Lejeune battalion calls in air power to clear the road
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  1. #1

    Cool Lejeune battalion calls in air power to clear the road

    Lejeune battalion calls in air power to clear the road
    Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
    Story Identification #: 20048254134
    Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

    CAMP MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq (July 31, 2004) -- Marines with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment perfected their road clearing techniques recently when they called in air strikes on an abandoned tanker.

    Marines called in AV-8B Harriers to drop laser-guided bombs to annihilate the tanker rather than risk Marines' lives to drag it away.

    "We received an intelligence report that there was an explosive device inside the abandoned tanker," said Capt. John C. Bailey, a 35-year-old battalion forward air controller from Raleigh, N.C. "One of our combined anti-armor teams arrived on site first and then a rifle platoon and explosive ordnance disposal team showed up."

    Once the elements were on site, a cordon was set to block traffic and clear the area of civilians. Some members of the unit believed there were terrorists hiding in a nearby palm grove so the air controller arranged a surprise for them.

    "We had to cordon the whole area," explained Sgt. David L. Turner, a platoon sergeant for Company E from Parma, Ohio. "Two rifle platoons formed a 'U' and a CAAT team closed the end. We used a lot of safety measures and checked the area numerous times."

    Marines had reason to be wary of rushing in to drag out the trailer, because terrorists had waited for EOD teams to arrive and then triggered devices. The solution was a strike from above.

    "We got authorization for two Harrier jets to destroy the tanker. I had them do a flyover of the palm grove at 3,000 feet," Bailey said. "We suspected they were going to wait until they saw a convoy of Marines pass by and then set off the explosive device."

    Once the bad guys had been scared, the jets were given the order to destroy the tanker using laser-guided bombs.

    "Laser guided bombs are the weapons of choice in Operation Iraqi Freedom because of their accuracy and little collateral damage," Bailey explained.

    Bailey said the tanker was exposed in a wide, open area making it optimal for the jets to conduct the run. Normally, ground crews mark targets with lasers, but the pilots were able to mark their own, dropping the guided bomb on target.

    Because the EOD team could not approach the vehicle they could not confirm there were explosives inside.

    The risk was enough to justify the action, one technician explained.

    "There could have been thousands of pounds of explosives in there and we wouldn't know," said one EOD technician. "If that was the case then it would have been too large to deal with through our normal means, so the air strike was the best method of dealing with it."

    Once the tanker was hit, it caught fire and burned the fuel still left inside the vehicle. Although the EOD team could not confirm the presence of an IED, they suspected the explosives burned off without exploding.

    "Because it didn't throw shrapnel farther than the shrapnel radius of the missiles we think the explosives went off like a firework dud," the EOD technician said. "They ignited and burned but didn't explode."

    An improvised explosive device similar to this one was likely placed inside an abandoned tanker truck which was destroyed by an air strike July 18. Marine from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment responded to the report of the abandoned tanker and opted to keep Marines away and destroy the tanker in place.
    (USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes) Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes



  2. #2
    Blasts on Iraqi Christian Churches Kill 11


    BAGHDAD, Iraq - Assailants launched the first major attack on Iraq's minority Christians since the insurgency began, triggering a coordinated series of explosions outside five churches in Baghdad and Mosul that killed 11 people and injured more than 50.

    On Monday, a militant group said that it will release a Somali truck driver it kidnapped because the Kuwaiti company he works for agreed to stop working in Iraq, al-Jazeera television said.

    In a video aired July 29, Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist group Tawhid and Jihad threatened to behead Ali Ahmed Moussa within 48 hours if his company failed to leave the volatile country.

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    Meanwhile, militants have shot dead a Turkish hostage kidnapped in Iraq, according to a video posted on the Internet.

    The video shows a man identified as a Turk kneeling in front of three armed men. The hostage reads a statement in Turkish identifying himself and his employer. The leader of the three presumed kidnappers then takes out a pistol and shoots the man in the side of the head.

    On Sunday, authorities disarmed a sixth bomb outside a Baghdad church, as fears grew in Iraq's 750,000-member Christian minority that they might be targeted as suspected collaborators with American forces amid a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism.

    "What are the Muslims doing? Does this mean that they want us out?" Brother Louis, a deacon at Our Lady of Salvation, asked as he cried outside the damaged Assyrian Catholic church.

    Separate violence beginning the night before killed 24 people, including an American soldier, and wounded dozens more. The toll included a suicide car bombing outside a Mosul police station that killed five people and wounded 53, and clashes in Fallujah between U.S. troops and insurgents that killed 12 Iraqis and wounded 39 others.

    The wave of explosions at Christian churches _ at least four of them car bombings _ began after 6 p.m. as parishioners gathered inside their neighborhood churches for services. The blasts shattered stained-glass windows and sent churchgoers screaming into the streets.

    The explosions came just minutes apart and hit four churches in Baghdad _ two in Karada, one in the Dora neighborhood and one in New Baghdad. A fifth church was hit in Mosul, about 220 miles north of the capital. The attacks did not appear to be suicide bombings, U.S. military and Iraqi officials said.

    The Baghdad church attacks killed 10 people and injured more than 40 others, according to a U.S. military statement. The Mosul blast killed one person and injured 11 others, police Maj. Fawaz Fanaan said.

    "This (attack) isn't against Muslims or Christians, this is against Iraq," Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abawi told The Associated Press.

    The Vatican called the attacks "terrible and worrisome," said spokesman Rev. Ciro Benedettini.

    Muslim clerics condemned the violence and offered condolences to the Christian community.

    "This is a cowardly act and targets all Iraqis," Abdul Hadi al-Daraji, spokesman for radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, told Al-Jazeera television.

    The attacks on the churches signaled a change in tactics for insurgents, who have focused many previous attacks on U.S. forces, Iraqi officials and police in a drive to push coalition forces from the country, weaken the interim government and hamper reconstruction efforts.

    To escape the chaos here, many of Iraq's Christians have gone to neighboring Jordan and Syria to wait for the security situation to improve.

    Many who remained watched with fear as Islamic fundamentalism, long repressed under Saddam Hussein's fallen regime, thrived. Islamic radicals have warned Christians running liquor stores to shut down their businesses and have turned their sights on fashion stores and beauty salons.

    But the church attacks Sunday went far beyond those threats.

    The first blast in Karada hit an Armenian church after 6 p.m., just 15 minutes into the evening service, witnesses said. The second blast a few minutes later hit the Roman Catholic church about 500 yards away.

    "I saw injured women and children and men, the church's glass shattered everywhere," said Juliette Agob, who was inside the Armenian church during the first explosion.

    In the Mosul attack, insurgents parked a white Toyota Supra outside a Catholic church, launched a rocket toward the building and then detonated the car bomb about 7 p.m., the U.S. military said in a statement.

    The attack destroyed five cars and badly damaged a church office, but did little damage to the church itself, the military said.

    Earlier in Mosul, a white sport utility vehicle sped toward barriers at the Summar police station and a police guard opened fire, killing the driver, the police and U.S. military said.

    The vehicle crashed into the concrete barriers around the station and exploded, killing five people, including three police officers, said AbdelAzil Hafoudi, an official at al-Salam hospital. He said 53 people were wounded.

    Also, a roadside bombing near the town of Samarra hit a passing patrol, killing two U.S. soldiers and wounding one other, the military said.

    At least 911 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq in March 2003.

    In central Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed two civilians and wounded two others, said Fawad Allah, an officer at Karada police station. Another roadside bomb, along a southern Baghdad highway, killed one man Sunday and wounded two others, said police Lt. Col. Assad Ibrahim Hameed.

    A drive-by shooting north of Baghdad killed three police officers and wounded three others.

    Also Sunday, a Lebanese businessman taken hostage was released, a day after he was snatched by gunmen outside Baghdad, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry said. It was not immediately clear if a ransom was paid for Vladimir Damaa's release. The fate of another Lebanese businessman, Antoine Antoun, abducted at the same time, was not known.

    Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Sunday that any Muslim and Arab forces sent to Iraq must replace coalition troops there.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has urged Arab and Muslim nations to send troops.



  3. #3
    CAAT Marines keep Iraqi highways safe
    Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
    Story Identification #: 20048172228
    Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

    CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (July 30, 2004) -- Staff Sgt. Samuel J. Mortimer doesn't carry a badge, but he does have a big gun to go along with the big chip on his shoulder against people who cause problems along his stretch of road.

    The Marine from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment's Combined Anti-Armor Team is one of a string of detachments that stretch along one of the east-west highways running through Iraq's Al Anbar Province. The stretch of road is a favorite for anti-Iraqi fighters to attack convoys, both military and civilian.

    Mortimer is out to stop them.

    "This entire road all the way to Baghdad is being watched by Coalition Forces," said the 27-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska. "Our mission is to help keep this highway secured ... we're like the highway patrol back home."

    The threats Marines can't see are the biggest obstacle for these Marines. Bombs buried along the sides of the roads, hidden in trash, even in the carcasses of dead animals pose one of the greatest dangers.

    Still, the Marines have their own ways of keeping terrorists on the run. They regularly conduct ambush patrols and spontaneous vehicle control points in random locations.

    "Sometimes we have runners who've noticed we set up a VCP and they'll try to turn around and go the other way," Mortimer explained.

    A "runner" is a driver who attempts to avoid a checkpoint by maneuvering out of traffic and fleeing the area.

    "Sometimes they're just being stupid or they actually have something to hide," Mortimer said. "That's when I send my chase team after them."

    Sgt. Eugenio Mejia is a 25-year-old squad leader from Brownsville, Texas. He sees his mission as fairly simple. It's a matter of taking care of another Marine.

    "Our job here is to ensure Marines are safe out here," Mejia said. "The attacks on route Mobile have decreased quite a bit since we've gotten around."

    It's isn't just Mejia whose seen the difference. The missions are almost never-ending. When one patrol finishes, another takes its place. There is a constant presence on the roads and Marines are seeing the results.

    "We've been successful keeping enemy activity low since we've taken over this stretch of highway last month," Mortimer. "The enemy knows that if they try to come through a VCP, we're going to either detain them or kill them."

    A Marine looks over an Iraqi's license during a random vehicle checkpiont to deter potential threats. Marines are concentrating greater capabilties along Al Anbar Province's main supply routes to interdict terrorists transporting munitions.
    (USMC photo by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen) Photo by: Sgt. Jose E. Guillen



  4. #4
    24th MEU, ING hunt down enemy mortarmen
    Submitted by: 24th MEU
    Story Identification #: 20048112138
    Story by Capt. David Nevers

    ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq (July 31, 2004) -- The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ground combat element responded swiftly to a mortar attack here Friday, capturing several suspects, uncovering a weapons cache, and generating momentum for the MEU during its first week in full operational control of the province of Northern Babil.

    Leathernecks from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, who just days ago relieved an Army unit being transferred elsewhere in Iraq, struck back after a half-dozen mortar rounds landed in the vicinity of their position just before 1 p.m.

    No injuries or damage resulted from the attack, which occurred one week after a mortar round killed a BLT infantryman, Lance Cpl. Vincent M. Sullivan of Chatham, N.J. Sullivan’s death, the first suffered by the North Carolina-based MEU since it arrived in Iraq, came before the unit finished flowing its forces into the country.

    Friday’s attack was the first since 1/2 assumed responsibility for security in its zone.
    According to an after-action report, the Marines, working closely with soldiers of the Iraqi National Guard, quickly determined the attack’s likely point of origin. They immediately cordoned off the area, called in aircraft from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 to assist, and began searching.

    The first aircraft to arrive on scene observed three men running from bushes before boarding a bus. Lt. Col. Robert Durkin, the BLT commander, dispatched a section of Marines from his Combined Anti-Armor Team to intercept the bus. The Marines began closing in but lost the bus behind a dirt berm. After concluding that the suspects had exited the vehicle, the CAAT section, known as CAAT 2, redirected its efforts.

    Minutes later, word arrived in 1/2’s Combat Operations Center that a Marine and an ING soldier reported seeing the mortars being fired, then watched a truck leave the area. The Marine further observed an individual clad in black exit the truck and enter a nearby house.

    CAAT 2, led by Staff Sgt. Jason Jones of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, rushed to the house, where the Marines detained three individuals and found an assortment of weapons. A broader sweep of the area turned up more weapons and additional detainees.

    “The weapons were extremely well-hidden,” said Jones. “But the Marines picked it right out.”

    The confiscated weapons included a complete mortar system, AK-47 rifles, spare magazines, and grenades.

    Jones deferred credit to his Marines. His section leader, Staff Sgt. Edward Palacious of San Antonio, Texas, worked with an Iraqi interpreter to question the detainees, while his squad leader, Sgt. Jason Smith of Tennessee, handled the search of the house.

    “It was an absolutely A-day for the Marines of CAAT-2,” said Jones, who served in Iraq last year as a platoon sergeant for a tank team.

    He added that from the COC to the field, good communication and coordination made for a nearly seamless operation.

    “It was exactly like a 911 call,” he said. “They called and we launched.”

    Durkin, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., praised the level of cooperation between his Marines and their Iraqi counterparts.

    “It’s a great start,” he said. “It demonstrates what we can do by working together for the benefit of the Iraqi people. We look forward to building on that success.”

    In turning the tables on insurgents who appear to be testing the newcomers, the Marines say they’ve merely provided the latest illustration of the aggressive approach adopted by the Corps throughout Iraq.

    “If these punks think they can lob mortar rounds at us with impunity, while we hide in our base camps, we’ve got news for ‘em,” said the MEU’s operations officer, Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell of Jacksonville, N.C. “We and our Iraqi friends are going to clean up this area and kill or capture the enemies of a free Iraq.”



  5. #5
    Marines' parents share war stories
    Gathering allows moms, dads to swap information and offer one another support.

    By Zachary A. Goldfarb
    August 1, 2004

    Their voices are usually heard only when their children die.

    If they escape the need to mourn, however, the parents of those serving in the armed forces still feel many things day after day: pride, uncertainty, fear.

    So a small set of these parents -- dads and moms of Marines -- gathered in Indianapolis this weekend at the first National U.S. Marine Corps Parents Conference to meet each other and learn more about what their children endure.

    "A Marine doesn't just join the Marine Corps," said conference organizer Cathy Schoon, of Albion. "He becomes a Marine. Therefore, we become Marine parents."

    The idea for the conference, which started Friday and ends today at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, was born when a group of parents met in Las Vegas last summer. It was a sensitive time for the armed services, a few months after President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq. But with continuing U.S. military losses, parents still feared for their children.

    The work that began last summer culminated in the meals, performances and workshops shared by more than 100 parents this weekend. On Saturday, scenes like this were typical:

    A dozen parents sat in a conference room as Sgt. Maj. Donald de Hagara, of the Marine Corps recruiting service in Indianapolis, briefed them on the boot camp experience. Only the moms asked questions. They wanted to know about the process used to "break (the recruits) down to the clay, so we can mold Marines out of them," as de Hagara put it.

    What if their son or daughter were injured? When is graduation? When do they get to write home?

    Penny Pennington, of Sheridan, putting her hand over her heart, cited a letter from her son, in his eighth week of boot camp: "You're the only one that's been writing to me, and that's motivation."

    Parents crowded booths selling every kind of Marine Corps merchandise, flags, books, key chains, T-shirts. Bumper stickers -- such as "My kid fought in Iraq so yours can party in college" and "Marine Moms . . . toughest jobs in the Corps" -- seemed to be popular.

    The parents, who each paid $100 to register, also heard speeches and songs Friday night, including an address by Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter, the Marines' first female three-star general.

    Although their children serving in Iraq and elsewhere were on their minds, the parents weren't preoccupied with the politics of war.

    "I'm not getting political," said Marian Jordan, of Weymouth, Mass., whose son and daughter are Marines. "We can't change their decisions. We can't change the world. All we can do is support our children."

    Call Star reporter Zachary Goldfarb at (317) 444-6040.



  6. #6
    Marines maintain vigil for maturing Iraqi National Guard
    Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
    Story Identification #: 20048181252
    Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

    AL KHARMA, Iraq (Aug. 1, 2004) -- Assistance in building Iraq's National Guard isn't coming just from Marines on the ground. It's also coming from Marines perched overhead, keeping terrorists at bay.

    Marines of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment's Weapons Company and Company K maintain a vigil for the Iraqi soldiers. They are the safeguard for Iraq's future security.

    "Our mission here is to provide compound security for the Iraqi National Guard," explained Sgt. Edgar O. Payan, the platoon guide for 2nd Platoon, Company K. "We're going to make sure no threats could or would eliminate the Iraqis or Marines while training is going on."

    The duty sounds mundane, but is fraught with dangers much like the rest of Iraq. Marines find themselves fighting back the heat to maintain alertness, but the occasional gunshot, mortar impact or people traffic reminds them of the imminent threat while on duty.

    "There are so many things going on in the mornings - a lot of activity from people carrying bags to cars driving fast," said Lance Cpl. Ryan M. Brechler, assigned to 2nd Platoon. "We just never know if it's a bomb. We've been hit with mortars quite a bit here, so it can get nerve-wracking."

    Payan said the inability to detect the origin of indirect fire is most frustrating to Marines. They want to counter the fire and improvised explosive devices, but without accurate indications of the firing positions, reactions can actually put Marines in greater danger.

    "I do have a blind spot down the road where an IED was buried, which eventually blew up and wounded some Marines," said Lance Cpl. Dane R. Schaeffer and infantryman with 2nd Platoon.

    Schaeffer explained it's frustrating for Marines to stand vigil and not actively pursue the enemy. Their natural instinct is to follow their training and hunt down terrorists and kill them. Still, he said the sooner the Iraqis assume greater responsibility for their own security, the more they can perform that mission.

    "I'd rather be out on patrol, but this okay because I'd rather be here fighting the war providing security than on our own ground back home," Schaeffer said.

    "Some of the Marines would rather be doing patrols," Payan added. "But this is our mission for now."



  7. #7
    Legal team works to put anti-Iraqi forces behind bars
    Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force
    Story Identification #: 200481104647
    Story by Lance Cpl. J.C. Guibord

    CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 1, 2004) -- Since its beginnings in 3500 B.C., Iraq has had a history of making swift and final decisions about its citizens' guilt or innocence in the courtroom. Now, a familiar phrase in the American lexicon - innocent until proven guilty - is beginning to sweep the Iraqi countryside.

    The I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Service Law Enforcement Team is preparing and gathering evidence throughout the Al Anbar Province to bring anti-Iraqi forces to justice through the recently-established Central Criminal Court of Iraq in Baghdad.

    More common than not, Marines on the ground aren't just detaining insurgents, but taking photos and evidence that could eventually lead to a conviction, according to the team's leader, Capt. D.H. Tran.

    "Now more so than ever, our Marines are detaining the individual and (bringing) him to justice, letting the Iraqis ... utilize their own form of justice and try these anti-Iraqi forces," Tran said.

    Marines on the ground took advantage of the new judicial system at a routine traffic stop recently in the combat-intensive Al Anbar Province.

    At a vehicle checkpoint, Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment found an anti-tank mine in the trunk of a vehicle. Photos of the scene were taken and evidence was gathered. The owner of the vehicle was detained at a local detention center. The evidence was then sent to the investigators for interpretation and organization before being sent to the Iraqi courts, where the accused will be brought to trial.

    The investigation team consists of three Navy investigators, an administration clerk and a Marine staff judge advocate as the team leader.

    "The investigators do the majority of the work," said Tran. "They are the ones that are with the unit, out there talking to the Marines, collecting the evidence, packaging the cases."

    According to the investigators, the troops on the ground and their ability to properly gather evidence make their jobs a lot easier. Seventy-five percent of the cases are done without an investigator leaving Camp Fallujah.

    "All we do is gather the information, send it up and let the Iraqi judicial system do its job," said Petty Officer 1st Class Haywood Williams, an investigator with the team and a Miami native.

    Although collecting and preparing evidence for trial can be a thankless job, the investigators feel a strong sense of obligation and gratitude for and from the troops on the ground they support.

    "I have seen a lot of young Marines out there, and telling them the outcome of one of these trials, seeing their faces (when they realize) they went out of their way and risked their lives capturing this guy and it wasn't all for nothing," said Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher L. Glover, one of the team's investigators and a Lakeland, Fla., native. "That gives me a sense that I have accomplished something, working for these (young Marines)."



  8. #8
    July 30, 2004

    Reserve pilot dies in Iraq

    By Christian Lowe
    Times staff writer

    A Marine Reserve pilot was killed in Iraq July 28 when his AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter came under fire from insurgents on the ground. Lt. Col. David S. Greene, 39, of Raleigh, N.C., was shot while he and his co-pilot were conducting a daylight mission in support of coalition ground operations in western Anbar province, Reserve officials said.
    Small arms fire from the ground penetrated the Super Cobra’s Plexiglas canopy, killing Greene. The lieutenant colonel is the highest ranking Marine to be killed so far in Iraq, Marine officials said.

    The co-pilot, whose name has not been released, was not injured in the attack and landed the helicopter safely.

    Greene was assigned to the Johnstown, Pa.-based Detachment A, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775 and worked as the detachment’s aviation maintenance officer.

    “He was a roll up your sleeves and get business done kind of officer,” said Maj. Randy Parker, a squadron spokesman.

    “He maintained a demanding [flight] schedule and still got out there on the flight line with his maintenance Marines to make sure things got done,” said Parker, who also had served with Greene on active duty.

    The unit was activated in January for a seven-month deployment to Iraq.

    A Naval Academy graduate, Greene was commissioned in 1986. He served mainly with East Coast-based squadrons, including Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269, and on a Marine Expeditionary Unit deployment just after Operation Desert Storm in 1991 with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 162.

    Greene also served as a forward air controller with the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company before leaving active duty for the Reserve in 1997, Parker said.

    Greene, who in civilian life worked as a project manager for BF Goodrich in Burlington, Vt., is survived by a wife and two children.

    “He was a star. He really was,” Parker said.

    Christian Lowe covers Marine Corps aviation issues. He can be reached at (703) 750-8613.



  9. #9
    US forces, hit by raids, fault their Iraqi allies
    By Anne Barnard, Globe Staff | August 1, 2004

    RAMADI, Iraq -- The Humvees were speeding through the dark city when a heart-stopping boom brought the convoy lurching to a halt. Red sparks cartwheeled into the sky. The Marines ran through a dust cloud and found four comrades bleeding from a roadside bomb.

    The bomb, buried outside an Iraqi National Guard headquarters, marked the third time in 10 days that US troops in the capital of the country's most violent province had been attacked under the noses of Iraqi security forces, whose cooperation is crucial to their success. Three days before, on July 21, scores of guerrillas fired rifles and rocket-propelled grenades from rooftops near National Guard buildings, sparking a street battle that drew in more than a battalion of US forces, and that killed 25 insurgents.

    Marines in Ramadi are fighting the toughest urban warfare in Iraq and are taking on perhaps the most delicate diplomacy, working with Iraqi counterparts whom they don't always trust, while trying to lower their profile in a city that wants them out. Their experiences show the challenges that US troops face when they stay closely engaged in a hub of resistance, a scenario that may arise elsewhere as fighting heats up in cities like Samarra and Baqubah.

    The strategy in Ramadi, 90 miles west of Baghdad, has kept insurgents from gaining the free hand they wield in nearby Fallujah, where Marines headed off a bloody showdown in April by handing security duties to a group of former army officers and resistance fighters. It has also kept millions of US reconstruction dollars pouring into Ramadi, while the resistance in Fallujah has led to a cutoff in US aid.

    But staying in Ramadi comes at a high price. The Marines stationed in three small bases downtown have borne the highest concentration of US casualties since early April. The Second Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment, has seen 31 Marines killed, and more than 200 wounded. That casualty rate amounts to more than 20 percent.

    Every day, they consider tricky questions. Will reducing their footprint build good will? Or will it embolden insurgents? Is their presence preventing attacks? Or is it causing them?

    ''Our presence here may be insulting, our presence may cause violence, but a lack of our presence could create chaos," said Major Dave Harrill, 34, operations officer for the Second Battalion. ''What is the right moment to pull back? If we get that right, we can have success in every city in Iraq."

    A month after Iraq regained formal sovereignty, the military is building facilities outside the city center where the battalion can move on short notice, when Iraqis are ready to take charge, senior Marine officers said.

    The military has halted daytime supply convoys that blocked traffic and offended residents, and has cut back most patrols to let Iraqi forces take the lead. But four months after taking over from US Army troops, Marines in central Ramadi look less like advisers about to hand off control to a nascent government than combatants in an urban battleground.

    After a burst of fighting in April that killed a dozen Marines and scores of insurgents, Marines no longer flood neighborhoods to hear concerns and hand out information about Iraq's new government. They protect the main road through town, a major US supply route, watching from observation posts to stop insurgents from planting roadside bombs.

    It takes less than 10 minutes to drive from any base to the government center. But the Marines don't travel, even a few hundred yards to an observation post, with fewer than four heavily armed Humvees -- preferably encased in armor and blast-proof glass.

    Marines on the front lines haven't lost the stomach for the fight; in battle, they say, they feel most sure of their mission. But nearly unanimously, they say they can neither interact with Iraqis the way they had expected when they arrived with orders to win ''hearts and minds," nor can they deal a knockout blow to guerrillas.

    ''Every guy you kill, there's always going to be someone else," said Corporal Glen Handy, 26, of Las Vegas.

    Pulling back to observation posts can be ''frustrating for the Marines" said Captain Christopher Bronzi, 31, of Poughquag, N.Y., commander of the Second Battalion's Golf Company. ''You wonder what they are doing out there," he said, referring to insurgents.

    ''We'd be doing more good if we weren't here. We can send soccer balls from America," said Corporal Nat Canaga, 18, from Colorado, who was wounded by a grenade while on foot patrol.

    The Marines' mission changed on April 6, when insurgents launched coordinated attacks on patrols across the city, sparking a two-day battle. Marines launched aggressive raids that killed 80 insurgents, netted 90 prisoners, and tamped down attacks for a time.

    As the sovereignty handoff approached, guerrillas struck again. Marines killed 25 fighters in a seven-hour battle June 14. Marines win the large fights, but face some of the country's deadliest attacks. Last month, a car bomb killed four Marines; and four more died when insurgents ambushed their observation post.

    They can't leave until Ramadi's officials -- especially the security forces -- stand on their own.

    At the headquarters of the First Marine Division and the Army's First Brigade, across the river Euphrates from downtown, senior officers say they are making slow and steady progress. They point to the provincial government, which still needs US protection -- the governor's three sons were kidnapped at gunpoint on Wednesday -- but increasingly sets the reconstruction agenda. They say that even baby steps from Iraqi security forces must be hailed.

    Checking on troops patrolling a road on Ramadi's outskirts, Army Lieutenant Colonel Mike Cabrey said Iraqi forces have begun patrolling reliably there. But at the hardscrabble downtown bases, fighters have less confidence in Iraqi forces.

    ''They're cowards," said the Marine battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Kennedy, a Boston University graduate from Bloomfield, Conn.

    He voiced hope that Ramadi's tough new National Guard chief, Qadhim Faris, would shape them up. Faris, a former officer in Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, was detained last year for allegedly plotting to kill a US Army commander.

    Kennedy believes the charges, but reasons: ''If someone came to the US and threw me out of the Marine Corps . . . I know some things about fighting, and I'd probably ply my trade."

    Kennedy said he dressed down Faris and the police chief after the July 21 attack, when guerrillas ambushed Marines near Iraqi security buildings with a roadside bomb, gunfire, and two car bombs. ''The bombs were placed literally under their nose . . . and they didn't do anything," said Kennedy, who is 41 years old.

    He recalled telling the Iraqis: ''Listen, you guys have failed. This is supposed to be your time in the spotlight."

    The following day, the National Guard and police swept the city. An expected insurgent attack did not happen. It was the biggest leap forward in months, Kennedy said.

    But at Combat Outpost, a base that is hit by mortars almost daily, Bronzi's Marines voiced skepticism.The whole neighborhood knew of the impending attack, they said; guerrillas had blocked side streets to keep civilians away. Iraqi forces were either complicit, afraid to tip off Marines, or clueless, said First Lieutenant Robert Scott, 27, the executive officer.

    ''They should know," he said at the mess hall, a former warehouse. ''There's just no excuse."

    Hamid Abid, an Iraqi National Guard member training at another US base, said Iraqi troops want to protect Ramadi but are in ''a very bad situation."

    ''When we go home, people say, 'You are an agent for the coalition forces,' " Abid said. ''When they leave and we take care of everything, it will be good."

    That night, after escorting fresh troops, the Marine convoy ran over the bomb.

    ''What have you got up there?" First Lieutenant Scott shouted. He ran off. ''We have casualties," his driver said into the radio. ''Number unknown at this time."

    A Humvee had been hit at a deserted checkpoint outside the Iraqi National Guard headquarters, where concrete barriers force vehicles into a slow slalom. Marines later said they had seen people moving inside the building -- Guardsmen, they believed.

    Back at the base, the wounded Marines screamed in pain. Their comrades wiped their blood from the garage floor, uttering expletives at Iraqis in general and at the National Guard in particular.

    The attackers had tunneled under the pavement to place the bomb. The operation would have taken enough time for the National Guard to have noticed, the Marines said.

    ''Did they come outside after the explosion?" an officer asked over the radio. Bronzi shook his head. ''They remained inside, sir," Scott said evenly. Later, he said, ''I'm debating whether to arrest them all."

    That night, Bronzi said the Guard is ''in no way shape or form" prepared to take over.

    ''They're supposed to be observing an area, and they could be sleeping. Or they could just be cowards," he said.

    It was time for Kennedy to have another talk with Faris.

    Anne Barnard can be reached at abarnard@globe.com.



  10. #10
    Marine Says He's Thankful To Be Home
    Associated Press
    August 2, 2004

    WEST JORDAN, Utah - The U.S. Marine once feared beheaded in Iraq said Sunday he was thankful to be home and asked people to pray for all hostages.

    Wassef Ali Hassoun returned to his brother's suburban home Saturday evening, but did not speak publicly.

    On Sunday, Hassoun made a brief statement on the front lawn of the house before rejoining his family inside. He thanked family and friends, and those who helped him since his return.

    "Having experienced being in captivity, I ask all the people of the world to join me and pray for the safe release of all hostages," he said. "People who already know me and those of you getting to know me, know that I'm proud to be a Muslim Arab-American serving with honor."

    Hassoun added a "semper fi" - the Marine Corps motto meaning "always faithful" in Latin - before returning to the house.

    Hassoun, 24, failed to report for duty June 20, and videotape later surfaced showing him apparently kidnapped, blindfolded with a sword hanging over his head.

    He later turned up at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. It remains unclear how he traveled from Iraq to Lebanon, where he was born and still has relatives.

    He has denied that he was a deserter.

    The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has been looking into Hassoun's disappearance.

    Hassoun was flown to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on July 20.


  11. #11
    August 02, 2004

    Training Iraqis for Guard duty a bumpy ride
    Marines make the best of a 6-day course

    By Gordon Lubold
    Times staff writer

    NASIR, Iraq — When Cpl. Albert Martinez begins a training exercise for a platoon of newly minted Iraqi National Guardsmen near a battered courtyard here, it feels like a cross between “Full Metal Jacket” and “Police Academy.”
    The platoon stands at loose attention, listening attentively, but the language barrier is evident. Most look at him bewildered. They shuffle through the exercise, which requires them to secure a building with “enemy” inside. They often forget to spread out during raids, and it’s sometimes difficult to get that point across.

    “You talk a lot with your hands,” Martinez says softly afterward as the men peel off for chow.

    The Iraqis are new to the world of Marine Corps discipline, and it shows. Despite their new uniforms, the men can appear disheveled. Boot laces go untied. Covers appear to be optional. Those who forget their boots wear sneakers instead. The soldiers often show up late for training exercises, and sometimes lie to avoid being fired.

    Still, leathernecks with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, are doing their best to train hundreds of Iraqis on the basics. Units go through a brief boot camp before they’re assigned to Martinez, who oversees their training at the unit level.

    Martinez tries to prepare them to man observation points, conduct foot patrols and clear roads of improvised explosives as the Iraqis slowly take more responsibility for law and order here.

    His platoon is probably the best here. The men are motivated to do the right thing and seem to want to please their Marine instructors. But language is only one barrier to getting the job done. Marine trainers try to impart a spit-shine approach to stabilizing the country, but are having a hard time bridging the centuries-old cultural divide.

    “They just really don’t pay attention to nothing,” said Cpl. Dane Thompson, 26, from Winona, Texas, who trains another platoon and said he gets frustrated by their inability to grasp basic instruction.

    And when the pressure is on, they sometimes choke. One Marine here remembers watching two Iraqis during a real firefight take off their flak vests, drop their weapons and light a cigarette. “At times like this, we smoke,” the Marine recalls them saying that day. Other soldiers hold hands, a sign of friendship between men here, but one that just doesn’t square with most Marines’ world view.

    “There are definite differences,” said 1st Lt. Zak Iscol, 25, from Pound Ridge, N.Y., who oversees the training here.

    Other soldiers take the training very seriously. One Iraqi who suspected that rocket-propelled grenade launchers were being sold at a small market near his house was eager to show a Marine the market’s location on a map.

    And it’s difficult to doubt the sincerity of Sgt. Imad Abid Zaid Jasim, a 26-year-old Iraqi National Guardsman who saved the life of a Marine after a firefight a couple months ago.

    One tough Guardsman

    Jasim was on a joint patrol when a Marine beside him — “my brother,” he called him — was hit by enemy fire. Jasim dragged the Marine to safety behind a wall and sought help. He recently was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his actions.

    Visibly proud, he said he loves the work, which pays him the equivalent of about $175 per month, and that he’s willing to take risks that come with the job.

    “If I die with them, there is no problem because I will die happy,” he said through a translator.

    Marines might find more men like Jasim in their ranks if the basic training conducted at this base lasted a bit longer. It’s now only six days, a drop in the training bucket compared to the 13-week training cycle a Marine goes through at boot camp.

    “You can’t teach a Marine to tie his boots in a week,” said one officer.

    But six days is all the time they have to work with, training officials said, and they’re trying to make as much of it as they can.

    The first day of the basic training package begins on yellow footprints just like the ones Marine recruits experience back home.

    They learn basic drill, marksmanship and squad tactics, leaving time for the five daily Muslim prayer sessions. The Iraqis live side by side with Marine instructors to foster relationships of faith and trust, said Maj. Kevin Collins, 40, the officer in charge of the Iraqi National Guard training task force. He said the Marines have activated 45 battalions of Iraqi National Guardsmen in this region.

    Marine trainers are well aware that success here means the beginning of stability in Iraq.

    But many Marines are still skeptical the Iraqis can make it happen. They see only their lack of discipline and poor attitudes and doubt these Iraqis will ever do for themselves. Martinez may share some of those frustrations, but he said the only thing to do now is make the best of it.

    His positive attitude may rub off on cynical Marines as much as it does the Iraqis he’s training.

    “You have to lead by example,” he said.



  12. #12
    24th MEU joining bases in south Iraq
    July 30,2004

    CAMP VIRGINIA, KUWIT - After a few weeks of training in the Kuwait desert, most of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit is now at bases south of Baghdad.

    They spent the first part of July becoming acclimated to the weather, practicing how to operate in the heat and focusing on field hygiene. The simple things - such as washing hands after using port-a-johns and before entering the chow hall, and throwing away plastic spoons once MREs are eaten - may seem minor, but food-borne illnesses can prevent a Marine from fighting, and that could weaken the force.

    Diarrhea, for example, can dehydrate a person quickly and present a life-threatening situation in an unforgiving desert. The troops' training emphasized that Marines need to be smart, not just tough.

    "You need to adapt like the Bedouins, who have been doing this for thousands of years," said Col. Ron Johnson, commander of the 2,200-member MEU. "Drink water until you're going to the head constantly. Â… Nobody goes out eight hours with no water. This ain't a 1960 football camp."

    The mission defined

    In Iraq, the MEU's mission is to enforce local law by backing up Iraqi police and other governmental forces. Ultimately, Johnson told his staff, Marines will play a supporting role. They'll work to keep roads open, electricity running, railways functioning - and the flow of insurgents disrupted.

    The last time Marines guarded a railroad, Johnson noted, was in the United States in 1919. Their mission then: prevent mail theft.

    In Iraq, the 24th MEU will likely deal with two types of enemy: the anti-Iraqi forces, or AIF, which want to hurt Iraqi foreign ministers and governmental officials to destabilize the country; and the anti-coalition forces, or ACF, which don't want to see foreign troops on Iraqi soil and thus impatiently wait for their departure.

    As U.S. forces disrupt AIF and ACF efforts, they will likely be taking prisoners. Accordingly, the MEU must also be prepared to build and operate a detention facility in accordance with the Geneva Convention - something that's been worked into pre-deployment training since the 26th MEU captured hundreds of Taliban troops in Afghanistan and shipped them to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Man with a plan

    To keep troops focused and at a heightened level of intensity during the six-to-seven month deployment, Johnson supports moving people to and from different jobs. Doing so, he believes, will help fend off boredom and emphasize that everyone needs to do his or her fair share of guard duty, patrolling and security detail.

    The night before Johnson left Camp Virginia for Iraq, he told his officers how far they had come since their urban training in West Virginia.

    "Never stop training on weapons and tactics," Johnson said.

    "Everyone, including myself, is carrying a rifle. If you get ambushed, go after those (explicative)."

    He then offered some practical insight.

    "It will be tough for the young troops the first time they pull the trigger and the first time they see a buddy hurt," Johnson said. "They need to prepare mentally for the sight of carnage. I need you to watch these guys; I need you to supervise."

    'Nobody gets captured'

    The pep talk continued with a few words on kidnapping tactics used by some insurgents. It's a move, Johnson said, which could backfire. The Marines have strengthened their resolve to fight even when there is little or no hope, he said, because they have no alternative.

    "Nobody from the 24th MEU gets captured," Johnson repeated three times. "Don't come back and tell me that someone was dragged away. You need to go get him."

    Since last week, members of the 24th MEU have moved into Iraq in waves of vehicle convoys and military flights. They will likely take control of three or more bases in the region and work with other U.S. and coalition forces already in the area.

    Upon arriving to a new area, a unit typically strengthens its defensive positions, continues to study the local terrain and culture, attempts to make friends where they can and prepare to confront those who choose to not be friends.

    "Okay, gentleman, this is it," said Johnson. "Keep your head in the ball game."

    Contact Eric Steinkopff at esteinkopff@jdnews.com or 353-1171, Ext. 236.



  13. #13
    Marines get back to roots with ‘fam fire’

    By Fred Zimmerman, Stars and Stripes
    Pacific edition, Sunday, August 1, 2004

    CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — More than 40 Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 spent four days here last week honing force protection skills and becoming reacquainted with several weapons in the Marine Corps arsenal.

    The refresher course kicked off Monday with force protection training. Staff Sgt. Vedel Poindexter, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Marksmanship Training Unit that conducted the training, said the group was taught about vehicle control points, to include searching vehicles and access.

    Marines trained the last three days with weapons, taking part in live-fire familiarization shoots, Poindexter said. Armed with M9 pistols, M1014 combat shotguns, M249 Squad Automatic Weapons, M203 grenade launchers and M240G machine guns, the Marines trained with weapons some hadn’t fired since boot camp.

    “They hardly get any time on these weapons,” said Poindexter. “This is to enhance what the Marines have received in previous training … refresher training to hone the skills that all Marines must have whether they’re in theater, in the Fleet Marine Force, or a Reserve unit.”

    Poindexter said the majority of the Marines were from support billets who usually only fire weapons on annual trips to the rifle range.

    Each morning, the group received training on the weapons they would fire that day, Poindexter said. They would then travel to one of the firing ranges in the afternoon to conduct the familiarization fire.

    “I think this training is great,” said 2nd Lt. James W. Sparks Jr., assistant officer in charge of the 31st MEU’s Aviation Support Element. “A lot of these Marines haven’t had any time on these weapons since boot camp or Marine Combat Training.”

    Sparks would like to see this kind of training take place more often, he said.

    “If we can get classes like this periodically, or through annual training, they’ll retain more and more of what they learn,” he said.

    One Marine said it’s been more than two years since he touched such weapons.

    “This is the best training I’ve seen in a while … it’s something I’d like to do more often,” said Cpl. Ryan Dankenbring, a radio operator with the 31st MEU.

    The training was provided by the III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group’s MTU on Camp Hansen. Poindexter said this is the first time his unit conducted this kind of training.

    “We’re an enhanced MTU,” Poindexter said. “So we typically cover rifle and pistol qualifications, grass week (marksmanship fundamental refresher training), the [Marine Battle Skills Training] test, the gas chamber and swim qualification.”

    Staff Sgt. Garrett Robinson, the chief instructor at MTU, helped come up with the training the Marines received. He said the only thing he would change is maybe adding classes on the M2 .50 caliber machine gun and the MK-19 40mm machine gun. But he added that ammunition for those weapons is hard to come by for training purposes.

    Robinson said the training was successful, both for instructors and students.

    “The proof is [the students] applying remedial and immediate action by themselves when they have a stoppage on the range,” Robinson said. “They’ve done well and paid attention in class. They’re able to go out there and fire with very little assistance.”

    Poindexter said that while this was a first for his unit, he hopes it’s not the last. He said none of his instructors are infantrymen, so by teaching the classes, they’re also learning the weapons of the Corps.

    He and Robinson both agreed they would like to do more of this training.

    “Whatever they’ll let us do, we’ll do it,” Robinson said.

    Fred Zimmerman / S&S
    Members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aim for a distant hillside on Range 8 on Okinawa while firing practice rounds from the M203 grenade launchers attached to their M-16 A2s. The Marines on the far end are surrounded by a cloud of orange chalk that prematurely released from a practice round.



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