View Full Version : Commander: Lejeune Marines were steely in combat

05-03-03, 06:36 AM
May 02, 2003

Commander: Lejeune Marines were steely in combat

By Estes Thompson
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — Members of a 1,250-person Marine unit from North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune “never stepped back” during fighting in Iraq, even though many were in combat for the first time, their commander said Friday.
The troops left Kuwait by ship Wednesday and expect to be off the North Carolina coast before Memorial Day, said Lt. Col. Lee Miller, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

Miller’s troops are the ground combat element of the 2,300-member 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which was diverted to Iraq from other duty and went into battle within 24 hours of landing in Kuwait.

None of the 24th MEU members was killed or wounded seriously, Miller said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from the USS Nassau, one of three ships carrying members of the 24th home.

Miller said the unit has been deployed since August, longer than a usual six-month tour of duty.

“It’s a straight shot back and that’s by popular demand of all the Marines,” he said. “They’re extremely excited about getting home. We couldn’t sail fast enough. If there were oars out here, we would row.”

Miller said his troops — including infantry, amphibious and armored vehicles and combat engineers — impressed him.

“They never stepped back,” Miller said. “They understood their orders and they carried them out and they were under fire. They amazed me.”

He said the Marines conducted themselves well during fighting around April 5 at Ash Shutra, when they were sent to retrieve the body of a fallen Marine from another unit.

“They were going to get the body back and nothing would stop them and they did,” Miller said. “They weren’t scared, but they were tense and fell back on their training.”

In another incident, Miller said Marines behaved with discipline when an Iraqi combatant used a child as a shield while firing at the Americans.

One Marine requested permission and fired a high shot against a wall to distract the gunman and the child got away. Another Marine using a specialized scope shot the man in the shoulder at 1,000 yards.

The Iraqi was dragged away; the Marines did not know whether he was wounded or killed.

“The mentality the young American has today, I questioned that for a long time as to whether they had the ability to walk into these situations,” Miller said. “That question is no longer in my mind.”

His soldiers were disciplined in firefights, firing controlled bursts of two or three shots at a time instead of using their weapons on automatic, Miller said.

Miller said the troops were patrolling as peacekeepers in Kosovo before they were sent to northeast Africa and then Iraq.

He said Iraqis greeted his Marines like conquering heroes and many seemed grateful that the Hussein regime had been destroyed.

“I had never been through a ticker tape parade until I got to Al Amarah,” he said. “People were throwing paper off buildings as we were on patrol.

“They’re very good people. They’re very excited about being free. It’s apparent in their faces.”

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.