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  1. #1

    Cool With Marines or police, officer seeks bad guys

    With Marines or police, officer seeks bad guys

    Jacqueline Shoyeb
    The Arizona Republic
    Nov. 30, 2004 12:00 AM

    It has been more than a year since he was last on the dusty battlefields of Iraq, but Steve Soha hasn't given up his calling to serve.

    Soha, 42, is a Phoenix police lieutenant and Marine Corps reservist who is used to trading in his police badge for military fatigues.

    "It's in the blood," he said, sitting in his small, still-empty office at the South Mountain Precinct. "Somebody's got to do it. Why not me?" advertisement

    Soha is one of about 100 reservists in the Phoenix Police Department, Sgt. Randy Force said.

    "Searching the house for bad guys is much the same in Phoenix, Arizona, as it is in the war zone," he said.

    Nine department reservists are on military call-up but the organization has nearly 3,300 employees, he said.

    For Soha, working as a police officer and reservist go hand in hand and, he said, the military interruptions have not been a problem.

    "I always knew I wanted to be a Marine and a police officer," Soha said.

    The New York native began his police career just out of high school for a New Jersey police department.

    He joined the Phoenix police in 1988.

    In 1984 Soha had left police work for the Marine Corps, to follow in the footsteps of his father, a Marine veteran and retired Mesa police officer.

    "I knew that I could always go back to being a police officer," he said, "but later in life, I wouldn't be able to join the Marines."

    Soha has risked his life in four military conflicts: the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, Afghanistan and most recently in Iraq again.

    In between his Phoenix police and military careers, Soha earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Grand Canyon University.

    Shifting in and out of service has toyed with his sense of time and caused him to miss a few special moments.

    "I've been gone for two years, but coming back here, it's almost like it's a separate life type of thing," he said. "When I'm saying a year ago, I'm thinking three years."

    Soha said it's more difficult to transition from home than work because of notifying of credit card companies, banks and insurance companies.

    Days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he was deployed to Egypt, Afghanistan and Kuwait, and he ultimately landed in Iraq in 2003.

    A day after he shipped out to Afghanistan in December 2001, his first child was born three weeks early.

    "Some sacrifices have to be made," he said. "There are many out there who have missed multiple births."

    His wife e-mailed him pictures, but Soha didn't meet his son until he was 7 months old.

    "What was wild was seeing him grow, seeing how much he was changing while I was gone," he said.

    Reach the reporter at jacqueline.shoyeb@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-4947.


  2. #2
    November Death Toll In Iraq At 134
    Associated Press
    November 30, 2004

    WASHINGTON - Fueled by fierce fighting in Fallujah and insurgents' counterattacks elsewhere in Iraq, the U.S. military death toll for November is approaching the highest for any month of the war.

    At least 134 U.S. troops died in November, according to casualty reports available Tuesday.

    The worst month was April when 135 died as the insurgence flared in Fallujah and elsewhere in the so-called Sunni Triangle where U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies lost a large measure of control.

    On Nov. 8, U.S. forces launched an offensive to retake Fallujah, and they have engaged in tough fighting in other cities since then. More than 50 U.S. troops have been killed in Fallujah since then, although the Pentagon has not provided a casualty count for Fallujah for more than a week.

    From the viewpoint of the United States and Iraqis who are striving to restore stability, the casualty trend since the interim Iraqi government was put in power June 28 has been troubling. Each month's death toll has been higher than the last, with the single exception of October, when it was 63.

    The monthly totals grew from 42 in June to 54 in July to 65 in August and to 80 in September.

    The Pentagon's official death toll for Iraq, dating to the start of the war, stood at 1,251 on Monday, but that did not include three soldiers killed by two roadside bombs in the Baghdad area and another killed in a vehicle accident. When the month began, the official death toll stood at 1,121.

    It was not clear whether the bombing deaths of two Marines south of Baghdad on Sunday were included in the overall count the Pentagon published Monday.

    Combat injuries increased in November due to the fierce fighting in Fallujah. Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington reported Monday that it received 32 additional battle casualties from Iraq over the past two weeks. One was in critical condition. All 32 had been treated earlier at the Army's largest hospital in Europe, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

    Some of the most severe injuries - and many of the deaths - among U.S. troops in Iraq are inflicted by the insurgents' homemade bombs, which the military calls improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

    U.S. forces have put extraordinary effort into countering the IED threat, yet it persists. U.S. troops in Fallujah reported finding nearly as many homemade explosives over the past three weeks as had been uncovered throughout Iraq in the previous four months combined.

    In recent action in Fallujah, troops found at least 650 homemade bombs, Bryan Whitman, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said Monday. That compares with 722 found throughout the country between July 1 and October 31.

    The IEDs are rigged to detonate by remote control and often are hidden along roadways used by U.S. forces, to deadly effect.

    Since U.S. forces invaded Fallujah on Nov. 8 to regain control, they have found about a dozen IED "factories," a number of vehicles being modified to serve as car bombs, and at least 10 surface-to-air missiles capable of downing aircraft, Whitman said.

    More than half of the approximately 100 mosques in Fallujah were used as fighting positions or weapon storage sites, Whitman said, citing a U.S. military report that has not been released publicly.

    U.S. officials knew insurgents had used Fallujah as a haven from which to plan and organize resources for attacks in Baghdad and other cities in the Sunni Triangle north and west of the capital, but the amount of weapons found exceeded expectations.

    Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference last Tuesday that the kinds and amount of weapons found in Fallujah indicated the insurgents pose a serious and continuing threat.

    "No doubt attacks will continue in the weeks and months ahead, and perhaps intensify as the Iraqi election approaches," Rumsfeld said, referring to national elections scheduled for Jan. 30.

    Whitman said other discoveries in Fallujah include:

    -Plastic explosives and TNT.

    -A hand-held Global Positioning System receiver for use in navigation.

    -Makeshift shoulder-fired rocket launchers, rocket-propelled grenades, 122mm rockets and thousands of mortar rounds.

    -An anti-aircraft artillery gun.

    -More than 200 major weapons storage areas.


  3. #3
    Tom Bartlett 2004 Marine Corps Photo Contest

    Proceedings, November 2004

    In 1997, the U.S. Naval Institute, with support from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, created the Tom Bartlett Marine Corps Photo Contest to honor the memory of Marine Corps photojournalist Tom Bartlett. This year's first prize winner is presented here. Entries for the 2005 contest are due 15 February. Find out contest details.

    First Prize: Photographer's Mate 1st Class (SW) Arlo K. Abrahamson, USN
    At a forward location in Kuwait, Marine Private 1st Class Marcus Jackson relaxes after a long day loading supplies for a convoy resupplying Marines operating on the front lines in Iraq.

  4. #4
    Suicide Bomber Rams U.S. Convoy
    Associated Press
    November 30, 2004

    BAGHDAD, Iraq - A car bomb exploded Tuesday next to a U.S. military convoy on Baghdad's dangerous airport highway, authorities and witnesses said.

    Several casualties were seen lying next to a damaged vehicle, according to a witness who arrived on the scene before troops sealed off the stretch of road where the blast occurred. A military ambulance drove up minutes later to evacuate the casualties.

    Iraqi police Capt. Talib al-Alawani said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who drove his car into the convoy. The U.S. command confirmed that the attack occurred but had no further details.

    The highway linking the Baghdad to the city's international airport is considered one of the most dangerous roads in Iraq. Multinational troops use it daily to commute between the huge military base at the airport and the city center.

    The British Embassy announced Monday that its staff would no longer be permitted to travel on the road.


  5. #5
    Marines aided by robotic airplane in Iraq
    ST. LOUIS (AP) (AP) — A robotic airplane called ScanEagle has done more than 1,000 hours of intelligence and reconnaissance work for the Marines in Iraq, its developers said.
    It was developed and built by the St. Louis-based defense unit of Boeing and the Washington-based Insitu Group.

    Boeing officials said they could not comment on specific ScanEagle missions, but spoke generally of its use.

    It travels above insurgent positions and sends real-time video images to Marines on the ground. The unmanned device can relay facial expressions on enemy soldiers, and can transmit in such detail that it shows steam rising from their coffee.

    The 4-foot-long aircraft has a 10-foot wingspan and can fly up to 15 hours at a time on less than two gallons of fuel, Boeing officials said.

    Unmanned aircraft such as ScanEagle are expected to play an increasing role in future battles because the Pentagon sees the planes as an integral part of combat missions. Weapon systems are in the works that will share a common operating language so soldiers, ships, submarines, planes and satellites can share information in a battlefield network.

    Executives at Boeing, the lead integrator on the Future Combat Systems program for the Army, said unmanned combat aircraft will complement piloted planes.

    "In general, unmanned combat aircraft will be able to provide the dull, dirty missions that you don't want pilots involved in," Dave Martin, the Boeing program manager for ScanEagle, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Sunday's edition.

    Chicago-based Boeing and the Insitu Group of Bingen, Wash., received a contract in June from the Marines to provide two ScanEagle mobile-deployment units in Iraq. Each unit consists of several ScanEagle planes as well as related computers, communication links and ground equipment.

    ScanEagle evolved from Insitu Group's idea for miniature robotic planes that would fly weather reconnaissance over the Pacific Ocean.

    The planes would collect data to help with forecasting from areas where weather balloons don't go, said Steve Nordlund, vice president of business development at Insitu.

    Before the war in Iraq started, Insitu Group developed its SeaScan unmanned aircraft to serve the commercial fishing industry to spot tuna. The fishing venture has been sidelined as the 50-person company builds planes for the military, Nordlund said.

    Nordlund said Insitu Group plans to introduce a ScanEagle that can stay aloft for 30 hours next year.

    "Taking the pilot out of the cockpit lowers cost and lowers risk," he said. "That's the perfect unmanned solution. Anything we can do to keep Marines out of harm's way is adding value."

    ScanEagle doesn't need a runway because it takes off from a catapult launcher. A 50-foot pole with a rope snags the aircraft when it's time to land.

    ScanEagle has a global positioning system and flies programmed missions. Its real-time video can be sent to troops carrying laptop computers. The images also are sent to a ground-control station where intelligence officers can analyze feeds and relay information.

    The plane costs about $100,000 to build, not including the ground-control center. Venture capital and Boeing research funds have underwritten the cost of the ScanEagle project, Nordlund said.

    Martin said the ScanEagle's price will drop when the number of planes in production increases.


  6. #6
    Two N.C.-based Marines die in Iraq

    Associated Press

    WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - The parents of a North Carolina Marine who died last week in fighting in Iraq said they were pleased when their son joined the military after working at a home improvement store and attending Bible college.

    "He said, 'I'm finally getting some direction,'" Beth Houck recalled. "We were glad to hear that he'd settled on the Marines."

    Lance Cpl. David B. Houck, 25, of Winston-Salem died Nov. 26, and Lance Cpl. Joshua E. Lucero, 19, of Tucson, Ariz., died a day later. Both died as a result of enemy action in the Anbar Province, the military said in a news release.

    Houck was assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune. Lucero also was based at Camp Lejeune, assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

    Marine officers came to the home of Beth and Bob Houck of Millbridge in Rowan County on Friday to deliver the news.

    Beth Houck, an elementary school teacher, seemed composed while discussing her son's childhood Saturday and his fondness for bow hunting on the family's 31-acre home.

    "He always loved the rough life," she said.

    David Houck, the third of five children, had been a Marine for about 2 1/2 years and was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, his mother said.

    He adapted well to military life, completing boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.

    "He loved it," Beth Houck said. "He found a real cohesiveness among the Marines. He liked their sense of camaraderie."

    During his first tour of duty in Iraq _ which went from March 2003 to September 2003 _ Houck defended Mosul Airport during intense fighting there. He returned to Iraq in June of this year.

    In the midst of the airport battle, he found a rose growing among the chaos, and enclosed petals from the flower in a letter he sent his mother.

    In his letter, he wrote: "It seems strange that beauty can be found in the midst of chaos."

    In later e-mails, he discussed how he had killed others.

    "I've actually killed a couple of people," he wrote. "It's kind of strange how something that I've been trained to do can sit so heavily on my mind."

    Funeral arrangements were being handled by Linn Honeycutt Funeral Home in China Grove. A memorial service was being planned for this week at Peninsula Baptist Church in Mooresville.

    Beth Houck said she and her husband took comfort in knowing that her son died while fighting a war he supported.

    "He said, 'Mom, we can't quit now. We've got to see this through to the end,'" she recalled.



  7. #7
    More local Marines to deploy for Persian Gulf

    By: DARRIN MORTENSON - Staff Writer

    CAMP PENDLETON ---- About 2,500 locally based Marines are scheduled to embark for the Persian Gulf within a week.

    While Marine officers Monday said they could not publically divulge the unit's schedule or ultimate destination, the Marines' recent training leaves little doubt that they expect to spend at least some time in Iraq.

    "No one has come out and said 'You're going to Iraq,' but we're training like we are," said Lt. Col. Thomas Greenwood, commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, during a recent training exercise.

    Approximately 1,000 Marines of Pendleton's 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment make up the amphibious force of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Force, which will deploy early next week from San Diego aboard a seven-ship Navy expeditionary strike group.

    Other units from Pendleton's 1st Force Service Support Group and air wing, as well as helicopter units from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and Yuma, will make up the rest of the Marine force during the six-month deployment, military officials said.

    Since May, the infantrymen, engineers and Corpsmen of the 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment have run through the same package of urban warfare drills given to the more than 25,000 local Marines who deployed to Iraq this summer.

    At a crumbling abandoned military housing complex at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, the troops learned how to raid houses and buildings, search Arabic-speaking detainees, and locate and diffuse roadside bombs, which have become the most lethal weapon used against Marines in Iraq.

    After land-based exercises on Camp Pendleton throughout the summer, all of the troops embarked in October aboard the amphibious carrier USS Bonhomme Richard and three other vessels to practice sea-based strikes from San Francisco Bay to San Diego ---- part of the Marines' normal training routine.

    They also rehearsed humanitarian and rescue missions based on possible scenarios in Iraq, according to Marine spokesman Robert Knoll, a gunnery sergeant.

    And earlier this month, they completed the final round of ship-board training and then went on some "well-earned, pre-deployment leave" before they leave next week, Knoll said.

    "We trained for the conditions that are in Iraq right now," Knoll said Monday, adding that the Marines concentrated training on convoy operations ---- the missions most vulnerable to mines, bombs and ambushes on Iraq's violent roadways.

    "That's been the focus of what Marines need to be good at these days," he said.

    The last Pendleton-based expeditionary unit to deploy to the Persian Gulf also left San Diego without declaring a destination but steamed straight for Iraq. The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed in June, and by August was involved in the heavy fighting in Najaf, in southern-central Iraq.

    Those Marines are due to return home by January, but military officials would not say whether the troops leaving San Diego next week would replace them.

    One East Coast-based expeditionary unit, as well as one from Okinawa, also sailed on an open-ended ticket over the summer and wound up in Iraq. Many of them were involved in the recent battle for Fallujah.

    The 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment was last deployed to Umm Qasr, Iraq, last year as part of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The unit also participated in anti-terrorism exercises in Africa and seized millions of dollars worth of hashish from traffickers sailing in the Arabian Sea during the seven-month trip.

    Contact staff writer Darrin Mortenson at (760) 740-5442 or dmortenson@nctimes.com.


  8. #8
    Holiday dinner provides brief distraction from heat, dust, danger

    By Gordon Trowbridge
    Times staff writer

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq — The chow hall here at this sparse Army outpost near Tikrit was all decked out for Thanksgiving, with plenty of plastic and paper decorations hanging from the ceiling.
    And while the troops appreciated the effort, for some it was only a reminder of how far from home they are during the holiday season.

    “It’s nice that they decorated, but it would almost make it easier if they didn’t,” said Army Sgt. Sara Dvorak 23, of Pierre, S.D., a member of the Nebraska National Guard’s 267th Ordnance Co.

    She called Thursday the biggest spell of homesickness she’s had in her nearly 10 months in Iraq. The only saving grace: “You’re here with people that you’ve become so close to that it’s like they’re family,” she said.

    Spc. Dennis Frey, 21, of Genoa, Neb., called his family just before sitting down to turkey dinner in the dining facility.

    “They try to sound upbeat, not let you know how much they miss you, because they know that only makes it harder on you,” said Frey, also of the 267th Ordnance Co.

    For Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark Gilley, Thanksgiving Day was a time to get used to new surroundings.

    The tent. The dust. The constant hum of generators and throb of helicopters moving in and out of the post.

    The combat weatherman has deployed to tough locations before, but arriving on Thanksgiving morning in the heart of the dangerous Sunni Triangle — where he and a small Air Force team will provide weather forecasts for Army helicopter crews — made for a different sort of holiday.

    “Yesterday was my dad’s 71st birthday,” said Gilley, with the Tennessee Air National Guard out of Nashville. “Today’s Thanksgiving, and I’m missing them both. I’ve deployed before, to Saudi Arabia, but this one is different. With this one, the worry level with my parents is much higher.”

    For U.S. service members across Iraq, Thursday was a day for remembering family and friends far away, and for trying to bring a bit of festivity to the odd combination of monotony and danger that is daily life for thousands of troops. For many, the only thing Thanksgiving-like about the day was the turkey dinner and the cool fall temperatures.

    Base dining facilities cranked out massive quantities of turkey, ham, steak and prime rib, mashed potatoes and stuffing, green beans and pumpkin pie. At Kirkuk Regional Air Base in northern Iraq, the contract employees serving Thanksgiving lunch wore fake Indian headdresses, a nod to the Native Americans at the first Thanksgiving.

    At Kirkuk, Air Force Capt. John Chartkoff was remembering last year’s Thanksgiving, eating a great meal and sitting down to watch football as snow fell outside his sister’s Vermont home.

    “This doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving,” he said. “It’s almost like another day. If there hadn’t been turkey, it’s almost like I wouldn’t even know.”

    Others said there’s always reason to give thanks, even on the first day of your deployment to Iraq.

    “It could be worse,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Gloria Gray, another Tennessee Guard weather expert who arrived at FOB Speicher on Thursday. “I could have arrived in Fallujah on Thanksgiving day. You have to remember, it could always be worse.”

    Gordon Trowbridge can be reached at gtrowbridge@atpco.com.


  9. #9
    November 29, 2004

    Mosul’s militants fight mostly from shadows

    By C. Mark Brinkley
    Times staff writer

    MOSUL, Iraq — These days, the violence in Iraq’s third-largest city is more like “The Sopranos” than “Black Hawk Down.”
    About 40 dead bodies turned up across Mosul last week. Most of them had been bound and shot in the head in hit-man fashion, then left in public for local residents to see. Nearly a dozen of the dead were identified as members of Iraq’s fragile security forces. Some of the others were contract workers for the U.S.-led coalition. Many are still unidentified.

    The message from insurgents to the public was simple: We’re here, and we’re watching.

    An ethnically diverse city of about 1.7 million in Iraq’s mostly peaceful north, Mosul has steadily grown more violent. On Nov. 11, as U.S. and Iraqi government forces were fighting insurgents in Fallujah, militants in Mosul attacked police stations. The insurgents were pushed back, but most of the city’s 4,000 police officers retreated.

    The violence came amid new concerns that the organization of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may now be operating in Mosul. Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for numerous kidnappings, hostage beheadings and large bomb attacks in Iraq.

    A statement posted on an Islamist Web site in the name of Zarqawi’s group, al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed responsibility for killing 17 Iraqi security officers and a Kurdish militiaman in Mosul, the Associated Press reported Sunday.

    Insurgents in Mosul generally don’t confront U.S. or Iraqi government forces directly. Instead, they are pursuing a campaign of assassinations and terror. It’s a shadowy war that U.S. military officers say is difficult to fight.

    “This is not easy, but progress is being made, especially by the special police,” says Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, a military spokesman, referring to Iraqi security forces.

    Good intelligence is even more important than firepower in fighting this type of insurgency. Insurgents intimidate the population, and it’s not always easy for U.S. and Iraqi government forces to provide the kind of protection that would make civilians feel safe coming forward with tips.

    Many Iraqis “don’t believe in the new government,” says Botan Nadir, 28, an Iraqi-born contract translator for coalition forces. “They think the United States is after the oil and the new government works for the United States.” Nadir, who lives in Minneapolis, has been working with U.S. forces in Iraq since August.

    U.S. commanders say local mistrust can be overcome with more involvement from the Iraqi military and police. “The way ahead here is the Iraqi security forces,” says Army Lt. Col. Todd McCaffrey, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment. “They are the future of Iraq; we’re not. The Iraqi people respond very well to seeing their own soldiers on the streets.”

    Yet police forces in Mosul are spread thin. About 75 percent of Mosul’s 4,000 officers fled their posts during the attacks two weeks ago. Many police stations are in ruins, and others take random gunfire from unseen assailants.

    Considering that officers who remain on duty are targets for assassination, coalition forces have little choice but to step up their own policing role around the city while helping rebuild Iraqi forces.

    As part of efforts to bring security to the city, U.S. forces are pressing into the surrounding countryside to try to head off attacks.

    The insurgents have learned lessons from Fallujah, soldiers here say. As the number of fighters dwindles, it’s too dangerous for them to bunch together in one location for any length of time. And as supplies of weapons shrink, it’s too risky to store them all in one large cache.

    So the militants here spread out at night. They store weapons and gear in many small caches outside the city before retrieving them and returning to Mosul the next day to continue their work.

    “I’ve heard it called ‘commuter terrorism,”’ says Lt. Col. Ed Morgan, 44, commander of the 276th Engineer Battalion (Combat) from Richmond, Va. “They move and hit, then move and hit.”

    In the countryside, insurgents demand that farmers allow them to use their land. Other locals are easily coerced with a little cash. “In the villages, they keep secrets,” translator Nadir says. “Even if they don’t like it, they won’t talk about it.”

    Nadir says city dwellers are tired of the insurgents but also weary of the military presence.

    “I think they want to be left alone,” Nadir says. “Most of them don’t like the bad guys and don’t like coalition troops.” But he says the coalition troops, at least, operate under a set of obvious guidelines. The insurgents kill at will.

    Because villagers are more easily intimidated or bought off, there are endless hiding places outside Mosul.

    “That’s one of the reasons we’ve started doing the sweeps of these little villages and looking for these caches,” says 2nd Lt. Mike Stock, 23, a platoon leader from Cleveland. His unit was in a village 10 miles outside Mosul. “They might use it in the city, but they bury it out here,” Stock says.

    After a few hours of house-to-house searches with newly trained Iraqi troops, the day’s outing appeared to be a bust. No one claimed to have seen or heard a thing. Then an Iraqi soldier found a green ski mask inside a home, which piqued his curiosity.

    A second sweep of the grounds, and those next door, uncovered a small cache stored by insurgents: two shotguns, two AK-47s, two sets of homemade rocket-launcher tubes. More disturbing was the discovery of more than a dozen empty canisters for proximity fuses, intricate devices used to detonate explosives when people or vehicles pass by.

    “Unfortunately, these are all empty,” says Staff Sgt. Jose Casillas, 26, a platoon scout from San Jose, Calif. “That means they’re out there already.”

    The discovery resulted in the arrest of only four local villagers, the owners of the homes, who lied to interrogators repeatedly during the search of the farms. When asked about two old gas masks found hidden among bags of junk, the men claimed to wear them while hunting for food.

    Meanwhile, the city remains on edge, a fact evidenced by the wide berth that traffic gives to the military convoys rolling through town. People fear the convoys will be targeted by insurgents.

    A few months ago, soldiers and locals crowded together in the urban congestion, says Staff Sgt. David Stone, 34, an Army National Guard rifleman and civilian architect from Foxboro, Mass., who’s helping conduct damage estimates of Mosul’s police stations.

    “I don’t think people really get it back home,” Stone says. “My mom thinks we’re fighting bad guys all the time. It’s more like fighting the Mob.”


  10. #10

    November 30, 2004 -- News reports around the world scream with indignation that a Marine executed a wounded enemy combatant in a Fallujah mosque ("Enemy Propaganda," Editorial, Nov. 17).
    How many times did one of these terrorists pretend to be either dead or unconscious, then suddenly jump up and kill one of our soldiers?

    I wasn't there when the Marine fired his weapon, but I'll bet dollars to donuts the wounded terrorist made a sudden and unexpected move to justify being shot.

    When are people going to wake up to the fact that we're in a war for our very existence and that the normal rules of civilized behavior do not always apply when we're dealing with suicidal maniacs whose sole aim in life is to kill each and every one of us.

    It's easy to sit in the safety of our living rooms and condemn the actions of that Marine, but until we can put ourselves in his shoes, people should not be so quick to judge him.
    George Najarian


    Shame on the reporter who reported on the Marine killing the Iraqi guerrilla.

    Shame on the people who want the Marine punished.

    He should be given a medal for what he did.

    Enough with everyone here at home so quick to criticize people who are fighting overseas.

    Everyone forgets who the Iraqi terrorists are.

    They behead hostages and film it.
    Nick Molina


    The anguish of the Democratic left and the mainstream media over the footage of a Marine killing a terrorist speaks volumes of where these people are coming from.

    What do they think the outcome would have been if the terrorists had come across a wounded Marine?

    Apparently, these people would have preferred that the Marine lose his life trying to verify that this killer was really down for the count.
    William Dillon
    Brick, N.J.


  11. #11

    chicagotribune.com >> Nation/World


    Marine happy to ease burden on tired troops

    By Maria Kantzavelos
    Special to the Tribune
    Published November 28, 2004

    Staff Sgt. Marvin Best's mother can sum up her son's character by recalling his words when he first arrived in Iraq in February to relieve fellow troops.

    "He said, `Mom, I am so thankful that I'm able to be over here to let these men go home because they are so worn out from a year of fighting,'" said Best's mother, Charlotte. "He was so happy he could be there to help. He was very giving--that's him to the hilt."

    Serving as a sniper in Iraq, Best, 33, of Prosser, Wash., was killed June 20 when his Humvee hit a mine in Al Anbar province, his mother said. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, from Twentynine Palms, Calif.

    A career Marine, Best had 4 1/2 years to serve until retirement, when he planned to work in law enforcement.

    Best set high goals for himself and was a triathlete who loved to climb mountains, including Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier, in Washington.

    "He never chose easy things; he liked the challenge," his mother said.

    Best knew from an early age that he would enlist in the Marine Corps, work that took him as far as Iceland and Okinawa, Japan. In recent years, he served as a recruiter.

    "He just felt that the Marines was the top and the best, and he was going to be one of the best," his mother said.

    Best also is survived by his wife, Rachelle.


  12. #12
    Report Details Fallouja's Arsenal
    By Patrick J. McDonnell
    LA Times Staff Writer
    November 30, 2004

    BAGHDAD - U.S. forces in Iraq seized more than three times as many weapons caches in the former rebel stronghold of Fallouja in the last three weeks as are confiscated throughout the country during an average month, according to a new intelligence summary.

    Troops discovered weapons at about 350 sites in Fallouja, the report said. That compares with 103 stashes normally found nationwide per month, according to the report, portions of which were reviewed Monday by a Times reporter.

    The seizures, amounting to tons of weaponry - including rifles and heavy bombs, hand grenades and artillery rounds - are part of what U.S. authorities described as an intelligence and tactical bonanza uncovered in the city 35 miles west of Baghdad. The munitions were found in homes, mosques, cargo containers, bunkers and other sites.

    Among the most novel finds was an ice cream truck that had been converted into a mobile car-bomb factory, with all the parts and weaponry needed to turn any vehicle into a weapon on the spot.

    "You got an ice cream truck, it's loaded with munitions, weapons, equipment to construct a car bomb," said a senior U.S. military official here, who declined to be identified. "It could potentially drive anywhere, stop, convert a car into a car bomb and drive away…. I don't think there was any ice cream."

    The report also underscored mosques' central role in the insurgency. Sixty-six of the city's 133 mosques were discovered with significant quantities of weapons. During the assault, mosques often became battle zones as U.S. forces exchanged fire with snipers who took cover in minarets and inside the compounds. Many religious sites were badly damaged.

    Before about 10,000 U.S. troops and 2,000 Iraqi soldiers and police marched into the city early this month, Fallouja was regarded as the capital of the insurgency. The U.S.-led force routed the guerrillas, killing an estimated 2,000 of them. At least 51 American troops and eight of their Iraqi allies also lost their lives.

    U.S. officials are processing a bounty of seized intelligence material, including telephone records of suspected insurgent group leaders and their contacts, ledgers of foreign fighters and data on insurgents found on computer hard drives, compact discs and other media. Many training manuals and how-to books on making homemade bombs were also found.

    Troops discovered eight houses where prisoners were held and probably tortured, the report said. At least one house had bloodstained walls and floors. Bloody handprints were seen there, along with bags of sand used to absorb victims' blood. Another house contained original pictures of the beheading of Kenneth Bigley, a Briton who was kidnapped in Baghdad in September and slain the following month.

    "There's just lots and lots of material," Lt. Col. George Bristol, intelligence officer for the 1st Marine Division, said recently as he toured Fallouja with other commanders. "Certainly there will be some things that will come out of here and will help us in the future."

    Among the sites discovered, the report said, were 26 factories producing car bombs and other explosives. Troops found at least 650 homemade bombs, some planted, others stacked and ready to be deployed. That compares with 770 homemade bombs found or detonated each month throughout the country, the senior military official said.

    U.S. troops also discovered several crude chemical laboratories, including caches of poisons, beakers and protective gear including gas masks. Insurgents are believed to have been trying to make rudimentary chemical weapons and explosives, officials say. Notes found in the labs indicated that rebels were conducting training and research on chemical weapons.

    Among the materials in one laboratory, U.S. officials said, were potassium cyanide and hydrochloric acid, both of which can be used in the production of poisonous gas; sulfuric acid, a possible component of chemical weapons and explosives; and various agricultural fertilizers that can be used in explosives.

    It was not clear if any chemical weapons were deployed during the battle for the city or if any U.S. troops were injured by such weapons.

    Although much evidence of recruitment of foreign fighters was found, fewer than 30 were among the legions of prisoners taken, the report indicated, which bolsters the view that the insurgency is largely homegrown. More than 1,000 prisoners from Fallouja are still being held.

    The "third country nationals" arrested during the operation, the report stated, included six Egyptians, six Syrians, three Saudis, three Sudanese, two Jordanians, a Palestinian and one fighter each from Libya, Tunisia and Britain. No further information was available about those arrested.

    U.S. commanders, however, say many foreign fighters, who may have died in the battle, carried no identification. Many dead guerrillas were found with Korans that were printed in other nations, the senior military officer said.

    U.S. officials, although calling Fallouja a major setback for the rebels, have stopped short of saying the defeat was a fatal blow to the insurgency. More than 10,000 insurgents are estimated to be operating in a wide swath of the country, especially in the Sunni Muslim heartland of central, northern and western Iraq.

    They remain well armed in a nation that is awash in weapons, many dating back to the regime of Saddam Hussein, who was deposed in the spring of 2003.

  13. #13
    Princess-Marine love story ends
    Nov. 30, 2004

    Jason Johnson suspected that someday his personal life might once again capture the attention of the world, but he was surprised anyway Monday afternoon when he found himself talking about how it all went wrong.

    "Oh my God," he said, shaking his head. "I knew it would get out sooner or later, but this was really fast."

    Johnson's was the kind of love story usually told only in Disney movies. It was a tale of an American Marine so dazzled by the beauty of a young royal princess that he risked everything for her.

    That "Romeo and Juliet"-like love affair, once dubbed "The Princess and the Marine" in a made-for-TV movie, has ended now, set against a backdrop of Las Vegas nightclubs, an international assassin and a spurned love that continues to endure, if you believe Johnson.

    "It was what she wanted," he said simply of the couple's recent divorce filing.

    Back in 1999, Johnson was a Marine stationed in Bahrain, an island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia. He'd been a Marine for 2-1/2 years and had hoped to make a career of it.

    While in Bahrain, he met Meriam Al-Khalifa, the beautiful teenage princess related to the country's royal and ruling family. He was a Mormon, she a Muslim, but to them, the differences did not matter. They fell in love.

    The relationship they formed was forbidden by her family, so Johnson worked out a scheme to spirit his young princess off to America when his tour ended. He disguised her in a flannel shirt and a New York Yankees ball cap, and he forged her military identification to get her to the United States.

    The plan worked, and after a drawn-out fight with immigration authorities, the couple married at the Candlelight Wedding Chapel on the Strip. He was 23, she was 19.

    Their story made worldwide headlines. In addition to the TV movie, the couple made the TV talk show rounds, including an appearance on "Oprah."

    Johnson was demoted a rank for his misdeeds, and eventually was discharged from the Marines, with the special condition that he not be allowed to re-enlist, he said.

    He and his new wife, whose name is spelled Maryam in official documents, got jobs, and they went about living their lives.

    But, said Johnson, a valet parker on the Strip, things were never as rosy as the stories made them seem. There was constant tension with her family, he said, and there was even one time the FBI told him they'd intercepted a Syrian national who said he'd been paid $500,000 to assassinate her.

    That incident, together with the couple's religious and cultural differences, further widened a gulf that Johnson said his bride's powerful family tried to widen time and time again.

    "The royal family made me look really bad," he said.

    No one answered the door at Al-Khalifa's apartment Monday afternoon, and she is not represented by an attorney in the divorce proceedings.

    As the tension in the marriage mounted, Johnson said, his wife got sucked into the Las Vegas nightlife. He said she began partying with her friends and ignoring him. She became particularly interested in Arabic-themed nightclubs, and in the gay clubs that cluster around the Hard Rock Hotel on Paradise Road, he said. He noted they used to frequent those clubs as a couple and enjoyed the atmosphere.

    "She's gone off the deep end," he said.

    About a year ago, Johnson said, his wife left him.

    "I had tried to work it out with her last year," he said. "But that's not what she wanted."

    He resisted her urgings that they get a divorce, he said, but ultimately realized there was nothing he could do.

    They filed for divorce jointly on Nov. 17, the day after their fifth wedding anniversary. The paperwork says they are "incompatible in marriage."

    "Deep down inside, she knows that I loved her more than anything in the world," Johnson said. "I can say I enjoyed every minute I spent with her."

    He is living in Summerlin now with his stepmother, who also is getting over a broken relationship.


  14. #14
    America Supports You: AdoptaPlatoon 'Labor of Love'
    By Gerry J. Gilmore
    American Forces Press Service

    WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2004 -- The men and women of AdoptaPlatoon, a nonprofit group, volunteer their time and energies to support deployed U.S. servicemembers and their families.

    "This is a labor of love for us," said AdoptaPlatoon President Ida Haag. The organization's goal, she said, is to provide "a better quality of life" for deployed servicemembers and their families.

    The origin of AdoptaPlatoon can be traced to 1998, when Haag, an English teacher from Rio Hondo, Texas, began sending cards and letters to her son, an Army soldier serving in Bosnia.

    At her son's request, Haag also sent items to nine of his comrades. Later, the platoon's leader asked Haag if she'd support the entire 40-member platoon.

    "Before we knew it, another company asked for support," she said. Haag later organized AdoptaPlatoon into a Texas charitable corporation, and it was granted federal status as a nonprofit organization in 1999.

    Haag said she received a signed letter from then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush citing the need for AdoptaPlatoon. Today, the organization has operations across the United States and 30 management volunteers, Haag noted.

    Today, AdoptaPlatoon supports members from all of the armed services, she said. Servicemembers' receipt of extra socks or ice packs, and lollipops or bubble gum to hand out to children in Iraq or Afghanistan makes a big difference, she said.

    AdoptaPlatoon also supports military families. "We try to fill in the gap a little bit" while servicemembers are away overseas, Haag said.

    The organization creates morale-boosting projects at military request. "Soldiers have to sign up for us," she explained, adding, "Sometimes it's a solitary soldier who wants to receive mail other than just a bill."

    Through AdoptaPlatoon, she said, some soldiers now get mail who didn't receive any before.

    After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the anthrax attacks that year, "we realized our world is not as safe" as it once was," Haag remarked. She noted that AdoptaPlatoon was temporarily shut down in 2001 due to the anthrax scare. The organization was deluged with mail from servicemembers urging it to continue its work.

    Haag recalled that one correspondent had exhorted: "Don't let terrorists change our way of life."

    "We didn't give up," Haag said. Security measures were implemented so that prospective sponsors are contacted and screened.

    Suzi Castiglione, a "platoon mom" volunteer from Ohio, became involved with AdoptaPlatoon in May 1999.

    "Anything we send out has been requested" by military commanders, explained Castiglione, a resident of Solon, a suburb of Cleveland.

    AdoptaPlatoon volunteers agree to support deployed units by sending troop care packages or maintaining correspondence with overseas.

    "Our care packages contain things for the whole platoon, anything from food, personal items, magazines," Castiglione remarked.

    Castiglione said she read an article about AdoptaPlatoon in the "Cleveland Plain Dealer" in 1999 that discussed the activities of Ohio resident Joyce Lisiewski, one of the first group of volunteers recruited by Haag.

    "I called Joyce and started just by 'adopting' a couple of soldiers," Castiglione, the mother of three sons and a stepdaughter and stepson, recalled.

    Once married to a Navy man, Castiglione, now divorced and remarried, remembered how her former husband appreciated the care packages she'd send him when he was deployed for months at sea.

    Today, Castiglione supports U.S. troops serving in Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as wounded troops in stateside hospitals.

    "They're so grateful," she said.

    Some deployed servicemembers "are just really lonely" and need to feel that someone cares about them, she said.

    Castiglione continues her AdoptaPlatoon endeavors, because, "It feels good to know I'm helping someone."

    Servicemembers deserve public support, she said, because "they're looking out for our welfare."


  15. #15
    America Supports You: 'Cell Phones for Soldiers' Rolls On
    By John D. Banusiewicz
    American Forces Press Service

    NORWELL, Mass., Nov. 30, 2004 -- Having distributed $100,000 in prepaid calling cards to deployed troops free of charge through their "Cell Phones for Soldiers" program, it would be easy for Brittany and Robbie Bergquist to pack it in and go back to being full-time kids.

    Since April, the brother-sister team in this suburb south of Boston has made thousands of hours of conversation possible between deployed U.S. forces and their loved ones. No one could blame them for feeling as though they've done more than their fair share of supporting the troops.

    But Brittany, who turned 14 on Nov. 28, and Robbie, 12, have no intention of pulling the plug on Cell Phones for Soldiers, even if it means missing more cheerleading competitions or hockey games.

    Brittany admitted the temptation to stop is there if she misses an important school or personal event because of the program's obligations. "But then I think of the soldiers and the sacrifices they're making for us, and it's easy to keep going," she said.

    Robbie said he expects Cell Phones for Soldiers to continue "until all the soldiers come home safely -- and even then, we're probably not going to stop, because there always are soldiers who are deployed."

    Using cash contributions and money obtained by recycling donated used cell phones, the program buys calling cards and distributes them to deployed or deploying units. An application for nonprofit-organization status is pending.

    Cell Phones for Soldiers began when Brittany and Robbie saw a news report about a Massachusetts soldier deployed to Iraq who had built up a large cell-phone bill calling home. They pooled their own money, got contributions from their friends and opened a bank account, hoping to raise enough money to pay the soldier's bill. The bank kicked in $500, and, though the soldier's cell phone company forgave his bill, the youngsters continued their efforts in the hope that other soldiers wouldn't find themselves in the same situation.

    As increasingly bigger media outlets reported the story, the demands on the youngsters' time increased proportionally for interviews and appearances, trips to present calling cards to deploying military units, and the day-to-day work of keeping the program running.

    The rest of the family pitches in. The children's parents, Bob and Gail Bergquist, are teachers, and having their summer free enabled them to help Brittany and Robbie and accompany them in their travels. Since school resumed in September, eighth-grader Brittany and seventh-grader Robbie have continued putting up honor-roll grades while pursuing extracurricular activities and tending to Cell Phones for Soldiers. Their sister, Courtney, a freshman at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, prefers a behind-the-scenes role, but also has been active in helping the program to thrive.

    Juggling schoolwork with Cell Phones for Soldiers travel and responsibilities is "difficult at times," Brittany said. "But it's worth it," she quickly added.

    Robbie said he and Brittany receive a lot of grateful feedback from deployed servicemembers. "But it's all e-mails," he said with a laugh. "They're not going to use their cards on us."


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