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  1. #1

    Cool Marines uncover weapons cache

    Marines uncover weapons cache

    By: DARRIN MORTENSON - Staff Writer

    FALLUJAH, Iraq ---- Without firing a shot or shedding any blood, Marines struck a huge blow to the insurgency on Monday when they uncovered a sizeable cache of heavy weapons in a roughneck neighborhood in northwest Fallujah.

    Lance Cpl. Patrick Larson, 21, of Gowrie, Iowa, discovered the secret stash just before sunset on a drizzly, cold day while he was setting booby traps near some brick stables where he and other Marines had chased a grenade-toting rebel the night before.

    He said he and fellow Marines Lance Cpl. Gene Rader, 21, of Marlton, N.J., and Lance Cpl. Jason Picchi, 21, of Chicago forced open a locked door and found a room full of rocket-propelled grenades, rockets and a complete 120 mm mortar tube and base plate.

    One room led to several more rooms where Marines from Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment found explosives, a huge military locker with bomb-making materials, bags of grenades and machine guns.

    "I knew there had to be something over here," Larson said, obviously proud of his find.

    He said he had just been complaining that he was fighting a war, "but I never get any glory."

    His discovery Monday made up for it, he said. He got kudos from superiors and watched with satisfaction as it took three Humvees to haul the loot away.

    Military officials said the biggest finds were the bomb-making materials and the 120 mm mortar. The shells fired by the mortar are considered to be in the category of artillery because of their size. The largest mortar used by the Marines fires an 81 mm shell, and their howitzers fire 155 mm rounds.

    Marines say they believe the insurgents in and around Fallujah only had a few of the 120 mm tubes in and around the city.

    "Now they've got one less," said 2nd Lt. Patrick Reddick, leader of Fox Company's 1st Platoon. "And they're going to be ****ed!"

    Marines are holding their ground in defensive positions in and around Iraqi homes and farm buildings in the northwest corner of Fallujah near the Euphrates River while they await orders.

    A weeklong cease-fire has calmed ---- but not ended ---- the fighting that began in Fallujah two weeks ago when Marines surrounded the city and penned in the insurgents.

    Talks between U.S. military officials and Iraqi civic leaders apparently yielded some compromises, including a weapons turn-in program in which insurgents who are not hell-bent on dying for their cause can give up their arms and blend in with the population, avoiding the destruction the Marines promise they will wreak if they have to take the town by force.

    Publicly, Marine leaders say they are encouraged by the prospects of a political solution.

    But privately, most Marines on the front line say they have little confidence the Iraqi politicians have any control over the thousand or so Iraqi and foreign fighters thought to be trapped in the old Jolan neighborhood of Fallujah along the river.

    They expect most of those fighters to fight to the end ---- an end the Marines say they'll be more than happy to arrange.

    Marine leaders said that while they will continue to scour the piece of Fallujah they occupy for more arms, they say the huge cache on the fringe only hints at what the insurgents have ready in the center of the cramped and irregular Jolan borough where they have had two weeks now to prepare for the final showdown.

    "I hate to say it," said Fox Company's commander, Capt. Kyle Stoddard. "But what this tells me is that there's a lot of fight left out there."

    Staff writer Darrin Mortenson and staff photographer Hayne Palmour are reporting from Iraq, where they are with Camp Pendleton Marines. Their coverage is collected at

    A Marine looks through a box of bomb-making materials that was found along with a cache of heavy weapons

    Marines remove heavy weapons from a large cache they found in a stable near where Marines of 2nd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment are living in northwest Fallujah, Iraq on Monday, April 19, 2004.


  2. #2

    Cool Fallujah leaders join U.S. in calling on fighters to turn in weapons

    Fallujah leaders join U.S. in calling on fighters to turn in weapons

    By: JASON KEYSER and LOURDES NAVARRO - Associated Press

    FALLUJAH, Iraq ---- Direct talks between the United States and leaders of the besieged city of Fallujah produced their first concrete results: an appeal for insurgents to turn in their mortars, surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and other heavy weapons, U.S. officials announced Monday.

    In return, the U.S. military said it does not intend to resume its offensive in the Sunni Muslim stronghold so long as militants are disarming.

    But with Marines encircling Fallujah and holding their positions inside the city, commanders warned that if the deal falls through, they could launch an all-out assault, which would likely mean a resumption of bloody urban combat.

    "There is also a very clear understanding ... that should this agreement not go through, Marines forces are more than prepared to carry through with military operations," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters in Baghdad.

    He said the Marines were poised to take the city "in a very short order."

    The agreement included only vague reference underlining the "need" to investigate the killing and mutilation of four American civilians in Fallujah on March 31. U.S. officials have said they want Iraqis behind the attack handed over.

    Since the U.S. military got caught up in two fronts simultaneously this month ---- in Fallujah and against a rebel Shiite cleric's militia in the south, sparking the worst violence in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's fall ---- there have increasingly been signs that U.S. commanders are attempting to resolve them one at a time.

    The standoff against radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr outside Najaf was effectively put on hold Monday. Al-Sadr's militia "has for the most part been contained in Najaf," Col. Dana J. H. Pittard said. "We can wait. ... They will still be there. Ultimately we still want Iraqis to solve this problem."

    Najaf is part of an area in south-central Iraq patrolled by 9,500 peacekeepers from 23 countries including Spain.

    On Monday, President Bush scolded Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for his decision to withdraw Madrid's 1,300 troops from Iraq, and told him to avoid actions that give "false comfort to terrorists or enemies of freedom in Iraq."

    Kimmitt said there would be no power vacuum as Spanish troops pull out of Najaf. He said officials had been discussing how to replace the troops since Zapatero won Spanish parliamentary elections in March after terror attacks in Madrid.

    But the defense minister of Poland, which leads the multinational force, said he did not know how the place of the Spanish troops would be filled. Spain said the troops would leave within six weeks.

    Honduras announced a similar pullout late Monday. President Ricardo Maduro said his country's 370 troops would withdraw "in the shortest time possible." He didn't set a date. Honduras had planned to withdraw in July as scheduled, but U.S. officials had suggested it might pull out earlier.

    American troops, meanwhile, killed two employees of the U.S.-funded television station Al-Iraqiya, the station announced. The military said it was investigating.

    Correspondent Asaad Kadhim and driver Hussein Saleh were killed and cameraman Bassem Kamel was wounded "after American forces opened fire on them while they were performing their duty" near the central city of Samarra, the station announced.

    Twenty-six Iraqi and foreign journalists and media workers have been killed during the Iraqi conflict by U.S. troops, gunmen or terrorist bombings, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

    The results of the Fallujah statement ---- which outlined steps to bring relief to the city's population, arrange residents' return and take the first steps toward establishing security forces' control ---- depend greatly on whether Sunni insurgents are willing to hand over their arsenals.

    U.S. officials have repeatedly questioned how much influence the Fallujah negotiating team of civic leaders has with the guerrillas.

    But gunfire in the city has nearly ended since the two days of direct negotiations began Friday, and a curfew was pushed back to start at 9 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. Small numbers of armed and uniformed Iraqi police and civil defense members were seen on Fallujah's streets Monday for the first time since the Marine siege began on April 5.

    Some residents emerged from their homes, and Americans blared loudspeakers on trucks urging food stores to open.

    "There seems to be a serious attempt by the people of Fallujah to get their house in order," said Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, commander of the 1st Marine Battalion, 5th Regiment on the city's southern side.

    Since April 1, at least 99 U.S. troops have been killed in action, surpassing the deadliest full month since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003. At least 1,100 Iraqis ---- including civilians, insurgents and security forces ---- have been killed, according to an Associated Press count compiled from hospital reports, Iraqi police officials and U.S. military statements.

    The 2,500 U.S. soldiers who were deployed outside Najaf to capture or kill al-Sadr began a troop rotation that will reduce their numbers by about 500. Their commander, Pittard, said there were no plans for the time being to make a move against al-Sadr in the holy city ---- a move moderate Shiite clerics warn would spark an explosion of outrage.

    Still, skirmishes continued outside Najaf. Sadr militiamen attacked a U.S. patrol, wounding two Americans. They were later seen parading around a captured Humvee, towing it to a mosque in nearby Kufa and setting it on fire.

    The Fallujah statement was far from a lifting the Marine siege, and U.S. officials did not lay out terms by which they would do so. Instead, the document read more like an outline of steps that must be taken to ward off a resumed U.S. assault. Even the U.S. commitment not to attack was phrased as an "intent" not a promise.

    "Progress must be clearly demonstrated and the return to law and order observed. Time to settle this crisis peacefully remains extremely limited," the statement said.

    It said joint U.S.-Iraq patrols must resume, police and Iraq security forces should resume their posts, and they must "move to eliminate remaining foreign fighters."

    Both sides called on "citizens and groups to turn in all illegal weapons" ---- including rocked-propelled grenades, machine guns, sniper rifles, and surface-to-air missiles, U.S. spokesman Dan Senor said.

    "The parties agreed that coalition forces do not intend to resume offensive operations if all persons inside the city turn in the heavy weapons."

    In the statement, the Americans agreed to allow better access to hospitals and graveyards and ease the movement of "official ambulances" throughout checkpoints. Marines have said gunmen have been using ambulances to move.

    The Americans also will consider allowing families who fled the city to return, at a rate of 50 families a day starting today.

    "An agreement has been reached," Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne said. "Whether or not that agreement holds is the million dollar question."


  3. #3

    Cool Marines recall Ar Ramadi battle

    Marines recall Ar Ramadi battle
    Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
    Story Identification Number: 200441913251
    Story by Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

    CAMP COMBAT OUTPOST, Iraq(April 16, 2004) -- Lance Cpl. Deschon E. Otey's nights are still plagued by thoughts from four days of intense fighting.

    Otey and the rest of the infantrymen from Company E, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division lost nearly 20 of their buddies during operations in Ar Ramadi April 6-10. They're back out on the streets again, having exacted a heavy toll on the enemy for killing Marines. Still, bouncing back is never easy.

    In the mid-day hours of April 6, Marines from 3rd Platoon were patrolling the streets of Ar Ramadi when they began to receive fire.

    "We had heard that Golf Company had been hit earlier," 21-year-old Lance Cpl. John R. Huerkamp, a 2nd Squad team leader, said. "A few minutes later we heard that the guys from 3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon had also been hit."

    Otey described the first few seconds of the attack.

    "I remember when we got to our objective I started to hear 'tink, tink, tink,'" Otey, 24-year old from Louisville, Ken. "I was like, 'Man, we're being shot at. Get out of the vehicle.'"

    The squad returned fire for about 15 minutes. They then raided the house from where the shooting was coming.

    "After we were done, we loaded back up and were heading back to base," Otey explained. "But then on the way back we got ambushed."

    The squad's convoy was split, and two humvees were under heavy small-arms fire.
    Otey immediately jumped out of the unarmored vehicle and sought cover behind a concrete wall. The rest of the Marines remained inside the vehicle and returned fire.

    "Our vehicle was going to help (Otey's) humvee, but we didn't make it in time," Cpl. Marcus D. Waechter, 21-year-old from Mckinny, Texas, added.

    No one is sure what happened in the moments before the other vehicles returned to Otey's humvee. Time and events are jumbled among the survivors and recollections sometimes don't match up from on Marine to another.

    One thing is certain. By the time reinforcement arrived, all but one passenger in the truck was dead. The sole survivor was Otey who was still laying down fire from behind the wall.

    Twenty-one-year-old Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Adam P. Clayton, senior line corpsman, remembered the scene vividly.

    "When we got to the scene, we saw a humvee canted on the side of the road with the windshield shattered," said the Vernal, Utah, sailor. "There were dead bodies all over the place and the closer I got to the vehicle I could see it was covered in blood."

    But it wasn't the sight of mangled bodies that disturbed the hospital corpsman. It was a pair of military-issued glasses lying smashed on the ground. The glasses belonged to the truck's machine gunner.

    "I'm still not exactly sure why seeing those glasses upset me so much, but the vision of them on the ground still gets to me," Clayton said.

    One of Clayton's close friends, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Fernando Mendezaceves was also riding inside the doomed humvee. It appeared Mendezceves died trying to save a Marine. His body was found near that of 3rd Platoon's platoon sergeant. Clayton believes Mendezaceves was treating the staff sergeant before being shot and killed.

    "We all took cover. There was firing coming from all directions," Otey said. "They were shooting AK-47s, RPK machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades."

    After a fierce fight, the squad was able to gain control of the situation but not before losing most of their own Marines. The remaining Marines were divided up amongst the other two squads in 3rd Platoon.

    Meanwhile, Huerkamp and his squad were already en route to help quell the remaining violence.

    "We caught a ride on a 7-ton vehicle to the firefight and took up a security position on top of a roof," explained Huerkamp, of Lacrosse, Wisc. "I just started laying down suppressive fire."

    That's when a sniper on the roof told Huerkamp a Marine was hit. Huerkamp ran to the aid of his close friend, Lance Cpl. John Sims, who was unresponsive.

    "I asked him if he was alright, but he didn't respond to me, so I tried to find a gunshot wound," Huerkamp said. "His face was blue and his eyes were dilated."

    He removed Sims' protective flak jacket and searched his upper body for a bullet hole. He found it underneath the Marine's left shoulder. After getting Sims to a secure position, Huerkamp and a corpsman began CPR and were able to feel Sims' weak pulse.

    "We called for a medevac and were told a helicopter was coming," Huerkamp said. "But then they said that the bird was called off and a tank was on its way."

    Once Sims was loaded up for transport to medical help, Huerkamp returned to the roof to lay down fire. About 20 minutes later, word came down to Huerkamp that Sims was dead.

    "I was ****ed. I didn't know what to do," he said. "There wasn't much I could do so I just went on doing my job."

    The company continued to fight all over Ar Ramadi for several more hours before returning to the camp.

    Several more days of fighting ensued. More Marines were killed and injured. Still, the enemy paid a higher price with more killed and wounded.

    Twenty-one-year-old Lance Cpl. Geoffrey D. Lindsay, of Forest City, Iowa, was one of those wounded by enemy action.

    "It's odd because we got hit on Good Friday," Lindsay said. "We were sweeping one of the roads for improvised explosive devices when one went off near the 7-ton I was the gunner for."

    The explosion sent razor-sharp shrapnel in every direction, including into the left side of Lindsay's body. He fell to the ground instantly. The rest of the Marines dismounted from the truck to set up a security perimeter. That's when the second IED detonated, killing the vehicle's driver, Lindsay remembered.

    "It was rough," he said.

    Lindsay's wounds were minor. He's still recuperating and should be back on full duty within the next few weeks.

    As the fighting progressed, the Marines didn't get bogged down with the losses of their brothers-in-arms. Instead, they pushed on with the mission at hand.

    During raids throughout the week, the company, along with Company G, seized several hundred weapons systems and killed hundreds of anti-Coalition fighters.

    The Marines find solace in one another.

    "I talk with some of the other guys in the platoon about what happened, but it still hurts," Otey added. "Every time I walk into our living space I see the empty racks. Those were guys I used to talk to about my problems. Now I don't hear their voices anymore.

    "We all know that we have jobs to do," Huerkamp said. "Most of the Marines are just dealing with losing their friends, but they still push on."

    Lance Cpl. Geoffrey D. Lindsay, infantryman with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, was injured during fighting in the city of Ar Ramadi recently. The 21-year-old Forest City, Iowa warrior was hit by shrapnel after an improvised explosive device detonated near his 7-ton vehicle.
    (USMC photo by Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald) Photo by: Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald


  4. #4

    Cool Small platoon takes on big challenge for RCT-1

    Small platoon takes on big challenge for RCT-1
    Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
    Story Identification Number: 2004418115026
    Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

    CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(April 15, 2004) -- It's easy to feel safe when you've thousands of Marines ready to come to your defense. The commander of Regimental Combat Team 1, though, has a few more reasons than the average Marine, however.

    Marines from 1st Tank Battalion's Scout Platoon took on the extra duty of providing direct security for Col. John A. Toolan, RCT-1's commanding officer. It's a high-profile role for a small unit that makes it look easy.

    "It's like doing a combat patrol everyday, but we escort a very important man," said 1st Lt. Travis D. Carlson, the platoon commander for Scout Platoon, 1st Tank Battalion based out of Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. "We will ensure the safety of the colonel wherever he wants to go."

    Carlson and his charges have had their share of combat. They've seen it all - random mortar attacks and brief scuffles - battling back the enemy during convoys.

    "Just a few days ago we were ambushed," Carlson said of a recent rocket-propelled grenade attack. "It was a solid meeting between RPGs and machine gun fire tied in with an obstacle, but we got the colonel out of there."

    The security detail also ends up serving as a reconnaissance element of sorts. The information they gather is passed on to operators planning and executing missions. They also push out supplies and even mail when they get the chance.

    "We're constantly disseminating concerns and requests from the junior Marines on the front lines like mail, chow and water," said Chief Warrant Officer-3 Marine Gunner Robert M. Brooks, the regiment's infantry weapons officer. "It's definitely a busy job."

    The challenge is demanding and Marines assigned to the team are personally selected for the duty.

    "Every Marine in Scout Platoon is handpicked," said Sgt. Johntaey Schmuck, a Scout Platoon team leader.

    "Yeah, we pretty much get who we want," interjected Cpl. Michael T. DeBolt, a who started out shooting TOW missiles.

    Schmuck explained the team recruits from within the battalion as well as straight from the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton.

    Because there are only two active-duty Scout Platoons Corps-wide, DeBolt said Scouts have unofficially become a small and elite community.

    "The other platoon is at Camp Lejuene, but we're a tight unit," added DeBolt, who's been a Scout for two years.

    Carlson said most of his 30-plus Marines are on their second and third tours in the Middle East and continue to serve in the platoon because of their devotion to their craft. It's a tradition he doesn't see going away soon.

    "I have a handpicked group of Marines that routinely perform their duties in an exemplary manner," said Carlson.


  5. #5

    Cool Marine fought for several days, despite gunshot wound

    Marine fought for several days, despite gunshot wound
    Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
    Story Identification Number: 2004419113558
    Story by Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

    CAMP HURRICANE POINT, Iraq(April 17, 2004) -- Sgt. Kenneth Conde Jr. didn't even realize he was shot until someone told him.

    In the mid-afternoon hours of April 6, Conde's unit, 3rd Mobile Assault Platoon, Mobile Assault Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, received orders to help evacuate two casualties from Company G wounded during a firefight in the city of Ar Ramadi.

    "There were ambushes going on everywhere," 22-year-old Conde said. "We were able to get to the casualties and get them loaded up into our vehicle."

    But in combat, the plan rarely survives first contact. What was supposed to be a simple in-and-out mission rapidly changed when the 27-man platoon came under fire. Machine gunners laid down suppressive fire from the tops of the trucks and cleared a path for the convoy to maneuver.

    "The platoon turned down what we call Easy Street," explained the Orlando, Fla., infantryman. "That's when we saw another squad and a company."

    Marines down that street were engaged in a vicious gun battle with enemy forces. Shots rang out from every direction. There was no way for Conde's convoy to get through without putting up a fight.

    "There were people everywhere and we couldn't really tell where the firing was coming from," he said.

    Conde knew the Marines couldn't defeat an unseen enemy. He needed to locate the enemy before destroying him. Rifle in hand, he headed down the street to do just that.

    "The insurgents are like ghosts," he said. "They have the element of surprise because they can hide. They see us but we can't see them. I knew we had to get out to see where they were shooting from."

    The sergeant called upon Cpl. Jared H. McKenzie and Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Cox to leave their vehicles and follow him to the front of the convoy.

    "Wherever Sergeant Conde goes, that's where we go," said Cox, of Saint Peter's Mo. "No questions asked. We just follow him."

    The three of them darted past the trucks looking for enemy positions on the rooftops.

    "We walked up to the third block past the vehicles and spotted a guy shooting at us from one of the rooftops," Conde said. "One of the gunners, Lance Cpl. Matthew Brown, took that building out with his machine gun."

    Conde, McKenzie and Cox kept searching for the enemy. They exposed themselves to the fire - the only way they could get a good look at enemy's firing positions. As they pushed forward, Conde was able to take out two shooters, but then things took a turn for the worse.

    "I was running and I watched as I got shot in the left shoulder," Conde said. "I remember seeing a red mist coming from my back."

    Even though he saw himself get shot, it didn't occur to Conde to quit fighting.
    "I didn't really realize I had been shot until one of the Marines said something," he added.

    According to McKenzie, Conde fired several shots, killing a combatant, before falling to the ground. He then managed to get back to his feet and fire a few more rounds at the enemy before falling again.

    "We helped him up so he could get to the corpsman to get bandaged up," McKenzie, 22-year-old from Bonaqua, Tenn. "We made sure to kill the guys who shot him."
    The corpsman treated Conde, who only wanted to get his gear and get back to the fight.
    Conde's Marines were out there and he knew his place was alongside them.

    "We stayed and fought until every one of the insurgents was dead," Conde said.
    Before the day was through, 3rd MAP also raided the house of a former Ba'ath Party member and seized a large weapons cache.

    Over the next few days, Conde's unit participated in several other firefights until the violence died down. All the while, he nursed his wound, not giving into the pain and refusing to leave his Marines.

    Only when his arm went numb, making it difficult to hold his rifle steady, did he finally give in and step out of the fight.

    Back at the camp here, Marines asked Conde why he chose to stay and fight even after being shot.

    "I told them that I couldn't just leave the fight when I still could keep going," he told them.

    But it his actions didn't surprise his fellow Marines.

    "He always told us that he would lead us from the front, and that we would never do anything if he wasn't doing it too," Cox explained. "After being in that firefight with him, I will always know that he is true to his word."

    During a firefight April 6, Sgt. Kenneth Conde Jr., infantrymen with Mobile Assault Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, was shot in the left shoulder. Even after being hit, Conde, of Orlando, Fla., was able to kill an enemy combatant. The 22-year-old was shot right above his "Ryde or Die" tattoo on his back.
    (USMC photo by Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald) Photo by: Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald


  6. #6

    Cool Protective gear proves itself again and again

    Protective gear proves itself again and again
    Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
    Story Identification Number: 2004419105032
    Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

    CAMP MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq(April 17, 2004) -- It's heavy, hot and cumbersome. It also saves lives.

    Protective gear Marines wear in Iraq is performing as advertised. Helmets, Interceptor vests with the small-arms protective inserts and even goggles are keeping Marines alive and in the fight in Iraq.

    Marines from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, assigned to the 1st Marine Division are eyewitnesses to the effectiveness of the gear.

    "We had been ordered to escort an explosive ordnance team to an (improvised explosive device), and we were en route when the bomb exploded," said Staff Sgt. Jason R. Williams, platoon sergeant for Combined Anti-Armor Team Red at the battalion.

    The Snellville, Ga., Marine was in his vehicle when he saw the explosion ahead of him take the Marines near the blast right off their feet. "The engineers were putting up security around their vehicles while they waited to link up with another unit, and a few of the Marines were right in front of the blast when it happened."

    The engineers were caught off guard when the IED exploded near their position, but they quickly regained control of the situation.

    "I saw it when the blast went off," said Sgt. Peter E. Porter, a combat engineer at the scene. "The Marine nearest it disappeared in a cloud of smoke, and I ran to him. When the smoke cleared I saw him on the ground, and I helped him get up and moved him to a safe position in case another attack happened."

    In addition to the Marine nearest the blast, Porter, also spotted a Marine lying farther away from the blast.

    "The Marine was on his back, and I saw him holding up his hand for help,' said the Copperopolis, Calif, Marine. "Some of the shrapnel had hit his leg and his helmet. The shrapnel would have gone straight through him if he hadn't been wearing that helmet."

    Marines with CAAT Red were posting security around the site in case of an additional attack, while engineers tended to the wounded.

    "I had my goggles over my eyes when the IED went off," explained Lance Cpl. James R. Yakubsin. I was thrown against my radio in the vehicle and some shrapnel hit my goggles.

    "If I hadn't been wearing those, I wouldn't have my eyesight now," added the Gainsville, Fla. Marine.

    It isn't the first time Marines in the unit credited their protective gear with saving them from blasts.

    "At least a dozen Marines would be dead if not for their protective gear," said Lt. Col. Giles Kyser, 2nd Battalion's Commanding Officer. "It's proven itself many times.

    The Dumfries, Va., Marine added it stands as a good testament to the leadership of the battalion who ensure the Marines are always wearing their gear correctly.

    The protective gear the Marines wear stopped bullets and large pieces of shrapnel that cracked the ballistic plate inserts. The only wounds treated are those incurred to the extremities, an area where Marines do not wear as much protection.

    "Wearing their gear is keeping the focus on saving lives - keeping their fingers on the trigger," Kyser said.

    Lance Cpl. James R. Yakubsin, 21, displays the goggles that saved his eyesight. The Gainesville, Fla. Marine is a machine gunner with Combined Anti-Armor Team Red whose ear was injured by an improvised explosive device, but thanks the protective goggles he was wearing for his ability to see.
    (USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes) Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes


  7. #7

    Cool Iraqi Forces Move Back Into Fallujah

    Iraqi Forces Move Back Into Fallujah


    FALLUJAH, Iraq - Iraqi security forces and civilians who fled days of street fighting in Fallujah began to return Tuesday in a critical test of an agreement between U. S. officials and local leaders to end the American siege of the rebellious city.

    Meanwhile, attackers believed to be insurgents fired 12 mortars into Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, killing 22 detainees and injuring 92, said Col. Jill Morgenthaler. She said all the casualties were security detainees _ Iraqis held on suspicion of involvement in anti-U.S. violence or the remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime.

    Brig Gen. Mark Kimmitt also acknowledged that U.S. soldiers shot and killed two Iraqis working for the U.S. funded al-Iraqiya television station a day earlier. He said the two had been filming a military checkpoint and drove toward it, failing to stop after repeated warning shots.

    A U.S. military-run radio station urged Fallujah residents to hand over heavy weapons _ including machine guns, grenade launchers and missiles _ to Iraqi security forces or at the mayor's office.

    But it was not yet known whether guerrillas would abide by the call to surrender their arsenals. U.S. commanders have warned Marines might launch an all-out assault to take the city if the insurgents don't disarm.

    By midday Tuesday, up to 200 members of the Iraqi security forces had returned to their jobs.

    Dozens more police _ wearing blue uniforms and flak jackets and carrying weapons _ lined up at a Marine checkpoint to enter the city in the afternoon. Iraqi families lined up there as well to go home.

    As part of a deal announced Monday, the military agreed to let 50 families a day back into the city, but people kept showing up after that limit was reached.

    Marines turned away about 150 people, said Capt. Ed Sullivan, and they asked them to come back Wednesday.

    About a third of the city's 200,000 people fled in the two-week siege that killed at least 600 Iraqis, according to hospital officials.

    Hamdi Rashid, a schoolteacher driving a minivan with 17 family members inside, was one of the Fallujans who made it back Tuesday.

    "We love Fallujah," he said while waiting in line. "The Americans are doing good. They are going to arrest the bad men. We are looking for peace. We want to live in peace."

    Iraqi policeman Maj. Khamis Suleyman said he expects Iraqi security forces to begin searching houses for weapons.

    Much depends on whether the Fallujah civic leaders who reached the deal with the Americans can persuade the insurgents to disarm _ or whether the Iraqi police are effective in uncovering weapons.

    For the city's guerrillas, any handover of their heavy weapons would mean weakening, if not ending, their monthslong resistance against the U.S.-led occupation. The insurgents have gone to great lengths to build up their arsenal and hide it _ Marines in the past two weeks have found impressive caches in secret rooms hidden by mirrors and buried in yards.

    Fallujah has been largely quiet for the past few days, with only sporadic clashes.

    Before dawn Tuesday, gunmen opened fire on a Marine patrol near the Euphrates river, Capt. Jamie Edge said. Marines and gunmen exchanged fire for about five minutes, he added, with no immediate reports of casualties.

    "I think this is something we'll continue to deal with, regardless of what the security situation ends up being in Fallujah," Edge said.

    In the northern city of Mosul, a roadside bomb exploded as a U.S. military convoy passed, wounding five U.S. soldiers and three Iraqi civilians, Lt. Col. Joseph Piek said.

    Meanwhile, U.S. and coalition military leaders were trying to work out how to fill the gap left by the abrupt decision by Spain and Honduras to withdraw their troops from the country.

    Kimmitt said officials had been discussing how to replace the troops since Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero won parliamentary elections in mid-March _ days after the Madrid terror attacks _ on a pledge to bring Spanish troops home. Spain says its 1,300 troops will be pulled out within six weeks.

    In a telephone call Monday, President Bush told Zapatero in a phone call he hoped it wouldn't give "false comfort to terrorists or enemies of freedom in Iraq."

    Honduras announced a similar pullout late Monday. President Ricardo Maduro said his country's 370 troops would withdraw "in the shortest time possible."

    Spanish and Honduran troops are mostly based in or around Najaf, where U.S. soldiers have been confronting the forces of an anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.

    In central Iraq, U.S. troops shot to death two employees of the U.S.-funded TV station Al-Iraqiya, the station announced. The U.S. military said it was investigating the report.

    Correspondent Asaad Kadhim and driver Hussein Saleh were killed and cameraman Jassem Kamel was wounded "after American forces opened fire on them while they were performing their duty" near the city of Samarra, the station said.

    Kamel said that he was driving in a car with Kadhim and Saleh to the city's famous spiral minaret to film a broadcast when U.S. soldiers and Kurdish fighters in the Iraqi security forces opened fire.

    "We were not filming. We were just driving in a normal car," he said.

    Kimmitt said U.S. forces fired warning shots three times toward the journalists and their vehicles after they filmed the security posts and drove toward a military base.

    "After more warning shots, the vehicle didn't stop and continued to approach the base's gate and were engaged with direct fire," he said.

    Coalition forces were investigating, Kimmitt added.

    With their deaths, the number of Iraqi and foreign journalists and employees for news organizations killed in Iraq in the past year _ by U.S. troops, Iraqi gunmen or terrorist bombings _ rose to 26, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

    The U.S. military has been fighting on two fronts this month _ in Fallujah and against a rebel Shiite cleric's militia in Najaf. The violence has been the worst in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's fall.

    Since April 1, at least 1,100 Iraqis _ including civilians, insurgents and security forces _ have been killed, according to an Associated Press count compiled from hospital reports, Iraqi police officials and U.S. military statements. At least 99 U.S. troops have been killed in action, surpassing the deadliest full month since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003.

    Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, visited soldiers outside of Najaf Tuesday and said that U.S. troops had killed at least 1,000 insurgents in fighting this month.

    "They've seen the might of the American military unleashed," he said.

    He also indicated that there were no immediate plans to storm Najaf and end the standoff against al-Sadr. Najaf is home to the holiest Shiite shrine.

    "The issue of Sadr is bigger than Sadr. It's about the Shiites and the holy shrines. That's the challenge I have," Sanchez said.

    Moderate Shiite clerics have warned that an assault would spark outrage. Some 2,500 U.S. soldiers were deployed to Najaf, but that number was to drop to about 500, he said.

    "We can wait," said Col. Dana J.H. Pittard, the head of U.S. forces deployed outside Najaf. "Ultimately, we still want Iraqis to solve this problem."


  8. #8

    Cool Insurgents Kill 22, Injure 92 in Baghdad

    Insurgents Kill 22, Injure 92 in Baghdad


    BAGHDAD, Iraq - Guerrillas fired a barrage of mortar rounds at Baghdad's largest prison Tuesday, killing 22 prisoners in an attack a U.S. general said may have been an attempt to spark an uprising against their American guards.

    A U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul, the 100th American combat death in April, the deadliest month since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003.

    Meanwhile, Iraqi leaders have set up a tribunal of seven judges and four prosecutors to try ousted dictator Saddam Hussein and other members of his Baathist regime, a spokesman announced Tuesday.

    Salem Chalabi, a U.S.-educated lawyer and nephew of the head of the Iraqi National Congress, was appointed general director of the tribunal, which has a 2004-2005 budget of 75 million, INC spokesman Entefadh Qanbar said.

    A date has yet to be set for the trial of Saddam, who was captured by U.S. troops in December and has since been held by U.S. troops at an undisclosed location in or near Baghdad.

    Ninety-two prisoners were wounded in the mortar attack on the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison, 25 of them seriously, said Col. Jill Morgenthaler, a U.S. military spokeswoman.

    "This isn't the first time that we have seen this kind of attack. We don't know if they are trying to inspire an uprising or a prison break," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told The Associated Press.

    All of the casualties were security detainees, meaning they were suspected of involvement in the anti-U.S. insurgency or of being part of Saddam's ousted regime. The prison houses some 5,000 security prisoners.

    U.S. Marines patrolling Baghdad discovered the area the mortars were fired from, but the insurgents had fled, Morgenthaler said.

    The attack was the bloodiest against the sprawling prison complex in western Baghdad. In August, six security prisoners were killed in a mortar attack on the lockup, which was once Saddam's most notorious prison.

    In addition to the 100th American killed, four U.S. soldiers were wounded in the roadside bombing in Mosul, Lt. Col. Joseph Piek said. Three Iraqi civilians also were wounded, he said.

    At least 1,100 Iraqis have been killed in fighting since the start of the month, according to an AP count based on reports from hospitals and both Iraqi and U.S. officials.

    Also Tuesday, Iraqi security forces, some wearing flak jackets and carrying weapons, moved back into the besieged city of Fallujah, part of an agreement between U.S. officials and local leaders aimed at ending hostilities. The accord calls on insurgents to hand in their weapons and allows civilians to return.

    U.S. officials have warned that if guerrillas do not surrender their weapons, Marines are prepared to storm the city.

    "If the peaceful track does not play itself out ... major hostilities will resume on short notice," U.S. spokesman Dan Senor said.

    Announcements on U.S. military-run radio broadcast into the city called on residents to turn in machine guns, grenade launchers, missiles and other heavy weapons to Iraqi security forces or at the mayor's office.

    Senor would not comment on whether any guerrillas had turned in weapons, but cautioned that "time is running out."

    Marines were under orders not to fire on Iraqis carrying weapons but not aiming them in case they were heading to turn them in. Until now, Marines could shoot at anyone with a weapon or wearing the black uniform typically worn by insurgents, said Capt. Shannon Johnson.

    One group of men was seen "actively brandishing" and loading rocket-propelled grenade launchers Tuesday, Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Bryne said. Troops hit the group with mortars, killing eight and destroying three vehicles, he said.

    Fallujah was largely peaceful Tuesday, and there were cars filled with returning Iraqi police at a U.S. checkpoint.

    Iraqi families also lined up at the checkpoint. As part of a deal announced Monday, the U.S. military agreed to let 50 families a day back into the city, but the lines at the checkpoint were so long Tuesday that some 150 people had to be turned away, said Capt. Ed Sullivan.

    Kimmitt acknowledged Tuesday that U.S. soldiers shot and killed two Iraqis working for the U.S. funded Al-Iraqiya television station a day earlier, but said the two had been filming a military checkpoint in the central city of Samarra and failed to stop despite repeated warning shots.

    Cameraman Jassem Kamel, who was wounded, said the U.S. soldiers opened fire after the group finished filming police and security posts and were driving to film the city's spiral minaret.

    "We were not filming. We were just driving in a normal car," Kamel said.

    Kimmitt said U.S. forces fired warning shots three times.

    "After more warning shots, the vehicle didn't stop and continued to approach the base's gate and were engaged with direct fire," he said.

    The deaths raise to 26 the number of Iraqi and foreign journalists and employees for news organizations killed in Iraq in the past year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

    Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, visited soldiers outside Najaf on Tuesday and indicated there were no immediate plans to storm the southern city and end a standoff with anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who controls a large militia. Najaf is home to Iraq's holiest Shiite shrine.

    "The issue of Sadr is bigger than Sadr. It's about the Shiites and the holy shrines. That's the challenge I have," Sanchez said.

    Also Tuesday, U.S. and coalition military leaders were working to fill the gap left by the decision of Spain and Honduras to withdraw their troops. Kimmitt said existing troops could be shifted to new positions, patrol areas could be redrawn or new troops could be brought in.

    Spanish and Honduran troops are mostly based in or around Najaf.

    The judges and prosecutors on the tribunal that will try Saddam will undergo training, including in international law, war crimes and crimes against humanity, Qanbar said.

    Qanbar said the tribunal will determine charges against Saddam and his former officials, adding that more judges will be hired.

    Since Saddam's regime fell, some 300,000 bodies were found buried in mass graves, victims of his regime's persecution of political enemies, Kurds and Shiite Muslims, and other groups, U.S. officials say. Saddam's military also used chemical weapons against troops and civilians during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and during a Kurdish uprising.

    Associated Press reporters Lourdes Navarro and Jason Keyser contributed to this story from Fallujah.


  9. #9

    Cool Barrier around FALLUJAH

    Submitted by: 1st Force Service Support Group
    Story Identification Number: 200441912541
    Story by Lance Cpl. Samuel Bard Valliere

    CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(April 19, 2004) -- Marine Corps and Army engineers finished construction of a barrier around much of Fallujah April 15, 2004, which blocks off the majority of pathways leading into or out of the city, and is expected to deter insurgents from bringing in weapons and gear.

    Fallujah, a hotbed for insurgent activity, is the focus of I Marine Expeditionary Force's Operation Vigilant Resolve, launched April 4 to re-establish security in the city and to account for the March 31 murders of four U.S. civilians.

    Built on the north and south sides of the city, the 5-foot high berms stretch 2 1/2 miles each.

    The 7th Engineer Support Battalion's A company worked in conjunction with members of the Army's 120th Engineer Battalion to build the northern half of the berm, supporting the 1st Marine Division, which is manning the boundaries of the city.

    Division engineers also completed a similar barricade on the southern side of Fallujah.

    Since their defensive positions are limited by the flat landscape, the Division asked CSSB-1 to construct a barrier that would provide cover from enemy fire and also limit the enemy's access to the city.

    "They had set up positions behind natural obstacles," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Wayne D. Duree, 30, platoon commander for the company, who led the building effort on the northern side of the city. "This gave them a few more options about where they could move."

    The battalions didn't have sufficient manpower to observe the entire perimeter, which enabled anti-coalition troops to enter the city through man-made paths and even tunnels built into an old railroad station that could not be monitored.

    Intentionally made short enough to see over, the berms are not intended to serve as a wall that will stop all people traveling by foot. Instead, it simply elevates everyone above the horizon, sky-lighting their silhouette, so Marines can identify them. Yet, it is high enough to block all vehicle traffic.

    "Vehicle traffic is how they bring in supplies; they aren't taking the main roads," said Duree, a Houston native. "This deters reinforcements. They're going to have to work for it."

    The engineers worked from dawn until dusk for three days, as they piled dirt on ground riddled with natural depressions as large as 20-feet wide and 5-feet deep. The engineers opted to navigate around them to prevent an accident from happening with the heavy bulldozers.

    "We had to go around the depressions and work with the landscape," said Duree. "So the berm isn't straight."

    Working close to the fertile soil of the Euphrates River brought with it yet another challenge. Had the heavy equipment been brought into some of the muddier areas around the city, it would have sunk and been rendered immobile. Consequently, in those areas, barbed-wire fencing was erected instead.

    Under constant threat of enemy attack, the company provided their own security during construction, having humvees loaded with Marines and heavy-machine guns move with the dozers as the northern berm was built.

    Despite an ongoing cease-fire in the city during a series of recent peace talks, the Marines endured small-arms fire from insurgents on the first day of the operation. The Marines and soldiers quickly suppressed the assault and encountered no other threat for the duration of the construction. In fact, Duree said, they saw quite the opposite.

    In some places along the berm, the atmosphere was friendly. Children came out of their homes and waved to the toiling troops.

    Working under the direction of the 1st Force Service Support Group's Combat Service Support Battalion 1, the engineer battalion assists in accomplishing CSSB-1's six-sided mission to aid ground troops in Fallujah during the operation. Providing Division Marines with supplies, maintenance, transportation, engineering, health services and general support, CSSB-1's troops are always on call to help.


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