer side appeared in both the male and female Marines. When they weren't raiding homes and businesses, the Marines were on humanitarian missions, handing out food, water and toys, especially to the hordes of children who flocked to the streets when the Humvees rolled in.

"Whenever I read about these humanitarian missions, I always thought it was so cheesy," Libby said after tossing out handfuls of stuffed animals. "Now I'm the one sounding cheesy, but I like this. It makes you feel good inside."

They're often referred to as the WMs, or women Marines. They hate it, and the crass distortions of the acronym some say they've heard.

"We're Marines, bottom line," said Cpl. Dawn Lansberry, 31.

"I'm out here to prove a point," Libby said. "A lot of males think females are weak. It's time to shine, and I'm going to leave here golden."


05-04-05, 08:10 AM
Marine Commander Thanks Class for Letters
May 3, 2005, 07:18 PM

(Carmel) - An Indiana Marine got a special thank-you at a Carmel elementary school Tuesday.

LtCol Mark Smith has just returned from Iraq. As the Marine battalion commander, he is personally thanking every classroom that wrote letters to his Marines.

Mrs. DeHaven's third grade class at Woodbrook Elementary wrote letters which were posted for all 1,100 Marines to read through their tour of duty.

"They'd be the tough guys and act like whatever but you would watch them for hours. We would post all the letters we got from the kids, specifically reserve a spot for them on the wall, and you could watch them in there for hours just reading them and reading them," said Smith. "It is about the kids. It is why you do what you do and hope you hand them off a better world than the one you've got right now."

The third graders asked questions about the food the soldiers ate, what kind of guns they used and whether they were scared.

LtCol Smith, who many News 8 viewers came to know through e-mails to News 8, presented the class with a Marine medallion in thanks.


05-04-05, 08:11 AM
Sergeant, private reunited after 30-year quest <br />
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- <br />
By Sharon Dunham <br />
Havasu News <br />
May 4, 2005 <br />
<br />
Pfc. Al Heymann never...

05-04-05, 08:21 AM
Lessons for Iraq From Gettysburg <br />
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- <br />
By David Ignatius <br />
The Washington Post <br />
Wednesday, May 4, 2005; Page A19 <br />

05-04-05, 08:24 AM
Army Withheld Details About Tillman's Death
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 4, 2005; A03

The first Army investigator who looked into the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan last year found within days that he was killed by his fellow Rangers in an act of "gross negligence," but Army officials decided not to inform Tillman's family or the public until weeks after a nationally televised memorial service.

A new Army report on the death shows that top Army officials, including the theater commander, Gen. John P. Abizaid, were told that Tillman's death was fratricide days before the service.

Soldiers on the scene said they were immediately sure Tillman was killed by a barrage of American bullets as he took shelter behind a large boulder during a twilight firefight along a narrow canyon road near the Pakistani border, according to nearly 2,000 pages of interview transcripts and investigative reports obtained by The Washington Post.

The documents also show that officers made erroneous initial reports that Tillman was killed by enemy fire, destroyed critical evidence and initially concealed the truth from Tillman's brother, also an Army Ranger, who was near the attack on April 22, 2004, but did not witness it.

Brig. Gen. Gary M. Jones prepared the report in response to questions from Tillman's family and from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). Jones concluded that there was no official reluctance to report the truth but that "nothing has contributed more to an atmosphere of suspicion by the family than the failure to tell the family that Cpl. Pat Tillman's death was the result of suspected friendly fire, as soon as that information became known within military channels."

"Notifying families in a timely way that they have had a loved one killed or severely injured is complex and imperfect work. We can do better," said Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman. "At the heart of every notification effort is a commitment to compassion and completeness in providing information as it is known to those who sustained the loss. That is what happened in the case of Corporal Tillman, and that effort continues to this day."

In interviews with Jones, soldiers who were with Tillman when he died said they immediately reported that other Rangers, riding in a Humvee, emptied their weapons at his position on a hill without first identifying whom they were shooting. Perceiving they were in a heated firefight, the soldiers rounded a corner and used several high-powered weapons to kill an Afghan Militia Force soldier working with the Rangers before pausing and turning their guns on Tillman. About 65 meters away, Tillman had been waving his arms and throwing a smoke grenade to signal his unit that he was not an enemy fighter.

Jones reported that "some soldiers lost situational awareness to the point they had no idea where they were."

Tillman's death was an enormous blow to the image of the Army and the Special Forces because of his storybook personal narrative. Tillman turned down a multimillion-dollar football contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He and his brother joined the elite Army Rangers and deployed to Iraq and later Afghanistan, hunting the Taliban and al Qaeda through mountainous terrain.

While parts of the unit's mission were classified -- one of six volumes of Jones's report contains entirely classified material -- Jones found that the operation on April 22, 2004, was a routine "confirm or deny" trip to determine whether enemy combatants were in the town of Manah. Commanders did not think hostile forces were in Manah, the report said, but an order to hurry up and get troops on the ground there before dusk was passed on because "we were trying to get them back and save them for the next part of the fight," an unnamed officer said in redacted documents.

Tillman's platoon had to split up because of a broken Humvee. Tillman's half went ahead toward the town. When the second half of the platoon followed through the canyon, it reportedly came under enemy fire. Tillman grabbed another Ranger and the Afghan soldier and got into position to lend fire support. When the second half of the platoon rounded a corner, they mistook the trio as foes.

In the documents, the soldiers who fired on Tillman cite many reasons for the confusion: The sun was going down and lighting conditions were bad; soldiers shot where they saw muzzle flashes but did not appropriately determine a target; they shot in the same direction as their team leader, assuming that he was firing at the enemy.

"I've replayed the events of that day and my actions in response to the events in my mind countless times . . . given the same circumstances and having the same information I had, I would do the same thing," one soldier wrote in response to his punishment, which was getting kicked out of the Rangers. "I engaged men that I believed to be the enemy with the intent of killing them."

Another soldier wrote: "I wish that I would have taken a half second to positively identify the targets instead of following another SOP (shoot where your team leader shoots). Maybe CPL Tillman would still be alive or maybe the outcome would still have been the same, but at least I wouldn't have to live with the guilt and reexperience that ambush while I sleep."

After the shooting, Tillman's brother was not informed about what had happened and was flown back to the United States with his brother's body. Officers told the soldiers not to talk about the incident "to prevent rumors" and news reports.

"I mean, it's horrible that Pat was dead. Absolutely horrible. But it hurts even more to know that it was one of our own guys that did it . . .," one soldier told Jones. "We just, we didn't want to get anything, you know, bad said about the regiment or anything like that. That was my guess to what the whole thing was about. We didn't want the world finding out what actually happened."

The first report about Tillman's death within Army channels -- sent at 4:40 p.m. April 22 -- said that Tillman died in a medical treatment facility after his vehicle came under direct and indirect fire, attributing the gunshot wounds he received to "enemy forces." An investigation was immediately launched, and several documents show that the local chain of command was largely convinced it was fratricide from the beginning.

The next day, Tillman's Ranger body armor was burned because it was covered in blood and was considered a "biohazard." His uniform was also burned. Jones noted that this amounted to the destruction of evidence.

Soldiers reported they burned the evidence because "we knew at the time, based on taking the pictures and walking around it it was a fratricide. . . . We knew in our hearts what had happened, and we weren't going to lie about it. So we weren't thinking about proof or anything."

An initial investigation found fratricide just days later. Top commanders within the U.S. Central Command, including Abizaid, were notified by April 29 -- four days before Tillman's memorial service in San Jose, where he was given a posthumous Silver Star Award. Jones concluded that Tillman, who was bravely leading his fire team into battle, was given the award based on what he intended to do.

The family learned about Tillman's fratricide over Memorial Day weekend, several weeks later. Commanders felt they could not hold on to the old version because the Rangers were returning home and "everybody knows the story," the documents show.

Seven soldiers were given administrative reprimands for their actions, the most serious of which were for dereliction of duty and failing to exercise sound judgment and fire discipline in combat operations. Jones did not address the appropriateness of the punishments.

One of the initial investigators, who issued a finding of "gross negligence" by the soldiers who shot Tillman, told Jones he felt the punishments did not fit with his finding. The investigator said he felt the chain of command allowed the soldiers to change their stories to protect individuals.

"They didn't get their due just punishment," the investigator, whose name is censored in the report, told Jones. "I guess that's why I was frustrated at how it all unfolded."


05-04-05, 08:24 AM
Soldier who pummeled comrades gets 10-year sentence <br />
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- <br />
By Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes <br />
Pacific edition, Wednesday,...

05-04-05, 09:04 AM
Speaking Truth To Rumsfeld
By Michael O'Hanlon
The Washington Post
May 3, 2005

When the White House nominated Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace last week to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, many observers said they hoped he would be able to stand up to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. They were implying, not so subtly, that he and most of the nation's other top military leaders had not done so in the past. As Congress prepares for Pace's confirmation hearings, it is important to explore this issue.

Civil-military relations are always complicated in a constitutional democracy -- and always critical to the nation's security in times of war. The questions about Pace derive, of course, from his role as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the Iraq events. The post-invasion phase of the operation ("Phase IV") there has been the most poorly planned U.S. military mission since Somalia in 1993 -- if not Lebanon in 1983 -- with greater consequences for national security than any use of force since Vietnam.

Because the United States was unprepared for the job of reestablishing order after Saddam Hussein's fall, chaos ensued, Iraqi goodwill toward the United States was largely squandered, and the insurgency established a momentum it might not otherwise have been able to gain. This happened despite ample warnings beforehand from members of Congress, retired military officers, State Department experts and numerous independent scholars.

The standard explanation for this debacle is that Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials insisted on fighting the war with too few troops and with a Pollyannaish view of what would happen in Iraq once Hussein was overthrown. This explanation is largely right. Taken to an extreme, however, it is dangerously wrong.

It blames civilian leaders for a war plan in which top military planners, from Central Command leader Tommy Franks to most members of the Joint Chiefs, were fully complicit. By caving to Rumsfeld, high-ranking officers of the U.S. armed forces failed to fulfill their responsibilities to their own brave fighting men and women -- and to Congress, to which they are also entrusted by law with providing advice.

The Constitution makes the president commander in chief and requires military leaders to follow his orders. It does not, however, require them to remain mute when poor plans are being prepared. Nor does it require them to remain in uniform when they are asked to undertake actions they know to be unwise or ill planned.

U.S. civilian leaders and military officers must not pretend that their jobs can be neatly separated into two broad and distinct bins, with high strategy as the primary province of civilians and military operations as the area in which the uniformed services have exclusive expertise. The fact is that broad strategy and military operations are inherently intertwined.

The question of how wars should be conducted affects decisions on whether to fight them. Thus, civilians must think about the technical subjects in which the armed forces specialize. And by the same token, the political goals in the nation's conflicts affect the tactics and operational plans available to the uniformed services -- meaning that military commanders must also understand strategy.

Lest there be any doubt about the lack of a proper plan for post-Hussein Iraq, one need only consider the 3rd Infantry Division's after-action report, which reads: "Higher headquarters did not provide the [division] with a plan for Phase IV. As a result, Third Infantry Division transitioned into Phase IV in the absence of guidance."

A broader Defense Department report on the war similarly observed that "late formation of Department of Defense [Phase IV] organizations limited time available for the development of detailed plans and pre-deployment coordination."

Among top military officers, it appears that only Gen. Eric Shinseki, when he was Army chief of staff, effectively challenged the Rumsfeld-Franks war plan for Iraq, focusing specifically on whether the force was large enough for the post-invasion mission.

By contrast, Pace clearly leaned toward the Rumsfeld-Franks view, as is clear from his April 6, 2003, appearance on "Meet the Press" and other times. Pace also acknowledged that he had seen the war plan on several occasions and supported it -- this at a time when no institution in the U.S. government other than the uniformed military was in a strong position to play the role of checking and balancing Rumsfeld.

Congress needs to air the issue before approving Pace's nomination. Whether he supported the war plan for reasons of political convenience, excessive deference to the country's civilian leadership or just because he made a mistake in judgment, he needs to be held accountable -- and pushed to do better next time.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.


05-04-05, 09:05 AM
Marines launch new tactic against enemy fighters
Chicago Tribune

HAQLANIYAH, Iraq - (KRT) - After an hour of shooting, rocket-propelled grenades were still crisscrossing in front of Sgt. Aaron Hanselman, and he was looking at the horizon for backup as bullets snapped through the air around his men.

"It was whizzing by. Our gunner swears that a couple hit the Humvee," said Hanselman, 28, a mobile assault team leader and Marine reservist from Marysville, Ohio.

Their vehicle had started the firefight with 1,200 rounds of ammunition, he said, but the five men inside had whittled the supply down to 75 bullets. The four Humvees in Hanselman's unit - named Kabar 6 after the Marine fighting knife - took enemy fire from two groups of houses and an oil refinery behind them, Marine officials said. Help for the unit, stuck on a road in the open, was 15 minutes away.

But it was a lot of help. The reaction to the April 20 fight on the outskirts of Haqlaniyah may be a sign of things to come in Anbar province, the restive desert territory west of Baghdad where American military officials believe insurgents and foreign fighters gather, train and then move into the rest of Iraq.

Hundreds of troops were directed at Haqlinayah soon after trouble started, said Col. Stephen Davis, the commander of Regimental Combat Team-2.

Nine battalions now hold an area where 13 battalions had been stationed until February. In northern Anbar province, which includes Haqlaniyah, about 3,000 Marines are stretched among outposts in an area the size of South Carolina.

While the idea to swarm enemy fighters is not new to the Marines in Iraq, it is rare that they do it fast enough for more than a few dozen Marines to shoot back at the fighters, let alone to surround the fast-moving insurgency. When the Americans shift forces into a town, it is usually only for a few days, and the action is so telegraphed that insurgents and foreign fighters can flee ahead of them.

Because several smaller units near Haqlaniyah were ready for other missions April 20, nearly 200 troops from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines were able to respond to the shootout there within the first hour. The troops remained in town for the next three days. When left Haqlaniyah on April 23, things appeared to have returned to normal. The locals had learned on several previous occasions that the Marines rarely stay.

But on April 26, about 500 Marines from 3-25 and other battalions suddenly returned to Haqlaniyah, a small town of about 5,000 on the Euphrates River. Not only were major roads sealed off, but so were the desert and surrounding villages. Troops began rolling into all of Haqlaniyah's neighborhoods almost at once, and stayed until early Sunday.

Besides being able to actually shoot back at insurgents in the first phase, more than 40 arrests were made in the second phase, said battalion commander Lt. Col. Lionel Urquhart. Marine officials said the insurgents were apparently surprised the Marines had returned.

The first move in the new strategy for Anbar could not have begun in a more mundane way. Just after noon on April 20, two gunmen fired on a civil affairs patrol carrying repair proposals to schools in a neighboring town.

A description was sent out of the shooters' getaway car, which Hanselman's patrol stumbled across south of Haqlaniyah. But the Americans quickly found themselves outnumbered by an insurgent counterattack that sent gunfire and rockets down on them from several homes on the edge of town. Another American platoon arrived to pin down the Iraqi gunmen, and then a fresh company of troops backed them up.

By the time the fighting died down five hours later, hundreds of Marines from the 3-25 had poured in, supported by tanks, armored vehicles and helicopters.

"It's one of the first times they actually stayed and fought," said Staff Sgt. Michael Knittle, 35, of Wakeman, Ohio, who was in the initial firefight alongside Hanselman.

Then came the pullout and the surprise return April 26, when hundreds more troops from battalions as far away as the Jordanian and Syrian borders sealed off Haqlaniyah, trapping insurgents and foreign fighters.

"Insurgents typically run like rats on a sinking ship," said Maj. Steve White, the operations officer who directed the fight in Haqlaniyah. "This time, I don't think they realized the ship was sinking."

The 3rd Battalion moved almost all of its forces in the area into town April 26 and sat there, hoping for insurgents to grow impatient and begin fighting again.

North of them, a company from the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, based in Al Qaim, seized the shops, neighborhood and pontoon bridge where the fight had begun a few days before. Across the river and on the outskirts of town, parts of the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, stationed on the border with Jordan, blocked off road junctions in the desert.

The insurgents soon tried to fade into the populace. In the five-day operation that followed, there was sporadic gunfire each day, a suicide car bomber and roadside blasts. No Americans were killed, and along with the more than 40 detainees swept up in raids, Marines also netted bomb-making materials, documents and weapons.

Among the prisoners was a suspected former Iraqi special forces officer believed to be coordinating local insurgent attacks, and three Sudanese men who claimed to be sheep shearers, and who sat ramrod straight and refused offers of water from their Marine captors as others begged to be let go.

The detainees were brought to regimental holding facilities each night by a squadron of Humvees directed by Cpl. Josh Smith, 23, of Poplarville, Miss. His mission orders were simple: "Keep your drivers awake."

On April 31, Smith made his 11th late-night prisoner run to Al Asad air base, about an hour away across darkened roads.

Both the men and vehicles were dirty from days in the field, and scratched by roadside bomb blasts. They blared heavy metal music on jury-rigged speakers and called each other frequently on the radio to keep from falling asleep.

Along with the prisoners, weapons and documents, there was another benefit of the Marines' operation.

During the Friday call to prayers, an imam in town declared no love for the Marines, but then denounced the insurgents for picking fights with Americans that they didn't want to finish.

Younger Marines excitedly passed the news about the imam. As White put it, "Out here, you take whatever you can get."


05-04-05, 11:24 AM
Army secret unwrapped
By Jennifer Harper
Published May 4, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Heard, understood, acknowledged: A toothsome U.S. Army secret is about to go civilian.

It's sweet. It crunches. It remains fresh for three years. And come June, the HooAH! nutrition bar arrives on store shelves nationwide for red-blooded Americans who fancy a special-forces snack.

Developed as a high-energy combat ration for Army Rangers and U.S. Marines almost a decade ago at the Army Soldier Systems Center in Massachusetts, the HooAH! name and formula officially have been licensed by a trio of California brothers who know a good thing when they see it.

"Everybody respects the military, and everybody wants a part of the cutting-edge technology," said Christian D'Andrea of Los Angeles, who bought exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute the bar with brothers Mark and Paul.

"Retailers are really pumped," Mr. D'Andrea said.

The brothers have replaced the bar's camouflaged wrapper with a star-spangled version to catch the eye of consumers at 15,000 stores nationwide -- including Wal-Mart, 7-Eleven and CVS. It's the nosh, the brothers say, "to help you soldier on."

Along with soy protein, dried fruit, chocolate and 17 vitamins and minerals, the HooAH! bar is chock-full of military tradition. The name itself is derived from the Army acronym "HUA" -- "heard, understood, acknowledged."

Of course, the official bar is labeled "HooAH!" for Army troops on one side and "Oorah!" on the other side, meant for Marines, who prefer "Oo" to "Hoo." Currently used by special forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bars will be part of the servicewide Meals, Ready to Eat (MRE) system of field rations next year.

There's serious science behind it.

"We wanted to provide a quick increase in blood glucose, then a slow release of energy. Very key in this is the lipids. They give it shelf life, texture, taste and energy," said Jack Briggs, the researcher who developed the HooAH! formula to improve performance of fighting troops during intense military operations.

"The current formulation has an ideal amount of fat to provide a stable, palatable food that has a firm but crunchy texture," Mr. Briggs said.

The C rations and K rations of previous generations contained chocolate bars and raisins for an energy fix. The Army, in fact, long has provided ingenious food for troops under fire -- including special rations for downed parachutists, jungle and mountain troops and lifeboat survivors.

The HooAH! bar actually has a predecessor: World War II's emergency Field Ration D, a 600-calorie chunk of chocolate, sugar, dry milk and oats that was not particularly popular at the time.

These days, the Army's Combat Feeding Program has expanded to include self-heating packaging and more variety. The military HooAH! bar is available in apple-cinnamon, chocolate, cran-raspberry, peanut butter and raspberry flavors.

Alas, the commercial version has just two flavors. At 280 calories, 10 grams of protein, 8 or 9 grams of fat and 40 grams to 42 grams of carbohydrates, the HooAH! is aimed at athletes, outdoorsmen and others who dote upon wellness or energy bars.

Considered the fastest-growing food category in the United States, sales of various breakfast and energy bars weigh in at about $2 billion per year, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

Entrepreneur Mr. D'Andrea -- a Harvard graduate and former Eagle Scout -- thinks the bar will be a hit in Republican-friendly "red states," which tend to harbor a heavy population of hunters and fishermen.

Money alone does not drive him, though. The company donates a portion of the $2 retail price to Army relief programs, provides free bars for wounded soldiers and has shipped 7,000 HooAH! bars to tsunami survivors. They also can be ordered online at http://www.hooahbar.com


05-04-05, 12:07 PM
Proud Marine, son remembered
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KANE'OHE — Joanne and David Fuller of Granville, Mass., had promised their son Travis that they would come to Hawai'i to greet him when his Marine Corps unit returned from Iraq.

First Lt. Travis J. Fuller was killed Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash in western Iraq.

Yesterday his parents and sisters were at Marine Corps Base Hawai'i to help welcome his buddies home from an eight-month deployment and to accept the Bronze Star their son had earned in house-to-house fighting last year in Fallujah.

"We really wanted to greet the men," Joanne Fuller said. "We lost our son but they lost 26 of their closest friends (in the crash) and we were very worried about them. We wanted to let them know we appreciated the service that they gave."

Fuller was among 31 U.S. servicemen killed - including 26 Kane'ohe Marines and a Pearl Harbor-based Navy corpsman assigned to them - when a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter ferrying troops to support Iraqi elections crashed in western Iraq.

At the Kane'ohe Marine base yesterday, with about 1,000 members of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment looking on, the Fullers accepted their son's Bronze Star for Combat Valor.

Travis Fuller, a former high-school wrestler, and his 3rd Platoon were with the first element of Charlie Company to hit the ground in the Battle of Fallujah on Nov. 8. For six hours, Fuller and his men fought house to house through the streets of Fallujah, dodging explosions and enemy automatic-weapons fire.

"He consistently led the platoon from the front," his citation reads. Near Al Tawfiq Mosque the unit was pinned down by enemy fire. "With complete disregard for his own safety, he moved around the battlefield placing Marines in support by fire position. He then led the assault on the enemy stronghold," the citation said, killing four insurgents.

His sisters Rebecca Fuller and Jennifer Francis were also at yesterday's ceremony, along with an uncle, Joe Rowe. Rebecca Fuller recalled how her brother kidded her about thinking he could dodge bullets, but found out during his urban warfare training that he couldn't.

Now she thinks he had it right the first time.

"He really could outrun those bullets," Rebecca Fuller said. Her brother always downplayed his actions in Iraq, she said. "He was very humble about what he was doing. He knew it was important but he didn't want to brag about what he was doing."

David Fuller, Travis' father, said his son was born prematurely and nearly died. It wasn't until he entered high school before his health improved and he took up sports.

David Fuller said he was proud of his son and tries to make decisions in his life that would make his son proud of him.

"I think all of us should carry this message: We honor our Marines by our daily actions," he said.

Marines who served with 1st Lt. Fuller remember him as a humorous man and an outstanding leader, concerned for the troops under him.

"He was what Marines expect of a Marine Corps officer," said Lt. Col. Michael Ramos. Fuller will be remembered for his noble deeds and selfless, upbeat attitude, he said.

He was able to take the edge off the stress of fighting and turn every situation into a moment of laughter, said fellow Marine Adam Bonaventura. "He kept everything light-hearted and never gave into stress," Bonaventura said.

"Travis was a special guy," said Capt. Tom Tennant. "He never failed to surprise me with his humor, with his tactical proficiency and his fierce loyalty to the Marines in his company."

That is why after surviving the intense battles in Fallujah, losing him and the other men of Company C in the helicopter crash was so difficult, Tennant said. "It didn't seem fair. I can't call it anything but a heartbreak."


05-04-05, 01:11 PM
Memorial vandalized
Coeur d'Alene Press
May 4, 2005

HAYDEN -- The letters were ordinary at the time, just the hurried scratchings of a 19-year-old private wanting to send something to his baby sister before heading to battle again.

But time and circumstances have turned them into something else. In one letter to Carolyn Gordon Sampert, he said he was sending a check to be put into an account for the new car he's going to buy when he gets home.

"Do you have any idea," he asked her, "what kind of car I might be interested in?"

In another letter, he wrote, "There isn't much to do here except read magazines, play cards and write letters.

"But it's peaceful up here, anyway."

And in the most poignant of them all -- dated March 31, 1969 -- he said he couldn't decide what country to visit during his scheduled "R&R," "Switzerland is a nice place to visit, but not for me because I really don't dig snow that much," he wrote.

"But, anyway, I've got another four or five months to think about it."

But he didn't. Marine Pfc. Robert Jerry Gordon of Hayden Lake was killed in Vietnam on April 15, 1969, as his company carried out on a search-and-clear operation.

Carolyn was 15. Helen May Nelson Gordon was 23, old enough to remember Jerry, as they called her brother, and now old enough to be incensed about thieves taking a big bouquet of silk flowers and red, white and blue windmills off his memorial in Hayden City Park.

Donations from family, friends and the community of Hayden Lake paid for that plaque on the flagpole at the entrance to Hayden Park about two years after his death.

Although the boy is buried in Coeur d'Alene Memorial Gardens Cemetery on Government Way, the family always visits the memorial on the anniversary of his death. This year, they cleaned the planter as they usually do, and placed the gifts only to return two days later to find that planter empty.

Helen first checked with the city to make sure the gifts hadn't been removed for sanitation reasons. When she learned they hadn't, she got mad.

"I hope you enjoy your flowers that will never die and the windmills that will forever move freely in the wind," she wrote in a letter to the thieves, "for those things are what my brother died for: Freedom."

They were a close family, the seven of them: Zelma, her late husband, Robert, daughters Barbara, Helen May and Carolyn; brothers Terry. And Jerry.

"It was hard to sit down at the dinner table, with six slots instead of seven," says Helen. "That chair was always empty."

But Zelma knew before the Marine Corps told her that her son was dead. Two days before the official notification, she saw him in a dream, touching his hand to his head in a kind of salute, blood falling down his forehead.

He called her "Mom."

"I told my husband that Jerry was just killed," she remembers now. "He said, 'It's just a dream, go back to bed.' But I thought about it quite a bit. He died about the same time that I woke up."

To this day, she says, she remembers the day those Marines came.

"I remember it real plain," she says quietly. "I could relive it every day."

Lynn Berk can be reached at 664-8176, ext. 2016, or at lberk@cdapress.com.


05-04-05, 01:54 PM
May 09, 2005

War spurs call for staff sergeants in counterintel

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — Amid the military’s push to bolster language skills and cultural training, one small unit wants to lure smart, adventurous Marines and build them into trained intelligence teams to support deployed combat units.
Members of the Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Company, part of 1st Intelligence Battalion at Camp Pendleton, Calif., are in much bigger demand lately, mostly due to the continuing combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and global operations against terrorist groups.

But the unit wants to counter shortages in intelligence specialists and billets by recruiting more Marines — notably noncommissioned officers and junior staff sergeants — into the field.

Along with the need for more corporals and sergeants to become counterintelligence specialists (military occupational specialty 0211), the company is looking for junior staff sergeants to become CI specialists and eventually team chiefs, said 2nd Lt. Nathan Lewis, an officer with the company.

With billets to spare, the Marine Corps’ intelligence battalions are looking for volunteers with brains, brawn, personality, a knack for talking easily with strangers and the ability to operate in small teams, Lewis said.

CI and human intelligence exploitation teams operating with units in Iraq, for example, may talk to local residents and leaders or interrogate detainees and suspected insurgents.

Marines with the best shot at becoming a CI agent would be well-rounded, well-read, knowledgeable on current events, especially international news, and good writers.

“We do a lot of reports,” Lewis said.

Good speakers, good writers

Counterintelligence specialists often are called on to write intelligence reports and brief planners and commanders, so the job takes good speakers and writers who don’t fear rank, Lewis said, noting that “sometimes these sergeants are going to be talking to a lieutenant colonel.”

During the screening process, a prospective CI Marine must pass muster with a board, which could include questions about history, traditions and the latest diplomatic issues in different regions. So preparation is key.

Marines shouldn’t forget the basic skills, too, such as navigation and reading maps.

“We work in small teams, so it’s very important that a person knows how to take care of themselves,” Lewis said.

Although most counterintelligence and human intelligence teams support infantry units, it’s not just infantrymen who make up these teams, Lewis said.

Once selected, prospective CI specialists must attend the primary MOS school, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Counterintelligence/ Human Intelligence Course at the Navy-Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center in Dam Neck, Va. Subsequent training may include other elite courses, such as jump school.

Some CI specialists will get language training at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif.

Marines interested in more information in making the lateral move can contact the CI/HUMINT Company at Camp Pendleton, (760) 725-6870, (760) 725-6872 or (760) 725-5952 or DSN 365-6870, or contact the nearest CI/HUMINT unit in your division.


05-04-05, 01:55 PM
May 09, 2005

Armored shorts help protect below the belt
Warfighting Lab also develops collar for face and neck area

By Laura Bailey
Times staff writer

Marines concerned about injuries to sensitive areas of the body may someday have the option of special ballistic protection — as long as they don’t mind lugging around more pounds.
The Marine Corps has developed a small number of armored shorts as a potential option to protect Marines in certain jobs from waist and leg injuries due to small-arms fire and shrapnel from improvised explosives.

“There have been injuries that we know of that if they were wearing these shorts, it would have protected against,” said Navy Lt. Deborah Packard, force protection project officer at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab at Quantico, Va.

A batch of the $1,500 armored shorts has been field tested by turret gunners in Iraq. So far, the feedback is that they may be too heavy to be practical.

The oversized Kevlar shorts are worn over the cammies, covering an area from the waist to four to six inches above the knees. Because of their 11.5-pound weight, they include a harness that goes over the shoulders.

While the shorts may be too heavy for most grunts, they are meant specifically for vehicle gunners who have more of their lower bodies exposed.

“If you’re kicking down doors or running up stairs, they are probably not real suitable. But if you are in a convoy, doing convoy ops, they will save lives,” said John Clark, the project manager for LB Technologies, the shorts’ manufacturer based in Fredericksburg, Va.

“You have all kinds of things down there that are needed to function,” Clark said, referring to the kidney, intestines and the major femoral artery, which if punctured can result in bleeding to death.

The Corps is experimenting with the shorts and has not decided if they would be useful for Marines in combat, Packard said.

The idea for the shorts came in April 2004, when leathernecks with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, requested protection for turret gunners, Packard said.

The Warfighting Lab quickly contracted with LB Technologies to produce 10 pairs of shorts.

Based on the feedback, the Warfighting Lab and LB Technologies came up with another version with quick-release buckles. Marines can whip the shorts off quickly in case they need to escape from a vehicle fire or a roll over.

The new pairs also have snaps in the crotch for more breathing room.

Testing in Iraq

In March, 10 pairs of the new version went to Iraq with Camp Lejeune, N.C.’s 2nd Military Police Battalion.

The company’s Humvee gunners said the shorts were less valuable now that more Humvees are up-armored, Packard said.

The shorts are now with 7-ton truck gunners, whose vehicles are less protected.

Packard said she is still awaiting feedback from the gunners, but one e-mail she received from those Marines was generally positive.

Packard said the Warfighting Lab is looking at a wider sample of Marines in II Marine Expeditionary Force to see if there are other places where the shorts could be practical.

Collar protection

The lab and LB Technologies have also produced face and neck protection in the form of a collar. Ten pairs of those are also being tested by the M.P. battalion.

The $350 collar tapers at the neck and expands around the chin.

Clark said that even though the design does not cover the face, it will protect against shrapnel and fragmentation that often flies up from the ground.

For now, it is unknown if the Corps will purchase more of the shorts and neck collars, despite recent calls from at least one senator, Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., for the military to purchase below-the-waist protection for troops in Iraq.

A spokesman for the lab said the project would not be transferred to Marine Corps Systems Command, the acquisition arm of the Marine Corps, unless there is a demand for the technology by Marines in the field.

“It remains to be seen,” said John D. Manley, a spokesman for the Warfighting Lab.

“If the concept is there and it’s validated, the Marine Corps as a whole will determine whether it’s produced.”


05-04-05, 02:06 PM
May 04, 2005
Marine meets his Internet deaf pen pals
Students at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School at Gallaudet University had used e-mail and a school Web log to get first-hand accounts of the insurgency in Iraq and the daily survival of a U.S. Marine stationed there.

Yesterday, the 42 students met their personal link for the first time.

Sgt. Earl "Jay" Beatty, 31, joined the school's sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at a homecoming ceremony on Gallaudet's campus in Northeast. He returned home to Mitchellville March 18.

The students, who are deaf or have partial hearing loss, used sign-language interpreters to thank a tearful Sgt. Beatty and his wife, Donna, 30, for their contributions to their country and for their correspondence with the students.

"People who went to Vietnam didn't get thanks. Just to see how important this was to these kids means a lot," Sgt. Beatty said. "But to have a young man come up and give me a hug who has a hearing impediment and may not get the chances I have, and have him thank me for what I'm doing -- wow!"

The correspondence with Sgt. Beatty began when Kendall teacher Philip Bogdan, 46, heard that his good friend was being deployed to Iraq last August.

"I freaked out when I found out he was being deployed," Mr. Bogdan said. "I wanted to know how we could support him, how I could help. Then I thought of the kids at school."

What began as a way to keep in touch with a friend blossomed into a seven-month lesson in culture and world affairs for the students.

"The first day I told them, 'On a bad day, your mom and dad won't let you watch TV. But on a bad day for Jay, his friends get killed,' " Mr. Bogdan said. "That really got them."

Sgt. Beatty served in Iraq with the 4th Civil Affairs Group Detachment 4C, primarily in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi and at the Abu Ghraib prison. Sgt. Beatty, who serves as a Maryland state trooper when he's home, has been told he might be redeployed.

For the children, e-mailing Sgt. Beatty, Mrs. Beatty and the couple's 3-year-old son, Nico, was a chance to hear the news firsthand and learn about a part of the world they may never see. All of the children who spoke to The Washington Times yesterday used a sign-language interpreter.

"Marines go through tough conditions to serve their country," said Sarah Smith, 13, who came to Kendall from Savannah, Ga. "He told us about his routine that he went through every day and what he witnessed every day. I couldn't make that stuff up."

Appreciation for U.S. troops was one of many things the children gained from Sgt. Beatty's e-mails and the pictures he sent home.

The camel spider also became the subject of adoration and wonder among most of the students. A photograph of two abnormally large camel spiders was forwarded to the students and posted on the blog.

"Of course I enjoyed talking to Jay, but I also liked the camel spider," Sarah said. "It is a spider that is about a foot wide when it is full-grown."

The size of the spider is more urban legend spread by the troops and the Internet. Instead of a foot wide, the spiders grow to be about 5 inches wide.

Nonetheless, students were eager to talk about the spider as much as possible yesterday.

"The camel spider was the most interesting thing [about Iraq] to me, because it's so huge," said Joe Conrad, 14.

"I wouldn't want to find one in my bed," Sarah said.

By Amy Doolittle, Washington Times


05-04-05, 02:16 PM
May 09, 2005 <br />
<br />
Missing paperwork keeps Corps from catching deserters <br />
<br />
By Laura Bailey <br />
Times staff writer <br />
<br />
<br />
Commanders are not filing the proper paperwork on deserters and the missing forms are...

05-04-05, 03:04 PM
Camp Pendleton therapists help injured Marines recover


The Orange County Register

CAMP PENDLETON - (KRT) - Inside Camp Pendleton hospital's musculoskeletal department, Sgt. Jason Shaw's arm has vanished inside a faintly humming, rectangular white box.

"It feels like sand blowing," he said calmly. A few minutes later he pulled his arm free to reveal a dark purple scar running from wrist to elbow and coated with what looked like a fine sprinkling of sawdust.

The scar is the result of a grenade explosion in Fallujah, Iraq, which fractured Shaw's arm and required doctors to slash open the skin to relieve internal swelling.

"Without the (operation), my hand would have died," Shaw said.

The sawdust is actually granulated cornhusk, which, when blown over the injured appendage inside the "fluidotherapy" box, stimulates deadened scar tissue.

Nearby, boxes of pom-poms and plastic chips perform the same tactile function.

It's not exactly high-tech, said Lt. Mike Robinson, the hospital's only occupational therapist.

Simple solutions to complex injuries are Robinson's specialty.

Unlike San Diego's larger and technically advanced Naval Medical Center, Pendleton's hospital does not tend the war's critically wounded.

Instead, Camp Pendleton's hospital represents a last stage in a process, with critically injured Marines first sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and then to highly specialized critical care facilities such as San Diego and Bethesda Naval Medical Centers.

Robinson and six physical therapists deal with the aftermath: the painful, often tedious, always difficult process of rehabilitating the injured, whether they be the 60,000 Marines and family members at the base, or the 700 military casualties who have come here from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Demand for Robinson's services is not likely to slacken, even with the March changeover of fighting responsibility from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"Most of the guys that I'm seeing coming back from Iraq are in it for the long haul," said Robinson. "Especially cut tendons or nerves can take a year to heal."

Since the start of the war in Iraq, the 35-year-old native of Abilene, Texas, has become a war wound expert. His lasso- and longhorn-decorated office has seen more than 3,500 enlisted outpatients since 2002.

Nationally, 11,664 U.S. troops have been injured in Iraq, and 1,548 killed. In Afghanistan, 175 servicemen have died while about 442 have been injured.

Inside Pendleton's hospital, Robinson and his staff of three technicians tend to fractured arms, grafted skin, shattered nerves and ridged scars with surprisingly simple techniques: rubber bands, fishing wire, crazy glue.

"Believe it or not, that's pretty high-tech," said Robinson, laughing, as he used all three to lace together a splint encasing a slashed-and-stitched hand.

His patient, Lisa Niemann, 32, wife of a Marine Corps flight-training instructor, winced as metal hooks were glued to her fingernails. Robinson then wrapped fishing wire around the hooks and tied them to rubber bands mounted on a plastic splint.

Beside her, husband Chris jogged their 6-month-old daughter Emily on his lap and stared doubtfully at the superhighway snarl of string and rubber meant to repair his wife's cut tendon, caused by a broken glass.

"I was actually wondering if at civilian hospitals it was done differently," Chris Niemann said tentatively.

Robinson chuckled. "No, they do the same exact thing."

Next door, another patient is having his atrophied and disfigured right hand stimulated with electrical jolts.

"Even if my hand comes back it will never be the same," said Lance Cpl. Nathan Kemnitz, 20, of Houston.

An explosive device in Fallujah blew off much of his right arm and damaged nerves that now prevent him from doing more than bending his wrist.

A wrinkled skin graft coats much of his withered lower arm, while a scar above his right eye marks the spot where he lost his sight.

Other than a phantom sensation of his hand "clenching all the time," Kemnitz said the 5-month-old injury did not hurt.

Robinson said nerves transplanted from Kemnitz's leg to his arm may, over time, take.

"Unfortunately, with any kind of nerve damage it's a long process," Robinson said.

At a table next to Kemnitz, a technician massaged Sgt. Brett Kelsey's mutilated finger with one of Robinson's more high-tech "toys:" an ultrasound.

The therapy helps reduce scar tissue Kelsey, 28, suffered from a bullet that plowed through his hands in Ramadi, Iraq.

"There's still a chance I could get this one amputated," he said, pointing to his index finger. The injured digit is held in place with an "external fixator" - a bridge connecting a series of metal screws.

"It's just a finger," another Marine tells Kelsey jokingly.

In this room of Purple Hearts, the Marine ethos that describes pain as "just weakness leaking out" is good and bad, Robinson said.

"It's good for these guys to talk with other guys who have similar injuries and problems," he said. "But there's definitely a (tough) mentality. Sometimes people won't come in for treatment until the problem is really bad."

Since therapists such as Robinson see the wounded on a regular basis, they often bear witness to psychological, as well as physical, changes.

"He's got some issues," Robinson observed of Kelsey, in the hallway outside. "He doesn't want to lose that finger, but he's starting to come around to it."

Others will not fight again, a hard fact that Robinson is often the first to relate.

"Some of these guys say, `Hey doc, when can you get me back?'" said Robinson. "A lot of (the) time I have to tell them: You're not going back."


© 2005, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).


05-04-05, 03:38 PM
Sen to me by Mark aka The Fontman

Names on W.Va. Vets' Memorial Misspelled
Associated Press Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Misspelled and reversed names carved into granite on West Virginia's Veterans Memorial will require the replacement of all 37 name-bearing panels, the state's archive and history director said Wednesday.

"If somebody made a mistake on my parents' tombstone, I would like it to be corrected," said Fredrick Armstrong. "Let's do it right in honor of these people."

Of the 10,159 names listed on the memorial, 132 need to be corrected, but they are scattered across the panels, he said.

Among the mistakes is the misspelling of a Korean War Medal of Honor recipient, Army Sgt. Cornelius H. Charlton. Charlton's first name was spelled "Corneliow." He was killed while leading his troops up a hill on June 1, 1952.

Other mistakes include last names placed before first.

The panels hold the names of West Virginians who died in World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam. The names of state residents killed in conflicts since 1982 appear on bronze plaques, which could be recast.

Armstrong isn't sure where the blame rests. The names were gathered between 1987 and 1995 by a veterans memorial commission and etched into the stone by the quarry that won the contract.

Replacing the panels would cost $500,000 to $1 million. Armstrong said he has some money but will need help from the Legislature.


05-04-05, 03:50 PM
Marine finally home to share stories
The Mountain Democrat
May 4, 2005

After 13 months in Iraq, El Dorado County Sheriff's Sgt. and United States Marines 1st Sgt. Jeff Sesak said simply, "I'm glad to have gone, but I'm glad to be back."

A big sigh escaped the Marine reservist who wore proudly an "Operation Iraqi Freedom," T-shirt. Sesak served in Iraq for two tours of duty. During that time, the Pollock Pines resident shared his experiences by writing dispatches from the war-torn country that were published in the Mountain Democrat.

One lesson he learned while there - Sesak said he realizes now how good Americans have it in the United States.

"We are pretty much spoiled," he said. "Things we complain about here ... are not issues in other places."

And just the opposite is also true.

Sesak trained Iraqi police forces during his tours, and he said the training there varies somewhat from how law enforcement trains here because the Iraqis face different threats. In the United States, the police don't worry about attacks on the police station but in Iraq, Sesak said he and other trainers spent lots of time preparing for direct attacks.

"Some things we had to tailor," Sesak said. "Here, we don't have people shooting at us with RPGs (rocket propelled grenades)."

Because of his civilian job as a sheriff's sergeant and his experience in the military, Sesak said he was selected to go to Iraq for the specific job of training new police. During his time there, Sesak said he saw the coalition forces make great strides with the Iraqi people.

More tips came through the Marines' anonymous hotline as time went by, he said, and the Iraqis began to trust the soldiers.

"I'm not seeing the 70 percent that didn't want us there," Sesak said, referring to a "poll" he saw in a newspaper. "I saw the 70 percent that did want us there."

In his last dispatch to the states before coming home Sesak wrote, "In the year that I have been here and seen what I have seen, there is no doubt in my mind that the average Iraqi wants us here and is glad that we came and liberated them. The biggest propaganda tool the extremists here use is that we are non-Muslims and 'infidels.' Religion aside, righteousness, goodness and doing the proper thing is the same regardless of what religion you choose.

"Just having a choice in their decisions here was for the most part non-existent until the fall of Saddam. Being here during the free Iraqi elections was a sense of pride for us. I could sense that this was an historical moment not only for Iraq but for the world."

On Election Day in Iraq, Jan. 30, Sesak and others were patrolling and he said several people gave him hushed "thank yous" and many thumbs-up. He said he also saw Iraqis dancing in the street after they had voted.

The work done by the forces is starting to pay dividends now, Sesak said, but only time will tell whether Iraq can become a truly free country and govern itself well. Sesak said he looks at the progress as two steps forward and one step back but he chooses to count the steps forward.

"We're making great strides and we're going in the right direction but it's taking longer than probably most Americans want or we anticipated," he said. "We're not going to get instant successes. It's going to take time.

"I saw improvements. They weren't overly dramatic but they were improvements," he added.

But now Sesak gets to watch the situation in Iraq from a different view - from home with his wife, Janet, and sons Ethan, 9, and Nelson, 14.

"They had the hard job," Sesak said of his deployment. "I had the easy job."

Sesak said he's taking his time getting used to being home and spending time doing the little things like fixing things around the house. The sheriff's sergeant will go back to work in May, something Sesak said he's really looking forward to.

In addition to all of his regular civilian duties, Sesak is also giving presentations about his time in Iraq, telling the real story of what it's like to be in a war zone. Sesak plans to make a presentation on Wednesday, May 25, in the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting room (330 Fair Lane, Placerville) beginning at 6:30 p.m. Anyone interested is invited to attend.


05-04-05, 05:48 PM
3/2 Marines assumes authority of Al Qaim region
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200553135930
Story by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel

CAMP AL QAIM, Iraq (March 09, 2005) -- Lt. Col. Christopher Woodridge, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment officially transferred authority of Camp Al Qaim and their area of operations to Lieutenant Colonel T.S. Mundy, commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment in a ceremony held here March 9.

The battalion is here to continue stability and security operations in and around Al Qaim for roughly seven months, which was the same amount of time 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment was in the area.

"Seven months is a normal rotation for an infantry battalion. The Marine Corps has found that seven months in one area is the right length of time for an infantry battalion in this type of environment," Mundy explained.

According to Mundy, this is an important area of the country because of the heavy flow of insurgents and terrorists across the Syrian boarder.

The battalion's primary mission will be to continue assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in preventing this influx into Iraq by helping them assume responsibility for their region.

This will be accomplished assisting the ISF in conducting vehicle searches, personnel check points, route security and cordon and knocks, which is the isolation and search of an objective.

"I look forward to seeing the Marines and Sailors of the battalion perform their mission to the ability that I know they have," Mundy said. "We spent a long time training to get here. I feel the battalion is well-trained and the Marines are going to be successful."

Mundy and his battalion entered this area with a positive attitude and a strong desire to accomplish their mission.

"It's good to be able to see young men step up to what we expect them to do here.

"We're happy to be here," he explained. "That may sound strange, but the Marines have worked hard to get here and they'll do good work to help this country."


05-04-05, 09:14 PM
3/4, Local leaders work to better Fallujah
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20055361929
Story by Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

FALLUJAH, Iraq (May 3, 2005) -- As stability and security returns here, Marines from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, work alongside local district leaders (Muktars) to help rebuild the worn-torn city.

Their consolidated resources are being used to improve the living conditions so citizens can move forward in creating a prosperous society.

The Muktars are volunteers from the community who have stepped forward to represent the people in their area. These leaders meet with representatives from the battalion weekly to discuss the needs of the community and how to best meet those needs.

“We discuss missing persons, relief organizations, electricity, water, trash…” said Army Capt. John D. Naastad, the 35-year-old team chief for Civil Affairs Team Alpha 1, who is attached to the battalion.

In these meetings, the team serves as a link between the Muktars and the department heads of Iraqi organizations. These organizations, such as the Department of Housing and Roads, Department of Electricity and Department of Water, are in place to assist the people of Fallujah.

“We’re hoping to establish a working relationship between the department heads and the district leaders,” Naastad said. “We’re hoping to take a step back and let the people fix the problems in the city.”

Although the battalion looks to be less visual in these meetings, the companies living within the city will still be approachable, Naastad said.

The two-way road of communication is a valuable asset to both the community and the Marines providing security in Fallujah.

“We’ll be able to get information to the people, and the citizens will tell the district leaders things they won’t tell a patrol,” said Capt. Joseph M. Turgeon, 32-year-old commanding officer of Company K.

Although the meetings are showing great promise, the effort is still in its beginning stages. Only three meetings have been held with a significant presence of local leaders.

“We’re still trying to make sure there is a district leader to cover all the areas,” said Turgeon, a native of Cathlamat, Wash.

The latest meeting contained more than a dozen local leaders representing almost two thirds of the people living in the battalion’s area of operations.

“We went from having no representation to having chosen leaders all in one place to discuss the city’s problems,” Naastad said.

With the assistance of the city’s new district leaders, the battalion will continue to help the people of Fallujah to rebuild their way of life.


05-04-05, 10:12 PM
90 days in country, 3/8 remains successful
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200542811740
Story by Lance Cpl. Athanasios L. Genos

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (April 28, 2005) -- Marines with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, continue to provide a strong presence here after 90 days of counter-insurgency operations.

These operations consist of searching for weapons and insurgent propaganda, rooting out suspected insurgent operatives and rebuilding the local community through civil-military programs.

Together with the Iraqi Security Forces, the battalion conducts counter-insurgency operations to neutralize the insurgents and establish a secure environment within which political, social, and economical progress is possible.

"We have been conducting combined operations with the Iraqi Security Forces since our arrival, starting with the elections of the Iraqi Transitional Government,” explained Lt. Col. Stephen Neary, commander of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

In addition to neutralizing the insurgency, the battalion works daily with the ISF to better facilitate a future turn over of responsibility.

“One of our primary goals is to turn over some of the towns we are currently patrolling together to the ISF,” explained Neary.

Another aspect of turning over the operational responsibility to the ISF is the establishment of better health care, schools, public works, fire fighting capability and a new police force. To do this the battalion utilizes civil affairs programs to compliment military, political and economical operations.

These programs are run by Marines with the 5th Civil Affairs Group here in direct support of the battalion. As they determine what projects, such as rebuilding a school, need to be done, they then contract the work to local Iraqi businessmen.

“We are here to help fix problems by finding solutions and implementing those solutions by hiring Iraqi’s to complete the needed work,” explained Maj. Mark Fuller, Team 2’s commander, Detachment 2, 5th CAG.

Over the past 90 days, the battalion’s operations have uncovered various small and large weapons caches; consisting of Surface-to-Air-Missiles, mortars, missile launchers, RPGs, pistols, rifles, machine guns and ammunition. These caches were either hidden in buildings or buried so they could be recovered for future attacks on the Marines and Multi-National Coalition Forces.

Thus far, 78 weapons caches have been uncovered resulting in the confiscation of 263 small arms weapons, 52 improvised explosive devices, 16,928 rounds of unexploded ordnance (14.5 mm or larger) and tens of thousands of 7.62 mm rounds for small and medium machine guns.

“The current insurgency is desperate but tenacious; finding these caches make it much more difficult for them to harm U.S. Forces or innocent civilians,” explained Sgt. Abel Rojas, a Marine from the intelligence section.

For these and other operations conducted here, the Marines and sailors with the battalion have earned 43 meritorious masts, 36 certificates of commendations and 64 Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. There are still numerous other awards for valor and bravery currently awaiting approval and the battalion’s deployment is still a long way from its conclusion.

“Everyone likes to hear, ‘job well done’ or ‘thank you for going above and beyond or being selfless.’ We must recognize the best America has to offer,” explained Neary.

During a recent awards formation, Neary talked about commitment to excellence and the need to focus on the basics.

“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast,” he said while encouraging the Marines to not get complacent over the next couple of months. “This, my men, is the time to shift to overdrive so you remain the hunter not the hunted.”

As Task Force 3/8 shifts into overdrive, they continue pushing forward in their mission to provide a stable, secure environment here for Iraq’s people and for the economy to flourish.


05-04-05, 11:30 PM
May 09, 2005

First Command broker disciplined

The National Association of Securities Dealers censured, suspended and fined a former broker for First Command Financial Planning, a financial services firm that caters heavily to the military.
The NASD accused Louis E. Stough of making unsuitable recommendations and sales of investments for 12 clients between August 2002 and January 2003, NASD officials said April 13.

Stough, of Pittsburgh, was barred from working as a broker for 10 months and fined $25,000.

Stough, 45, resigned from First Command two years ago after the company learned of his actions and “severed its relations” with him, said First Command spokesman Paul Cozby.

The NASD said Stough failed to inform the clients that they could avoid sales commissions by keeping money in their First Command Systematic Investment Plans within the same mutual fund family.

Instead, he recommended and sold them shares of other mutual-fund families, netting commissions for himself of up to 5.75 percent, NASD said.

In all, Stough generated more than $34,400 in commissions for First Command, of which he received $16,500, the NASD said. First Command paid restitution in 2003 to all affected customers, none of whom were on active duty at the time, and Stough has returned his commissions to First Command.

Stough could not be reached for comment by press time.


05-04-05, 11:30 PM
May 09, 2005

Corps upgrades sexual-assault response program

By Laura Bailey
Times staff writer

The Marine Corps has released instructions for how it plans to carry out a new Defense Department policy requiring the services to put better sexual assault prevention and response programs in place.
Among them is a new option, beginning June 14, that allows Marines to receive medical care after a sexual assault without prompting an investigation.

Unit commanders will still be informed that an assault occurred, but all personal information about the victim and the assailant will remain anonymous, said Jenice Staniford, section head for the Corps’ Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program at Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

“This allows commanders to address any environmental or unit safety concerns,” Staniford said.

Victims can still report the crime to victim advocates, sexual-assault response coordinators, chaplains and Marine and family service counselors under the same conditions.

Or, if they wish to have a criminal investigation started, they can report the assault to their unit leaders or law enforcement officials.

In an April 5 Corpswide message announcing the changes, commanders were also told they should immediately begin using a checklist to respond to allegations of sexual assault.

The checklist gives precise rules for dealing with victims and accused attackers, as well as ideas for creating a climate of prevention in each unit.

The checklist is available through the Corps’ Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office Web site at www.usmc-mccs.org/sapro/resources.cfm.

Victim advocates

The new policy also requires all deploying battalions and squad-rons to appoint at least two Marines, staff sergeant or higher, to serve as “uniformed victim advocates.”

Although the Corps has used paid and volunteer victim advocates at installations since 1993, the uniformed program will put advocates with deployed troops to provide emotional support and give information, Staniford said.

She said the Corps has already established a program to train uniformed advocates in response to the revelations of problems with the other services’ sexual-assault response programs.

“A multidisciplinary team, chaired by the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, was assembled in November 2003 to look at our program, and they found that our victim services were adequate with the exception of care in a deployed environment,” Staniford said.

Since then, the Corps has trained 180 active-duty advocates, she said.

Commanders have until June 14 to fill the sexual-assault response coordinator positions.

The message, MarAdmin 175/05, comes three months after the Pentagon announced that the services would be required to put together more training on prevention and response for service members, better support services for victims and better accounting of those responses.

That policy was crafted after a number of high-profile sexual-assault incidents in recent years, including an investigation of 100 cases of sexual assault or misconduct that were reported over 18 months among U.S. forces deployed to Southwest and Central Asia.


05-04-05, 11:31 PM
Station Marines augment MPs
Submitted by: MCAS Cherry Point
Story Identification #: 2005429114736
Story by Lance Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (April 29, 2005) -- Marines have been putting down their equipment and paperwork, leaving their offices and hangars, and checking out M-16s and 9 mm pistols in order to pin on the badge of military police officer.

Due to recent deployments, the Provost Marshal’s Office here has begun pulling support from different commands throughout Cherry Point in order to keep the Air Station well guarded.

“We have been getting augments since Sept. 11, 2001,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Miller, the special operations chief at PMO. “So many Marines at PMO have been deployed recently. But the augment system has been going great, and we have been getting great quality Marines.”

Some of the Marines augmented to PMO have been of such high caliber that they have been assigned duties beyond those of basic gate guards. They also drive the roads of Cherry Point, providing law enforcement for its residents.

“The hardest part for (augmented) Marines is the differences in hours,” said Miller. “Getting used to working 14-hour days, five days a week, on their feet can be difficult. Waking up at 3:30 in the morning, and then getting back home at 7 p.m. is hard. Then you have to go and physically train, it’s especially hard if you have a family. But, like all Marines, they are adjusting very well.”

Dealing with the public is another difficult aspect of the Marines’ new duties, said Miller.

“They have to deal with the public like professionals,” said Miller. “People can be angry and rude for no reason. For a Marine coming from a hangar, it’s a different (environment) than they are used to.”

All augmented Marines receive extensive training before being assigned to stand guard. From weapons safety, to dealing with the public, to getting a face full of pepper spray, the Marines receive the essential tools they need to carry out their duties.

“Being in PMO has been a good experience,” said Cpl. Eric H. Stephens, who was augmented from Marine Air Control Squadron 2. “This place is stricter and it forces you to be a good Marine. It’s amazing how much authority comes with the badge. I work as a dispatcher with real MPs. My job before was all technical electronics, so I had some technical skills coming here.”
Marines from other military occupational specialties come to PMO with varying talents.

“When we see different people come, we try to use them for their strengths,” said Miller. “Sgt. James Williams came here from 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Squadron, and we discovered he was a martial arts instructor – so we have had him teaching Marines nonlethal combat and self-defense skills.”

For the Marines augmented to PMO, they get a chance to look at the Marine Corps and Cherry Point in a different perspective. They are finding out that not everyone on the station is an angel, and that some people here, like everyone, have real problems.

“Suicide attempts, domestic problems- I had no idea these things happened here,” said Stephens. “This job has been full of surprises. I never thought I’d be this much into these kinds of situations, but working as a dispatcher, you deal with different circumstances daily.”

Marines are standing guard now, making sure the air station is safe. Whether they have been augmented or have always been PMO, their dedication to duty remains. They serve as a reminder that the Marine Corps is fighting a war, and the Marines who remain stateside are also rifleman first, and the day might come when they to will pick an M16 and stand post.


05-05-05, 08:00 AM
3/2 Marines honor fallen brother
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20055442828
Story by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel

CAMP AL QAIM, Iraq (May 3, 2005) -- A memorial ceremony was held here for Lance Cpl. Kevin Smith March 22.

The Springfield, Ohio, native was killed in action by a suicide-vehicle borne improvised explosive device while conducting security and stabilization operations in the Al Anbar province March 21.

The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment honored their fallen brother with speeches from the battalion commander, battalion chaplain, Smith's platoon commander, squad leader and best friend in the platoon.

His Kevlar helmet, combat boots, rifle and dog tags in front of the colors were a symbol of his sacrifice for his country and for freedom.

Sgt. Clive S. Chinatomby was his squad leader and describes Smith as a special kind of Marine.

"He was a team leader and was the first one to jump up and volunteer for anything. He was always there for his Marines. He was always the last one to go to bed and he'd make sure his Marines were good-to-go before he went to sleep, Chinatomby explained. "He was always my go to guy. Anytime I'd go to him with something, it would get done."

Many of the Marines of his security platoon felt that he was more than just a good Marine.

"He was not only a good Marine but a good friend. You could talk to him about anything, and he was that type of guy; a guy you could always go to no matter what problem you had," Chinatomby said.

"He was one of my best friends. No matter what, you could always count on him," explained Lance Cpl. Nathan Ruckensteiner, who was in Smith's platoon and had known him since December 2003.

"He would do anything for you. He would stop everything he was doing to help you," explained Cpl. Lee J. Parry, who's known Smith for a year.

Smith was described as a hard worker and a perfectionist who never settled for anything less than first place.

"He was a hard worker who always gave 120 percent. With weapons systems, he was a wiz. He could take apart a M240G medium machine gun twice in a minute and 48 seconds. He took pride in it, he enjoyed his job and enjoyed being a Marine," Chinatomby continued. "If he came in second place in anything he would work that much harder to be first."

According to Parry, Smith was considered to be light-hearted and somewhat of a comedian.

"He always took the stress away. He was the comic relief and always had something smart to say," Parry explained.

"He kept me on my toes. Everything in life had a smart comment. He always had a come back for you and he taught me to not take life that serious, because there is always a lighter side to things. He made situations a lot less stressful," Chinatomby explained.

Smith's passing has left an empty hole that won't be replaced within the security platoon.

"Out here we're going to continue to do things the right way, because that's how he did it. We lost a friend and a good Marine. He was the quarterback on this team; my go to guy and you truly can never replace that," Chinatomby said.

"I will try to apply the way he was to the way I am, and I know that he made me a better person," Ruckensteiner explained.

His fellow Marines and the entire battalion will always remember Smith's service and sacrifice for his country.

He was 20-years-old.


05-05-05, 08:00 AM
BICmd’s civilian Marines answering call to duty
Submitted by: Blount Island Command
Story Identification #: 2005526934
Story by Staff Sgt. Michael Reed

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (May 1, 2005) -- Imagine being responsible for the lives of U.S. Marines. Now imagine leaving your family, your home, and the luxuries of everyday life. Now imagine being a civilian, and volunteering to deploy to Iraq. For many civilians, this is not a reality, but for contractors from Honeywell Technical Solutions Incorporated from Blount Island Command, it is real, and it’s all in a day’s work.

Currently there are 55 civilian contractors from HTSI, also known as the Marine Armor Installation Team working here at the Marine Armor Installation Site. The Marine Corps has tasked the MAIT with installing the Marine Armor Kits on all in-theater High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles.

Rick Miller, HTSI field engineer and lead supervisor for the MAIT arrived here March 4, from BICmd. This is not the first deployment for Miller, having volunteered for Operation Iraqi Freedom I in 2003, and again in 2004 for OIF II.

“I always wanted to contribute in some way,” explained Miller. “For some of us who didn’t join the military, or couldn’t for whatever reason – this is our way of serving our country.”

The MAK is a newly designed armor system for the HMMWV. The kit contains a new air conditioner system, new shocks, springs, and approximately 3,500 pounds of composite armor.

The sole purpose of the MAK is to protect Marines.

“What we are doing is helping to save Marines’ lives,” said Miller.

According to Jessie Hardin, HTSI, and MAIT project manager, the teams are now at full strength, and they work around the clock in 12-hour shifts, often seven days a week, to complete this vital mission.

“Every man here with HTSI knows that their efforts each day directly benefits Marines risking their lives at all our expense,” said Hardin. “It is this motivation that keeps us going.”

For the Miller’s, HTSI is a family affair, working side by side with his brother Dan, line supervisor, MAIT, “deploying here to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity, makes it a unique experience for both the brothers,” said Rick Miller.

Their younger brother Everett is also an HTSI team member, and is one of the civilian Marines currently working at BICmd.

“You never think that one day the work you do could make the difference between life and death for Marines,” said Rick Miller.

“I feel like we are apart of the Marine Corps; we all contribute in one way or another towards saving lives, all working together for peace and democracy,” said Hardin.

According to Hardin, each of the teams are autonomous, we can pull a three-man team with their equipment and gear, put them on a C-130, and send them to Djibouti, Afghanistan, or anywhere to install the MAK, or train Marines to do it. This is an accomplishment we are very proud of, and a capability unmatched by anyone.

Currently it takes the teams on average of 50 man-hours to install a MAK. Now with the facility at full strength, the teams have a goal to install 50 MAKs a week, or 200 a month.

“The service and job these guys are doing here is outstanding,” said Brig. Gen. Eugene G. Payne, Jr., commander, Marine Corps Logistics Command. “Our civilian Marine force truly has a sense of duty, they take enormous pride in what they do, and are motivated.”

“Not everyone gets to see the results of their job. It feels good to know what you do every day has a direct impact on helping Marines return to their families,” said Miller. “It makes what we do all worth it in the end.”


05-05-05, 08:02 AM
General’s lead man in convoys
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2005539246
Story by Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq (May 3, 2005) -- One Marine here drives a little more aggressively in his Humvee than some of the mechanics who fix his vehicle feel comfortable with. Regardless of their concerns about fixing a busted bumper or a torn off headlamp, they keep their opinions to themselves. This Marine has the authority to put the pedal to the floorboard.

He’s thought of as a trailblazer. Corporal Vincent Zanghi is the lead vehicle driver in the 2nd Marine Division Commanding General’s convoy or “jump.” The 21-year-old Stewartstown, Pa. native and motor transportation operator likes to push it to the limit, especially since his job involves the safety of the division’s senior leader.

The 2001 Kennard-Dale High School graduate rolls out on security convoys almost daily – or at least whenever the 2nd Marine Division’s commander needs to move to another location.

Zanghi and the rest of his team of Marines also provide the general’s personal security. They’re heavily loaded with machineguns, shotguns, rifles and pistols and an assortment of pyrotechnics. Some of their assets are designed just to signal and make loud noises to move traffic; others are to dismantle insurgent threats. Whatever the case, Zanghi is part of a team that does dangerous things in a very safe way.

Although the training that all Marines receive would prove to be enough for a confrontation with insurgents, he and his crew went through specialized courses that put them a step above many of his peers.

Before deployment, Zanghi was sent to the Smith Consulting Group, a security company that holds the High Threat International Protective Operations course, taught by former U.S. Special Forces and CIA agents. They taught him the kind of driving moves people only see in the movies. Zanghi learned how to make 360 degree spins, 180 degree turns on a dime and other evasive driving maneuvers. Best of all, he learned how to make his own trail.

“I’ve gotten into the craziest situations in Ramadi,” said Zanghi. “There are no signs, no lights and people drive on either side of the road at full speed. A lot of the times, we make our own road. That’s because we don’t stop – no matter what,” he added matter-of-factly.

There is an enormous sniper threat in the area surrounding the camp and a propensity for the insurgents to use vehicles as improvised explosive devices. The jump has fallen victim to roadside bombs a few times.

“There are a lot of holes in our trucks, but they’re really safe,” said Zanghi. “Mine is this well-built because sometimes I have to bust through roadblocks. I try to minimalize collateral damage whenever possible, though.

“You can think of my Humvee as a bullet-proof box. I’ve seen trucks totally blown out in the engine compartment and the rear and everyone walked away in one piece.”

Zanghi is used to customized vehicles. One of his greatest loves is drag racing. Back home, he’s entered his 1970 Dodge Duster in a few races and won. The purses aren’t that big, but it’s the love of the sport he’s after.

He likes getting into grudge races, where someone challenges him to a race with something out of the ordinary like their mom’s station wagon. It’s all in fun and it’s legal – sponsored by the American Hotrod Association.

“I love racing the older Mopars (Dodge-Chrysler cars) and working on them with my friends,” said Zanghi. “But for now, this armored Humvee is my baby.”


05-05-05, 08:02 AM
Marine Security Team provides RCT-2 with hard hitting asset
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200543001026
Story by Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio

CAMP RIPPER, AL ASAD, Iraq (April 30, 2005) -- A plume of black, acrid smelling smoke blurts from an exhaust stack of an Assault Amphibian Vehicle as it kicks into high gear in Iraq’s desert sand. The convoy of ‘amphibs’ or ‘tracks’ throws up yellow sand and dust that can be seen miles away as it makes its way across the horizon.

The experience is something many infantrymen and ‘tracks’ Marines have become accustomed to over the months serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. And it’s something insurgents will need to get used to as Marines of the security team tear through the desert on their mission to root out terrorists.

The security team is assigned to Regimental Combat Team 2 and consist of infantrymen and several other specialty occupations who respond to the call when tensions are high.

These men gear up almost daily with missions that include cordoning off buildings, searching for weapon caches, and flying into hot spots via helicopter to set up snap vehicle control points.

By nature, these Marines are traditional line infantrymen, normally outfitted to conduct patrols and other squad sized unit movements and missions within 3rd platoon, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment’s areas of operations. But these Marines have acquired an entirely new set of responsibilities and have become a multifaceted unit with the capacity to take on an array of different missions.

“We did a lot of urban patrolling for security and sustainment operations before we came out here – all the rest was just thrown our way and I think we’ve adapted very well to it,” said 2nd Lt. Nick Wingate, the 25-year-old platoon commander. “No matter what we do though, all of the basics still apply. I feel we came out here really prepared.”

The team was recently tasked with recovering a downed unmanned airplane. The team was flown in to secure the sight and support the Air Force team that recovered the aircraft.

“For a lot of our guys, it was their first time on a helicopter,” said Wingate, a 1999 Madison County High School graduate. “But we’re here for a seven-month stint and they’ve got a lot of experience already.”

Unlike the average vehicle control point at camp gates, these Marines fly into random areas to setup up hasty control points to check vehicles in areas away from the camp. It’s one of the ways the Marines bring an element of surprise to their adversaries.

Another surprise the team brought to the fight was a recent cordon and knock mission as part of Operation Spring Cleaning, intended to root out insurgents from hiding. The Marines rolled up to a cement factory suspected of being an insurgent stronghold. The Marines cordoned off the area and searched through the facility, finding several weapons, ammunition and suspected insurgents.

The success of the unit is dependent upon their ability to adapt to the myriad of missions with which they’re tasked. The reason for their success is attributed to the way the Marines train, according to Cpl. Kevin Weber, 3rd squad leader and a 21-year-old Ridgefield, Conn., native.

“We’ve done a lot of mechanized missions and we fly out in the ‘helos’ as well,” said Weber. “As a line company, we’ve adapted very well to the versatility of the missions out here,” added the 2001 Ridgefield High School graduate.

“I think we’re successful because no matter what rank, the guys have the ability to think for themselves; and as a leader, I take all of their suggestions into consideration. That’s what sets us apart.”


05-05-05, 08:29 AM
Marine admits she made up knife-attack story, police say <br />
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- <br />
By Chiyomi Sumida, Stars and Stripes <br />
Pacific edition,...

05-05-05, 08:29 AM
Four EOD Marines receive medals for service in Iraq
By Fred Zimmerman, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, May 5, 2005

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa - Four Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines received medals Monday for their service in Iraq.

Receiving awards: Sgt. Keith Camardo, Bronze Star with Combat "V"; Staff Sgt. Daniel Cusinato, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat "V"; Sgt. Jason Tinnel, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat "V"; and Staff Sgt. Bobby Garza, Purple Heart. The Combat "V" device is awarded to those who receive a decoration as a result of direct combat with enemy forces. The Marines, all from 9th Engineer Support Battalion, served in Iraq as individual augmentees.

Camardo served in Mohammadia in Al Anbar province, where, he said, his unit encountered daisy-chained 500-pound bombs, improvised explosive devices, ambushes and firefights. From February to September 2004, he said, his team responded to more than 300 calls; "It was just mayhem every day."

One tense moment came when a car bomber detonated a vehicle behind an armored vehicle parked close to Camardo's Humvee. He said the blast knocked him off his seat and knocked him out for a second. "I stepped out of the vehicle, took one breath and then threw up for about a half-hour," he said, adding that only the car's driver was killed.

Cusinato and Tinnel received their awards because of their temporary service with I Marine Expeditionary Force in Fallujah from September 2004 to February 2005. Cusinato's award states he took part in more than 200 EOD missions, disposing of more than 97 IEDs. Tinnel's certificate states he "played a vital role in recovering and disposing of more than 100 IEDs, personally rendering 14 of them safe." The award write-up also cited his marksmanship as directly saving Marines' lives.

"We're not just always EOD," Tinnel said. "We have to get up there and get into the fight as well. … Everyone has to watch each other's back." He said about half his time in Fallujah was split between EOD and infantry duties.

Garza received his Purple Heart after shrapnel hit his legs, hands and face. On Feb. 19, as he guided Cusinato's Humvee into a "tank trap" where they planned to destroy the recovered missiles, bombs and ammunition the vehicle carried, one of its tires hit a land mine. The explosion rolled the vehicle into a second mine. Both driver's-side tires and part of the hood and engine compartment were gone.

Garza, hit with shrapnel, tumbled down a hill - while Cusinato emerged unscathed. "I really thought he was dead," Garza said of Cusinato. "What kept Cusinato from dying? I don't know." Cusinato credits the vehicle's armor plating with saving his life.

Throughout their time in Fallujah, the two said, they did everything from finding and destroying weapons caches in cemeteries to blowing up a home wired as one giant IED. They said their strangest find, though, was a dead dog packed full of munitions and stitched to look like it had been hit by a car.

And both Marines suggested they'd seen others who deserved awards as well. Tinnel said, "I've seen some brave Marines that did their job but didn't get an award … some of the bravest things I've seen in my life. They deserve the medals."

Medals for mettle:

Sgt. Keith Camardo: Bronze Star with Combat "V"

Staff Sgt. Bobby Garza: Purple Heart

Staff Sgt. Daniel Cusinato: Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat "V"

Sgt. Jason Tinnel: Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat "V"


05-05-05, 08:30 AM
Herbert continues to support USMC
Racing series NHRA
Date 2005-05-04

LINCOLNTON, N.C. -- It's amazing how a small group of people can make such a large impact. Doug Herbert and the rest of the Snap-on Tools Top Fuel team know the feeling. They have hosted fewer than 50 Marines during five NHRA POWERade Drag Racing events this season.

Yet the impact of those Marines has been immeasurable.

"The whole deal has turned into such a positive, uplifting program for our entire team," Herbert said. "We get amazing feedback from people all over the place and it really tells us that we are doing the right thing.

"More than anything else, we're glad these Marines have made it home safely and are able to come join us for a day at the drag races. These men and woman have been to hell and back so it's awesome to see them with big smiles on their faces. They make everyone on our team proud to have them in our pit area."

The Marines invited have all recently come home from overseas combat duty. The program will continue next at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., June 9-12. The Marines will also be invited to the races in St. Louis (June 24-26), Sonoma, Calif. (July 29-31), Indianapolis (Aug. 31-Sept. 5), Reading, Pa., (Sept. 15-1 , Las Vegas (Oct. 20-23) and Pomona, Calif., (Nov. 3-6).

If Herbert had his way, he would have the special guests at every event.

"We like to make sure the Marines are local men and woman because the last thing we want to do is make someone travel when they have just returned home from war," Herbert said. "Logistically, we like to have Major Philip Toretti on site because he is one of the big reasons why we are hosting this program. But Major is a full-time Marine and it's difficult for him to join us at every race."

The Marines who come to the track as a guest of the Snap-on team have all signed a Marine flag, which hangs with pride in the hospitality area.

"We get so much positive attention from that flag," Herbert said. "I have people who come up and tell me about their son or daughters who are overseas or other family members that just got home. It's a great symbol and I've met a lot of people because of the signatures on that flag."

Herbert and Maj. Toretti became friends during the 2004 season. Toretti had become pen pals with NHRA.com writer Rob Geiger while he was fighting in the Middle East in 2003-2004. It turns out that Toretti was the Commanding Officer of one of Geiger's college friends and the duo's mutual interest in drag racing made them fast friends. After consecutive six-month deployments in hostile zones, Toretti finally got the news he was coming home. When Geiger found out, he immediately invited him to any drag race he wanted to attend.

Based out of Norfolk, Va., Geiger assumed the best bets were the races in Reading, Pa., or Bristol, Tenn. But when he told Top Fuel driver Doug Herbert about his new friend, Herbert had an even better idea.

"Rob asked if Major Toretti could hang out in our pit when he came to the race," Herbert said. "I said, 'we can do better then that. Let's make him the Honorary Crew Chief.' He didn't know what race the Major was going to attend so I told him it would probably be easiest if the Major just drove to our place in Lincolnton, N.C., and flew with us on my plane. I figured we'd give a war hero the royal treatment. He certainly earned it. The guy's been on four combat deployments in his 23-year career."

Plans were quickly made for Toretti to join the gang mid-summer 2004 at the Fram Nationals in beautiful Sonoma. The weekend was a success for all parties involved, especially after Fram representative Steve Lavallee made Toretti the Honorary Starter of the race and he was introduced to and given a standing ovation by 50,000 fans.

Herbert wants to keep the warm-welcome going all season.

"All of the Marines that are joining us this year have served combat missions. They are out there fighting for us and this is our way to let them know we support them and we're real glad they made a safe return home," Herbert said. "I want everyone at the races to stop by the Snap-on pit on Saturdays and tell these guys how much we appreciate what they do for all of us in this country."

The Marines who attended the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona, Calif.: Corporal Dustin Orthman, Lance Corporal Richard Davis, Gunnery Sergeant Otis White, Lance Corporal Joseph Lauglin, Lance Corporal David Brillantes, Lance Corporal Charles Lock, and Master Gunnery Sergeant Tony French. They all applied to take part in the festivities through their chain of command and their Marine Expeditionary Force Sergeant Major chose the lucky winners based on their location and interest in motorsports.

The Marines who attended the event in Phoenix: Lance Corporal David Thiem of Miracopa, Ariz.; Sergeant Adam Alaniz of Fresno, Calif.; Corporal Ryan Foster of Boone, Mo.; Corporal Earl Sjogren of Casper, Wyo.; Corporal Mark Pike of Beckley, W.Va.; Lance Corporal Patrick Runyan of Danville, Ill.; Lance Corporal Anthony Gutierrez of New York; Sergeant Andrew Durivage of Temecula, Calif.; and Sergeant Jason Hughes and his fiance Sadith of Buffalo, N.Y.

The Marines who attended the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.: Sergeant Garreth Ray, Corporal Mark McFetridge, Lance Corporal Jamie Yakubsin and Sergeant Shane Walker.

The Marines who attended the Spring Nationals at Houston: Joining Herbert at Houston Raceway Park will be Sergeant E.M. Wilson of Houston, Lance Corporal T.W. Smith of Orange, Texas, Lance Corporal B.T. Aldape III of Houston, Lance Corporal Tom Chenault of Beaumont, Texas, Lance Corporal James Whitehead of Orange, Lance Corporal R. Torres of Houston, Lance Corporal S.W. Street of Cleveland, Texas, Lance Corporal L.J. Rawls of Pasadena, Texas, Lance Corporal L.D. Lindsey of Sour Lake, Texas, and Staff Sergeant John McInerney of Sunnyvale, Calif.

The Marines who attended the Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn.: LCpl Stephen Duncan from Pioneer, TN; LCpl Jonathan Maxey (Franklin, TN); LCpl Barry Britton Jr. (Powell, TN); LCpl Andrew Jordan (Mount Juliet, TN); Sgt Jeremy Pope (Columbia); Cpl Charles Gentry (Knoxville, TN); Cpl Christopher Gentry (Knoxville); LCpl Timothy Andrews (Lynchburg); Cpl James Forester (Elkton, Maryland).

"There are a lot of Marines that are racing fans," Toretti said. "I knew I could ask Doug to help make this happen and it would get done. It was important to me to feel the love of the entire NHRA community when I got back home and I wanted to pass that feeling along to other Marines. With Doug's help, we're getting it done this year."


05-05-05, 08:31 AM
Cherry Point Air Show ready to take off
May 05, 2005
K.J. Williams
Sun Journal

This weekend's Cherry Point Air Show recognizes the contributions made by Marines in defense of freedom with its theme: "Preserving Tomorrow, Defending Today."

The headliners of the free show - the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration team - perform the grand finale at about 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

"This precision flight team awes their audiences with death-defying supersonic performances," said Bob Kenward, air show spokesman. "At times, their wingtips are literally inches apart all while flying at over 600 mph.

"They will do various aerobatic stunts with both solo maneuvers and group maneuvers."

Attendance could reach 150,000 people depending on the weather, Kenward said.

According to the National Weather Service forecast, rain could be possible for Friday's night show but Saturday and Sunday should be rain free with highs in the 70s.

The show features a variety of military and civilian pilots and performers.

On Friday night, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band kicks off festivities at 6:45 p.m. Onlookers will see events like jet-assisted takeoffs, pyrotechnics shooting from wingtips and a sky-diving demonstration. Other highlights include a "wall of flame" explosive demonstration and a fireworks display, followed by a concert with county music acts Hanna McEuen and David Ball.

On Saturday and Sunday, flying demonstrations include the Marine AV-8B Harrier and the Air Force's F-15 Eagle showing off aerial combat moves. An army parachute team from Fort Bragg will also float into the air show.

Ground and air forces combine as part of the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) demonstration, which will feature helicopters, jets and ground forces, said Kenward.

Civilian performers include Michael Goulian and his CAP 232 Unlimited Aerobatic Aircraft and the Red Eagle biplane aerobatic act. A wing walker will also perform.

On the quieter side, the world's fastest self-launching sailplane, which reaches speeds up to 240 mph without engine power, will perform.

Some pilots will be available to answer questions about their stunts, and row upon row of military aircraft, some of which can be entered, will be on display.

Activities for children include an interactive display on flying, along with Public Broadcasting Service's interactive "Jay Jay" the jet plane.

An outdoor recreation show will feature a variety of retailer displays, and refreshments will be sold at about 50 booths.


05-05-05, 08:34 AM
Saluting the life of a humble hero
By Nik Bonopartis
Poughkeepsie Journal

NEWBURGH - One week after he was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, Cpl. Joseph Tremblay's family, friends and fellow Marines bid him farewell at a tearful funeral service Wednesday.

Tremblay was a former active-duty Marine who re-enlisted as a reservist in 2003, motivated by patriotism and loyalty to his fellow Marines. He was deployed to Camp Hilt in western Iraq. He was killed April 27 while riding in a Humvee on combat patrol near Hit, Iraq. He had been assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve's 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division based in Moundsville, W.Va.

Tremblay, 23, of New Windsor, was described as a humble serviceman, a man who didn't tout his accomplishments and who placed his family and fiancee first.

The Rev. Bill Scafidi, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Newburgh, said Tremblay had met his fiancee, Jennifer Coloni, at a sixth-grade dance. When he decided he wanted to spend his life with Coloni, he first asked her father for permission to propose to her.

In the month before his deployment, he spent quiet time at home with his family and friends, Scafidi said. He wanted to go to Iraq because he was not deployed there during his first tour of duty and felt that he should be there with his fellow Marines, his family said this week.

"Joseph dutifully gave his life on his tour of duty in Iraq," Scafidi said. "Miles away, a death has occurred, and it affects us on a local level."

Family and friends of Tremblay packed the middle aisles of the circular church, flanked on both sides by

Marines in dress blue uniforms, their heads bowed in silence.

Soft sobs could be heard from the pews as the pastor delivered his homily, recalling small details of Tremblay's life, such as time he spent two hours playing with a chipmunk. That anecdote drew a chuckle from Tremblay's family and friends.

Tremblay, a graduate of Newburgh Free Academy, is survived by his father, Lawrence; his mother, Tina Marie Kaminsky; her husband, Martin Kaminsky, of Kentucky; his brother, Lawrence J. Tremblay, of Washingtonville; and his sister, Stacy Messer, also of Kentucky.

Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, addressed the packed church before the Mass.

"To all who knew and loved him, I extend the heartfelt sympathies of the Archdiocese of New York," Egan said. "This is a tragic loss of a good young man."

Tremblay's funeral possession was given a motorcycle and patrol car escort by 10 local police agencies from Orange and Dutchess counties.

While the people closest to Tremblay packed the church, acquaintances and even strangers attended.

Standing in the bright red dress uniform of the Marine Corps League, John Purcell of Fishkill and Milton Poponaik of Newburgh paid their respects to the fallen Marine.

"He's a Marine," said Poponaik, a World War II veteran. "That's all that matters."

Purcell, a Vietnam veteran, called Tremblay "a brother" deserving of the utmost respect for voluntarily taking a combat job.

"We wanted to go out and show respect for a combat Marine," Purcell said, "and for the family. They gave it all."

Soft sobs could be heard from the pews as the pastor delivered his homily, recalling small details of Tremblay's life, such as time he spent two hours playing with a chipmunk. That anecdote drew a chuckle from Tremblay's family and friends.

Tremblay, a graduate of Newburgh Free Academy, is survived by his father, Lawrence; his mother, Tina Marie Kaminsky; her husband, Martin Kaminsky, of Kentucky; his brother, Lawrence J. Tremblay, of Washingtonville; and his sister, Stacy Messer, also of Kentucky.

Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, addressed the packed church before the Mass.

"To all who knew and loved him, I extend the heartfelt sympathies of the Archdiocese of New York," Egan said. "This is a tragic loss of a good young man."

Tremblay's funeral possession was given a motorcycle and patrol car escort by 10 local police agencies from Orange and Dutchess counties.

While the people closest to Tremblay packed the church, acquaintances and even strangers attended.

Standing in the bright red dress uniform of the Marine Corps League, John Purcell of Fishkill and Milton Poponaik of Newburgh paid their respects to the fallen Marine.

"He's a Marine," said Poponaik, a World War II veteran. "That's all that matters."

Purcell, a Vietnam veteran, called Tremblay "a brother" deserving of the utmost respect for voluntarily taking a combat job.

"We wanted to go out and show respect for a combat Marine," Purcell said, "and for the family. They gave it all."

Nik Bonopartis can be reached at nbonopar@poughkeepsiejournal.com


05-05-05, 08:36 AM
Marine gets Silver Star for bravery at Fallujah
Los Angeles Times

CAMP PENDLETON, CALIF. - Outnumbered, pinned down and under attack from three directions, the Marines of Echo Company were in danger of being overrun by Iraqi insurgents hurling grenades and firing rockets and AK-47s.

Lance Cpl. Thomas Adametz, 21, a native of the Philippines, was determined that the Marines would not be defeated in the April 26, 2004, battle.

He dashed in front of the bullet-riddled building where the Marines were under heavy fire, grabbed a machine gun and began firing at the enemy.

With Adametz's covering fire, the Marines regrouped and the insurgents were repelled.

"I looked out there and saw this crazy maniac firing away so all the Marines could come back alive," said Lance Cpl. Carlos Gomez-Perez, who was severely wounded in the attack.

On Wednesday, in a ceremony in which he was praised as a "great warrior,"Adametz was awarded the Silver Star, the United States' third-highest award for combat bravery.

Dozens of Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division have received commendations in the Fallujah campaign. But only Adametz received the Silver Star.

At Wednesday's ceremony, Adametz seemed slightly embarrassed at being called a hero. "All I wanted to do was protect my brother Marines," he said.

He leaves in July for a third tour of duty in the Persian Gulf region.


05-05-05, 08:46 AM
Army to Issue Combat Badge For Soldiers Not in Infantry
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 5, 2005; A23

Any Army soldier who has seen active combat while in Iraq or Afghanistan may now receive a new "Combat Action Badge," making tens of thousands of soldiers who are not in the infantry ranks -- including women -- eligible for a combat award for the first time.

The new award, which the Army announced yesterday, means that the thousands of soldiers who are exposed to enemy action but are not officially in combat roles can earn a prestigious badge for being involved in the fight. Army officials said the badge was designed to honor soldiers such as military police, truck drivers and fuel specialists who face perilous situations while doing their jobs in the ongoing wars.

"It recognizes that in the current realities of the battlefield, an insurgency, any soldier could be subject to a combat situation," said Col. Joseph Curtin, an Army spokesman. "It's going to be a tremendous morale booster to soldiers."

The Army has not designed or chosen colors for the badge, which would be worn above the left pocket of a soldier's dress uniform. The badges should begin appearing in military clothing stores by the end of the summer.

The badge is the first non-medical combat distinction to honor women who are caught in battle during U.S. wars, largely because women are not assigned to frontline combat duties.

The war in Iraq has demonstrated that any soldier -- from a cook to a driver to an infantryman -- can be exposed to insurgent attacks, and the Army is seeking to honor anyone who "is personally present and actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy."

Curtin said the award is retroactive to Sept. 18, 2001, the date President Bush authorized the wars against terrorism, and applies to all soldiers around the world who are assigned to an area where hostile fire pay or imminent danger pay is authorized, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.


05-05-05, 10:03 AM
U.S. Marines land on Somali coast to hunt militants
By Hussein Ali Nur
10 minutes ago

HARGEISA, Somalia (Reuters) - U.S. Marines landed on Somalia's coast in one of their most visible hunts for militants in the country since they set up a Horn of Africa counter terrorism force in 2002, Somali officials said on Thursday.

Two boats brought about 20 lightly armed Marines to the fishing village of Maydh in the northwestern enclave of Somaliland on Tuesday, where they showed pictures of suspected "terrorists" to locals before leaving, residents said.

"They met some of the fishermen and the people and they showed some pictures they were carrying, saying that these people are terrorists that they are trying to capture," Assistant District Commissioner Ali Abdi told Reuters.

It was not clear who the Marines were looking for.

The Marines' arrival coincided with signs of U.S. military activity elsewhere along the coast of Somaliland, a relatively stable region which declared independence in 1991 to escape chaos engulfing the rest of Somalia, but which is not internationally recognized.

Two U.S. military helicopters flew low over parts of the Gulf of Aden port of Berbera on Wednesday, including the docks, airport, a fuel depot and former barracks, residents said.

Reporters said three U.S. vessels, including a helicopter carrier, had been spotted on Tuesday at the port of Las Qorei, where Marines questioned fishermen about local shipping.

Somaliland's interior minister declined to comment. Officers from the U.S. task force based in neighboring Djibouti since December 2002 to hunt down any militants in the region were not immediately contactable for comment.

Washington fears al Qaeda cells may be seeking new havens in the Horn of Africa where weak political institutions and poor policing of deserts and coastlines might provide places for militants to plan attacks on Western targets elsewhere.

In late 2003, some militia bosses and ordinary residents reported that a top al Qaeda suspect -- Fazul Abdullah Mohammed from the Indian Ocean Comoros islands -- had been spotted in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

U.S. officials say he masterminded the bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya in 2002 that took place within minutes of a failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner.

In March 2003, a suspected associate of Fazul, Suleiman Abdalla Salim Hemed, a Yemeni, was captured in Mogadishu with the help of warlord Mohammed Dheere and taken into U.S. custody.

Activities by the U.S. force are usually largely invisible to the public, which aims to deter militants from operating in the region through approaches including training national security forces, aerial surveillance and checks on shipping.


05-05-05, 01:55 PM
From VIPs to IEDs
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20054300439
Story by Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq (March 30, 2005) -- When Lance Cpl. Dalzell was asked to escort incoming and outgoing Marines and sailors from the camp, a frequently dangerous job -- he had no qualms. He’s used to sticking his neck out for others.

Robert Dalzell, a 21-year-old Wayne, N.J., native and rifleman with the 2nd Marine Division’s operations section, has a history in providing security.
When the 2001 Wayne Valley High School graduate shipped off to boot camp and then to the Marine Corps’ School of Infantry, he found himself in a position few others in history have been able to claim as their profession. Dalzell was selected to be one of the President’s men.

“I got lucky is what it was,” said Dalzell, in a modest tone. “Before I graduated SOI, three or four of us were interviewed for the job. I had to have a spotless record and a rigorous background check done before I was accepted, so I guess I had that going for me.”

Dalzell worked at the Camp David Presidential Retreat site in Maryland as part of the security forces team. His job demanded that he keep an extra sharp eye out to protect the president, dignitaries, VIPs and other important visitors.

He handled anything from walking patrols to gate security.

His duties were not much different than operations at the camp, here. One of the main things that helped him here was training in detecting improvised explosive devices.

Before he knew it, his tour was ending after a one and a half year stint. He stood in the Oval office to pose in a photograph with the President -- a custom for all of the President’s guards to do this at the end of their tours.

Much of the business he conducted there can’t be discussed, but the training he received there in security operations has made him a prime candidate for his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I just wanted to get out and see the world, he added. And after September 11th, I wanted to be able to say I served my country. For me, the Marine Corps was my way of doing that.”

Since then, Dalzell has been trying to deploy to support the Global War on Terrorism. After all, that’s what he joined the Corps’ to do.

“I extended a year on my contract to come out here,” explained Dalzell. “I have a lot of work here and I’m glad for that.”

It wasn’t until last month that Dalzell got his chance. Now, he’s one of the main security providers for the convoys that travel between the camps, transporting troops and officers. Many of the trips take small arms fire and some come across IEDs. But this is the kind of environment he’s been looking for.

“It’s my first deployment and what a place to choose,” said Dalzell. “But I have no regrets. It’s a dangerous job, but that’s what I asked to come out here and do. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


05-05-05, 02:29 PM
Hot times at Camp Fallujah barber shop
By Sandra Jontz and Joseph Giordono, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, May 5, 2005

Lance Cpl. Athanasios Genos, 22, a combat correspondent for the 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., took a break from missions the other day and experienced something new: a haircut and massage at the Turkish-run Marine Express barber at Camp Fallujah, Iraq.

Not so unusual?

Part of the full haircut, shampoo and massage service, which runs $9 total, includes an Arab tradition of dipping a cotton swab into alcohol, setting it on fire and tapping the customers' ears and neck area to burn away tiny hairs.

Firat Uslu, a 30-year-old who has been in the barbering business since he was 10, said he learned the method when he began going to his father's shop in Turkey to learn the trade.

Messages from home

Care packages from Fegely Middle School in Portage, Ind., flow in for Marines from Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, deployed to Camp Fallujah, Iraq. The care packages, filled with everything from snacks, boardgames, DVDs and Nerf footballs to baby wipes, newspapers, books and magazines, are a huge morale booster for the Marines, said the Weapons Company commander, Capt. Ed Nevgloski.

"The stuff really hit the mark," Nevgloski said. Especially popular are reading materials, since Marines "are willing and ready to read anything they can get their hands on."

The five motorcycle periodicals included in one care package, for example, quickly were scooped up, he said. The middle school pupils also sent banners thanking the Marines for their work in Iraq.


05-05-05, 02:29 PM
Groups to welcome troops May 21
Thursday, May 5, 2005
The Desert Dispatch

From combat operations to rebuilding schools, local soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen have labored to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan.

So on May 21, Armed Forces Day, nearly 60 local organizations will throw a community-wide welcome home party to honor High Desert military personnel.

"We need to show our appreciation for the people from the High Desert who have sacrificed for our freedom," said Tracey Lowther, a member of the core organizing team. "There are many who feel the Vietnam vets did not get the recognition they should have. And we don't want that to ever happen again."

Severa politicians will be taking turns in a dunk tank during the event. The Welcome Home Party will also feature special recognition ceremonies along with music, food and children's games and other activities.

"The public is invited to come out and shake hands with these dedicated soldiers," Lowther said. "You'll be able to actually say 'thank you' yourself."

The welcome home party will be held from noon to 5 p.m. on Armed Forces Day, May 21 at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds on Seventh Street. Admission is free.

To make a donation for the event, call 242-5370.

Local military personnel will also be recognized at the May 21 High Desert Mavericks baseball game. Festivities start at 6 p.m., with the game starting at 7:05 p.m. Fireworks will follow the game, said Monica Ortega of the Mavericks. For ticket information, call the stadium at 246-MAVS.


05-05-05, 02:45 PM
Abu Ghraib Prizon Scandul Gets Evun More Dumberer
By Gunny Bob
May 4, 2005

The most recognized face in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal had entered a plea of guilty to abusing Iraqi prisoners, but now that's all down the toilet. The judge in the case has thrown out her guilty plea because her boyfriend, fellow soldier and father of her illegitimate child, Pvt. Charles Graner, has testified Army Reserve PFC Lynndie England didn't know three of the photos they took were, Graner claims, for legitimate use by other guards.

The judge threw out the verdict because he says you can't have a one-person conspiracy. The judge then declared a mistrial and dismissed the jury.

Why would a military judge believe a known scumbag and idiot like Pvt. Charles Graner, who was instrumental in one of the most embarrassing scandals in US military history?

Graner was a very low-level (E-4) guard at the prison and had no training as an interrogator, yet he claims in court that three of the photos they took while horsing around with the prisoners were for legitimate use by other guards in that the photos with the leash around a prisoner's neck are supposed to show a legal and effective prisoner-handling technique, which is absolutely ludicrous. Graner is totally unqualified to make such a statement. He was no more than a ringleader for a mob of undisciplined, poorly led, immature, inexperienced soldiers who had little if anything to do with the intelligence collection cycle involving the prisoners.

If the judge bought Graner's idiotic story, then the judge should be disbarred, busted to 2nd lieutenant and assigned the job of permanent latrine orderly.

Gunny Bob was a prisoner escort in the Corps and supervised the handling many prisoners of war, and he can assure you that a leash on a naked prisoner held by a scrawny girl is not a legitimate prisoner-control technique.

PFC England admitted in court that the photos were taken for entertainment purposes only and she admitted she knew from her training, which all soldiers receive, that doing so was a violation of various military regulations and the Geneva Conventions. Four other enlisted guards and two junior officers also pleaded guilty. The highest ranking soldier to be held accountable for this scandal was a brigadier general.

A psychologist testified in the trial that England was slightly learning impaired as a child, yet she managed to pass the very same entrance test all military recruits must take.

So who do you believe, England or Graner? If you think Graner is lying about the three photos, why would he do so? You don't suppose Graner would lie to set himself up for an appeal of his conviction or a reduction of his sentence, now do you?

Do you think England is guilty? How about Graner? Do you think there are more NCOs and officers who are guilty of something in this scandal but have so far gotten away?


05-05-05, 06:56 PM
Marine Decorated for Turning Tide of Firefight

The lance corporal grabbed a machine gun and blasted away, saving his buddies in Iraq.

By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON — Outnumbered, pinned down and under attack from three directions, the Marines of Echo Company were in danger of being overrun by Iraqi insurgents hurling grenades and firing rockets and AK-47s.

Lance Cpl. Thomas Adametz, 21, a native of the Philippines, was determined that the Marines would not be defeated in the April 26, 2004, battle.

Without having to be ordered, Adametz dashed in front of the bullet-riddled building where the Marines were under heavy fire, grabbed a machine gun and began firing at the charging enemy.

"I looked out there and saw this crazy maniac firing away so all the Marines could come back alive," said Lance Cpl. Carlos Gomez-Perez, who was severely wounded in the attack.

On Wednesday, in a ceremony in which he was praised by a general as a "great warrior," Adametz was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest award for combat bravery.

Dozens of Marines from the 1,200-man 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division have received commendations for their service during the monthlong assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallouja in April 2004.

But only Adametz got the Silver Star. Prior to the assault, few might have described him as a candidate for extraordinary bravery under fire.

"He's a very quiet kid; no he-man, not a testosterone type," said Sgt. Major William Skiles. "He was just a Marine who stepped up when it counted."

The barrel of the 16-pound machine gun became red-hot, burning Adametz's hands, leaving his fingerprints etched into the metal. He kept firing.

Finally, the insurgents retreated. It was one of the last times insurgents in Fallouja attempted a headlong assault on a Marine position, officials said.

Adametz was not trained as a machine-gun specialist. But as insurgents rushed to within 25 yards of the Marines' position, he realized his M-16 did not have enough firepower.

One Marine was already dead and eight were wounded, some seriously.

"Everyone was scared," Lance Cpl. John Flores said. "But we were told to hold the ground, and we were going to do it."

With covering fire provided by Adametz, the Marines regrouped. An air strike demolished the insurgents' hiding place.

"His aggressive actions and devastating fire were critical in repelling the enemy's attack," says the citation accompanying his Silver Star.

At Wednesday's ceremony, Adametz seemed slightly embarrassed at being called a hero.

"All I wanted to do was protect my brother Marines," he told reporters who crowded around him.

Adametz will leave this summer for a third tour in the Persian Gulf region.


05-05-05, 09:33 PM
How safe are U.S. military vehicles in Iraq?
By Jim Miklaszewski
NBC News
Updated: 7:36 p.m. ET May 5, 2005

Military officials said Thursday substantial progress has been made in armoring United States military vehicles in Iraq - but given the increasing number and sophistication of those enemy roadside bombs, that is clearly not good enough.

It's a staggering new statistic. The Pentagon announced Thursday that 70 percent of American soldiers and Marines killed in Iraq today are victims of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

At a House Armed Services committee hearing Thursday angry lawmakers were demanding to know why the Pentagon has not done more to protect U.S. forces in Iraq.

"And I come to this hearing with a sense of outrage," said Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa. "I can't tell you the number of homes I've sat in with soldier's families whose come home in body bags."

One major problem is the enemy keeps changing its tactics and its methods to detonate the bombs to defeat U.S. counter measures.

"We improvise better than the enemy improvises," says Lt. Gen. James Mattis. "But it's a bloody issue and we have to keep improvising to stay ahead of it."

Thursday, at a plant in Cincinnati, the Armor Holding Company is turning out 550 fully-armored Humvees per month, and the Army says it will have more than 10,000 of those Humvees by July, right on target.

But the overall record is still spotty.

Of the nearly 2,700 Marine Corps Humvees in Iraq, fewer than 500 - that's less than 18 percent - are fully armored, while the Marines have suffered some of the highest casualty rates, in some of the most intensive combat of the war.

"A heavy price has, sadly, been paid for mistakes," says Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo.

In fact a Government Accountability Office report issued last month found that the Army failed to increase production of fully armored Humvees, in part because it didn't have the enough money at hand to pay for it.

Some lawmakers today blame the Pentagon for not making fully armored Humvees a priority, sooner.

Lawmakers now say even more money must be spent on high-tech counter-measures, like electronic jammers, aimed at defeating those IEDs.


05-06-05, 07:01 AM
AAV Marine recalls units deployment to Iraq

Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20055323400
Story by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel

CAMP AL QAIM, Iraq (May 3, 2005) -- As units supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004 and 5 end their 7-month deployments to Iraq and are replaced with fresh units, some Marines look back on their deployment in hopes of helping their successors be successful.

Sgt. Jose Jimenez, a crew chief with 2d Amphibious Assault Battalion, who's deployed to Iraq twice, believes it is essential to pass on experience gained on this deployment to those taking his and his platoon's place.

The Jacksonville, N.C., native and his platoon arrived in Iraq Sept. 13, 2004 set to support 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in the Al Anbar province of western Iraq.

However, Jimenez ended up spend the next five months supporting 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment in Al Fallujah.

"We did a lot of mechanical patrols, raids and cordon and knocks. We were clearing house-by-house, sector-by-sector, and we were the primary medical evacuation vehicles," explained the 1999 graduate of Ridgefield Park High School, Ridgefield Park, N.J.

According to Jimenez it was the amphibious assault vehicles ability to take a hit and continue to function that made them successful.

"We had two vehicles take some armory piercing rocket propelled grenade fire that actually penetrated the vehicle," he explained. "We can take small arms fire with no problem. The big thing was improvised explosive devices and mines blowing the tracks off, but we didn't take any casualties, so we did pretty good out here."

This combat testing of his unit built Jimenez' confidence in his vehicles and the production of his team.

"I've gained more confidence in these vehicles, which is good because they're about 27-tons of aluminum and I wasn't too sure about them taking fire. But, it's done its job out here. During OIF 1 we left with twelve vehicles and only came back with five and this time we came back with all of them. So, I think this was a successful deployment," he explained.

According to Jimenez, they weren't able to get a lot of sleep and the days seemed to run into each other while they were in Fallujah. Still, he founds something he enjoyed about being deployed.

"The Marines we got here are good Marines, and I enjoyed the down time we had just doing fun stuff after everything was over. I enjoyed being a section leader and taking my Marines out here and bringing them all back," he explained.

Jimenez believes that conditions in Iraq have become better since his first deployment here in 2003.

"Communication to call home is better now. Before there were no phones, no showers, no chow hall and now, we have all of that. So, it's a lot better than what it was," he explained.

After five months in Fallujah, Jimenez returned to Al Qaim to finish out his deployment.

"We've encountered some ambushes out here, but mainly we've had a lot of IEDs and mines. There's really no urban combat out here, but it's still dangerous," he said.

The Marines with 2d AAB will soon be replaced by Marines with 4th AAB out of Norfolk, Va.

Jimenez has a lot of advice to pass on to them based off his experiences out here.

"Fourth AAB knows their job, and I think they'll do good things here. We're trying to leave these vehicles completely ready for them. They just need to know that it's real out here. Don't get complacent and use common sense," he continued. "I've been here for two deployments and it's been different each time and it's always going to be different. But, I know some of the guys replacing us and I'm confident in their abilities."

After all he faced in Iraq, Jimenez is preparing to return to the United States and to his wife, Laura, in Jacksonville.

"It feels good to be going home, but I'm not home until I'm off the bus in North Carolina, so until then, I'm still in the game, all of us are. But after two deployments to Iraq, I can't wait to get home to my wife," he explained.


05-06-05, 07:02 AM
Daily routine for MPs keeps Camp Smith safe
Submitted by: Marine Forces Pacific
Story Identification #: 200554141437
Story by Pfc. J. Ethan Hoaldridge

U.S. MARINE CORPS FORCES PACIFIC, CAMP H. M. SMITH, Hawaii – (May 4, 2005) -- A suicide bomber in a pickup truck loaded with more than 2,000 pounds of explosives crashed into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, April 18, 1983. Sixty-three people were killed, including 17 Americans and one Marine.

In 1996 aboard Naval Submarine Base Bangor, two men employed by Johnson Controls Inc., the base operating services coordinator, set up a small methamphetamine manufacturing plant in the industrial waste treatment center on base to distribute drugs to servicemembers.

History proves there is a need for military police on every military installation to handle bomb threats, distribution of drugs, security and simple traffic violations.

The Provost Marshal’s Office here provides a 24/7 service to Camp Smith and Manana military housing in Pearl City, Hawaii. They guard against traffic and parking violations, issue parking passes, respond to residential disturbances and take care of security violations.

They strap on their bullet-proof vest, duty belt and a 9 mm pistol, preparing for the worst although a normal day consists of writing parking tickets, ensuring only authorized vehicles come aboard the base and issuing parking passes to Camp Smith personnel and visitors.

“What we do may seem simple or boring, but the moment we get complacent about our job, that maybe when the worst happens,” said Lance Cpl. Bryce White, Camp Smith military policeman.

Camp Smith is home to U.S. Pacific Command, which is responsible for the Armed Forces that cover more than half of the world’s surface and U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, which is the largest Marine Corps parent command.

The capability and responsibility these two commands hold together make it of the utmost importance for military police to stay on their toes.

Military policemen often deal with people who park in a lot they don’t have authorization for, or they park somewhere that may cause a safety violation, like blocking a fire escape exit, explained Lance Cpl. Jimmy Vasquez, Camp Smith military policeman.

Overall, PMO’s mission is to ensure they are prepared for any situation that may occur whether that is a traffic ticket or preventing major security breaches aboard Camp Smith that could cost lives.


05-06-05, 07:03 AM
Entrepreneur changes life, deploys to Iraq
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200553121133
Story by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel

CAMP AL QAIM, Iraq (May 3, 2005) -- Owning your own business can be rewarding in many ways. You're your own boss, you can control how you do business and make a lot of money.

But according to 28-year-old Lance Cpl. Kevin D. Taylor there is more to life than making a large amount of money.

The Warren, Ohio, native decided to join the Marine Corps just a couple of years after starting his own small construction company.

"I'm a patriotic person, and I started to realize that if I was going to say that we needed to be in this place or that place, military wise, than I needed to be willing to do it myself and put myself on the line. Not have everyone else do it all the time," explained the 1995 Champion High School graduate.

After graduating from high school and the Trumbull County Joint Vocational School for building trades, Taylor went to work for his father, David, at his chimney sweeping company.

He then branched off of his father's company and started his own smaller project, but after a few years of running his own business, Taylor decided it was time to do something he was passionate about.

"I got into firearms and weapons and I wanted to get into law enforcement or even the security industry. Even though I was making a good amount of money, I decided it wasn't about money it was a call for duty. I knew the military would be a good start and good on my resume," he explained.

So in early 2002, Taylor joined the Marine Corps' delayed entry program and left for recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., in the fall of that year.

Once he completed basic training, he went home to help the local recruiter and helped enlist one person.

He then attended the School of Infantry where he trained to become a machine gunner, which eventually lead him to his current unit, 3rd Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment.

The machine gunner deployed with the battalion to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2003.

"I really felt that I was fulfilling my call for duty and my skills were put to the test. I was doing what I was meant to do and what I wanted to do," he said.

After his four-month deployment, Taylor returned to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., his unit's home base, to become a part of the battalion's operations and training section. He also became the battalion's school noncommissioned officer, responsible for placing the battalion's Marines in advanced schools to sharpen their skills.

Although Taylor has assumed more of an administrative role in the Marine Corps, when his unit deployed to Iraq in February, he still wanted to be involved in some of the operations.

"I would like to go on a few convoys, and I mainly want to see the local people here. When I was in Afghanistan, I could see how much the local people wanted us there and I know it would be the same situation here," he explained.

As Taylor's deployment in Iraq begins he looks back on the reasons he joined and he looks to the future sense of pride he will have.

"I will continue to serve and fulfill my duty and it will be an honor to say I was here, and I did my part," he said, chest swelling with pride.


05-06-05, 07:04 AM
Little Falls native helps detachment stay afloat <br />
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing <br />
Story Identification #: 200553235035 <br />
Story by Sgt. Juan Vara <br />
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AL ASAD, Iraq (May 4, 2005) -- The...

05-06-05, 07:04 AM
MSSG 'Mule T' moves gear into impassible voids
Submitted by: 13th MEU
Story Identification #: 200542914468
Story by Sgt. Charles Moore

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT TRAINING CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (April 29, 2005) -- Marines from MEU Service Support Group, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are well versed in the capabilities of the off-road and tactical vehicles they use to keep the supply lines moving.

Yet, there are some places that even a high mobility, multi-purpose wheeled vehicle, better known as a Humvee, simply can’t go.

Current operations in Afghanistan have presented terrain impassable for conventional military vehicles. However, supplies and ammunition still must get to the front lines. To that end, several MSSG-13 Marines recently rehearsed an alternate means for transporting combat supplies, as they trained here during revised combined arms exercise working with mules.

The Marines learned to provide proper care for the animals and the appropriate ways to pack military gear. For some, the most important thing they learned was just how to “deal" with the stubborn animals.

“I’ve never really worked with animals,” said Cpl. Mack T. Jones, warehouse clerk, who admitted to growing up in the city and never dealing with farm animals. “I learned what a mule is.”

Many of the Marines who worked with the donkey/horse crossbreed come from a variety of backgrounds. Most, like Jones, were raised nowhere near a farm, while only a few boasted ranching experience. That said, the Marines interested shared a common goal - familiarization.

“The only people who came through this course are those who are interested,” said Sgt. Robert L. Scott, instructor, Animal Packing Course.

“It can be easier to teach the city kids because their minds are open,” he added, “but the comfort level is higher with the country kids.”

Lance Cpl. Matthew Furlow, driver, MSSG-13 Motor Transport Detachment, said he was happy to be around animals again. He grew up on a farm and felt that his experience with horses helped him to work with the mules.

“They’re easy to control, unless they get spooked,” he said. “They just get real nosey with anything they think they can eat.”

Jones had a different opinion.

“They are really stubborn. You’ve got to push them and let them know you are in control,” he said. “They’re pretty good animals though.”

The MSSG-13 Marines also spent time learning to tie the different knots and hitches they would need to securely attach combat supplies, skills they would soon apply in the "Mule Week’s" final evolution - patrolling to a drop zone.

“We used everything we learned this week to pick up that gear,” Jones said. “If I ever come across on of these things again, I’ll know what to do.”


05-06-05, 07:06 AM
Moreno Valley, Calif., native looks back on Marine Corps career
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200553125033
Story by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel

CAMP AL QAIM, Iraq (May 3, 2005) -- When Sgt. Matthew I. Campbell decided to join the Marine Corps, he knew it was the life he wanted to lead.

And now that his five-year contract is nearing its end, he looks back on his career with a sense of accomplishment and looks to the future and this deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to determine whether or not he stays in.

After graduating from Valley View High School in 1995, the Moreno Valley, Calif., native worked for Gulf Stream Aerospace in the avionics department.

But after a few years, Campbell decided it was time to travel and start down the path he wanted to live.

"I always wanted to be a Marine, and I wanted to get out of California and see the rest of the country and different parts of the world. Plus I would get paid to do it," he explained.

Campbell joined the Marine Corps in 2000 and signed a five-year contract to be a machine gunner with a security forces option.

"I've been shooting since I was about five and this was a good opportunity to use different weapon systems," Campbell said.

He completed recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and finished his basic machine gunner instruction at the School of Infantry at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Campbell then made his way to Chesapeake, Va., to security forces school for two months where he learned how to provide security using different tactics and techniques.

"After school, I was sent to Kings Bay, Ga., guarding naval special assets for six months before I went to close quarters battle training. I was the honor graduate and high shooter of the class," he explained.

In June 2003, he was assigned to Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, N.C., with 3rd Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment where shortly after his arrival he was deployed to Cuba as a part of the Anti-terrorism Task Force.

"It was a good experience. But, I just recently got married to my wife, Vanessa, so it was kind of hard in that sense," he explained.

Campbell was recently appointed the Battalion Gunner's assistant and the battalion's training noncommissioned officer.

"I assist in all of the battalion level training and I'm the chief machinegun instructor," he said.

His current deployment to Iraq that began in February will be the deciding factor in his decision to reenlist.

"It all depends on how this deployment goes and how my wife handles the stress of the deployment. I'm still looking forward to doing my job out here and making sure that all my Marines make it home, but I can't wait to get home to my wife and son," he explained.

Even if Campbell decides to get out of the Marine Corps, he knows what he has gained because of his service and knows what he wants to do.

"Being a Marine has given me a better work ethic, I'm better at working under pressure. If I get out I still want to work with weapons and training," he explained.

Campbell is faced with big decision to make, but is confident he will make the right one.

"When you have a big choice to make you have to do your research and know what you're getting yourself in to. I know I'll make a good choice, but looking back on the path of my Marine Corps career, I wouldn't change a thing," he explained.


05-06-05, 07:07 AM
Military working dogs essential tool in Iraq mission <br />
Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) <br />
Story Identification #: 20055304858 <br />
Story by Cpl. Christi Prickett <br />
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05-06-05, 07:07 AM
Division CG leads from front in latest round of MV-22 tests
Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story Identification #: 2005428173312
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (April 28, 2005) -- The 1st Marine Division commander had a simple message for Marines here about to take part in testing the Marine Corps' MV-22 Osprey.

No fear.

Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commanding general for 1st Marine Division, flew aboard the MV-22 Osprey from Camp Pendleton to this sprawling desert base to demonstrate to his Marines his confidence in the new tilt-rotor technology. He spoke for nearly a half hour to Marines from Company L, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, who are slated to take part in operational evaluations with the Marine Corps' newest aviation venture.

"I wanted to come out here to look you in the eyes to tell you that this is a good aircraft," Natonski, a 53-year-old from New Canaan, Conn., said to the Marines. "I'm not afraid to fly in it and I know you aren't either. You're going to make a difference by taking part in this test."

Natonski didn't pull punches, immediately addressing two crashes in early testing - both in 2000 killing 19 Marines in Marana, Ariz., and another four in Jacksonville, N.C. The division commander told his Marines the MV-22s on which they would fly were the same only in appearance.

"They've done all the testing and I know in your minds, some of you probably remember we had a couple of these crash," he explained. "That was a different aircraft. They've completely redesigned the engine pods. They've put in new computer software and today the aircraft your flying on - the one that I flew on - has been completely redesigned."

Still, designers are seeking more input from the same Marines who will use the MV-22 for years to come. That's where the division's infantry Marines come in. For the next several days, they'll pack, cram, squish and budge 24 Marines, with a full combat load, into the back of the Ospreys and fly over the California deserts. The idea is to find out what works for the grunts, and more importantly, what doesn't.

"What you guys are doing, as part of this op-eval, is checking out the aircraft," Natonski said. "You know, they've got to test it with people on it, with a base-plate or a SAW or a mortar or an M-240. The fact of the matter is, when you bring on all the junk that we bring on, those are the things they don't always factor in on an aircraft design."

Col. Glenn M. Walters, the commander of the Marine Tiltrotor Test and Evaluation Squadron 22, was also on hand to encourage Marines to look around the aircraft and figure what else they'd like to see. Already in earlier tests, infantry Marines affected changes in the seats, resulting in new, better-padded and more comfortable seats that also better withstand the shock of a hard landing. A new digital mapping display is being installed to give troop commanders real-time data of the battlefield as they approach the landing zone.

"We can put satellite imagery in there," Walters, a 48-year-old from Warrenton, Va., explained. "It will also display all the threats, give real-time downlinks so that if anything happens while you're en route, you can pull down the map right there. All of that is because of the comments made by the people this aircraft is built for and that's you."

Natonski told Marines it was time for the MV-22 to replace the aging fleet of CH-46E Sea Knight currently in service. He told Marines that nearly 30 years ago, he was flying aboard CH-46's during the evacuation of Saigon, Vietnam. Those aircraft were already 10-15 years old and many of those same aircraft, although updated and repaired, are still in service.

Not just is the MV-22 going to replace an aging helicopter, it's going to change the way Marines fight, Natonski said.

"This really is the future of the Corps," he said. "Not only can you operate on a ship way off the coast where the enemy doesn't know where you are, but you can fly so far inland, he doesn't know where you're going to land. And you're going to do it fast and you're going to do it over a long course of distance."

The Osprey can fly for 2,100 nautical miles with one aerial refueling and fly at speeds up to 300 knots, according to Headquarters, Marine Corps.

"You can land anywhere, hundreds of miles behind the enemy," he added. "Get them from the rear, secure an area for the landing then to take place. The capability this aircraft gives you is just tremendous."

Natonski told Marines Tuesday's flight marked the first time he'd flown aboard the MV-22. What he saw impressed him.

"That ride I just had on that aircraft from Camp Pendleton was the best ride I've ever had," he said. "I don't know if I'd call it a helicopter or a plane, but I'll tell you what, that thing goes twice as fast, twice as far as a CH-46."

Sgt. Maj. Wayne R. Bell, 1st Marine Division's senior enlisted Marine, joined Natonski for the flight. He told the Marines still waiting for their first ride what to expect.

"The ride in the back was actually a little smoother than a 46," said Bell, a 48-year-old from Boston. "It's a little quieter."

Bell said that quiet didn't equate to weak. The power of the MV-22 was apparent not just in flight after it transitioned, but even on the ground in a forward hover.

"You're kind of anxious, because when you take off, if you're not strapped in, you're going to fall out of the seat," Bell said.

Still, some Marines might miss some of the trappings of the old CH-46. There's only a couple windows and the newness of the aircraft - on one hand was only two weeks off the production line - left Natonski and Bell a little out of sorts.

"It's new," Bell explained. "There's no dirt. I wanted to wipe my feet before I got in."

The general's visit did help in alleviating some anxiety. Pvt. Jesse H. Hinkley, a 20-year-old from Las Vegas assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, has yet to fly aboard any military aircraft. His very first flight will be during the latest round of operational evaluations.

"Am I nervous? A little bit," Hinkley said. "I don't really know what to expect, but I am a little more comfortable that if the general flies out on it, it should be a good experience."

Lance Cpl. Mischa M. Brady, a 23-year-old from Boise, Idaho, said he wasn't nervous at all. In fact, he said the MV-22, to him at least, was just another aircraft. For the rest of his Marines, though, he said that might be a different story.

"I guarantee the general coming out here made a lot of us more confident," said Brady, also assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. "There's always a few butterflies when it comes to a new aircraft, but to see your commander, it boosted our confidence."

Natonski told the Marines the opinions they offer will have far-reaching effects for generations of Marines to come. Their suggestion to build an aircraft better-suited for infantry Marines will help shape the course of the way Marines will fight.

The Marines who are testing the new aircraft are making history, since the MV-22 may very well be the Corps' tiltrotor aircraft of choice decades from now, said Natonski.

"That's how revolutionary this is," he said.

E-mail Gunnery Sgt. Oliva at: mark.oliva@usmc.mil


05-06-05, 07:17 AM
Coffman rejoining Marines for Iraq duty
By Jim Tankersley, Rocky Mountain News
May 6, 2005

Mike Coffman was a soldier's son, an Army recruit at 17, a legislator who left the House to fight the first Gulf War. Now he's headed back to Iraq - and he wants his job waiting for him when he returns.

Coffman, Colorado's state treasurer, said Thursday he'll step down in June to return to active duty in the Marine Corps, where he is a major. The 50-year-old Republican said his mission will focus on helping Iraqis build a democratic government.

"The nation needs me to do a job," he said, noting the military is short on officers with government experience to help build democracy. "And that job is in Iraq."

When he returns next spring, Coffman wants the treasurer's office back. And he said he'd like to run for secretary of state. Coffman was briefly a candidate for governor this year before dropping out when U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez signaled he would run.

Meanwhile, Colorado's current secretary of state, Donetta Davidson, could also be headed out of office soon. The Republican confirmed Thursday that she's in line to fill a vacancy on a federal elections assistance commission in Washington, D.C.

"Right now, I don't have any idea what my future is going to be," she said.

Both Coffman's and Davidson's terms expire in 2007. Their early departures could rev up a political carousel in the Capitol, but even top lawmakers seem unsure how it would spin.

For starters, no one seems to know what will happen when Coffman deploys. His orders run through June 2006, but he says the last two months are optional and he expects to be home by March.

Colorado's constitution directs the governor to appoint a new treasurer if the office is vacated by "death, resignation, or otherwise." It also requires office-holders to devote "personal attention" to the job.

But a statute also authorizes a state employee to take leave for military service and allows for the appointment of an "acting incumbent" until he or she returns.

Coffman could attempt to take leave. Or he could resign, forcing Gov. Bill Owens to appoint a replacement, subject to Senate confirmation. In that case, Coffman could only return as treasurer if the replacement resigned and Owens re-appointed him to his old job.

Coffman told Owens his plans early Thursday. Both men said they'd work out the details of his departure soon.

"I respect and appreciate his willingness to serve his country again," Owens said, adding he'd work with Coffman and look at the law in deciding how to handle the treasurer's position.

One lawmaker said Coffman should leave the job for good.

"When Treasurer Coffman was a House member, he was called into duty for Desert Storm. We all felt that was fine," said Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood.

"But when you're treasurer and you're the only person in that seat, if you cannot fulfill the duties, you should resign. I don't care what the reason is."

Coffman's father was a decorated soldier in World War II and the Korean War. Young Mike enlisted after his junior year in high school and finished active duty in 1983.

He volunteered for Desert Storm - taking an unpaid leave from the Colorado House - and led a light armored infantry company there. He retired as a major in 1994.

The Marines will assign Coffman to a civil affairs unit based in North Carolina, where he'll train for two months this summer. He's scheduled to leave for Iraq in August.

First, he's getting married. Coffman will wed Cynthia Honssinger, Colorado's chief deputy attorney general, on May 28.

Honssinger clasped Coffman's hand at the end of a press conference Thursday and said she and his family are proud of him. She laughed when a reporter asked if the couple planned a Baghdad honeymoon.

"Perhaps we'll meet in Europe," she said.


05-06-05, 07:18 AM
Swinging idea: Get a Marine on your team
Bill Byron
The Desert Sun
May 6, 2005

"Have a Marine in your foursome," that's what is on the posters Jay Longley is circulating among private golf clubs in the valley.

Longley recently came up with the idea to support the troops by inviting Marines to play golf with him at the exclusive club - Desert Island Country Club and Golf Course - where he's a member.

"I know when I was in the (service) and someone offered to let me play on their golf course, I thought it was wonderful," said Longley, 87, who served in the Navy with Marine Corps units on Guam and the Philippines in World War II.

His first guests, for a tournament Tuesday, were stationed at the Marine base in Twentynine Palms and included Chief Warrant Officer Gary Liddell, who spends a lot of his free time on the golf course on base.

"Out of the blue, Dr. Longley just called me and asked if I could gather a couple Marines to come on down and play," said Liddell, who was playing at a private club for only the third time. "The course was in great shape and there was a lot of green grass - something we're not accustomed to at Twentynine Palms."

The 41-year-old Liddell has never seen combat, but has served overseas in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Japan.

The 7-handicapper said he drained five birdies on his way to a 77 on the course, which has a par of 72.

"There was two (holes) where I had to drive over the water, I think it was 9 where there was an island and you had to hit onto that, and I drove over the water," he said, describing his favorite holes of the day.

Liddell, whose foursome ended up winning Tuesday's tournament, said he would like to return Longley's favor sometime soon.

"I'd like to at least invite them up to Twentynine Palms for a round to have hazards of lizards and desert."

Longley, who was a Navy doctor attached to the Marines and had a private urology practice, said he just wanted to do something to support the military during the conflict in Iraq.

"We thought it would be good to show our support of the Marines by giving them all a little recreation at our golf course," Longley said. "It makes us feel like we're contributing something."

So now, he and his friends at the Desert Island Country Club are passing posters around to other golf clubs in the area that say, "Have a Marine in Your Foursome."

"We're trying to bring to attention to all the golfers around here, that if they'd offer to do a little something for the Marines, it'd be a great thing," Longley said.


05-06-05, 07:20 AM
Marines honor Mississippi Native
By Laura Hipp

MAGEE - After visiting the site in south Vietnam where a fellow Marine was killed, Leonard "Red" Reese wanted to find the grave of the young man who saved his life.

He wanted to find the family members of William Davis Martin and tell them of his sacrifice for the Marine unit, stories Reese's own family had never heard.

Any questions about Martin quickly bring tears to his relatives' eyes almost 36 years after his death. His mother can hardly speak about her eldest son, who was two weeks from his 20th birthday when his unit was ambushed.

"It's been hard on me all this time," Myrna Lee Bougon said Thursday before breaking down in tears.

Both have found some of the healing, however, through scholarships given in Martin's honor to Magee High School students each spring. On Thursday, for the fifth year, Martin's family and fellow Marines from five states gathered to give 14 students $500 scholarships.

"Our prayer is that ... Davis' memory lives on in these young people," said Reese, 56, a high school teacher in Tatum, Texas.

Reese and five others from their unit joined the family to give the scholarships. It was the first time a few of the men had seen each other in decades.

Martin was one of more than 630 Mississippians killed in the Vietnam War, according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

He died after volunteering to "walk point," leading a small group of Marines down a dark road, Reese said. The men were ambushed and Martin died almost immediately.

"He was a full-of-life little guy," said Roger Teague, 57, of Columbia, Mo., who remembers Martin for always offering Juicy Fruit gum. "He always had a smile."

For Martin's mother and brothers, the annual visits help them cope and answer questions about his last days.

"It's been a healing process for all of us," said Billy Martin, 51, William Davis Martin's youngest brother. "It stirs up some stuff, but you get the truth."

Vietnam veterans who served with William Davis Martin are (front row, from left) Richard Crawford of Fort Myers, Fla., Roger Teague of Columbia, Mo., Leonard "Red" Reese of Tatum, Texas, and William's youngest brother Billy Martin of Magee with (back row, from left) David Thompson of Hampton, Fla., John O'Brien of Custer County, Colo., William's brother Buck Martin of Magee and Bernard Thigpen of Jackson.

He and his older brother, Buck, are quick to point out that other families in Mississippi are not as fortunate to hear from loved ones' fellow soldiers. But the contact has encouraged their family to talk more about William Davis Martin. For Bougon, her son's death was so painful, she could not watch as he was buried in Merchants Cemetery near Raleigh, on his birthday Sept. 4, 1969. Her first visit to the cemetery came last year when she was cleaning her son's gravesite for a visit from Reese and Teague. This year, the men raised about $7,000 from family, friends and fellow veterans for the scholarships. Almost 30 teens have received awards since 2001.

"It's been a tremendous honor for them to present this award to our students," said Magee High School Principal George Huffman. Others visiting Thursday were Richard Crawford of Fort Myers, Fla.; David Thompson of Hampton, Fla.; John O'Brien of Colorado; and Bernard Thigpen of Jackson. All of the men just nod in agreement that the visit and sharing stories helps them cope. Like many Vietnam vets, they have said little about their experiences in Southeast Asia. Even now, voices shake as they recall war stories.

They visited Martin's grave, which is beside the grave of his father and is shaded by a large oak tree. The men planted a Mona lavender and a magnolia at his headstone and prayed.

"To be able to come here to his final resting place makes it feel like a complete cycle for Davis," Reese said.

Crawford, his lieutenant, quietly bid his fellow Marine goodbye by whispering "Semper Fi."


05-06-05, 10:31 AM
Schiller Park, Ill., Marine is battalion’s legal clerk, warden <br />
Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division <br />
Story Identification #: 20055364414 <br />
Story by Cpl. Tom Sloan <br />
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05-08-05, 04:02 PM
The Marines' flawed body armor
By Christian Lowe
Army Times staff writer

The Marine Corps issued to nearly 10,000 troops body armor that government experts urged the Corps to reject after tests revealed critical, life-threatening flaws in the vests.

In all, the Marine Corps accepted about 19,000 Interceptor outer tactical vests from Point Blank Body Armor Inc. that failed government tests due to "multiple complete penetrations" of 9mm pistol rounds, failing scores on other ballistic or quality-assurance tests, or a combination of the two.

"Since these are lifesaving pieces of equipment and are being used in support of the Iraq war, I urge immediate action since this technical office has little confidence in the performance of the items to provide the contracted levels of protection as defined in the performance specification," wrote ballistics expert James MacKiewicz in a memorandum rejecting two lots of vests on July 19, 2004.

MacKiewicz is responsible for verifying that each production lot of Marine vests meets protective requirements and other quality standards. He works at the Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., and has 18 years of experience with ballistics and armor systems.

A second government agency, the Defense Contract Management Agency, backed Natick's conclusion and also recommended against the waivers.

"Anything less than full compliance for a safety item such as the [Interceptor body armor] is unacceptable," DCMA wrote in a 2004 memorandum recommending that the Corps reject the vests.

But according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with officials at Natick, the Marine Corps and Point Blank, the service rejected that advice. Instead, the Marine program manager responsible for fielding the vests, Lt. Col. Gabriel Patricio, and Point Blank's chief operating officer, Sandra Hatfield signed waivers that allowed the Corps to buy and distribute vests that failed to meet the Corps' minimum standards and specifications.

Faced with the imminent publication of this story, the result of an eight-month investigation by Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps on May 4 issued a Corpswide message recalling 5,277 Interceptor vests from 11 lots that failed government ballistic performance tests - slightly more than half the total vests issued to Marines from questionable lots.

The Corps has not said what it intends to do with the more than 4,000 other vests the testers urged to be rejected that are now being worn by Marines. Nor has it said what it will do with the remaining 10,000 that it accepted over the objections of the test labs but which haven't been fielded.

Despite signed waivers acknowledging that the vests were substandard, the Marine Corps questioned the accuracy of the government test results all along. The Corps pulled samples from some of the challenged lots and had them tested at a private, commercial lab.

Patricio and other officials with Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Va., said the second tests show that the vests meet safety standards and do not put Marines at increased risk of injury.

"I did not ignore warnings or advice from my staff. I simply looked at all the factors involved as the program manager and made the decision that I needed to make based on all the information that I had," Patricio said in a May 3 telephone interview. "The decision was mine and within my immediate authority as program manager" to waiver and accept the rejected vests. Patricio recently retired from the Corps and now works as an independent acquisitions consultant.

While each vest has a unique serial number on it, Point Blank would not provide a list of serial numbers from the lots Natick said should be rejected. Point Blank said that information was "proprietary."

Corps officials initially would not provide lot or serial number data to Marine Corps Times; when Patricio was asked in the May 3 interview if he could locate the vests and recall them if ordered to do so, a Corps spokesman abruptly ended the interview and hung up.

But a day later, the Marine Corps listed the serial numbers that correspond to the 11 production lots in a Corpswide message the service is calling a "precautionary recall."

The message did not state how Marines could determine whether their vest belongs to one of the nine other production lots that didn't pass muster at Natick.

The Corps faces serious challenges in even locating the vests it plans to pull back. Because lot numbers, serial numbers and other manufacturing data are handwritten on body armor labels, the writing is sometimes smeared, faded or otherwise illegible.

The commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, Brig. Gen. William Catto, refused to be interviewed. But in a written statement, he acknowledged that problem, saying "every effort will be made to locate the waived vests, with the understanding that some may not be detectable due to normal wear and tear or other reasons associated with deployed conditions."

The Army also buys body armor from Point Blank, but service officials said they have bought several versions of the Point Blank vest and that they never accepted vests from lots that failed testing.

Facing two upcoming seven-month rotations of about 25,000 leathernecks to Iraq and ongoing deployments to Afghanistan, field commanders urged Systems Command to supply their units with vests, command officials said.

"At this critical moment, are we sure these are bad lots? Are these lots that we're sure we do not want to put into the fight? … That's a judgment call," said Lt. Col. Shawn Reinwald, director of combat equipment and support systems for Systems Command. Reinwald was Patricio's boss briefly after joining Systems Command in late 2004.

"Had we had a lot of schedule to play with, we might have slowed down. … The schedule was bearing down on us."

The judgment call fell to Patricio, who over 10 months last year would waive and accept at least 20 lots of outer tactical vests that didn't pass muster with government testers.

Systems Command did not inform field commanders about the waivers when the equipment was distributed, Reinwald said.

Patricio said he briefed Catto in February 2004 when the first waivers were issued, as well as in subsequent meetings on procurement of various types of armor to protect Marines and their equipment from the growing threat of insurgent attacks in Iraq.

In his written statement, Catto said he agreed with the decision to issue the waivers.

"I concurred with the program manager's decision to waive the 11 lots in order to rapidly replace the PASGT flaks with a superior, advanced body-armor system," Catto said in the statement. "Due to the massive deployment associated with [Operation Iraqi Freedom], this was considered to be an urgent need, and was deemed to be in the best interest of deployed Marines at that time."

Both Reinwald and Patricio said the notion of redistributing Interceptor vests already fielded among deploying forces was considered, but deemed too difficult to execute in time for the deployments.

"This was one of these situations where they're screaming for these OTVs [and] these guys have to get them," Reinwald said. "At that time, we had the operational requirement that we didn't have the schedule to play with."

The waivers came at a time when U.S. forces were facing increased risk from roadside bombs, ambushes and intense urban combat. The military rushed to field the Interceptor armor to all its troops, not just those typically involved in close combat, pushing the vests to the field as quickly as they were produced.

Systems Command officials responsible for developing and issuing the Interceptor vests argue that since the vest is worn in concert with the armor insert plates, the combined system offers more protection than the older personnel armor system for ground troops, or PASGT, that it replaced.

The Interceptor outer vest protects the wearer against 9mm rounds and shrapnel; a pair of armor insert plates offer additional protection against small-arms fire up to 7.62mm. Interceptor affords 10 percent greater protection against shrapnel threats than the PASGT vests, according to Army officials.

All vests stand some chance of failing, but the vests issued to Marines from waivered lots have a greater chance of being penetrated than vests that met Natick's test criteria, experts there said.

"You have an increased risk of ballistic incident - statistically" with these vests, said Bob Kinney, director of the individual protection office at Natick. Kinney has worked on individual protection equipment such as chemical and biological defense suits and body armor at Natick for more than two decades.

The Marine Corps has been buying its Interceptor body armor vests through the Army's Soldier Systems Center since 1999. Natick manages the contract and tests random samples of each production lot at Aberdeen Test Center, Md., to ensure the vests meet specifications. Aberdeen is the Army's chartered agency for ballistic quality assurance verification. The Army does not conduct its testing at Aberdeen, however, instead using commercial labs because of their independence from the service and the speed with which they deliver test results.

The Marine Corps' assertion that the 19,000 vests meet ballistic specifications is based in part on results from additional tests conducted at a private test lab, H.P. White of Street, Md.

Systems Command subjected some of the rejected lots - a batch comprising about 8,000 vests - to additional testing at H.P. White and obtained results that command officials said were satisfactory.

But the ballistics experts at Natick recommended against fielding any vests until they could identify and resolve the larger issue behind the vests' declining quality.

"Based on ballistic test data and previously identified quality assurance failures, I do not recommend acceptance of these lots and do not recommend acceptance of future lots until this issue is resolved," MacKiewicz wrote in an August 24, 2004, memo failing two lots.

The memo is one of many that MacKiewicz drafted from as early as January 2003, warning of poor ballistic test results and recommending the Marine Corps solve the problem before shipping any more vests to its troops.


05-08-05, 04:03 PM
It is unclear whether any Marine casualties in Iraq have resulted from shrapnel or bullets that have penetrated vests distributed from the lots in question. A data sample from the Navy/Marine Corps Combat Trauma Registry provided by the Marine Corps shows that of 692 Marines wounded in Iraq between March 2004 and January 2005, eight were struck on the vest, and only two were penetrated: a fragment from a rocket-propelled grenade and shrapnel from a roadside bomb.

The Interceptor body armor has been credited across the services with saving thousands of lives.

The Army and Marine Corps fielded Interceptor body armor in limited quantities during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and ramped up production and fielding for Operation Iraqi Freedom and its aftermath. By the time the Iraq war began in March 2003, the Corps had distributed 131,300 vests and 71,000 armor plates. As of November of that year, an additional 12,200 vests and 12,400 plates had been distributed.

One beneficiary of that increased production: Point Blank Body Armor, a subsidiary of New York-based DHB Industries, which has expanded dramatically to meet the demand. In less than three months in early 2004, the company opened two new manufacturing plants in Florida, expanding its operations to meet the Army and Marines' demand for more than 1 million vests.

Buying vests and armor

As program manager, it fell to Patricio to purchase more than 190,000 Interceptor vests and armor plates for the Corps.

During his tenure at Systems Command, the logistics officer handled at least two high-profile acquisition programs.

Patricio led the development of the new pixel-pattern combat utility uniform that debuted to rave reviews in January 2002. Later, he oversaw the pack evaluation process that yielded the new Individual Load Bearing Equipment rucksack. That pack, the Corps' replacement for the failed Modular, Lightweight Load-bearing Equipment, or MOLLE, system, was unveiled in August 2003. "This is a guy who can get things done," said Reinwald of Patricio.

And that's just what the Corps needed in late 2003.

Facing mounting pressure to acquire body armor quickly because of upcoming deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and armed with the final orders to close out the Corps' vest procurement plan, Patricio had little maneuver room on the vest program.

The first vest failures had come to light in mid-January 2003, as officials with Point Blank notified Marine contract officers of problems at their Oakland Park, Fla., test facility. Hatfield told Marine Corps Times the failures stemmed from improper testing equipment at their ballistic lab.

Over the next year, Natick officials assumed responsibility for testing vests from Point Blank as they investigated why the original failures occurred.

In December 2003, contract officers and testers discovered that multiple vests from two other lots failed ballistic tests, this time at the Aberdeen facility.

Vests from lots 69-9 and 69-12 suffered multiple penetrations of 9mm bullets at speeds below 1,525 feet per second. When gauging performance of a vest against that contract benchmark, testers expect that rounds will penetrate half of the time.

Those penetrations were of particular concern because previous tests yielded passing results at an average velocity of 1,620 feet per second, well above the contract benchmark, according to a document written by Mike Codega, a technical representative at Natick who worked with MacKiewicz on the Marine vest program. Also a point of concern was the complete penetration of a vest from lot 69-12. This one was below 1,450 feet per second, a speed at which no vest penetration should occur.

"I recommended we do more testing to validate or to confirm or to find out what happened," MacKiewicz said in an April 8 interview at Natick. "And as I continued to test, I got more failures … it continued, it didn't stop. Which is strange because we had had about four years of experience where we had no problem whatsoever."

In further tests of lots 69-9 and 69-12, as well as four additional lots, MacKiewicz and his colleagues noticed a continued decline in the Point Blank armor's ballistic strength. Some of the vests were also showing deep indentations - though not penetrations - at speeds that, taken together with the full penetrations in earlier lots and the fact that the indentations were deeper than they should have been, prompted testers to raise a red flag.

"It shouldn't have happened … because it was a known system for four years and the results were very high" during previous tests on earlier lots, MacKiewicz said. "To get results that low was very concerning - it was odd to us."

When presented with the evidence of failures and the testers' worries, Patricio questioned Aberdeen's test procedures. In late 2003, in an effort to determine whether testing methodology there was to blame, Patricio brought in H.P. White, the commercial ballistics testing company, to review those same lots.

An Aberdeen Test Center spokeswoman declined to comment on doubts about the testing results and methodology expressed by Point Blank and the Marine Corps.

In reviewing results from both facilities, Patricio wondered why samples from the same lot were passing at H.P. White and at Point Blank's test site but not at Aberdeen, according to Patricio's waiver request for lots 69-9 and 69-12 and other documents.

"H.P. White and the contractor's range have produced passing results for the lots in question while ATC's data fails the lots," Patricio wrote in a Feb. 2, 2004, memo explaining his waiver of lots 69-9 and 69-12. "This matter will not be resolved until the Natick technical representatives are able to make a determination regarding the underlying factors of the conflicting data."

In the memo, Patricio pointed the finger at Aberdeen's test procedures and asked MacKiewicz and his team to evaluate testing at all three locations to "determine the causes of the discrepancies and correct the inconsistencies."

"Failing or passing anything - that's a matter of some testing procedures and interpretations," Patricio said in the May 3 interview.

Point Blank officials agree with Patricio, saying the vests did not fail follow-up tests at independent labs and were therefore safe to field.

Hatfield, however, refused to name any of the sources who she said verified the performance of the failed lots.

"We see no reason to be concerned that the quality has deteriorated or that the performance has deteriorated in any fashion," said Hatfield, Point Blank's chief operating officer, in an April 20 interview at her Pompano Beach production facility in Florida.

Natick officials who investigated the test procedures at Aberdeen and H.P. White found no differences in the test procedures that would cause such divergent test results.

"No issues … relating to instrumentation, test procedure or test facility set-up was found," Codega wrote in the memo reviewing the failure of lots 69-9 and 69-12.

In fact, said H.P. White President Donald Dunn in an interview, in many cases his test facility fails products that Aberdeen Test Center has previously passed, arguing that his testing procedures are as stringent, if not more so, than those of Aberdeen. He declined to comment specifically on any testing of Marine vests that failed at Aberdeen.

Problems with the Point Blank vest design used by the Marine Corps keep cropping up. For example, as part of the competition for an Army vest contract late last year, that same model of Point Blank's Interceptor vest failed ballistic tests that simulate shrapnel hits, according to Karl Masters, the lead engineer for the Army's Interceptor body armor program. That test - a lower standard than for 9mm rounds - was conducted by H.P. White.

Masters noted that his comments were in reference to the Army vest program and declined to speculate on the Marine Corps vest issues.

Though the Army awarded Point Blank the contract after all, it bought vests of a different design than the Marine Corps model, said Army Col. John Norwood, the head of Project Manager Soldier Equipment, the Army office that oversees development of individual gear.

When asked in an interview whether he suspected any material or manufacturing flaw in the vests might be to blame for the rejections by government testers, Patricio said only that "we had the manufacturers involved in the process to the extent that the parties communicated with each other and attempted to work through the process" of addressing the failures.

Despite the official government waiver forms she signed asking for the ballistic specifications to be reduced to meet the declining test results, Point Blank's Hatfield said she never considered the problem to be one that stemmed from a manufacturing or material flaw.

Patricio noted in a memo dated Feb. 2, 2004, that the urgent need for body armor in the war zone and the time it would take to find out for sure why the vests were failing outweighed his concerns with the vests.

He therefore would issue a "temporary waiver providing Marines with OTVs of questionable performance," promising that "if, at a later date, the performance is shown to conclusively not meet the government's performance specification, then the issue will be addressed at that time."

The waiver turned out to be anything but temporary. Over the next year, Patricio went on to issue waivers for at least 20 lots representing nearly 19,000 vests.

"The OTVs in the stated lots do not fully comply with the current Marine Corps performance specification for the OTV and do not meet existing contractual requirements," Patricio wrote in one waiver, accepting a shipment of nine lots - about 4,500 vests - that testers at Aberdeen rejected.

"The OTVs are needed by deploying units that must receive them prior to deployment in the very near future. I understand and accept the increased risk posed by accepting the reduced protection against the 9mm threat," he wrote Nov. 24, 2004.

Patricio said he crafted his waivers using language that was legally required to release the vests and "put them on the backs of Marines."

While shrapnel from homemade bombs and 7.62mm bullets from AK47 rifles are among the most common threats in Iraq, 9mm submachine guns are also in common use and a "valid operational threat," said Masters, the Army engineer.

Natick officials said they pleaded with Point Blank to properly document and track the materials and manufacture of the vests so they might pinpoint the problem. But they said Point Blank could not deliver the information they needed.


05-08-05, 04:04 PM
The Marine Corps contract included a premium of about $50 extra per vest to cover additional quality assurance procedures at Point Blank, MacKiewicz said. <br />
<br />
Among other information that was of...

05-08-05, 04:13 PM
Marine reassures his Mom
The Tyler Morning Telegraph
May 8, 2005

Staff Sgt. Brett Ripp has to hike three miles in the sweltering Iraqi desert just to get to the mess hall for lunchtime.

His mother, Gyna, can't help worrying about him, and she faithfully sends packages stuffed with canned tuna, chicken and other non-perishables he can eat at his barracks.

She also keeps her son in constant supply of Skittles, something he confesses to missing as much as baseball and the Super Bowl.

"Of course I'm homesick, we all are," he wrote to his mother in an e-mail on Thursday. "That thing that we are missing, home, the loved ones back here... new blockbuster movies coming out at the theater, and frozen vanilla yogurt with Skittles, all that is exactly why we are here."

Ripp has served in Iraq since January 2004. He went on leave last October, and returned this January to work on helicopters for the U.S Marine Corps.

"He loves his job," Mrs. Ripp said. "He was born to be a Marine."

Ripp had the option to stay in the United States after serving last year, but he chose to return to Iraq.

Mrs. Ripp said her son does endure bouts of homesickness. But he insists he is in the right place.

"I don't want you to think that I'm the least bit upset about the decision I made to stay in the Marines," he wrote. "I could have gotten out, you know that. I didn't because this is me. This is what I love, and this is where I belong."

Mrs. Ripp is accustomed to her children being in dangerous situations. She has a son and daughter who both serve in the Army. She had a daughter, Candace, who was in the police force in Nashville, but was killed in the line of duty in 2001.

Losing a daughter has made her more fearful for her son's life, Mrs. Ripp admits, but she has a strong faith and support system to help her cope.

"He's in God's hands," she said. "It's scary, but I think he's as safe as anybody is."

Ripp has been a Marine for 11 years, but that doesn't make the separation any easier.

Mrs. Ripp is in Hawaii right now with her grandchildren, husband and daughter, and Ripp confesses he wishes he were there.

"I'd sure love to be there myself," he said. "That will certainly be a great vacation, and one that the little ones will remember for a lifetime."

Ripp has three little ones of his own, who live with his wife in Corpus Christi.

"I know he's missing so much," Mrs. Ripp said. "But I know that's his way of life."

Ripp and his mother have always been close, she said, and he is constantly doing "sweet, little things" for her.

"He's my defender," she said, declaring her son a definite mama's boy.

To prove it, she pointed to the last note her son left her before leaving for Iraq.

Scribbled on a piece of cardboard, the note reads, "I love you very much and will be thinking of you every day!"

Months later, Mrs. Ripp keeps the note in an album in which she has collected all of her son's e-mails, letters and photos.

Ripp writes his mother once or twice a week, and they get to speak on the phone together about once every six weeks.

"I can't wait to see you again, when the time comes I will," he wrote. "I love you Mom, always have, always will."

Although Mrs. Ripp wishes she would see him again soon, she said she doesn't worry actively about her son.

"I sleep well at night, because I know he's protecting me."

However, she admits, worry is "always in the back of your mind."

"Mothers and sons have that special bond," she said. "He was my baby ... he is my baby."

Mrs. Ripp said the one memory that helps her cope with her son's absence is when he graduated from boot camp.

"You really see your son become a man," she said tearfully. "You see how much they want to serve, and that helps you deal with the absence."

Absence is difficult for both mother and son.

"Here's a hug and a kiss from your son in a land far, far away," Ripp concluded his letter. "So smile, and I'll see you in a little while."

Lindsay Randall covers Henderson and Van Zandt counties. She can be reached at 903.596.6284. e-mail: news@tylerpaper.com


05-08-05, 04:30 PM
Blast Kills Marine, Weapons Found
American Forces Press Service
May 8, 2005

WASHINGTON - A Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, died from injuries received when an improvised explosive device, May 7, detonated.

The incident occurred during combat operations in Al Karmah, Iraq.

The name of the deceased is being withheld pending family notification.

Elsewhere in Iraq today, Task Force Liberty soldiers chased and stopped a vehicle outside a coalition forces base in Tikrit. The vehicle was loaded with artillery rounds and wired as a vehicle-borne IED.

Security personnel on the base had identified the vehicle as a potential VBIED when it repeatedly drove past coalition checkpoints.

A quick-reaction force from 3rd Battalion, 133rd Field Artillery Regiment, with support from Iraqi police, pursued the vehicle and trapped it in an alley. The driver fled the vehicle and escaped.

Task force explosive ordnance disposal personnel detonated the vehicle where the driver left it.

No task force soldiers or Iraqi police were injured in the incident. In northern Iraq, multinational forces from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) detained four suspected terrorists and seized a number of weapons during operations May 6 and today, officials reported.

Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, detained four individuals suspected of terrorist activity during a cordon-and-search operation in northeastern Mosul today.

Suspects are in custody with no MNF injuries reported.

Soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, seized a weapons cache during a search operation west of Tal Afar. The cache seized May 6 included a mortar round, eight mortar fuses and other mortar firing parts. Weapons were confiscated for future destruction.

In Afghanistan, an Afghan farmer near Lashkar Gah reported an IED discovery along a busy local road to a provincial reconstruction team base May 5, according to officials.

The device consisted of two 1-gallon-sized cans filled with explosives and was reportedly designed to detonate via a remote-control device.


05-08-05, 04:30 PM
Mother has faith in daughters serving in Iraq
Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Story by Staff Sgt. Ronna M. Weyland

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (May 8, 2005) -- When mothers raise their daughters to be independent, strong-willed and successful they often don't think of them growing up and joining the military.

When Patricia Shivley, of Jacksonville, N.C., first learned of her daughter Jennifer's interest in joining the Marine Corps she said at first she was shocked.

"Then I thought, it's just like Jennifer to do something like this," said Patricia. "She knew her dad was looking at putting both girls [Tiffany] in college and she decided to join the military to get an education."

Corporal Jennifer Shivley, radio maintenance technician, Communication Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, believes she wasn't ready to go to college right out of high school.

"I wasn't mentally ready to go to college," she said. "I wouldn't have done well if I had."

Jennifer, 22, joined the Corps in May 2001 two days after graduating from Beddingfield High School in Wilson, N.C.

"When I saw her at the boot camp graduation my heart filled with pride to see her standing tall in her uniform," Patricia explained. "I knew then she could accomplish anything she sets her mind to."

Upon Jennifer's initial enlistment, she was in the reserves. After her first year, she decided to go active duty and worked in the local recruiting station for five months before getting orders to Okinawa.

Since her time in the Marines, Patricia said she has noticed a lot of changes in her daughter.

"It [Corps] has instilled a lot of pride in what she does," Patricia said proudly. "She had to grow up a little to take on responsibilities for what she does."

Jennifer agrees she has gained a lot of experience and discipline.

"My dad thought I needed to do something with structure," said the four-year veteran. "That is exactly what the Corps has done for me."

However, Jennifer isn't the only daughter Patricia has serving her country.

Army Pfc. Tiffany Shivley, interrogator, attended the University of North Carolina for a year after high school. She enlisted during the summer of 2003 and shipped to boot camp after the beginning of the New Year.

"I didn't have enough money to continue paying the tuition and really get on my feet," Tiffany explained.

Tiffany said seeing her sister being able to take care of herself in the military allowed her to realize she could do the same.

"She [Jennifer] did try to get me to join the Marines, but I figured one per military branch would be OK," she said of her decision to join the Army.

The mother of two said she is very proud of her daughters.

"We raised them to be independent and to think for themselves in everything they do," Patricia said.

Both daughters are currently deployed to Iraq. Jennifer is at Camp Blue Diamond and Tiffany is stationed at Abu Ghraib.

"I am sad and concerned for their safety, but I am also very proud of them," Patricia said about her daughters being in a combat zone. "I know that we raised two very smart girls."

Patricia added, she thinks her daughters supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom is great.

"I hope they learn and take back a lot of experience," she said. "I want them to make a lot of friends, but most of all I just want them to come home because I miss them."


05-08-05, 04:31 PM
Jacksonville, Fla., mother proud of twins serving in Iraq
Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Story by Staff Sgt. Ronna M. Weyland

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (May 8, 2005) -- The Marine Corps offers the "buddy program" for new recruits who want to enlist with a friend and ship to boot camp at the same time instead of going alone. When the friend happens to be your twin brother, the program takes on a whole new meaning.

Cpls. Dustin C. and Kyle R. Hanson, heavy equipment operators from Engineer Platoon, C Company, 8th Communication Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Headquarters Group, II MEF (FWD) have been close all their life, but never planned on joining the Corps together.

"We have always been supportive of each other," said Kyle, the youngest by six minutes. "Growing up we had a tight group of friends and then it was always me and my brother.

"Every sport I did, he did; every sport he played, I did. We even worked together at the same job while we were in school."

When it came time to start thinking about life after high school the 21-year-old identical twins from Jacksonville, Fla., had different plans.

"I had talked to my recruiter, taken the pre-[Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] and I was hanging out with [the recruiter] a lot," Dustin said, pointing to his twin while they laughed about the memory, "and [Kyle] would always give me a hard time and say stuff like "Why do you want to join the military?"

The two had tried ROTC in high school, so Kyle didn't understand why his brother would want to join.

"We were in ROTC for half a year and we hated it. We told each other we would never join the military, because of that experience," Dustin explained.

Kyle, a National Honor Society member in high school, had already enrolled in the University of West Florida, in Pensacola, Fla., and was scheduled to start school at the end of the summer.

"The summer came and I kind of blew the recruiter off," Dustin said. "So, [Kyle] goes on a road trip for a week and comes back and said he had just joined the Marine Corps."

Their mother was also surprised.

"After much hesitation and prayer and after I realized Dustin was determined (to enlist) I decided to give him full support," said Kathie Hanson, Jacksonville, N.C. "Kyle had been interested in going to college, so when he came home and told me he joined the Marines, I was very surprised."

Kyle explained his decision to join the Corps, "I had signed up to a school I wanted to go to and then found out my parents weren't going to help me out to go there. I had no intentions of joining, but I figured if I wasn't going to be able to go to the college I wanted, I said what the heck."

His parents had wanted him to go to school closer to home. After exploring his options, Kyle said he knew joining the Corps was the right decision.

"I had talked to all the other services, but they didn't seem to be too interested," he recalled. "When I walked into the office, the recruiter recognized me and took me straight back to his office."

Kyle said he knew all the services offered the same benefits and it would be harder going into the Marine Corps, but the recruiter helped him with his decision.

"The Marine recruiter knew just what to say, what I wanted to hear," Kyle explained. "The others didn't want to sell the product I wanted. That is what it is all about, just like selling anything else. When you're a civilian you don't really know the difference between the branches. He [recruiter] had it all lined up nice and easy."

Dustin signed up about a week later and both were active in the Delayed Entry Program until leaving for basic training at Parris Island, S.C., Jan. 6, 2003.

"We do not come from military families, so this was all new to me," said Kathie of both her son's decision to enlist. "I read several books "Making the Corps" and "Keeping Faith," which provided so much information about the Marines. How could I not be proud?"

The twins have no regrets either.

"I'm very happy with the decision I made," explained Kyle. "I don't look back at anything and regret any of the choices I have made."

Dustin graduated as the honor graduate from boot camp and received a meritorious promotion to lance corporal. Kyle didn't let his brother out rank him for too long. After putting two people in the Corps on recruiter's assistance, Kyle received his meritorious promotion to lance corporal.

While attending their military occupational specialty school in Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., the brothers received orders to their first duty station.

"Our platoon commander tried to tell us one was going to Japan and the other was going to the East Coast," Dustin recalled. "But, then we got our orders and we both were going to 8th Comm."

Since arriving in Camp Lejuene, N.C., in August 2003, the Hanson twins both received meritorious promotions to corporal; Kyle, June 2, 2004, and Dustin, Sept. 2, 2004.

Both are currently on their first deployment to Iraq and agree they are fortunate to be stationed here together. Their mother also finds comfort in her sons being together.

"It is scary and comforting having both the boys together," explained Kathie. "It scares me because if something happens and they are together [then] both could get hurt, but I know they give each other support and motivation, so that comforts me."

The brothers said they both know how their mother feels about the deployment together.

"She supports us," said Dustin proudly. "She is really proud of us and she wants us to be safe, but yet she knows…"

Kyle finished the statement for his brother, "She knows we look out for each other and we have Marines around us that are well trained just as we are, and we are here to do our job."

The twins communicate with their mom daily through e-mail and keep her up to speed on how they are doing.

When asked if they think she worries more having both of them deployed at the same time or if she feels better knowing they are together, the brothers both replied.

"In a way yes, and in a way no," Kyle started.

Dustin finished his brother's sentence with, "She knows we are together and we are going to watch each other's back."

Kathie agrees with their response.

"I have always encouraged them to be independent, but I also know the bond of twins is strong," she said.

The twins are roommates here, so they are able to spend a lot of time together.

"This is the first time I have seen him read [a book] in about five years," Dustin joked about his brother.

In their spare time, they both help with the remedial physical fitness program and are rifle bearers in the battalion color guard.

"I threw [Dustin] under my wing and told him he was going to do color guard, so he had no choice," laughed Kyle.

The Hanson brothers aren't sure on how long their deployment in Iraq will last or what their future in the Corps will be, but they know they will never forget the experience.

"I'll be able to tell my kids one day, I was able to help out the people of Iraq," said Kyle, who married his high school sweetheart last year.

"We weren't scared coming here," he said. "We knew we signed up to serve America and that is what we are here to do."

Dustin added, "I have gotten a lot of discipline from joining the Marine Corps. I wasn't on a good path."

Whatever the future holds for the Hanson twins, they both agree one day they will live next to each other and raise their families together.

Kathie said she is very proud of both her son's service to their country and it makes her even more proud to be an American.

"Their dedication, discipline and hard work inspires me and makes me strive to be a better person," explained the mother of five. "I am grateful to all who serve and feel if more Americans knew more about the military, and if all young people would give some sort of service, it would change our country."


05-08-05, 04:32 PM
Larger Special Operations Role Being Urged on Marines
By Bradley Graham
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 8, 2005; A07

With conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan tying up many U.S. Special Operations forces, the Pentagon has found itself short of the elite teams it typically deploys around the world for specialized combat missions and for training foreign militaries, defense officials say.

To help fill the gap, the Marine Corps has stepped forward with a decision to establish a standing force of "foreign military training units" by this autumn. The units -- 24 teams, each with 13 members -- will be given special instruction in foreign languages and cultural awareness and tailored for assignments in one of four regions: the Middle East, Europe, the Pacific or Latin America.

That is the easy part.

The hard part comes in another move under consideration that would have Marines play an even greater role in special operations beyond "low-end" overseas training missions. This would involve using more Marines in "high-end" anti-terrorist actions and other combat operations requiring exceptional skills.

The sticking point is whether to compel the Marines to cede their specialized units to the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), something the fiercely self-reliant Corps -- unlike the Army, the Navy and the Air Force -- has long refused to do.

SOCOM was established in 1986 to end the practice of creating and using Special Forces on an ad hoc basis. The command today oversees the organizing, training and equipping of such highly skilled troops as the Army Rangers and Green Berets, the Navy SEALs and the Air Force AC-130 gunship fleet. The Marines, by contrast, have preferred to retain control of their specialized teams and lend them to SOCOM only as needed.

That kind of time-sharing arrangement may no longer be tenable for SOCOM. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the command's role has expanded to include responsibility for managing the war on terrorism -- and with that has come a need for more troops under its direct management. While SOCOM plans to increase its ranks by 2,300 troops over the next four years, up to a new total of about 52,000, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has made clear he also wants the Marines more involved with the Special Command.

A meeting in February involving Rumsfeld, Marine Corps Commandant Michael W. Hagee and Army Gen. Bryan D. Brown, the head of SOCOM, resulted in no deal. The two generals are scheduled to present a new proposal to Rumsfeld later this month.

Although the Marines see themselves as a general-purpose force, they have developed some capacity to conduct special operations, ranging from the emergency evacuation of noncombatants to the stealthy capture of enemy fighters. These capabilities are frequently included in the expeditionary units the Marines regularly deploy.

In recent years, to relieve some of the strain on SOCOM, the Marines have taken on several missions outside the traditional scope of the sea-based service. For instance, they have led a task force in the Horn of Africa, set up in late 2001 to hunt down al Qaeda cells and other terrorists and now focused on providing security assistance and other training to countries in that volatile area. For the invasion of Iraq, the Marines lent SOCOM a Special Operations group known as Detachment 1, a year-long experiment that has become a prototype for the more permanent integration now under discussion.

Still, the idea of a marriage continues to stir some resistance on both sides.

"The Special Operations folks say the Marines had a chance to join SOCOM years ago and didn't, and now they are only after SOCOM's funding and, besides, they are too hard to work with," said one senior Marine officer who has been involved in the issue. "The Marine naysayers, on the other hand, say we're a general-purpose force. They worry that if we do this with SOCOM, we're going to diminish our forces and end up only a shadow of our former selves in a few years."

Hagee, speaking to defense reporters in February, indicated his reluctance to establish a subordinate command for Marines under SOCOM, similar to what has been done for Army, Navy and Air Force units.

"I have to be honest," he said. "I don't like headquarters upon headquarters upon headquarters."

At the same time, he said he is committed to finding the "most efficient and effective way to get" Marine capabilities to SOCOM, envisioning perhaps a combination of "continuous and ad hoc" arrangements.

What facilitated the foreign training initiative was the absence of any requirement to tie forces to SOCOM. The move also built on a history of Marine training missions, including recent ones in such places as sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet republic of Georgia, according to several Marine officers authorized to discuss the new organization.

These past missions, however, tended to be assembled on an ad hoc basis, with Marines being drawn from whatever active-duty or reserve troops were available, the officers said. Once formed, the units would receive crash courses in the relevant language and cultural conditions. Little continuity existed between missions.

Under the new plan, the preparation will be more structured and extensive, and the units will stay together for multiple deployments.

"We're institutionalizing and formalizing what was normally done by your basic average infantry company or platoon or battalion," said Lt. Gen. Jan C. Huly, the deputy Marine commandant for plans, policies and operations.

This approach resembles how the "A teams" of the Army's Special Forces are developed. These teams have traditionally performed most U.S. foreign military training. But Huly and other Marine officers said the intention is not to replace the Army teams, merely augment the effort.

The Marine units, although about the same size as the Army teams, will not be as highly skilled. Lacking the specialists in engineering, medicine and communications who serve on the Army teams, the Marines will focus on teaching basic infantry skills, the officers said.

Just where the new Marine teams will be sent has yet to be decided. But the Pentagon's revised "national defense strategy," issued in March, emphasized the need for more foreign military training as a way of bolstering other nations against the spread of terrorist networks and preventing local conflicts from mushrooming into major crises that can precipitate greater U.S. military involvement.


05-08-05, 04:35 PM
Marine's parents accept posthumous Bronze Star <br />
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- <br />
MC Times staff <br />
<br />
The parents of 1st Lt. Travis J. Fuller accepted a...

05-08-05, 04:50 PM
On Mother's Day, mixed feelings
May 8, 2005

Like many women on Long Island, and throughout the nation on this Mother's Day, Ann O'Reilly is beset by constant concern about her son, who is with U.S. forces fighting in Iraq.

"I don't know exactly where he is, or what he does," O'Reilly, a 51-year-old Farmingville mother of three, said of Devin, 23, a corporal with the 2nd Marine Division. "And if he's in the midst of heavy fighting, and doing awful things, I probably wouldn't want to know."

Annette Waterbury suffers similar torment.

"I worry every minute of every day," Waterbury, 42, a medical company employee from Centereach, said of her son Michael Romano, 19, also a Marine in Iraq. "Every time I get an unexpected knock on the door, or a phone call in the middle of the night, my heart goes into my throat. I wonder if it's somebody with terrible news about him."

Margie Clarke, on the other hand, is feeling virtually nothing but exuberance. An Army reservist who returned in January after nearly a year in Iraq, she is now back in Islandia with Christol, her 5-year-old daughter.

"Although fellow soldiers gave me Mother's Day cards and tried to be supportive, I felt very empty at this time last year," said Clarke, 41, a supply specialist who, although not in direct danger, spent most days in a drab military compound north of Baghdad. "But now I am full of joy."

The combination of motherhood and military service has left many women on Long Island with feelings of depression or delight - and, in some cases, a mixture of both - on this special day.

Melissa Evans illustrates the mixture. "I feel wonderful simply because I'm free and in control of my own life," said Evans, 29, a mother of three who left the Army last year after more than six years' service. "But there still is a problem."

The problem involves Steve, her husband of six years.

Like his wife, Evans was with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division when it helped spearhead the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. But the 30-year-old staff sergeant is still in the Army, and he returned Friday to Iraq, where he is several months into his second combat tour.

"It was voluntary, nobody was twisting my arm," he said in an interview, shortly before returning to duty, about his re-enlistment last year. "But it was a choice made under pressure, because I couldn't find a decent job and waiting more than six months would have meant rejoining the Army with reduced rank."

Melissa Evans, who gave birth two weeks ago to Kaitlyn, the couple's third child, is housing her family - the other children are Cassandra, 3, and Kayla, 4 - temporarily in her mother's Deer Park home, where she was raised.

"I guess I'll have to put my life on hold until Steve decides what to do with his," she said of her husband, who probably will remain deployed in Iraq another year and who is committed to military service until 2007. "But at least I'll be with my kids."

And that, if you ask Gail Harris, is what really counts.

"There's nothing better," said Harris, 56, a Central Islip homemaker who spent the past several days with all three of her sons - including Thomas, 27, a medic in Iraq, and his identical twin Timothy, also a career soldier, who is stationed in Fort Campbell, Ky.

"Having your sons healthy and with you at home - can't ask too much more than that for Mother's Day," said Harris, who, with her husband William, will host a third son, also named William, who is 33 and is a Suffolk County bus driver. "I'm very thankful."

Annette Waterbury's son is not scheduled to return from Iraq until August or September, but having him return home safely is her "fondest wish," she said.

Cpl. Michael Romano, a transportation specialist and machine gunner, made her proud recently - and earned hearty cheers from fellow Marines - when he spotted an enemy bomb planted on a road in Fallujah. But even more vivid, she said, was her feeling of helplessness when he phoned to tell her about a comrade killed in combat.

"I could hear the sadness in his voice," she recalled, "and it broke my heart. He's a million miles away, and I couldn't do anything to comfort him."

Ann O'Reilly also waits with great anticipation for the return of her son, who spent most of last year in Afghanistan and was deployed to Iraq in February.

"I'm very proud of Devin, and I told him that," said the corporal's mother, who gave him permission to join the Marines after his graduation from Centereach High School in June 2003.

What she has never told him, however, was the fear she always harbors in her heart for his safety.

But, she added ruefully, she has learned to deal with such feelings. She has been married for 28 years to Dennis O'Reilly, who is now a senior officer in the New York City Correction Department, but who spent many years guarding prisoners on Rikers Island.

Moreover, her son already has passed the test taken by all prospective NYC police officers, and will probably join the force when he completes his military service next year.

"I guess I'm destined never to have a good night's sleep," she said.


05-08-05, 05:05 PM
Roster of American combat heroes in Iraq is rich <br />
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May 03, 2005 <br />
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05-08-05, 06:14 PM
May 09, 2005

Troops needed for recon units
Marines wanted for expanding force

By John Hoellwarth
Times staff writer

The Corps wants you to go recon, especially now that a massive manpower reorganization has opened more opportunities in the community.
An April 25 Corpswide message encourages eligible sergeants and below to apply for a lateral move into the reconnaissance man (0321) military occupational specialty.

The Corps plans to add three new reconnaissance companies and two new force reconnaissance platoons following recommendations by the Force Structure Review Group, which developed a plan for reshaping the Corps to better meet the needs of the war on terrorism.

Some combat and combat-support units will be deactivated and the manpower will be reallocated to newly created units. By reallocating about 6,000 billets in 80 occupational fields throughout the Corps’ active and Reserve forces, as well as privatizing 1,600 others, Corps officials want to extend the time units spend at home between deployments by supplementing its number of trigger pullers.

The reconnaissance field is staffed at roughly 70 percent of its authorized personnel, according to statistics provided by Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Quantico, Va. In an effort to retain experienced recon Marines while attracting newcomers, the Corps is offering bonuses for those who re-enlist or transfer into the field for their second, third or fourth enlistment. However, bonuses are not payable until the lat-mover completes the Basic Reconnaissance Course.

Marines approved for a lateral move will receive orders to a reconnaissance unit where they will join a Reconnaissance Marines Awaiting Training Platoon, where they will prepare for the basic course.

To be eligible, Marines must have:

• General Technical score of at least 105.

• First-class swim qualification.

• First-class physical fitness test score.

• Normal color vision and near visual acuity.

• Eligibility for a secret clearance.

They must also be free of physical impairments that keep them from prolonged training in salt-water or field operations.

The screening process involves verification of the qualifications and an additional swim test that includes 30 minutes of treading water, the recovery of a rubber rifle from a minimum depth of 10 feet, and a timed 500-meter swim demonstrating proper stroke techniques.

Marines lacking a first-class swim qualification will be able to improve their proficiency while assigned to the RMAT platoon. Those who do not meet the 105 GT prerequisite are encouraged to retake the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.

To request a lateral move, Marines should consult their unit’s career retention specialist. See MarAdmin 192/05 for more information.


05-08-05, 06:15 PM
May 09, 2005

What it takes to make the cut

Would you like to work independently, attend some cool schools and find yourself in the thick of things overseas?
If so, the job of a counterintelligence specialist (military occupational specialty 0211) or technical surveillance countermeasures specialist (0212) could be the right fit.

Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Company at Camp Pendleton, Calif., part of 1st Intelligence Battalion, is one of the units hunting for new CI agents to work in teams for direct support, general support and Marine Expeditionary Units.

Also needed are staff sergeants with less than one year in grade who could advance as team chiefs.

Only male Marines from any MOS and in their first or second term of enlistment who volunteer to make the lateral move can apply.

You must meet other eligibility requirements, including:

• Rank. Corporal, sergeant or junior staff sergeant with U.S. citizenship and a valid U.S. driver’s license.

• Age. 21 before you move into the MOS.

• Testing. 110 or higher General Technical score, which could be waived; Defense Language Aptitude Battery; minimum score of 10 on the Nelson-Denney Reading Proficiency Test.

• Security. Top-secret/sensitive compartmented information clearance based on single scope background investigation. Submit an application before attending the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence course at the Navy-Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center in Dam Neck, Va.

• Boards/schools. Appear before screening board; if you pass, you must attend and graduate the CI/HUMINT course with at least 24 months of obligated service before graduation.

• Typing. At least 30 words per minute on an accredited typing test.

— Gidget Fuentes


05-08-05, 09:16 PM
May 09, 2005 <br />
<br />
Drug-use discharges increase from last fall <br />
<br />
By Gordon Lubold <br />
Times staff writer <br />
<br />
<br />
More Marines are using drugs now than they were last fall, but overall, fewer Marines are...