Author Topic: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans  (Read 112017 times)


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #50 on: November 19, 2004, 11:10:41 AM »
Troops in Fallujah
Are the Best
Since World War II
November 19, 2004; Page A16

The amazing, perhaps historic, battle of Fallujah has come and gone, and the biggest soldier story to come out of it is the alleged Marine shooting. There must have been hundreds of acts of bravery and valor in Fallujah. Where will history record their stories?

Maybe it's just a function of an age in which TV fears that attention spans die faster than caddis flies, and surfing the Web means ingesting information like a participant in a hot dog eating contest. By contrast, Michael Ware of Time magazine has a terrific account this week of one platoon led by Staff Sergeant David Bellavia ("We're not going to die!"), fighting its way through the snipers and booby traps of Fallujah: "A young sergeant went down, shrapnel or a bullet fragment lodging in his cheek. After checking himself, he went back to returning fire." Amid mostly glimpses this week of telegenic bullet flight paths and soldiers backed against walls, I wanted more stories like this. More information about who these guys are and what they were doing and how they were doing it. The commanders in Iraq praise them profusely, and by now maybe that's all these young U.S. soldiers need -- praise from peers.

But the American people, many of them, have been desperate for some vehicle that would let them actively lend support to the troops, or their families back in the States. The Bush administration, for reasons that are not clear, has never created such an instrument. Had they done it, a force would have existed to rebalance the hyperventilated Abu Ghraib story. The White House seems to have concluded that the American people would support a big, tough war almost literally as an act of faith. And they did, but just barely. Neglect of the homefront almost cost George Bush the election.

In service, in Fallujah

The election's one, ironic nod to the nature of the troops in Iraq was the controversy over the draft. Michael Moore traveled to 60 college campuses saying Mr. Bush's opposition to restarting the draft was an "absolute lie." Shortly after, a senior saluted the jolly Hollywood misanthrope and wrote a column for Newsweek denouncing the draft. "We have no concept of a lottery," she wrote, "that determines who lives and who dies." But not to worry, dear. The military brass, to the last man and woman, doesn't want you. Not ever.

The draft ended in 1973. What has happened to the all-volunteer military in the three decades since ensures that no draft will return this side of Armageddon.

Post-Vietnam, the military raised the performance bar -- for acquired skill sets, new-recruit intelligence and not least, self-discipline. The thing one noticed most when watching the embedded reporters' interviews last year on the way into Iraq was the self-composed confidence reflected throughout the ranks. And this in young men just out of high school or college.

It was no accident. Consider drugs. In 1980, the percentage of illicit drug use in the whole military was nearly 28%. Two years later, mandatory and random testing -- under threat of dismissal -- sent the number straight down, to nearly 3% in 1998.

Today recruits take the Armed Forces Qualification Test. It measures arithmetic reasoning, mathematics knowledge, word skills and paragraph comprehension. The current benchmark is the performance levels of recruits who served in Operation Desert Storm in 1990. The military requires that recruits meet what it calls "rigorous moral character standards."

After his August report on Abu Ghraib and U.S. military detention practices, former Defense Secretary Jim Schlesinger told a writer for this page: "The behavior of our troops is so much better than it was in World War II." And more. Unit cohesion, mutual trust in battle, personal integrity and esprit all are at the highest levels in the nation's history, right now, in Iraq. Indeed, the U.S. armed services may be the one truly functional major institution in American life.

Some fear the creation in the U.S. of a military caste, disassociated from the rest of society, or worry about the loss of civic virtue. The bridge across, I suspect, is narrower than many suspect. A 2002 Harvard Institute of Politics survey of college students found that if their number came up in a new draft, 25% would eagerly serve and 28% would serve with reservations. The draft itself is quite irrelevant today. But contrary to the last election's confusing signals about the attitudes of the young, most of them, it seems, are willing to "do something" to protect their country, if asked. It is their elders' job to find a way to ask. The military writer Andrew Bacevich has summed up our current situation nicely: "To the question 'Who will serve?' the nation's answer has now become: 'Those who want to serve.'"

At a ceremony on Nov. 13 at Camp Taji, Iraq -- with Fallujah raging elsewhere -- Army Maj. Gen. Pete Chiarelli presented 19 Purple Hearts for wounds in the battle of Najaf, the big battle before Fallujah. Gen. Chiarelli remarked that George Washington created the Purple Heart in 1782, for what Gen. Washington himself described as "unusual gallantry . . . extraordinary fidelity and essential service."

Essential service. After 20 months of it in Iraq and two hard weeks of it in Fallujah, "service" -- an old idea in a world too busy to take much notice -- is a word worthy of at least some contemplation.

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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #51 on: November 20, 2004, 06:06:17 AM »
Semper Fi
The story of Fallujah isn't on that NBC videotape.

Thursday, November 18, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST

Some 40 Marines have just lost their lives cleaning out one of the world's worst terror dens, in Fallujah, yet all the world wants to talk about is the NBC videotape of a Marine shooting a prostrate Iraqi inside a mosque. Have we lost all sense of moral proportion?

The al-Zarqawi TV network, also known as Al-Jazeera, has broadcast the tape to the Arab world, and U.S. media have also played it up. The point seems to be to conjure up images again of Abu Ghraib, further maligning the American purpose in Iraq. Never mind that the pictures don't come close to telling us about the context of the incident, much less what was on the mind of the soldier after days of combat.

Put yourself in that Marine's boots. He and his mates have had to endure some of the toughest infantry duty imaginable, house-to-house urban fighting against an enemy that neither wears a uniform nor obeys any normal rules of war. Here is how that enemy fights, according to an account in the Times of London:

"In the south of Fallujah yesterday, U.S. Marines found the armless, legless body of a blonde woman, her throat slashed and her entrails cut out. Benjamin Finnell, a hospital apprentice with the U.S. Navy Corps, said that she had been dead for a while, but at that location for only a day or two. The woman was wearing a blue dress; her face had been disfigured. It was unclear if the remains were the body of the Irish-born aid worker Margaret Hassan, 59, or of Teresa Borcz, 54, a Pole abducted two weeks ago. Both were married to Iraqis and held Iraqi citizenship; both were kidnapped in Baghdad last month."

When not disemboweling Iraqi women, these killers hide in mosques and hospitals, booby-trap dead bodies, and open fire as they pretend to surrender. Their snipers kill U.S. soldiers out of nowhere. According to one account, the Marine in the videotape had seen a member of his unit killed by another insurgent pretending to be dead. Who from the safety of his Manhattan sofa has standing to judge what that Marine did in that mosque?

Beyond the one incident, think of what the Marine and Army units just accomplished in Fallujah. In a single week, they killed as many as 1,200 of the enemy and captured 1,000 more. They did this despite forfeiting the element of surprise, so civilians could escape, and while taking precautions to protect Iraqis that no doubt made their own mission more difficult and hazardous. And they did all of this not for personal advantage, and certainly not to get rich, but only out of a sense of duty to their comrades, their mission and their country.

In a more grateful age, this would be hailed as one of the great battles in Marine history--with Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Hue City and the Chosin Reservoir. We'd know the names of these military units, and of many of the soldiers too. Instead, the name we know belongs to the NBC correspondent, Kevin Sites.

We suppose he was only doing his job, too. But that doesn't mean the rest of us have to indulge in the moral abdication that would equate deliberate televised beheadings of civilians with a Marine shooting a terrorist, who may or may not have been armed, amid the ferocity of battle.


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« Reply #52 on: November 22, 2004, 03:07:31 AM »

, , ,

The fighting has been incredibly close inside the city.  The enemy is willing to die and is literally waiting until they see the whites of the eyes of the Marines before they open up.  Just two days ago, as a firefight raged in close quarters, one of the interpreters yelled for the enemy in the house to surrender.  The enemy yelled back that it was better to die and go to heaven than to surrender to infidels.  This exchange is a graphic window into the world that the Marines and Soldiers have been fighting in these last 10 days.

I could go on and on about how the city was taken but one of the most amazing aspects to the fighting was that we saw virtually no civilians during the battle.  Only after the fighting had passed did a few come out of their homes.  They were provided food and water and most were evacuated out of the city.  At least 90-95% of the people were gone from the city when we attacked.

I will end with a couple of stories of individual heroism that you may not have heard yet.  I was told about both of these incidents shortly after they occurred.  No doubt some of the facts will change slightly but I am confident that the meat is correct.

The first is a Marine from 3/5.  His name is Corporal Yeager (Chuck Yeager's grandson).  As the Marines cleared and apartment building, they got to the top floor and the point man kicked in the door.  As he did so, an enemy grenade and a burst of gunfire came out.  The explosion and enemy fire took off the point man's leg.  He was then immediately shot in the arm as he lay in the doorway.  Corporal Yeager tossed a grenade in the room and ran into the doorway and into the enemy fire in order to pull his buddy back to cover.  As he was dragging the wounded Marine to cover, his own grenade came back through the doorway.  Without pausing, he reached down and threw the grenade back through the door while he heaved his buddy to safety.  The grenade went off inside the room and Cpl Yeager threw another in.  He immediately entered the room following the second explosion.  He gunned down three enemy all within three feet of where he stood and then let fly a third grenade as he backed out of the room to complete the evacuation of the wounded Marine.  You have to understand that a grenade goes off within 5 seconds of having the pin pulled.  Marines usually let them "cook off" for a second or two before tossing them in.   Therefore, this entire episode took place in less than 30 seconds.  

The second example comes from 3/1.  Cpl Mitchell is a squad leader.  He was wounded as his squad was clearing a house when some enemy threw pineapple grenades down on top of them.  As he was getting triaged, the doctor told him that he had been shot through the arm.  Cpl Mitchell  told the doctor that he had actually been shot "a couple of days ago" and had given himself self aide on the wound.  When the doctor got on him about not coming off the line, he firmly told the doctor that he was a squad leader and did not have time to get treated as his men were still fighting.  There are a number of Marines who have been wounded multiple times but refuse to leave their fellow Marines.

It is incredibly humbling to walk among such men.  They fought as hard as any Marines in history and deserve to be remembered as such.  The enemy they fought burrowed into houses and fired through mouse holes cut in walls, lured them into houses rigged with explosives and detonated the houses on pursuing Marines, and actually hid behind surrender flags only to engage the Marines with small arms fire once they perceived that the Marines had let their guard down.  I know of several instances where near dead enemy rolled grenades out on Marines who were preparing to render them aid.  It was a fight to the finish in every sense and the Marines delivered.


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« Reply #53 on: November 22, 2004, 06:45:06 PM »
November 21, 2004

In Falluja, Young Marines Saw the Savagery of an Urban War


New York Times

ALLUJA, Iraq, Nov. 18 - Eight days after the Americans entered the city
on foot, a pair of marines wound their way up the darkened innards of a
minaret, shot through with holes by an American tank.

As the marines inched upward, a burst of gunfire rang down, fired by an
insurgent hiding in the top of the tower. The bullets hit the first
marine in the face, his blood spattering the marine behind him. The
marine in the rear tumbled backward down the stairwell, while Lance Cpl.
William Miller, age 22, lay in silence halfway up, mortally wounded.

"Miller!" the marines called from below. "Miller!"

With that, the marines' near mystical commandment against leaving a
comrade behind seized the group. One after another, the young marines
dashed into the minaret, into darkness and into gunfire, and wound their
way up the stairs.

After four attempts, Corporal Miller's lifeless body emerged from the
tower, his comrades choking and covered with dust. With more insurgents
closing in, the marines ran through volleys of machine-gun fire back to
their base.

"I was trying to be careful, but I was trying to get him out, you know
what I'm saying?" Lance Cpl. Michael Gogin, 19, said afterward.

So went eight days of combat for this Iraqi city, the most sustained
period of street-to-street fighting that Americans have encountered
since the Vietnam War. The proximity gave the fighting a hellish
intensity, with soldiers often close enough to look their enemies in the

For a correspondent who has covered a half dozen armed conflicts,
including the war in Iraq since its start in March 2003, the fighting
seen while traveling with a frontline unit in Falluja was a
qualitatively different experience, a leap into a different kind of

>From the first rockets vaulting out of the city as the marines moved in,
the noise and feel of the battle seemed altogether extraordinary; at
other times, hardly real at all. The intimacy of combat, this plunge
into urban warfare, was new to this generation of American soldiers, but
it is a kind of fighting they will probably see again: a grinding
struggle to root out guerrillas entrenched in a city, on streets marked
in a language few American soldiers could comprehend.

The price for the Americans so far: 51 dead and 425 wounded, a number
that may yet increase but that already exceeds the toll from any battle
in the Iraq war.

Marines in Harm's Way

The 150 marines with whom I traveled, Bravo Company of the First
Battalion, Eighth Marines, had it as tough as any unit in the fight.
They moved through the city almost entirely on foot, into the heart of
the resistance, rarely protected by tanks or troop carriers, working
their way through Falluja's narrow streets with 75-pound packs on their

In eight days of fighting, Bravo Company took 36 casualties, including 6
dead, meaning that the unit's men had about a one-in-four chance of
being wounded or killed in little more than a week.

The sounds, sights and feel of the battle were as old as war itself, and
as new as the Pentagon's latest weapons systems. The eerie pop from the
cannon of the AC-130 gunship, prowling above the city at night, firing
at guerrillas who were often only steps away from Americans on the
ground. The weird buzz of the Dragon Eye pilotless airplane, hovering
over the battlefield as its video cameras beamed real-time images back
to the base.

The glow of the insurgents' flares, throwing daylight over a landscape
to help them spot their targets: us.

The nervous shove of a marine scrambling for space along a brick wall as
tracer rounds ricocheted above.

The silence between the ping of the shell leaving its mortar tube and
the explosion when it strikes.

The screams of the marines when one of their comrades, Cpl. Jake
Knospler, lost part of his jaw to a hand grenade.

"No, no, no!" the marines shouted as they dragged Corporal Knospler from
the darkened house where the bomb went off. It was 2 a.m., the sky dark
without a moon. "No, no, no!"

Nothing in the combat I saw even remotely resembled the scenes regularly
flashed across movie screens; even so, they often seemed no more real.

Mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades began raining down on Bravo
Company the moment its men began piling out of their troop carriers just
outside Falluja. The shells looked like Fourth of July bottle rockets,
sailing over the ridge ahead as if fired by children, exploding in a
whoosh of sparks.

Whole buildings, minarets and human beings were vaporized in barrages of
exploding shells. A man dressed in a white dishdasha crawled across a
desolate field, reaching behind a gnarled plant to hide, when he
collapsed before a burst of fire from an American tank.

Sometimes the casualties came in volleys, like bursts of machine-gun
fire. On the first morning of battle, during a ferocious struggle for
the Muhammadia Mosque, about 45 marines with Bravo Company's Third
Platoon dashed across 40th Street, right into interlocking streams of
fire. By the time the platoon made it to the other side, five men lay
bleeding in the street.

The marines rushed out to get them, as they would days later in the
minaret, but it was too late for Sgt. Lonny Wells, who bled to death on
the side of the road. One of the men who braved gunfire to pull in
Sergeant Wells was Cpl. Nathan Anderson, who died three days later in an

Sergeant Wells's death dealt the Third Platoon a heavy blow; as a leader
of one of its squads, he had written letters to the parents of its
younger members, assuring them he would look over them during the tour
in Iraq.

"He loved playing cards," Cpl. Gentian Marku recalled. "He knew all the

More than once, death crept up and snatched a member of Bravo Company
and quietly slipped away. Cpl. Nick Ziolkowski, nicknamed Ski, was a
Bravo Company sniper. For hours at a stretch, Corporal Ziolkowski would
sit on a rooftop, looking through the scope on his bolt-action M-40
rifle, waiting for guerrillas to step into his sights. The scope was big
and wide, and Corporal Ziolkowski often took off his helmet to get a
better look.

Tall, good-looking and gregarious, Corporal Ziolkowski was one of Bravo
Company's most popular soldiers. Unlike most snipers, who learned to
shoot growing up in the countryside, Corporal Ziolkowski grew up near
Baltimore, unfamiliar with guns. Though Baltimore boasts no beach front,
Corporal Ziolkowski's passion was surfing; at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Bravo
Company's base, he would often organize his entire day around the tides.

"All I need now is a beach with some waves," Corporal Ziolkowski said,
during a break from his sniper duties at Falluja's Grand Mosque, where
he killed three men in a single day.

During that same break, Corporal Ziolkowski foretold his own death. The
snipers, he said, were now among the most hunted of American soldiers.

In the first battle for Falluja, in April, American snipers had been
especially lethal, Corporal Ziolkowski said, and intelligence officers
had warned him that this time, the snipers would be targets.

"They are trying to take us out," Corporal Ziolkowski said.

The bullet knocked Corporal Ziolkowski backward and onto the roof. He
had been sitting there on the outskirts of the Shuhada neighborhood, an
area controlled by insurgents, peering through his wide scope. He had
taken his helmet off to get a better view. The bullet hit him in the

Young Men, Heavy Burdens

For all the death about the place, one inescapable impression left by
the marines was their youth. Everyone knows that soldiers are young; it
is another thing to see men barely out of adolescence, many of whom were
still in high school when this war began, shoot people dead.

The marines of Bravo Company often fought over the packets of M&M's that
came with their rations. Sitting in their barracks, they sang along with
the Garth Brooks paean to chewing tobacco, "Copenhagen," named for the
brand they bought almost to a man:

Copenhagen, what a wad of flavor

Copenhagen, you can see it in my smile

Copenhagen, hey do yourself a favor, dip

Copenhagen, it drives the cowgirls wild

One of Bravo Company's more youthful members was Cpl. Romulo Jimenez II,
age 21 from Bellington, W.Va.. Cpl. Jimenez spent much of his time
showing off his tattoos - he had flames climbing up one of his arms -
and talking about his 1992 Ford Mustang. He was a popular member of
Bravo Company's Second Platoon, not least because he introduced his
sister to a fellow marine, Lance Cpl. Sean Evans, and the couple

In the days before the battle started, Corporal Jimenez called his
sister, Katherine, to ask that she fix up the interior of his Mustang
before he got home.

"Make it look real nice," he told her.

On Wednesday, Nov. 10, around 2 p.m., Corporal Jimenez was shot in the
neck by a sniper as he advanced with his platoon through the northern
end of Falluja, just near the green-domed Muhammadia Mosque. He died

Despite their youth, the marines seemed to tower over their peers
outside the military in maturity and guts. Many of Bravo Company's best
marines, its most proficient killers, were 19 and 20 years old; some
directed their comrades in maneuvers and assaults. Bravo Company's three
lieutenants, each responsible for the lives of about 50 men, were 23 and
24 years old.

They are a strangely anonymous bunch. The men who fight America's wars
seem invariably to come from little towns and medium-size cities far
away from the nation's arteries along the coast. Line up a group of
marines and ask them where they are from, and they will give you a list
of places like Pearland, Tex.; Lodi, Ohio; Osawatomie, Kan.

Typical of the marines who fought in Falluja was Chad Ritchie, a
22-year-old corporal from Keezletown, Va. Corporal Ritchie, a
soft-spoken, bespectacled intelligence officer, said he was happy to be
out of the tiny place where he grew up, though he admitted that he
sometimes missed the good times on Friday nights in the fields.

"We'd have a bonfire, and back the trucks up on it, and open up the
backs, and someone would always have some speakers," Corporal Ritchie
said. "We'd drink beer, tell stories."

Like many of the young men in Bravo Company, Corporal Ritchie said he
had joined the Marines because he yearned for an adventure greater than
his small town could offer.

"The guys who stayed, they're all living with their parents, making $7
an hour," Corporal Ritchie said. "I'm not going to be one of those
people who gets old and says, 'I wish I had done this. I wish I had done
that.' Every once in a while, you've got to do something hard, do
something you're not comfortable with. A person needs a gut check."

Holding Up Under Fire

Marines like Corporal Ritchie proved themselves time and again in
Falluja, but they were not without fear. While camped out one night in
the Iraqi National Guard building in the middle of city, Bravo Company
came under mortar fire that grew closer with each shot. The insurgents
were "bracketing" the building, firing shots to the left and right of
the target and adjusting their fire each time.

In the hallways, where the men had camped for the night, the murmured
sounds of prayers rose between the explosions. After 20 tries, the
shelling inexplicably stopped.

On one particularly grim night, a group of marines from Bravo Company's
First Platoon turned a corner in the darkness and headed up an alley. As
they did so, they came across men dressed in uniforms worn by the Iraqi
National Guard. The uniforms were so perfect that they even carried
pieces of red tape and white, the signal agreed upon to assure American
soldiers that any Iraqis dressed that way would be friendly; the others
could be killed.

The marines, spotting the red and white tape, waved, and the men in
Iraqi uniforms opened fire. One American, Corporal Anderson, died
instantly. One of the wounded men, Pfc. Andrew Russell, lay in the road,
screaming from a nearly severed leg.

A group of marines ran forward into the gunfire to pull their comrades
out. But the ambush, and the enemy flares and gunfire that followed,
rattled the men of Bravo Company more than any event. In the darkness,
the men began to argue. Others stood around in the road. As the
platoon's leader, Lt. Andy Eckert, struggled to take charge, the Third
Platoon seemed on the brink of panic.

"Everybody was scared," Lieutenant Eckert said afterward. "If the leader
can't hold, then the unit can't hold together."

The unit did hold, but only after the intervention of Bravo Company's
commanding officer, Capt. Read Omohundro.

Time and again through the week, Captain Omohundro kept his men from
folding, if not by his resolute manner then by his calmness under fire.
In the first 16 hours of battle, when the combat was continuous and the
threat of death ever present, Captain Omohundro never flinched, moving
his men through the warrens and back alleys of Falluja with an uncanny
sense of space and time, sensing the enemy, sensing the location of his
men, even in the darkness, entirely self-possessed.

"Damn it, get moving," Captain Omohundro said, and his men, looking
relieved that they had been given direction amid the anarchy, were only
too happy to oblige.

A little later, Captain Omohundro, a 34-year-old Texan, allowed that the
strain of the battle had weighed on him, but he said that he had long
ago trained himself to keep any self-doubt hidden from view.

"It's not like I don't feel it," Captain Omohundro said. "But if I were
to show it, the whole thing would come apart."

When the heavy fighting was finally over, a dog began to follow Bravo
Company through Falluja's broken streets. First it lay down in the road
outside one of the buildings the company had occupied, between troop
carriers. Then, as the troops moved on, the mangy dog slinked behind
them, first on a series of house searches, then on a foot patrol, always
keeping its distance, but never letting the marines out of its sight.

Bravo Company, looking a bit ragged itself as it moved up through
Falluja, momentarily fell out of its single-file line.

"Keep a sharp eye," Captain Omohundro told his men. "We ain't done with
this war yet."


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« Reply #54 on: November 25, 2004, 08:38:24 AM »
This from today's Left Angeles Times:

Guardsmen Say They're Facing Iraq Ill-Trained

Troops from California describe a prison-like, demoralized camp in New Mexico that's short on gear and setting them up for high casualties.
By Scott Gold, Times Staff Writer

DO?A ANA RANGE, N.M. ? Members of a California Army National Guard battalion preparing for deployment to Iraq said this week that they were under strict lockdown and being treated like prisoners rather than soldiers by Army commanders at the remote desert camp where they are training.

More troubling, a number of the soldiers said, is that the training they have received is so poor and equipment shortages so prevalent that they fear their casualty rate will be needlessly high when they arrive in Iraq early next year. "We are going to pay for this in blood," one soldier said.
They said they believed their treatment and training reflected an institutional bias against National Guard troops by commanders in the active-duty Army, an allegation that Army commanders denied.

The 680 soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment were activated in August and are preparing for deployment at Do?a Ana, a former World War II prisoner-of-war camp 20 miles west of its large parent base, Ft. Bliss, Texas.

Members of the battalion, headquartered in Modesto, said in two dozen interviews that they were allowed no visitors or travel passes, had scant contact with their families and that morale was terrible.

"I feel like an inmate with a weapon," said Cpl. Jajuane Smith, 31, a six-year Guard veteran from Fresno who works for an armored transport company when not on active duty.

Several soldiers have fled Do?a Ana by vaulting over rolls of barbed wire that surround the small camp, the soldiers interviewed said. Others, they said, are contemplating going AWOL, at least temporarily, to reunite with their families for Thanksgiving.

Army commanders said the concerns were an inevitable result of the decision to shore up the strained military by turning "citizen soldiers" into fully integrated, front-line combat troops. About 40% of the troops in Iraq are either reservists or National Guard troops.

Lt. Col. Michael Hubbard of Ft. Bliss said the military must confine the soldiers largely to Do?a Ana to ensure that their training is complete before they are sent to Iraq.

"A lot of these individuals are used to doing this two days a month and then going home," Hubbard said. "Now the job is 24/7. And they experience culture shock."

But many of the soldiers interviewed said the problems they cited went much deeper than culture shock.

And military analysts agree that tensions between active-duty Army soldiers and National Guard troops have been exacerbated as the war in Iraq has required dangerous and long-term deployments of both.

The concerns of the Guard troops at Do?a Ana represent the latest in a series of incidents involving allegations that a two-tier system has shortchanged reservist and National Guard units compared with their active-duty counterparts.

In September, a National Guard battalion undergoing accelerated training at Ft. Dix, N.J., was confined to barracks for two weeks after 13 soldiers reportedly went AWOL to see family before shipping out for Iraq.

Last month, an Army National Guard platoon at Camp Shelby, Miss., refused its orders after voicing concerns about training conditions and poor leadership.

In the most highly publicized incident, in October, more than two dozen Army reservists in Iraq refused to drive a fuel convoy to a town north of Baghdad after arguing that the trucks they had been given were not armored for combat duty.

At Do?a Ana, soldiers have questioned their commanders about conditions at the camp, occasionally breaking the protocol of formation drills to do so. They said they had been told repeatedly that they could not be trusted because they were not active-duty soldiers ? though many of them are former active-duty soldiers.

"I'm a cop. I've got a career, a house, a family, a college degree," said one sergeant, who lives in Southern California and spoke, like most of the soldiers, on condition of anonymity.

"I came back to the National Guard specifically to go to Baghdad, because I believed in it, believed in the mission. But I have regretted every day of it. This is demoralizing, demeaning, degrading. And we're supposed to be ambassadors to another country? We're supposed to go to war like this?"

Pentagon and Army commanders rejected the allegation that National Guard or reserve troops were prepared for war differently than their active-duty counterparts.

"There is no difference," said Lt. Col. Chris Rodney, an Army spokesman in Washington. "We are, more than ever, one Army. Some have to come from a little farther back ? they have a little less training. But the goal is to get everybody the same."

The Guard troops at Do?a Ana were scheduled to train for six months before beginning a yearlong deployment. They recently learned, however, that the Army planned to send them overseas a month early ? in January, most likely ? as it speeds up troop movement to compensate for a shortage of full-time, active-duty troops.

Hubbard, the officer at Ft. Bliss, also said conditions at Do?a Ana were designed to mirror the harsh and often thankless assignments the soldiers would take on in Iraq. That was an initiative launched by Brig. Gen. Joseph Chavez, commander of the 29th Separate Infantry Brigade, which includes the 184th Regiment.

The program has resulted in everything from an alcohol ban to armed guards at the entrance to Do?a Ana, Hubbard said.

"We are preparing you and training you for what you're going to encounter over there," Hubbard said. "And they just have to get used to it."

Military analysts, however, questioned whether the soldiers' concerns could be attributed entirely to the military's attempt to mirror conditions in Iraq. For example, the soldiers say that an ammunition shortage has meant that they have often conducted operations firing blanks.

"The Bush administration had over a year of planning before going to war in Iraq," said Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who has acted as a defense lawyer in military courts. "An ammunition shortage is not an exercise in tough love."

Turley said that in every military since Alexander the Great's, there have been "gripes from grunts" but that "the complaints raised by these National Guardsmen raise some significant and troubling concerns."

The Guard troops in New Mexico said they wanted more sophisticated training and better equipment. They said they had been told, for example, that the vehicles they would drive in Iraq would not be armored, a common complaint among their counterparts already serving overseas.

They also said the bulk of their training had been basic, such as first aid and rifle work, and not "theater-specific" to Iraq. They are supposed to be able to use night-vision goggles, for instance, because many patrols in Iraq take place in darkness. But one group of 200 soldiers trained for just an hour with 30 pairs of goggles, which they had to pass around quickly, soldiers said.

The soldiers said they had received little or no training for operations that they expected to undertake in Iraq, from convoy protection to guarding against insurgents' roadside bombs. One said he has put together a diary of what he called "wasted days" of training. It lists 95 days, he said, during which the soldiers learned nothing that would prepare them for Iraq.

Hubbard had said he would make two field commanders available on Tuesday to answer specific questions from the Los Angeles Times about the training, but that did not happen.

The fact that the National Guardsmen have undergone largely basic training suggests that Army commanders do not trust their skills as soldiers, said David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland. That tension underscores a divide that has long existed between "citizen soldiers" and their active-duty counterparts, he said.

"These soldiers should be getting theater-specific training," Segal said. "This should not be an area where they are getting on-the-job training. The military is just making a bad situation worse."

The soldiers at Do?a Ana emphasized their support for the war in Iraq. "In fact, a lot of us would rather go now rather than stay here," said one, a specialist and six-year National Guard veteran who works as a security guard in his civilian life in Southern California.

The soldiers also said they were risking courts-martial or other punishment by speaking publicly about their situation. But Staff Sgt. Lorenzo Dominguez, 45, one of the soldiers who allowed his identity to be revealed, said he feared that if nothing changed, men in his platoon would be killed in Iraq.

Dominguez is a father of two ? including a 13-month-old son named Reagan, after the former president ? and an employee of a mortgage bank in Alta Loma, Calif. A senior squad leader of his platoon, Dominguez said he had been in the National Guard for 20 years.

"Some of us are going to die there, and some of us are going to die unnecessarily because of the lack of training," he said. "So I don't care. Let them court-martial me. I want the American public to know what is going on. My men are guilty of one thing: volunteering to serve their country. And we are at the end of our rope."


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« Reply #55 on: November 25, 2004, 11:43:10 AM »
Fallen Marines
November 25th, 2004

I want to share with you my most recent Air Force Reserve trip. I had decided to go back into the Air Force Reserves as a part time reservist and after 6 months of training, I have recently been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and have been fully mission qualified as an Aircraft Commander of a KC-135R strato tanker aircraft.

On Friday of last week, my crew and I were tasked with a mission to provide air refueling support in order to tanker 6 F-16's over to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.  We were then to tanker back to the states, 6 more F-16's that were due maintenance.  It started out as a fairly standard mission - one that I have done many times as an active duty Captain in my former jet - the KC10a extender.

We dragged the F-16's to Moron Air Base in Spain where we spent the night and then finished the first part of our mission the next day by successfully delivering them to Incirlik.  When I got on the ground in Turkey, I received a message to call the Tanker Airlift Control Center that my mission would change.  Instead of tankering the F-16's that were due maintenance, I was cut new orders to fly to Kuwait City and pick up 22 "HR's" and return them to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

It had been a while since I had heard of the term "HR" used, and as I pondered what the acronym could possibly stand for, when it dawned on me that it stood for human remains.  There were 22 fallen comrades who had just been killed in the most recent attacks in Fallujah and Baghdad, Iraq over the last week.

I immediately alerted the crew of the mission change and although they were exhausted due to an ocean crossing, the time change and minimum ground time in Spain for crew rest, we all agreed that it was more important to get these men back to their families as soon as possible.

We were scheduled to crew rest in Incirlik, Turkey for the evening and start the mission the next day.  Instead, we decided to extend/continue our day and fly to Kuwait in order to pick up our precious cargo.  While on the flight over to Kuwait, I knew that there were protocol procedures for accepting and caring for human remains, however, in my 13 years of active duty service, I never once had to refer to this regulation.  As I read the regulation on the flight over, I felt prepared and ready to do the mission.  My game plan was to pick up the HR's and turn around to fly to Mildenhal Air Base in England, spend the night, and then fly back the next day.  This was the quickest way to get them home, considering the maximum crew duty day that I could subject my crew to legally and physically.  I really pushed them to the limits but no one complained at all.

I thought that I was prepared for the acceptance of these men until we landed at Kuwait International.  I taxied the jet over to a staging area where the honor guard was waiting to load our soldiers.  I stopped the jet and the entire crew was required to stay on board.  We opened the cargo door, and according to procedure, I had the crew line up in the back of the aircraft in formation and stand at attention.  As the cargo loader brought up the first pallet of caskets, I ordered the crew to "Present Arms."  Normally, we would snap a salute at this command, however, when you are dealing with a fallen soldier, the salute is a slow 3 second pace to position.  As I stood there and finally saw the first four of twenty-two caskets draped with the American Flags, the reality had hit me.  As the Marine Corps honor guard delivered the first pallet on board, I then ordered the crew to "Order Arms" - where they rendered an equally slow 3 second return to the attention position.  I then commanded the crew to assume an at ease position and directed them to properly place the pallet.  The protocol requires that the caskets are to be loaded so when it comes time to exit the aircraft - they will go head first.  We did this same procedure for each and every pallet until we could not fit any more.

I felt a deep pit in my stomach when there were more caskets to be brought home and that they would have to wait for the next jet to come through.  I tried to do everything in my power to bring more home but I had no more space on board.  When we were finally loaded, with our precious cargo and fueled for the trip back to England, a Marine Corps Colonel from first battalion came on board our jet in order to talk to us.  I gathered the crew to listen to him and his words of wisdom.

He introduced himself and said that it is the motto of the Marines to leave no man behind and it makes their job easier knowing that there were men like us to help them complete this task.  He was very grateful for our help and the strings that we were pulling in order to get this mission done in the most expeditious manner possible.  He then said -" Major Zarnik - these are MY MARINES and I am giving them to you.  Please take great care of them as I know you will." I responded with telling him that they are my highest priority and that although this was one of the saddest days of my life, we are all up for the challenge and will go above and beyond to take care of your Marines - "Semper Fi Sir" A smile came on his face and he responded with a loud and thunderous, "Ooo Rah".  He then asked me to please pass along to the families that these men were extremely brave and had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and that we appreciate and empathize with what they are going through at this time of their grievance.  With that, he departed the jet and we were on our way to England.

I had a lot of time to think about the men that I had the privilege to carry.  I had a chance to read the manifest on each and every one of them.  I read about their religious preferences, their marital status, the injuries that were their cause of death. All of them were under age 27 with most in the 18-24 range. Most of them had wives and children.  They had all been killed by an " IED" which I can only deduce as an [improvised] explosive devices.  Mostly fatal head injuries and injuries to the chest area.  I could not even imagine the bravery that they must have displayed and the agony suffered in this God Forsaken War.  My respect and admiration for these men and what they are doing to help others in a foreign land is beyond calculation.  I know that they are all with God now and in a better place.

The stop in Mildenhal was uneventful and then we pressed on to Dover where we would meet the receiving Marine Corps honor guard.  When we arrived, we applied the same procedures in reverse.  The head of each casket was to come out first.  This was a sign of respect rather than defeat.  As the honor guard carried each and every American flag covered casket off of the jet, they delivered them to awaiting families with military hearses.  I was extremely impressed with how diligent the Honor Guard had performed the seemingly endless task of delivering each of the caskets to the families without fail and with precision.  There was not a dry eye on our crew or in the crowd.  The Chaplain then said a prayer followed by a speech from Lt. Col. Klaus of the second Battalion.  In his speech, he also reiterated similar condolences to the families as the Colonel from First Battalion back in Kuwait.

I then went out to speak with the families as I felt it was my duty to help console them in this difficult time.  Although I would probably be one of the last military contacts that they would have for a while - the military tends to take care of it's own. I wanted to make sure that they did not feel abandoned and more than that appreciated for their ultimate sacrifice.  It was the most difficult thing that I have ever done in my life.  I listened to the stories of each and every one that I had come in contact with and they all displayed a sense of pride during an obviously difficult time.  The Marine Corps had obviously prepared their families well for this potential outcome.

So, why do I write this story to you all?  I just wanted to put a little personal attention to the numbers that you hear about and see in the media.  It is almost like we are desensitized by the "numbers" of our fallen comrades coming out of Iraq.  I heard one commentator say that "it is just a number".  Are you kidding me?  These are our American Soldiers not numbers!  It is truly a sad situation that I hope will end soon.  Please hug and embrace your loved ones a little closer and know that there are men out there that are defending you and trying to make this a better world.  Please pray for their families and when you hear the latest statistic's and numbers of our soldiers killed in combat, please remember this story.  It is the only way that I know to more personalize these figures and have them truly mean something to us all.

Thanks for all of your support for me and my family as I take on this new role in completing my Air Force Career and supporting our country.  I greatly appreciate all of your comments, gestures and prayers.

May God Bless America, us all, and especially the United States Marine Corps.

Semper Fi

Maj. Zarnik, USAFR


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« Reply #56 on: November 26, 2004, 11:08:42 AM »
Today's Left Angeles Times

Marines Offered Reenlistment Bonuses
Personnel with combat experience and training can get up to $30,000. The goal is for them to keep current jobs or shift to other vital posts.
By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. ? With the prospect of continued fighting in Iraq, the Marine Corps is offering bonuses of up to $30,000 ? in some cases tax-free ? to persuade enlisted personnel with combat experience and training to reenlist.

The plan is working, officials said. Less than two months into the fiscal year, Marine reenlistment rates in several key specialties are running 10% to 30% ahead of last year.
For example, officials are confident that by midyear, they will have reached their target for encouraging reenlistment among riflemen, the "grunts" who are key to the Marines' ability to mount offensives against insurgent strongholds such as Fallouja.

In most cases, young Marines are agreeing to stay in their current jobs for four years. In others, they are allowed to transfer into jobs considered equally vital: recruiters, embassy guards and boot camp drill instructors.

"No amount of money is too much to retain combat experience in the corps, rather than starting over," said Maj. Mark Menotti, assistant head of enlisted retention for the Marine Corps.

Giving bonuses to encourage Marines to reenlist is not new. But this year's bonus schedule marks the first time that "combat arms" specialties have received the largest bonuses. A year ago, the top bonus for a grunt was about $7,000.

Along with riflemen, machine gunners and mortar men, specialties also receiving sizable bonuses are those critical to success in Iraq ? including intelligence officers and Arabic linguists.

Lance Cpl. Matthew Jee, 21, of Borrego Springs, Calif., received a bonus of $19,000 to reenlist for four years. An assault man with expertise in firing the Javelin rocket, he planned to shift to the intelligence field.

"They need a grunt's view of what kind of intelligence you need when you're out there on the street," Jee said at Camp Pendleton, where he recently returned after seven months in Iraq.

Sgt. Joey W. McBroom, 30, of Lafayette, Tenn., a rifleman, said he had planned to reenlist even without the bonus, but the $28,039 "helped my wife to agree to my reenlisting."

In an e-mail from Iraq, McBroom said he planned to put 40% of the bonus in a mutual fund, 30% in an account for his children's college educations, 15% in savings and the remainder for "a nice wedding ring for the wife, finally."

Another rifleman, Cpl. Anthony Mazzola, 23, of Fort Worth, has more immediate plans for his $21,700. "I plan to take all of my money to Vegas and have a crazy weekend," he e-mailed from Iraq.

The Marine Corps has earmarked $52 million in bonuses for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1, up $1 million from the prior year.

Two-thirds of the bonus money will go for Marines reenlisting for a second hitch. One-third will go to enlistees signing up for a third or fourth tour. Officers ? except in particularly difficult-to-retain specialties such as aviation and law ? are not eligible.

The amount of the bonus is determined by a formula involving the length of reenlistment, how early the Marine makes the commitment and a multiplier determined by the commandant of the Marine Corps. Among other things, the multiplier involves a statistical analysis of how much money will be needed to ensure that enough Marines reenlist in a particular specialty.

Take, for example, a sergeant trained in tank warfare.

If the sergeant reenlists for four years, his bonus is determined by multiplying his monthly pay ? $1,817 ? by four. That figure then is multiplied by four, a rate set by Marine officials for his skill. The highest skill multiplier is five. For the sergeant, the bonus computes to $29,072. If he reenlists while in Iraq, his bonus, like his regular pay, is tax-exempt.

For grunts, the bonuses are also a sign of recognition.

Cpl. Steven Forrester, 22, a machine gunner from Centerville, Tenn., said he was "glad they finally realized our job is dangerous." He received $22,796.

Cpl. William Stoffers, 22, a machine gunner from Redding, said the size of the bonus for his specialty was a pleasant surprise:

"I think it's fitting to have this amount because we are put through more stressful things than a normal Marine," e-mailed Stoffers, who is in Iraq; his total was $21,000.

Among combat veterans, there is a sense that they are being paid for having learned things that cannot be taught at the school of infantry. Many are eager to pass that knowledge to others.

Cpl. William Jones, 22, of Tulsa, Okla., a rifleman, received a bonus of $19,000 and now wants to teach Navy corpsmen how to handle combat. "The more Marines we have who've been over there, the better off the corps is going to be," he said. "It's going to cost money, but it will save lives."

Sgt. Deverson Lochard, 23, from Lakeville, Mass., a machine gunner who received a bonus of $23,000, wants to become a drill instructor and, after he becomes a U.S. citizen, an officer.

Like Jones and Jee, Lochard, who was born in France, was in combat at Ramadi and is now back at Camp Pendleton.

"I want to teach junior Marines how to go into combat and come back alive."


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« Reply #57 on: November 27, 2004, 09:51:40 AM »
There was a lot of media attention and "outrage" from the usual suspects directed towards the Marine in Fallujah who shot a wounded insurgent, yet so far there has been no mention of the following:


Here's the CENTCOM press release that has so far generated only yawns from the folks at NBC, CBS, the New York Times and the Washington Post:
FALLUJAH, Iraq ? Marines from the 1st Marine Division shot and killed an insurgent, who while faking dead, opened fire on the Marines that were conducting a security and clearing patrol through the streets here at approximately 3:45 p.m. on 21 November.

For more information, please contact Capt Bradley Gordon, public affairs officer, 1st Marine Division,


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« Reply #58 on: November 28, 2004, 08:23:50 AM »
Marines Train a Secret Weapon on Babil Province

By Bruce Wallace, Times Staff Writer

JABELLA, Iraq ? The Cobra attack helicopters thumping overhead disrupt the predawn stillness of this rural town, agitating the roosters and the dogs. Through the cacophony and a cold rain, troops wearing the signature uniforms of the U.S. Marine Corps' Force Reconnaissance platoon race down potholed streets, balaclavas hiding their faces.

The tan masks not only make the raiders appear menacing. They also disguise the fact that the men behind them are not Americans, but Iraqis.
This is the embryonic Iraqi SWAT team in action, rousing families from their sleep and rounding up men for questioning about the deadly insurgency in towns such as Jabella, south of Baghdad.

The policemen leave behind their calling card: a postcard-size photo of the SWAT team in full gear carrying the message, "Are You a Criminal or Terrorist? You Will Face Punishment."

The flashy raid is aimed at creating a daring image for the 125-man SWAT team, an attempt by their American military patrons to turn them into an Iraqi version of the Untouchables. Marine commanders have also thrown the SWAT team into action in raids across northern Babil province, a push to flush insurgents and criminals out of their strongholds.

Most of the Iraqis in the SWAT team come from the town of Hillah in Babil, and have lived and trained with Marines at a base near home since August. The close partnership with the Marines is an experiment in inoculating Iraqi troops against the violence and intimidation that make joining the security forces so perilous.

SWAT team members argue that their readiness to lead raids is a rebuttal to those who say Iraqis are not prepared to fight for control of their country.

"We are like a family, and we don't care if one of us dies, his brother will rise to avenge him," said Col. Salaam Turrad Abdul Khadim, a former Iraqi special forces officer who recruited his team from the ranks of other unemployed soldiers in Hillah.

"Every time we go on a mission against the terrorists, we are the ones who start the fight," he said. "We prove our courage."

Braving bomb-rigged roads in unarmored pickup trucks, the Iraqis have conducted 30 joint missions with the Marines since August. They frequently go in first and, since hooking up with the Americans, have not lost a colleague in action.

"Before that, we had lots of dead," Khadim said. "Maybe 10."

U.S. commanders say they are pleased with the Iraqis.

"They fought with us, they bled with us, and they'll stick to my side just as my men do," said Col. Ron Johnson, who commands the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is working with the SWAT team.

The Iraqis were training in Hillah with private-sector security firms when the Marines arrived and Johnson invited them to move in with the Force Reconnaissance platoon, the Marine version of the special operations forces. His goal was to avoid the bevy of desertions and defections to the insurgency.

The Iraqis and Americans would eat together and shower in the same facilities, Johnson ordered. He gave the Iraqis American uniforms. He told the Marines to grow mustaches.

Living on the base would not only guard against the Iraqis being kidnapped or killed on the way to and from training, he argued. It would guard against the endemic problem of mission plans being leaked to insurgents.

"You can't say to an Iraqi force, 'OK, we'll meet you at such and such a place at 10 o'clock for the mission' and then just hope they'll show up," Johnson said.

Johnson did have to override early suspicions among some Marines that they were being asked to baby-sit the Iraqis. The members of the elite force arrived with big ambitions for action and found themselves wondering if their partners would cramp their style.

But the integrated approach has led to a bond between the Americans and Iraqis, both sides say, the cultural differences submerged under the daily demands of living and fighting side by side.

"We live together, we eat together, and it has made us close," said Capt. Tad Douglas, 28, who commands the platoon. "We care about each other. There was a day when one of the Iraqis went down in a mortar attack, and one of my guys went out right away to pick him up and carry him to safety."

Another 125 Iraqis are due to join the SWAT force from police training camps in Jordan this weekend, and the Iraqi government plans to see 500 in uniform.

With their exit from Iraq dependent on having Iraqi forces to replace them, U.S. commanders are pressing the SWAT team into the fight against insurgents. They want it to earn some cachet with the local population.

"We need to create some Iraqi heroes," Douglas said. "We need guys who have an elan to them."

But the joint operations also benefit the Marines. The Iraqis give the Americans a footbridge across a linguistic and cultural divide that is a major obstacle to acquiring intelligence. In addition, the Iraqis are able to carry out raids on mosques and other sensitive sites that U.S. forces are reluctant to breach.

Their presence also has surprised some of those whose homes they raided, who are shocked to hear Arabic commands coming from under the hoods of men they assumed were Americans. This fall, a rumor went around Hillah that the U.S. had brought in Israeli soldiers ? many of whom speak Arabic. Khadim laughs at the memory.

Yet perceptions are important. The worry is that Sunni Muslims may come to see the SWAT team as a Shiite weapon. Shiites make up 94% of the Hillah force, while most of the insurgents in the area are Sunnis.

"I don't work that way," Khadim said. He pointed to the casualties his men took during clashes in August with firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr's Al Mahdi militia.

"When the war started with the Mahdi army, we killed 42 of their fighters in Hillah in one day ? all of them Shiite," the colonel said softly. "When people look at me, they don't see a Shiite. Everybody sees an Iraqi."


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« Reply #59 on: November 29, 2004, 04:22:25 PM »
Just another day--Crafty

On the wing of an Apache

By Cpl. Benjamin Cossel, 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

CAMP TAJI, Iraq -- For two Apache Longbow pilots, the night of Oct. 16 was just a regular night flying a reconnaissance mission around southern Baghdad. A distorted cry for help came across the emergency radio shattering the chatter of all other communications. They recognized the call sign, they recognized the area and a few minutes later, they were in route to perform what would become a heroic rescue.

 ?I really couldn?t make out at first what was going on. The transmission over the radio was broken up and weak, but I could make out that it was a distress call,? said Lodi, Calif., native Chief Warrant Officer Justin Taylor, an Apache pilot, with Company C, 1st Battalion 227th Aviation Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team.

At first, the transmission seemed as though it might be coming from an U.S. Marine Corps aircraft. The call sign speaking to the downed aircraft was of Marine Corps designation Taylor said. He radioed to Marine Corps headquarters asking if any aircraft of theirs was down in the area, to which the response came back negative. Then a call sign familiar to Taylor and Capt. Ryan Welch, the air mission commander, came across the guard, or emergency channel.

?We?re in zone 43?.? came the weak transmission

?I recognized the area and immediately made the decision that we were going to break from our sector and go over to the area,? said Lebanon, N.H. native Welch. ?Those were our guys on the ground and we had to help. My first thought was we would provide aerial security.?

As the team changed flight paths they notified the USMC aircraft of their intention and called back to 4th BCT headquarters to alert them to their movement. When they arrived on station they began trying to contact the pilots on the ground.

"As soon as we told the Marines what we were doing, a call came up on the guard channel, it was the same call sign but a different numerical designation,? Welch explained.

The wounded pilot explained that the previous pilot was unable to respond, that two pilots were killed in action and that he and the other survivor were trying to make their way to a defendable position but having difficulty as one of the wounded was unable to walk.

?When we flew over the sector, we immediately picked up the heat signature of a burning fire,? said Welch.

?But at first we weren?t sure what it was, it kind of looked like one of the many trash fires you see all over Baghdad,? Taylor added.

Flying over the fire to try and get a better look at the ground an excited call came up.

?You just flew over our position,? the transmission informed.

Welch?s wingman noticed the emergency strobe on the ground and notified Welch of the positive identification.

?Once we had identified the crew on the ground, I made the call that we were going to land and get those pilots out of there,? Welch commented. ?I had no idea of the situation on the ground or what the landing zone looked like, so I informed my wingman to fly a tight defensive circle around our position to provide cover if needed. As we landed and I got all the cords off of me, I looked back at JT (Taylor) and told him, if he started taking fire, get this bird out of here, leave me and we?ll collect all of us later.?

Welch had landed his Apache approximately 100 meters from the crash site, armed with his 9mm and an M4 Carbine rifle he set out to collect the downed pilots.

Welch contacted the pilots and asked if they were ready for self-extraction and again it came over the radio that one of the pilots couldn?t walk, they would need help getting out of their location.

?I basically had to stumble my way through an open field, it was treacherous with pot holes and low brush, I stumbled a couple times,? recalled Welch, ?but I finally came up on the crash site about ten minutes later.?

When Welch arrived on the scene he saw one pilot standing and one sitting, the two had been able to get a fair distance away from the aircraft.

?As I came up on them, I noticed they looked pretty bad, multiple cuts on their face and both looked like the early stages of shock had set in. I called out to Beck (Chief Warrant Officer Chad Beck, 1st Battalion of the 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Infantry Division attached to the 4th BCT) who was standing, to get him to help me with Mr. Crow (Chief Warrant Officer Greg Crow, also of 1-25 Aviation). It took a few seconds to get Mr. Beck?s attention as he was visibly shaken and dazed.?

As the two got Crow up and began the long trek back, the mess of tangled cords attached to their equipment nearly tripped them up.

?We stumbled initially with all those wires just everywhere? I pulled out my knife and just cut them all away and we took off.?

Carrying two wounded over the treacherous 100 meters to his waiting Apache, Welch said the time seemed to slow down to an absolute crawl as they inched their way back, working carefully not to further injure Mr. Crow.

?We had to move kind of slow,? he explained. ?I swear it probably took us like ten minutes to get back but it seemed like we were out there for hours, I was never so relieved to see JT and my bird sitting there.?

Four personnel, two seats in the Apache. Self-extraction was a maneuver the pilots had been told about in flight school. A maneuver considered dangerous enough that no practical application was given, just the verbal ?Here?s how you do it?

Hanging from a pilots flight vest is a nylon strap attached to a carabineer. On the outside of the Apache there are hand holds bolted on primarily to assist maintenance crews as they work on the birds. But, they also have another purpose -- to be used in the event of a self extraction. The general idea is for the pilot to attach a nylon strap wrapped through the hand holds and then connecting the nylon strap with the carabineer. The aircraft then flies off to a safe location with the person attached to the outside of the aircraft.

?I knew getting back to my bird,? explained Welch, ?that Mr. Crow was in no position for self extraction that I would have to put him in the front seat. I radioed to JT and told him what I intended to do, Crow in the front seat, Beck and I strapped to the outside.?

At first Taylor just looked at Welch, a little surprised at the plan.

?It kind of surprised me at first and then I just thought, ?Cool, that?s what we?re going to do,?? said Taylor.

Beck and Welch worked to get Crow into the front seat as Welch explained what was next to Beck.

?At first Beck really didn?t want to leave, his commander had just been killed and he still wasn?t thinking 100% clear?

?I can?t go, I just can?t go,? pleaded Beck but soon enough he understood the situation and then another problem surfaced.

?The mechanism Kiowa pilots use for self extraction is different then the set up Apache pilots use,? explained Welch. ?But we finally got it worked out, got Beck hooked up and then secured myself to the aircraft.?

Secured and assuming a defensive posture with his rifle, Welch gave Taylor the thumbs up sign and the Apache lifted off.

?I was a little bit freaked out,? explained Taylor, ?you just don?t fly an Apache by yourself, it?s definitely a two man aircraft?

At 90 miles per hour the two helicopters flew 20 kilometers to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon, the closet FOB with a Combat Support Hospital (CSH).

?I only had my night visor on,? said Welch. ?I thought my eyes were going to rip out my sockets and that my nose would tear from my face, the wind was so strong.?

Landing on the emergency pad, Welch and Taylor jumped out and helped medical personal take Beck and Crow inside for treatment.

?One of the medics asked me if I was a medical flight pilot,? chuckled Welch. ?You should have seen the look on his face when I told him, Nope, I?m an Apache pilot.?

The patients safely delivered to the CSH, the two exhausted pilots looked at each other with the same thought.

?We both climbed back into our bird,? Welch said, ?and almost simultaneously said to each other, ?Lets go home.??


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Death of Pat Tillman
« Reply #60 on: December 05, 2004, 07:38:21 AM »

There is a quick and easy sign up to read this extensive and interesting piece on the death of Pat Tillman.


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Sgt Peralta
« Reply #61 on: December 06, 2004, 09:06:23 AM »
FALLUJAH, Iraq (Dec. 02, 2004) -- "You're still here, don't forget that.  Tell your kids, your grandkids, what Sgt. Peralta did for you and the other Marines today."
As a combat correspondent, I was attached to Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment for Operation Al Fajr, to make sure the stories of heroic actions and the daily realities of battle were told.

On this day, I found myself without my camera. With the batteries dead, I
decided to leave the camera behind and live up to the ethos "every Marine a rifleman," by volunteering to help clear the fateful buildings that
lined streets.

After seven days of intense fighting in Fallujah, the Marines of 1/3 embraced a new day with a faceless enemy.

We awoke November 15, 2004, around day-break in the abandoned, battle-worn house we had made our home for the night. We shaved, ate breakfast from a Meal, Ready-to-Eat pouch and waited for the word to move.

The word came, and we started what we had done since the operation began - clear the city of insurgents, building by building.

As an attachment to the unit, I had been placed as the third man in a
six-man group, or what Marines call a 'stack.' Two stacks of Marines were
used to clear a house. Moving quickly from the third house to the fourth, our order in the stack changed. I found Sgt. Rafael Peralta in my spot, so I fell in behind him as we moved toward the house.

A Mexican-American who lived in San Diego, Peralta earned his citizenship
after he joined the Marine Corps. He was a platoon scout, which meant he could have stayed back in safety while the squads of 1st Platoon went into the danger filled streets, but he was constantly asking to help out by  giving them an extra Marine. I learned by speaking with him and other Marines the night before that he frequently put his safety, reputation and
career on the line for the needs and morale of the junior Marines around him.
When we reached the fourth house, we breached the gate and swiftly approached the building. The first Marine in the stack kicked in the front
door, revealing a locked door to their front and another at the right.

Kicking in the doors simultaneously, one stack filed swiftly into the room to the front as the other group of Marines darted off to the right.

"Clear!" screamed the Marines in one of the rooms followed only seconds
later by another shout of "clear!" from the second room. One word told us
all we wanted to know about the rooms: there was no one in there to shoot at us.
We found that the two rooms were adjoined and we had another closed door in front of us. We spread ourselves throughout the rooms to avoid a cluster going through the next door.
Two Marines stacked to the left of the door as Peralta, rifle in hand, tested the handle. I watched from the middle, slightly off to the right of the room as the handle turned with ease.
Ready to rush into the rear part of the house, Peralta threw open the door.

'POP! POP! POP!' Multiple bursts of cap-gun-like sounding AK-47 fire rang  throughout the house.

Three insurgents with AK-47s were waiting for us behind the door.
Peralta was hit several times in his upper torso and face at point-blank range by the fully-automatic 7.62mm weapons employed by three terrorists.
Mortally wounded, he jumped into the already cleared, adjoining room,  giving the rest of us a clear line of fire through the doorway to the rear
of the house.
We opened fire, adding the bangs of M-16A2 service rifles, and the deafening, rolling cracks of a Squad Automatic Weapon, or "SAW," to the
already nerve-racking sound of the AKs. One Marine was shot through the forearm and continued to fire at the enemy.

I fired until Marines closer to the door began to maneuver into better firing positions, blocking my line of fire. Not being an infantryman, I watched to see what those with more extensive training were doing.
I saw four Marines firing from the adjoining room when a yellow, foreign-made, oval-shaped grenade bounced into the room, rolling to a stop close to Peralta's nearly lifeless body.
In an act living up to the heroes of the Marine Corps' past, such as Medal  of Honor recipients Pfc. James LaBelle and Lance Cpl. Richard Anderson,
Peralta - in his last fleeting moments of consciousness- reached out and pulled the grenade into his body. LaBelle fought on Iwo Jima and Anderson in Vietnam, both died saving their fellow Marines by smothering the blast of enemy grenades.

Peralta did the same for all of us in those rooms.  I watched in fear and horror as the other four Marines scrambled to the corners of the room and the majority of the blast was absorbed by Peralta's now lifeless body. His selflessness left four other Marines with only minor injuries from smaller fragments of the grenade.
During the fight, a fire was sparked in the rear of the house. The flames
were becoming visible through the door.
The decision was made by the Marine in charge of the squad to evacuate the injured Marines from the house, regroup and return to finish the fight and retrieve Peralta's body.
We quickly ran for shelter, three or four houses up the street, in a house that had already been cleared and was occupied by the squad's platoon.

As Staff Sgt. Jacob M. Murdock took a count of the Marines coming back, he found it to be one man short, and demanded to know the whereabouts of the missing Marine.
"Sergeant Peralta! He's dead! He's f------ dead," screamed Lance Cpl. Adam Morrison, a machine gunner with the squad, as he came around a corner.  "He's still in there. We have to go back."
The ingrained code Marines have of never leaving a man behind drove the next few moments. Within seconds, we headed back to the house unknown what we may encounter yet ready for another round.

I don't remember walking back down the street or through the gate in front of the house, but walking through the door the second time, I prayed that we wouldn't lose another brother.
We entered the house and met no resistance. We couldn't clear the rest of the house because the fire had grown immensely and the danger of the enemy's weapons cache exploding in the house was increasing by the second.
Most of us provided security while Peralta's body was removed from the
We carried him back to our rally point and upon returning were told that
the other Marines who went to support us encountered and killed the three
insurgents from inside the house.

Later that night, while I was thinking about the day's somber events, Cpl.
Richard A. Mason, an infantryman with Headquarters Platoon, who, in the short time I was with the company became a good friend, told me, "You're
still here, don't forget that. Tell your kids, your grandkids, what Sgt. Peralta did for you and the other Marines today."
As a combat correspondent, this is not only my job, but an honor.

Throughout Operation Al Fajr, we were constantly being told that we were
making history, but if the books never mention this battle in the future,
I'm sure that the day and the sacrifice that was made, will never be forgotten by the Marines who were there.
C-Bad Dog, Lakan Guro DBMA


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #62 on: December 17, 2004, 01:26:26 PM »

The first is a front page piece from today's Left Angeles Times, and the second from the editorial page of today's WSJ.

Crafty Dog

Weary Guard Seeks to Rebuild
Retention bonuses will be tripled and recruiting expanded as Iraq war strains multiply. Force also seeks $20 billion to replace equipment.

By John Hendren, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON ? The Army National Guard is tripling retention bonuses to counter lagging recruitment and is asking for $20 billion to replace equipment destroyed in combat as it struggles under the continuing burden of the Iraq war, the Guard's top commander said Thursday.

After missing its recruitment goals over the last two months, the National Guard plans to boost bonuses to $15,000 from $5,000 for members who sign up for another six-year stint. Bonuses for first-time recruits will jump to $10,000 from $6,000 ? tax-free for those abroad, Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, head of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters at the Pentagon.

The Guard also is boosting the number of recruiters from 2,700 to 4,100 and adjusting its advertising campaigns and slogans away from so-called weekend warriors to appeal to potential recruits who will more readily accept deployment abroad.

The war has collided with the expectations of those who thought that joining the Guard meant serving short periods close to home, near their families and civilian jobs.

The changes announced Thursday underscored the strain the Guard is facing from a protracted war that has required a fourth of its 340,000 members to serve in combat in Iraq. More than 140 Guard troops have been killed in Iraq.

Blum said the extra $20 billion is needed over three years to repair and replace vehicles, radios and other equipment destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan as the service seeks first to replenish and then equip its forces.

"Otherwise, the Guard will be broken and not ready the next time it's needed, either here at home or for war," Blum said.

More than 100,000 Guard members are now deployed abroad, and many complain that they face enemy fire with equipment inferior to that of their regular Army colleagues. The equipment problems only compound growing recruitment and retention weaknesses, commanders said.

"There's no question that when you have a sustained ground combat operation going that the Guard's participating in, that makes recruiting more difficult," Blum said.

The National Guard has faced recruitment and retention problems since last summer. It fell 7,000 short of its target of 350,000 members in September and has struggled since then. The Guard's recruiting problem compounds those of the Army Reserve, which also has failed to meet its goals for the last two months. Together, the two branches of the Army make up 40% of the 140,000 American troops now serving in Iraq.

Blum said some of the Guard's recruiting themes being changed.

"We're not talking about one weekend a month and two weeks a year and college tuition," he said, referring to the time that members traditionally spent on active duty and an educational benefit. "We're talking about service to the nation."

U.S. military officials have expressed concern that the extensive deployments of part-time troops could drive some out of the force and deter others from joining, making it hard to fill the ranks in the future.

Meanwhile, many state officials complain that because the Guard is so heavily deployed in Iraq, its members are unavailable to help with domestic security or natural disasters.

The Guard's ranks have been hit hardest by a drop in the number of former full-time soldiers who exit active duty from the Army and enlist in the Guard. About half of active-duty soldiers traditionally have gone into the Guard after being discharged; the number has recently dropped to about 35%, Blum said.

"Clearly, a good flow of active forces into the Guard and Reserve is something that will benefit the Army, the Guard and Reserve over the long haul," Gen. George W. Casey, commander of the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq, told reporters Thursday at the Pentagon. "It's something I think we need to pay attention to and continue to encourage and maybe incentivize active forces to continue to move into the Guard and Reserve."

Critics expressed doubt Thursday that the added incentives would solve the problem, which they said was more the result of prolonged deployments.

"When people get out now, they don't necessarily go into the Reserves because they know they'll likely go back out to Iraq, where they might have just come back from," said retired Army Capt. Michael McPhearson of the group Military Families Speak Out, an organization of service members and their families critical of U.S. policy in Iraq. "People know that. And they don't want to go."

The extra $20 billion will have to win approval in Congress.

In seeking the extra money, the National Guard's request would go far beyond the $7 billion in equipment it plans to request in an emergency spending bill to cover the costs of deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Blum said.

Members of Congress have served as fierce advocates for National Guard units in their districts. Even when the Pentagon seeks little money to reequip Guard units, lawmakers go to bat for federal funding for local units. Equipment problems in the National Guard put Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on the defensive when he visited troops in Kuwait on Dec. 8.

Tennessee National Guard Spc. Thomas Wilson said members of his unit were forced to rummage through scrap yards for material to armor their Humvees. The Army since has moved to increase production of armored vehicles.

The question of equipment is particularly of concern to National Guard and Reserve troops because they often work with older equipment, although they represent a significant portion of the U.S. military force in Iraq.

"The Army's equipment is old, but the Guard's is oldest and it's wearing out," said Loren Thompson, defense analyst for the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va., public policy group.

The equipment woes have provoked concern in Congress, with Republicans as well as Democrats criticizing Rumsfeld. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who chairs the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said Wednesday in a letter to Rumsfeld that she found the issue troubling.

"Given that so many American soldiers have died or been seriously injured in Iraq as a result of improvised explosive devices or in ambushes from rocket-propelled grenades, the urgent requirement for armor protection remains," she said.



The Army We Have

December 17, 2004; Page A14

A few weeks ago Rep. Duncan Hunter handed me a reason that has largely escaped media attention as to why our troops don't have all the armor they need. It was a piece of ballistic glass the size of a small dinner plate and as transparent as a normal windshield. But as it was four sheets of glass glued together, it was very thick and extremely heavy. In Iraq, this glass is saving lives.

The problem, the House Armed Services Committee chairman explained, is that a ballistic windshield is too heavy for some military vehicles. The window frames simply cannot support it. That means some soldiers are driving vehicles with regular windshields as the bureaucracy figures out what to do.

While the troops wait, he complained, the military could install two-inch-thick ballistic glass, which would likely stop 80% of the shrapnel that penetrates ordinary windshields. But the military is loath to adopt an interim, if imperfect, remedy. It prefers to wait for the "100% solution," Mr. Hunter said. In other words, in military procurement, the perfect has become the enemy of the good.

Mr. Hunter has also pushed the military to give soldiers steel plates they can cut into armored doors. He even made a short video on how soldiers in the field can cut the armored doors themselves (you can view it at Somehow the military isn't getting this done either.

These are not the only problems. Mr. Hunter's office figured out a way to help protect convoys by converting a regular truck into an escort vehicle by bolting on a few plates of high-grade steel, ballistic glass and four machine guns. The Army initially said these gun trucks weren't needed. But now a handful of them are in Iraq, with more to be delivered by Christmas.

There have been a few successes, however. Before redeploying to Iraq last March, the Marines put some armor on all the vehicles they shipped over. Through the Rapid Fielding Initiative, the Pentagon distributed a new type of body armor in Iraq. And Rapid Acquisition Authority was signed into law in October, which empowers the defense secretary to go outside the procurement system to meet urgent battlefield needs. But the power has yet to be invoked.

Donald Rumsfeld stirred up a hornet's nest last week saying, "You go to war with the army you have." But he was right. We cannot afford to make George McClellan's mistake in the Civil War, endlessly preparing but not doggedly going after the enemy. Our soldiers deserve the best equipment money can buy. And that includes the best equipment they can use now, instead of waiting around for something better. Sometimes what's good enough today is better than what would be perfect sometime down the road.

Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of This is adapted from his weekly online column, "The Western Front."


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #63 on: December 20, 2004, 12:03:16 PM »

December 20, 2004 -- AS 2004 draws to a close, our military can be proud. Once again, our troops de feated our enemies, redeemed the mistakes of our civilian leadership and defied the prophets of disaster.
Iraq will shortly hold national elections. Afghanistan is a functioning democracy, despite the critics who claimed the goal was impossible. Islamic terrorists remain on the run, unable to strike our homeland. And the battle with terror in the Middle East has taken a terrible toll on our enemies.

This was a year of major policy errors and deadly challenges. U.S. election requirements conflicted with military necessity. Troop levels were capped too low. Their civilian superiors prevented combat commanders from taking decisive action, fearing that casualties would become a political football. The terrorists and insurgents put down deep roots while our election campaign dragged on.

But our troops always came through for us, no matter the limits imposed upon them. Whenever they were allowed to fight, they won. Our tragic reverses, such as the disastrous First Battle of Fallujah or the initial rounds of fighting in Najaf, resulted from indecision and miscalculations at the highest levels of civilian leadership, not from any military failings.

Throughout the year, commanders and soldiers reinvented warfare under fire. Old doctrine was cast aside in favor of combat techniques suited to a new century. Urban warfare lessons were studied in the field and combat in cities was revolutionized ? the triumphant Second Battle of Fallujah shattered every historical precedent.

Commanders grasped the paramount requirement for speed when war must be waged under the scrutiny of the global media. The traditional importance of mass ? of having the numbers overwhelmingly on your side ? regained respectability. Even civilian decision-makers belatedly recognized that war cannot be waged by garden-party rules.

As a result, an overwhelming, multi-service force won Second Fallujah in a week, with less than 10 percent of the casualties traditional urban-warfare models would have predicted. The major fighting was over before a hostile global media could undercut our efforts ? as al-Jazeera and the BBC did back in April, during First Fallujah.

If any lesson permeated our military experience in Iraq, it was the requirement to speed the kill, to operate within the media cycle. Operations that once would have stretched over days were condensed to start and finish between midnight and dawn.

On a darker note, it became evident that our strategic failure to mount a robust occupation immediately in the aftermath of Saddam's fall allowed our enemies to retake control of the timetable. An occupation that could have gone relatively smoothly turned instead into an ugly unconventional war that tears at the sinews of Iraqi identity.

There's an old military maxim to the effect that it's difficult to recover from "faulty initial dispositions." By failing to use our power aggressively early on, we only strengthened our enemies.

Had the Pentagon's civilian leadership planned thoroughly for the occupation, allocating robust forces and delegating real authority to battlefield commanders, our casualties would be far lower today and Iraq would be a much more peaceful place. For the sake of our troops, we need to hope that the civilians who send our forces into battle have learned the time-honored lesson that you can't do military operations on the cheap.

Even as our troops have done a magnificent job, they've been run ragged. Our Reserves and National Guard are drained, while our active-duty forces are on an endless conveyor belt to and from Iraq. Desperately needed increases in Army and Marine numbers have been blocked by the secretary of Defense. We owe our service members a better deal than that ? we can at least make sure there are enough of them.

It's going to be a needlessly dark holiday season for hundreds of thousands of military families torn asunder by faulty Pentagon planning. And still our troops maintain high morale. Even as the media made the ugly-but-minor mess at Abu Ghraib prison the event of the year, our soldiers were fighting, winning, building a new democracy and refusing to quit, no matter how difficult the conditions.

Whatever errors their leaders may have made, our troops never failed us.

Now, as 2005 approaches, we need to give the men and women in uniform the support they deserve.

First, this means increasing the size of our ground forces so that we don't have to cripple the superb military we've built over the past generation. This is going to be a long war. There is no excuse for temporizing while soldiers and their families suffer needlessly. There are not enough troops in uniform. Fixing that problem should be our nation's number-one military priority.

We also need to support our troops by keeping faith. Too many of the Washington civilians who couldn't wait to go to war now can't wait to bail out of Iraq. But victory belongs to the steadfast. Iraq's elections can't become an excuse for cutting and running. We have to see this one through.

Our troops are willing. They understand the stakes. The least we can do is to give them the support they need, whether additional numbers or sufficient vehicle armor. To quit when we have come this far would be to mock all the casualties our forces have suffered.

Our troops did us proud in 2004. Let's do right by them in '05.


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #64 on: January 01, 2005, 10:09:39 AM »
Army Program Allows for More Healing at Home
Under the Community Based Health Care Initiative, National Guard and Reserve members can recuperate in their comfort zones.

By John-Thor Dahlburg, Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND PARK, Fla. ? Staff Sgt. Mitch Riviera needs therapy on his left knee and an operation to mend his bad back, enduring and painful consequences of a yearlong deployment in Iraq. But this holiday season, because of a new Army program, the injured National Guardsman hasn't been marooned in a military hospital on some faraway base, but is back home.

"I wake up every day happy," said the 33-year-old mechanic with the 743rd Maintenance Company of the Florida National Guard. "You're just happy to be home."

Under the Community Based Health Care Initiative, wounded or ailing members of the Army National Guard and Reserve are able for the first time to live at home and recuperate while still on active-duty status.

They receive medical care at local Veterans Administration facilities or from healthcare providers authorized by Tricare, the U.S. military's equivalent of an HMO, and are given light duties at a local armory or other military facilities.

The impetus was a public embarrassment for the Army: media reports in 2003 that hundreds of wounded reservists and guardsmen were languishing in barracks as they waited to see doctors or be admitted to overcrowded medical facilities. That was Riviera's experience after his company returned from Iraq in April.

Nearly all members of his unit were allowed to go home, but the staff sergeant said he was kept on base at Ft. Stewart, Ga., for three months, housed in a 16-person trailer as he awaited his turn for medical treatment.

"They were just overwhelmed. They couldn't cope with the wounded people they had," said Riviera, who hurt his back and knee in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, while lugging the heavy tools needed in his job as a front-line mechanic and wearing 80 pounds of "battle rattle" combat gear. At one point, he said, he couldn't walk for three weeks.

"I was disorganized with all the surgery I had to go through" at Ft. Stewart, 400 miles from South Florida, Riviera said. "You're so close to home, but you can't go there, and you can't go off post."

It was his fiancee, Diana Villescaz, 24, of Bakersfield, a legal secretary, who came to his rescue, Riviera said. She heard about the Army's new community-based healthcare program, and sent an e-mail to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush asking for help.

Within 48 hours, Riviera said, he received a phone call from an officer inquiring about his case.

Lt. Col. Bruce Cornelison is in charge of the initiative in Florida, which in March became the first state to implement the program. He called it "an absolutely wonderful improvement," in large part because it gets wounded or injured men and women "back to their families and loved ones."

"An individual cures faster if he is surrounded by his support system," Cornelison, an officer in the Army Medical Service Corps, said from the program's Florida offices in Plant City east of Tampa. "Soldiers were so far from their home, and facilities were being overcrowded."

Offices have also been opened in California, Arkansas, Massachusetts and Wisconsin to arrange for and supervise medical care for 1,335 soldiers in 23 states. The initiative was deemed so successful, and demand grew so fast, that the Army has announced that by April, more centers would be opened in Virginia, Alabama and Utah, expanding coverage to all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

A total of $23 million in funding has been set aside, and nearly 800 additional physicians, nurses, clerks and case managers have been hired or mobilized to help, the Pentagon announced Dec. 6.

According to Col. Barbara Scherb of Army Forces Command, the program's overall manager, the innovation is a response to the new realities of today's Army, where active-duty troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have had to be heavily and repeatedly supplemented by part-time soldiers from the Guard and Reserve.

"It quickly became apparent that we might exceed the [medical] capacity at the installations for these folks" if they suffered the same level of casualties as troops in World War II, Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm," Scherb said. "That's why we looked at establishing something that was community-based."

Since active-duty soldiers typically live on or near an Army base, families and friends can be by their side as they are treated in a location familiar to them. The community-based care program extends that psychological and emotional boost to soldiers in the Guard and Reserve, as well as easing them back into civilian life.

"The quality of the care is really the same as it was before," Scherb said. "The quality of life is the thing that is improving, because they are able to get home and get back with their families."

The National Military Family Assn. is still monitoring how the novel program will work in practice, especially for soldiers who live in remote locales where medical resources may be scarce, said Julia Pfaff, the not-for-profit group's executive director. "We're cautious," Pfaff said. "A lot of these individuals are stuck in this Catch-22 of knowing they can be closer to home, but also having healthcare requirements that are enormous and can overwhelm the system."

For Riviera, an 11-year veteran of the Guard with thick black hair and a ready smile, being home has meant being able to buy diamond earrings for Villescaz (they plan to get married in March) and joining his mother and other family members in Tampa for Christmas. Last Thursday, he had an afternoon date to drive his fiancee, who had a cold, to the doctor. Riviera laughed at the irony of it.

Since coming back to Florida in late June, Riviera has been operated on at a Veterans Administration facility in Miami for a torn meniscus in his knee, and he will learn this month what sort of surgery he needs on his lower back. "The lower disk is gone," Riviera said. "They are probably going to have to fuse two lower disks together."

Two times a week, the sergeant, in civilian life a service technician for a cable company, attends physical therapy sessions at the VA's outpatient clinic in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Oakland Park. There, he is treated with ice and electrical stimulation, and does exercises to strengthen his muscles.

"It's painful, but it's getting the job done," Riviera said. "That therapist doesn't let you slack." At his apartment complex in Davie, he regularly walks in the swimming pool, with the water buoying his body so he doesn't put too much weight on his back and knee.

Not all of the wounded or injured who might want to take part in the program are eligible, Cornelison said.

"It wouldn't make any sense to bring someone home who required constant hospitalization," he said. Before going home, the soldiers spend a few days at a program office like the one in Plant City, meeting their case manager, discussing a treatment plan with a physician and arranging for a duty assignment for the time they will remain on active duty.

At 8 a.m. most days, Riviera reports to a National Guard armory near Fort Lauderdale's airport, where he assists military recruiters with administrative tasks. A third-generation military man, he wants to stay in the National Guard. He will continue on active duty in his current "medical hold" status, he said, until the VA treats his medical problems or decides it can't do anything more.

For the moment, Riviera must be careful even when making the simplest of movements ? like reaching for a bottle of milk.

His immediate goals are to get married, buy a house and start a family. Despite the pain and uncertainty about his back, he seems cheerful and upbeat. He'll be happy, the guardsman said, if he can get 90% of his old physical ability back.

"The rest I'll chalk up to life," he said.


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #65 on: January 07, 2005, 12:14:23 AM »

I debated on whether to post the following in the WW3 thread or here, but wound up choosing here, because ulimately this piece is about the troops-- not Rumbo.

Our gratitude and prayers!


"Rumsfeld should have hit the panic button on Army force structure when the insurgency picked up steam." The Force Structure Problem

By George Friedman

A memo written by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, head of the U.S. Army Reserve, was leaked to The Baltimore Sun. Addressed to the chief of staff of the Army, the memo stated that the Army Reserve was in danger of becoming a "broken force," due to personnel policies adopted by the Army and the Department of Defense. Helmly wrote, "The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you of the Army Reserve's inability . . . to meet mission requirements associated with Iraq and Afghanistan and to reset and regenerate its forces for follow-on and future missions."

When a three-star general writes a memo containing these words to the chief of staff, and then leaks the memo to the press (it did not arrive at the Sun through telepathy), what you have is a major revolt by senior Army commanders. Helmly may have been more incautious than others, but he is far from alone in his view that the force in general is broken. More directly, if the Army Reserve is unable to carry out its mission, the same can likely be said for National Guard units. This means that the Army in general, which is heavily dependent on both to carry out its mission, won't be able to do so. What the generals are saying is that the Army itself is unable to carry out its mission.

Part of this is a discussion of several procedures governing call-ups and other issues that have not changed since the Sept. 11 attacks. Some of it has to do with the extreme stress that reserve components are experiencing. All of it has to do with a revolt against Donald Rumsfeld and his policies toward the Army, policies that go back to Rumsfeld's view of warfare.

Rumsfeld believes that there is a revolution in warfare under way. As the author of The Future of War, I completely agree with him. However, as I stated in that book, the revolution is just getting under way and will not be mature for generations. It is not ready to carry the warfighting burden of the United States, although it can certainly support it. Until that revolution matures, traditional forces, particularly the Army, will need to be maintained and, in time of war, expanded.

Rumsfeld's view is that the revolution is more mature than that and that warfare can now be carried out with minimal Army forces. In some ways, Rumsfeld was right when he focused on the conventional invasion of Iraq. A relatively small force was able to defeat the main Iraqi force. Where he made his mistake, in my opinion, was in not recognizing that the occupation of Iraq required substantial manpower and that much of that manpower was in the reserves.

He compounded that mistake enormously when he failed to recognize that an organized insurgency was under way in Iraq. Counterinsurgency operations is one area in which the revolution in warfare has made little progress, and Rumsfeld should have hit the panic button on Army force structure when the insurgency picked up steam. In Iraq, Rumsfeld was going to fight a guerrilla war, and he was going to need a lot of infantry and armor to do it. If, in addition to fighting the guerrilla war, Rumsfeld planned to carry out other operations in the region and maintain a strategic reserve, he needed to expand the Army dramatically.

Rumsfeld made three mistakes. First, he overestimated the breadth and depth of the revolution in warfare. Second, he underestimated the challenges posed by counterinsurgency operations, particularly in urban areas. Mistakes are inevitable, but his third mistake was amazing: he could not recognize that he had made the first two mistakes. That meant that he never corrected any of the mistakes.

There is another way to look at this. The United States is in a global war. Personnel policies have not been radically restructured to take into account either that the U.S. needs a wartime force structure or that that force structure must be congruent with the type and tempo of operations that will be undertaken. Not only doesn't the force stretch, but the force is not built to stretch. Hence, Helmly's memo.

Essentially, this memo is an open challenge by Army generals to Rumsfeld, with the chief of staff caught in the middle. The situation is now officially out of hand. If the commander of the Army Reserve says that his command is not capable of carrying out its mission, and says it publicly, there is no way to cover that up. He is either going to be relieved of his command, or he is going to be given the tools to fix the problem. If he is going to be given those tools, then Rumsfeld's view is being repudiated and Rumsfeld has to go.

There is something more than politics at work here. It's called reality. Helmly is right. It seems to me that the handwriting is on the wall. Once the elections in Iraq are completed, dramatic changes will take place. Bush will call for an expansion of the Army and the reserves. In Iraq, U.S. forces will be shifted out of security responsibilities, where they are not effective anyway. And, incidentally, Rumsfeld will retire. Or, Rumsfeld will purge the senior ranks of the Army. Since that is not a viable option, we expect Bush will be forced to act on their recommendations.


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Sgt. Rafael Peralta, American Hero
« Reply #66 on: January 11, 2005, 10:46:31 AM »
You probably don't know Rafael Peralta's name. If we lived in a country that more fully celebrated the heroics of its men in uniform, you would. He was a sergeant in Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment for Operation Dawn, the November offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which had become a haven for terrorists. What he did on the day of Nov. 15 was an awe-inspiring act of selfless sacrifice and faithfulness to his fellow Marines.

The only way we can honor Sgt. Peralta's heroism is to tell his story and remember his name. What follows is mostly drawn from the reporting of Marine combat correspondent Lance Cpl. T.J. Kaemmerer, who witnessed the events on that day.

Sgt. Peralta, 25, was a Mexican American. He joined the Marines the day after he got his green card and earned his citizenship while in uniform. He was fiercely loyal to the ethos of the Corps. While in Kuwait, waiting to go into Iraq, he had his camouflage uniform sent out to be pressed. He constantly looked for opportunities to help his Marine brothers, which is why he ended up where he was on Nov. 15. A week into the battle for Fallujah, the Marines were still doing the deadly work of clearing the city, house by house. As a platoon scout, Peralta didn't have to go out with the assault team that day. He volunteered to go.

According to Kaemmerer, the Marines entered a house and kicked in the doors of two rooms that proved empty. But there was another closed door to an adjoining room. It was unlocked, and Peralta, in the lead, opened it. He was immediately hit with AK-47 fire in his face and upper torso by three insurgents. He fell out of the way into one of the cleared rooms to give his fellow Marines a clear shot at the enemy. During the firefight, a yellow fragmentation grenade flew out of the room, landing near Peralta and several fellow Marines. The uninjured Marines tried to scatter out of the way, two of them trying to escape the room, but were blocked by a locked door. At that point, barely alive, Peralta grabbed the grenade and cradled it to his body.

His body took most of the blast. One Marine was seriously injured, but the rest sustained only minor shrapnel wounds. Cpl. Brannon Dyer told a reporter from the Army Times, "He saved half my fire team."

Kaemmerer compares Peralta's sacrifice to that of past Marine Medal of Honor winners Pfc. James LaBelle and Lance Cpl. Richard Anderson. LaBelle dove on a Japanese grenade to save two fellow Marines during the battle of Iwo Jima. Although he had just been wounded twice, Anderson rolled over an enemy grenade to save a fellow Marine during a 1969 battle in Vietnam.

Peralta's sacrifice should be a legend in the making. But somehow heroism doesn't get the same traction in our media environment as being a victim or villain, categories that encompass the truly famous Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England respectively. Peralta's story has been covered in military publications, a smattering of papers including the Seattle Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, ABC News, and some military blogs. But the Washington Post and the New York Times only mentioned Peralta's name in their lists of the dead. Scandalously, the "heroism" of Spc. Thomas Wilson ? the national guardsman who asked a tough question of Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld that had been planted with him by a reporter ? has been more celebrated in the press than that of Peralta.

Kaemmerer recounts how later on the night of Nov. 15, a friend approached him and said: "You're still here; don't forget that. Tell your kids, your grandkids, what Sgt. Peralta did for you and the other Marines today." Don't forget. Good advice for all of us.


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #67 on: February 11, 2005, 07:25:16 AM »

IN San Diego on Tuesday, I had the privilege of sitting beside Lt.-Gen Jim Mattis, a Marine who knows how to fight. We were on a panel discussing future war. And Gen. Mattis, a Marine to the marrow of his bones spoke honestly about the thrill of combat. Mattis has commanded at every level. In Desert Storm, he led a battalion. In Afghanistan and then in Iraq, he led with inspiration and courage. Everyone on our panel had opinions about war, but that no-nonsense Marine knew more about it than the rest of us combined.

In the course of a blunt discussion of how our military has to prepare for future fights, the general spoke with a frankness that won the hearts of the uniformed members of the audience. Instead of trotting out politically correct clich?s, Mattis told the truth: "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil . . . it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them." The language wasn't elegant. But we don't need prissy military leaders. We need generals who talk straight and shoot straight, men who inspire, and I guarantee you that any real Marine or Soldier would follow Gen Mattis.

What was the media's reaction? A B-team news crew saw a chance to grab a headline at the military's expense (surprise, surprise). Lifting the general's remarks out of context, the media hyenas played it as if they were shocked to learn that people die in war. Combat veterans are supposed to be tormented souls, you understand. Those who fight our wars are supposed to return home irreparably damaged.

HOLLYWOOD'S ideal of a Marine is the retired colonel in the film American Beauty," who turns out to be a repressed homosexual and a murderer. Veterans are sup- posed to writhe on their beds all night, covered in sweat, unable to escape their nightmares.

War does scar some men. Most vets, though, just get on with their lives scratch a veteran looking for pity and more often than not you'll find a supply clerk who never got near a battlefield. And some who serve the soldiers and Marines who win our wars run to the sound of the guns, anxious to close with the enemy and kill him. They may not love war itself, but they find combat magnetic and exhilarating. They like to fight. That's fine in movies featuring Brad Pitt as a mythical Greek hero. But God forbid that a modern-day Marine should admit that he loves his work.

Well, Marines and soldiers don't serve full careers because they hate their jobs. In peace or war, the military experience is incredibly rich and rewarding and sometimes dangerous. Goes with the territory. But for most of the young infantrymen in Iraq, their combat experience will remain the highpoint of their lives. Nothing afterward will be as intense or exciting and they will never make closer friends than they did in their rifle squad.

Gen Mattis may have been unusual in his honesty, but he certainly isn't unusual in our history. We picture Robert E. Lee as a saintly father figure, but Lee remarked that it's good that war is so terrible, since otherwise men would grow to love it too much. He was speaking of himself. Andy Jackson certainly loved a fight, and Stonewall Jackson never shied from one. Sherman and Grant only found themselves in war.

WE lionize those who embraced war in the past, but condemn those who defend us in the present. George S. Patton was far blunter than Jim
Mattis - but Patton lived in the days before the media was omnipresent and biased against our military.

The hypocrisy is stunning Gen Mattis told the truth about a fundamental human activity war and was treated as though he had dropped a nuclear weapon on an orphanage. Yet when some bozo on a talk show confesses to an addiction or a perversion in front of millions of viewers, he's lionized as "courageous" for speaking out. Sorry! It's men like Jim Mattis who are courageous. The rest of us barely glimpse the meaning of the word.

We've come to a sad state when a Marine who has risked his life repeatedly to keep our country safe can't speak his mind, while any professor who wants to blame America for 9/11 is defended by legions of free-speech advocates. If a man like Mattis hasn't earned the right to say what he really believes, who has?

Had Gen Mattis collapsed in tears and begged for pity for the torments war inflicted on him, the media would have adored him. Instead, he spoke as Marines and Soldiers do in the headquarters tent or the barracks, on the battlefield or among comrades. And young journalists who never faced anything more dangerous than a drunken night in Tijuana tried to create a scandal.

FORTUNATELY, Lt. Gen Mattis has three big things going for him: The respect of those who serve; the Marine Corps, which won't abandon a valiant fighter to please self-righteous pundits whose only battle is with their waistlines; and the fact that we're at war. We need more men like Mattis, not fewer. The public needs to hear the truth about war, not just the crybaby nonsense of those who never deigned to serve our country.

In my own far humbler career, the leaders I admired were those who had the killer instinct. The soldiers knew who they were. We would have followed them anywhere. They weren't slick Pentagon staffers anxious to
go to work for defense contractors. They were the men who lived and breathed the warrior's life.

Table manners don't win wars winning our nation's battles demands disciplined ferocity, raw physical courage - and integrity. Jim Mattis has those qualities in spades.

Semper Fi, General!

Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of "Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace


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What About Eason?
« Reply #68 on: February 11, 2005, 11:18:57 AM »
I think it's interesting to note the difference between the way the Mattis story has been covered by the MSM and the Eason Jordan story. For those who don't know, Jordan proclaimed at an economic conference that the American military targets reporters for death. An executive at CNN, Jordan and his apologists have been backpedaling fairly furiously since word of his comments began circulating, but outside of the blogosphere Jordan's comments have not received a corresponding degree scrutiny or opprobrium.

There is a tape of the Eason comments in question that for some odd reason isn't being released by the conference's sponsors. Bottom line is we have a respected warrior talking straight and contending with the consequences forthrightly while an influential member of the Fifth Estate hides behind the skirts of fellow travelers. Shameful behavior by folks who otherwise never fail to insert their noses in any out of context manner they darn well please.


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #70 on: March 12, 2005, 10:04:23 PM »

WASHINGTON - The Defense Department hasn't developed a plan to reimburse soldiers for equipment they've bought to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan despite requirements in a law passed last year, a senator says.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., asked details on the Pentagon's progress setting up the reimbursement program and questioned why it was not in place yet.

"Very simply, this is either negligence on their part, because they were not happy with this when it passed, or it's incompetence," Dodd said. "It's pretty outrageous when you have all their rhetoric about how much we care about our people in uniform."

The Pentagon had no immediate comment.

Soldiers serving in Iraq and their families have reported buying everything from higher-quality protective gear to armor for their Humvees, medical supplies and even global positioning devices.

In response to the complaints, Congress last year passed Dodd's amendment requiring the Pentagon to reimburse members of the Armed Services for the cost of any safety or health equipment that they bought or someone else bought on their behalf.

Under the law, the Defense Department had until Feb. 25 to develop regulations on the reimbursement, which is limited to $1,100 per item.

Dodd asked that Rumsfeld provide details on the department's progress. But he also said it was unclear what recourse he has, other than public embarrassment, to force the Defense Department to act.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who repeatedly decried the lack of equipment during his unsuccessful presidential campaign, said the Pentagon needs to move quickly to give the troops their reimbursement and armored Humvees.

"They should be living up to the letter of the law," Kerry said.

The latest emergency spending proposal for the war totals $81.9 billion, including $74.9 billion for the Defense Department. It includes $3.3 billion for extra armor for trucks and other protective gear ? underscoring a sensitivity to earlier complaints by troops.


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Iraqi Checkpoints
« Reply #71 on: March 13, 2005, 10:45:35 AM »
Out of today's Washington Post

Checkpoint Iraq: A Tactic That Works

By Bartle Breese Bull

Sunday, March 13, 2005; Page B03


As an unembedded freelance journalist in Iraq, I have safely driven through scores of American roadblocks all over this country. I have also spent many hours with U.S. troops as they set up and operate these checkpoints.

At the same time, like other reporters here who don't travel with armies of their own -- and like the millions of Iraqis who either have some money or are brave enough to participate in their country's reconstruction -- I live constantly with the fear of being kidnapped. We see every day the damage done with the millions of dollars that Iraq's Baathist and Wahhabist insurgencies make from that appalling business.

So as investigators try to sort out how U.S. troops could have fired on a car carrying newly freed Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, wounding her and killing the man who secured her release, I'm thinking about how checkpoints save lives. We don't know exactly what happened at the checkpoint on the way to the Baghdad airport. But I've seen how checkpoints work, and the American soldiers who man them are anything but trigger-happy. They know the consequences of making a mistake.

If the uproar over the shooting leads the Americans to further tighten rules of engagement, that will increase the danger to our troops and make commanders on the ground more reluctant to perform these dangerous operations. As a result, more foreigners and Iraqis will be running the risk of being kidnapped or blown up by suicide bombs.

Traffic checkpoints are an essential tactic in the disruption of terrorism here in Iraq, since car bombers and kidnappers have to use the roads to conduct their criminal business. Apart from certain fixed locations, such as the entrances to the Green Zone or the Baghdad airport, most checkpoints aren't permanent, and they can be set up almost anywhere, in all sorts of situations. Bridges are popular with American commanders, as they funnel traffic. Long highway straightaways are also good, since they provide visibility for both the civilian drivers and the checkpoint soldiers. Sometimes all the vehicles are searched, and sometimes just a few of them.

Anything that makes it harder to spirit a hostage away to the countryside forces urban kidnappers to keep their victims in busy areas, where the likelihood of discovery is far higher. The restriction of movement provides an important geographical focus for search efforts. Indeed, the first thing that local authorities -- American or Iraqi -- do in a kidnap situation here is set up checkpoints. Many times during kidnapping sagas, I've heard Iraqis say things like, "Well, he's probably still in X, because with all these checkpoints, they would never try to move him." For the terrorists, the higher the likelihood of discovery, the less appealing the kidnapping operation becomes.

The details of Sgrena's release and wounding are still in official dispute, but on the street here there's nearly universal certainty that Nicola Calipari, the Italian government agent who died at the checkpoint, bought her freedom with a large ransom. Some Italian officials have intimated as much, though Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told an Italian newspaper that no money changed hands. It's also believed that the Italians ransomed two aid workers last fall. If so, this would mean that the Italian government is giving the terrorists money to conduct more violence even as 2,700 young Italians in uniform are helping rebuild this country.

The word here is that although Calipari had briefed the Americans about his mission, he withheld the details, partly because the Americans disapprove of paying off kidnappers, but more importantly because of the essential factor that foreign media coverage of Iraq usually ignores: the Iraqis. If the Italians paid a ransom, Calipari committed a serious crime in a sovereign state fighting desperately to establish the rule of law and defeat internal terrorism.

Though we may never know exactly what happened, I find it hard to believe that the Army's 3rd Infantry Division just opened fire at a car being driven in a normal, unthreatening manner. The realities of checkpoints in Iraq make random shooting at responsible drivers very unlikely. I'm currently reporting a story on a unit of American soldiers. They're drilled with a stopwatch in the task of setting up a checkpoint -- a "serpentine" of concertina wire, at least three orange cones and, farthest out, a warning sign. These warning barriers are never forgotten, because soldiers are scared of car bombs. The farther out a car has to slow down, the better. You will never see disagreement within a platoon over this basic fact of self-preservation.

Long before the Italian incident, orders had come down that deadly force was to be used only as a last resort -- after the failure of obstacles, then flares or smoke bombs or "star clusters," then warning shots, and finally efforts to take out the oncoming vehicle's engine block. These procedures are real. I have seen our soldiers' reluctance to use force and felt the fear it brings. Car bombs cause 30 percent of military casualties.

The checkpoint procedures, which the military calls "fire discipline" and "escalation of force," are designed to prevent soldiers from killing innocent Iraqis who somehow lack the information or common sense to slow down when they approach. Over the period of Sgrena's incarceration, I stood with American troops at various checkpoints between Fallujah and Ramadi in the Sunni heartland of Iraq's Wild West, an area that receives more than 10 times the national average of attacks on American forces. As I finished writing the previous sentence I heard the announcement over the base radio that two members of the combat team I was with had been killed -- by a suicide bomber driving up to a checkpoint. I didn't see that explosion, but I heard it; I had spent much of the day at another U.S. checkpoint not far away.

"Sitting ducks, that's all we are," a 20-year-old combat medic from Texas said to me as we watched Iraqi vehicles thread past the "Alert" sign and through the orange cones and concertina wire of a checkpoint last week. Later, when I asked the sergeant in charge of the platoon if he was enjoying himself, he responded, "Just hanging around waiting to get blown up." This unit has suffered very high casualties, most from car bombs. If any soldiers in Iraq could be expected to be jumpy and trigger-happy, it is the grunts of central Anbar province. But as I watched them run their checkpoint, both before and after the Sgrena incident, they were thoroughly professional.

Driving around this country with Iraqis, including people with quite a lot to hide, I've encountered scores of American checkpoints. Just about everyone knows what to do: You do a slow U-turn and go the other way, you find a route around, or you drive through slowly and wave at the polite 20-year-old from Nashville. In a very small number of cases, one side makes a mistake and something truly tragic happens.

As a foreigner here, I feel threatened by the possibility that the Italian government may have rewarded the kidnappers. But Iraq is not about us foreigners. It is about Iraqis. And it is Iraqis who suffer most from kidnappings and from the transportation of the artillery shells and anti-tank mines that become roadside devices and car bombs. Kidnapping Iraqis has become an almost routine business transaction here. Local businessmen fetch sums of up to $250,000, while the child of an ordinary family might go for $5,000 or even $1,000. It happens all the time, all over the country. Iraqi Christians, being more prosperous than most, are especially victimized by this growing crime.

But since the Sgrena shooting, I've already sensed even greater reluctance to set up these dangerous checkpoints. "The soldiers don't like doing this, the NCOs don't like it, even the colonel doesn't like it," a young officer told me the other day. "These checkpoints don't happen as much as they used to."

Last summer, at the height of the kidnappings of foreign journalists here, I used to go to bed every night imagining a cold kiss of steel on the back of my neck: the first touch of the knife I feared would behead me. But not anymore. Great strides have been made in Iraq, and the progress continues every day. For law-abiding Iraqis, for reporters and for the soldiers who risk their lives to disrupt the bombers and hostage-takers, anything that makes life easier and more lucrative for the criminals is very bad news.

Author's e-mail:

Bartle Breese Bull has reported from Iraq for the New York Times, the Financial Times, the BBC, the Daily Telegraph, Harper's and other publications.


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #72 on: March 22, 2005, 09:44:30 AM »
From Reuters: Army raises enlistment age for reservists to 39
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. Army, stung by recruiting shortfalls caused by the Iraq war, has raised the maximum age for new recruits for the part-time Army Reserve and National Guard by five years to 39, officials said Monday.

The Army said the move, a three-year experiment, will add about 22 million people to the pool of those eligible to serve, from about 60 million now. Physical standards will not be relaxed for older recruits, who the Army said were valued for their maturity and patriotism.

The Pentagon has relied heavily on part-time Army Reserve and Army National Guard soldiers summoned from civilian life to maintain troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan. Roughly 45 percent of U.S. troops currently deployed for those wars are reservists.

At home, the all-volunteer Army has labored to coax potential recruits to volunteer for the Guard and Reserve as well as for active-duty, and to persuade current soldiers to re-enlist when their volunteer commitment ends.

Maj. Elizabeth Robbins, an Army spokeswoman, said the maximum enlistment age for the regular Army will remain 34. While congressional action was not needed to raise the age for the Guard and Reserve, Robbins said, Congress must approve any change for the active-duty force.

"Raising the maximum age for non-prior service enlistment expands the recruiting pool, provides motivated individuals an opportunity to serve, and strengthens the readiness of Reserve units," the Army said in a statement.

Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said it was possible after the three-year test ends in September 2008 that the Pentagon may consider an enlistment age for Army reservists even older than 39.

Recruiting goals

Recruiters say the Iraq war is making military service a harder sell, and the Army has added recruiters and financial incentives for enlistment.

The Army National Guard missed its recruiting goal for the 2004 fiscal year and trails its year-to-date 2005 targets. The Army Reserve missed January and February goals and is lagging its target for 2005. The regular Army missed its target for February and trails its annual goal.

"Obviously, this decision is being made partly in response to the personnel shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq," said defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute.

But he said U.S. life expectancy increased by 40 percent in the 20th century, adding, "The pressure of wartime has pushed the Army to make a change that may have been overdue anyway."

"Anecdotally, our recruiters have been telling us for years that we've had people who are otherwise qualified but over the age limit who have attempted to enlist," Robbins said. "There are physically fit, health-conscious individuals who can make a positive contribution to our national defense."

The Army said the policy applies to men and women, and older recruits must meet the same physical standards and pass the same medical examination as everyone else.

"Experience has shown that older recruits who can meet the physical demands of military service generally make excellent soldiers based on their maturity, motivation, loyalty and patriotism," the Army said.

Krenke said the the change was first considered last fall and approved by the Pentagon last week. She said the Marines, Navy and Air Force had not requested a similar change.

The Army Reserve is made up of federal soldiers who can be mobilized from civilian life for active duty. National Guard soldiers also serve under the control of state governors for roles like disaster relief in their home states.


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #73 on: March 22, 2005, 04:11:58 PM »
Laws Must Protect the Rights of Military Dads
By Jeffery M. Leving and Glenn Sacks

When the Iraq war began two years ago, tens of thousands of fathers who serve in the Armed Forces expected hardship and sacrifice. However, they never expected that their children might be taken from them while they were deployed, or that their own government might jail them upon their return.

Military service sometimes costs men their children.  The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act provides that if a parent moves a child to a new state, that new state becomes the child's presumptive residence after six months. With the long deployments necessitated by the war, a military spouse can move to another state while her spouse is deployed, divorce him, and then be virtually certain to gain custody through the divorce proceedings in the new state.

Given service personnel?s limited ability to travel, the high cost of legal representation and travel, and the financial hardships created by child support and spousal support obligations, it is extremely difficult for fathers to fight for their parental rights in the new state. For many, their participation and meaningful role in their children?s lives ends?often permanently--the day they were deployed.

In one highly-publicized case, Gary S., a San Diego-based US Navy SEAL, had his child permanently moved from California to the Middle East against his will while he was deployed in Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The 18-year Navy veteran with an unblemished military record has seen his son only three times since he returned from Afghanistan in April, 2002. Meanwhile he is nearly bankrupt from child support, spousal support, travel costs, and legal fees.

To solve the problem, the federal government must amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (SCRA) (formerly known as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act) to specifically prohibit the spouses of active duty military personnel from permanently moving children to another state without the permission of the active duty military spouse or of a court. In addition, the UCCJEA needs to be modified to state that the presumption of new residence does not apply if the children are taken in this wrongful fashion.

Also, states must do more to prevent custodial parents from moving children out of the lives of noncustodial parents, except in cases of abuse or dire economic need. For example, last year the California Supreme Court decided in LaMusga that courts should restrain moves that harm children by damaging the loving bonds they share with their noncustodial parents.

While some military fathers face the loss of their children, others face prosecution and jail for child support obligations which their service has rendered them unable to pay.

Support orders are based on civilian pay, which is generally higher than active duty pay. When reservists are called up to active duty they sometimes pay an impossibly high percentage of their income in child support.

For example, a California naval reservist who has three children and who takes home $4,000 a month in his civilian job would have a child support obligation of about $1,600 a month. If this father is a petty officer second class (E5) who has been in the reserves for six or seven years--a middle-ranked reservist--his active-duty pay would only be $2,205 before taxes, in addition to a housing allowance.  Under current California child support guidelines, the reservist?s child support obligation should be $550 a month, not $1,600.

A reasonable reader unfamiliar with the wonders of the child support system would probably think ?OK, but the courts would just straighten it out when the reservist gets back?certainly they wouldn?t punish him for something that happened because he was serving.? However, the federal Bradley Amendment prohibits judges from retroactively modifying child support beyond the date which an obligor has applied for a modification.  Reservists can be mobilized with as little as one day?s notice. If a reservist didn?t have time or didn?t know he had to file for a downward modification, the arrearages stay, along with the interest and penalties charged on them.

When the arrearage reaches $5,000?a common occurrence during long deployments?the father can become a felon who can be incarcerated or subject to a barrage of harsh civil penalties, including seizure of driver's licenses, business licenses and passports.

In addition, reservists who return from long-deployments often find that their civilian earning capacity is now diminished. This is particularly true for the 6% of reservists who are self-employed, and whose businesses are often destroyed by their absence. Family law courts are notoriously unforgiving of fathers who suffer wage drops. Many if not most will have their former incomes imputed to them, meaning that their child support will not change despite their drop in income. Saddled with mounting arrearages, some reservists will return to fight a long battle to stay out of jail.

Some reservists have their child support deducted automatically from their pay.  Once deployed these fathers may lose 60% or 70% of their income and incur huge debts or face home foreclosures.  

To date Missouri is the only state to adequately address the issue. During the first Gulf War it passed a law requiring that reservists? support obligations be automatically modified when they are called up for active duty. Other states, including California and Illinois, are currently considering legislation that would help reservists. However, tens of thousands of reservists were deployed before they could file for downward modifications. Only a repeal of the Bradley amendment?already widely seen as bad law within family law circles?can prevent them from facing years of debt, harassment, legal woes or even incarceration upon their return from active service.

Like many veterans, Gary says he was very na?ve about the troubles military fathers face in family law.

?The failure of our leaders in Washington to protect military fathers is a national disgrace,? he says. ?Reservist fathers shouldn?t be turned into deadbeats. And no father should ever, ever lose his son or daughter simply because he served his country.?

This column was first published in the Army Times and Marine Corps Times (3/28/05).

Jeffery M. Leving is one of America's most prominent family law attorneys. He is the author of the book Fathers' Rights: Hard-hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute. His website is

Glenn Sacks is a men's and fathers' issues columnist and a nationally-syndicated radio talk show host. His columns have appeared in dozens of America's largest newspapers.

Glenn can be reached via his website at or via email at


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #74 on: March 23, 2005, 08:39:41 AM »
Subject: Report from Iraq
From: John Bell []
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2005 11:28 AM

Went to an AUSA dinner last night at the Ft. Hood Officers' Club to
hear a speech by MG Pete Chiarelli, CG of the 1st Cav Div. He and most
of the Div. have just returned from Iraq. Very informative and,
surprise, the Mainstream Media (MSM) isn't telling the story. I was not
there as a reporter, didn't take notes but I'll make some the points I
remember that were interesting, suprising or generally stuff I had not
heard before.

It was not a speech per se. He just walked and talked, showed some
slides  and answered questions. Very impressive guy.

1. While units of the Cav served all over Iraq, he spoke mostly of
Baghdad and more specifically Sadr City, the big slum on the eastern
side of theTigeris River. He pointed out that Baghdad is, in geography,
is about the size of Austin. Austin has 600,000 to 700,000 people.
Baghdad has 6 to7 million people.

2. The Cav lost 28 main battle tanks. He said one of the big lessons
learned is that, contrary to docterine going in, M1-A2s and Bradleys
are needed, preferred and devastating in urban combat and he is going
to make that point to the JCS next week while they are considering
downsizing armor.

3. He showed a graph of attacks in Sadr City by month. Last Aug-Sep
they were getting up to 160 attacks per week. During the last three
months, the graph had flatlined at below 5 to zero per week.

4. His big point was not that they were "winning battles" to do this
but that cleaning the place up, electricity, sewage, water were the key
factors. He said yes they fought but after they started delivering
services that the Iraqis in Sadr City had never had, the terrorist
recruiting of 15 and 16 year olds came up empty.

5. The electrical "grid" is a bad, deadly joke. Said that driving down
the street in a Hummv with an antenna would short out a whole block of
apt. buildings. People do their own wiring and it was not uncommon for
early morning patrols would find one or two people lying dead in the
street,  having been electrocuted trying to re-wire their own homes.

6. Said that not tending to a dead body in the Muslum culture never
happens. On election day, after suicide bombers blew themselves up
trying to take out polling places, voters would step up to the body
lying there,  spit on it, and move up in the line to vote.

7. Pointed out that we all heard from the media about the 100 Iraqis
killed as they were lined up to enlist in the police and security
service. What the media didn't point out was that the next day there
300 lined up in the same place.

8. Said bin Laden and Zarqawi made a HUGE mistake when bin laden went
public with naming Zarqawi the "prince" of al Quaeda in Iraq. Said that
what the Iraqis saw and heard was a Saudi telling a Jordainan that his
job was to kill Iraqis. HUGE mistake. It was one of the biggest factors
in getting Iraqis who were on the "fence" to jump off on the side of
the coalition and the new gov't.

9. Said the MSM was making a big, and wrong, deal out of the religious
sects. Said Iraqis are incredibly nationalistic. They are Iraqis first
and then say they are Muslum but the Shi'a - Sunni thing is just not
that big a deal to them.

10. After the election the Mayor of Baghdad told him that the people of
the region (Middle East) are joyous and the governments are nervous.

11. Said that he did not lose a single tanker truck carrying oil and
gas over the roads of Iraq. Think about that. All the attacks we saw on
TV with IEDs hitting trucks but he didn't lose one. Why? Army Aviation.
Praised his air units and said they made the decision early on that
every convoy would have helicopter air cover. Said aviators in that
unit were hitting the 1,000 hour mark (sound familiar?). Said a covoy
was supposed to head out but stopped at the gates of a compound on the
command of an E6. He asked the SSG what the hold up was. E6 said, "Air
, sir." He wondered what was wrong with the air, not realizing what the
kid was talking about. Then the AH-64s showed up and the E6 said, "That
air sir." And then moved out.

12. Said one of the biggest problems was money and regs. There was a
$77 million gap between the supplemental budget and what he needed in
cash on the ground to get projects started. Said he spent most of his
time trying to get money. Said he didn't do much as a "combat
commander" because the the war he was fighting was a war at the squad
and platoon level. Said that his NCOs were winning the war and it was a
sight to behold.

13. Said that of all the money appropriated for Iraq, not a cent was
earmarked for agriculture. Said that Iraq could feed itself completely
and still have food for export but no one thought about it. Said the
Cav started working with Texas A&M on ag projects and had special
hybrid seeds sent to them through Jordan. TAM analyzed soil samples and
worked out how and what to plant. Said he had an E7 from Belton, TX
(just down the road from Ft. Hood) who was almost single-handedly
rebuilding the ag industry in the Baghdad area.

14. Said he could hire hundreds of Iraqis daily for $7 to $10 a day to
work on sewer, electric, water projects, etc. but that the contracting
rules from CONUS applied so he had to have $500,000 insurance policies
in place in case the workers got hurt. Not kidding. The CONUS peacetime
regs slowed everything down, even if they could eventually get waivers
for the regs.

There was more, lots more, but the idea is that you haven't heard any
of this from anyone, at least I hadn't and I pay more attention than

Great stuff. We should be proud. Said the Cav troops said it was ALL
worth it on Jan. 30 when they saw how the Iraqis handled election day.
Made them very proud of their service and what they had accomplished.

John Bell
Research Analysis & Maintenance, Inc.  ( RAM, Inc.)
1525 Perimeter Parkway, Suite 110
Huntsville, AL 35806
Phone: 256-895-8402
Fax: 256-895-8452


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #75 on: April 21, 2005, 10:01:41 PM »
Although it seems that a goodly percentage of the British population has, to use Lady Margaret Thatcher's term, "gone wobbly", the same clearly is not true of the British Armed Forces, which have performed quite well in Iraq.

A BRITISH soldier who led a perilous bayonet charge on rebels in Iraq has revealed details of bloody hand-to-hand fighting in enemy trenches.

Corporal Mark Byles, 34, who will receive a bravery award for his service in Iraq, spoke publicly for the first time this week of the battle that left three heavily armed insurgents dead.

Cpl Byles, of Portsmouth, England, said: "I slashed people, rifle-butted them. I was punching and kicking. It was either me or them.

"It felt like I was in a dream. It didn't seem real. Anybody can pull a trigger from a distance, but I got up close and personal."

The trench battle ended with three Iraqis dead and eight captured.

Cpl Byles, who entered the trench with four other British soldiers, shot and killed two more insurgents who were firing from a second position.

On May 14, his battalion, known as the Tigers, was deployed to assist ambushed troops near a checkpoint on the main road between Basra and Baghdad.

When the squad's Warrior armoured vehicle was attacked, the corporal and another soldier jumped clear.

They immediately came under small arms fire and grenades. After linking up with four comrades, Cpl Byles identified the enemy in a drainage ditch about 200 metres away.

He said: "I decided the best way to attack was a full-frontal assault. It was my decision to fix bayonets."

It marked the first time British soldiers had gone into battle with bayonets since the Falklands War in 1982. His surprise order horrified his own men.

Cpl Byles, who has a six-year-old son, said: "They were under the impression we were going to lie in our ditch, shoot the enemy from a distance and they would run away.

"But I believe we caught the enemy on the hop that day and we had to take the fight to them."

As they stormed the ditch, Cpl Byles saw about a dozen rebels with weapons.

He said: "The look on their faces was utter shock." The 1st Battalion squad, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, quickly overcame the insurgents. Only when the adrenalin stopped pumping and grisly reality kicked in did Cpl Byles realise the horror of what had occurred.

He said: "The worst thing was collecting the dead, seeing the damage that I did to those people. Lots of our guys were just 18 or 19 and I had to tell them to treat the bodies like bits of meat, not human beings.

"I got back to camp after six hours on the ground, covered in blood from head to toe. The first thing I did was pull out a photo of my family."

The corporal, who estimated he killed between 15 and 20 insurgents in Iraq, revealed he was still haunted by the faces of the dead.

According to British Army estimates, about 30 rebels died at the checkpoint named Danny Boy, which is 15km south of the lawless town of Al Amarah. The British troops came out of the gunfight almost unscathed.

Cpl Byles has been recommended for a bravery award for his part in the skirmish by platoon commander Lt Ben Plenge, who said: "He showed immense professionalism under fire, bravery in the face of the enemy and strong leadership qualities."

The corporal, who denied he was a hero, said: "I have been an infantry soldier for 13 years. I've done it time and again in training -- it was second nature. I'm just glad I did my job."

The regiment has returned to Britain after seven months in Iraq, where they were attacked 863 times, lost two soldiers and suffered 42 injuries.


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After Action Report - Woman MP done good
« Reply #76 on: April 22, 2005, 08:16:35 AM »
This is from an event that occurred Mar 25 in Iraq.  I am not too keen on women in combat, but the woman MP's in this did extremely well. I would have them in my foxhole anytime.  They are warriors.  From the website.

AFTER ACTION REPORT: Raven 42 action in Salman Pak  by Col Buzz Kriessel

Over the next few days you will see on the television news shows, and in the print news media the story of a Military Police Squad who are heroes. Through those outlets, I doubt that their story will get out in a truly descriptive manner. I can't express to you the pride, awe, and respect I feel for the soldiers of call sign Raven 42.

On Sunday afternoon, in a very bad section of scrub-land called Salman Pak, on the southeastern outskirts of Baghdad, 40 to 50 heavily-armed Iraqi insurgents attacked a convoy of 30 civilian tractor trailer trucks that were moving supplies for the coalition forces, along an Alternate Supply Route. These tractor trailers, driven by third country nationals (primarily Turkish), were escorted by 3 armored Hummers from the COSCOM*. When the insurgents attacked, one of the Hummers was in their kill zone and the three soldiers aboard were immediately wounded, and the platform taken under heavy machinegun and RPG** fire.

Along with them, three of the truck drivers were killed, 6 were wounded in the tractor trailer trucks. The enemy attacked from a farmer's barren field next to the road, with a tree line perpendicular to the ASR***, two dry irrigation ditches forming a rough L-shaped trenchline, and a house standing off the dirt road. After three minutes of sustained fire, a squad o f enemy moved forward toward the disabled and suppressed trucks. Each of the enemy had hand-cuffs and were looking to take hostages for ransom or worse, to take those three wounded US soldiers for more internet beheadings.

About this time, three armored Hummers that formed the MP Squad under call sign Raven 42, 617th MP Co, Kentucky National Guard, assigned to the 503rd MP Bn (Fort Bragg), 18th MP Bde, arrived on the scene like the cavalry. The squad had been shadowing the convoy from a distance behind the last vehicle, and when the convoy trucks stopped and became backed up from the initial attack, the squad sped up, paralleled the convoy up the shoulder of the road, and moved to the sound of gunfire.

They arrived on the scene just as a squad of about ten enemy had moved forward across the farmer's field and were about 20 meters from the road. The MP squad opened fire with .50 cal machineguns and Mk19 grenade launchers and drove across the front of the enemy's kill zone, between the enemy and the trucks, drawing fire off of the tractor trailers.

The MP's crossed the kill zone and then turned up an access road at a right angle to the ASR and next to the field full of enemy fighters. The three vehicles, carrying nine MPs and one medic, stopped in a line on the dirt access road and flanked the enemy positions with plunging fire from the .50 cal and the SAW machinegun (Squad Automatic Weapon). In front of them, was a line of seven sedans, with all their doors and trunk lids open, the getaway cars and the lone two story house off on their left.

Immediately the middle vehicle was hit by an RPG knocking the gunner unconscious from his turret and down into the vehicle. The Vehicle Commander (the TC*****), the squad's leader, thought the gunner was dead, but tried to treat him from inside the vehicle. Simultaneously, the rear vehicle's driver and TC, section leader two, open their doors and dismount to fight, while their gunner continued firing from his position in the gun platform on top of the Hummer. Immediately, all three fall under heavy return machinegun fire, wounded. The driver of the middle vehicle saw them fall out the rearview mirror, dismounts and sprints to get into the third vehicle and take up the SAW on top the vehicle. The Squad's medic dismounts from that third vehicle, and joined by the first vehicle's driver (CLS trained****) who sprinted back to join him, begins combat life-saving techniques to treat the three wounded MPs. The gunner on the floor of the second
vehicle is revived by his TC, the squad leader, and he climbs back into the .50 cal and opens fire. The Squad leader dismounted with his M4 carbine, and 2 hand grenades, grabbed the section leader out of the first vehicle who had rendered radio reports of their first contact. The two of them, squad leader Staff Sergeant and team leader Sergeant with her M4 and M203 grenade launcher, rush the nearest ditch about 20 meters away to start clearing the natural trenchline. The enemy has gone into the ditches and is hiding behind several small trees in the back of the lot. The .50 cal and SAW flanking fire tears apart the ten enemy in the lead trenchline.

Meanwhile, the two treating the three wounded on the ground at the rear vehicle come under sniper fire from the farmer's house. Each of them, remember one is a medic, pull out AT-4 rocket launchers from the HMMWV and nearly-simultaneously fire the rockets into the house to neutralize the shooter. The two sergeants work their way up the trenchline, throwing grenades, firing grenades from the launcher, and firing their M4s.

The sergeant runs low on ammo and runs back to a vehicle to reload. She moves to her squad leader's vehicle, and because this squad is led so well, she knows exactly where to reach her arm blindly into a different vehicle to find ammo-because each vehicle is packed exactly the same, with discipline.

As she turns to move back to the trenchline, Gunner in two sees an AIF***** jump from behind one of the cars and start firing on the Sergeant. He pulls his 9mm, because the .50 cal is pointed in the other direction, and shoots five rounds wounding him.****** The sergeant moves back to the trenchline under fire from the back of the field, with fresh mags, two more grenades, and three more M203 rounds. The Mk 19 gunner suppresses the rear of the field.

Now, rejoined with the squad leader, the two sergeants continue clearing the enemy from the trenchline, until they see no more movement. A lone man with an RPG launcher on his shoulder steps from behind a tree and prepares to fire on the three Hummers and is killed with a single aimed SAW shot thru the head by the previously knocked out gunner on platform two, who now has a SAW out to supplement the .50 cal in the mount.

The team leader sergeant--she claims four killed by aimed M4 shots.

The Squad Leader--he threw four grenades taking out at least two AIF, and attributes one other to her aimed M203 fire.

The gunner on platform two, previously knocked out from a hit by the RPG, has now swung his .50 cal around and, realizing that the line of vehicles represents a hazard and possible getaway for the bad guys, starts shooting the .50cal into the engine blocks until his field of fire is limited. He realizes that his vehicle is still running despite the RPG hit, and drops down from his weapon, into the drivers seat and moves the vehicle forward on two flat tires about 100 meters into a better firing position. Just then, the vehicle dies, oil spraying everywhere. He remounts his .50 cal and continues shooting the remaining of the seven cars lined up and ready for a get-away that wasn't to happen. The fire dies down about then, and a second squad arrives on the scene, dismounts and helps the two giving first aid to the wounded at platform three. Two minutes later three other squads from the 617th arrive, along with the CO, and the field is secured, consolidation begins.

Those seven Americans (with the three wounded) killed in total 24 heavily armed enemy, wounded 6 (two later died), and captured one unwounded, who feigned injury to escape the fight. They seized 22 AK-47s, 6x RPG launchers w/ 16 rockets, 13x RPK machineguns, 3x PKM machineguns, 40 hand grenades, 123 fully loaded 30-rd AK magazines, 52 empty mags, and 10 belts of 2500 rds of PK ammo.

The three wounded MPs have been evacuated to Landstuhl. One lost a kidney and will be paralyzed. The other two will most likely recover, though one will forever have a bullet lodged between second and third ribs below his heart. No word on the three COSCOM soldiers wounded in the initial volleys. Of the 7 members of Raven 42 who walked away, two are Caucasian Women, the rest men-one is Mexican-American, the medic is African-American, and the other two are Caucasian-the great American melting pot.

They believed even before this fight that their NCOs were the best in the Army, and that they have the best squad in the Army. The Medic who fired the AT-4, said he remembered how from the week before when his squad leader forced him to train on it, though he didn't think as a medic he would ever use one. He said he chose to use it in that moment to protect the three wounded on the ground in front of him, once they came under fire from the building. The day before this mission, they took the new RFI bandoliers that were recently issued, and experimented with mounting them in their vehicles. Once they figured out how, they pre-loaded a second basic load of ammo into magazines, put them into the bandoliers, and mounted them in their vehicles---the same exact way in every vehicle-load plans enforced and checked by leaders!

Leadership under fire-once those three leaders (NCOs) stepped out of their vehicles, the squad was committed to the fight.

Their only complaints in the AAR were: the lack of stopping power in the 9mm; the .50 cal incendiary rounds they are issued in lieu of ball ammo (shortage of ball in the inventory) didn't have the penetrating power needed to pierce the walls of the building; and that everyone in the squad was not CLS trained.

Yesterday, Monday, was spent with the chaplain and the chain of command conducting AARs. Today, every news media in theater wanted them. Good Morning America, NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, Stars and Stripes, and many radio stations from Kentucky all were lined up today. The female E5 Sergeant who fought thru the trenchline will become the anti-Jessica Lynch media poster child. She and her squad leader deserve every bit of recognition they will get, and more. They all do.

I participated in their AAR as the BDE S2, and am helping in putting together an action report to justify future valor awards. Lets not talk about women in combat. Lets not talk about the new Close Combat Badge not including MPs.


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« Reply #77 on: May 18, 2005, 11:29:13 AM »
Jose M. Lopez, 94; Battle of the Bulge Hero Killed 100 German Soldiers
By Myrna Oliver, Times Staff Writer

Jose M. Lopez, the nation's oldest remaining Latino recipient of the Medal of Honor, who earned the award for single-handedly killing more than 100 German soldiers in a skirmish during the World War II Battle of the Bulge, has died. He was 94.

Lopez died Monday of cancer at the San Antonio home of his daughter, Maggie Wickwire. He had lived in San Antonio since 1973.
On Dec. 17, 1944, the 5-foot-5, 130-pound sergeant was on a snowy patch of ground near Krinkelt, Belgium, when he saw that German tanks and infantry were about to overrun his company.  He lugged his heavy Browning machine gun into a shallow hole and started firing, first killing 10 enemy soldiers and then another 25.  As the Germans kept coming, Lopez changed positions repeatedly, praying to the Virgin of Guadalupe that he be spared.  He stopped shooting only when he ran out of ammunition, and killed so many enemy soldiers that officials stopped counting after 100.

"Sgt. Lopez's gallantry and intrepidity, on seemingly suicidal missions in which he killed at least 100 of the enemy," his citation read when President Harry S. Truman presented him the Medal of Honor on June 18, 1945, "were almost solely responsible for allowing Company K to avoid being enveloped, to withdraw successfully and to give other forces coming up in support time to build a line which repelled the enemy drive."

Modest and self-effacing, Lopez told the San Antonio Express-News in 2001, "You learn to protect the line and do the best you can with the ammunition you have, and I did it."

More than a decade ago, the retired sergeant was one of 10 veterans who returned to their World War II battlefields with Bill Moyers to film the 1990 PBS documentary "From D-Day to the Rhine."

Although Lopez candidly discussed his battlefield terror in the documentary, he also told Moyers: "I believe any man would do the same thing."

At war's end, Lopez remained in the Army and went on to serve two combat tours in Korea. After his military career, he worked for the Veterans Administration.

Although military records list Lopez's official birthplace as Mission, Texas, he was born in the mountain village of Santiago Huitlan, Mexico. He acquired the Texas birthplace listing in 1935 when he bought a false birth certificate to join the Merchant Marine.  Orphaned at 8, Lopez lived with a teenage uncle in Mexico and at 13 hitchhiked to Brownsville, Texas, where another uncle lived. He spent several of his teen years picking cotton in the Rio Grande Valley and hopping freight trains to find work around the country.

The scrappy youth happened into a professional boxing career when a promoter saw him win a street brawl in Atlanta.  From 1927 to 1934 Lopez was a lightweight billed as Kid Mendoza, building a record of 52 wins and only three losses.  He retired from the ring after losing to British fighter Jacque Burgess in Melbourne, Australia, telling the San Antonio Express-News decades later, "I just didn't want to fight anymore."

The boxing career instilled in him a lifelong appreciation for fitness, and he continued to work out three times a week until a few months ago.

Lopez spent six years in the Merchant Marine, leaving Hawaii only three days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.  
Returning to the mainland, he barely escaped arrest when California authorities mistook him for a Japanese man.   The following April, Lopez, then 31, enlisted in the Army at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.


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« Reply #78 on: June 14, 2005, 07:22:17 PM »
Geopolitics, Strategy and Military Recruitment: The American Dilemma
By George Friedman

The United States Army has failed once again to reach its recruitment goals. The media, which have noted the problem in maintaining force levels in a desultory fashion over the past few years, have now rotated the story of this month's shortfall into a major story. In other words, the problem has now been noticed, and it is now important. Of course, the problem has been important for quite some time, as Stratfor noted in late December.

There are, therefore, several dimensions to this problem: One is military, the other is political. But the most important is geopolitica l and strategic, having to do with the manner in which the United States fights wars and the way in which the U.S. military is organized. The issue is not recruitment. The issue is the incongruence between U.S. geopolitics, strategy and the force.

The United States dominates North America militarily against all but two threats. First, it cannot defend the homeland against nuclear attacks launched by missile. Second, it cannot defend the United States against special operations teams carrying out attacks such as those of Sept. 11, 2001. The American solution in both of these cases has been offensive. In the case of nuclear missiles, the counter has always been either the pre-emptive strike or the devastating counter-strike, coupled with political arrangements designed to reduce the threat. The counter to special-operations strikes has been covert and overt attacks against nation-states that launch or facilitate these attacks, or harbor the attackers. Contrary to popula r opinion, launching small teams into the United States without detection is not easy and requires sophisticated support, normally traceable in some way to nation-states. The U.S. strategy has been to focus on putting those nation-states at risk, directly or indirectly, if attacks take place.

Apart from these two types of attack, the United States is fairly invulnerable to military action. The foundation of this invulnerability falls into three parts:
The United States is overwhelmingly powerful in North America, and Latin America is divided, inward-looking, and poor. A land invasion of the United States from the south would be impossible.

The United States controls the oceans absolutely. It is militarily impossible that an Eastern Hemispheric power could mount a sustained threat to sea lanes, let alone mount an amphibious operation against the United States.

The primary U.S. interest is in maintaining a multi-level balance of power in Eurasia, so that no single power can dominate Eurasia and utilize its resources.

In terms of preventing nuclear strikes and special operations against the United States and in terms of managing the geopolitical system in Eurasia, the United States has a tremendous strategic advantage that grows out of its geopolitical position -- U.S. wars, regardless of level, are fought on the territory of other countries. With the crucial exception of Sept. 11, foreign attacks on U.S. soil do not happen. When they do happen, the United States responds by redefining the war into a battle for other homelands.

This spares the American population from the rigors of war while imposing wars on foreign countries. But for the American civilian population to escape war, the U.S. armed forces must be prepared to go to war on a global basis. Herein begins the dilemma. The American strategic goal is to spare the general population from war. This is done by creating a small class of military who must bear the burden. It also is accomplished through a volunteer force -- men and women choose to bear the burden. During extended war, as the experiences of the civilian population and the military population diverge dramatically, the inevitable tendency is for the military to abandon the rigors of war and join the protected majority. In a strategy that tries to impose no cost on civilians while increasing the cost on the military, the inevitable outcome is that growing numbers of the military class will become civilians.

This is the heart of the problem, but it is not all of the problem. The American strategy in Eurasia is to maintain a balance of power. The basic role of the United States is as blocker -- blocking Eurasian powers from adding to their power, and increasing insecurity among major powers so as to curb their ambitions.

Thus, a strategic dilemma for the United States is born. On a grand strategic scale, the United States contr ols the international system -- but at the strategic level, it does not choose the time or place of its own military interventions. Put very simply, the United States controls the global system, but its enemies determine when it goes to war and where, and the nature of these wars tends to put U.S. forces on the tactical defensive.

During the 1990s, for example, the United States was constantly responding to actions by others that passed a threshold, beyond which ignoring the action was impossible. From 1989 onward, the United States intervened in Panama, Kuwait, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo, not counting lesser interventions in places like Liberia or Colombia. Nor does it count the interventions and deployments throughout the Muslim world and contiguous areas since 2001.

The grand strategic configuration means that the United States does not hold the strategic initiative. The time and place of U.S. intervention is very much in the hands of regional forces . In some cases, the intervention is the result of miscalculation on the side of regional forces. In other cases, U.S. intervention is shaped by some regional player. For example, Iraq did not expect a U.S. response to its invasion of Kuwait in 1990; Saddam Hussein miscalculated. In the case of Kosovo, a regional actor, Albania, shaped U.S. intervention. In both events, however, given the operating principles of grand strategy, American military involvement is overwhelmingly responsive and therefore, from the U.S. point of view, unpredictable.

Though others determine the general time and place of U.S. intervention, the operational level remains in the hands of the United States. But here too, there are severe constraints. U.S. interventions suffer from a core paradox: The political cycle of an intervention frequently runs in days or weeks, but the time it takes to bring major force to bear is measured in months. That means that the United States must always bring insu fficient force to bear in the relevant time period -- in a kind of holding action -- and contain the situation until sufficient force for a resolution becomes available. Thus, U.S. interventions begin with CIA paramilitaries and U.S. Special Operations Command. At times, these forces can complete the mission. But sometimes, all they can do is prepare the ground and hold until relieved by major force.

Very rapidly, the United States finds itself on the tactical defensive -- lacking decisive force, at a massive demographic disadvantage, and frequently suffering from an intelligence deficit. Even after the main force arrives, the United States can remain in a defensive tactical situation for an extended period. This places U.S. troops in a difficult position.

The entire structure creates another strategic problem. The United States does not control its interventions. It is constantly at risk of being overwhelmed by multiple theaters of operation that outstrip the size of its military force or of its logistical base. Between the tactical defensive and the strategic defensive, U.S. forces must scale themselves to events that are beyond their control or prediction.

The unexpected is built into U.S. grand strategy, which dictates that the U.S. armed forces will not know their next mission. U.S. strategy is reflexive. U.S. operational principles do provide an advantage, but that can bleed off at the tactical level. In the end, the U.S. force is, almost by definition, stretched beyond what it can reasonably be expected to do. This situation is hardwired into the U.S. geopolitical system.

The U.S. force was never configured for this reality. It was designed first to cope with a general war with the Soviet Union, focused on central Europe. After the collapse of the Soviets, the technological base remained relatively stable: It remained a combined arms force including armor, carrier battle groups and fighter planes. All of thes e take a long time to get to the theater, are excellent at destroying conventional forces, and are weak at pacification.

Donald Rumsfeld has identified the problem: The force is too slow to get to the theater in a politically consequential period of time. Getting there too late, it immediately finds itself on the defensive, while the brunt of the early battle focuses on Special Operations forces and air power. The problem that Rumsfeld has not effectively addressed is that occupation warfare -- which is what we have seen in Iraq for the past few years -- requires a multi-level approach, ranging from special operations to very large occupation forces.

Put this differently: The U.S. invasion of Iraq required everything from an armored thrust to strategic bombing to special operations to civil affairs. It required every type of warfare imaginable. That is indeed the reality of American strategy. Not only is the time and place of military intervention unpredictabl e, but so is the force structure. Any attempt to predict the nature of the next war is doomed to fail. The United States does not control the time or place of the next war; it has no idea what that war will look like or where it will be.

The United States has always built its force around expectations of both where the next war would be fought and how it would be fought. From "Air-Land Battle" to "Military operations other than war," U.S. military doctrine has always been marked by two things: Military planners were always certain they had a handle on what the next war would be like, and they were always dead wrong.

The military structure that was squeezed out of the Cold War force after 1989 assumed that wars would be infrequent, that they would be short, that they would be manageable. Building on these assumptions, U.S. military planners loaded key capabilities into reserve and National Guard units, cut back on forces that didn't fit into this paradigm and t hen -- even when reality showed they were wrong -- they tried to compensate with technology rather than with restructuring the force.

Wars have been more frequent since the fall of the Soviet Union than they were before. They occur in less predictable places. They tend not to be brief, but to be of long duration and to pile up on each other -- and they frequently are unmanageable for an extended period of time. The United States does not have tactical advantages with the forces provided.

As a result, the force is deployed far more than planned, troops are forced to rotate too rapidly through assignments in combat zones, and they operate in environments where operational requirements force them too often into tactically defensive situations. That all of this is managed with a force that is drawn heavily from reserves is simply the icing on the cake. The force does not match the reality.

We began by pointing out the goal is -- and should be -- to protect t he American public from war, with volunteers placing themselves between home and war's desolation. This strategic goal, while appropriate, creates a class of warriors and a broader class of indifferent civilians. Given the situation, it will follow that sensible warriors, having done their duty in their own minds, will choose to join the ranks of civilians, while civilians will avoid service.

There has been talk of a draft. That is a bad idea for technical reasons: It takes too long to train a soldier for a draft to solve the problems, and today's soldiers need to be too skilled and motivated for a reluctant civilian to master their craft. Moreover, this is not a force that would benefit from the service of 19-year-olds. Many of the jobs in the military could be done by people in their 40s and 50s, who would bring useful skills into the military. We would support a draft only if it included all ages of men and women who had not previously served. There is no reason th at an accountant in civilian life could not provide valuable military service in Afghanistan, maintaining logistics inventory. The United States does not need to draft children.

Since that isn't going to happen, and since the United States does not have the option of abandoning its strategy, the United States must reshape the force to meet the single most important reality: The United States will be at war a lot of the time, and no one really knows where or when it will go to war. The challenges in military retention or inability to meet recruiting goals mean that the United States continues to recruit children, as if this were the 19th century.


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« Reply #79 on: June 27, 2005, 02:08:34 AM »
Ben Stein's Last Column...

For many years Ben Stein has written a biweekly column called "Monday Night At Morton's." (Morton's is a famous chain of Steakhouses known to be frequented by movie stars and famous people from around the globe.) Now, Ben is terminating the column to move on to other things in his life. Reading his final column is worth a few minutes of your time.

Ben Stein's Last Column...
How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World?

As I begin to write this, I "slug" it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is "eonlineFINAL," and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.

It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton's, while better than ever, no longer attracts! as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.

Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera i! s no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.

How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietna mese girls do their nails.

They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.

A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.

A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.

The stars who deserve m! edia attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.

We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.

There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament...the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.

Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse. Now you have my idea of a real hero.

I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin...or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has d! evolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.
By Ben Stein


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« Reply #80 on: July 26, 2005, 12:47:52 PM »
150 U.S. Troops Become American Citizens
Associated Press  |  July 26, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - They pledged allegiance Monday to a country they were already fighting for, and then the immigrants from 43 countries formally became Americans.

About 150 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines currently serving in Iraq took the oath for U.S. citizenship at Camp Victory, a military base on the outskirts of Baghdad.

Lt. Gen. John Vines, commander of the Multinational Forces in Iraq, presided over the naturalization ceremony as uniformed troops raised their right hands, swearing an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution and to perform service in the military.

In 2003, President George W. Bush signed an order that allowed for the speedier process of citizenship to qualified military service members. Under the executive order, U.S. residents who are not citizens but serve in the armed forces during times of hostilities are immediately eligible for citizenship, according to immigration officer Karen Landsness.

Since July 2002, nearly 20,000 military personnel serving in the U.S. war against terror became U.S. citizens.

Spc. Mylene Del Rosario Cunan, who came to the United States from the Philippines three years ago, said she had joined the U.S. Army a year later. She finally became an American on Monday at age 28.

"My parents didn't let me join the Army in the Philippines," said Cunan, from Springfield, Mass., who cried during the ceremony

Specialist Severo Garcia, 24, from Los Angeles, said that with U.S. citizenship, a wider range of military careers would be open to him. Many jobs in the army require a security clearance, which non-citizens cannot get.

Garcia, who moved from Mexico at age 18, said he and his friends used to joke about "la migra," or immigration officers. Out of the 150 new citizens, 25 are originally from Mexico while another 15 are from the Philippines

Nearly all of those naturalized Monday would have qualified for citizenship even without Bush's order, since most of them have lived in the U.S. about three to five years, Landsness said.

It is the second such ceremony held in Iraqi. Besides their certificates, they also got American flags and a certificate signed by Vines showing a picture of the Saddam palace where the ceremony was held.


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« Reply #81 on: September 29, 2005, 05:48:31 AM »

While there, take a look around.  This is a good blog.


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« Reply #82 on: October 04, 2005, 10:06:35 PM »

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

My brigade, the 116th Brigade Combat Team, made up of units from Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, New Jersey, and California, currently owns the record for re-enlisting soldiers, out of any unit, Active Duty, Reserve or National Guard, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 256th BCT, headquartered in Louisiana, held the previous record at over 400 soldiers re-enlisting in-country. The 116th BCT set out to beat that record with a goal of 500, and did on 14 September 2005, with BG Alan Gayheart, Commander of the 116th BCT, ceremonially swearing in SGT Seckel in front of a representative formation of other soldiers re-affirming their commitment to continue to stand ready to protect freedom.

I'm in there somewhere, third row from the back, right-center of the photo. Even I couldn't find myself.

You will notice the photo is labeled "500th Re-Enlistment". As of right now,
the 116th BCT has had 733 soldiers sign new 3 or 6 year contracts.

I venture to say that this is a huge testament to the will of the army. Not
the Army, the organization, but the army, the men and women who wear the uniform, no matter what branch. Knowing the adversity faced in combat, and the need for the constant defense of our nation, and having already experienced hardship, loss, and separation, a momentus number are willing to continue to be counted among the willing.




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« Reply #83 on: October 05, 2005, 03:54:45 AM »
Troops Wait for Body Armor Reimbursements
Associated Press  |  September 30, 2005
WASHINGTON - Nearly a year after Congress demanded action, the Pentagon has still failed to figure out a way to reimburse soldiers for body armor and equipment they purchased to better protect themselves while serving in Iraq.

For Marine Sgt. Todd Bowers that extra piece of equipment - a high-tech rifle scope bought by his father for $600 and a $100 pair of goggles - turned out to be a life or death purchase. And he has never been reimbursed.

Bowers, who is from Arizona but going to school in Washington, D.C., was shot by a sniper during his second tour in Iraq, but the round lodged in his scope, and his goggles protected his eyes from the shrapnel that struck his face.

"We weren't provided those going to Iraq," he said Thursday. "But they literally saved my life."

He and other soldiers and their parents are still spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for armor they say the military won't provide. One U.S. senator said Thursday he will try again to force the Pentagon to obey the reimbursement law it opposed from the outset and has so far not implemented.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said he will offer amendments to the defense appropriations bill working its way through Congress to take the funding issue out of the hands of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and give control to military unit commanders in the field.

"Rumsfeld is violating the law," Dodd said. "It's been sitting on the books for over a year. They were opposed to it. It was insulting to them. I'm sorry that's how they felt."

Dodd said men and women in uniform "are serving halfway around the world. And they shouldn't have to rely on bake sales and lemonade stands to raise money" to get them the equipment they need.

Pentagon spokeswoman Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke said the department "is in the final stages of putting a reimbursement program together and it is expected to be operating soon." But defense officials would not discuss the reason for the delay.

Krenke said the Pentagon's first priority is to ensure that soldiers "have all they need to fight and win this nation's wars."

Others don't see it that way.

"Your expectation is that when you are sent to war, that our government does everything they can do to protect the lives of our people, and anything less than that is not good enough," said a former Marine who spent nearly $1,000 two weeks ago to buy lower-body armor for his son, a Marine serving in Fallujah.

The father asked that he be identified only by his first name - Gordon - because he is afraid of retribution against his son.

"I wouldn't have cared if it cost us $10,000 to protect our son, I would do it," said Gordon. "But I think the U.S. has an obligation to make sure they have this equipment and to reimburse for it. I just don't support Donald Rumsfeld's idea of going to war with what you have, not what you want. You go to war prepared, and you don't go to war until you are prepared."

Under the law Congress passed last October, the Defense Department had until Feb. 25 to develop regulations for the reimbursement, which is limited to $1,100 per item. Pentagon officials opposed the reimbursement idea, calling it "an unmanageable precedent that will saddle the DOD with an open-ended financial burden."

In a letter to Dodd in late April, David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel, said his office was developing regulations to implement the reimbursement, and would be done in about 60 days.

Soldiers and their families have reported buying everything from higher-quality protective gear to armor for their Humvees, medical supplies and even global positioning devices.

"The bottom line is that Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Department are failing soldiers again," said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Operation Truth, an advocacy group for Iraq veterans.

"It just became an accepted part of the culture. If you were National Guard or Reserve, or NCOs, noncommissioned officers, you were going to spend a lot of money out of your pocket," said Rieckhoff, who was a platoon leader with the 3rd Infantry Division and served in Iraq from the invasion in March 2003 to spring 2004.

Dodd said he is worried the Pentagon will reject most requests for reimbursement. Turning the decision over to troop commanders will prevent that, he said, because the commanders know what their soldiers need and will make better decisions about what to reimburse.

Dodd also said he wants to eliminate the deadline included in the original law, which allowed soldiers to seek reimbursement for items bought between September 2001 and July 2004. Now, he wants it to be open-ended.


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« Reply #84 on: December 28, 2005, 11:13:46 PM »
While the Chicken Littles of the chattering classes cackle away, our troops keep doing the Right and the Heroic.

How does it go?  IIRC "De Oppresser Liber"

Carry on.


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« Reply #85 on: January 22, 2006, 11:32:48 AM »
"Inside the Ring
By Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough
Published January 20, 2006

Sniper rounds

An Army judge advocate general (JAG) temporarily banned Army and Marine Corps snipers from using a highly accurate open-tip bullet.

The JAG, we are told, mistakenly thought the open-tip round was the same as hollow-point ammunition, which is banned. The original open-tip was known as Sierra MatchKing and broke all records for accuracy in the past 30 years.

The difference between the open-tip and the hollow point is that the open tip is a design feature that improves accuracy while the hollow point is designed for increasing damage when it hits a target.
About 10 days ago, the Army JAG in Iraq ordered all snipers to stop using the open-tip 175-grain M118LR bullet, claiming, falsely, it was prohibited. Instead of the open-tip, snipers were forced to take M-60 machine gun rounds out of belts and use them instead.

The order upset quite a few people here and in Iraq who said the JAG ignored the basic principle of every military lawyer that there is a presumption of legality for all issued weapons or ammunition that are made at the military service level at the time they are acquired.

"She forced snipers to use less accurate ammunition, thereby placing U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians at greater risk," a Pentagon official said of the JAG, who was not identified by name. "And she incorrectly issued an order. JAGs may advise a commander, but they cannot issue orders."

After Army lawyers were finally alerted to the JAG's action, the order was lifted and the JAG was notified that the open tip was perfectly legal for use by snipers. However, the reversal was followed by the Army officials' taking retaliation against a sniper who blew the whistle on the bogus order. The sniper lost his job over a security infraction in reporting the JAG."


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« Reply #86 on: January 22, 2006, 04:45:43 PM »
does this "war" remind anyone else of viet nam? i am not sure we will ever find out the real reason so many of americas young r dying in the desert, but i have an idea....
i just hope the people responsible 4 the lose of life can live with the choices they made.
god bless all who r there, those who returned and rest the souls of those who wont come home.


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« Reply #88 on: February 25, 2006, 07:10:51 AM » Jax firm to produce flexible armor for GIs, marines

Associated Press

February 24, 2006, 10:15 AM EST

BALTIMORE -- A Florida firm has been chosen to produce flexible body armor and other products based on technology developed at the University of Delaware and the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Fabric used in the armor is treated with a solution that stiffens when force is applied, but remains fluid otherwise.

The first products, which will initially focus on protection for law enforcement and corrections officers, are expected to be introduced later this year by Armor Holdings, Inc., a Jacksonville company best known for providing armored Humvees for the military. Body armor vests, helmets, gloves and extremity protection are among the products planned, the company announced Friday.

Body armor fabric treated with the fluid, for example, can resist an ice pick that would normally penetrate the fabric. Tests have also shown the treated fabric is better able to spread the force of an impact over a wider area, said Dr. Tony Russell, chief technology officer for Armor Holdings.

When force is applied, the fluid, which contains nano-sized particles, acts ``more like a solid. It locks the fibers in place and makes them more resistant to penetration,'' Russell said.

``If you take a normal ballistic fabric that's pretty good at stopping bullets and you hit it with an ice pick, the fibers will move out of the way. So what you normally have to do is put more layers to stop that ice pick,'' reducing flexibility that can inhibit motion.

The new technology allows the vest to stop penetration with fewer layers. The treated fabric, meanwhile, has virtually the same look, feel, texture, weight and flexibility, Russell said.

``You may get a little residue on your fingers but it doesn't feel wet to the touch,'' Russell said.

The company hopes the technology will eventually lead to lighter, more comfortable body armor that will cover more of the body.

The technology takes advantage of a property known as shear-thickening, in which fluids become solid when a force is applied. A common example is a paste of corn starch and water. A spoon rested on the surface will slowly sick to the bottom, but if force is suddenly applied the paste can't move to the sides quickly enough.

The technology Armor Holdings will use was developed by the University of Delaware's Center for Composite Materials and the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.

University of Delaware professor Norman Wagner said the technology has the potential for new products that will ``provide better protection to those who need it.''

In addition to body armor, potential applications include vehicle armor, bomb blankets, industrial environments and transportation _ ``anywhere you want to protect people against sharp flying objects,'' Wagner said.

On the Net:

Armor Holdings Inc.:

Weapons and Material Research Directorate:

University of Delaware Shear Thickening Fluid site: Copyright ? 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


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« Reply #89 on: March 16, 2006, 02:18:45 AM »
Commanding Officer
Posted by Kevin Sites
on Wed, Mar 15 2006, 5:39 PM ET Video Audio Photo Essay

At 29, Army Capt. Chris Nunn commands hundreds of men, millions in equipment ? and a piece of America's foreign policy objective in     Afghanistan.

PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Eastern Afghanistan - Capt. Chris Nunn was bitten by a rattlesnake while enrolled in one of the U.S. military's toughest training programs: the Army's elite Ranger School.

Yet instead of washing out, he sucked it up, and was back within 48 hours, limping through the perilous "mountains" phase of the training. He eventually passed the course to earn the coveted Ranger tab.

Adopted as an infant, Nunn grew up on a cattle ranch in Panhandle, Texas, located, of course, in the Texas panhandle. He graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in history and entered the army as an officer through the university's ROTC program. He served in Korea as a member of the 2nd Infantry Division and during the invasion of     Iraq as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.

He is a self-described "quintessential overachiever," a man who doesn't like to fail. His men even nicknamed him "the Hurricane," for those flashes of anger when people aren't measuring up to his standards.


Capt. Chris Nunn leads a reconnaissance mission in eastern Afghanistan

Now he faces what could be one of the greatest challenges of his life: command of Alpha Company, for the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry. Alpha Company currently is posted in the U.S. military's easternmost outpost in Afghanistan, Forward Operating Base Tillman.

I sat down with him in the company's TOC (Tactical Operations Center) to discuss the challenges of commanding hundreds of men, millions of dollars of equipment and a piece of America's foreign policy objective in Central Asia ? all at the age of 29.

KEVIN SITES: 10th Mountain trained very hard before coming here. In fact some people say it was difficult because there was so much time away from home before this deployment. What kind of training were you doing and did it pay off?

CAPT. CHRIS NUNN: We did a lot of shooting. The battalion as a whole shot at least two million rounds. My company did a lot of movement-to-contact training, where you're out actually looking for the enemy. We did a lot of live fire, squad, platoon, company exercises.

We did engagement training, civil affairs stuff, training to meet with tribal elders. [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai's cousin even came over and talked to us. We deployed to Camp Blanding, Florida to do more exercises: situation exercises in reacting to IEDs [improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs], giving out humanitarian assistance. I think you learn from the successes and failures of previous units that were here and we tailored our training to that.

There's still people that all they want to do is hunt down and kill people and others who understand the insurgent battlefield better. I think for the next 20 years it's going to be a counterinsurgency battlefield.

SITES: Now that you're here, how is the real life mission different from the one you trained for?

NUNN: It's really not all that different. When we showed up here we really knew where we wanted to go. Six months before I came to Afghanistan I was already e-mailing the company commander that was here [from the 82nd Airborne]. I knew when they had contact [hostile action], I knew when they hit an IED, I knew when they got new hot water heaters. We would talk once a week and e-mail several times a week. He sent me a lot of after-action reports, situation reports, etc. It went very smoothly.

SITES: What surprised you most when you first arrived here?

NUNN: Seeing a Dairy Queen at Bag [Bagram Air Force Base-north of Kabul] (laughs). I guess I was really surprised at the amount of improvement made in four years. I haven't been here before, but when I drove through Kabul, there was a used car lot, cell phones everywhere ? all the improvements that have been made that the Afghans took on themselves. Of course as you go further and further out, there's less of that.

"The first four days we were here we had a significant event every day: the IED, the contact, a rocket attack, and then two more IEDs. At that point I was thinking it was going to be a long deployment."
? Capt. Chris Nunn

It wasn't really anything militarily that surprised me. I think the things that are happening here is because the Afghans are tired of war. They got kicked around for 30 years. They want something different. All we're just doing is keeping the bad guys at bay. Let them build their country.

SITES: You were in Iraq with the 101st Airborne, and now you're here in Afghanistan. Can you compare the conflicts both in terms of what's at stake and how they're being played out?

NUNN: From my perspective, in the initial push into Iraq, we were really awed by the gratefulness of the Shiites in the south. That's what I remember from the initial push to topple Saddam. But once that initial push was over, it became just like Afghanistan. Whatever people believe the reasons were for the war ? the search for weapons of mass destruction, or those who thought     President Bush was trying to avenge his dad ? what I remember is this Shiite woman crying and saying 'thank you for toppling Saddam.'

Coming into Afghanistan, it seems to me, from everyone I talk to, they want us here. They want to be recognized as an international country. They don't want to be seen as a safe haven for terrorists. The people that I talk to feel that these guys causing the problems are defaming Islam as well.

There are a lot of similarities but the cultures are different. The Afghans seem more willing to work with us. The impression I had is that the Iraqis looked down their nose at us; they wanted everything right now. Maybe that's just a product of having more infrastructure; they could see more of the world.

I think I prefer this deployment more than Iraq. Maybe because I'm a commander. I just like it better, I like the country better, I like the people better, I'm here with a great unit.

SITES: You're 29 years old and in charge of hundreds of men, millions of dollars of equipment and carrying out a U.S. foreign policy objective. Are there days you feel overwhelmed? How do you keep yourself mentally and physically where you need to be to do this job?


Nunn liaises with Afghan counterparts
NUNN: This is what I wanted to do my whole life. I love it. I'm Southern Baptist ? preachers from that faith feel like they're called to their profession. I feel like I'm called to do this job. There are days you're frustrated you want to pull out your hair, or scared for your boys because they're in contact [hostile action]. But for me it's the best job I can imagine.

The first contact we had was when one of my platoons encountered an IED. Whoever planted it planted it in a sweet spot, we couldn't get eyes on it, we had to get pretty close to see it. I'm in the TOC [Tactical Operations Center] and we heard over the radio ? the IED just detonated.

I thought, "Oh no, it's day one and I just lost some of my soldiers and one of my platoon sergeants." But 15 to 20 seconds later I heard, "We're all OK, we're all OK."

Then the next day we had an attack on Observation Post 4: small arms fire, RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades], and 107mm rockets. In fact, the first four days we were here we had a significant event every day: the IED, the contact, a rocket attack, and then two more IEDs. At that point I was thinking it was going to be a long deployment.

There was something else. We had an incident where two children were playing with unexploded ordinance. A girl and her brother were tossing back and forth a 40mm grenade, when it exploded. They brought her here and our medics worked on her nonstop, but she died here on the base. She had an abdominal wound and she was bleeding out ? we couldn't get an aircraft here in time. The boy was taken to Bagram and survived.

We've all seen dead people, but seeing that little girl that was tough ? that was a rough one. There was a lot of frustration and a lot of us felt like failures because ? well, we're the U.S. Army and we couldn't do anything. It had a big impact on all of us.

SITES: A big part of your mission is helping to train and stand up Afghan forces. How is that going?

NUNN: They're better than I expected. I didn't think they'd be that far along. They're doing independent patrols ? they've got a lot of heart. They want to be as good as we are and they're grateful for what we can teach them. They want the respect of being professionals. For example, their mortar team had never even fired a mortar, but we trained them up and now they're integrated into the fire plan.

The biggest challenge is the lack of a professional base. They spent the last 20 years fighting as warriors, not as an organized army. They don't have the institutional base that professional armies have. The NCOs [non-commissioned officers] really want that. They get fired up about learning to use a map to navigate. Whenever someone wants to learn and you give them some knowledge, they just want more. That's the case with these guys.

For complex operations I keep them under my control, but they can do independent patrols, they can do cordon searches. I've seen them doing cache [weapons] recovery. When we got into contact a while ago, one of the commanders took his guys into the field and tried to hunt the attackers down, but he didn't tell me what he was doing ? he just went. I applaud his initiative but I couldn't clear the fields of fire, and those are the kinds of mixed successes we're looking at.

SITES: Another part of the mission is to bring in lawless villages like Guyan, where you were the other day meeting with elders and military and police officials as well as handing out humanitarian aid. But when you left, one of your vehicles struck an IED. What does that say about the challenges here?

NUNN: Honestly, I didn't feel it was a slap in the face. I didn't take it personally. With any size population there will always be people for you and people against you, and some people that are just bad. You just have to expect that when you go into these places.


Harsh terrain in Afghanistan
SITES: You are in command of the most eastern outpost of the U.S. military in Afghanistan. It's an isolated place, in a war in which many people, including soldiers here, feel is forgotten or at least off the radar for most Americans. How do you operate in an environment like that?

NUNN: I look at my job like a doctor looks at his job. It's what I am; it's who I am. I was in the army before 9/11, and it was those heady days of peace when everyone loved everyone and there was no need for an army. We kind of felt forgotten then. But then 9/11 happened and we were needed again.

There's frustration and I guess there's disappointment, because for some reason Afghanistan doesn't seem as important to some as the conflict in Iraq ? and you want the recognition for your soldiers.

I wish that people could see what we're doing ? not just the shooting at bad guys, but also the distribution of humanitarian aid, having tea at endless meetings with elders, or trying to save a six-year-old girl.

If we were in this for the money we'd all quit. And we're not in it for the recognition either, but I wish people could look through my eyes and see my soldiers the same way, and have the pride in them that I do.


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The MSM and Swarmer
« Reply #90 on: March 19, 2006, 08:36:28 AM »
An interesting take on Operation Swarmer. I'm only including the link because there is a lot of formatting with this piece that will not cut and paste well:


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« Reply #91 on: March 27, 2006, 07:40:33 AM »


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« Reply #92 on: April 10, 2006, 05:31:45 AM »


On Call in Hell
He left a desk job for the front lines of Fallujah?and a horror show few doctors ever see. How Richard Jadick earned his Bronze Star.

By Pat Wingert and Evan Thomas

March 20, 2006 issue - Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here I am. Send me!"
?Isaiah 7:8

Richard Jadick was bored. The Navy doctor was shuffling paper while Marines were heading out to Iraq. Once, many years before, Jadick had been a Marine officer, but he had missed the 1991 gulf war, stuck behind a recruiter's desk. Now he was looking forward to leading a comfortable life as what he called a "gentleman urologist." Jadick, with a Navy rank of lieutenant commander, was 38?too old, really, to be a combat surgeon.

But then a medical committee searching for help came knocking on his door. Because of an acute doctor shortage, they were having trouble finding a junior-grade Navy doctor to go with the First Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment (the "1/8"), to Iraq. Jadick at the time was one of the senior medical officers at Camp Lejeune, N.C. "Who could we send?" they asked. Jadick thought for a moment. "Well," he said, "I could go."

His friends told him he was crazy, and his wife, a pediatrician nine months pregnant with their first child, was none too happy. But in the summer of 2004, five days after the birth of his child, Commander Jadick shipped out for Iraq. On the plane, he sat behind a gunnery staff sergeant named Ryan P. Shane. A 250-pound weight lifter, the massive Shane turned in his seat to look at Jadick. Slowly taking the measure of the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Jadick, the gunnery sergeant said, "So you're our new surgeon. That's one job I wouldn't want to have with the place where we're going." That night Jadick e-mailed his wife, "What have I gotten myself into?"

The place they were going was Fallujah. In Sunni territory west of Baghdad, the city seethed with insurgents. Jihadists had strung up the burned bodies of American contractors in the spring of 2004, and chaos had reigned ever since. By November, the United States was tired of waiting for the enemy to give up or clear out. "Over the past five months, [we] have been attacked by a faceless enemy. But the enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He lives in Fallujah. And we're going to destroy him," said Marine Lt. Col. Gary Brandl on the eve of the attack. Jadick's regiment, the 1/8, was ordered to take what was, in effect, the Main Street of the city. For Jadick, who speaks in a gentle, matter-of-fact voice, occasionally strained by memories of the men he saved and lost, it was to be a journey to the other side of hell.

The night before the assault, Jadick hopped into a command Humvee taking a reconnaissance mission from the headquarters base outside the city. He wanted to see what he was up against. In treating traumatic injuries, there is something known as the golden hour. A badly injured person who gets to the hospital within an hour is much more likely to be saved. But Jadick knew that in combat the "golden hour" doesn't exist. Left unaided, said Jadick, the wounded "could die in 15 minutes, and there are some things that could kill them in six minutes. If they had an arterial bleed, it could be three minutes."

Jadick knew that helicopter evacuations were out of the question: there was too great a risk the choppers would get shot down. Casualties would have to be driven out of the city. It took Jadick 45 minutes to drive from the base hospital, where he would normally be stationed, to the city. Not close enough. Jadick wanted to push closer to the action.

Jadick, along with 54 Navy corpsmen, his young, sometimes teenage medical assistants, moved to the edge of the city as the assault began; the night sky was lit by tracers and rocket fire. The next morning a call came over the radio. A Navy SEAL with a sucking chest wound needed evacuation. A weapons company was heading in to rescue the man. Lacking much military training, doctors normally stay back in the rear area. But ex-Marine Jadick decided to go to the fight. As shots rang out around them, the weapons company ran and dodged down narrow alleyways toward the building where the SEAL lay wounded. Jadick was armed only with a small 9mm pistol. He thought: "If anyone actually gets close to me, I'm going to have to throw it at him." He felt slightly ridiculous, remembering a "MASH" episode in which Alan Alda tried to scare away the enemy.

In the rubble of a shot-up building, he found the SEAL conscious but bleeding badly. "Get me out of here," the man said. Helping to carry the man on a stretcher down the stairs, Jadick could hear rocket fire and shooting. The air was thick with fine dust and a familiar smell: cordite, from gunpowder. He had smelled cordite before at rifle ranges, but never like this. "It just hung in the air," he recalled.

The radio squawked. Two Marines had been wounded in an ambush in the center of the city. Jadick wanted to get his wounded SEAL back to base camp. But the voices on the radio were insisting that the two men down in the ambush were in even worse shape. It was Jadick's call. He loaded the SEAL into an armored ambulance and set off in the vehicle toward the scene of the shooting. He could hear the firing intensify. Jadick wondered, anxiously, if a rocket-propelled grenade could punch right through the ambulance's metal sides.

The ambulance stopped and Jadick peered out at the first real fire fight of his life. There were not two wounded men, but seven. As a middle-class kid growing up in upstate New York, Jadick had avidly read about war, and even applied to West Point. But he flunked the physical?poor depth perception?and went to Ithaca College on an ROTC scholarship instead. He had served as a communications officer in the Marines, but left the corps after seven years, bitter that he had been left out of the fighting in 1991. Attending medical school on a Navy scholarship, he had never seen or experienced real war?the kind of urban combat that can leave 30 to 40 percent of a unit wounded or dead.

"I can't tell you how scared I was," he recalled. "My legs wanted to stay in that vehicle, but I had to get off. I wanted to go back into that vehicle and lie under something and cry. I felt like a coward. I felt like it took me hours to make the decision to go."

But he got up and went. He felt as though he were "walking through water." Desperately seeking cover, he ran to a three-foot wall where the most badly wounded soldier lay. He lifted the man over the wall to safety. "I put him down on the ground, and he was looking at me," Jadick recalled. The man had a gaping wound in his groin. Jadick tried to "pack" the wound, stuffing sterile gauze packages into the hole torn by an AK-47 round, but he couldn't stop the bleeding. Jadick was forced to make the first of a thousand wretched decisions. "I knew I had six other people that I had to work on. So I don't know ..." Jadick paused in the retelling. "I stopped and went on to someone else." It was Jadick's first experience in battlefield triage?forget the mortally or lightly wounded, save the rest?a concept easier to philosophize about than to practice.

Bullets were hissing around him. Afraid of dying, more afraid of failing his comrades, Jadick managed to treat the wounded, to stabilize them and stop the bleeding. As he began loading men into the ambulance, an RPG screamed in?and glanced off the roof without exploding. A second RPG slammed into the wall next to them; it didn't go off, either.

One of the wounded was Ryan Shane?the massive gunnery sergeant Jadick had met on the plane. Shane's abdomen was all shot up. Jadick was unable to lift him, so the sergeant had to crawl into the ambulance by himself. "I made room for him underneath the stretchers," Jadick recalled. But he had to turn away another Marine who had been shot in the foot. There was no more room.

As a urology resident at an inner-city trauma center in Baltimore, Jadick had spent a three-month rotation handling gunshot wounds. But the inside of the darkened ambulance, bathed in red light and blood from the wounded, echoing and rattling with the combat close by, seemed far away from the sterile, scrubbed world of a hospital ER. Working with a medic, Jadick pumped Hespan (a clear blood expander) into veins and tried to pack wounds. One man was dead already. His body, on the top rack, was bleeding all over the patients below him and Jadick, too?"down my neck, everywhere," Jadick recalled.

Jadick was covered with gore by the time the ambulance reached a transfer point. People standing around the medical tent were staring at him, so he rubbed sand on his uniform. "It made it go dark," he said.

It was not yet noon on Jadick's first day in combat. A Humvee rolled up and a big, husky young Marine from Louisiana, Joel Dupuis, jumped out and began rambling on that his friend, Pvt. Paul Volpe, was going to die. Jadick ran with Dupuis to find a young Marine slumped over on the back hatch of the Humvee. Hit in the thigh, Volpe was "fluorescent-light white," recalled Jadick. His pulse was thin and weak; shock was setting in. Jadick figured the Marine had lost more than half his blood.

Jadick looked at Volpe and thought of the Marine who had died and bled all over him. "I can't let this happen again," he thought, "or there's no point in me being here." Turning to a young Navy doctor, Carlos Kennedy, Jadick instructed, "Pack him like you've never packed a guy before." Kennedy used his boot to stomp in the gauze stuffing. Meanwhile, Dupuis, who was a corpsman, found a vein to insert an IV, and a liter of Hespan started pumping into his unconscious friend.

"All of a sudden, it was the most amazing thing," recalled Jadick. "It was like Frosty the Snowman come to life." Volpe opened his eyes, looked up and asked what was going on. When he saw Dupuis's anxious face, he joked, "I'm all right, I can see your ugly-ass face."

Jadick felt the need to get still closer to the battle. Even though Volpe had reached Jadick's aid station on the edge of the city, the Marine had almost died. In effect, Jadick wanted to set up an emergency room in the middle of the battlefield. Loading up two armored ambulances, he convoyed into the city in the dead of night to establish an aid station in the prayer room of an old government building. The night was quiet, save for the drone of a C-130 gunship searching for prey. Jadick and his men found some metal plates in the street, cleaned them and draped them with sterile gauze as trays for his scalpels. They stacked sandbags by the windows. As the sun rose, the silence was broken by sniper fire.

The casualty runs began arriving in the morning, depositing their grisly cargo. Bodies stacked up. At times Jadick couldn't sterilize his instruments fast enough. "You'd just have to throw some alcohol on the stuff and use it again. I didn't get a chance to wash my hands a lot. I wore gloves as much as possible, but they'd get all torn up and my body would just get covered in blood." Jadick was still afraid. "We were still getting shot at, and there were mortar attacks. But now it was OK somehow. Maybe I had gotten used to it, or maybe just calloused."

Kneeling over a wounded Marine, Jadick was startled to see a muzzle flash from a water tower about 50 yards away. He could clearly see a sniper, his face wrapped in cloth. For a moment, Jadick, the former Marine captain, replaced Jadick, the Navy doctor. A truckload of Marines had just pulled up. "Please go kill that guy," said Jadick, and their commander sent them out to silence the man. Jadick had a fleeting struggle with the Hippocratic Oath ("Do no harm") but thought, "At some point, it's either kill or be killed."

Jadick grew close to his young corpsmen, who were frightened, like him, but cared for the wounded like brothers. "If it would help, they would hold a guy's hand. They did those things to provide comfort, and they weren't afraid to do it. That's not something I taught them. They just did it," Jadick said.

Sometimes the corpsmen behaved like the 18- and 19-year-olds they were. Jadick was miffed at one young clerk, in charge of keeping proper records, who had apparently wandered off. Unable to find the man, Jadick began cursing him, when the clerk appeared around the corner. "Where were you?" Jadick angrily demanded. "Well," the clerk said, "some guys were trying to come across through the open gate, so I shot them." Jadick laughed as he recalled the story. "That's a pretty good excuse, so I'll let you go this time," he told the man.

On the third or fourth night, a vehicle pulled up with a badly wounded Marine named Jacob Knospler. A corporal with a rifle company, Knospler had dragged the shot-up Gunnery Sergeant Shane out of harm's way a few days before. Now, fighting house to house, he had been hit in the face with grenade shrapnel. There was a hole where his mouth and jaw had been. He was conscious and crying and trying to paw at his face. "We had to hold his hands and give him a lot of morphine, as much as he could tolerate," said Jadick. Unable to put a breathing tube down his throat, Jadick worried that Knospler would gag and suffocate on his own blood, tissue and mucus on his way to surgery. He jumped into the ambulance with the wounded corporal and, working with a female medic, kept suctioning the man's horribly wounded face. After 30 minutes, they arrived at a transfer station to hand him over to a new doctor. When the doctor saw the wound, his eyes bulged. "Are you going to be OK with this?" asked Jadick. The doctor said yes, and Jadick headed back to the inferno.

That was a bad night, Jadick recalled, but not the worst. A Marine came in shot in the head. Though he was still breathing, his skull was fractured and his eyeballs were hanging on either side of his face. When Jadick removed the Marine's helmet he could feel the plates of the man's skull moving. There was a distinctive, nauseating smell?of gray matter, brain tissue.

The man died, and so did many of his wounded comrades. But there were some remarkable survivors. A Marine walked over to Jadick and said, "Doc, I've got a headache." Jadick saw with a start that there was a hole in the guy's helmet. Gingerly, Jadick removed the helmet?and saw that a bullet had, in effect, scalped the young Marine, separating a flap of skin at the hairline, but not penetrating his skull. "You're pretty lucky," Jadick said. As both men laughed, Jadick stitched him up. "You don't need to be here anymore today," he told the man, and sent him to the rear.

The laughs were few and far between. A Marine arrived with a chest wound. Jadick had seen the man, Lance Cpl. Demarkus Brown, a few days before, when he showed up with a lip sliced by shrapnel. "Doc, do I get a Purple Heart for this?" Brown had asked. Jadick had assured him that he would, sewed up the lip, and sent him back to the fight. Now the man did not seem too badly wounded. He was breathing and his eyes were open. Still, Jadick was unable to get a breathing tube down his throat. For a moment, Brown seemed to perk up when Jadick inserted a needle in his chest for a tube, but suddenly the blood began to pulse out. A major blood vessel had ruptured inside him. The man's blood pressure was so low that Jadick couldn't get an IV line working.

Jadick talked to the man. "C'mon, Brown, don't give up on me," he gently pleaded. The young man died. He had been an especially well-liked leatherneck, tough but cheerful. "To this day, he's the kid I can't get out of my head," said Jadick, as he was interviewed two years later for this story. "It was one of those things ..." Jadick paused and began to weep quietly.

For 11 days, Jadick worked night and day at his forward aid station. In late November, as the area around the government building quieted, Jadick moved his team to an abandoned pickle factory in an industrial area where fighting was still going on. The weather had turned bitter cold, so the corpsmen dug holes in the floor and built fireplaces out of rubble. Jadick worried that the IV fluids might become so chilled that the wounded would go into hypothermic shock. To try to warm the fluid to body temperature, corpsmen had the idea of taping pints to their legs and carrying them inside their cargo pockets.

The wounded kept coming. One hero was Matthew Palacios. Injured, he saw a grenade land beside him. Somehow, he had the presence of mind to fling it back, saving the men around him. Increasingly, the wounded were Marines ripped by booby traps and suicide bombers. The KIAs (Killed in Action) were so mangled that Jadick decided to build a morgue, so his young corpsmen wouldn't have to see the shattered bodies piling up.

The one injury Jadick did not see much of was posttraumatic stress disorder. One Marine had to be sent to the rear, and plenty of men complained that they didn't want to go back out and fight?but they did. The PTSD, Jadick knows, will show up for some men only after they're back home, safe but haunted by flashbacks and memories. "We all had PTSD at some level," said Jadick, who nevertheless has not sought treatment.

By mid-December, Fallujah was secured. It had been the worst urban fighting involving Americans since Vietnam. At least 53 Marines and Navy SEALs died, as did something like 1,600 insurgents. By mid-January, Jadick was home: there was an opening for a urology resident at the Medical College of Georgia. Jadick was eager to see his baby daughter and wife.

Jadick was awarded a Bronze Star with a Combat V for valor. (The medal, pinned onto Jadick in January, is the only Combat V awarded a Navy doctor thus far in the Iraq war.) His commanding officer, Lt. Col. Mark Winn, estimated that without Jadick at the front, the Marines would have lost an additional 30 men. Of the hundreds of men treated by Jadick, only one died after reaching a hospital. "I have never seen a doctor display the kind of courage and bravery that Rich did during Fallujah," said Winn. Jadick still owes the Navy a couple of years as a doctor. He's thinking of staying in beyond that. "Being a battalion surgeon is one of the greatest jobs there is," he says, in his low-key way. "So, sure, I would do it again, yeah."

? 2006



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« Reply #93 on: May 02, 2006, 02:21:43 PM »
Written by Ralph Bennett

  Since his days growing up in Tampa, Fla. the lanky kid with the slightly mischievous smile had wanted to be a soldier. By this bright morning, April 4, 2003, Sgt 1st Class Paul Ray Smith had more than fullfilled his dream. He had served 15 of his 33 years in the U.S. Army, including three tours of duty in harms way- in the Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Now all his training, all his experience, all the instincts that had made him a model soldier, were about to be put to the test. With 16 men from his 1st Platoon, B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, Sgt. Smith was under attack by about 100 troops of the Iraqi Republican Guard.
"We're in a world of hurt" he was heard to say.
That world was a dusty triangular, walled compound about half the size of a football field, near the Saddam Hussein Airport, 11 miles from Baghdad. Sgt. Smith's engineers or "sappers" had broken through the southren wall of the compound with a military bulldozer and begun turning the area into a temporary "pen" for Iraqi prisoners as U.S. forces pressed their attack on the airport.
While they were working, guards spotted a large Iraqi force approaching their position. The guards called for Sgt. Smith to take a look and as he arrived all hell broke loose. They came under heavy fire from machine gunners and RPG's.
The lightly armed work detail needed fire support. Sgt. Smith called for a Bradley fighting vehicle. The Bradley was on site in short order and attacked the enemy force with it's 25mm Bushmaster cannon. Sgt. Smith and his men took up positions around the Bradley as he called for a nearby M-133 personnel carrier for additional fire power from it's .50 caliber machinegun.
As the two vehicles engaged the Iraqis both were hit by motor rounds and RPG's. Sgt Smith lost his fire power to hold back the enemy troops.
Sgt. Smith could have withdrawn but he was the only thing standing between the enemy and a aid station with combat casualties and medical teams a short distance away.
Under fire Sgt Smith and his men extracted three wounded from the APC. Then Sgt Smith positioned the APC where he could cover most of the compound then he manned the machinegun while one of his men fed the belted ammo. His other men made an assault on a guard tower while Sgt Smith layed down fire on the main forces coming at them now from three different positions. His men reached the tower and took it over but Sgt Smith was shot by one of the Iraqis there in the tower just as the other Iraqi troops started turning back because of the accurate fire of Sgt. Smith. 50 dead Iraqi soldiers lay in the area of the compound. Sgt. Smith's vest had 13 bullet holes in it but he had continued to fire while being hit. The shot from the tower hit him in the neck killing him.
When the Army told his mother her son had died in battle she said "Our name is so common, maybe it's a mistake"
  On April 4th, 2005, exactly two years after his selfless action, his wife and their children stood in the White House and was presented with Sgt. Smith's Medal of Honor.


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« Reply #94 on: May 29, 2006, 04:41:08 PM »
A Howl of Respect to all who serve:

Memorial Day is always a day for quiet reflection-- all the more so in times of war.

I usually have lots of words, but ultimately on days such as this they seem rather empty.

We thank you.

The Adventure continues , , ,
Crafty Dog

The Troops Have Moved On
Published: May 29, 2006
NEITHER party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease."

So said Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address, describing a war that put 11 percent of our citizens in uniform and had by that point killed nearly one of out every seven soldiers. That his words are relevant again now is a troubling indicator of our national endurance.

We are at the outset of a long war, and not just in Iraq. Yet it is being led politically by the short-sighted, from both sides of the aisle. The deterioration of American support for the mission in Iraq is indicative not so much of our military conduct there, where real gains are coming slowly but steadily, but of chaotic leadership.

Somehow Operation Iraqi Freedom, not a large war by America's historical standards, has blossomed into a crisis of expectations that threatens our ability to react to future threats with a fist instead of five fingers. Instead of rallying we are squabbling, even as the slow fuse burns.

One party is overly sanguine, unwilling to acknowledge its errors. The other is overly maudlin, unable to forgive the same. The Bush administration seeks to insulate the public from the reality of war, placing its burden on the few. The press has tried to fill that gap by exposing the raw brutality of the insurgency; but it has often done so without context, leaving a clear implication that we can never win.

In the past, the American public could turn to its sons for martial perspective. Soldiers have historically been perhaps the country's truest reflection, a socio-economic cross-section borne from common ideals. The problem is, this war is not being fought by World War II's citizen-soldiers. Nor is it fought by Vietnam's draftees. Its wages are paid by a small cadre of volunteers that composes about one-tenth of 1 percent of the population ? America's warrior class.

The insular nature of this group ? and a war that has spiraled into politicization ? has left the Americans disconnected and confused. It's as if they have been invited into the owner's box to settle a first-quarter disagreement on the coach's play-calling. Not only are they unprepared to talk play selection, most have never even seen a football game.

This confusion, in turn, affects our warriors, who are frustrated by the country's lack of cohesion and the depiction of their war. Iraq hasn't been easy on the military, either. But the strength of our warriors is their ability to adapt.

First, in battle you move forward from where you are, not where you want to be. No one was more surprised that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction than the soldiers who rolled into Iraq in full chemical protective gear. But it is time for the rest of the country to do what the military was forced to: get over it.

If we can put 2003's debates behind us, there is a swath of common ground on which to focus. Both Republicans and Democrats agree we cannot lose Iraq. The general insurgency in Iraq imperils our national interest and the hardcore insurgents are our mortal enemies. Talking of troop reductions is to lose sight of the goal.

Second, America's conscience is one of its greatest strengths. But self-flagellation, especially in the early stages of a war against an enemy whose worldview is uncompromising, is absolutely hazardous. Three years gone and Iraq's most famous soldiers are Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England, a victim and a criminal, respectively. Abu Ghraib remains the most famous battle of the war.

Soldiers are sick of apologizing for a sliver of malcontents who are not at all representative of the new breed. But they are also sick of being pitied. Our warriors are the hunters, not the hunted, and we should celebrate them as we did in the past, for while our tastes have changed, warfare ? and the need to cultivate national guardians ? has not. As Kipling wrote, "The strength of the pack is the wolf."

Finally, today's debates are not high-spirited so much as mean-spirited. To allow polarizing forces to dominate the argument by insinuating false motives on one side or a lack of patriotism on the other is to obscure long-term security decisions that have to be made now.

We are clashing with an enemy who has been at war with us in one form or another for two decades. Our military response may take decades more. We have crossed several rivers and the nation is hoping that ahead lie streams. But if they are oceans, we should heed Lincoln's call: "With malice toward none, with charity for all ... let us strive on to finish the work we are in."

Owen West, a reserve Marine major who served in Iraq, is the founder of Vets for Freedom.

Next Article in Opinion (7 of 8) ?


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« Reply #95 on: June 03, 2006, 09:39:56 AM »
Edward Dahlgren, 90; WWII Actions Earned Medal of Honor
From Times Staff and Wire Reports
June 3, 2006

Edward Dahlgren, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for spearheading the rescue of an Army platoon that was surrounded in a German counterattack during World War II, has died. He was 90.

Dahlgren died Wednesday at the Maine Veterans' Home in Caribou, Maine. The cause of death was not announced.

 A sergeant with the 36th Infantry Division, Dahlgren captured more than 40 enemy soldiers and killed several others during fighting at Oberhoffen, France.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, Dahlgren led his platoon to the rescue of a similar unit facing a German advance.

After spotting a number of enemy troops crossing a field toward the surrounded platoon, he ran into a barn and opened fire with a submachine gun. He killed six German troops, wounded several others and thwarted the advance.

Dahlgren's platoon then moved forward to join the other GI platoon.

The two units moved through Oberhoffen until they began taking rifle fire from a house held by enemy troops. Dahlgren dodged their fire as he ran toward the house and lobbed a grenade through the front door. The eight German troops inside quickly surrendered after Dahlgren burst into the house, firing his rifle.

Starting for the next house, Dahlgren was driven to take cover by hostile machine-gun fire. He grabbed rifle grenades and launched missiles into the house, destroying the machine-gun position and killing its two operators.

Dahlgren moved to the rear of the house and came under fire from a machine gun in the barn. After tossing a grenade into the structure, he burst in and five Germans surrendered.

But the house was still in enemy hands, and Dahlgren and his unit advanced to clear the dwelling. Entering through a rear window, he trapped several Germans in the basement. He again used a grenade to subdue the enemy forces, wounding several and forcing 10 to surrender.

After securing that block, Dahlgren and a comrade moved on to another street. Hearing German coming from a house, Dahlgren opened fire with rifle grenades, entered and fired several bursts down the cellar stairway. Sixteen Germans surrendered.

President Truman presented Dahlgren with the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor, at a White House ceremony Aug. 23, 1945. The citation that went with the award noted that Dahlgren's "bold leadership and magnificent courage" repulsed the counterattack and saved the lives of American soldiers.

Friends recalled Dahlgren as a humble man who spoke little of his wartime heroics. He once noted, however, that he " ? was afraid before it happened and after it happened. But in battle I just acted on the spur of the moment."

The highly decorated Dahlgren left military service after the war with the rank of second lieutenant. His other medals included the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and the French Croix de Guerre. He was awarded the French Legion of Honor in a ceremony in April.

A native of Woodland, Maine, Dahlgren spent much of his life in the northern Maine community of Blaine, where he worked for the state as a seed potato inspector.

In addition to his wife of 57 years, Pauline, Dahlgren's survivors include two sons, two daughters and a stepson.


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« Reply #96 on: June 26, 2006, 02:34:16 PM »
A Camp Divided

As U.S. tries to give Iraqi troops more responsibility,
clash of two American colonels shows tough road ahead.
June 16, 2006 11:24 p.m.; Page A1

Camp Taji, Iraq

This sprawling military base is divided down the middle by massive concrete barriers, a snaking fence and rifle-toting guards. On one side, about 10,000 U.S. Army soldiers live in air-conditioned trailers. There's a movie theater, a swimming pool, a Taco Bell, and a post exchange the size of a Wal-Mart, stocked with everything from deodorant to DVD players.

On the other side are a similar number of Iraqi soldiers whose success will determine when U.S. troops can go home. The Iraqi troops live in fetid barracks built by the British in the 1920s, ration the fuel they use to run their lights and sometimes eat spoiled food that makes them sick.

The only soldiers who pass regularly between the two worlds are about 130 U.S. Army advisers, who live, train and work with the Iraqis.

For many of these advisers, the past six months have been a disorienting experience, putting them at odds with their fellow U.S. soldiers and eroding their confidence in the U.S. government's ability to build an Iraqi force that can stabilize this increasingly violent country.

Army commanders back in the U.S. "told us this was going to be the most thankless and frustrating job we have ever held, and boy, were they right," says Lt. Col. Charles Payne, who until last month oversaw about 50 Army advisers.

He and fellow advisers say U.S. troops on the American side of the base saddle Iraqis with the least-desirable missions and often fail to provide them with the basics they need to protect themselves against insurgent attacks. "They treat the Iraqis with utter scorn and contempt," Col. Payne says. "The Iraqis may not be sophisticated, but they aren't stupid. They see it."

Col. James Pasquarette, who commands most of the soldiers on the U.S. side of Camp Taji, calls those claims "totally ridiculous." He says he's proud of what the Iraqi units have achieved in the region and has made supporting them his top priority, after ensuring his own troops have the protection they need. But he worries that if the Iraqis are given too much latitude to execute challenging missions too quickly, they will alienate Iraqi civilians with heavy-handed tactics.

He says Col. Payne and his fellow advisers have "gone native."

Though the divide here at Camp Taji is extreme, it reflects a growing friction throughout this war-torn country. No one on either side of the divide expects the Iraqi troops to be trained, equipped or housed to U.S. standards. But if U.S. troops are going to go home, U.S. commanders must allow Iraqis to take a far greater role in planning operations and taking the fight to the enemy, senior military officers say.

Right now, Iraqi commanders and some of their U.S. advisers say that isn't happening enough. Part of the reason, U.S. officials say, is that widespread Iraqi corruption has made it hard for the fledgling Iraqi government to supply their troops with basics like good food, batteries and fuel. But Iraqi soldiers and their U.S. advisers say the problem extends beyond basic supply issues. They complain that U.S. troops, bunkered down on large, fortified bases, treat Iraqi forces more like a problem than a partner. U.S. forces "don't talk to us," says Col. Saad, a senior Iraqi commander on Camp Taji. The Iraqi colonel, whose family has been threatened by insurgents, asked that his full name not be used.

U.S. commanders counter that there are huge risks to giving the Iraqi army too big a role right now. They worry some Iraqis will leak word of impending operations to the enemy or use military force to settle sectarian scores. Many U.S. commanders say Iraqi forces aren't as disciplined as U.S. troops and are too prone to abuse civilians and detainees.

The debate raises difficult questions for U.S. commanders, as they plot the way forward in Iraq: Should Iraqi units be held to the same standards as U.S. units? What happens when the Iraqis' solution is at odds with the American commander's strategy?

Earlier this spring, the tension between the two sides at Camp Taji reached the breaking point when the Iraqi army brigade that Col. Payne was advising leveled two dozen roadside kiosks. The Iraqi soldiers said insurgent snipers, who had killed and wounded Iraqi troops, used the kiosks for cover.

Col. Pasquarette thought destroying the kiosks would only enrage locals and drive them to support the insurgents. "This was a great day for the terrorists," he recalls telling Col. Payne on the day that the Iraqi army flattened the fruit and vegetable stands.

Col. Payne says the Iraqi army bulldozed the kiosks -- consisting mostly of palm fronds suspended by bamboo poles -- to protect Iraqi soldiers. "When I first heard what they had done, my initial response was, 'I am all for it,' " Col. Payne says. "This is not a law and order situation. This is a war."

Late last month, Col. Pasquarette asked that Col. Payne be dismissed from his position, just four months after the two men started working together. Col. Payne was then assigned to a desk job in Baghdad.

The unit Col. Payne headed is at the leading edge of a major shift in U.S. strategy. Until last summer, the U.S. military saw its primary mission as fighting insurgents. With pressure mounting to bring the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq home, President Bush decided the military's main effort should instead focus on training Iraqis to take its place.

To speed development of Iraqi army forces, about 3,000 U.S. soldiers were placed with Iraqi units throughout the country. The teams live and work with Iraqi soldiers in places such as Camp Taji.

In November 2005, Col. Payne came back from retirement to lead his team. The colonel had served 28 years in the Army, fought in the Grenada invasion and taught history at West Point. He retired in July 2001. A few weeks later, terrorists struck the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Col. Payne called the Army and volunteered to return. "There was a chuckle on the end of the phone," he says. The Army told him he wasn't needed.

Four years later, with the Army stretched thin by the war, the 50-year-old soldier, who was teaching at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, called again. This time, the Army was eager to send him to Iraq. In November, he was told he had 23 days to report to Fort Carson, Colo., and link up with his unit. His wife was "very unhappy," he says. Col. Payne says he was determined to go. "The nation is at war and all real soldiers want to be where the action is."

Col. Pasquarette, a former college basketball player, took command of his 6,000-soldier brigade in June 2005. Before that, the 45-year-old had attended Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon and served as an aide-de-camp to a four-star general.

The two men's troops arrived in Iraq in December 2005 and settled on opposite sides of Camp Taji, a sprawling former Iraqi army base, about 20 miles north of Baghdad. Col. Payne's group consisted of 50 U.S. soldiers, assigned to advise the Iraqi military. His team was one of the few at Camp Taji that didn't report to Col. Pasquarette.

The 2,500-soldier Iraqi brigade that Col. Payne was advising had formed 11 months earlier and had been fighting nonstop. The Iraqis had scrounged all of their tanks and armored personnel carriers -- most of which were at least 30 years old -- from a massive junkyard on the Iraqi side of Camp Taji. When something broke, Iraqi soldiers retreated to the scrapyard where they would pillage rusting hulks for spare parts. Of the $260 billion spent on the Iraq war since 2003, about $10 billion has gone to build Iraqi army and police forces.

The U.S. officers bonded quickly with their Iraqi counterparts. In January, Maj. Michael Jason, who leads one of the advisory teams, was on patrol with a 42-year-old Iraqi colonel when a terrified farmer told them he had found bodies in a field. He then led them to the corpses of 11 Iraqi army soldiers who had been headed home on leave. Each had been beaten, blindfolded and shot in the head. Their Iraqi army identification cards had been taken from their wallets and pinned to their shirts by insurgents who regularly target Iraqi forces.

Maj. Jason, a Roman Catholic, and his Iraqi counterpart, Col. Khalid, a Muslim, kneeled next to the bodies and prayed. The U.S. Army asked that Col. Khalid's full name be withheld for his safety. That night, Maj. Jason, a 33-year-old West Point grad, wrote an email home describing his Iraqi colleague's bravery and sacrifice.

"Col. Khalid's children have to move constantly for fear of their lives. When he goes home on leave, he cannot tell anyone for security reasons. He just disappears. He drives 90 mph with a pistol tucked in the small of his back and his ID hidden. I love these guys, no s-t," he wrote. A month later, Col. Khalid's brother, also an army officer, was kidnapped. Insurgents killed him and dumped his body on his parents' doorstep. Col. Khalid couldn't go to the funeral for fear that he would be assassinated. So Maj. Jason and soldiers in the unit mourned with him at Camp Taji.

In March, Col. Khalid left the battalion for a safer assignment, which doesn't require him to leave the base.

As the U.S. advisers grew closer to the Iraqis, they also grew more frustrated with U.S. soldiers on the other side of the base.

Shortly after Col. Pasquarette arrived at Camp Taji, he beefed up the number of guards and armored vehicles at the gates separating the U.S. and Iraqi sides of the base. "Securing my [base] is my No. 1 mission. I am risk averse here," he says. The U.S. advisers to the Iraqis thought the additional guards and guns were unnecessary and only served to make U.S. soldiers more suspicious of the Iraqis.

When the advisers asked if they could bring an Iraqi colleague to eat with them on the American side of the base, they say they were shocked at the response. They were told that the presence of an Iraqi officer in the dining hall might upset the U.S. soldiers.

"These kids go outside the gate and deal with a very hostile environment. They need a place where they can relax and let their guard down," says Lt. Col. Kevin Dixon, Col. Pasquarette's deputy commander. He says the policy was driven by the bombing of a dining facility in Mosul in 2004 by an Iraqi who had sneaked in.

The advisers felt differently. "We really believe there is a systemic contempt for Iraqi soldiers," says Master Sgt. John McFarlane, a senior enlisted adviser to the Iraqis at Camp Taji. The policy has since been amended to allow advisers to eat with Iraqi officers on the U.S. side if they file a letter in advance with the base's security office.

One of the Iraqi army's primary jobs in the Taji area is to guard water-purification substations that provide most of Baghdad's drinking water. Last summer, insurgents blew up one of the substations, cutting off water for two weeks. To ensure that didn't happen again, Iraqi army units were dispatched by the U.S. to guard the sites. Iraqi soldiers began to take regular sniper fire there.

In January, the U.S. advisers asked Col. Pasquarette for help installing barriers around one of the substations, to shield the Iraqis from snipers. Col. Pasquarette asked one of his units to help. Weeks passed, but help never came. American engineering units were too busy fortifying the U.S. side of Camp Taji and bases around it, says Maj. Martin Herem, who handled the request.

On Feb. 28, a sniper shot in the back one of the Iraqi soldiers at the water station. The soldier bled to death. Three weeks later, a sniper killed a second Iraqi soldier who was on patrol near the water station. Iraqi troops said that both times snipers used the small fruit and vegetable stands lining a nearby road for cover. The Iraqi army couldn't return fire without killing shopkeepers and customers.

When the Iraqi soldiers ran over to ask people who had been shooting at them, locals said they hadn't seen anything. It's dangerous for locals to be seen helping the U.S. Army or the Iraqi army.

The day after the second killing, Col. Saad, an Iraqi colonel in the unit Col. Payne was advising, ordered his men to tell the shopkeepers to empty the vegetable stands. The Iraqi soldiers then bulldozed the stands. Col. Saad says he destroyed the kiosks to protect his soldiers.

When Col. Pasquarette learned about the incident, he was furious. The Iraqis' actions ran completely counter to his strategy. He had told his soldiers to focus less on killing insurgents and more on reconstruction programs designed to win support of the people.

"When you go lethal or destroy property there may be a short-term gain, but there is a long-term loss," he says. He saw the move as a throwback to the Saddam Hussein era when the army was used to quell unrest and inflict mass punishment.

Photoillustration by Stuart Bradford; photos, left: U.S. Department of Defense; photos, right: Getty Images
Because the Iraqi troops operate in his sector, Col. Pasquarette oversees them. He called Col. Payne into his office and demanded that he tell Col. Saad to have his soldiers apologize and pay reparations to the shop owners.

Col. Payne passed along the orders. But Col. Saad says he refused to follow them. "Here in Iraq if someone makes a mistake, you punish them," he says, referring to the shop owners' failure to give Iraqis information about the snipers. "If you give him money, he will repeat the mistake. And he will consider the person who gave him the gift an idiot."

The next day, Col. Pasquarette met with Col. Saad's Iraqi superior and told him about the dispute. The Iraqi general fired Col. Saad. Later that day, three low-ranking Iraqi soldiers, accompanied by about a dozen Americans, passed out the reimbursement forms.

The Iraqi officers in Col. Saad's brigade felt betrayed. On March 21, just before midnight, four senior officers stopped by Col. Payne's office and threatened to resign. "They were furious," says Col. Payne. Two days later, Col. Saad was quietly re-hired.

Col. Payne says he is still angry that neither Col. Pasquarette nor his subordinate commanders talked to Col. Saad to hear his side of the story. "This is a respect issue. These guys don't respect the Iraqis," Col. Payne says.

"Personally I don't think there was anything to discuss," Col. Pasquarette says.

In the days that followed, the relationship between Col. Payne and Col. Pasquarette grew more tense. In mid-March -- about the time the Iraqis flattened the vegetable stands -- insurgents attacked an Iraqi army patrol base in Tarmiyah, a city of about 50,000, a short drive from Camp Taji. One Iraqi soldier from Col. Saad's brigade was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade and another was shot in the head by a sniper. The next day, four of Col. Saad's soldiers died when their armored personnel carrier hit a roadside bomb. The blast threw the turret of the vehicle about 30 yards and lopped off the head of one of the Iraqi soldiers inside, U.S. and Iraqi officers say.

Senior Iraqi officials in the Ministry of Defense were convinced Tarmiyah was a hotbed of insurgent activity. Col. Pasquarette says he was told by his commander in Baghdad to clear the city of insurgents.

Col. Pasquarette and his team spent several days building a plan before he invited Col. Payne, Col. Saad and Col. Saad's commander to the U.S. side to explain it.

The two Iraqi officers were led through a 208-slide PowerPoint briefing, in which all the slides were written in English. The six areas the Iraqi troops were supposed to occupy were named for New England cities, such as Cranston, Bangor and Concord. The Iraqi officers, who spoke only Arabic, were dumbfounded. "I could see from their body language that both of them were not following what was going on," says Maj. Bill Taylor, Col. Payne's deputy.

Once the plan was explained to them through an interpreter, the Iraqis strongly disagreed with it. Col. Pasquarette planned to surround the city with razor wire and set up checkpoints to search all cars moving in and out of the city. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers would then begin regular foot patrols through the city to gain intelligence on insurgents. The centerpiece of the plan was $5 million in reconstruction projects.

Col. Pasquarette argued that the projects would help the U.S. win support of the city's powerful mayor, Sheik Sayid Jassem, who had been detained by U.S. forces in the early days of the occupation for supporting the insurgency. He also thought the projects would turn the people to the side of the new Iraqi government.

The Iraqis favored a harder-nosed approach. They wanted to conduct house-to-house searches and find a way to put pressure on the mayor, who they insisted was still supporting insurgents. They suggested shutting Tarmiyah's business district down for a week. Once the mayor had been cowed with the stick, they favored dangling the $5 million in reconstruction funds.

Col. Pasquarette says the Iraqi approach would have alienated the people in Tarmiyah. He rejected it and stuck to his plan. Although the operation hasn't netted any insurgents, he says people are out shopping and businesses that had been closed are bustling as a result of the checkpoints and foot patrols. The U.S. military is bankrolling a pipeline that will bring potable water into the city, building medical clinics and repairing the main road.

Attacks in the city are down substantially since March, though they have begun to climb of late, Col. Pasquarette says. Still, he says the operation was a success because residents feel safer. He doubts the city was ever really a major insurgent hotbed. "We were all wrong about Tarmiyah," he says.

Col. Saad and Col. Payne say the insurgents have simply moved outside the city's gates.

Gen. George Casey, the top military officer in Iraq, acknowledges it has often been hard for U.S. commanders to let Iraqis take over the fight. "We are so mission-oriented and so focused, we tend to want to do everything ourselves," he says. "It is a constant battle ? . I would hope that when the Iraqis have ideas we try to help them execute them."

Iraqi troops "have never betrayed their U.S. advisory teams," adds Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is overseeing the effort to train and equip Iraqi forces.

In their four months together, Col. Payne and Col. Saad became close. Col. Payne teased him about a poster on his office wall of two fluffy white kittens, nuzzling next to a dozen roses. "What in the world is the deal with the cat and the flowers?" Col. Payne asked.

"It reminds me of softness and women," Col. Saad replied. He often referred to Col. Payne as "my brother."

Col. Saad confided his worries about his country and his army to Col. Payne. His unit was constantly short of supplies. His soldiers often didn't have enough fuel for their armored vehicles and generators. They also lacked AA batteries to run the night-vision goggles the Americans had given them. He blamed corruption in the Iraqi system for supply shortages. "If you don't have the basics to survive, you cannot be great. You cannot win," he said one evening. Col. Payne threw his arm around the Iraqi colonel's shoulder. "No, but you can survive," he said.

The U.S. says it is helping the Iraqis fix problems that have led to shortages of equipment. The Iraqi government recently replaced the contractor responsible for serving troops spoiled food. Supplying the army is the responsibility of the Iraqi government and "there have been a few cases of poor performance" among Iraqi contractors, says Lt. Col. Michael Negard, a senior spokesman in Iraq. "While the problems aren't huge, the issue's certainly of the highest priority," he says.

Col. Saad has also grown frustrated with the Americans on the other side of Camp Taji. Last month, Col. Pasquarette asked the Iraqis to provide a couple of dozen soldiers to man some checkpoints with U.S. soldiers. The U.S. soldiers showed up at the checkpoints for about a week. Then, without warning, they left the Iraqis to run them on their own, Col. Saad says. The Iraqis, who questioned the value of the checkpoints in the first place, were angry they had suddenly been abandoned.

"Why did they leave? Aren't they supposed to be helping us?" Col. Saad asked Col. Payne.

"I don't know what the hell they are doing," Col. Payne replied.

Col. Pasquarette says the Iraqis should have been informed that the U.S. soldiers were pulling out of those checkpoints.

In late May, Col. Payne began to push the Iraqi soldiers to get out on the offensive. "I am sick of sitting around and waiting to get attacked," Col. Payne told Col. Saad. He asked Col. Saad to cut loose 10 or 15 soldiers that he could pair up with three or four U.S. soldiers to venture out at night in search of the enemy. Col. Saad agreed.

On May 19, soldiers from Col. Payne's and Col. Saad's units set out on their second night patrol. After they stopped a car that was out in violation of curfew, the enemy opened fire on them from a surrounding palm grove. The soldiers fired back, killing three insurgents and dispersing the rest. When the shooting ended, a man stumbled out of a small shack deep in the palm grove. His hands were tied and a blindfold hung around his neck. "Come mister. I am problem," he sobbed in broken English.

The man said he worked as a legal adviser for Iraq's Ministry of Defense and had been kidnapped by men who told him they would slaughter him "like a sheep." The kidnappers were setting up a camera to film his execution, he said, when they heard the soldiers and left him. "God sent you to save me," the man said, as tears streamed down his face. (Read more about the mission.2)

Col. Payne was elated. "The Iraqi army saved a life. It also demonstrated that it will go into the field to find and destroy the enemy," he said.

His victory, however, quickly gave way to crushing defeat. The next day, he was summoned to meet with his immediate supervisor. Col. Payne was relieved of his command and told to move to a headquarters position in Baghdad.

He says he was told that he removed because he was "ineffective" and "lacked the skills necessary to lead [his] team in this challenging environment." An Army spokesman in Baghdad said Col. Payne wasn't relieved for any single incident. He declined to comment further.

A few days before Col. Payne was fired, Col. Pasquarette said in an interview that he thought Col. Payne and his men had grown too close to the Iraqis they were advising and his decisions were too often guided by emotion. "From my perspective, the move was warranted," Col. Pasquarette wrote in an email after Col. Payne was dismissed.

The morning after he was fired, Col. Payne spent the day saying goodbye to Col. Saad and the U.S. soldiers on his team. That evening, he boarded a helicopter for Camp Victory, a massive U.S. base on the outskirts of Baghdad.

"I'm now here in Victory -- an alien environment to me and one I never wanted to be a part of," he wrote in an email. He was able to hold his emotions in check until his helicopter lifted off from Camp Taji. Then, he says, he began to sob. "I simply cannot tell you how much I will miss my team."

Write to Greg Jaffe at greg.jaffe@wsj.com5


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #97 on: July 10, 2006, 06:45:43 AM »
U.S. Soldiers
Aren't Guilty
Before a Verdict
The U.S. military needs a PR counteroffensive.

Friday, July 7, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

We seem to have a new national holiday tradition: No holiday is complete without front-page allegations of an atrocity committed by U.S. soldiers in Iraq. A month ago, Memorial Day arrived along with Haditha, a place in western Iraq where hundreds of Memorial-weekend news reports said a military investigation had concluded that Marines "wantonly killed unarmed civilians," among them "women and children." This past Fourth of July, along with the skyrockets' red glare came news that a former Army private had been charged in Charlotte, N.C. with committing rape and murder while he was in Iraq. Labor Day awaits.

Rather than let the charges against the private run like a tape-loop over a long, news-dead weekend, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, appeared Fourth of July morning on both NBC and CBS. After CBS's Harry Smith professed himself perplexed at how all this atrocity stuff was happening now, Gen. Pace said that "99.9%" of the men and women in Iraq were serving with honor and promised he would "get to the bottom" of the allegations.

Military specialists will output case studies for years on how Iraq has altered the way war is waged by Americans--on the battlefield and on the home front. Most interesting to know would be whether the war as perceived at home and the war as fought daily by our soldiers in Iraq became two separate realms of consciousness, the former barely related to the reality of the latter.

One benchmark in this process will be deciding which elements of the nation's military past are deemed relevant to taking the measure of this war. Outside the military colleges, the experience of World War II appears to have become largely irrelevant. The controlling benchmark today is whether any American military commitment can evade the vague moral abyss of the Vietnam War. Thus when the Haditha story broke open over Memorial Day it was analogized as "another My Lai," the storied 1968 killing, and cover-up, of hundreds of civilians in a Vietnamese village.
The reason for viewing Haditha through the moral sextant of My Lai is that My Lai significantly altered the political status of Vietnam in the U.S. It became a totem for U.S. behavior in Vietnam. So it is only natural that the My Lai template, however ill-fitting, would be pressed against Haditha to see if this one lurid story would break the back of the entire Iraq enterprise. And so the chairman of the Joint Chiefs shows up on TV the Fourth of July--going on PR offense like any corporate product manager to ensure this isn't the one event that burns down the whole company. Fair or not, these are the new rules of political engagement in wartime America, and the government learns to play by them or risk being rolled off the field.

But what about the soldiers themselves? Nearly anyone who gets sucked into the media vortex--celebrity, CEO, sports hero--becomes mere cannon fodder, so assume the same for GIs involved in abuse or murder allegations. The Marines implicated in the Haditha incident are largely anonymous now, but each is being auditioned to play this war's Lt. William Calley. But first they have to be convicted of something.

The innocence or guilt of the individual soldiers implicated in Haditha or the other alleged abuse incidents is a lower-order concern to those fighting a PR war for the hearts and minds of the American people on Iraq. In the first effusion of media coverage of these events, the impression is weighted toward assuming guilt, and so when the pollsters call to ask about support for the war, the numbers fall. Mission accomplished--unless a Gen. Pace can jump quickly enough on the other side of the public-impression teeter-totter.

That is one kind of modern war reality. But there is another, less visible reality, which one might call, of all things, "justice." Ask Ilario Pantano about it.
Mr. Pantano, who left a successful job in New York City to reenlist in the Marines, was brought up on charges in 2004 of shooting two Iraqi prisoners in the back while serving as a lieutenant in al Anbar province. A year later--after the military's investigation, defense discovery and a military trial--the charges against him were dropped. His accusers were discredited at trial. The absorbing details of the case's passage through the U.S. military-justice system are described in Mr. Pantano's just-published memoir, "Warlord."

Interviews this week with Mr. Pantano, his lawyers and other defense lawyers describe a military-justice system that is tough on the defense, but fair. "Overall it's good," said Mr. Pantano, "but it doesn't feel good when you're inside of it." All of them said, however, that the national publicity that erupts today around incidents such as Haditha raises the bar for the defense.

Phil Stackhouse, who was one of the military lawyers assigned to Mr. Pantano's defense, now works as a civilian on behalf of accused soldiers. "When a John Murtha starts screaming 'cold-blooded murder,' the press will pick up on that," he says, "and it is that much tougher for the civilian defense attorney to counter the public's impression."

Mr. Pantano's civilian lawyer, Charles Gittins, launched a PR strategy, eliciting testimonials of support from other officers and colleagues. In short, they played the strongest card available to a Marine accused of an unlikely mistake in a spotless career--character. "Good military character itself can be enough create reasonable doubt in the mind of the jury," says Mr. Stackhouse.

"You need a PR counteroffensive," says Mr. Pantano today. "In a more nuanced world, it might not be necessary, but it's the only way the system can remain in balance anymore."

All the military attorneys I spoke with said ugly crimes do happen in war. But war at the shooting level is often a complex event. Haditha or one of the others may yet produce a crime or a cover-up. But in the age we live in, rush-to-judgment can become a bad habit. It might be better to wait for a real verdict.

Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on


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« Reply #98 on: July 24, 2006, 09:24:35 AM »
Vets of '83 Beirut Bombing View Current Ops With Pride, Resolve
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2006 ? Watching TV coverage of Marines from their former unit helping Americans leave Beirut churns up a host of emotions for former Marines who served there when a barracks was bombed in October 1983.

Marine Gen. P.X. Kelley (left) and Col. Tim Geraghty (right) take then-Vice President George H.W. Bush on a tour around the site of the Beirut barracks bombing two days after the Oct. 23, 1983, explosion killed 241 servicemembers, mostly Marines, at the Beirut International Airport. Photo by Randy Gaddo    
Randy Gaddo was a Marine staff sergeant with the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit serving in Lebanon when a terrorist attack in the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 1983, claimed the lives of 241 U.S. Marines, sailors and soldiers. Hundreds more were wounded or disabled when a truck laden with the equivalent of 20,000 pounds of TNT detonated on the ground floor of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Battalion Landing Team barracks.

Four days after the attack, then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan praised the fallen troops for their sacrifice in helping bring a better future to the people of Lebanon. "We cannot and will not dishonor them ... and the sacrifices they've made by failing to remain as faithful to the cause of freedom and the pursuit of peace as they have been," Reagan said in a broadcast to the American people.

Yesterday, Gaddo and his former boss in Beirut, retired Maj. Bob Jordan, juggled their emotions as they watched televised images of Marines and sailors making good on that promise. Marines returned to Beirut this week for the first time in more than 20 years to help U.S. citizens caught in the crossfire between Hezbollah terrorists and Israeli air and artillery forces.

Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit -- the new name for Gaddo's and Jordan's former unit -- ferried some 1,200 Americans from a Beirut beach to the USS Nashville yesterday.

Gaddo said he felt immensely proud watching the Marines carry out their mission. "They're going in there to bring people out and following on what we established there," he said from his Peachtree City, Ga., home. "It makes you feel pretty proud."

"We're in awe," Jordan said of the Marines. "These young men and women are so professional, so well-trained and so well-equipped. ... Their motivation is so high."

Jordan said he's particularly proud that Marines from 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment -- the first and last unit he served with during a career that spanned almost 30 years -- are conducting the mission.

But Gaddo acknowledged that he's also concerned about the Marines' well-being. "Those of us who were there can picture exactly what the Marines are seeing," he said.

He remembers all too clearly the events of a beautiful Sunday morning 23 years ago when a terrorist truck bomb exploded in his barracks building.

Gaddo, 31 at the time, was a photojournalist from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., attached to the 24th MEU for the peacekeeping mission in Beirut. He had awakened early to process some film in a makeshift photo lab he'd set up on the third floor of the barracks building. After that, Gaddo had planned to join other Marines in laying plastic sheets and sandbags over a bunker to prepare it for the upcoming rainy season.

But before tackling the day's work, Gaddo headed to the command operations center in a tent about 250 yards away from the barracks to grab a quick cup of coffee. He figures it was that decision that ultimately saved his life. "Another three minutes and I would have been in the (barracks) building," he said.

From the command tent, Gaddo heard M-16 rifle fire, then a blast that threw him back 6 feet from where he was standing. "It was an amazing concussion," he said. "It was like somebody hit me with a two-by-four. I could feel my face being pushed back as the shock wave approached."

Dazed, Gaddo looked over the two- or three-story building that stood between him and the barracks building and saw a big mushroom cloud rising from the area. The leaves had been blown off all the trees. Gaddo realized that he could see the air traffic control tower of Beirut International Airport -- a landmark the barracks building should have blocked from his vantage point.

Suddenly the realization sunk in: the barracks had been hit. "What had normally been a four-story building was down to a story and a half of rubble," he recalled. "The dust was all still rising and it started to all become clear."

Gaddo and his fellow Marines sprung into action, grabbing cots and litters and running toward the building to search for survivors. They dodged incoming sniper fire and worked amid the fires throughout the area, some sparked by exploding ammunition that had been in the barracks building.

"There was a lot of chaos. We were all in shock," he said.

The rescuers struggled to get a grip on their emotions: anger at their attackers, sadness for those lost, and for some, guilt that their lives had been spared when others' had not.

"You go through a whole range of emotions," Gaddo said. "We lost a lot of Marines that day."

Gaddo, Jordan and fellow veterans continue to remember those Marines through the Beirut Veterans of America, a group dedicated to ensuring that servicemembers killed in Beirut aren't forgotten.

As founding vice president of the group, Gaddo is busy planning the "23rd Remembrance" event Oct. 21 to 23 in Jacksonville, N.C., home of the Beirut Memorial. The memorial includes a wall with the names of all those willed during the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon from 1982 to 1984.

The event will include a candlelight vigil at 6 a.m. on Oct. 23, when all the names on the wall will be read aloud. "Reading their names aloud ensures that these men are remembered for their courage and their sacrifice," said Jordan, the group's founding president.

Jordan expressed hope that Americans will remember not just those lost, but also the lessons of Oct. 23, 1983. "We were being tested, and we failed the test," he said of the U.S. response to the attack.

Jordan calls the attack on the Marine barracks "the first skirmish in ... the battle against terror" and said it's critical that the United States not falter in its war on terror.

The United States must work with Muslims to counter the threat Islamic extremists present, he said. "We need to understand that these people believe in what they are doing" and won't stop until they re-establish an extremist state under a supreme Islamic ruler, he said of the terrorists.

"We need to understand that they are willing to die for it and willing to kill us to achieve it," he said.
For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know


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Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
« Reply #99 on: July 27, 2006, 09:07:01 AM »
Sergeant's Heroism in Iraq Earns Special Recognition
Marine R.J. Mitchell II will receive the Navy Cross, the service's second highest award, for his actions in Fallouja.
By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer
July 27, 2006

CAMP PENDLETON ? His family in the Midwest never doubted that R.J. Mitchell II would do whatever was necessary to protect his fellow Marines in Iraq.

"We were concerned about him, of course, but we always knew he'd take care of himself and the men under him," said Bill Raiser of Lamoni, Iowa, Mitchell's maternal grandfather.

 Just how well Mitchell took care of his men as a squad leader with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment will be recognized here Friday as he receives the Navy Cross for heroism during the vicious house-to-house fighting in Fallouja in 2004.

The details of that Nov. 13 day have surprised even his family.

"He's always been so strong inside, I knew he'd do the job that was needed in Iraq," said Mitchell's mother, Martha Raiser, of Leon, Iowa. "But when you read the citation, it almost seems impossible that he could have done all that."

It was at the height of the assault by Marines on the insurgent stronghold in the Sunni Triangle. Insurgents had learned not to fight Marines in the open, preferring to barricade themselves inside a home, keeping their weapons aimed at the door and waiting for the Marines to break through.

When five Marines became pinned down inside a house, Mitchell charged through AK47 fire and hand grenade explosions to reach the house. He laid down a burst of gunfire to allow a corpsman to treat casualties.

Hit in the left leg by a ricocheting bullet and grenade shrapnel that also disabled his M-16, Mitchell spotted a wounded insurgent reaching for a weapon. He killed the insurgent with his knife and then, limping from his wounds, helped with the evacuation of wounded Marines.

His actions, according to the citation, saved the lives of several Marines. Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal, who was in the same fight and also received the Navy Cross, said Mitchell was "a leader by example."

"He was very close to his Marines," Kasal said, "he wasn't boisterous or overbearing, but when he needed to speak up or be forceful he was there."

After the battle, Mitchell, 26, was given a Purple Heart, his fourth in two tours in Iraq.

He left the Marine Corps in early 2005 as a sergeant. He is studying motorcycle mechanics in Phoenix. He and wife, Sara, have a baby boy, R.J. III, born in January.

Mitchell downplays what he and other Marines accomplished in what came to be known among combat troops as Hell House. "It was a job, and we did it," he said.

Of the tens of thousands of Marines who have served in Iraq, barely a dozen have been awarded the Navy Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor for recognition of combat bravery by Marines and sailors.

Mitchell's mother and his father, Robert Mitchell of Omaha, Neb., will be at Camp Pendleton for the ceremony on Friday, when Mitchell is set to receive the Navy Cross from Lt. Gen. John Sattler, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

"When you put yourself voluntarily in a bad situation, that's pure heroism," Kasal said.