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09-03-04, 07:19 AM #1
Marines, soldiers square off in sports
Marines, soldiers square off in sports
By Jason Chudy, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Friday, September 3, 2004
CAMP DUKE, Iraq — The only American bullets flying around the Najaf area these days are quick passes or line drives into centerfield.
Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment and Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who are waiting to move from their base camp, have been fighting evening battles of their own on a clear patch of dirt and dust.
On Monday night, the two teams squared off in stickball, using a wadded-up cloth wrapped in duct tape as a ball and a pick handle as a bat. On Tuesday they pulled out the old pigskin.
“It’s a good time,” said Marine Sgt. Jacob Mullin. “It’s good for both units to relax a little.”
“This couldn’t have happened at a better time,” said Army Sgt. Raymond Davis, whose 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment platoon is assigned to 2-7 Cav. “Otherwise they’d be sitting in their tents, doing nothing.”
Before joining the Army, Davis was a Marine working on assault amphibian vehicles.
“Some of those guys I actually trained,” he said, gesturing to the other side of the field.
After arriving at Duke from Najaf, Davis approached the Marines to see if he knew any of them. He then asked if they would like to play against the Army.
They accepted, and now the teams will face each other on this field of battle every night until they leave.
“Every day before we leave we’ll engage in some sort of sports activity,” said Spc. Jason Ware during a break in the action.
“We’ll both be here until Friday or Saturday,” said Marine Sgt. Damon Eppinette, who watched the game from the back of his assault vehicle.
Wednesday night’s sporting event hadn’t been decided yet, but the Marines anxiously eyed a handful of Iraqi soldiers watching the game from a nearby berm.
“Maybe they’ll get a pretty good soccer team and take on the Iraqis,” said Eppinette, offhandedly.
“They would kill us,” countered Mullin.
“Yeah, that’s why we don’t bring out the soccer ball,” Eppinette said.
09-03-04, 07:20 AM #2
Marines work behind the scenes to aid the infantry
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20049223345
Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes
CAMP MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq (Aug. 31, 2004) -- Backing ever rifleman in Iraq is an elite team of junior Marines hunched over maps and computers making sure they have what they need, when they need it.
The grunts of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, from Camp Lejeune, N.C., rely on the Leathernecks behind the scenes in the command operations center to keep them at the top of their game.
"I think the most important job in here is the radio operator," said Sgt. Ramon C. Mayfield, a 26-year-old radio supervisor in the COC. "He has to get reports, find out about casualties and keep the guy on the other end calm.
"When a unit is under fire and they're yelling into their radio needing help, it's the radio operator who has to understand what they're saying," added Mayfield, of Atlanta.
Radio operators who work in the COC rarely leave the wire but they have to be spun up on all the aspects of field combat. Relaying incorrect grid coordinates or misinterpreting something could cost the Marines on the line their lives.
"The confusion when something happens is pretty stressful here, said Lance Cpl. Michael A. Martinez, 20, from Gypsum, Colo. "Everyone in the COC needs their own individual information. I have to get it to them correctly and as fast as I can."
The radio isn't the only thing that keeps the fight driving though. Rifle companies can't operate without knowing where they are going or what to expect when they get there.
Making sure they're informed is the job of Lance Cpl. Stephen J. Boyko, an intelligence analyst from Orefield, Penn. The 20 year-old has the responsibility of debriefing patrols when they return and gathering information across the area of operations to establish trends.
"I track where improvised explosive devices hit us, when they hit us and what kind they are," Boyko said. "I put together a package with charts and give it to the battalion commander and the rifle companies."
The companies use the information Boyko provides to conduct raids, ambushes and to find the safest roads to travel.
"I make sure the companies are aware of what directly affects them and what's going on in (the rest of Iraq)," Boyko said. "I'm sure the information has saved lives."
Another important job in the COC belongs to Cpl. Caleb D. Johnson, an operations clerk with the task force. It's his job to keep track of where units outside the wire are.
Whenever a unit encounters fire or moves positions Johnson updates his rolling account of the battalion's operations. If the chart isn't always correct and up to date, things can go downhill in a hurry.
"I have to keep track of what's going on and be ready to brief it to anyone at a moment's notice," Johnson said. The 20 year-old from Greenville, S.C. added, "When a unit in the field is in trouble there are orders flying all over the place and I have to catch and keep track of all of it."
If artillerymen or air support don't know where a unit is they could send fire right on top of them. Young Marines like Johnson keep in close contact with the supporting units to keep battles running as smoothly as possible. The result can best be termed organized chaos.
"When we (get contact) this place becomes a zoo with everyone needing to know what happened," said 1st Lt. Daniel B. Frank, who spends most of his day inside the COC as an artillery liaison officer.
"If people aren't doing their jobs right in here things can snowball pretty quickly," said Frank, 25, from Austin, Texas. "Everyone has to know what's important enough to report to the watch officer or we'd be hearing about radio checks all day.
"It's the important information that we have to know and then we can decide whether the unit can handle a problem or if they need our help to squelch the enemy," Frank explained.
When the Marines behind the scenes fit their individual pieces into the puzzle it takes a huge burden of the individual rifleman so he can concentrate on the fight in front of him.
"What we do here ... allows the rifle companies to do their jobs," Boyko said.
Tangled in phone lines is radio operator Lance Cpl. Michael A. Martinez, who works in 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment’s command operations center. It is Martinez's job to relay information to keep track of their units in the field.
(USMC Photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes) Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes
09-03-04, 07:21 AM #3
MAG-16 Marines fight for freedom, U. S. citizenship
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 20049215485
Story by Cpl. Paul Leicht
AL ASAD, Iraq (Sep. 1, 2004) -- In ancient times, the ranks of Roman legions were filled with soldiers who fought for Rome in order to earn their citizenship privileges.
In modern times, military service has often been a stepping-stone to U. S. citizenship and a chance to further military careers.
Since its beginning, the Marine Corps has been home to Marines without citizenship, who help fight America's battles around the globe. Even though they may not enjoy all of the rights and privileges that come with citizenship, these Marines still honor their sworn oath to defend the U. S. Constitution and the American way of life.
For three Marines, now serving here, the pursuit of U. S. citizenship has been somewhat of a struggle, but one not without reward.
"I first came to the U. S. when I was 11 and I grew up in New York City," said Sgt. Demetrious Kontizas, administration chief, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "After the September 11 (2001 terrorist) attacks I was really motivated to serve this country and become a citizen.
"Now, on October 1st I will finally hold up my hand and take the oath of citizenship, but in my heart, how I live and how I see myself, I am an American," added the 23-year-old.
A native of Brazil, Kontizas said he started the application process to gain U. S. citizenship earlier this year before deploying to Iraq.
"The application process involved a lot of paperwork and took a lot of time out of our daily schedules," said Kontizas. "Its all worth it though in the end."
Originally an infantryman, the leatherneck said he nearly completed a lateral move into a computer related military occupational specialty following a serious foot injury. He felt the move would complement his college degree in computer science, but his lack of U. S. citizenship ultimately prevented the job transfer, due to security clearance issues.
"I want to put together an Officer Candidates School package, but I will need a security clearance for that too," explained Kontizas, who extended his tour in Iraq. "Completing (the citizenship) process will also help further my Marine Corps career."
Lance Cpl. Noe Mezarodriguez, administrative clerk, MAG-16, and 20-year-old native of Mexico, said he is also looking forward to becoming a U. S. citizen and a drill instructor.
Like his supervisor Kontizas, Mezarodriguez's citizenship application has been approved and he will take the oath of citizenship after he returns home from Iraq.
"After the Marine Corps, I want to work in law enforcement with either the (U. S.) Border Patrol or the (Los Angeles Police Department)," said Mezarodriguez who hails from Tucson, Ariz. "It means a lot to me to be able to wear (the Marine Corps) uniform and serve this country."
Kontizas and Mezarodriguez said before deploying to Iraq they completed a challenging course at Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, Calif., to become certified aerial observers, but without their U. S. citizenship, the necessary security clearance proved to be a stumbling block once again.
"Fortunately, after we become citizens we do not have to go through that training again and will be certified aerial observers," said Kontizas.
Before their applications can be finalized, Marines seeking citizenship must complete a step-by-step process involving extensive documentation, a thorough background check, fingerprinting and an interview.
Cpl. Damalie Gathright, personnel clerk, MAG-16, and a native of Jamaica, who was also raised in New York City, said overcoming the citizenship application process has been made easier thanks to legal assistance from her fellow Marines.
"What we do is help the Marine (seeking citizenship) with the application process and work as a liaison with Citizenship and Immigration Services, who ultimately review and approve the applications," said Capt. Kasey C. Shidel, legal assistance officer, Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 3, 3rd MAW. "Assuming the Marine moves quickly, applications can be completed in as little as six months.
"For deployed Marines, it could take longer, due to the demands of our workload (in Iraq)," said Shidel. "Basically we are here to help them in any way we can and to answer any questions the Marines may have during the process."
As of Oct. 1, the $300 citizenship application fee is waived for all service members on active duty, according to Shidel.
Kontizas, Mezarodriguez and Gathright--who already paid the fee when they began their applications earlier this year-all agreed that the financial cost related to citizenship was irrelevant.
"I don't care about spending money," explained Kontizas. "What I care about is becoming a citizen of the country that I fight for, that I love and I believe in."
Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marines Lance Cpl. Noe Mezarodriguez (left), 20, an administrative clerk and native of Mexico, Sgt. Demetrious Kontizas (center), 23, an administration chief and native of Brazil, and Cpl. Damalie Gathright, a personnel clerk and a native of Jamaica, stand proudly before the American flag outside the MAG-16 headquarters building in Al Asad, Iraq, Sep. 1. The Marines are near the end of their U. S. citizenship application process, which they began before deploying overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Kontizas is scheduled to take the oath of citizenship in Iraq Oct. 1. Photo by: Cpl. Paul Leicht
09-03-04, 07:22 AM #4
11th MEU combat in Najaf: A fireteam's tale
Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story Identification #: 20049284211
Story by Cpl. Matthew S. Richards
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HOTEL, Iraq (Sept. 2, 2004) -- Early August, the world watched as Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) battled against Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia in the opening days of a tough fight in a huge cemetery sacred to the Shia Muslims.
By August 6, the struggle was well known as it flashed across television sets around the globe, but the story of the men wedged inside this vicious fight was untouched by the eyes of the world.
These Marines and sailors trained for many months before this day arrived. Infantrymen and corpsmen participated in the battle, along with many other Marines from varying technical specialties. All, however, walked in the footsteps imprinted in history by the endless unsung heroes who fought America's battles before them.
Men like Lance Cpl. Sanick P. Dela Cruz, a twenty-one-year-old team leader from Chicago. Lance Cpl. Nathaniel A. Ziobro, a twenty-year-old rifleman from Temecula, Calif. Private first class Ryan D. S. Cullenward, a nineteen-year-old rifleman from Cool, Calif. And Pfc. Heladio Zuniga, a nineteen-year-old rifleman from Jackson, Mich.
These Marines, only one of which is old enough to buy a beer, all walked away from the battle unscathed and without individual recognition. Their names won't be remembered for their actions that day, except for a lifetime by the men who fought alongside them.
They were just another fireteam with 2nd Platoon, Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th MEU (SOC).
They were relaxing in between shifts of guard duty at Forward Operating Base Duke, Iraq, when they got the word to saddle up and get ready. They were going into combat to join the ongoing fight.
"It was not really a shock, but we were excited and nervous at the same time," said Dela Cruz, the fireteam's only veteran from Operation Iraqi Freedom I.
They were split at the time of the announcement. Dela Cruz and Zuniga had come back from breakfast when they heard the news. But Cullenward and Ziobro were told as they came back from sitting up all night on the flight line, ready to jump on a helicopter in case a casualty needed to be evacuated.
"We were just coming in after a long night and we were thinking we would get some sleep when they told us to pack our stuff and get on the seven-ton (truck)," Cullenward said.
But they were ready for the action.
"A lot of us were kind of excited to get off guard and kind of do something," Cullenward said.
Zuniga agreed with him.
"Just like he said, I was happy we got to do something," Zuniga said.
The battle had been going on for one day and was all over the news. More important than the politics behind the fighting, they only cared about the battle they were called to join, deep inside that massive cemetery.
They loaded up and rushed to the fight. No sooner had they arrived there than a rocket-propelled grenade flew directly over their heads.
"I heard it go right over our heads and heard the boom right behind us," Cullenward said, mimicking the flutter sound of an RPG in flight.
Except for Dela Cruz, it was the fireteam's first taste of combat and it came as a shock at first.
"I first thought, 'whoa, I'm getting shot at,'" Ziobro exclaimed. "It was kind of funny because the walls are real short and I'm kind of a tall guy."
They joined the rest of the Marines lined up down the road that ran along the edge of the cemetery. The fireteam happened to be on the far right side while the company pivoted on the left. They moved the farthest and the deepest into the cemetery, and were responsible for covering the company's right flank.
"Above all, we knew our responsibility was that flank," Dela Cruz said. "It was only our fireteam covering it."
They took constant sniper fire, mortars and RPGs. They could hardly ever see who was shooting at them.
"We had no idea where they were coming from, we just would shoot where everyone was shooting," Dela Cruz said. "Every now and then they'd pop out at us."
This was different from what they had expected.
"I was kind of hoping they'd show their face a little more," Cullenward said as Dela Cruz acted as if he was ducking behind a wall and shooting blindly. "If you're going to shoot someone, show yourself."
They eventually became accustomed to the never-ending, incoming fire.
"After a while you just get used to it," Cullenward said. "You're just standing by a tomb as rounds fly by you head."
At one point they were taking constant sniper fire from a building near the cemetery. The enemy fire ended abruptly, however.
"We started taking fire from a building and the (81mm Mortar Platoon) told us they'd been taking fire all day from that building," Dela Cruz said. "Then all of the sudden the whole building just went boom! Someone had called in an air strike or artillery on it."
Once they took up a defensive position, they continued to receive sniper and mortar fire.
"What (stunk) was we could hear the mortar rounds being walked in on us," Cullenward said. "One landed just to the left side of us and our doc had to go to help a Marine that didn't make it."
Cullenward felt an inner conflict when he thought of all the Marines taking heavy fire.
"You're relieved when it hits somewhere else, but it's difficult because it might have hit someone else," he said.
Later that day, water began to run low during the hottest part of the afternoon and Cullenward became very dehydrated.
"When we had no water, my tongue felt like paper," he said. "I could just tear it in half."
Dela Cruz did the best he could for the team.
"I tried to rotate them all into the shade while we were fighting," he said.
Once nightfall came the fireteam was still there. They were constantly watching for the enemy and spent a restless night watching and waiting. They each only got an hour of sleep.
"I kept hearing their flags flapping, thinking it was somebody coming," Ziobro said.
The other Marines joked and poked fun at Zuniga because during the course of the night he claimed to have seen two ghosts.
"That cemetery is a spooky place, I swear I saw two ghosts," Zunga said as the others laughed. "Maybe I was just hallucinating from the heat."
Dela Cruz wasn't worried about ghosts, he was thinking about the fight the next day.
"I didn't want the morning to come," he said. "The only thing I was scarred about was one of us getting hurt, and I was worried about Cullenward being a heat casualty."
But morning inevitably came. They didn't stay long that next day. In fact, after the fireteam was tasked as a security element for their company first sergeant, the entire BLT pulled out of the engagement.
They had to run the 500 meters back to their trucks under mortar and sniper fire in full combat gear.
"I was the very last one of our platoon in the seven-ton," Zuniga said.
They lived through the battle that day and fought like Marines, their contribution a small footnote in Marine Corps history.
Marines with 2nd Platoon, Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), fight from tomb to tomb against Muqtada Militia entrenched in the Wadi Al Salam cemetery during combat operations in An Najaf, Iraq, Aug. 6. Photo by: Cpl. Daniel J. Fosco
09-03-04, 07:25 AM #5
Posted on Thu, Sep. 02, 2004
Marines return from Iraq
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. - More than 300 members of the Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 are on their way back home from a seven-month deployment to Iraq.
About 60 Marines and sailors are set to arrive Friday afternoon and 300 personnel will return on Saturday, said Capt. Don Caetano.
During the deployment, the squadron provided ground support to the units such as airfield communications, weather services, motor transport and chemical defense.
The squadron's advance party returned two weeks ago with Marine Air Control Squadron 2.
09-03-04, 08:07 AM #6
The Sling and the Stone
By Thomas X Hammes
Zenith Press; $25; Available through Amazon.com for $16.97
Publishing Date: Sept. 12, 2004
Last year in Iraq, the US armed forces and allies proved their mastery of conventional war; then proved they knew too little about the unconventional or "Peoples War" that the occupation stirred up. There is a small circle of strategic practitioners who have studied well the phenomena of Peoples War or what some call "Fourth Generation Warfare" (4GW) and TX Hammes has taken the time to write a clear guidebook on how best to address the enemy in a Peoples War: The Sling and the Stone. It is a handbook on their strategies and tactics in war where the propaganda message is more powerful than the other elements of strategy and policy. In conjunction with other works such as Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer" and "Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemys, by Ian Baruma and Avishai Margalit, you can begin to formulate a set of messages that can help counter the guerrillas' messages.
First, Hammes, a Marine Colonel on active duty, defines the Four Generations of Warfare: Lace Wars, Industrial Attritional Warfare, Maneuver Warfare and Peoples Warfare. Peoples War has glimmerings as far back as Wat Tyler's Rebellion of 1381 and the establishment of the Swiss Republic, and the US addressed Peoples War as far back as 1900 in the Philippine Insurrection. Our stay-behind troops also waged a successful 4GW campaign against the Japanese in the Philippines during World War 2. But Hammes, after charting the Changes in Society that are critical to understanding societal stresses in this new century, begins his case studies on 4GW with Mao's Peoples War of 1930-49. Central to understanding how they fight 4GW is that time is the factor that works in their favor, not the tempo of operations. Also central is the messages the guerrilla leaders send to their followers, to their opponent's populace (the target of their war), to their opponent government, and to the world at large. Because time and message work in their favor, the opponent's military force tends to waste its energy in mounting a massive tempo of operations and utilizing attritional and maneuver tactics seeking to force a set piece battle to destroy the guerrilla army.
Hammes continues from Mao to Ho Chi Minh whose message was refined to resonate through the increasing power of the electronic media. He then studies how the Sadanistas of Nicaragua masqueraded as something more broad-based than the doctrinaire Marxist movement that was its central essence. Interestingly, he then contrasts the very successful Intifada of 1987-91 with Yassir Arafat's badly bungled 2nd Intifada (2000-present). Young Palestinians with slings and stones brought Israel to the bargaining table in Oslo, while suicide bombers have gotten Arafat nothing but rubble and ruin. He then addresses in sequence Al Qaeda, Afghanistan and Iraq. Ideologies and principles underlying Peoples War are not "rocket surgery," as TX will tell you informally.
In his concluding chapters Colonel Hammes contests our establishment's obsession with techno-war solutions; they worked well enough in the conventional campaign that liberated Iraq but gave us no means of averting the uprisings by various elements of Iraqi society and Al Qaeda that ensued. All our rapid tempo and high tech wizardry is of limited use in deterring the bombers or Muqtada al-Sadr's gun men and boys. We have to think flexibly, he concludes, and in the final essence we have to understand better how to formulate and deliver a clear message of opportunity to the target audience that both we and the guerrillas seek to motivate. We are fortunate that in this new century, communism and other ideologies are increasingly antique and radical messages such as Al Qaeda's and that of the Chechen insurrectionists do not resonate with the vast majority in their target populations who relish the opportunities presented by our information age. On the other hand, al-Sadr's more crafted Populist message does resonate with a significant slice of Iraq's population and may conclude that Populist insurrections will be a feature of 21st Century Peoples War.
Study this book, and make sure your congressman reads it.
09-03-04, 08:58 AM #7
Posted on Fri, Sep. 03, 2004
Military health workers will be sent to 'military essential' posts under plan
Civilians to be hired for many jobs in U.S.
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON - The Defense Department plans to transfer thousands of uniformed health care personnel out of their positions in military medical facilities over the next few years and replace them with civilian workers or contractors.
The initiative is part of a larger Pentagon effort to reassign military members to jobs that are more directly tied to war-fighting and national security, leaving the tasks they had been performing to civil servants or private contractors, or eliminating the positions.
The plan could bring important changes in the way the Defense Health Program provides medical and dental care to 8.9 million active members of the military, their dependents and military retirees. The changes are expected to affect thousands of doctors, dentists, nurses, administrators and ancillary staff employed in a network of 75 military hospitals and 461 military clinics.
What will not change, officials contend, is the quality and level of care provided in a system that employs 40,648 civilians and 91,917 military members, with a current budget of $17.3 billion.
Pentagon officials declined to discuss most details of the plan, saying it is part of the department's budget-development process. The administration has requested $17.6 billion for the department's health program next year, including $35.8 million to fund the conversion of positions held by military personnel to civilian workers or private contractors.
The rationale behind the plan is that only certain jobs -- for instance, those of surgeons who care for Marines wounded in battle -- must be performed by a person in uniform, officials said. Others can be done by civilian or contract workers -- or could be eliminated.
"Generally speaking, should a position be converted from military to civilian, the military personnel would be reassigned to another position in military medicine that requires a military person with that expertise," Marianne Coates, a Defense spokeswoman, said in an e-mail response to questions. "Importantly, the military's health plan, Tricare, has tremendous flexibility designed in so that our beneficiaries continue to receive the care they need, when they need it.... We have civilian physicians and nurses working in our military medical facilities today, so having more would not degrade our standard of care."
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Weber, division director for manpower operations at the Navy's Bureau of Medicine, elaborated on how the planned changes are expected to play out in one branch of the military's medical facilities.
Under the plan, a uniformed pediatrician at, say, Naval Hospital Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Fla., might be replaced by a civilian doctor or private contractor, Weber said. The same might be true of a Navy nurse or uniformed administrator who works at the San Diego Naval Medical Center.
As many as 5,415 jobs now held by uniformed Navy members will be switched to contractors or civilians by fiscal 2011, including 1,772 positions over the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, he said. The affected personnel will transfer to a "military essential" position when their rotation in their current post ends.
"They will continue in their military careers," Weber said. "We are not involuntarily reducing our numbers.... Navy medicine globally is slightly understaffed at the moment."
Weber said the plan is expected to save money in the long run by reducing the number of uniformed military health care workers, which in turn will reduce the Navy's retirement and infrastructure obligations. Officials also believe some of the positions being converted can be done more cheaply by civilians than by military members, he said.
Weber said the plan will not affect the 10,500 doctors, nurses and health-care support staff members who travel with the Navy and Marines every day and provide direct care for them in battle. Nor will it change the jobs of the 24,000 health-care workers in Navy hospitals in the United States who are part of a readiness group that can be deployed to hospital ships and fleet hospitals on short notice to support military missions, he said.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler, a spokesman for the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, said officials there will not know how many people will be affected by the conversion plan until October.
Jim Yonts, executive director of the Association of Military Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons, said the group's members -- the majority of them uniformed military members -- have not been told how the plan will work.
"On paper, it sounds like it would certainly be workable and I'm not sure that it would necessarily have any negative impact on our members," he said.
Weber, the Navy official, said: "We will continue to provide outstanding health care. All we're doing is changing the flavor of the uniform."
09-03-04, 09:05 AM #8
September 02, 2004
Army follows Corps’ lead in juggling reservists’ role
By Christian Lowe
Times staff writer
First it borrowed the Corps’ “Every Marine a rifleman” ethos, declaring “every soldier” should be a rifleman first.
Now it appears the Army wants its National Guard forces to operate more like the Marine Corps Reserve.
Facing increasing stress on Guard and reserve forces, Guard officials are reorganizing their citizen-soldiers to allow for a high mobilization tempo without burning them out or leaving a state governor without resources if disaster strikes.
In the past, entire reserve units deployed as one and operated as a component of a larger, division-size force. Now, a single battalion or even company-size unit may readily plug into an active brigade and deploy to a war zone without a hitch.
Though the Corps does not contribute to America’s state militias as the Air and Army National Guard do, its small size has forced the organization to mirror the active duty in almost every way.
Thus, a Marine Reserve AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter squadron based in Atlanta can plug in effortlessly with the active-duty 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, in Afghanistan — or even an active-duty Army unit, if necessary.
The Army already has done that with some of its Guard units. Soldiers with the Florida National Guard’s 124th Infantry Regiment teamed up with active-duty Special Forces troops and operated with them throughout much of the Iraq war as prison security and quick-reaction forces.
For more on this story, see the Sept. 13 issue of Marine Corps Times, on newsstands Monday.
09-03-04, 10:58 AM #9
Posted on Fri, Aug. 27, 2004
Report: Locally made helmets less protective
By RENITA FENNICK
FLAP OVER NEW EQUIPMENT
A new, locally made military helmet being used by troops in Iraq provides less coverage and may result in more serious head traumas, the Army's senior neurosurgeon told The Wall Street Journal.
Lt. Col. Jeff Poffenbarger, stationed in Baghdad, is critical of the helmets, which are smaller and offer less protection on the back and sides of the head, according to an article published Wednesday. He estimates a 30 percent increase in serious head traumas if the helmets are distributed throughout the entire force in Iraq.
Despite Poffenbarger's misgivings, the Army hasn't changed its original specifications, and production of 107,000 of the lighter, Advance Combat Helmets is under way at Specialty Defense Systems, Dunmore, said Sean Martin, executive vice president of sales and marketing.
The older PASGT helmets covered more of the neck and sides of the head, though they were heavier and more cumbersome.
"If the Army elects to go with a full PASGT helmet, then we are fully tooled up and ready to accommodate them," Martin said.
Specialty Defense Systems was awarded a $32.1 million contract to produce the Kevlar helmets. The helmets also are manufactured by Gentex Corp. of Simpson, Lackawanna County, and the Pittsburgh-based MSA Corp.
Gentex was awarded an $11 million contract to produce 37,500 helmets. The company directed questions about the helmets to Gentex official Steve Parks, who could not be reached for comment.
Poffenbarger told The Wall Street Journal that the helmets do not protect soldiers from the deadliest threat in Iraq - remote-detonated bombs that blast soldiers on the sides and backs of heads.
"I've become convinced that for this type of guerrilla fight, we are giving away coverage that we need to save lives," Poffenbarger is quoted as saying in the newspaper article.
Poffenbarger's observations are based on 160 head trauma patients he's seen in Baghdad. He told The Wall Street Journal that he studied the patients' medical records and documented the type of helmet the soldier was wearing and the point at which shrapnel or a bullet entered the brain.
The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology won't comment "simply because of security reasons," institute spokesman Christopher Kelly said Thursday.
The Marines, according to the Journal article, decided not to issue the helmet to many of its forces and developed a helmet that provides more coverage. Gentex, the Wall Street Journal reports, has a contract with the Marines to make the larger helmets.
The Advance Combat Helmet is lighter and more comfortable and designed to be worn with a new vest as a system, Martin said.
"It's significantly more comfortable, which means the soldiers are going to wear the helmet longer," he said.
"The article is accurate. It does offer less coverage. But the new helmet integrates fully with the body armor system that the new combat soldier wears. If he's wearing the new vest with the collar on, the areas of coverage referenced in the article are protected."
Last year, it was reported that up to one-quarter of soldiers in Iraq had not been supplied the newest body armor because of production delays. Many soldiers were purchasing armor, which can cost several thousand dollars, with their own money.
But in June, the Army's top supply commander told the Associated Press that the problem had been fixed and all the troops had been equipped with the new armor.
Renita Fennick, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7246.
09-03-04, 12:41 PM #10
Al-Sadr Aide Denounces Release Demand
By KIM HOUSEGO
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- An aide to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr denounced the kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq and appealed for their release Friday in a sermon at a makeshift pulpit outside the revered mosque in Kufa as hundreds of worshippers held their first weekly prayers since last week's peace agreement.
Al-Sadr aides initially said the cleric planned to give the sermon at the Kufa mosque, which was closed last week after militants pulled out as part of the peace deal, but he abandoned the idea amid fears it could raise tensions. Iraqi security forces also sealed off roads and fired warning shots near the city, seeking to limit the number of worshippers and avoid unrest.
Sheik Jaber al-Khafaji, delivering al-Sadr's sermon on his behalf, condemned the kidnapping of the two French journalists and urged their quick release.
"This is inhumane and I ask that it not be repeated in the future," he said. "You should know that such actions are not part of the Iraqi resistance. ... They tarnish the image of the Iraqi resistance."
France said it had received word that the captives, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbruno, were alive and one of their employers claimed the kidnappers had handed them over to a Sunni Muslim opposition group.
Hopes for their release were raised further Friday when Abdul-Salam Al-Qubeisi, an official with the Association of Muslim Scholars - a Sunni clerical organization with alleged ties to insurgents - said the Frenchmen's lives were no longer threatened and it was only a matter of time before they would be freed.
"The state of danger is no longer present," Al-Qubeisi told the Al-Jazeera television station. He did not say how he got the information or if he was in touch with the kidnappers.
Iraqi police and national guardsmen set up checkpoints, barring all cars from entering Kufa a week after al-Sadr and his al-Mahdi militia relinquished control of the city's revered shrine.
Ahmed al-Shaibani, an al-Sadr aide, accused police forces of arresting dozens of the cleric's followers in Kufa and the nearby city of Najaf, which was devastated by three weeks of bitter fighting between U.S. forces and al-Sadr's Mahdi militia that ended last week.
Nevertheless, about 2,000 followers of al-Sadr lined the street in front of the mosque, setting up a pulpit on the street.
Despite the peace deal in Najaf, many members of al-Sadr's militia are thought to have returned with their weapons to their Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City and the cleric's representatives and Iraq's interim government have been seeking common ground to end fighting there.
"We consider ourselves to be in a state of war against the Iraqi police" al-Shaibani said.
In Najaf, dozens of protesters chanted slogans denouncing al-Sadr and blaming him for the destruction in the city and demanding that al-Sadr and his Mahdi militiamen leave.
Also Friday, firefighters battled a massive oil pipeline fire that raged in Riyadh about 40 miles southwest of the northern city of Kirkuk, a day after saboteurs detonated explosives on the line linking fields near Kirkuk with the oil refinery of Beiji, said Maj. Gen. Anwar Mohammed Amin of the Iraqi National Guard.
"It is the biggest sabotage operation on the oil installations in Kirkuk since the (American) invasion," Amin said.
Jean de Belot, managing editor of Le Figaro newspaper, said the militants who claimed to be holding the French reporters had handed them over to an Iraqi Sunni Muslim opposition group.
He said the opposition group favors the release of the hostages.
"That is an extremely positive point," de Belot told French radio. "But we must be prudent in this kind of mixed-up situation because we know well that until the good news arrives, we can't let ourselves be absolutely reassured."
In Amman, Jordan, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier also sounded cautiously optimistic.
"According to the indications which were given to us and we are studying at this moment with caution, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot are alive, in good health and are being well treated," he said at a news conference.
The frantic efforts to win the release of the hostages were spurred on by the passage of a deadline for the French government to revoke a ban on the wearing of Muslim headscarves in public schools that went into effect Thursday.
A militant group calling itself "The Islamic Army of Iraq" said it had kidnapped the reporters and demanded that France lift its headscarf ban, but the government refused. Malbrunot, 41, reports for the daily Le Figaro and Chesnot, 37, is with Radio France International. They were last heard from on Aug. 19 as they set off for the southern city of Najaf. Their Syrian driver also vanished.
Militants waging a 16-month insurgency in Iraq have increasingly turned to kidnapping foreigners here as part of an effort to drive out coalition forces and contractors. But France has no troops in Iraq and gained points with Arabs for leading the opposition to last year's U.S.-led invasion.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged that the Bush administration miscalculated the strength of the insurgency but said the United States would "not become faint of heart" in enforcing its Iraq policy.
The Defense Department said the death toll for U.S. military personnel in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was 975 and the number of wounded was approaching 7,000.
In other developments:
- Three Macedonian contractors disappeared in Iraq 10 days ago, a government spokesman in Skopje and their employers said Friday. Iraqi officials have been unable to confirm whether they were kidnapped.
- The U.S. military said two U.S. soldiers were wounded when they were hit by shrapnel when their convoy came under attack while on patrol near the city of Tikrit.
- Gunmen abducted four policemen and an Iranian they were escorting to the border to be deported after raiding their hotel room in the southern city of Basra, a senior Basra police official said on condition of anonymity. The official declined to provide details on why he was being deported, but linked the Iranian's deportation to the unrest in Najaf.
Associated Press writer Pamela Sampson in Paris contributed to this story.
© 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
09-03-04, 05:21 PM #11
Issue Date: September 06, 2004
Command failures cited in prison abuse scandal
By Vince Crawley
Times staff writer
Some of the worst abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib were the work of “ ‘Animal House’ on the night shift,” a top independent investigator said.
However, two top-level reviews also found widespread abuse and failures up and down the chain of command.
Two former defense secretaries who investigated U.S. treatment of Iraqi prisoners had harsh words for top Pentagon leaders both for crafting a faulty war plan and for failing to react swiftly when the plan began to unravel.
In addition, few plans had been made for handling large numbers of civilian prisoners, and the military police responsible for guarding them were also short-staffed and under combat stress.
However, the former defense secretaries stopped short of calling for current Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld to resign.
“His resignation would be a boon to all America’s enemies,” said James Schlesinger, defense secretary under Presidents Nixon and Ford.
Schlesinger led a four-member independent panel that reviewed military detention operations after graphic photographs were made public earlier this year that depicted soldiers abusing and tormenting Iraqi prisoners. The Schlesinger Commission included Harold Brown, defense secretary under President Carter; former Republican Rep. Tillie Fowler of Florida; and retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner, commander of the 1991 Iraq air war.
The Schlesinger Commission briefed its findings to Rumsfeld Aug. 24 and released its report the same day.
A separate report, released the next day, described the role military intelligence units played in the abuses. This report, by three Army generals, identified 23 soldiers and four contract workers with the Germany-based 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, as well as three more military police officers who were involved in abusing prisoners.
This is in addition to the seven soldiers from the 800th Military Police Brigade who already have been charged. Another nine soldiers and two contractors knew about abuses at Abu Ghraib but failed to report them, investigators found.
In many cases — including the infamous photos of Americans gloating over naked or partially clad Iraqis — the prisoners had been nabbed for civilian crimes and were not being questioned about attacks or potential attacks against American troops, the Schlesinger panel said.
“None of the people in the pictures was even an intelligence target, nor were they considered appropriate for interrogation,” Schlesinger said. Army officials later said the only photographed prisoner under interrogation was an Iraqi man being threatened by military police dogs.
Gen. Paul Kern, the chief of Army Materiel Command who formed the military intelligence investigation, said the most “horrific” incident of the 44 separate abuse cases he reviewed involved MPs who pitted their dogs against two adolescent boys in a game to see which team could get the boys to defecate or urinate on themselves.
Meanwhile, no investigation to date has found that any official policy to mistreat those in American custody was issued. Schlesinger said the abuses depicted in the photos were “sadism … that was certainly not authorized.”
Brown said two failures of senior leadership set the stage for prisoner abuse, however.
First, Pentagon planners and the Bush administration expected credible Iraqi leadership would quickly take control after Saddam Hussein fell. “Some contingencies were planned for, but they didn’t include what happened,” Brown said. “That was: a breakdown of order, widespread looting, infrastructure destruction and the emergence of a strong resistance to the occupation.”
The second issue that set the stage for abuses, Brown said, was the uncertainty over which interrogation and prisoner-treatment methods were allowed.
That’s because President Bush and the Pentagon created new ways to classify prisoners who were members of al-Qaida or the Taliban.
“Various versions” of techniques circulated between Afghanistan and Iraq, Brown said. “A degree of responsibility … for the confusion about permissible interrogation techniques extends all the way up through the chain of command to include the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to include the office of the secretary of defense.”
“We found a string of failures that go well beyond an isolated cell block in Iraq,” Fowler said.
These included the failure of the Joint Chiefs and U.S. Central Command to “develop a war plan to include effective alternatives to post-major combat operations” and to “properly adapt to the situation on the ground and provide sufficient number of adequately organized and trained personnel needed to conduct detention operations,” she said.
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