Results 1 to 14 of 14
08-03-04, 07:22 AM #1
Marines in Fallujah Respond to Mortar Fire
Marines in Fallujah Respond to Mortar Fire
Submitted by: American Forces Press Service
Story Identification #: 2004730154051
Story by - American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON (July 30, 2004) -- U.S. Marines used tanks and artillery fire July 29 to respond to enemy attacks on their position near Fallujah, Iraq.
No Americans were killed or injured in the exchange near Fallujah, and officials had no information on enemy casualties.
According to a news release from Multinational Force Iraq, the Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force had been repeatedly attacked with mortars, rocket- propelled grenades, machine guns and small arms before returning fire.
The return fire was directed at enemy mortarmen observed firing from several hundred yards away from the Marines' position. The mortarmen were seen fleeing the scene after the Marines returned fire, and, officials reported, enemy activity temporarily ceased.
Iraqi police and National Guard forces "provided support to the operations," the release said. The forces from I MEF also used artillery and close-air support on enemy fighters who fled to buildings near the eastern edge of Fallujah.
In a separate incident, a Polish soldier was killed and eight others injured in an improvised-explosive-device attack on their patrol northeast of Madlul July 29. The injured soldiers were evacuated to military medical facilities in Karbala and Baghdad, where they are listed in stable condition.
Elsewhere, Multinational Force Iraq troops and Iraqi National Guardsmen captured five men suspected of manufacturing car bombs. The coalition forces found four improvised explosive devices, identification cards and car bomb- making materials, according to a news release from military officials in Baghdad.
The incident took place during a cordon-and-search operation in Baghdad July 29. The suspects were taken to a Multinational Force base for questioning.
08-03-04, 07:23 AM #2
Marine civil affairs teams count scores off successes in rebuilding effort
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20048254722
Story by Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.
CAMP RIPPER, Iraq (Aug. 1, 2004) -- Regimental Combat Team 7's Civil Affairs Group Detachment and its four tactical teams have helped provide the Al Anbar region with the tools and funds to successfully begin the reconstruction of its cities and towns.
The nearly 35 Marines have helped the region in building a security force strong enough to protect its other reconstruction efforts and have provided over $10 million in humanitarian aide.
"CAG has been around since the eighties," said Sgt. Charles H. Godsey, a 29-year-old from Victorville, Calif. "But it wasn't used until the first OIF. Only a few of us were deployed then, so it's been a learning process for all of us."
Godsey took a six-day course specializing in conducting civil affairs. Only a few of the 35 Marines serving with the CAG units attended the course.
"What they taught us was what they learned during the first war," Godsey explained.
Still, the lessons learned during the push to Baghdad and subsequent security and stabilization operations differ from what Marines are experiencing this time around. That also meant those carrying out the civil affairs mission were forced create their own opportunities.
"This time around it's been much different," Godsey added.
The Marines learned quick, helping to fund and oversee 535 different projects to date, according to CWO 4 Gary W. Davis, the 50-year-old from Filer Idaho serving with the CAG detachment.
"The projects have ranged from $300 to $300,000," Davis said. "We've focused primarily on the security forces, because without them the other projects are no good."
In many areas throughout the regiment's area of operation, such as Al Qaim, local leaders are able to request projects with the Marines.
"We receive the funds from Division," Davis explained. "We then distribute the money to the tactical teams to help fund the different projects."
What makes the civil affairs teams even more unique is this isn't the role for which they joined the Corps. They have backgrounds in all other military occupational specialties, but learned civil affairs. Most are from the Marine Reserves.
"There is no need for a CAG unit during peace time," Davis said. "We work with the reconstruction of a country and the civilians. That is why most of us are reservists."
The projects and programs have been successful helping in a variety of ways, according to the regiment's officer-in-charge of the civil affairs efforts, Lt. Col. Brian J. Tucker, a 43-year-old from Oceanside, Calif. But, it is only a steppingstone for Iraqis to take up improvement projects themselves.
"There has been improvement," said Sgt. Matthew J. Lazarski, 26, from Cedar Grove, N.J. "We can see some of the changes. Before the Iraqi Police wouldn't stand post, now they do, little things we notice when we go out."
Equipping the local security forces, manning and training them have been big reasons why the local projects and country are headed in the right direction.
"Ten million dollars can't rebuild their country," Tucker aid. "But we're showing them that it can be done. They now have security forces that are willing to stand and fight."
Since the turnover of sovereignty June 28, civil affairs teams here became even busier, according to Davis. The number of projects and pressure to have them succeed has grown.
"This is a very busy place," said Maj. Charles R. Henderson, a 38-year-old from Houston serving as RCT-7's Iraqi National Guard coordinator. "We do everything from help little kids to help oversee the country's security forces. It's working though."
The success, oddly, bred targets for terrorists. Anti-Iraqi fighters actively seek out to destroy good works set in motion by Marines. That includes the more professional Iraqi police patrolling the streets now.
"The security forces have been targets recently, because the insurgents realize they're a threat now," Henderson said. "They don't run away. They will stand and fight even though they're often out-gunned."
Though many didn't know what to expect coming to Iraq, most agree the experience has been worth it.
"I never thought in a million years I'd be helping with rebuilding a country," Godsey said. "This is much different then artillery. It's nice knowing what we do helps."
Sgt. Matthew J. Lazarski, 26, a civil affairs noncommissioned officer from Cedar Grove, N.J., cleans an an Iraqi weapon to give to the Iraqi Border Police Academy for training purposes. The IBP Academy is one of many projects Regimental Combat Team 7's civil affairs detachment helps fund. The detachment, along with its four tactical teams, has helped fund and oversee nearly 535 various project throughout the Al Anbar Province.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.) Photo by: Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.
08-03-04, 07:25 AM #3
Marines deliver water, friendship to Iraqi residents
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200473153819
Story by Staff Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (July 30, 2004) -- For the Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who arrived in full this week, the first order of business in their new desert home was to get out and meet the neighbors and let them know the Marines are here to help.
To prove that, Marines here patrolled the area around FOB Kalsu delivering water to residents who needed it and seeing what else they could do for their new neighbors.
"We were trying to search for some way to have an immediate impact, to introduce ourselves to our Iraqi Neighbors," said Maj. Thomas O. Mayberry, force fires coordinator and information operations officer for the MEU. "That's where the idea of water came up. We slapped a [water tank] full of fresh water on the back of a 7-ton truck," said the Leawood, Kan., native.
The Marines, escorted by a Light Armored Vehicle from Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, drove throughout the Marines' area of responsibility, stopping to offer residents water and to talk to them about their living conditions and how the Marines could help them.
"We essentially tried to pick places where there was at least a focused number of homes in one area," said Mayberry, a Marine of 16 years. "We would get out and introduce ourselves to the Iraqis living there and offer them water. Some would take it, others wouldn't."
One Marine believes this type of mission could improve the situation here for the Marines.
"I wish we could do this every week," said 2nd Lt. Peter Bergstrom, Motor Transport platoon commander, MEU Service Support Group-24 and Seneca Ill., native. "If we did, things would change."
Although the water was received with mixed reactions, the Marines did learn of ways they could help their neighbors. One resident mentioned an Iraqi howitzer a couple hundred yards from his home, close enough for his children to play on it. He asked the Marines to remove it and offered an insight into the needs of the local residents.
Speaking through a Marine translator, one resident declared that "all we want is water, power, and relaxation." At the offer of help from the Marines, he added, "[the Iraqi people] want us to help and then return home to our families."
According to Mayberry, the day's activities are an important part of the MEU's security and stabilization mission here.
"I think it is important to go out and meet the people you serve. We're not here just to try to combat insurgents, although that certainly is a primary task," Mayberry explained. "I think we are here to try to have a positive impact in the AOR that we have been assigned. That means getting out there and meeting the people who live there finding out how they live and their needs and how you can best fill those needs."
The Marines' short venture into the community reaped many rewards for the Marines and sailors assigned here.
"I think we got the most out of it in terms of just getting to meet people and finding out what their needs were, what their concerns were, and what they thought of Americans in general," said Mayberry. He added, "I think we just keep trying...by working with the Iraqi interim government and doing the best we can to try to improve the situation here in the area."
2nd Lt. Peter Bergstrom, Motor Transport Platoon commander, Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 24, and Seneca Ill., native, shows an Iraqi boy a digital photo he took.
The MEU is in Iraq to relieve Army units and continue the ongoing security and stability mission.
Photo by: Staff Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa
08-03-04, 07:26 AM #4
Marines prepare for handoff in Iraq
Submitted by: 1st Force Service Support Group
Story Identification #: 20048164544
Story by Sgt. Matt Epright
CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Aug. 1, 2004) -- Tents are popping up all over the base, signs stressing water conservation are suddenly appearing on showers, troops have been mailing home excess personal gear to make room in their living areas -- all signs units here are getting ready for a huge surge of Marines and sailors coming in the next few weeks.
The Marine Corps, in keeping with its policy of 7-month deployments, is launching a second wave of personnel from the Camp Pendleton, Calif.,-based I Marine Expeditionary Force, to Iraqi bases to replace other I MEF forces that have been in the Al Anbar Province since the early spring.
The two groups of troops will both be in Iraq at the same time during the transition so individuals can explain and pass on their responsibilities to their replacements.
This rolling turnover will also allow units to maintain a constant presence in their areas and continue their missions uninterrupted.
Marine commanders expect this to cause a significant, though temporary, surge in the number of people on the camps, especially at the main transportation hubs for Marines in Iraq.
One of those hubs is this base, which houses the headquarters for the 1st Force Service Support Group.
"We're going to see an on-hand camp population over twice what we have now," said Lt. Col. Emily J. Elder, the camp commandant here.
Marines and sailors are adding bunk beds to their tents, to be able to fit twice as many people in each. The 1st FSSG is also working with other units here to put up more tents to compensate for the increase in numbers, said Elder, a native of Huntingdon, Pa.
One of the key projects is the building of a 1,000-person transient area, complete with showers, air conditioners and plenty of cots and bunk beds, which will give units and individual Marines a place to lay their heads for a few nights as they wait for follow-on flights to other camps.
"That should alleviate a lot of the stress in the camp," said Capt. James M. Bechtel, who is in charge of camp operations.
The base's operations section is also coordinating with civilian contractors to ramp up the frequency of services such as filling the water for the shower trailers and cleaning out the portable toilets, said Bechtel, a 34-year-old native of Olpe, Kan.
The extra Marines are expected to affect the mess hall here as well.
Hoping to ease possible overcrowding, the mess hall managers plan to extend meal times by one hour, opening a half-hour earlier and closing a half-hour later, for each of the four meals offered here, said Capt. Clarence E. Perry, the 1st FSSG's logistics operations officer.
The Marines are also negotiating with the civilian company that runs the mess hall, to get more food delivered here more often, said Perry, a 36-year-old native of Hampton, Va.
Aside from figuring out where to put the additional personnel and how to feed them all, the Corps must also coordinate to get the new crew to Iraq and send the old crew home.
Moving approximately 40,000 Marines and sailors in the course of just a few months, with each half moving in a different direction, will be a monumental undertaking. However, the Corps won't be alone in its effort to get Marines swapped out.
The considerable task of transporting this many people to and from Iraq will be handled by the U.S. Transportation Command, a joint-service unit headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., which has moved more than 1.6 million American service members in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, as of July.
Each of I MEF's major units, the 1st FSSG, 1st Marine Division and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, will coordinate with "TransCom" to get seats for their Marines and sailors, said Sgt. Paul A. Dube, the 1st FSSG's future operations chief.
Once TransCom delivers the troops from the United States to one of the hubs for Marines in Iraq, individual units are responsible for picking up their personnel. The units are also required to drop off their outgoing Marines and sailors at the same transit points for travel back home, said Dube, a 25-year-old native of Minor Hill, Tenn.
Elements of the 1st FSSG, called Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Groups, run the transportation centers, monitoring all the flights and ensuring that personnel and their gear get on the correct aircraft, said Sgt. Thaddeus D. Forman, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the control group here.
Though 1st FSSG Marines run both A/DACGs in Iraq, the Wing and Division have representatives there, who account for their people and point them where they need to go, said Forman, a 27-year-old native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
While thousands of troops will transition through the two major hubs in Iraq, the cargo loads should stay relatively moderate. The only equipment the Marines and sailors will be traveling with is their personal gear, such as packs and rifles.
To make the changeover as smooth and safe as possible, the outgoing forces are leaving behind all their larger unit equipment - everything from trucks and tents to heavy machine guns.
As the incoming troops show up, they simply "fall in on their gear," said Lt. Col. Eric P. Thomas, the 1st FSSG's logistics officer and a 40-year-old resident of Tacoma, Wash.
The outgoing units will be staying long enough to account for the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of materiel before signing it over to the new arrivals.
With both outgoing and incoming crews on deck at the same time, troops will have to sacrifice some of the comforts they have gotten used to during this deployment, though everyone will have a cool place to sleep and hot food to eat.
"It's going to get very, very busy here," said Elder.
National Guardsmen from C Company, 120th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), assemble a tent floor at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, on July 3, 2004. The tent construction is part of the Marine Corps' 1st Force Service Support Group's efforts to prepare for a massive influx of personnel arriving to replace Marines and sailors who are approaching the end of their seven-month tour of duty in Iraq. The battalion provides engineering support to the 1st FSSG, which is headquartered at the camp. The battalion is based in Okmulgee, Okla. The company is from Henryetta and Okemah, Okla. Photo by: Sgt. Matt Epright
08-03-04, 07:27 AM #5
Marines train up elite group within Iraqi police forces
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200473152759
Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes
CAMP MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq (07/27/2004) -- Iraqi police took a leap forward in gaining control of their own streets with the help of Marines.
A group of Iraqi policemen formed a new elite team called Task Force Cobra, designed to take down anti-Iraqi forces near the city southwest of Fallujah. The team is being trained by Marine reservists who are policemen in their daily lives back in the United States. They are assigned to the 1st Marine Division as part of the Iraqi Police Liaison Team.
"You're all making history today. Ten years from now your children will read in their history books about what you're doing here today," said Maj. Mark P. DeVito, the civil affairs team leaders for 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment from San Diego. "They'll learn how the people of Mahmudiyah were afraid. They'll learn how you changed that."
The Iraqi men are roughly equivalent to the American version of a Special Weapons and Tactics Team, or SWAT. The Cobras gathered together at the Iraqi National Guard compound here for four days of advance police training classes.
"These men are the leaders of their police stations. We're trying to instill this training in them so they can pass it on to their fellow policemen," said Cpl. William P. Schultz, a 26-year-old former police officer from Richmond, Ill. "We can't teach everything in four days but we hope we can teach the basics. It's up to them to keep practicing what we teach and keep it fresh."
A different aspect of the skills a policeman possesses was taught each day. The IPLT used five-hour instructional periods to pass on their knowledge.
"The first day we go over ethics. It's pretty dry material but is important for the men here to know," Schultz said.
The Iraqi group was shown a slide show that outlined all the morals and ethics a police officer must carry to do their job. Topics such as not accepting gifts for services and not putting one's tribe above one's duty were covered.
The second day brought the Cobra Team a few more classes. These were on police survival in a tactical environment. The third and fourth days gave the policemen the opportunity to try their hand at room clearing and handcuffing techniques.
"We hope these men leave with more pride for what they do," Schultz explained. "It should make them a lot more proactive on the job."
The policemen enjoyed the practical application sections of the training.
"We find that people have the most fun when they can get hands-on with the training," he added. "Getting out of the classroom environment makes them more receptive."
The four-day classes are offered in lieu of being able to attend the police academy in Ramadi. Because of the distance from Mahmudiyah, the IPLT travels to different police districts to pass on the training.
"I've noticed Iraqis learn differently when we teach these classes. In Ramadi you find a lot of educated men," Schulz said. "In the south they're not so well educated but they have more discipline. So you have to keep that in mind when teaching."
Schultz also said motivation among the different groups also lends to the course. The more willing they are to learn the more in depth the instructors can go into the subject.
Whether the class is motivated or not doesn't affect the quality of training they receive or its results, however.
"Any time they receive training it builds confidence in the job they do. They just have to be sure it is continued and reinforced," said Sgt. Jim L. Marble, a 36-year-old from Kansas City, Kan., who has served on his city's SWAT team. "Overall this class helps to identify all these men as leaders and men who will go the extra step. These are the guys who will be the role models for their departments."
Local policemen from Task Force Cobra recently participated in a four-day advanced police tactics training package. Part of the training involved room-clearing techniques. Supervising was Sgt. Jim L. Marble, a 36-year-old Kansas City, Kan., Marine who served on his hometown's SWAT team and is now part of the police liaison team conducting the class.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes) Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes
08-03-04, 07:28 AM #6
Marines, soldiers team up for artillery exercise in Iraq
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20048165249
Story by Cpl. Veronika Tuskowski
CAMP RAMADI, Iraq (July 29, 2004) -- Marines and soldiers came together to light the skies and shake the ground with an artillery exercise July 29.
Marines and Army forward observers teamed up to get the steel to rain down on targets fired on by Army artillery at Camp Ramadi.
"This training was designed for platoon certification," said Army Lt. Col. Mike Cabrey, the field artillery battalion commander. "This is the fourth one we have conducted, and it allows us to train with observers, guns and the fire direction center. We have also incorporated the Marines with us here, this provides good training for them."
The two units, Marines from 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment and soldiers from 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, perform different missions in Iraq. The Marines left their howitzers behind and took on the role of a traditional rifle battalion. The soldiers are tasked with providing artillery support to Marines and soldiers around Ar Ramadi.
"This training is to keep up our skills," explained Sgt. Mario E. Villasenor, a forward observer with the Marine battalion. "It feels good to do our job, and most of our radio operators are getting to call it in for fire. It gives them a chance to train. It has been six months since we shot anything."
During the training, the Marines and soldiers conducted a variety of different missions; shooting quick smoke, immediate smoke, laser-guided and high-explosive, ground burst illumination along with a close-air support battle drill. They did it while aiming in to six different targets.
"I think they have done very well for having a variety of missions," Cabrey said. "All elements are getting great training out of this."
The soldiers get to apply these skills almost on a daily basis as part of counter-battery attacks against mortar fire launched by anti-Iraqi fighters against area camps.
"The main missions we fire over here are counter fire and high explosives to support the troops in contact," Cabrey said. "Our guns are the response unit to any rockets or mortars that come onto any of the base camps."
Cabrey explained that the latest radar technologies and discipline of the gun crews enables the soldiers to launch rounds against attackers quickly. Still, speed on the gun line is the essence of the mission. Soldiers work to get the targeting information to the gun crews quickly to ensure that when the howitzers belch out rounds, the enemy is still in the impact area.
It's a race against time.
"The radar gives us a very close grid," Cabrey explained. "The enemy expects us to shoot back, so they get out of the area as soon as possible."
Lance Cpl. David Shelton, radio operator, with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, calls for fire during a live-fire artillery exercise July 29. Soldiers from 1st Battalion 5th Field Artillery Battalion, provide artillery support and counterfire to the U.S. forces operating in the city of Ar Ramadi.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Veronika R. Tuskowski) Photo by: Cpl. Veronika Tuskowski
08-03-04, 08:30 AM #7
Dayton Daily News
August 2, 2004
Hero Maintains Humility
Marine's home, but he expects to be redeployed
By James Cummings
SPRINGBORO -- Steve Ratcliffe never heard the bomb go off.
He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq in early spring, and he and the other Marines in his units were used to the sounds of gunfire and the whoom of deadly improvised roadside explosive charges set by Iraqi insurgents to kill coalition forces.
But he didn't hear the one that went off alongside the Humvee he and three others were riding.
"We felt the Humvee rise up and fall back down and saw all the dust that was shaken loose, but we were too close to hear the explosion.
"The driver did what he was trained to do; he drove away from the explosion keeping away from the smoke, and we got a safe distance out, we dismounted from the vehicle, set up defensive positions and started trying to round up people for questioning.
"I was gathering people up when my lieutenant told me there was blood coming down my face and on my hand.
"I didn't even know I had been hit."
Ratcliffe arrived home in Springboro on Saturday with two objects. One was a jagged piece of metal about four inches long and an inch wide that had lodged in a water container near where he was sitting in the Humvee.
The other is a blue carrying case of the type that might come with an expensive watch or necklace. It holds the Purple Heart medal received after being wounded in action.
When his mother, Janene Garey, handed him the hunk of shrapnel and medal on Sunday, Ratcliffe seemed embarrassed and quickly passed them to his girlfriend, Sandy Bertke of Centerville.
Garey just as quickly took them from Bertke and handed them back so Ratcliffe could be photographed holding the mementos.
"This is something you're going to want to show your grandchildren," she said.
Lance Cpl. Steven Ratcliffe of the 34th India Company, 1st Marine Division, has been a Marine since a month after graduating from Miamisburg High School in 2002. He's currently on leave staying in Springboro with his mother and stepfather, Janene and Jeffrey Garey.
Ratcliffe, who turns 20 this month, has already had two tours of duty in Iraq, and he says he'll probably be sent back for a third in March.
His infantry unit was among the first to sweep into Iraq when the war started early last year, and it was also involved in one of the fiercest campaigns this year — the attack on Fallujah.
"That was street-to-street, door-to-door fighting," Ratcliffe said about the Fallujah battle. "You don't pay attention to how dangerous it is when you're doing it. You just kick in the door and you go one way and your buddies go another way. You follow the training and watch out for each other."
Ratcliffe came through Fallujah unscathed. He was injured earlier in the year in the northwest Iraq town of Rawa.
He said he was on a "hearts and minds" mission. He and other Marines were "doing like police work, patrolling the streets and trying to help people out," he said.
But the longer the Marines were in town during the early spring of this year, the more hostile people in the town became.
"You really get aggravated," he said. "You don't really want to be there, but you're trying to help, and all they're saying to you is that they want you out."
Ratcliffe said he and three other Marines were taking food and water to troops in a defensive position on the edge of Rawa when they were attacked. He said he believes a spotter hiding on the cliffs above the road set off the bomb as the Marines' Humvee was passing.
He said the device, made from an old artillery shell "about the size of a man's thigh," was a common trap insurgents placed on or near roads. After the explosion, a Navy medic pulled a few fragments of metal from his face and tended a wound caused by another piece of shrapnel that grazed his left hand.
His wounds and the wounds of two other Marines hurt in the attack weren't severe. "I went on two more patrols that night," he said.
Janene Garey says her son downplays the hazards he has faced in Iraq, but she, Bertke and the rest of the family worry about him constantly when he's in the war theater so far from home.
One of the hardest times was when the family learned this year that Ratcliffe was not staying in relatively safe Japan as he had been told. Instead his unit was moved from Japan back to Iraq.
"Sandy and I agreed we weren't going to cry on the phone when we were talking to him about his redeployment," Garey said. "We know how bad that makes him feel. You won't believe how hard I was pinching myself so I could concentrate on the pain and not start crying."
Ratcliffe, who has two more years on his current Marine hitch, understands his unit of now veteran troops are too valuable not to use in Iraq. He expects to be sent back.
The way his general put it, Ratcliffe said, is that if you get into a behind-kicking contest, "you want to make sure you've got your big boot."
"We're the big boot."
08-03-04, 09:24 AM #8
Report From A Rifle Platoon Leader In Iraq
Today, I escorted three Marine Majors and four ING (Iraqi National Guard) officers to Mumadiyah (FOB St. Michael). When I arrived at the Iraqi National Guard Compound the three Marine Majors split to go to a conference at MEK (Outside Fallujah) and I stayed with some Iraqi Generals who thought I was the ING Rep. I spent the rest of my time having Chai and Pita bread with them while discussing politics using my translator. Some of these men were Generals in Saddam's former Regime and came across as very good men and leaders. They complained that the Fallujah Brigade's General was going to take over their former Battalions and that the Iraqi National Guard leaders in Fallujah are corrupt murderers and thieves. They were worried that their men were not going to be properly taken care of. I shared my Fallujah experiences with them and we agreed. I left feeling that the Marines and the US Army probably need to go back into Fallujah and finish what we should have completed back in April.
I fully support the hand-over to the Iraqi's because I know that there is no other way to do this. I also know that most Iraqi Police and Nat'l Guard personnel desperately side with America against the terrorism here. However one thing makes me mad. I see all the money the US has spent on the ING. All their soldiers are getting new interceptor vests with plates while our men came into this country without this good equipment. All the Iraqi’s are getting brand new uniforms and supplies while my men have struggled to get uniforms to replace the four sets they were issued a year ago. I have only been here since March and all my uniforms are trashed.
Our government is supplying the police and ING brand new AK-47s and RPGs from Russia and China. What police force uses RPGs? I wish they had spent that money on healthy American made firearms that are only 5.56 caliber like we use instead of the 7.62 caliber AK-47s. This is important so if these weapons were to fall into the hands of the enemy or if we had to come back to fight them again we would not be "out-callipered" like we are now. As a result we have to wear 40lbs of armor.
After matching the serial numbers of most of the weapons we end up picking off terrorists we find that the weapons were stolen, then sold to the terrorist’s to begin with. The Cops here drive new Dodge Rams, wear ski masks (for identity protection reasons), and wave RPGs, RPKs, AK47s out of the bed of the trucks. Why do we give everyone the brand new German Glock pistols, when the only U.S. soldiers that have side arms are Captains and up? We have caught them selling brand new Ford Expeditions that we provided them days earlier. This is hard for my soldier when my soldiers don't make enough to make payments on their used Dodge Strata. Whoever is outfitting these guys is doing a better job than whoever outfits us. And I fear that the worst part of this is that one-day U.S. soldiers might be at the other end of their new muzzles. But enough of this.
After visiting the INGs we went to the Marine FOB. Nothing exciting except for one of the buildings housing all the MRE's (Meals Ready To Eat) caught on fire. The Marines there have it tough and have to wear their IBA vest and helmets everywhere in the camp due to mortar attacks, including during chow. I bet when they've reached their 10th month in Iraq they’ll probably be a little less excited from mortar attacks. The men in my Battalion have gotten so used to the attacks that nobody even flinches anymore when they hear incoming rockets and Mortars hit our FOB. They share a common belief that you can't run from fate. We take a lot for granted including the fact that God has blessed us, despite weekly near misses, with no dead due to these attacks.
One of my good friends caught something like 30 pieces of shrapnel to his face and body. Although he limps around, has spent several days in the hospital, he is back on the job running our supply trains from Baghdad to our FOB...
Later today, I ran into a Marine LTC in Mumadiyah who recognized me from a prior mission off FOB Tampa. It’s always a good feeling when a senior officer notices you. It also feels good to know, and feel good about, the community of men you serve with in Iraq. He is a good leader who I respect and I am happy for his men.
PS - I don't think I'll be home until late Sept. That will make 13 months for my men. We leave for Fallujah in a week where we will hopefully finish out our deployment. I feel it is safer there, although I heard they were just mortared with CS gas, but that is a huge rarity.
08-03-04, 10:31 AM #9
U.S., Iraqis Crack Down on Porous Syrian Border
BAGHDAD — The U.S. military launched an operation Monday to stem the flow of arms, money and militants crossing into Iraq from Syria.
The operation is the first large-scale attempt by the military to crack down on illegal traffic from Syria.
Officials say stanching the flow of insurgents into Iraq will help weaken a guerrilla campaign they believe is still being directed by members of Saddam Hussein's former regime.
"Our first priority will be on the Syrian border, because we think that's where the former regime leadership and money went, in that direction, and it's coming back in from that direction," said Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, who runs the operations of the 135,000 U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.
The operation, dubbed Phantom Linebacker, involves thousands of soldiers, Marines, military police, special operations forces and aviation units.
It is being carried out with the nascent Iraqi Border Police and Iraqi National Guard, which have largely been unable to detect and capture Iraqi insurgent leaders and foreign fighters, military officials say. The Iraqi units are susceptible to bribes by those eager to get into the country, the officials say.
Early today, the U.S. military reported that a Marine had died of wounds received in action in Al Anbar province, which adjoins Syria, while "conducting security and stability operations." No further details were given, and it was unclear whether the Marine was taking part in the border operation.
The U.S. military says it is conducting Operation Phantom Linebacker at the behest of the interim Iraqi government, which has blamed the insurgency on foreign fighters crossing into the country from Syria, Jordan and Iran. U.S. military officials say the insurgency is a predominantly home-grown effort confined to mostly Sunni Muslim areas of central Iraq.
U.S. commanders said they believed that insurgents in towns such as Ramadi, Fallouja and Samarra received direction and funding from former Baath Party leaders and their couriers who were able to cross the Syria-Iraq border.
"There are hundreds of them in Syria who are important and are facilitating the insurgency here," a senior U.S. military official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
U.S. officials say they believe that former regime leaders occasionally cross the border between Iraq and Syria.
The senior official said there was no direct evidence that the highest levels of the Syrian government were arming and financing Iraqi insurgents.
"We have no smoking gun to say that the top officials of the [Syrian] government are helping them support violence here in Iraq," the official said.
Syrian officials have denied aiding anyone sending money or weapons into Iraq to help the insurgency.
U.S. officials said the operation was necessary even though Iraq and Syria had established a joint committee last month to monitor their border.
The U.S. levied sanctions against Damascus this year, accusing the government of not doing enough to stem the flow of illegal traffic into Iraq.
"The Syrian government has people in it promising [the insurgents] passports, documents and money," the official said. "It's incredibly corrupt."
In addition to military units deploying to the border, the U.S. is using spy satellites in the region. The military is also increasing the number of unmanned aerial vehicles patrolling the 375 miles of hilly borderland.
U.S. officials plan to focus on well-established crossing points where officials believe most of the illegal traffic is entering the country before proceeding down long stretches of desert highway into the cities of central Iraq — what military officials call "rat lines."
"They're just coming right down the highways," Metz said. "We know the rat lines, we know the ones they're coming down, and we've got to start there."
U.S. commanders say they hope the Iraqi forces will have the most visible presence in the operation, with most of the U.S. troops establishing positions farther east of the border.
Because it will be harder to cross the border at the checkpoints, the insurgents and couriers will be forced to use more remote points in the desert, where American ground patrols will be able to spot them, U.S. officials say.
Despite the territorial boundaries, the strong alliances among the tribal populations of western Iraq and eastern Syria allow an easy flow of people, money and ammunition across the border.
"The tribal affiliations go across that border," said a second senior military official in Iraq, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Despite the perceived threat from Syria, military commanders said they had neither the desire nor the troops to scour every inch of the Syrian border indefinitely.
"You're not going to take coalition forces and go arm in arm and go up and down the border to seal it off," Metz said. "You can't do it, it wouldn't be smart."
U.S. generals hope the new operation will be a deterrent.
A significant military "show of force" could dissuade senior Baathists and their emissaries from risking the overland journey into Iraq, they said.
08-03-04, 11:51 AM #10
Network helping Marines readjust
Job placement aids in transition to civilian life
By DALE LEZON
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
Last year, U.S. Marine Sgt. Cory Getsinger was in the Iraqi desert outside Nasiriyah, an insurgent stronghold, in the opening days of the war.
He faced another kind of battle when he came home.
Getsinger left the military after serving four years and couldn't find a job for more than a month. Trained in the Marines as a communication specialist who erected radio antennae and operated radios, Getsinger, of Baytown, expected to be a cable installer as a civilian, but no one was hiring. He was desperate after five weeks.
"After awhile, I was feeling a little down," he said. "You would think it would be a lot easier, but it's not."
Then, he remembered hearing about Marine For Life, a job placement network of employers eager to hire honorably discharged Marines. He scanned the network's Web site, contacted a Houston firm listed on it and was hired within days as a warehouseman.
Now, Getsinger expects to enroll at Baytown's Lee College to study accounting.
About 27,000 Marines return to civilian life each year, military officials said. Many are 18 to 26 years old and find the transition a tough one.
The Marine For Life network is an Internet clearinghouse of information linking Marines who are seeking jobs with potential employers, often former Marines.
Established in 2000 by then-Commandant of the Marine Corps James L. Jones, the network operates in nearly 100 cities nationwide. It began operating in Houston in October 2003.
In addition to helping Marines find jobs, the program helps them find schooling, housing, child care, veterans' benefits and other services. It draws upon the Marines' esprit de corps and the Marine Corps mottos, Semper Fidelis, or "Always Faithful," and "Once a Marine, always a Marine."
"It's a great deal for these young men and women who have done their job and lets us repay them," said Lt. Col. Rob Long, coordinator of the network's south central district, which comprises Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas and Nebraska.
"They've done a good job for the country, and the Marines are reaching out to them in a pretty vulnerable period in their lives."
When he hired Getsinger, Dano Townsend, 34, warehouse manager for Morrison Supply Co., knew he had found a good worker.
Townsend, who served in the infantry with the Marines in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, said finding reliable workers was sometimes difficult until he heard about the network. He has hired three Marines, including Joshua Soileau, of South Houston, through the network and expects to hire two more.
"It's great. With the discipline of the Marine Corps, I know they'll show up every day on time and aren't afraid to work, to get dirty," Townsend said. "Everything I ask of those guys, it's done. I don't have to ask twice."
The network is similar to a college alumni association that helps graduates find work, said Capt. Matt Tune, director of the Houston network.
"We are very adamant about taking care of our own for life, even guys who are 50 and 60 years old" Tune said. "It's like a brotherhood and sisterhood. It's similar to a college alumni association like the one at Texas A&M University.
"We may not have a university ring," he said, "but we have the eagle, globe and anchor — the Marine Corps insignia— emblazoned in our hearts."
08-03-04, 01:27 PM #11
Fallen Marine's wife gets fund help
Donation account is set up for widow of a man who died in Iraq in May. Their first child's due in October.
Deirdre Newman, Daily Pilot
COSTA MESA — Dinora Reynosa and her husband, Rafael, were looking forward to the birth of their first child when Rafael, a Marine, was killed by a car bomb explosion in Iraq on May 29.
Dinora, general manager of Rubio's in the Costa Mesa Courtyards at the time, is now enduring the rollercoaster of pregnancy on her own, without the emotional or financial support of her husband.
Some of her customers are working to help her fill part of that void. Tamara Rather and her family were frequent customers of Dinora, out on leave since her husband died.
The Rathers started a fund for people to donate to Dinora and her baby — a girl due in October. Dinora was thrilled when she found out about the Rathers' compassion.
"It was just as everything gave me light," Dinora said. "[Rafael] always wanted to be an example for kids. He was always into education, and when she told me that, it was like, 'Wow.' It answered a lot of my questions. They didn't even know him."
Rather, 20, was inspired to create the fund based on two parts of her life that motivated her to think about giving to others. She is the philanthropy chair of her sorority at UCLA, and her church had recently done a series on financial planning, where church leaders gave congregation members up to $100 and told them to do something positive with it. Tamara and her family started the fund with the $60 they received.
"I didn't know her but knew my parents did, and they were really affected by it," Tamara said.
Dinora was married to Rafael for 3 1/2 years, and they dated for eight years before that, she said. He was a family man who loved to host get-togethers at their house in Riverside.
"He was always really outgoing, always liked to barbecue at home and have friends over and was very spiritual as well," Dinora said. "Every time he tried to do something, he wanted my family and his family together. Or if he knew he was going to make a decision, he always wanted the family involved."
While her family and his have supported her in her time of crisis, the past few months have been extremely difficult, she said.
"I've been going to a doctor a lot, because I've been losing weight instead of gaining, especially in the seventh month, but the baby is really healthy and pretty big — that's what's keeping me holding on," she said. "And going to the cemetery three to four times a week and talking to him in a way that lets me get out what I feel."
Tamara's mother, Shelly, said it's inconceivable to her what Dinora is going through.
"Dinora is so sweet, and to think of her for the rest of her life … ," she said, her voice trailing off.
• DEIRDRE NEWMAN covers Costa Mesa. She may be reached at (949) 574-4221 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
08-03-04, 04:25 PM #12
Marines live with and train ING soldiers
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20048255844
Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen
AL KHARMA, Iraq (Aug. 1, 2004) -- Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment are borrowing a Vietnam-era tactic to countering terrorism within the Iraqi population.
It's called the Combined Action Program and it was largely touted as one of the ingenious tactical approaches to emerge during the Vietnam War. Marines here revived the idea and are putting it into practice. They're finding concept challenging, but also rewarding.
Marines from the battalion's Weapons Company and the Iraqi National Guard's Company D, from the 505th Battalion, live, train and fight together at a camp in Al Kharma. Their entire existence is integrated. Marines train the Iraqi soldiers while Iraqi soldiers familiarize and integrate Marines into their Arabic culture.
"What makes this program successful is that everything we do here is Marine and Iraq interaction," said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Fox, a 30-year-old from Rome, N.Y., serving as a platoon sergeant for 81 mm Mortar Platoon. "These soldiers could barely crawl when we got here, but there's so much Marine-Iraqi bonding that they've made a complete turn-around."
Marines and ING soldiers spend their days enhancing soldier skills like infantry tactics, and physical and weapons training. They learn the tools that help preserve security throughout the surrounding hamlets together.
The time spent living alongside each other paid off.
Leading by example and one-on-one training sessions with Iraqi senior enlisted and officers helped get the junior soldiers committed to the program, said 1st Lt. Donald J. Toscano, a 27-year-old from Miami who is the platoon commander for 81 mm Mortars Platoon and the camp's officer-in-charge.
"Some of them have attend Baghdad's military college, so we can only give recommendations or explain how we operate," Toscano said. "The younger guys just weren't used to ... training, but they've made a lot of progress.
Cultural differences still challenge Marines, said Lance Cpl. Jesus E. Martinez, a 27-year-old from Houston serving as a camp armorer. Marines, he said, sometimes have a tough time understanding the lives these soldiers led before U.S. involvement.
"The ING soldiers are good to go, but trying to find a happy medium is so tough," Martinez said. "It's challenging because they've gone through so many rough times that Americans aren't used to."
The Iraqi's Company D is made up of four platoons that rotate from specific duties, which calls for a day off during the week. Each platoon is assigned a Marine noncommissioned officer who serves as a liaison.
While the soldiers break from their duties, the Marines keep busy passing on their infantry tactics.
"We started off with basic hand and arm signals, and small fire team formations, but now they can search for car bombs," explained Cpl. Scott T. Nelson, a 24-year-old from Edmond, Okla. "They've also been taught how to deal with noncompliant subjects during personnel searches - how to render them to the ground."
The training paid off. Iraqi soldiers can now effectively conduct vehicle searches and checkpoints, weapons maintenance and presentation, and foot-patrols.
"They enjoy going on foot-patrols," Nelson explained. "They love kicking in doors. They're go-getters."
Nelson recalled giving a security halt during a patrol because of a suspected improvised explosive device that had wires hanging out.
"One of the soldiers just walked up to it, kicked it around and shouted 'all clear' to the rest of us," Nelson explained.
Nelson said bravery like that is an indicator of eagerness to take back their country.
"The locals refer to them as heroes because they're helping keep their towns safe," Fox added. "We have soldiers who've been captured and tortured, but they're still sticking with us and committed to their country."
Toscano said he's reassured in the reliability and tactical progress the Iraqi units are displaying. They and their families are threatened by terrorists. They know the price it takes to claim the streets for a free society and are willing to stick to their goals.
"We try to stress that all of this is for their families and country," Toscano said. "We also stress there will be people who don't want a free Iraq after we leave."
It's seems odd, but Toscano said the CAP concept is the most assured way to getting Marines out of Iraq. The more closely Marines live and work with Iraqi forces, the more professional and independent they seem to be. That translates to an Iraqi force that's no longer reliant on their Marine mentors.
"We know the Iraqi people want us out of here," Toscano said. "The CAP program is the bread and butter of winning the war."
Cpl. Kenneth L. Bryant, a squad leader with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, goes over a personnel roster with an Iraqi soldier during morning formation at Camp Delta. The camp is run by Marines and their Iraqi counterparts with Company D, 505th Battalion, Iraqi National Guard, as part of a Combined Action Program.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen) Photo by: Sgt. Jose E. Guillen
08-03-04, 07:58 PM #13
Local Marines return to Camp Pendleton
By: ANNE RILEY-KATZ - Staff Writer
CAMP PENDLETON ---- When Julie Rodriguez checked her e-mail last week and found out that her husband, Lance Cpl. Luis Rodriguez, was returning from Iraq on Monday, she was ecstatic.
"I was so happy, I was screaming," Julie said. "When I told my family and friends, I kept hitting them because I was so excited. It was the best e-mail I've ever had."
"And I have the bruises to prove it," laughed her sister Lisa Garcia.
Both women were among the throngs of anxious family members waiting at Camp Pendleton's air field for their loved ones to return ---- a return that was delayed for several hours over a holdup at U.S. Customs.
About 60 Marines from the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775 , both active duty and reservists, returned Monday in advance of the rest of their 225-member squadron, which is due back within the next month.
Luis, a reservist who deployed to Iraq in March, was greeted by more than 30 family members and friends from his hometown of Zacatecas, Mexico, and the Los Angeles area.
"It feels so good to see everybody and be home safe," Rodriguez said of his return.
His first move? Hugs, kisses and tears from family and friends, then a trip to McDonald's for a Number One combo meal, supersized.
"He kept asking me, 'can we stop at McDonald's?'" Julie laughed. "He said he doesn't want any more dry chicken, and he won't be going camping for a while."
Some of those returning on Monday were among the 14,000 Camp Pendleton troops deployed to Iraq, though about one-third of the squadron is based in Johnstown, Pa.
For 22-year-old Jessica Johnson, her husband Evan's return came in the nick of time. Evan, a corporal, left in January, just two days after Jessica discovered she was pregnant. Her baby boy, the couple's first child, is due Sept. 5.
"He's going to be named Aidan," Jessica said. "My husband picked the name before he left because we really didn't think he'd be home in time. I've been alone my whole pregnancy. It's going to be totally different now. We'll both have to adjust."
Some families expressed relief at the tangible evidence of troops' well-being.
"It's one thing to read a letter saying that he's OK, but it's another to see him with your own eyes and know he's fine," said Heidi Russell, whose husband, Maj. Rob Russell, returned Monday.
This homecoming was particularly comforting for squadron families after the death last week of one of the unit's helicopter pilots. Lt. Col. David Greene was killed in Iraq last Wednesday when shots fired from the ground hit him while he was on a mission.
"We're very upset and saddened by his death, particularly because he was so close to coming home," said Lt. Col. Sheila Bryant-Tucker, a reservist now serving on-base. "The majority made it home safely."
Bryant-Tucker said the squadron is likely to deploy again, possibly next spring, though base officials said the timetable may change.
In addition to the Camp Pendleton advance unit return, another 100 Marines from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing also returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on Monday.
Contact Anne Riley-Katz at (760) 731-5799 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
08-03-04, 08:22 PM #14
An American in Sparta
By Pamela Hess
Published 8/1/2004 5:06 PM
RAMADI, Iraq, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Living on a Marine base on the edge of restive Ramadi is a shock to a civilian's senses. It's endlessly dusty and loud; the latrines smell; it's beastly hot. There is no color other than brown, and everyone is armed.
But mostly you marvel at how they go about their days: run with M-16s flapping against their backs for miles at high noon when it's topping 115 degrees just for the exercise; how they wear long sleeves, pants, suede desert boots, 30 pounds of armor and man a gun on top of a Humvee, faces encrusted with dust; how they work at least 12 hours a day, every day, with no days off, under a constant threat of mortars and rockets.
You wonder where they find the energy to play basketball at midnight (the military police do, reliably, every night, sometimes listening to rap, sometimes heavy metal and once Michael Jackson's greatest hits.) How they detach themselves sufficiently from the danger to teach fellow Marines to salsa after dinner. How in the dark of night they practice martial arts to a hypnotic drum beat, lit only by pale green chemlights broken at their feet.
It probably has something to do with the fact most of them seem to be around 20 years old, and many are in a combat zone for the first time - something they actually relish.
"Marines run toward gun fire, not away from it," a senior commander told me.
And the worse conditions are, the better Marines seem to like it. Marines at a dusty outpost on the Syrian border take great pride they are not serving instead at "Camp Chocolate Cake," as they refer to Al Asad, home of the 7th Regimental Combat Team. Everything here is relative. To an American eye it is downright bleak. But inside row upon row of plywood buildings it is cool. A Marine doesn't care how hot he gets as long as he knows he has a cool place to sleep, I'm told.
An air conditioned place to sleep is one of the things 1st Marine Division Commander Maj. Gen. Jim Mattis requires for his troops.
It's a change from some previous practices in the military. In Afghanistan in the blistering hot summer of 2002, Army soldiers were chided for complaining to me about their rudimentary tents. Once the sun came over the mountains, they heated up quickly and it was impossible to sleep - a bad situation for soldiers mostly carrying out night missions.
Mattis has also introduced the notion of making the regimental command headquarters a psychological safe haven for battle-weary Marines. If they get jittery at the front, they can fall back on the RCT headquarters where they can get cleaned up, a shower, sleep, counseling from other Marines, and medical attention.
"The regiment is safe in his mind. It allows him to catch his breath. When he's ready to go (he returns to his unit) and he regains his manhood, right there with his buddies," Mattis explained, over breakfast at Camp Chocolate Cake, where he has come by helicopter to welcome a new set of Marines to the front.
"We never want to evacuate a combat stress (Marine) behind the regiment," Mattis said.
The approach is paying dividends, according to Mattis' statistics.
"We've only had one guy leave in a division of 20,000 (in the last six months) and that was a preexisting psychiatric disorder," he said proudly.
Last year only three left of the 25,000 in the 1st Marine Division in Iraq, a testament to what Mattis calls a humanistic approach to keeping military personnel healthy in both mind and body.
The 1st Marine Division has had a remarkable record by anther grim measure: suicide. Only two Marines have committed suicide in the entire expeditionary force.
"We just do not understand what happened. He was doing good," Mattis said of one case. He has clearly reviewed the details.
Some of his success in maintaining morale so far may be attributable to Mattis' policy of assigning every Marine a "combat buddy" - someone they trained with at home and with whom they are deployed, so a Marine is never alone in a unit as the new guy.
"People fight better then they know each other," he said. "The more stability we give them, the more anchors they have the better. (At this age) they don't have the emotional shock absorbers that you and I do."
He derides the experience in Vietnam when the newest guy - FNG, in profane military parlance -- - was sent out his first night to stand point to see if he'd get shot.
"You don't do that with human beings. You bring them in and let them be part of a team," he said.
A recent report on military mental health showed an alarming number of combat veterans from Iraq are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, something Mattis believes can be mitigated, albeit not wiped out, by hands-on commanders who watch for signs of stress and help troops deal with it.
"I don't have any use for the strong silent type," he said.
Mattis commands a powerful loyalty and respect from his troops.
"He leads from the front," one Marine noted in the cool and noisy morale, welfare and recreation tent at Camp Blue Diamond. It has a pool table, a ping pong table, foosball, Nintendo, a large-screen TV, 20 Internet monitors, a library filled with cast off magazines and paperbacks, and a seemingly perpetual dominos game that somehow the Marines have turned into a full contact sport.
When Mattis' "jump platoon" goes out in a convoy - it is regularly attacked and has been hit by improvised explosive devices at least twice - it is not uncommon for the general to have his head out the turret, assuming the same risk as the gunners, say Marines.
A lieutenant colonel gave a more specific example of leading from the front: when the Iraqi-led Fallujah Brigade was created, Mattis decided it needed a test run to see if the native force could actually keep order in the city after weeks of fighting. He sent a Marine convoy through town to see if it would be shot at. He was in the convoy.
For all his tenderness to his Marines - whom he usually addresses as "gents" - he clearly enjoys a battle.
"The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event," he tells about 200 Marines, sitting on the ground under a metal windbreak against a cliff in Al Asad.
"That said, there are some a--holes in the world that just need to be shot. But you go on and find your next victim or he's gonna kill you or your buddy. It's kill or be killed," he said.
"There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, cunning, obedience and alertness, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim. ... It's really a hell of a lot of fun. You're gonna have a blast out here!" he said, with marked glee. "I feel sorry for every son of a ***** that doesn't get to serve with you."
He is also icily clear with what he expects of the new Marines in the theater, who are much needed reinforcements and relief for departing troops.
"You must know the commander's intent: (Our motto) is 'no better friend, no worse enemy.' But I have added: 'First do no harm.' No harm to the innocent. No harm to a prisoner, ever. This is the Marine Corps, not the National Guard," he barked, referring to the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib by an Army National Guard unit.
"They were undisciplined, sorry-ass excuses for soldiers. We will not cost America one ounce of its moral authority," he said.
"How you treat people is very, very important. We're not gonna become racists. They (the enemy force) want you to hate every Iraqi out here. ...You treat those women and children the way you do your own. You make certain you don't do anything that would smear the Marine Corps.
"It is absolutely essential you know what I won't f--ing tolerate," he said, and related the details of a recent case in which a Marine administered an electric shock to a detainee he had in jail. He was swiftly court-martialed.
"He thought it was funny. It is, if you like five years in Leavenworth (prison)," Mattis said.
"You are free men. No one forced you into the Marine Corps. You are going to prove the enemy wrong out here," he said.
Mattis is as likely to mention a battle in ancient Rome as he is in Vietnam when making a point to his troops. Every conversation with his Marines seems an opportunity for some history and criticism, usually so subtly the Marine doesn't realize he has been corrected. He feels like he is changing his path on his own. Mattis is thoughtful without being calculating, and includes his team - which includes me by sheer proximity from time to time - in on his leadership decisions.
While in Asad after a brief stop on the Syrian border, he learned of a coordinated and deadly mortar attack on his headquarters base at Blue Diamond. It seriously injured five. At least one - a well-loved sergeant -- died from his wounds.
Mattis sat on the information for the duration of a solemn helicopter ride. When we landed he gathered us together and broke the news.
"Now we're going to go in there like nothing is wrong. Cool and calm. Cool and calm," he said, imbuing everyone in the circle with responsibility for maintaining morale.
There are plenty of Marines who have concerns about the original case for the war. They are certainly a minority, and one that no doubt singled me out to discuss their views because of my fairly unusual uniform on base (straw hat, long skirts, braids). But none who question the case for war doubt what will happen if they are pulled out before the job is done: this place will devolve into murderous anarchy, and quickly. There is a mental separation here. The debate about the war is one thing. The commitment to fighting it is quite another. They mourn every loss of a comrade, but they accept it as part of the job. There is an obscene bumper sticker Marines are fond of. It says "U.S. Marine Corps: Because a Natural Death is for P--."
Late one night, a female officer was leaving the command operations center when she said pleasantly to a corporal standing guard: "How are you, Marine?"
The corporal was completely alone in the pitch-black loggia of one of Saddam's former palaces, and would be there for hours more before he was relieved.
"Motivated!" he thundered back, cheerily, from the dark.
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