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  1. #1

    Cool Iraq Bomb Finding Improving

    Iraq Bomb Finding Improving
    Associated Press
    January 6, 2005

    BAGHDAD, Iraq - The number of insurgent attacks in Baghdad has dropped in recent weeks, and American forces are getting better at finding car bombs before they go off, a top U.S. general in Iraq said Wednesday.

    In a wide-ranging news conference, Maj. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli said that all of his Task Force Baghdad's 35,000 troops will be doing work linked to the Jan. 30 election on the day of the vote, and that the United States will be ready to help provide security.

    "We will be out in force, in support of the Iraqi government, where they want us to be, and in consultation with them," he said, refusing to say exactly how many American troops would be on the streets.

    Chiarelli, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, said Baghdad will probably see a spike in insurgent activity before the election but the capital will be safer than it is now before the vote. Insurgents who have waged a merciless campaign of attacks in Baghdad have threatened to sabotage the vote.

    "While insurgent activity in Baghdad will likely spike as the Iraqi people approach their elections and the insurgents become more desperate, we will continue to focus on providing an environment in which Iraqis can conduct their elections without insurgent interference," Chiarelli said.

    Chiarelli said that on average, for every car bomb that explodes in the capital, his troops find another one and defuse it. He refused to give details, but said his troops were getting better at finding insurgents' explosives.

    Chiarelli spoke on a day when two car bombs killed 25 Iraqi policemen elsewhere in Iraq. A suicide attacker detonated an explosives-laden car outside a police academy south of Baghdad, killing 20 people, while another rammed a car bomb into an Iraqi checkpoint northeast of the capital, killing five.

    In the capital, Chiarelli said attacks were down since the U.S.-led invasion of Fallujah, an insurgent stronghold, that began on Nov. 8. He said he was pleased that Iraqis have been calling a tip line and paying attention to billboards around the city asking them to report weapons caches or suspicious activity.

    "All I can tell you is that we've got billboards all over the city, and I take great joy in the fact that I see the insurgents trying to tear them down, and we put them back up," he said.

    Despite almost daily attacks on Iraqi security forces that have killed hundreds of officers, Chiarelli said Iraqis continue to want to join the National Guard and police force. There have been reports that many Iraqis were deserting their posts for fear because of the insurgent campaign.

    "We're having no problems recruiting and keeping our units filled up, and that is a good thing, and it is truly amazing," Chiarelli said. "They want to get out there."


  2. #2
    U.S. Marine Missing Again
    Associated Press
    January 6, 2005

    RALEIGH, N.C. - The Marine charged with desertion after he claimed to have been kidnapped last year in Iraq was again declared a deserter Wednesday after he failed to return from a holiday leave.

    Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun was required to return to Camp Lejeune by noon Tuesday, but did not report for duty in a motor pool, said Maj. Matt Morgan, a spokesman for the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

    Hassoun was still missing at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Morgan said.

    Hassoun's command "officially declared him a deserter and issued authorization for civil authorities to apprehend Hassoun and return him to military control," Morgan said.

    Hassoun was with his family in West Jordan, Utah, for about a week before he left Dec. 28, family spokesman Tarek Nosseir said. He said there was no indication of any trouble.

    "We went to lunch, he was upbeat, there was no problem," Nosseir said.

    On Dec. 28, Hassoun's family took him to the airport for a flight to North Carolina. They have been trying since Dec. 29 to reach him by cell phone with no success, but didn't know of his status as a deserter until reporters told them, Nosseir said.

    Neither Morgan nor Nosseir could confirm broadcast reports that Hassoun may have gone to Canada or Lebanon.

    Cpl. Hassoun was listed as missing in Iraq after he failed to report for duty June 20. A week later, the Arabic news network Al-Jazeera broadcast a photo of Hassoun looking as if he were a hostage, blindfolded and with a sword behind his head.

    Hassoun contacted American officials in Beirut, Lebanon, on July 8, and was taken to the American Embassy there.

    He has made one statement since returning to the United States, saying he was captured and held against his will by anti-coalition forces. He has declined interview requests.

    Hassoun was charged last month with desertion, theft, loss of government property and wrongful appropriation of a government vehicle. The desertion count carries a five-year maximum prison sentence and the other counts carry 10-year maximums.

    The corporal's hearing on the Iraq desertion charge has been delayed until Jan. 13 to allow Hassoun to hire a civilian lawyer to assist his military attorneys.


  3. #3
    Marines will stay close to home for urban training
    Unit to use downtown Toledo


    The Marines will take over parts of downtown Toledo as sounds of gunfire will echo off buildings when training exercises are conducted next weekend.
    A Marine Corps unit based in Perrysburg will stage the exercises from 9 p.m. Jan. 7 to about noon Jan. 9, Maj. Gregory Cramer said.

    Major Cramer said most of the 130-member unit - Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines - will take part in the exercises.

    "We're looking for an urban environment to do our training," he said. "Urban training is one of the proficiencies we're required to maintain."

    Major Cramer said Marines will be dressed in green and will be carrying rifles through the streets, but the exercises should have a minimal impact on the downtown area. He said the Marines will be firing blanks and conducting operations throughout the area.

    "The only request we would have of folks, if they happen to be near where an exercise is taking place, is to stay away as much as possible," Major Cramer said.

    The exercise area roughly will be north of Monroe Street, west of the Maumee River, south and west of Cherry Street, south of Woodruff Ave., and east of Collingwood Boulevard.

    Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre said military exercises have been conducted before in the downtown area with a minimal impact on city residents. He said city and police officials have been working with the Marines to help the exercises go smoothly.

    "Training is extremely important, not just in our profession, but in the military too," Chief Navarre said. "We're not going to place any obstacles in their way."

    Jean Atkin, administrator for the Lucas County Common Pleas Court, said the unit was granted permission to use the courthouse grounds. The unit, though, won't use the interior of the courthouse.

    "We used to do this when we were kids - you know, running around the woods," Ms. Atkin said. "They're just going to use the downtown."


  4. #4
    Longview Woman Following Her Big Brother Into The Marines

    Barry and Terri Higginbotham of Longview just recently said goodbye to their son, who was on leave from the military. K.J, as they call him, will soon be deployed to Iraq. But during their visit with their 20 year old son, another family member made a surprising announcement.

    "I'm so proud of him," says Brittany Higginbotham as she looks at a picture of her big brother.

    Earlier this month Brittany Higginbotham and her father got a much needed visit from her best friend, her big brother KJ. "I'm very proud of my brother. I'm very, very insanely proud of my brother," says Brittany.

    KJ is currently stationed in Okinawa, Japan but will soon head to Iraq. That news was the center of conversation at the Higginbotham home when KJ was in town. "I'm very worried and concerned," admits Barry Higginbotham.

    Knowing his father was worried, KJ shared with him the reasons he goes without fear. "He said well, the way I look at it is that I don't have a problem going over there because when I go over there I'll be relieving one of my brother marines to come home. He said they can come home to see their family to hug their brothers, their mothers, sisters and their dads," says Barry as he recalled the words of his son.

    KJ's words reassured his father, but only for a moment. Then came news none of the family expected from his younger daughter Brittany. "She sprung it on us. She said, 'I'm thinking about going into the Marine Corps,'" says Barry.

    19 year old Brittany enlisted immediately and will soon leave for the Marines.

    "When I do this, nothing will ever stop me from doing what I want to do," says Brittany.

    So in the midst of celebrating Christmas, the Higginbotham's also celebrated their children's bravery and desire to serve our country. "I'm very proud of both of them. They're doing something that's necessary for them and for our country," says Barry.

    Brittany leaves for Marine boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina on January 3rd.

    Amy Tatum, reporting.


  5. #5
    Army Reserve Chief Criticizes Policies
    Associated Press
    January 6, 2005

    WASHINGTON - The Army Reserve, whose part time soldiers serve in combat and support roles in Iraq and Afghanistan, is so hampered by misguided Army policies and practices that it is "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force," the Reserve's most senior general says.

    Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, wrote in an internal memorandum to the Army's top uniformed officer that the Reserve has reached the point of being unable to fulfill its missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and to regenerate its forces for future missions.

    The Army Reserve has about 200,000 soldiers, nearly 52,000 of them on active duty for the war on terrorism, mainly in Iraq. They provide combat support, medical care, transportation, legal services and other support. About 50 have died so far in the Iraq war.

    Helmly's Dec. 20 memo is addressed to Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, and was first reported in Wednesday's editions of the Baltimore Sun, whose Web site has a link to the eight-page document. Two officials who saw the original memo confirmed its contents to The Associated Press.

    "The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you of the Army Reserve's inability under current policies, procedures and practices ... to meet mission requirements associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom," Helmly wrote, using the military's names for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    "The Army Reserve is additionally in grave danger of being unable to meet other operational requirements," including those in classified contingency plans for other potential wars or national emergencies, "and is rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force," Helmly wrote.

    The Army Reserve's ability to regenerate its recently deployed forces is "eroding daily," he added, in part because Reserve troops who finish tours in Iraq and Afghanistan are required to leave substantial amounts of their equipment for other forces and for contractors.

    Helmly also referred to a practice, not previously disclosed, of requiring each Reserve soldier who receives a mobilization order with less than 30 days notice to sign a "volunteer statement." From his brief description of the practice it appears that this is done to reduce the number of reported cases of short-notice, involuntary mobilizations.

    He also criticized the practice of offering Reserve soldiers an extra $1,000 a month if they volunteer to be mobilized a second time. This confuses "volunteers" with "mercenaries," he said.

    Helmly's blunt description of these problems is the sort of internal attack that rarely becomes public, although some private defense analysts and members of Congress have openly questioned whether the strains on the Army caused by the Iraq war would eventually threaten the all-volunteer force.

    Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said Wednesday he was disturbed by the concerns raised in Helmly's memo.

    "By consistently underestimating the number of troops necessary for the successful occupation of Iraq, the administration has placed a tremendous burden on the Army Reserve and created this crisis," Reed said.

    Al Schilf, a spokesman for Helmly, said the three-star general was not available Wednesday to discuss the issues raised in his memo. The Sun quoted Helmly as saying in an interview Tuesday that he stands by his memo and that it contains his best professional assessment.

    Col. Joe Curtin, a spokesman at Army headquarters in the Pentagon, said the Army has a group of experts studying a wide range of problems facing not only the Army Reserve but also the Army National Guard.

    "These issues are largely being addressed now," Curtin said. "General Helmly's concerns are of a serious nature, and the Army realizes it has to work very hard and diligently to resolve them, and our intent is to resolve those issues."

    Since President Bush launched a global war on terrorism after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, about 65,000 Army Reserve soldiers have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Pentagon figures.

    Among Helmly's other complaints:

    - The Army is relying too heavily on volunteers to mobilize for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. The most likely to volunteer are "those who often enjoy lesser responsible positions in civilian life," he said.

    - The Army has failed to use its legal authority to call to active duty those members of the Reserve who have violated their service contract, by missing training or other actions. Helmly said he asked for but was not given the authority to discharge those Reserve members, who number 16,400.


  6. #6
    The View From A U.S. Chopper
    Christian Science Monitor
    January 6, 2005

    LAMNO, INDONESIA - The thump of helicopters and the roar of planes have never sounded so good to the residents of Aceh, the war-torn Indonesian province devastated by last week's earthquake and tsunami one-two punch. On hearing their noise, children run along dirt roads, waving up to the sky. Indonesian soldiers stand ready to spring into action. The Americans have come, bearing instant noodles, water, and other vital supplies.

    Since the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln arrived off the coast of Sumatra, the U.S. Navy has been flying dozens of Sea Hawk helicopter flights per day and carrying thousands of tons of assistance to remote areas otherwise unreachable because of wiped-out roads.

    "I really, really appreciate the U.S. coming because they help the Acehnese people," says Cutbang, a resident of Banda Aceh, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name. "They're not even sup- posed to do that. That's the job of the Indonesian military. But we see only others. We look in the sky and see only U.S. planes, nothing else."

    Despite the obvious goodwill generated by the American mission here, this is a delicate moment for the U.S. relationship with Indonesia as well as the rest of the world. U.S. military officials have a difficult task ahead: lending a strong helping hand while treading lightly within the world's most populous Muslim nation, where deadly terrorist attacks against U.S. and other Western interests have occurred in recent years. They must also avoid upstaging the Indonesian military and the newly elected government.

    "I appreciate the U.S. coming very much because there's so much destruction in this town," says one military police officer in the capital. "I think it is very good provided they are here to do good and nothing else."

    "I'm afraid some countries might take advantage of our situation right now," he says. "And it's not just me who thinks like this, it's everyone, even the government."

    In public, the commander of the USS Abraham Lincoln and other military officials on the ground in Banda Aceh have insisted that the Indonesian military is in charge of the operation and that the massive U.S. presence is "just about humans helping humans" - a sentiment that was echoed by Colin Powell upon arriving in Indonesia with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

    Even down to the detail of who loads the U.S. relief helicopters, there is a conscious effort to make this a joint mission. Boxes are passed like fire buckets down a line of men who are staggered by nationality: one Indonesian soldier, then one American.

    So far there have been no open tensions between the U.S. military and the country's newly elected government leaders or the Indonesian armed forces, which have historically wielded tremendous power and autonomy in the country. But in private, U.S. military officials say the Indonesian military still shows signs of a deep suspicion of the American presence.

    "We've gotten a lot of assistance from them so far," says Col. Dave Kelley of the U.S. support group for Indonesia. "The guidance we've requested, they've quickly given it. We're still reestablishing bonds because we haven't worked with them in a while, but we've been given everything we've asked for so far."

    The formerly close military ties of the U.S. and Indonesia were restricted in the 1990s over concerns about Jakarta's human rights record. But Indonesia's early willingness to join the war on terror has resulted in some U.S. funding once again for the country's military.

    International aid workers are also treading carefully to avoid doing anything that might upset the military. Prior to the disaster, they were restricted from Aceh due to the government's military operation against separatists.

    But traumatized people on the streets of Banda Aceh and in the remote areas, who often try to storm the helicopters for aid upon touching down, are open about their support for the arrival of any assistance from outside the country.

    Their enthusiasm stems partly from desperation and partly from the distrust of the Indonesian military that still lingers after nearly three decades of separatist conflict. The conflict had intensified in the past couple years, leaving thousands of suspected fighters and civilians dead.

    "I want the U.S. soldiers to give us the supplies by themselves, not to the TNI [Indonesian armed forces]," says Idris Rusli, in a destroyed neighborhood of Banda Aceh. "They will sell it themselves because they are very bad.... I worry about that. I really, really worry about that."

    Cognizant of these suspicions, the Indonesian government is also treading carefully. It is sending soldiers in to help, but keeping down their interaction with the population. The Indonesian military's public actions in Banda Aceh have been restricted largely to keeping security and helping to recover bodies.

    On an aid delivery flight to Lamno and other remote areas along the west coast, the muddy grids of ocean-covered rice fields were visible, and water lines could be seen on mountain faces. Here, the TNI plays a larger role by securing areas before U.S. forces land and helping to deliver aid.

    Across the Indian Ocean, the U.S. military's relief effort so far involves 20 ships, 90 helicopters, 29 planes, and some 13,000 personnel.

    Todd Justin Matthews, from Jacksonville, Fla., a helicopter mechanic on the Lincoln feels good about his work. "I hope this changes people's perceptions of the U.S. military. This shows how we're trying to help people and get them what they need to survive."


  7. #7
    Marines Arrive In Sri Lanka
    Dallas Morning News
    January 6, 2005

    COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - The Marines have landed - quietly.

    With little fanfare, an advance contingent of 17 U.S. Marines arrived Wednesday at Colombo's airport, along with 30 U.S. Air Force communications and technical experts.

    Eventually about 1,500 U.S. troops are expected to be deployed around Sri Lanka, where the Dec. 26 tsunami killed more than 30,000 people and displaced 850,000 more.

    Foreign governments are being careful with any military-delivered assistance in Sri Lanka, which has been roiled by a long-running war between the government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and ethnic rebels. The separatist rebels control some parts of the country, including areas in the northeast that sustained major damage in the tsunami.

    U.S. Embassy spokesman Chris Long stressed that the troops would be used only for humanitarian work. They are expected to help repair roads and bridges. Tsunami damage has hampered access to some stricken areas.

    U.N. officials said the Marines brought heavy-lifting helicopters, bulldozers and generators, along with tons of food, water and medical supplies.

    American forces have already been on the ground for several days in Indonesia, using helicopters to deliver desperately needed food and relief supplies and rescuing scores of people left injured, hungry and weak by the tsunamis there.

    Secretary of State Colin Powell - himself a battle-hardened military veteran - flew over the devastation on the island of Sumatra on Wednesday and later said he was shocked by the destruction.

    "I've been in war, and I've have been through a number of hurricanes, tornadoes and other relief operations, but I have never seen anything like this," the retired general said.

    "I cannot begin to imagine the horror that went through the families and all of the people who heard this noise coming and then had their lives snuffed out by this wave. The power of the wave to destroy bridges, to destroy factories, to destroy homes, to destroy crops, to destroy everything in its path is amazing."

    Workers broke ground Wednesday for four refugee camps on Sumatra, where an estimated 1 million are homeless.

    Today, Powell will attend a summit in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, where world leaders will discuss how to best distribute aid to victims of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunamis.

    New pledges of aid came Wednesday. Australia announced a package of $764 million in grants and loans, making it the No. 1 single donor. Germany pledged $674 million.

    Earlier, Japan promised $500 million and the United States $350.

    In New York, the U.N.'s emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, said total pledges from donor governments had grown to between $3 billion and $4 billion, an amount he described as "just incredible."

    Egeland also praised the United States for help he said only America could have delivered.

    Egeland said the United Nations has now set up operations centers in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and other affected countries and asked that the world body be allowed to carry out its work in a coordinated manner.

    U.N. officials on Wednesday raised their estimate of the regional death toll to 156,000 people - 50,000 of them children - in 11 countries. They added that an additional 1 million children were at risk of contracting disease or being victimized by people traffickers or pedophiles. The confirmed death toll was more than 139,000.

    In Sri Lanka, UNICEF executive director Carol Bellamy visited areas hardest hit by the tsunami and met with government, rebel and non-governmental officials.

    "I am aware that there are parts of the country that have not yet been reached by relief workers and that the suffering among the survivors there is severe," she said.

    Indeed, heavy rains slowed relief operations in some areas of Sri Lanka that sustained the greatest damage. A number of Sri Lankan military helicopters that had been airlifting food in eastern Ampara district, where more than 10,000 people lost their lives, were grounded by rains.

    In much of the region, this is the start of the monsoon season. Officials said the rains and flooding also raise fears of waterborne disease, especially among children.

    World Food Program trucks fanned out across the country, delivering aid to needy and unruly crowds who scrambled for food supplies in such hard-hit areas as Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Mullaitivu.

    In camps for displaced persons, officials were trying to organize educational programs on sanitation, counseling sessions and social activities for children. A number of volunteers spent their time identifying children who had lost parents.

    Reports circulated that aid distribution was a shambles in some areas and that some supplies were being stolen. The nation's armed forces stepped in and took control of the distribution system.

    In Colombo, markets reported a run on chicken Wednesday as many residents, concerned about contamination, avoided fish.


  8. #8
    U.S. To Launch Guantanamo Abuse Probe
    Associated Press
    January 6, 2005

    GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - Investigators will look into allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay described in recently released FBI documents, authorities said, as a new batch of FBI memos was released.

    The U.S. Southern Command in Miami assigned Army Brig. Gen. John T. Furlow to lead the investigation, which could begin as early as this week. The military maintains that most incidents detailed in the FBI memos occurred in 2002 when the prison was just opening, and that some of the interrogation techniques labeled as "aggressive" are no longer in use.

    Documents published last month show FBI agents warned the government about abuse and mistreatment when the first prisoners arrived, more than a year before a scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. One letter, written by a senior Justice Department official and obtained by The Associated Press, suggested the Pentagon failed to act on the FBI complaints.

    "It will be fully investigated," Guantanamo's commanding Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood said Wednesday, adding that recent articles about allegations have skewed the public's understanding about the mission and the troops' commitment to strict standards.

    "Part of that skepticism has occurred because of how ugly Abu Ghraib was," Hood said. "I don't know of anybody wearing uniform who has not, to one degree or another, been sickened by the photos we've all seen. On the other hand, to allege that the 2,000 Americans working here are conspiring in an effort to abuse or torture the men under our charge is foolishness."

    He said the independent military team was necessary to find and interview people who had left the remote outpost and were no longer under his command.

    The small team of investigators, including an attorney, will report their findings to the Southern Command's Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock in February.

    The American Civil Liberties Union last month released e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in which the FBI accused interrogators of inserting lit cigarettes in prisoners' ears and shackling them into a fetal positions for hours, forcing them to soil themselves.

    Steve Rodriguez, the civilian in charge of interrogations at Guantanamo, said many of the allegations are old and some of the harsher techniques mentioned were thought to have been used on the alleged 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The military has not named the accused hijacker but he has been identified elsewhere as Mohamed Khatani.

    "It's really difficult for me to have to justify things that I consider to be certainly in no way shape or form paramount to torture," Rodriguez said.

    A new batch of FBI documents released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union explain how the abuse allegations first surfaced.

    They show the agency's earlier descriptions of abuses came in response to a specific request dated July 9, 2004, from Steve McCraw, the assistant director of the FBI's Office for Intelligence. The e-mail asked more than 500 agents who had been at Guantanamo to report whether they had observed "aggressive treatment, interrogations or interview techniques" that violated FBI guidelines.

    Out of the 478 responses, 26 agents reported observing detainee mistreatment by personnel other than FBI agents. The 26 summaries were reviewed by FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni, who determined 17 described "approved DOD techniques" and were thus disregarded. As a result, nine reported incidents were tagged for a follow-up.

    An FBI spokesman said those cases were referred to the Pentagon for appropriate action.

    The ACLU's executive director, Anthony Romero, said in an interview that the agency's decision to narrow its inquiry to nine cases "raises serious questions about the FBI's willingness to investigate abuse at Guantanamo."

    "Unfortunately it took the military this long to investigate the abuse and torture that has been documented in Guantanamo," he added. "It certainly took them long enough to recognize that something was seriously wrong in Guantanamo."

    Human rights groups have called for an independent investigation into prisoner abuse at the base, where 550 or so detainees from nearly 40 countries are accused of links to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime or the al-Qaida terror network.

    The military, they say, cannot be trusted to investigate itself.

    "Although more transparency is always welcome, we're way past the point where internal inquiries can be considered sufficient," said Alistair Hodgett, a spokesman for London-based Amnesty International.

    The Pentagon has acknowledged 10 cases of abuse since the detention mission began at Guantanamo, including a female interrogator climbing onto a detainee's lap and a detainee whose knees were bruised from being forced to kneel repeatedly.


  9. #9
    1/23 Marines Disrupt Insurgents Around Ramadi
    by Cpl. Paul W. Leicht
    Marine Corps News
    January 05, 2005

    AR RAMADI, Iraq - The moonlit midnight hour only faintly illuminated the shadowy-team of Marines who crept across the muddy, fenced in yard around a drab farmhouse in the small Iraqi village.

    With security in place, only a few muted cows looked on unobtrusively through the fog as the warriors stacked tightly one-by-one at the metal front door, ready to rapidly dump through like a belt-fed weapon.

    Another Marine rushed alongside them and tossed in a flash-bang grenade before pouring inside with the rest of the team to the crack of his command, "GO! NOW!"

    The grenade boomed. Voices barked and raised weapons swept each room as the occupants stopped in their tracks. Then the all clear was given.

    The Texas and Lousiana reservists were conducting a nightly cordon and knock raid.

    "The goal of this cordon and knock mission is part of a larger effort to maintain security and stability by disrupting the insurgency in our area of operations prior to elections," said Staff Sergeant Jesse A. Noriega, platoon commander, Company B, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. "Our company's raids thus far have been very productive. We have done a good job of detaining high value targets and people with suspected terrorist ties as well as their weapons caches."

    In addition to high value targets, any males of military age with suspected ties to terrorists are typically detained during the raids for questioning.

    "Some of the detainees are just people in the wrong place at the wrong time while we go after specific high value targets," explained the police officer from San Antonio, Texas. "What we are doing is more surgical rather than wide sweeps. It's safer for our Marines and a more effective way to find insurgents."

    In order to maintain good relations with innocent village residents and farmers, the Marines work with local leaders and explain what is going on prior to any special mission kick off.

    Before doors were kicked in, the Marines convoyed to the general area, dismounting from their grumbling seven-ton trucks and Humvees on a dirt road that cut a nearby farm paddy, and then advanced on the objectives on foot using stealth, discipline and surprise.

    "Sometimes all the wild dogs barking out here can be quite loud and can take away from the element of surprise," said Lance Cpl. Matt O'Connor, a machine gunner with "Bravo" Co.'s 3rd platoon and a 21-year-old bartender from San Antonio, Texas. "But the Iraqis normally pay them no mind."

    Once at the objective, a cordon and knock first involves searching the entire area and sealing off the structure with suspected high value targets.

    "After setting up our perimeter security, our leaders then recon to the objective before Marines stack at the door," said Lance Cpl. Gary Cremeans, machine gunner, 3rd platoon, Bravo Co., and a 24-year-old heating, ventilating and air-conditioning technician from Austin, Texas. "Then we dump into the house."

    At all times the Rules of Engagement are strictly adhered to. Occupants are treated with dignity and respect, and shots are not fired unless suspects or targets show intent to harm Marines with a deadly weapon.

    "Sometimes specific targets are not there despite the latest intelligence that we have," said Noriega. "Terrorist targets or insurgents, as well as any possible armed security they may have, will not always stay in the village or in a certain house. Many times they use people to hide weapons or (improvised explosive device) making materials before an attack."

    While some Marines conduct a thorough search or secure detainees, Navy corpsmen attend to the elderly, women and children-if any are present-to calm them and give them basic medical care if needed.

    Even though the Marines may return to their camp without their intended targets or confiscated weapons in tow, their cordon and knock efforts are making a positive difference.

    "The detainees will be interrogated and if they check out, will be released back to their homes," said Noriega. "This time we detained the brother of one of our targets and a few others in addition to some electronic devices used for making IEDs, but hopefully we're reminding them that we are out here looking for them, keeping them on the run until we catch them."


  10. #10
    Marines, ING Clean Up Unexploded Ordnance
    by Gunnery Sgt. Chago Zapata
    Marine Corps News
    January 04, 2005

    AL UKHAIDHIR FORT, Iraq - So far, thousands of U.S. servicemen and women have been either killed or wounded by Improvised Explosive Devices here in Iraq. Where are Iraqi insurgents getting these explosives?

    Unexploded ordnance left over from Saddam's regime is scattered throughout Iraq -- all the insurgents have to do is find it.

    In one place in particular they are being denied the opportunity to find and use these explosives.

    Two Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines from Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 11, 11th MEU (Special Operations Capable), a platoon of Marines with Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th MEU (Special Operations Capable), and a platoon of soldiers from Company A, 401st Battalion, 51st Iraqi National Guard Brigade, spent the day sorting and separating ordnance that could be used to make IEDs here, Dec. 29.

    Mortar rounds, tank projectiles and mysterious-looking pieces of twisted metal were piled haphazardly in reddish-brown rusted piles of metal and sand about 200 yards from a well-preserved eighth century medieval fort.

    The ammunition, some spent and some active, had been sitting in those rusting piles since the early 90's, sometime after Operation Desert Storm, according to Master Sgt. Michael W. Snow, EOD chief, MSSG-11, 11th MEU (SOC).

    "We cleaned up a pile of unexploded ordnance and ordnance residue that was near a (main road) and a culturally significant landmark, a Persian fort," said Snow. "We're picking it up for two reasons. It's dangerous for local residents who have a habit of messing with this stuff and we don't want them to get hurt, (but) the main reason is to deny the use of this material to people who would build IEDs with it."

    Nearly 1,000 rounds of active ammunition were discovered -- white phosphorous 120 mm mortar rounds, 120 mm high explosive mortar rounds, a mix of different sizes of artillery and tank projectiles, and a handful of 122 mm rockets and 60 and 82 mm mortars.

    According to Capt. Sean M. Roche, company commander, A Co., BLT 1/4, 11th MEU (SOC), previous intelligence reports had shown evidence that anti-Iraqi forces possibly used the ordnance piled here to make IEDs.

    "It's suspected of being used to make IEDs; it's not confirmed but anywhere there is UXO out there there's a good possibility that the enemy can get to it," Roche explained. "If we can get rid of it before the enemy can get to it then we're only helping ourselves and the people of Iraq."

    Marines and ING soldiers met at the fort, established security and vehicle checkpoints, and after a safety brief by Snow, together began going through the large piles of rusted metal, looking for active ordnance and putting it in separate orderly rows -- one of high explosives, another of white phosphorous and a small one of more rare, deadly or unstable ordnance.

    The two EOD technicians later went through the rows of bombs and projectiles to ensure it was all fit for transport to the demolition range.

    "I had fun doing this. I think it's good to have Marines come out and work with the ING and let them know that we're actually here to help them," said Cpl. Philip D. Doherty, artillery radio operator, Weapons Platoon, A Co., BLT 1/4, 11th MEU (SOC). "We all worked together to separate the rounds and then loaded them all up in the trucks -- it was a joint effort."

    The ING also enjoyed working with the Marines and learned much they didn't know about the deadly ordnance.

    "What we're doing with the Marines is very important because it is making it safer for the people who live here," said Pvt. Jassim Mouhamed, infantryman, 1st Platoon, 401st Bn., 51st ING Brigade. "What the Marines and the ING are doing is making (Iraq) more secure and helping to protect the Iraqi people. We don't want terrorists to use the bombs here to kill people."

    During a brief the night before the mission, Roche explained the importance of leading by example when it came to working with the ING.

    "This is the first time the ING have worked with the Marines in a while. I want you to put on your best face, I want you to be as hard as possible, to do the right thing," Roche said to his Marines. "I want each of you to be a leader. Just as lance corporals look at their corporal, (the ING) are all looking at you. They're checking you out, seeing how you react, seeing if you sweat, seeing if you're tired. Be tired back here, don't be tired out there."

    According to Roche, the Marines and ING got along very well. Marines and ING soldiers were smiling and joking. They got the job done and worked well with each other.

    "I'm glad we got rid of the UXO because overall it enhances the safety of the Marines and fellow servicemembers in the Iraqi theater," said Roche. "I also feel good about the fact that we're out here working with our ING brothers and we're building a good relationship with them."

    The EOD team was at the same site last week and picked up more than 450 white phosphorous 120 mm mortar rounds, 18 120 mm high explosive mortar rounds and a handful of 60 and 82 mm mortars as well.

    Snow said that what was done here will make a difference -- maybe not an immediate difference but over time every pile of ordnance that can be removed and destroyed helps coalition forces and helps the local residents.

    "Some day some kids are going to play over here, or some day they're going to have tourists come here again to see the fort," Snow explained. "People are going to come over here where the UXO is, they're going to mess with it and someone's going to die. We don't want that to happen.

    As much as we don't want the enemy to use it for IEDs, we don't want to have the local residents to have an explosive hazard in their back yard forever," Snow continued.

    Marines and ING soldiers hauled everything that contained explosives to a captured enemy ammunition processing site near the fort run by a civilian contractor.

    The EOD team did not expect to find so much ammunition out there and didn't have enough explosives to destroy it that day. They will return in a week or so and will use the demolition range there to destroy it by detonation, according to Snow.

    "It made me feel good that we're actually making this place better than the way it was when we first got here," Doherty said. "That castle's been there for more than 12 centuries and the fact that we're helping get rid of this stuff is going to make a big difference to that piece of history."


  11. #11

    Training Failures Left Guard Unit Unready for Iraq

    *First in a Series

    By Nathaniel R. Helms

    Back home in Michigan, the men of F Company, 425th Infantry, Long Range Surveillance, Michigan Army National Guard, are heroes. But in Iraq, they call themselves “The Kings of the Damned.”

    How they fell from glory is a stain on the proud history of the U.S. Army and clearly reflects the Pentagon’s inability to meet its mission goals in Iraq with a force largely constituted of Reservists and National Guardsmen who found themselves under-trained, under-equipped, and unprepared for the rigors of battling the Iraqi insurgents.

    What is especially shocking is that F Company has long been an elite, airborne-trained, three-time volunteer fighting force, the only airborne-qualified unit in the Army National Guard. Its roster includes lawyers, physicists, police officers, fireman, and in fact the entire gamut of professions shared by the best and brightest of America’s sons who enlisted as part-time soldiers in case their country called. Just two years and three months after 9/11, they responded to the summons.

    On Dec. 10, 2003, amidst a flag-bedecked ceremony filled with patriotic fervor, more than 300 families from all over Michigan gathered to send their sons, brothers and fathers in harm’s way. Maj. Gen. Thomas G. Cutler, adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard, told the men their mission was one they had trained long and hard to be ready for despite their knowledge it would be a long and difficult struggle: “You hope there isn’t a fire but you have trained hard and you’re eager to fight it,” Cutler told the assembled men and their families. He then presented the unit with a Michigan National Guard flag to be flown in Iraq.

    The next morning, filled with the curious combination of anticipation and trepidation that for centuries has marked the warrior’s entrance into war, F Company arrived at Fort Bliss, Tex., to begin a two-month period of intense training the Army claims is designed to prepare the deploying soldiers for the rigors of combat.

    “We were very motivated and eager to venture forth into the unknown and test that which we were made of. For years we trained in our specialized tasks of reconnaissance and surveillance,” one senior enlisted soldier wrote in a detailed but unofficial After Action Report (AAR) obtained by DefenseWatch (click here for the AAR Text). “We used the Army template of the 72-hour isolation and planning and the 48- to 96-hour long mission’s cycle. The men of the 425th could execute this type of mission in their sleep and had executed this type of training on average of three times a year for the last eight years,” added the NCO, who asked that his name not be used.

    The Army calls the training offered deploying soldiers like those in F Company “Theater Immersion Training.” It has become the watchword of the Army generals charged with preparing America’s part-time citizen-soldiers for their fulltime role as warfighters is Iraq and Afghanistan. Last fall, Lt. Gen. Russell L. Honoré, Commanding General of First U.S. Army, shared his vision with other leaders at the First U.S. Army Commander’s Conference in Atlanta.

    “When soldiers get off the bus at the MOB (mobilization) station, they must feel they have arrived in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Honoré told the assembled officers.

    To do that the Army has created at Fort Bliss and other stateside bases a mock Iraqi village and compound similar to what Vietnam-bound neophyte infantryman discovered when they passed under a giant Combat Infantryman’s Badge at the portals of Fort Polk, La., three decades ago. The badge and the sign beneath it marked the way to “Tigerland,” the home of the Vietnamese village that weary trainees would get to know better than their girlfriends back home.

    “Instead of living in a normal garrison environment, soldiers will see concertina wire, entry control points, and guard towers to simulate the Forward Operating Base (FOB) environment,” Honoré explained in Atlanta. “In an FOB, small-unit leaders not only train on theater-specific tasks, [but] they have an opportunity to exercise their troop-leading procedures and basic discipline on a continuous basis.”

    Unfortunately, according to a number of F Company soldiers, they found instead what one later described as a “circus of stupidity” at the Texas base. If the troops of are to be believed, they were immersed in a bureaucratic tangle of ill-prepared quarters, non-existent training situations, very little practice ammunition, no hand grenades, limited range time, broken trucks and equipment, and cast-off weapons they rarely if ever had the chance to fire.

    Their training, documented in detail over the months that followed, was the antithesis of the vision offered by Lt. Gen. Honoré. Col. Al Jones, First U.S. Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations described it thusly:

    “Theater Immersion is a dynamic training approach that gives us greater flexibility to train soldiers. With theater immersion we can create more events, longer events, ramp up the volume or turn it down based on the training needs of soldiers and units. Our goal is that soldiers respond to threats intuitively, regardless of the situation in which they might find themselves.”

    “We have a non-negotiable contract with the American people to prepare her sons and daughters for war,” Honoré added. “We must use imagination and innovation to do this better than we ever have before. We cannot, we will not fail in this task.”

    This is how one grizzled sergeant from F Company, a former U.S. Army Ranger and Special Forces-qualified soldier, described his unit’s subsequent training experience at Fort Bliss: “Bull****.”

    F Company trained at what used to be known as McGregor Range, an empty, hostile area of scrub and sand the men who trained there said replicates Iraq quite well. In other times and wars, McGregor was used to train basic trainees in marksmanship and anti-aircraft specialists in the art of shooting down warplanes.

    A spokesman for the 91st Division (Troop Support), the California Army Reserve unit charged with training F Company, described McGregor as a “recreated Iraq.” He added, “They have built six or eight buildings to represent an Iraqi village where the troops do cordon and search exercises. The buildings have no roofs so that the observers/controllers can stay on catwalks and observe the exercise. They have shoot houses with six-inch thick walls to fire in.”

    One 91st Division official, who said he was not authorized to give his name, said the Fort Bliss exercise areas are very useful in preparing soldiers for what they will encounter when they arrive in Iraq. In a later communication the spokesman reported that the 91st’s deputy chief of staff indicated that the California-based training support command would not be able to officially respond to the allegations contained in the AAR.

    “It seems that there is a congressional investigation underway, and the division does not want to stir the pot unnecessarily. That said, I can tell you that F [Company] received good training that was approved at FORSCOM level. They received nearly a half a million dollars worth of new gear prior to departure.”

    Jean Offut, a spokeswoman for Fort Bliss, said the 91st Division and other reserve units have done an outstanding job training more than 50,000 soldiers preparing for deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. She said civilian employees and military technicians and engineers spent $400,000 preparing F Company’s equipment and weapons for deployment overseas. “Ninety to 100 percent of their equipment was certified [for combat deployment],” she reported.

    Not so, a senior F Company NCO noted in his unofficial AAR.

    “Our experience here at McGregor has been one of absolute agony by way of ‘bull****.’ The personnel here cannot be trusted to plan a square dance. This generalization applies to the highest command of this fiasco called a ‘MOB.’ The soldiers of the 425th are only prepared for their deployment for operations in harm’s way because of their own efforts. Very little credit can be given to the MOB site except for issues pertaining to supply and maintenance.”

    If that assessment weren’t scathing enough, several members of F Company described their training experiences at McGregor as “fruitless, worthless, useless, and a waste of time that only benefited the cadre who seemed to enjoy inflicting chicken**** nonsense on us to pass the time of day.” Those comments represent some of the more constructive criticisms offered by the men of F Company.

    The detailed, 22-page AAR sent to Pentagon planners by members of F Company describes the Michigan soldiers’ training experience in grisly detail, covering everything from the MOB to the poor quality of the barracks, mess halls, medical care, training facilities, equipment, gymnasium and transportation. In addition, the AAR describes the condition of the weapons provided, the amount of ammunition F Company soldiers expended in training, and the quality of the instruction provided by the reservists of the 91st Division, a non-combat training command filled with inexperienced reservists called up to train the war fighters for missions they themselves had never performed using weapons and tactics they had never used. The kindest thing said of them in the report is that they showed up for work most of the time.

    One paragraph about the availability of training ammunition described in the AAR sums up the frustrating situation in which F Company found itself:

    “Ammo for training is key when training for combat.”

    “We are not a CS (combat support) or a CSS (combat services support) unit: We are Infantry – ‘we fight.’ I cannot put it any simpler than that. While here, we fired 24 rounds to zero and 40 rounds to qualify. We were then given 120 rounds of blank ammo for the entire SASO training block. Who in their right mind signed off on this?


  12. #12
    “We have been called away from our homes and families for hostile operations. We are owed a chance to be trained properly and given the tools to obtain that objective. I, and all the soldiers resent the fact that we are just ‘checking the blocks’ to be moved into theater. As an 11B [infantry MOS] we are suppose to fire the AT-4, use a claymore mine, throw hand grenades, fire the [Mk-]203 grenade launcher, fire our crew-served weapons, fire the Mk-19 grenade launcher, fire a .50 cal machine gun; almost none of which has taken place. While in theater we will be expected to execute any number of tasks, most will involve infantry duties and accomplishing the bare minimum is not an option when my soldiers are in the game. May God have mercy on your souls, you miserable wretches.”

    In response to a DefenseWatch request for comment on the AAR by F Company commander Maj. Thomas Woodward, senior MIARNG officials provided this written statement from Col. James R. Anderson, assistant adjutant general, which stated in part:

    “Soldiers are encouraged to voice their opinions and concerns. Based upon the concerns of our soldiers, issues have been discovered and addressed. The Chief of National Guard Bureau and other General Officers have visited the training site at Fort Bliss. After seeing the site, talking to soldiers and observing training, they were assured the soldiers are being prepared to successfully complete their missions in theater.”

    This is one Company F soldier’s response from Iraq: “The final point [is] that the part-time soldier comes at his countries calling at a moments notice. [He] gives up his civilian life, leaves his family and more then likely will lose his job to come here. Some have left life and limb in this accursed place. Then to add insult to injury, he is given next to no training, poor equipment and expected to execute a mission as well as the active component. If he falls short he can expect to be court-martialed or face lesser forms of military justice. The officers in charge can rest easy because the enlisted part timers will take the fall.”

    *Next: F Company struggles through training and is suddenly deployed to the combat zone Iraq, where the lack of training is compounded by deliberate mistreatment at the hands of an active Army unit to which the soldiers are assigned.

    Contributing Editor Nathaniel R. “Nat” Helms is a Vietnam veteran, former police officer, long-time journalist and war correspondent living in Missouri. He is the author of two books, Numba One – Numba Ten and Journey Into Madness: A Hitchhiker’s Account of the Bosnian Civil War, both available at He can be reached at Send Feedback responses to*


  13. #13
    Near Fallujah, Marine Metal Workers Weld Life-Saving Vehicle Armor
    by Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin
    Marine Corps News
    January 03, 2005

    CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq - Standing on top of a Humvee, blowtorch in hand in the middle of Iraq, Cpl. Ray C. Rollins contemplates why he joined the Marine Corps nearly four years ago.

    Putting down the blowtorch he was using to weld a steel plate to the backside of the truck, he smiles and gives his reply: "I was told I couldn't make it in the Marine Corps," he said. "I hate being told I can't do something, so I did it just to prove I could."

    The 23-year-old Marine reservist from Dublin, Texas, is a welder by trade back in the civilian sector for a local company called Welder Riggs Machine and Welding.

    In the Marine Corps, he is a mechanic, but often can be found crossing the short distance of gravel which separates his work area from the two tents which house the welders' work area. He loves welding, he says, and frequently stops by to see if his fellow Marines has any welding work he can help with.

    The welders are part of Combat Service Support Company 122, a unit that provides vehicle recovery and maintenance services for Marine units operating throughout western Iraq.

    Since arriving in Iraq with the rest of CSSC-122 in September, Rollins' skills have come in particularly good use. CSSC-122's welders - six Marines in all - worked around the clock to weld armor on more than 115 military vehicles used for convoys and patrols during the height of Fallujah combat operations.

    Using both pre-fabricated kits of armor and scrap metal from inoperable vehicles, these Marines have welded extra armor onto doors, back panels, gun mounts, and undersides of everything from trucks to bulldozers to help protect Marines operating inside the "City of Mosques."

    "We're the guys who protect the rifle carriers and make sure they come home to their families," said Sgt. David M. Liske, the welding shop's noncommissioned officer in charge. "They want to come home to their families just like the rest of us."

    From a distance, Liske's Marines could be mistaken for a crew of mechanics in an automobile shop in "Anywhere, U.S.A." Instead of the tan and brown digital camouflage uniforms most Marines wear, these Marines don dirty, faded coveralls and boots sprinkled with random burn marks, a trademark of their welding operations. Tools line the racks inside one of two tents the Marine welders use as a workshop. Country music echoes throughout the tent

    "Hell, I've been through quite a few coveralls and boots," said Liske, who serves as a full-time firefighter back in Rock Island, Ill., when he's not serving in Iraq. "It comes with the job."

    "How many coveralls you been through?" Liske asks one of his metal workers, Lance Cpl. Adam L. Schroeder, a 20-year-old Plattville, Wis., native.

    Placing a piece of a Humvee engine on one of the workshop's tables, Schroeder takes the cigarette he's smoking out of his mouth to answer: "At least five or six," he said.

    Welders they may be, but they are Marines first. As they are working, a Marine from a nearby shop calls out to Liske, "Man the berms!"

    Upon hearing these three words, the Marines put down their tools, extinguish their cigarettes, put on their helmets and body armor, grab their rifles and hustle to pre-staged fighting positions along the fenced-in perimeter which separates CSSC-122's lot from the outside world.

    Although insurgents are not attacking the base, the combat drill keeps the Marines alert and ready for action in the event of an impending attack. Just several days before Christmas, an explosion inside at a dining facility at a U.S. military base in Camp in Mosul killed more than 20 people.

    "It's a reminder we're still in a war," said Liske, 34.

    Like many reserve Marines throughout the United States, Liske was activated and served during the initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom last year. A 15-year veteran of the Marines, he originally signed up to serve within the crash, fire and rescue field of the Marine Corps, putting his fireman skills to use in the military. However, according to Liske, a mistake on his recruiter's part put him on the path to becoming a metal worker following boot camp, a mistake he says he's glad was made, in retrospect.

    "Instead of putting out fires, they've got me building them," he said, leaning on the hood of a Humvee currently being outfitted with additional armor plating for CSSC-122's sister company, CSSC-115.

    While armored vehicles have been a recent concern for some U.S. servicemembers serving in the Global War on Terrorism, it has not been a large concern for Marines here. CSSC-122's welders were putting armor on vehicles up to an hour before Marine infantry units invaded Fallujah on Nov. 8, ensuring Marines didn't face the city's dangers, such as improvised explosive devices and enemy small arms fire, unprotected.

    Lance Cpl. Able G. Rodriguez, a 29-year-old military policeman with Combat Service Support Battalion 1's MP detachment here, is certainly thankful for the armor he had on his Humvee during a vehicle recovery mission Nov. 7, 2004 - the day before Operation Al Fajr began.

    The MPs provide security for convoys and vehicle recovery missions outside the base, and have experienced their fair share of attacks by insurgents. Rodriguez was manning a 50-caliber machine gun when he and the other Marines' vehicles began receiving enemy rifle fire. Before the MPs could locate the insurgents and return fire, the shield plate mounted around Rodriguez' machine gun was hit by rifle fire at least four times, he said.

    While the Marines' vehicles have armor to some degree, some units like to have their vehicles' armor up-graded for additional protection, especially when facing the unknown dangers of Iraq.

    IEDs have been one of the deadliest threats to American servicemembers operating on Iraq's roadways. For the Marine truck drivers and military policemen of the various combat service support units that convoy supplies to Marines throughout Iraq, extra armor on vehicles can mean the difference between life and death on Iraq's roadways.

    Without the armor on his machine gun mount Nov. 7, armor installed by CSSC-122, Rodriguez would not be standing here today, he said.

    "They (enemy rounds) would have been dead on me," said the Brookshire, Texas, native. "You could hear the impacts of the rounds against the shield. Without that armor, the whole situation would have played out a lot differently."

    In addition to welding armor, CSSC-122's welders have also constructed more than 140 "hedgehogs" - spiked barriers used to impede vehicle movement.

    For the MPs, the welders cut hooked shards of metal, sharpened them, and welded them to a steel plate base - instant road spikes.

    "They call us 'Fallujah's Monster Garage,'" said Schroeder.

    The other Marines laugh at the comment.

    "Yeah, we can make just about anything," said Liske, who admits the Marines have had to be creative when improvising armor plating and constructing various other tools to assist Marines' operating inside the city.

    Using two large metal doors from a 7-ton truck, the Marines are currently constructing a back panel for the Humvee to provide additional rear protection for the driver and passenger. They are also adding sheet metal to both doors for additional protection against an attack from either side.

    Lance Cpl. Juan F. Montellano, a 6-foot, 2-inch, Marine from Tucson, Ariz., and metal worker, is busy measuring and marking a piece of sheet metal which will later be cut into smaller pieces and used to help up-armor the Humvee.

    Montellano recalled the long hours he and the other welders worked to ensure his fellow Marines in the city have protection on their vehicles, a task he is glad to have been a part of, he said. Montellano lost three close friends in Iraq, including his best friend from high school.

    His father told him the news of his friend's death over the phone, said Montellano, a 21-year-old first-generation American who speaks with a slight Hispanic accent. When asked about his reaction to the news, Montellano, known as "Monty" to his fellow metal workers, pauses a moment with a sullen look on his face before answering.

    "I was angry at the insurgents. I wanted to go out there and kill them, but I got to stay focused," he said. "I'm here to make a difference. That's why I'm in (the Marine Corps.)"

    Though the Marine Corps has taught him to work well with others, Montellano plans on getting out of the Marine Corps after his four-year enlistment is over to pursue other interests. Lighting up another cigarette, he explains that he plans on attending an apprenticeship school to pursue welding full-time.

    When he returns home from Iraq, he plans on going on a much-needed vacation with his wife, Suzette.

    Like many Marines here, Montellano tries not to dwell on the future to much, but rather stay focused on the task at hand - serving his time in Iraq, an experience which he has forged new friendships as well as steel plates on the back of Humvees.

    "We're brothers here," he said, speaking with the same conviction he uses when speaking about his wife and daughter back home at Camp Pendleton, Calif. "Stick close, and if you have a problem, let me know. I'll take care of you. That's the way it is out here."

    As Schroeder and Rollins continue to fuse steel plates to the CSSC-115 Humvee, two U.S. soldiers drive up in a tan-colored Humvee. They talk to Liske about making an addition to their Humvee.

    "They want armor, we give 'em armor," said Liske. "You hear about a vehicle being attacked by an IED, and then you hear that the armor saved three guys in the back of the vehicle. As long as these guys come back alive, that's gratification enough for us."


  14. #14

    Susie Stephens
    Region I Coordinator
    National League of Families For POW/MIAs

    Rumsfeld Visit

    To All,

    This is a shotgun blast response to the media reports on Secretary Rumsfeld's visit to our Camp. I was fortunate enough to be there and even shake the man's hand. When the media reports were released concerning the event, I could not believe what I saw and heard. There are over 12,000 troops on our base. Only 2,000 or so had the opportunity to attend the gathering and I can tell you, those were hotly contested seats. Not as the media would have you believe, so we could voice our displeasure, but rather to have the opportunity to see and hear the man we admire. Mr. Secretary spoke for 10 minutes or so on the war in Iraq and what freedom meant to the people of Afghanistan. He was there for the recent elections and shared his wonderful insight. After his prepared remarks he opened up the floor for questions and made it very clear that nothing was off limits.

    Folks, this is extremely unusual for a dignitary to do. Also we, as leaders, were instructed to not screen our soldiers' questions. They were to be honest and from the heart. Mr. Rumsfeld fielded a number of questions, took down notes for the ones he did not have answers to and genuinely enjoyed talking to the soldiers. Afterward, he spent over! an hour with the enthusiastic troops who literally mobbed him and would not let him leave. He smiled for all, shook hands and had pictures taken. It ended only when his security forced us away. He was applauded, he was given a standing ovation and he was loved.

    He stood there like a professional, like a man, and he took the heat because that's what leaders do. And yet somehow, the American media turned that wonderful event into a"disgruntled troops meet with Secretary Rumsfeld" headline. Incredible. The morale is high, the equipment is good and improving daily. Disregard what you read and hear from the media and trust in the American fighting men and women to do the right thing. We have excellent leadership and are doing what we signed up to do.

    1SG Timmy Rikard
    FOB Marez
    Mosul, Iraq


  15. #15
    1st FSSG Commanding General Adds a Star
    by Lance Cpl. T. J. Kaemmerer
    Marine Corps News
    January 03, 2005

    CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq - Brig. Gen. Richard S. Kramlich was promoted to the rank of major general before his warriors of the 1st Force Service Support Group here, Jan. 2, 2005.

    Lieutenant Gen. John F. Sattler, commanding general of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, and 1st FSSG Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Cole pinned two silver stars each on the collars of Kramlich's desert-tan, digital pattern uniform during the ceremony.

    "As a commander, there are a couple of things that give you great pleasure and great joy," said Lt. Gen. Sattler. "One is the opportunity to pin an award on a well-deserving warrior. The second is having the opportunity to promote a great leader within our Marine Corps, and that opportunity is mine tonight. I've known Gen. Kramlich a long time. (His) leadership style is positive, upbeat, professional and demanding, but fair as can be."

    Maj. Gen. Kramlich's promotion reaffirmed the words of wisdom he's given the Marines who have been awarded in Iraq by their commanding general.

    "I've had the opportunity to promote, award and re-enlist a number of Marines and sailors since I've been here," said Maj. Gen. Kramlich, who's spent 9 of the past 12 months as 1st FSSG's commanding general in Iraq. "I've always told them that although their families can't be here, the notion that you're doing this in a combat zone should be all the more important for you. Today I truly found out that there is something to that."

    He praised his Marines' actions and courage, displayed daily.

    "Every time you went outside this gate, outside this base, you were in the combat zone. You knew that, the enemy knew that, yet nothing deterred you," Maj. Gen. Kramlich said.

    Lt. Gen. Sattler concurred with Maj. Gen. Kramlich's remarks about the will of his Marines in a combat zone.

    The hard chargers of the 1st FSSG ensured that Marines had the capability to prosecute the battle by providing the trigger pullers in places like Fallujah with the bullets and medical services they needed, said Lt. Gen. Sattler.

    "Each and every one of you can be proud of the warrior spirit that you bring to your jobs every day and that you have brought to this fight," Lt. Gen. Sattler said. "The slogan "every Marine a rifleman' has never rung truer than it has during this conflict."

    Though it was a day to celebrate the contributions made by Maj. Gen. Kramlich, who's served in all three of the major subordinate commands of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force, he also took the time to assure his Marines he would still put their needs first.

    "While we're looking to the future, I can't help but look to the past and the people who have led me. It gives me an indication of the huge shoes I have to fill," said Maj. Gen. Kramlich. "The commitment that they showed to their Marines -- that's the same commitment that I pledge to uphold on this day."

    As memorable a day it was being promoted in a combat zone, there was one thing the newly promoted Marine admitted was missing from the ceremony.

    "As much as I'm glad to be here with all of us in uniform and have you all share this special day with me, I won't B.S. you and say that I wouldn't be very grateful if my wife would be here to share this with me," Maj. Gen. Kramlich said. "That's not the case but I think it's still necessary for me to say that without the support I've had from Gail I would not be standing here at all."


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