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Thread: Miami's Mad Max Marines
02-09-05, 07:06 AM #1
Miami's Mad Max Marines
Soldier of Fortune: Miami's Mad Max Marines
Marine Reserves Charge to Baghdad, Fighting All the Way
By Col. Donald Schutt, USMC (Ret.)
Soldier of Fortune Magazine
[Ed. Note: SOF has never run a story in eight parts before, but we've never run a story like this before either. These guys were cops and students, accountants and truckers. But when the Iraq War started they made an adrenalin-charged assault from Kuwait to Baghdad that makes Mad Max look like The Little Engine That Could.]
How are modern wars won? The media tells us over and over again about how our high-technology aircraft can devastate targets at will with extreme accuracy. We have Satellites that can read the side of a pack of cigarettes. We are forever told high-tech airpower will be triumphant. Then there are the computer geeks who claim they will bring the enemy to their knees with e-mails and a computer virus or two. We also have brave and dedicated Special Forces troops who conduct shadowy operations that we are told are the key to victory. The truth is that the high-technology aircraft mostly can't find their targets, satellites have limited coverage, computer warfare is laughable in terms of real effects, and although Special Forces troops can be very useful out of relation to the size of the forces involved their effect is always on the periphery as a force-multiplier than as a direct-action achiever. Even in Afghanistan the Special Forces could not have gotten far without the heavy ground forces of the Northern Alliance to take the ground. You can bomb targets, destroy computer networks, conduct raids, and implement psychological operations for years and victory will always be elusive. In truth, wars are still won by the heavy ground forces that roll over the enemy smashing his main forces and seizing his terrain. This is the story of a group of Marines who were part of the spearhead for the ground forces who liberated Iraq. They took the enemy on in head to head battle and won the war.
TOW and Scout Platoons, 8th Tank Battalion is a Marine Corps Reserve unit based in Miami. Like most reservists they drill one weekend a month and are activated for training for two weeks once a year. It was on one of those normal weekend drills that a Naval Message was received activating the unit for war. It was not unexpected. Everyone knew that war was coming. It had become a guessing game as to when it was going to happen and who would be selected to go. When the order came down it answered the question. The time was soon and TOW and Scout Platoons were going to the party. Although some of the Marines were not keen on leaving their comfortable homes to venture into the unknown dangers that awaited them, it would be fair to say that the vast majority of them were eager go. Many had joined after 9-11, and they were looking for some payback. Others had been drilling together for years but had never been to war; they wanted to get the chance to use the skills they had learned in a real-world endeavor.
There were a few Desert Storm veterans who knew a little more about what awaited them. They had mixed feelings. They, too, wanted some payback, but they also knew what a filthy miserable place the deserts of the Middle East were. There was no telling whether they would be there for six months, a year, or … ? The Marines were mobilized to active duty in mid-January 2003 and by the end of the month they were in Kuwait awaiting the start of the war.
Kuwait: A Time To Prepare
Upon arrival in Kuwait on 29 and 30 January, the Marines of TOW and Scout Platoons didn't waste any time in beginning preparations for the hard fight they all knew was coming. Even before they were matched up with their vehicles and equipment they walked through formations and tactical maneuvers on foot. Finally, a few weeks after their arrival in Kuwait, their vehicles arrived. The Marines practiced vehicle land- navigation, vehicle-recovery procedures, formations, driving with gas masks on, night driving with night-vision goggles (NVGs), and the use of the thermal sight mounted on the TOW. With the threat of biological or chemical agents being used much of the preparation was focused on NBC (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical)-training and procedures. Many of the Marines in retrospect felt that the way the war actually went down was very different than the open desert warfare they expected and practiced for. The Marines were disappointed with the very limited opportunity to fire their weapons prior to combat. Essentially they were only given enough rounds to test fire the weapons for functionality rather than for accuracy or practice. Many of the weapons were drawn from pre-positioned stocks and hence test firing the weapons was critical. Ammunition was just not available. This would have an effect for the war as well. Military Logistics experts had developed a supply system that mimicked the scheme used in modern manufacturing. It's called "just in time." Japanese car manufacturers had developed it with help from American management experts. Records are kept of what is used and are then put into a computerized supply management system. Having a computerized record of what is used allows new supplies to be brought up as needed, thus eliminating warehouses and storage depots. In theory it is efficient. In practice, at a car plant, with a perfectly thought-out plant and perfect transportation links, it saves millions of dollars. The battlefield, however, has no relationship whatsoever with an environment that would support a "just in time"-method.
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That some REMF pogue thought that this system had any use on a battlefield is really indicative of disconnect between the people who buy the supplies and equipment and the people who use the supplies and equipment against the enemy. The "just in time"-system proved worthless and the logisticians had to work overtime trying to make up the shortfalls. The people who were really affected were the end-user of the supplies. The individual Marines, who risked their lives and did the fighting. In a campaign that everyone knew would be fast and furious it is critical that each Marine and each vehicle be loaded up as well as possible. In a short campaign it is purely possible to support the entire war out of what you had in the vehicle when you left. This did not happen. Not enough food or ammo was available. The Marines would have to make do with what they got. Obviously, each TOW Marine gunner would like to have a full combat load of TOW missiles per vehicle. However, with the thousands of U.S. forces streaming into Kuwait, logistics were hard-pressed. A TOW HUMMV can carry six missiles plus one ready to fire for a total of seven missiles per vehicle. Most of the Marine TOW gunners crossed into Iraq with only three missiles per vehicle. The main weapon the Marines would use was 5.56-ball ammo. It would remain short until most of the fighting was over. Marines went into Iraq with a basic load of seven magazines. They had plenty of unused cargo capacity in their vehicles. If the logisticians had been able to bring the ammo forward for issue prior to the war tons of precious cargo space would have been available later for carrying other supplies. Initially, the Scout Platoon had fourteen vehicles organized into two sections, each of six vehicles, plus the platoon commander's vehicle, and finally a "high-back" variant of the HUMMV used for carrying extra ammo, rations, water, and fuel. The first section was called Tiger Section and was mostly manned by regular Marines from the 2nd Tank Battalion. The Second section consisted of Miami Reservists and was called Panther Section. Each six-vehicle section contained two M2 .50-caliber machineguns, two Mk-19 automatic 40mm grenade launchers, and two TOW anti-tank missile launchers.
A Superior Weapon
Later in Iraq, the Scout Platoon's weapons mix was further adjusted based on what worked best. Gunnery Sergeant Gregoire, who in civilian life is a veteran police officer with the Miami PD explains: "The .50-caliber machine gun is a superior weapon to the Mk-19. I wouldn't say that the firepower was increased with the .50 cal., while the Mk-19 is good in itself; however, with its cyclic rate of fire and only 32 rounds in it, we would run out real quick and we'd have to reload, whereas the .50 cal. We'd have 200 rounds a box (Some .50-caliber machine guns had their mounts modified to use a Mk-19 ammo can which allowed up to 300 rounds of the smaller .50-caliber ammo to be linked together and ready for use), we can suppress longer, harder and without having to constantly reload." The Gunny who, is also a veteran of Desert Storm, as well as the mean streets of Miami, further explains: "We changed configuration more than one time, Originally we went in with, I believe, two .50 cals, two MK-19s, and two TOWs, due to the type of, you know, MET (Mission, Enemy, Terrain) we were basically more urban and CQB (close-quarters-battle) than we originally thought". Hence, later one of the Mk-19s in each section was replaced with a .50-caliber machine gun. Lastly, after most of the fighting was done, one M240G 7.62mm machine gun was added to a TOW vehicle in each section.
Crossing The Border At Night
The decision to cross the border in order to begin the ground war came as a complete surprise to the Marines of TOW and Scout Platoons. Most were asleep when the word came down to get ready. At about 2330 hours the word was passed, and the Marines worked to get ready to step-off. Corporal Jose Mendoza remembers being awakened that night. "I was supposed to have fire-watch that morning at 2400, I looked at my watch; it was only 2330 and everyone was getting up. I thought it was reveille already. So I got up and I'm thinking okay, I'm going to get dressed, and I'm looking around, and everyone is saying we got to go." The Marines cleared out their hootches and loaded the vehicles. The Battalion moved to the border with the tanks and engineer breaching teams in the lead. On the border there were some fences and ditches that had to be breached. The engineers cleared three lanes and the Tank Battalion started to spill through into Iraq. It was dark and somewhat confusing. Luckily the resistance consisted mainly of very intermittent and inaccurate artillery fire. The Marines from Miami were in trail of the tanks and it was dark. They saw the flashes of artillery impacts and the tanks firing their main-guns at invisible targets in the dark.
02-09-05, 07:07 AM #2
Sergeant Andrew Michael, whose civilian job is as a deputy sheriff for Broward County, Florida, recalls sitting in the Scout platoon commanders vehicle on top of a highway overpass as the other Marines cleared some Iraqi bunkers alongside the highway. All day long pick-up trucks mounting white flags had been surrendering to the U.S. forces. Another white pick-up truck approached Sergeant Michael's position on the highway; it was not flying a white flag. This got the attention of the group of Marines sitting in the two HUMMV's atop the overpass. In the commander's vehicle were four Marines, First Lieutenant Zummo the Scout Platoon commander, HM3 Blake the unit Corpsman, Lance Corporal Rowland, the driver, and Sergeant Michael, the forward observer. The Iraqi driver was obviously surprised that the Marines were there. He came to a dead stop 500 to 600 meters away as the Marines watched. Sergeant Michael explains what happened: "A truck started coming toward us, and all day trucks had been surrendering and they all had white flags on them. We were watching the truck and it didn't have a white flag on it. So we were kind of watching it drive toward us. Then at some point he sort of stopped and spun around. He pulled a tarp off the back and he had a machine gun on the back. He started firing at us, and we fired back. We both surprised each other pretty much". The heavy machine gun rounds from the Iraqi technical skidded across the ground right next to the Scout Commander's vehicle. First Lieutenant Zummo fired back with his .50-caliber machinegun. It promptly jammed. Fortunately, in the other HUMMV Lance Corporal McCarthy's weapon functioned perfectly and American fire was brought on the Iraqi vehicle. For the Miami Scouts this was the first direct fire engagement of the war. "That was the first actual man-to-man engagement. Before that we had seen tracer rounds come near us and mortar fire, but that was the first direct-fire combat where we were aiming at the enemy trying to kill them and they were trying to kill us." Explained Sergeant Michael. The Iraqi technical sped off to escape the American heavy machine-gun fire. Iraqis Fled Corporal Derric Keller, manning a TOW vehicle, tracked the Iraqis through the high- power optics on his missile system sight. He watched as the Iraqi irregulars fled the scene. He held his fire. The route the Iraqi pickup was taking was right on the border between 5th Marine Regiment's and 7th Marine Regiment's areas of responsibility. Corporal Keller was concerned that if he should fire, the missile might misguide, and hit friendly forces nearby. There were also some power lines along its flight-path. The TOW is wire-guided and the power lines increased the likelihood of a misguided missile, should the guidance wire cross them. He held his fire. He watched fascinated as the same Iraqis stopped and changed into another pickup truck they had probably cached earlier. This pick-up truck was armed with a mortar tube.
The Iraqis then sallied forth to stop the American Tank Battalion with their pickup truck-mounted mortar. Saddam's sacrificial lambs tried to engage the battalion with their new weapon. They were able to fire five rounds of ammo at the Americans. None of the explosive rounds came close to hitting anything. Their bold attack did not last long. F14 Jets flying in support of the Marines were talked on to the technical. They dropped a 2,000-pound bomb directly on the position. There were no further problems with the pickup truck, or evidence of its continued existence on this planet.
After the initial movement into Iraq the 2nd Tank Battalion got an order to make a major movement. At first, 2nd Tanks moved out tactically in battle-formation across the broken terrain adjacent to the highway. It soon became apparent that with little resistance the Marines were wasting precious time and putting wear-and-tear on the vehicles for nothing. The Battalion Commander decided to just have everyone get up on the main road they were following and drive. This decision was made based on the situation that they faced. It would have been nothing but a waste of time to move cautiously forward at this point. The bold decision to use the road would be conventionally thought of as an "untactical" way to move through hostile territory crawling with the enemy. In reality though, using the highway to conduct rapid movement became the foundation of 2nd Tanks' successes on the road to Baghdad. Traveling on the major highways allowed the Battalion to cover ground at a rapid pace. This in turn resulted in the Marines showing up in front of the enemy before the Iraqis were ready to meet them. Tiger Scouts were punched-out in the lead as a quartering party far out in front of the unit. Panther Scouts was given the mission to conduct a route reconnaissance directly ahead of the unit as it moved toward its objective. The Scout Marines of Panther Section leaped far ahead of the Battalion and attempted to perform their mission. They checked bridges and overpasses along the route to ensure that no explosive charges had been set. They also checked for the general trafficability of the route. The problem was that once the main body of 2nd tanks started using the hardball road they moved so fast as to leave little time for Panther Scouts to perform their checks with any degree of certainty. They ended up driving down the road ahead and checking everything on the fly. Sergeant Cristian Moreno of Miami, Florida, was with the Bronze Section of the TOW Platoon. As they were traveling down the highway he would see occasional pockets of Iraqi Soldiers. "I felt pretty safe the way they were conducting the movement. There wasn't much cover for us anyway out in the middle of the Iraqi desert. Plus, our vehicles were about twice the size of the Iraqi vehicles.
They could spot us whether we were camouflaged or not. "It worked out good for us that we used the highways. Obviously they were never expecting us to get on the highway. We could see that we were bypassing Iraqi units. They would look at us but I guess they were overwhelmed by the size of our unit and the speed at which we were moving. I recall one incident -- I saw a T-55 rolling slowly next to the road about 300 meters away. He stopped and he never even aimed a gun at us. The crew jumped out of the tank and started running away. " About 1,500 meters behind that tank there was a T-72 right by an oil field. I could see them clearly without binos or anything. They surrendered to the British who were up securing that area. We made a stop about one kilometer farther down the road. I saw the soldiers from the T-55 make it to the British where they, too, surrendered." The Marines kept up the road march to their destination. When they arrived at their new assembly area everyone was dead tired. An accident occurred when an inadvertent discharge of the .50-caliber machine gun on one of the tanks killed a Marine with Delta Company. Lance Corporal Eric Orlowski, 26, of Buffalo, New York, was killed. He was the first and, unfortunately, not the last to die with 2nd Tanks along the road to Baghdad.
Col. Donald Schutt is a retired USMC regular officer. In his last assignment he was senior advisor to the Miami Marines.
Next month the Miami Marines face their first real battle.
02-09-05, 07:07 AM #3
Army Uniforms Redesigned
February 9, 2005
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Army soldiers are being issued new fatigues with easy-to-use Velcro openings and a redesigned camouflage pattern that can help conceal them as they move rapidly from desert to forest to city in places like Baghdad.
"It might give you the extra second you need, save your life maybe," Sgt. Marcio Soares said Tuesday after trying on the new all-in-one camouflage uniform that is the first major redesign in Army fatigues since 1983.
Soares' unit, the Georgia National Guard's 48th Infantry Brigade, is the first to be issued the new fatigues as part of a $3.4 billion Army-wide makeover being phased in over the next three years.
The uniform will replace the standard forest camouflage - green, brown and black - and the desert camouflage - tan, brown and grey - now used by U.S. troops in Iraq.
Twenty-two changes were made to the uniforms, most notably the new camouflage pattern.
Instead of bold jigsaw swatches of colors, the new camouflage pattern uses muted shades of desert brown, urban gray and foliage green broken into one-centimeter segments. Black was eliminated completely because it catches the eye too easily.
The resulting camouflage - similar to a pattern the Marines adopted two years ago - conceals soldiers in forest, desert or urban battlegrounds, said Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Myhre, the uniform's lead designer.
"In Baghdad, you can go from the desert to vegetation to the city in 10 minutes," Myhre said. "What we realized very quickly is there's no camouflage that's the 100 percent solution for any environment."
Other changes were prompted by complaints from soldiers in the field. Jacket and pocket buttons, which can snag on nets and other gear, have been replaced with zippers and Velcro.
Pockets at the jacket's waistline were moved to the shoulders, where soldiers can reach them while wearing body armor. And the uniforms have a looser fit, with more room to wear layers underneath.
Rank, unit and name patches attach with Velcro rather than being sewn on. Infrared-reflecting squares on the shoulders make friendly troops easier to identify while using night-vision goggles.
"The only problem I have with the uniform is, once the soldiers put it on, they don't want to take it off," said Brig. Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver, commander of the 48th Infantry Brigade, which has 4,000 reservists training at Fort Stewart to go off to Iraq in May.
The Army started developing the uniform two years ago and field-tested prototypes in Iraq. The final version was rolled out June 24 - the Army's 229th birthday.
Col. John Norwood, the Army's project manager for soldier equipment, said the new uniforms will be issued in coming months to units being sent to Iraq. New soldiers entering basic training will be issued them by October, and all Army troops will be required to wear them by April 2008.
The new uniforms cost a little more - $85 each, compared with $60 for the old ones. But Norwood said the Army will save money by having to produce only one combat uniform rather than three - standard greens, desert camouflage and cold-weather fatigues.
And they should make soldiers' lives easier, too. The fabric is wrinkle-free and machine-washable, and the new suede boots do not require polishing like the old black boots.
"If you have a choice whether you teach them to polish boots or teach them how to survive in battle, we'd rather teach them to survive in battle," Rodeheaver said.
02-09-05, 07:08 AM #4
Pentagon Wins A Stop Loss Round
United Press International
February 9, 2005
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon easily won the first round of the legal battle over its "stop-loss" policy, which involuntarily extends a service member's military obligation and keeps boots on the ground in Iraq.
Critics call the policy a "back-door draft."
At the same time, the victory for the Pentagon is bad news for the thousands of service members in Iraq and Afghanistan who may be vulnerable to having their military service extended well beyond the time they were supposed to be discharged.
What can't be calculated is the continuing public-relations damage to the services. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, and other officials acknowledged recently that recruitment is getting to be a tougher sell.
Some media reports say recruitment is down by one-third.
In the first legal challenge to the Pentagon policy, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth has refused to issue a preliminary injunction freeing from the service a soldier now in Iraq.
The judge ruled in a suit brought by the soldier, Spc. David Qualls of Arkansas, and seven other military members who also had their service extended. The seven are listed on the suit only as "John Does" but are either in Iraq or on their way there.
The group apparently is the first to file suit over the Pentagon's stop-loss policy, which was announced last summer.
Qualls was in the Army from 1986-94 and re-enlisted in the Army National Guard's "Try One" program in July 2003.
Under the program, Qualls was supposed to be in the Guard only for one year.
However, in October 2003 the Army told him he was recalled to active duty and his "expiration of term of service" was being moved from July 6, 2004, to Dec. 24, 2031 -- not that Qualls would actually be held for that long. Stop-loss generally means a soldier is held in the service to the end of his or her tour of duty and 90 days after returning home.
While the suit was being processed, Qualls asked Lamberth for a temporary restraining order that would have forced the Army to keep him in the United States. When that was denied, Qualls was shipped out to Iraq, and Qualls asked Lamberth for a preliminary injunction ordering his immediate release from the service.
Lamberth denied that request Monday in language that doesn't bode well for the rest of the service members' suit.
Anyone requesting a preliminary injunction before trial, Lamberth said, must show that he or she has a likelihood of winning the suit on the merits; that he or she would suffer "irreparable injury" if the injunction is not granted; that an injunction would not "substantially damage" another interested party, and that an injunction "would favor the public interest."
Lamberth said Qualls fell short in three of the four categories.
In order to win his case on the merits, Lamberth said, Qualls would have to show that the Army breached his contract. Qualls signed up for only a year, but the Army apparently listed on the contract -- on the reverse side -- a "partial statement of existing United States laws," including the federal law under which terms of service may be extended in time of war.
Score one for the Army.
As for irreparable injury, Lamberth conceded, "Mr. Qualls is currently serving on active duty in Iraq. He, like other military personnel in Iraq, puts his life on the line every day and faces a great risk of harm and death as a result of his continuing service. Qualls would be forced to remain in harm's way and would be irreparably injured should an injunction not ensue."
Score one for Qualls.
But if the injunction is granted, the judge continued, it would open the door to similar enlistees seeking similar relief, and Qualls has not shown "that issuing an injunction would not substantially harm the Army."
Score one for the service.
The public interest is hard to balance, Lamberth said. On one hand, the public has an interest in seeing the Army make effective personnel decisions with minimal interference from the courts. On the other, "This case involves the integrity of the Army recruitment and enlistment process, and an injunction ordering Qualls's discharge, assuming his claims were legally sound, would show to the public that the Army is not above the law," the judge said.
However, because Qualls is unlikely to succeed on the merits of his case, "It is not in the public interest for this court to restrain the Army from carrying out its duty under law and executive order," Lamberth said.
Score the final point for the Army. Game over.
Lamberth ruled that on balance, "The factors weigh against granting a preliminary injunction."
02-09-05, 07:08 AM #5
Alcohol Abuse Up At Air Force Academy
February 9, 2005
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Alcohol offenses at the Air Force Academy jumped 57 percent last semester, largely because of an incident in which 15 underage cadets were drinking at a retreat, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Gazette of Colorado Springs, citing academy officials, said there were 74 alcohol offenses between June and December, compared with 47 in the same period in 2003.
"While the number of incidents is down, there is a trend in having more people involved in each incident," said academy spokesman Johnny Whitaker.
Alcohol is a crucial issue at the school near Colorado Springs: Forty percent of sexual assaults in which two cadets were involved in the past 10 years also involved drinking, according to a 2003 Air Force investigation.
The school has overhauled its alcohol policy as part of reforms put in place after scores of female cadets complained their sexual assault cases were mishandled.
Whitaker blamed last semester's increase on an October incident in which 21 cadets were involved in a party at an academy-approved, but unsupervised retreat. The incident involved 15 underage cadets.
02-09-05, 07:08 AM #6
Pentagon Drops Toxic Drug Diagnosis
United Press International
February 9, 2005
WASHINGTON - A military physician who linked brain damage in several soldiers to a controversial malaria drug now says he doesn't know if that caused the problem.
The doctor, Navy Cmdr. Michael Hoffer, said he changed his mind based on new information. Critics of the military's handling of the drug, called Lariam, say it fits a pattern of not acknowledging severe side effects -- and that Hoffer was overruled.
"The military is stonewalling again," said Jeanne Lese of Lariam Action USA, an advocacy group for people who believe they have been harmed by the drug. "These GIs deserve better than this."
Hoffer is co-director of the Pentagon's Spatial Orientation Lab at Naval Medical Center, San Diego. Beginning last spring he diagnosed several service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with vestibular -- or balance system -- disorders resulting from damage to a nerve in their brainstem. handled.
Hoffer said then that side effects of Lariam were the likely cause of the damage. He put the terms "Lariam-induced" and "Drug Toxicity Malarials" in two soldiers' medical records reviewed by United Press International.
Hoffer told UPI in an interview Friday he subsequently learned the soldiers had other risk factors that could explain the brain damage and therefore decided to discontinue citing the drug.
The records now state the disorder is "of unknown origin in individuals stationed in Afghanistan or involved in OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom)."
02-09-05, 07:09 AM #7
Suicide Bomber Kills 21 In Crowd
February 9, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of a crowd of army recruits Tuesday, killing 21 other people in the deadliest attack in Baghdad since last week's election and highlighting a recent shift by insurgents to use human bombs instead of cars.
Insurgents are strapping explosives on the bodies of volunteers to penetrate the network of blast walls, checkpoints and other security measures designed to block vehicle bombs.
Several such attackers tried to disrupt voting in Baghdad on election day but were unable to get into polling stations. On Monday, a suicide bomber walked into a crowd of Iraqi policemen in the northern city of Mosul and detonated explosives, killing 12 of them.
Iraqi authorities initially said the Baghdad recruiting center was attacked by mortar fire, but witnesses reported only a single explosion and the U.S. military said the blast was caused by a suicide bomber on foot.
Attacks have steadily risen since the Jan. 30 elections, when a massive U.S. and Iraqi security operation prevented insurgents from disrupting the vote. Those measures, including a ban on most private vehicles, closing the borders and an extended curfew, were relaxed soon afterward.
An Internet statement posted Tuesday in the name of an al-Qaida affiliate led by Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attack on the recruiting center.
"This is the beginning of the escalation we promised you," the statement said. Its source could not be verified.
Insurgents in recent months have stepped up their offensive against Iraq's police and security forces, which are less well-trained, well-armed and well-protected than American and other multinational troops, at a time when U.S. military planners are trying to shift more of the security burden onto the Iraqis.
Three Iraqi policemen were killed Tuesday in clashes in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Ghazaliya, one of the most dangerous districts of the capital and the scene of numerous gunbattles and assassinations over the past six months.
Election workers are still counting ballots for the 275-member National Assembly, 18 provincial council and a regional parliament for the Kurdish self-governing region in the north.
No new results were announced Tuesday, but a coalition of Kurdish parties is now in second place - raising the possibility that Shiites and Kurds might share power and even open the way for a Kurdish president. Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani already has announced his candidacy for president.
Officials expect a final count by the end of the week.
Partial results released Monday showed the ticket of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite, falling to third place among the 111 candidate lists. A Shiite-dominated ticket endorsed by Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, led with about half the votes, followed by the coalition of Kurdish parties.
If that reflects the final lineup it appears unlikely that Allawi, a secular Shiite who favors strong ties to the United States and a tough stand against the insurgents, could emerge as a compromise choice for prime minister when the new assembly convenes by early March.
Shiites are believed to comprise about 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people, and the al-Sistani-backed ticket has signaled it wants the premiership.
Many Sunni Arabs are believed to have stayed home on election day, either out of fear of insurgent attack or heeding calls from their own clergy to boycott the polls. Sunni Arabs, about 20 percent of the population but the dominant political force for decades, form the core of the insurgency.
On Tuesday, the major Sunni party condemned an incident last week at a U.S. detention center in southern Iraq in which American guards fired on prisoners to quell a riot. Four prisoners were killed, the U.S. command said.
The Iraqi Islamic Party demanded that those responsible face criminal charges and warned the U.S. military against such actions. The U.S. military already announced its own investigation into the decision to use lethal force during the Jan. 31 riot.
In other violence, gunmen fired on a car carrying an Iraqi politician who gained notoriety last year when he attended a conference on terrorism in Israel. Mithal al-Alusi, head of the small Nation party, escaped injury but two of his sons were killed, police said.
Also Tuesday, a militant group claimed in an Internet statement that it had executed a female Italian journalist abducted in Baghdad for spying on "holy fighters."
There was no way to verify the authenticity of the claim, which offered no proof that Giuliana Sgrena, a 56-year-old reporter, was dead or had been held by the group. She was kidnapped Friday in Baghdad.
02-09-05, 07:09 AM #8
Ft. Bragg Soldier, Teen Found Dead
February 9, 2005
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - A Fort Bragg soldier and a 16-year-old girl were found dead Tuesday in his home, the second shooting in a week involving soldiers at the base.
Authorities said Pfc. George Daniel Katsigiannis, 21, and Jenna Bolgna, both natives of New York City, could have died as early as Friday. The girl had been staying with Katsigiannis.
Maj. Sam Pennica of the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office said investigators are looking at suspects but have no motive for the killings.
The bodies were discovered when Katsigiannis, a support member of the 3rd Special Forces Group, did not show up at work for two days, and some members of his unit went to his home to check on him, said sheriff's office spokeswoman Debbie Tanna.
No weapons were found in the home, she said.
On Thursday, a Special Forces trainee at Fort Bragg shot his estranged wife and her boyfriend at her home, then killed himself. Both of the others survived.
02-09-05, 07:10 AM #9
Woman Charged With Stealing Fund Money
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) -- A woman has been charged with taking money from a memorial fund to honor a slain Marine.
Shari L. Rel, of Grand Island, was charged this week with felony theft by unlawful taking, Hall County Attorney Mark Young said Saturday.
Rel, 32, is suspected of taking more than $1,500 from a fund set up for U.S. Marine Pvt. Noah Boye, 21, of Grand Island, who died in April in Iraq.
It was unclear whether a warrant for Rel's arrest had been be issued, Young said.
Rel was the girlfriend of Boye's oldest brother, Gary King. The bank account for the memorial fund was put into her name, police said, because King was without identification when the couple went to the bank to establish the fund.
Authorities are not sure of Rel's whereabouts, although they believe she is in either western Nebraska or New Mexico.
They allege Rel took the money sometime between Boye's death and the end of August. Bank statements show that there was about $4,700 at the end of that month.
Boye's mother, Diana Barela, reported the theft in October, which is when most of the money was missing, said Grand Island Police Capt. Kerry Mehlin.
02-09-05, 07:10 AM #10
Veterans Legacy Project bestows honor on Marines
By WILLIAM BENDER, firstname.lastname@example.org/06/2005
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RIDLEY TOWNSHIP -- On an unseasonably warm winter afternoon, more than 100 Marines were presented with a token of appreciation for their contribution to the war on terror.
The U.S. Veterans Legacy Project awarded each Marine at the Marines Corps Reserve Center in Folsom a newly minted coin, one that project chairman Bob McMahon hopes will be passed down through their family lines so no Marine’s sacrifice is ever forgotten.
"We really appreciate you accepting these coins and the responsibility of passing them on to future generations," said McMahon, a Vietnam War veteran and mayor of Media.
The coins, which were paid for by Citizens Bank at a total cost of $3,500, are emblazoned with the phrases: "Welcome Home Veterans of the Global War on Terrorism" and "Thank You, From a Grateful Nation."
Three Marines with the 6th Engineers, Bridge Company B were killed outside Baghdad last June by a roadside bomb: Lance Cpl. Patrick Adle of Bel Air, Md., Cpl. John Todd III of Bridgeport, Montgomery County and Sgt. Alan Sherman of Wanamassa, N.J.
Three streets at the training center were renamed in honor of the late Marines.
After Saturday’s presentation, Sgt. Matthew Crawford, 25, of Upper Darby, said he has mostly recovered from serious shrapnel wounds to his face, eyes and other parts of his body, though his left-eye vision remains impaired.
"My eye is still all fuzzy, but everything else has cleared up pretty good," he said.
The high turnout for the Iraqi elections last Sunday was encouraging for both Crawford and fellow Marine, Sgt. David Craddock, 26, of Upper Darby. Both men served two tours in Iraq.
Despite persistent opposition by insurgents, Crawford said most Iraqis support America’s efforts to foster democracy in their country. The elections were an important step toward that goal.
"We got into something, and now we have to stay there until the job is done," he said.
02-09-05, 07:12 AM #11
Twins joined by blood, separated by the Corps
Submitted by: 2nd Force Service Support Group
Story Identification #: 200524151953
Story by Cpl. C.J. Yard
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Feb. 1, 2005) -- Separated by only one minute at birth, fraternal twin brothers, Cpls. James J. and Christopher F. Hoffman, stationed here are gearing up to deploy with their units to Iraq.
Before joining the Marine Corps three-and-a-half years ago, the two spent their time in high school hanging out with friends in Gulfport, Miss., where they spent the majority of their lives.
Born in Maryland, the self-proclaimed “Navy brats” moved around a lot with their parents, Rosita and Richard, because their father spent 20 years as a Seabee. Now they are preparing for their next move.
The brothers did not intend on joining the Marine Corps together. Christopher had already entered the Delayed Entry Program and was on his way to the recruiting station and asked James if he wanted to ride along. “From there, the recruiters took over,” said Christopher. “I had no influence on him, the recruiter sold him on the Marine Corps and my brother said, ‘I’ll buy.’”
The twins will be located at different camps in Iraq, but living separate is something the two have gotten used to since joining the Marine Corps. They were at recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., together, but in different companies.
“We were on the depot at the same time, but he went to boot camp six weeks before me,” said Christopher, a technical data network specialist, with Communications Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2d FSSG. “He would write me letters from across the depot and drop hints for me.”
“I’d let him know about team week and the hikes, things like that,” commented James.
After they both attended Military Occupational Specialty school at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., for their respective specialties, James was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, while Christopher was sent here. Finally together again, they will now be separated by the barren landscape of Iraq in just a short amount of time.
“It’s a bonus if we get to see each other,” said Christopher. “It would be nice, but we’re not asking for any special favors.”
James, a circuit card repair technician with Wire Platoon, Electronics Maintenance Company, 2d Maintenance Battalion, 2d FSSG, echoed the sentiments of his one-minute-older brother. “It would just give us that ‘peace of mind’ seeing each other. Expect the worst, hope for the best.”
They said their parents, like most, feel a bit scared about their sons being deployed to a combat zone at the same time.
“It’s hitting them a little harder this time,” said the elder of the two. “This is my second time there, but it’s harder because both of us are going. Everybody at home has been very supportive, though.”
Christopher spent time in Iraq attached to Combat Service Support Detachment 22 with Task Force Tarawa during Operation Iraqi Freedom and also deployed to Haiti with Combined Joint Task Force Haiti.
“This time I’m going to make it worth my while,” claimed Christopher. “The first time it went by so fast, I didn’t even know what day or even what month it was. I didn’t want to know, though. The next thing I knew they were telling us to pack up; we were going home.”
Both agree things have changed; this time around it might be tougher. Christopher will be leaving behind his wife Sarah, and James will leave his wife Marsha, and daughter, Isabella. The time apart will be difficult for them all, but they are not worried.
“The first time I was single, now I’ve got a wife and my brother has [a wife and] a daughter,” said Christopher.
The twins believe in taking the best from every situation, and they know that laughter can brighten anyone’s day.
“You just have to find the humor in everything,” said Christopher. “You come across that person who is having a bad day and try to make them smile. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, but when you get him and I together everybody laughs.”
“You have to be able to laugh at everything,” said James. “Otherwise you just get uptight.”
The two claim they think a lot alike, even to the point where they can finish each other’s sentences or know what the other is going to do.
“Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, I know that if I’m going to walk by him, he’s going to try to trip me,” said Christopher.
Christopher and James said the time in Iraq is going to be tough, but it will be similar to the times they spent apart during boot camp.
“It’s easier knowing that somebody you grew up with is going through the same thing,” said Christopher. “Especially, if that person is your brother.”
“Your best friend!” James added.
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Feb. 1, 2005) – Twin brothers, Cpls. Christopher F. and James J. Hoffman are scheduled to deploy to Iraq with units from 2d Force Service Support Group (Forward). Christopher (Right), older by just one minute, is attached to Communications Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion. James is assigned to Wire Platoon, Electronics Maintenance Company, 2d Maintenance Battalion. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. C.J. Yard) Photo by: Cpl. C.J. Yard
02-09-05, 08:27 AM #12
Dead G.I. tale may be 'fraud'
The Daily Sentinel
Local and military authorities have been unable to confirm the existence of a Grand Junction soldier who was said to have died in Iraq on Jan. 29.
Based on information received from Homefront Heroes President Phyllis Derby, purported spokeswoman for the soldier’s family, The Daily Sentinel ran a story Feb. 4 detailing Spc. Jonathan Kenney’s death in Iraq.
Derby said Monday she has the same questions as everyone else. She said Homefront Heroes is conducting its own investigatin, but “it does not look 100 percent OK.”
Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said he was taken aback by the possibility that Kenney might not exist.
“I’ll speak to my chief investigator first thing in the morning,” Hautzinger said Monday night.
Homefront Heroes relayed the story of Kenney’s death to The Daily Sentinel, describing his attempts to remove Iraqi children from crossfire.
The organization that operates as a support group for soldiers’ families as well as sending needed items to soldiers from home said Kenney was caught in the crossfire and killed in Baqouba, Iraq, while trying to save a young Iraqi girl.
Department of Defense Spokesman Lt. Col. John Skinner could not deny or confirm Kenney’s existence late Monday night.
The military posts all deaths on its Web site, but only after the family has been notified and then after waiting another 24 hours, Skinner said.
No Jonathan Kenney is listed on the Web site provided by Skinner, defenselink.mil. Another Web site that lists all coalition deaths in Iraq has no listing for Jonathan Kenney during January.
“It’s not unusual for next-of-kin notification to take a while,” Skinner said.
“The reality is, when someone passes away in the military, it ends up being posted,” Skinner said. “If there isn’t a release, we just don’t have record of it. We don’t speculate.”
Derby said last week notification had taken place. She also requested that donations in Kenney’s name be made to Homefront Heroes.
A woman claiming to be Amber Kenney, Jonathan Kenney’s wife, relayed through Derby and former U.S. Marine Greg Merschel all the information The Daily Sentinel used for its news story.
Derby said Amber Kenney graduated from Grand Junction High School in 1988.
There are no seniors with the first name Amber in the 1988 online edition of the Grand Junction High School Yearbook.
Derby also told The Daily Sentinel that Jonathan Kenney had worked at Grand Junction Chrysler Jeep Dodge after the couple had moved to the Grand Valley from Denver.
Tom Nowak, general manager at the dealership, said a Jonathan Kenney never worked there.
Merschel, who volunteers for military causes, but not officially affiliated with Homefront Heroes, said late Monday, “Right now we can’t tell you whether he exists or not.”
There is a slim chance that Jonathan Kenney did exist, Merschel said.
“There is the outside chance according to the Army that the paperwork has fallen through the cracks,” Merschel said.
Derby told Merschel last week she had seen a Department of Defense death certificate. She changed her story Monday, however, when she told Merschel that she had not seen it, but that a reporter with a radio station in Grand Junction had seen it.
Merschel said Amber Kenney may be a fraud.
“If she’s a fraud, she’s a damned good one,” Merschel said of the woman claiming to be Amber Kenney. “She had enough information to make it look good.”
Merschel noted Kenney’s alleged unit, the 1-44th Air Defense Artillery Battalion, is not currently serving in Iraq.
“They were deployed in 2003. They are already back in Fort Bliss,” Merschel said.
Derby originally said Amber Kenney was in Fort Bliss, Texas, when she learned of her husband’s death.
Sgt. First Class Bird at Fort Bliss said there was no record of an Amber Kenney or a Jonathan Kenney at the post.
According to Homefront Heroes, Kenney was to have been buried Feb. 5 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Employees at the Des Moines Iowa Register said no Jonathan Kenney was buried Saturday in Iowa.
“It’s a hoax,” said Audrey Burgs, night city editor with the Des Moines Register. “No one knows anything about it. The only military burial here in Iowa last Saturday was in a small town, not in Des Moines, and it wasn’t Kenney.”
Burgs said Kenney did not go to high school in Iowa City and did not have a twin sister who died at birth, as Merschel stated in a press release.
“It’s all a lot of B.S.,” Burgs said. “We never ran a story about any of these things because none of it ever happened.”
The end of the Feb. 3 e-mail to The Daily Sentinel from Derby, included the following statement: “Memorial contributions may be made to Homefront Heroes in Jonathan’s name.”
Merschel said he did not know how much money had been raised in Jonathan’s name, and that Derby would return to Grand Junction this week to find out.
“If she’s a fraud, she just soured everybody’s generosity to the troops, because we’re going to have to check everything twice,” Merschel said. “I was told the death certificate had been seen.
“This is going to sour everybody on Phyllis.”
Merschel said Derby did not intentionally devise the hoax.
“Phyllis is too damned busy ... physically she just wouldn’t have time.”
Hautzinger agreed, saying he doubted Homefront Heroes was connected to a scam.
“I just find it very hard to believe Phyllis Derby would be involved in this knowingly,” Hautzinger said.
02-09-05, 09:06 AM #13
GI Demoted for Iraq Mud-Wrestling Party
RALEIGH, N.C. — Military officials have demoted a female member of a National Guard military police unit for indecent exposure after a mud-wrestling party at the Camp Bucca (search) detention center in Iraq.
Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, spokesman for detainee operations at the U.S. Army-run camp did not released the name of the soldier. However, the New York Daily News identified her as Deanna Allen, 19, and Allen's mother, Ladyna Waldrop of Black Mountain, confirmed the identification.
After an inquiry, Allen was demoted from specialist to private first class and placed on restriction for participating in the event. She is still a guard at the camp, the newspaper said.
Four or five other members of the 105th who were spectators received counseling, Johnson said.
The party occurred Oct. 30, as the 160th Military Police Battalion, an Army Reserve Unit from Tallahassee, Fla., prepared to turn over its duties to the Asheville-based 105th Military Police Battalion (search), Johnson said.
In the course of the transfer of duties, "some individuals in their exuberance decided to put together a mud-wrestling thing," Johnson said Sunday by telephone. "There were females involved, and some members of the 105th also became involved, one female soldier in particular."
The Daily News said it was given 30 of the party photos, and it printed several in Sunday's editions.
Waldrop said her daughter is devastated by the events.
"It was just a thing where she was coerced by a bunch of people, and with all the excitement, she lost her sanity for a moment and that's all it took," she said.
"It seems like they're just singling her out," Waldrop said. "She's the one getting all the publicity and punishment, and that's not right."
The 105th took over Camp Bucca on Nov. 1, and photos of the party were found after the 160th had left Iraq, Johnson said, adding that he understood a soldier had turned over the photos to commanders.
Results of the inquiry were sent to the commander of the 160th, he said. "It appears from the commander's inquiry that this was primarily put on by troops of the 160th, who are no longer under our command," Johnson said.
It wasn't immediately clear Sunday if any members of the 160th had been disciplined.
The party was isolated, Johnson said. "Detainees were nowhere in the vicinity," he said. "They had no possible way of seeing what occurred."
A scandal involving the separate Abu Ghraib (search) prison erupted last spring when photographs were made public showing soldiers taunting naked Iraqi prisoners.
Waldrop said she communicates with her daughter almost every day via Internet instant messaging, and they also see each other by means of a Web camera. "She's very tearful, very upset," Waldrop said.
Waldrop said she was proud of her daughter for joining the National Guard. "But I hate that this happened, and so does she," she said. The party "just got way out of hand, and before you know it, pictures were taken, and she didn't have time to react.
"My mom and I have both had talks with her that she's supposed to be an example for her country."
02-09-05, 10:15 AM #14
February 08, 2005
Administration wants ‘don’t ask’ lawsuit dismissed
The Bush administration on Monday asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Pentagon’s 11-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The government said last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling that overturned state laws making gay sex a crime does not undercut the military’s policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve as long as they abstain from homosexual activity and don’t reveal their sexual orientation.
Courts previously have upheld the policy, approved by Congress and put in place by the Clinton administration.
“These decisions are unaffected by the Supreme Court’s decision,” the administration said in a filing in U.S. District Court in Boston, where the lawsuit was filed.
Twelve gays expelled from the military because of their sexual orientation filed the legal challenge in December, citing the Supreme Court ruling that state laws making homosexual sex a crime were unconstitutional. That decision overturned an earlier Supreme Court ruling that had upheld sodomy laws.
Two other lawsuits challenging the policy have been filed since the high court’s reversal.
One was brought in California by the Log Cabin Republicans, a political organization for gays. The other was filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which generally deals with cases involving money. That plaintiff, who was separated from the Army, is seeking to recover his pension and is challenging the ban in the process.
02-09-05, 10:44 AM #15
War documentary lets dad share in son's final days
THE SEATTLE TIMES
SEATTLE - It's not easy, said Joe Colgan. Not easy to sit in a darkened screening room and watch some of the last days of the son you remember from hiking and camping trips, from the times the two of you tossed a football back and forth.
"But it's helpful for me to see just what he was facing, to understand the things he was going through," said Colgan, 63, after watching a screening of the war documentary, "Gunner Palace."
Filmed by former Seattle resident Michael Tucker, the movie shows the Army's 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, riding patrols and conducting raids in a dangerous section of Baghdad in early autumn of 2003.
Among the soldiers is Lt. Ben Colgan, 30, a 1991 graduate of Des Moines' Mount Rainier High School.
Colgan was killed by a roadside bomb Nov. 1, 2003, just weeks after he was filmed in Iraq. Besides his parents, he left behind four brothers, three sisters, two daughters and a wife pregnant with their third child.
The movie, to open in theaters in March, takes its name from Colgan's 400-person regiment, nicknamed "The Gunners," which operated out of a bombed-out Baghdad palace formerly owned by Saddam Hussein's older son, Uday, killed in July 2003.
Joe Colgan said his son mentioned the palace in e-mails home: "He said it had a pool, but he also said they were getting mortared a lot."
Some members of the Colgan family met Tucker this week and attended a screening of the film last night at the Seattle Art Museum.
Joe Colgan is a longtime Catholic peace activist. In the 1970s, he and his wife, Patricia, sometimes took young Ben along when they demonstrated against the nuclear-armed submarine base at Bangor.
Although they opposed the war in Iraq, they didn't discuss their position with their son once the fighting started.
"Ben knew how much I was against this war, but I always said, 'I'm right beside you in spirit.' And that's still true," said Colgan, who wears a crucifix containing some of his son's ashes.
"I know he really felt like he might be able to do something good for those people. That's what he wanted."
Ben Colgan enlisted in the Army right after high-school graduation. He served in Special Forces and the elite Delta Force before going to Officer Candidate School. On graduation, he was assigned to the artillery unit.
His widow, Jill, a Missouri native, lives in Kansas with their daughters, Grace, 3; Paige, 2; and Cooper, 1, born seven weeks after Ben's death.
Watching the movie, Joe Colgan noted in the young soldiers' faces and voices the conflicting emotions of war: pride, anger, frustration, confusion - emotions he remembered from his son's e-mails.
Ben Colgan's attitude about the mission in Iraq changed over time as early optimism faded. "At first, he talked about the good things," his father said. "They were opening up schools, trying to get the water and electricity going."
But the longer the conflict lasted, the more difficult it was to see progress. And the more difficult it became to tell which Iraqis were friends and which were foes.
One Iraqi man, seen in the early part of the film working for the Americans as an interpreter, is later suspected of helping insurgents and may have provided information that led to the deaths of Ben Colgan and two other soldiers in the unit.
The day before his death, Ben Colgan's parents received his last e-mail, with an especially pessimistic view. "You could tell he was down," Joe Colgan said. "He said, 'It's getting real old and getting real crazy.' "
While some soldiers in the movie mug or clown for the camera, and some deliver potent rap lyrics about their situation, Colgan was reserved and quiet.
In a scene near the movie's end, Colgan is seen talking to an older Iraqi man on a Baghdad street. Their voices can't be heard, but at the end of the conversation, the man grasps Colgan's arm warmly, and the two wave as they part.
Shortly afterward, Tucker's voice as narrator tells of Ben Colgan's death, adding, "Ben's death was close to home. He was from Seattle like me. I knew the kind of house he grew up in. And the mountains he dreamt of. He had two daughters. Looking at my own daughter, I couldn't think of his death, only his life."
For Joe Colgan, the pain of being reminded of his son's final days is worth it if the movie prompts some Americans to take a closer look at war and the suffering it causes.
"What I'd like to see is a lot of open and honest talk about war, just what it is and just what it is about," he said. "I think if we could put these things in perspective, then we would never go to war unless we absolutely have to - and maybe a war like this wouldn't happen."
'Gunner Palace' is an 85-minute documentary on the war in Iraq that captures a mix of bravado and anxiety, frustration and determination and a chillingly grim sense of humor. Filming began in September 2003. The gritty language heard in the film has earned it an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, a rating being appealed by the film's distributor, Palm Pictures.
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