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12-13-05, 12:26 PM
December 19, 2005
Marine News Briefs

Paid propaganda?

The U.S. military in Iraq appointed a senior officer to investigate a controversial program that paid Iraqi media to run favorable stories.

Army Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Iraq, said the investigating official is Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, who is already assigned to the U.S. military command in Iraq.

So far, officials have not suspended the program, which came to light Nov. 30 in a report by the Los Angeles Times.

Five days later, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Pentagon was gathering facts about the initiative, which military officials in Iraq defended as part of their campaign to get the truth out about the war and rebuilding effort.

Officials are trying to determine whether the program was mishandled by a contractor — Washington-based Lincoln Group — or whether the military purposely fashioned a covert program to place positive articles in the Iraqi media that were not labeled as advertising or as originating from U.S. forces.

Medal of Honor hero dies

A Marine officer who earned the Medal of Honor for leading an assault up an icy Korean hill in 1950 died Oct. 23, according to the Marine Corps History and Museums Division.

Retired Col. Reginald Myers, 85, earned the medal for leading 250 U.S. troops to victory over 4,000 enemy soldiers, the division’s Web site said. A major at the time, Myers was the executive officer of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division.

According to the Web site, the battle occurred on Nov. 29, 1950, as thousands of Chinese troops threatened to envelop U.S. forces at Chosin Reservoir. Myers led an all-day, uphill battle in freezing temperatures to defend the American base at Hagaru-ri.

Corporal earns Bronze Star

Cpl. Matthew Palacios, a combat engineer with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, was awarded the Bronze Star with a combat “V” at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Nov. 22 for his actions in Iraq, a Marine Corps news release said.

During a combat operation, Palacios was part of the breach team for the assault squad of the platoon that made entry into a targeted building. When the Marines entered, they were under heavy fire from the insurgents’ position within the building.

Palacios and two other leathernecks were wounded during the firefight as they took cover. An insurgent threw a grenade at the Marines; although wounded, Palacios picked it up and threw it at the enemy. The grenade exploded near the insurgents, allowing the Marines to move out of the building.

According to Palacios, receiving the award was a bittersweet honor. “I think about the other Marines in my unit that did great things and were not recognized,” he said. “They went above and beyond the call of duty.”

No rematch election

A Marine reservist who nearly defeated an Ohio Republican congresswoman this summer said Dec. 5 that he’s sticking to his Senate bid rather than make another run against Rep. Jean Schmidt, who has become controversial after making comments about the Iraq war.

Paul Hackett, a Reserve major and Iraq war veteran, said the people who elected Schmidt probably liked her comments.

Schmidt was widely criticized by both parties after she said, “Cowards cut and run, Marines never do,” on the House floor Nov. 18. She was responding to Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha’s call for military withdrawal from Iraq. Murtha is a Democrat and a Marine veteran.

In the wake of Schmidt’s comments, Hackett was among the first to criticize her. Rumors flew that Hackett would try to run against Schmidt again, but the self-proclaimed “fighting Democrat” said that is not the case.

What a kick

Sgt. Joe Sarkissian, a Reserve supply administrator with Marine Air Group 46, took home the International Karate Kickboxing California State Welterweight Championship belt Nov. 19, a Marine Corps news release said.

The welterweight class is for fighters between 140 and 147 pounds. Sarkissian, a 24-year-old Moreno Valley, Calif., native, has trained as a kickboxer for the last 10 years. He turned pro about three years ago.

Kickboxing was such a big part of Sarkissian’s life that it led him to join the Corps in 2000.

“Basic fundamentals of Muay Thai Kickboxing are preparing your body for war,” he said.

According to the release, Sarkissian originally fought for the title two years ago.

During that match, his opponent accidentally head-butted him; the bout was stopped because of his opponent’s excessive blood loss. Before Sarkissian was able to fight in a rematch, he was recalled by the Corps and deployed to Iraq.

“I was winning that match two years ago, and it was stopped,” he said. “I had to wait two years for this belt, and now it is mine.”

Troops hang out with celebs

Leathernecks from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Camp Pendleton, Calif., visited The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in Burbank, Calif., on Nov. 23, a Marine Corps news release said.

Show producers invited members of all services to a special Thanksgiving Day taping.

Actress Lindsay Lohan and comedian Dane Cook appeared as guests on the show. According to the release, Cook wore a bizarre outfit comprised of every service’s uniform.

“I told everyone that I was going to get Lindsay Lohan to wave at me, but instead she came to me and gave me a hug,” said Sgt. Scott Leonardson, a drill instructor with the depot.

After the taping, Lohan and Cook visited with the service members, the release said.

12-13-05, 12:27 PM
December 19, 2005 <br />
News Breaks <br />
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12-13-05, 12:29 PM
December 19, 2005
Around the Corps

Compiled from military and other public sources.


Corps changes bombing account

Five days after a Fallujah-area explosion killed 10 Marines and wounded another 11, the Marine Corps revised its initial account of the incident, which was that the leathernecks were killed during a Dec. 1 foot patrol.

The revised statement said members of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, were instead inside an abandoned flour mill they used as a patrol base and had just dispersed following a promotion ceremony when they were killed by the explosion.

“It is suspected that one of the Marines triggered a hidden pressure plate initiation device, causing the explosion,” the release states. “Explosive experts believe four artillery shells were buried in two separate locations.”

After the Corps’ initial statement that the Marines were on foot patrol at the time of the attack, a militant Islamic Web site posted footage it claimed was of the attack on behalf of a group identified as the Islamic Army of Iraq, according to a Dec. 5 Stars and Stripes report.

The footage showed what appeared to be U.S. military personnel patrolling a street alongside a Humvee before being engulfed by a large explosion and clouds of smoke, according to the report.

In a Dec. 5 statement addressing the footage, U.S. military command officials flatly denied its authenticity, saying “the circumstances of the attack ... do not match those shown on the video.”

Commandant visits leathernecks in Iraq

Marine Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee dropped in on the leathernecks of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, on Dec. 7 in Ramadi, Iraq.

Meeting with the Marines of Combined Anti-Armor Team Black, Weapons Company, Hagee told the leathernecks to be prepared for more urban fighting, where separating friend from foe is difficult.

“It’s much more demanding today because you have to be a ‘strategic corporal,’” he told them.

The Marines of 3/7 are part of a larger, Army-run force under the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, headed by Army Col. John Gronski, commander of 2nd Brigade, 28th Division. The force has worked for months to subdue Ramadi.

Although Gronski said in a Dec. 5 interview that the number of attacks against U.S. forces is down in recent months, Marines and soldiers still encounter roadside bombs.

Gronski was pushing his forces hard to secure the city for the Dec. 15 elections and reduce attacks by al Qaida-inspired terrorists, he said.


Joint exercise kicks off at Yuma

Leathernecks and sailors with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing joined service members from the East and West coasts and Hawaii at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., on Dec. 2 to start the 12-day Exercise Desert Talon, a Marine Corps news release said.

The Marines and sailors teamed with soldiers of the Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, based out of Sandston, Va., to train and prepare for their upcoming deployment to Iraq.

According to the release, an integral part of the exercise is working and training with the Army UH-60 Black Hawk unit that will be attached to 3rd MAW in Iraq.